British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood died on December 30. I’m sure you’ve already heard that. So it’s the end of the year and the end of an era in fashion as well. I’ve quoted Ms. Westwood before on my blog. In fact, her admonition to “Buy less. Choose well. Make it last.” could be my fashion mantra. Like other designers such as Stella McCartney, Orsola de Castro, and Eileen Fisher, Vivienne Westwood advocated for slow fashion, and for ethical practises in the fashion industry. And she inspired many of us consumers of fashion to up our slow fashion game when it comes to what we buy and how we dress.
So in honour of Vivienne Westwood, and her mantra which always inspires me to do better, I will now make my yearly slow fashion confessions.
First, for those who are new here, a bit of background. Since 2016, I’ve been trying to uphold the tenets of slow fashion. Trying, not always successfully, to be a better consumer. And each January I’ve been counting my purchases for the previous year. When I started this odyssey I did lots of research into the habits of the ordinary consumer. I remember gasping when I read that the average shopper in America buys 70 items of new clothing each year. Or did back in 2013. That statistic is what inspired me to count my closet and see how I measured up. And ever since I’ve been writing a blog post this time of year in which I confess my fashion sins.
But before we get into the confession part of this post, let’s look at some more current statistics. In a July 2022 article The 10 Essential Fast Fashion Statistics, Earth.Org claims that clothing sales have doubled since 2000, and that how much and how long we wear the items we’ve purchased has decreased by 36%. Those two statistics alone, they claim, are “the embodiment of fast fashion.” And thus by definition the antithesis of slow fashion. The article includes an infographic (below) which itemises the number of clothing items purchased per person, per year by country. These statistics interested me most.
Let’s assume for argument’s sake that Canada and the U.S. are similar in habits. That means that the average North American consumer buys 52 clothing items a year, paying on average $16.04 USD per item. That’s better than in 2013, but nonetheless pretty abysmal. While the UK is better than we are, they still purchase 32 items a year, paying on average $27.33. Clearly Brits believe the “buy quality” admonition more then we do. But we should all try to be more like Norway. They buy 12 items paying on average $28.26 per item. Now that is a statistic worth emulating. Dame Vivienne would approve of the shoppers in Norway, I think. They buy less, and they buy better.
But how do I stack up against the Norwegians? Let’s find out shall we?
In 2022 I purchased 13 new clothing items. Not bad considering that back in 2016 that number was 26. In 2017 and 2018 I bought 25 items each year. I whittled that down to 20 by 2019, and stagnated at 20 in 2020. You can read the 2020 post here. Obviously, the pandemic didn’t mean that I bought less like I had assumed. Just that I bought more pairs of sweat pants. Ha. Last year, I decreased my shopping somewhat; I purchased 17 new items in 2021. Not bad when I consider that I bought multiples of my favourite tee shirts and tank tops. You should know that I don’t consciously try to decrease the number of items I buy each year. I just try to apply my rules of buying what I love, buying quality as much as possible, and choosing what works with the rest of my closet.
So what DID I buy in 2022? Well, for spring and summer I bought a red Uniqlo chore jacket, an oversize blue and white striped shirt from Nordstrom, a pair of Levi’s Dad jeans, a cream and navy striped cashmere sweater from COS, another navy and white striped top from COS, and a pair of black and white Vejas sneakers. That’s a total of 6 pieces.
I guess I was into navy in a big way. My old, old, old Max Mara navy dress pants (c2002) were the hero piece for me yet again this year. I wore them with my new striped shirt, a Vince V-neck sweater and sneakers, with my new striped top from COS and sneakers. Clearly I love these pants with white sneakers and whatever.
Below are three of my favourite spring and summer outfits from 2022. Only the striped top was new this season. Black and tan, black and cream, navy and white, jeans, sandals, tees or tanks and jackets…. nothing new or different there. Except the proportions have changed. I’m channelling Vivienne Westwood when she said: “I’m not trying to do something different, I’m trying to do the same thing in a different way.”
To continue with my count, I purchased 7 pieces for fall and winter in 2022. My green Max Mara coat is the best purchase I made this year. And the most expensive. I also bought 2 light-weight merino turtlenecks from COS, a lilac scarf, black cargo pants from Aritzia, an Everlane light-weight, cropped black cardigan from their recycled cashmere line, and a chunky blue sweater when I was home in Fredericton in early December.
My oversize COS cashmere sweater bought in the early spring has done yeoman service this fall and winter. I’ve been loving it with a navy turtleneck underneath, my skinny jeans tucked into my tall black boots from last year, and the new Max Mara coat. I’m also getting a ton of wear out of those light turtlenecks I bought at COS in Montreal. And of course, I have to stop myself from wearing my new green coat with everything, literally everywhere I go. Ha.
So all told, I purchased 13 new pieces for my closet in 2022. I was pretty pleased with that number. I may earn a failing grade when it comes to sourcing ethical fabrics or finding better, more ethical companies from which to purchase, but I am making progress when it comes to how much I buy. And as usual my strength is holding onto my clothes. This comes from buying as good a quality as I can afford, and buying only what I love. And with the notable exception of my green Max Mara coat, I rarely impulse buy.
That doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes. When I was preparing to write this post and looking at my purchases from past years, I counted. Of course I did. Ha. I love numbers. Out of the 133 pieces bought between 2016 and the end of 2021, I no longer have or don’t wear 22 pieces.
Several of these were pieces bought specifically for travel. And most of those have now been donated, relegated to fishing wear, or tossed. I bought a fleece and several long-sleeve tees in a hurry before our trips to South America and Italy in 2017 and 2018 respectively, and never wore them again once we were home. They were donated. Washing machines in travel accommodations or laundromats are notoriously hard on clothes. And since we pack fairly light I needed to re-wear my clothes over and over. Tees especially needed to be washed several times over the course of a long trip. Once home, several tatty tee shirts worn for travel were relegated to walking or fishing gear and are now gone altogether.
The mistakes I made are usually because I was enticed by a fabulous sale price on a quality garment that sat in my closet and rarely was worn. My Moncler baseball jacket comes to mind. A couple of pieces look dreadful on me now that my hair is white. Most notable is a beige Vince sweater that I loved but which now makes me look as if I have the flu. Ha. I gave that away to a friend.
A couple of pieces looked as if they were mistakes until I repurposed them. Like my cream boxy-style crocheted summer sweater. Once I started wearing it around my shoulders instead of on my body, it became an integral part of my summer wardrobe. I wore that darned sweater with everything. It was reborn as a scarf.
If I crunch the numbers I see that I am still wearing over 80% of all the pieces I have purchased since the beginning of 2016. That’s not bad, I think. I can account for that by the fact, as I said earlier, that I usually (usually) only buy what I love, love. But also because I am extremely cautious about culling pieces which I may wear again. Especially if I loved them once, even though I haven’t worn them in a while.
The “not worn in a year means bye-bye” rule is not for me. If something still fits me, is in good condition, and I still love it even if it’s not currently in style, I will parcel it away in a storage cupboard. To be hauled out and reassessed on occasion. If I love something but currently can’t figure out how to wear it, I will hang onto it too. Just in case. Sometimes I stumble upon inspiration and figure out how to wear the piece. Or a slight change in styles means that piece is now golden. Take for instance my navy Max Mara summer suit. The advent of sneakers with everything meant that suit went from too business-y to edgy and cool.
Below are three outfits that I styled for the blog last winter and which I am looking forward to wearing again soon. I owned the grey sweater dress for a year before I actually wore it anywhere except on the blog. But I wore it several times last fall with the black boots and grey bag and felt great. That dress has not disappointed even though it took me a while to find occasions to wear it. Similarly a grey chunky cashmere turtleneck bought at the Nordstrom Black Friday sale in 2018. I love that sweater, but had trouble styling it for a while. Who knew that it would go so perfectly with my new-ish leather pants or that faux-leather skirt from H&M. That sweater is testament to the idea that hanging onto basic pieces you love can pay off later.
Well that’s it, my friends. My 2022 slow fashion confessions.
Twenty-twenty-two was supposed to be my splurge year. When I wrote this post last year I knew that I did not really need anything for the upcoming year. Didn’t actually NEED anything, but still felt an overwhelming urge to splurge. I guess you can classify that green Max Mara coat as a splurge. But several other things I decided to research to see if I could find a splurge-worthy item did not pan out.
I never did settle on a new designer bag much as I looked and looked. I kept thinking things like…. “Do I really need another black cross-body bag?” I tried researching second-hand designer bags but the price totally put me off. Besides, I unearthed an old black saddlebag-style purse I bought back in the nineties and fell in love with it all over again. It’s been in constant rotation ever since. So it seems I was not destined to splurge on a bag. And was enticed by a green coat instead.
So what have I learned this year? Buy slow, take my time, do my research. I don’t need a bunch of new pieces that I will regret. Hang onto beloved favourite pieces just in case. None of that is actually new for me. But this year confirmed my belief in careful shopping. Thus when the splurge instinct hits and I fall desperately in love with, say, a green coat I can go for broke… guilt free.
Somehow I think that Vivienne Westwood would approve of my green splurge, don’t you?
I’ve always admired Westwood. Not her personal style exactly. But her gumption. And her advocacy for change in the fashion industry. Her style has always been too out there for me. But I don’t think that you have to want to emulate someone’s style to admire it. I don’t mean to be disrespectful but sometimes, to me, she looked like a hot mess. And yet I still loved her quirkiness. Her style was always an expression of who she was. And you have to respect that.
In the near future I may do a post dedicated to those “shopping mistakes” I was just telling you about. Or a post on closet culling. I’ve done these before when I have edited my own closet. Maybe this time I can find a friend who will let me into her closet to have a go. We’ll see.
I hope you all have had a good holiday. Both Hubby and I wish you a Happy New Year. He’s cooking as I write this. Well, to be honest he’s currently watching the first period of the Canada Sweden game in the World Junior Hockey Championships. Then he’ll tape the rest of the game and start cooking. We’re having seafood stew with fresh shrimp and mussels, homemade focaccia, and salad. Yum. I’m pouring the wine. Like my niece Elisabeth once said when she explained a similar task allocation for meals in their house…. “It’s a win win situation.”
Now it’s your turn. How did your year stack up fashion-wise? Have you taken a look at your shopping habits? Come on, you can tell us. We won’t judge. We’re all works in progress, my friends. And we’re all friends here.