Recession Fashion: 3 Months and no Purchases

fast fashion

This morning as I settled down with a brew and slid my February Vogue out from its shiny red band, one cover line in particular attracted my attention. ‘Cool Customer. Making the most of your fashion budget.’ I turned straight to the page. Emily Sheffield’s fantastic feature discusses one of my constant traumas and dilemmas: in a time of recession and frugality, how can I justify the clothes I buy?

Sheffield goes on to ask how our shopping habits have changed in recent, harder times. The key, Sheffield says, is to invest in quality rather than quantity. This is, as I know all too well, very much easier said than done. Shopping with patience and rationale, rather than making impulse purchases, is quite simply the way to go. Refreshing your wardrobe is another option; adding a few key pieces to your existing clothes, and steering clear of the one-season-wonder. Digging out those old, trusty items from the back shelves. Obviously, the sales are your best friend in times of hardship, but Sheffield warns that they should be handled with caution. Citing Vogue’s very own Mrs Exeter’s ‘Tips for Frugal Times’ from 1952, she states ‘do not be lured into wildly optimistic buys for non-existent occasions.‘ How very, very true.

Inevitably, my mind began to tick, assessing how I have modified my spending habits now that my bank balance leaves more than a little to be desired. When recession hit in 2008, I was only seventeen. But, with shopping habits that are far from average, I smartly invested in designer sales at this tender young age, desperate to get a piece of the designer action. I picked up a pink Dolce and Gabbana shirt in the sales for a mere £45, and a stunning Chloe sweater for under three figures. They might not be pieces I wear week after week, but I rest safe in the knowledge that I will love them for decades to come.

As the years went past and I headed off to University, my spending habits inevitably modified. The lure of cheaper high street items and the £15 and under sale rack became too much, resulting in a wardrobe stuffed with cheap clothes, most of which have been ruined on various nights out. I have always been willing to forgo pretty much anything for the sake of clothes, in particular quality food and alcohol, but sadly this was angled into multiple high street buys as opposed to quality, stylish pieces. Term after term I would run my bank balance right down to the zero, quite happily in the knowledge that my fast fashion addiction was to blame.

However, it has been since graduating that my ‘spend fear’, as I call it, kicked in. Checking back over my bank statements for the last six months (the worst kind of reading imaginable), the peppering of £30 transactions so common in my student days had completely disappeared. The number at the bottom of the page kept on rising, but I was still refusing to hand over my plastic. In fact, I managed three whole months without a single style splurge.

This ‘spend fear’ is coupled with endless wishlists saved on my laptop, written in the knowledge that I will never buy those items. Adding items ‘to the basket’ on my daily internet shopping excursions is standard practice, but I could count the occasions I’ve entered the all important digits on one hand. And let’s not even start on my Asos wish list. I forever browse fashion blogs, concocting outfits in my head. Even as I’m writing this article, I’ve got The OutNet open on the next tab for a casual browse.

vogue feb

So why don’t I buy? In the most extreme sense, if I bought everything I hovered my little arrow over, I would indeed be bankrupt. But, the fact remains that when I do make a purchase, I am filled with the most horrific guilt. In truth, I’ve become a lot more focused on what I buy, weighing up exactly what I need, what it will go with, and the much coveted ‘cost per wear’. On my list right now? A classic white shirt. Target destination? Banana Republic.

This isn’t to say I haven’t made the odd slip in the last few months. Primarily I’m thinking of my terrible decision to spend £35 on a Primark coat in a bid to save some much needed money. When I got it home and showed my boyfriend who responded: ‘is it supposed to have a hole under the arm?’ I knew it was the worst £35 I had ever spent. Never again. That is £35 I will never get back, and could have spent on a meal out rather than a coat that is about as warm as cling film. Annoyed? I was furious, not with Primark, but with myself.

Step away from the budget ballet pumps…

The cure to my spenditis lies in Sheffield’s solutions: buying quality items that will work year after year. Slowly but surely, I am weaning myself off budget fashion sites, and instead browsing designer sales. This is more difficult than I first thought. Fast fashion has many a merit; it’s cheap, of course, but it’s also pretty, shiny, and a quick way to tap into this month’s trend. The downsides you all know: you’ll hate it next year. Hell, next month. That’s if it hasn’t fallen apart or lost its colour by then.

In some ways, I’m making something of a promise to myself: invest in quality fashion in order to look good, but also alleviate guilt.  A bargain is only a bargain if it will last more than a month, and make you feel fabulous as opposed to a walking high street billboard. My budget may not be that of a Vogue writer, but this doesn’t mean I should spend my hard earned cash on cheap tat (read: crap). Give me slow style over fast fashion any day.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Ally

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