'Why I decided not to buy any new clothes in 2021'

During a time when we are buying more online than ever before, our fashion writer Rochelle Barrand explains why she’s put a stop to the packages arriving at her door to help our planet.

It’s been almost six months since I last bought any clothes. Now, for many people this might not be difficult - but for me it’s been quite a challenge.

I’m a self-confessed shop-a-holic. Pre-pandemic, I would happily spend all day in a shopping centre - and then go to another one the next day. During the pandemic, when the shops were shut I started online shopping more than ever before. I will admit that over a three- month period I had around 100 packages delivered to my home. It was my escapism and, admittedly, hearing the delivery drivers knock at the door gave me a daily boost. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that, especially during a time when there was so much uncertainty and sadness in the world.

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But then I realised that there were some days when I didn’t know which of my new clothes were in the latest shiny package because I’d ordered so many that I couldn’t keep track. Not only that, I have far too many clothes to fit in my (2.4-metre) wardrobe. I have to have my wardrobe on a spring/summer and autumn/winter rotation, with the alternate seasons clothes hidden away in two large suitcases. But, aside from the space issue this created I realised that my clothes-buying habit was having a negative impact on the environment.

Even if we all cut down on the amount of online purchases we make - and make more sustainable and ethical fashion choices when we do shop - it will all add up to a big difference for the environment.
Even if we all cut down on the amount of online purchases we make - and make more sustainable and ethical fashion choices when we do shop - it will all add up to a big difference for the environment.

It seems I’m not alone. According to a report by PFS and LiveArea, over a third (37 per cent) of UK and Irish shoppers now say that they are more conscious of the environmental impact their online shopping habits have, than before the pandemic. While I was grateful to have the ability to order packages to my front door, I started to think about the CO2 emissions from every delivery van that came to my door, (including every time the postman had to return for a missed delivery if I was out on a walk during the first delivery attempt).

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Then, there were the emissions that came from any item I returned - it might have just been a walk to the local shop for me but there was another delivery driver that needed to be called out to pick up my unwanted package. And what happens to the unwanted clothes once we’ve worn them a few times and thrown them away?

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So, as the new year was approaching, I made a choice - I was going to make a new year’s resolution not to buy any new clothes. Looking at my wardrobe, I realised that I certainly had plenty of dresses, tops, trousers and skirts for every occasion and I didn’t need any more. I decided that if I did find that there was something I needed - be that a dress for a special occasion or more loungewear for working from home.

I would use second-hand websites such as Depop, Vinted and eBay. Buying second hand and vintage clothing in this way means that I could still have a new item for myself but I would be giving a second life to a pre-loved item - which is a great way to shop ethically and sustainably.

I’m now almost six months in to my challenge, and I have stuck to my resolution - although at times my determination has been tested. I’ve resisted the temptation to log on to my favourite high street websites when I get a discount code sent to my email inbox, and I now even feel that my attitude to shopping will last beyond this year.

This isn’t just about sticking to a new year’s resolution anymore, it’s a complete lifestyle change. I know I’ve only made one small change as one person, but if we all make a change – then just think of how we’ll be helping our planet as a collective. I know that not buying any new clothes for a year might be too extreme for some people, and I understand that, but even if we all cut down on the amount of online purchases we make it will add up to a big difference.