It’s August 20, 2021, our wedding anniversary, and I’m making a wager with my husband. Not a sexy couple-y type thing, get your minds out of the gutter. No, I’m betting I can go a year without buying any new clothes or shoes for myself.

There we were, doing the laundry and discussing, like the romantic fools that we are, the environment and fast fashion. There’s a tsunami of microplastic waste on our planet, and the fashion industry is a serious contributor. 

You know that cute top you just threw in the wash? That one piece of synthetic fabric can release up to 700,000 microfibres, and where do these tiny pieces of plastic end up? They’re flushed down the drain, landing on beaches and in our oceans, and they’ll be there long after you, or even your great-grandchildren, are gone.

Helen Lovejoy’s hysterical lament, ‘Won’t somebody please think of the children?’ pops into my head.

A 2017 report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found textile production pumps out 1.2bn tonnes of greenhouse gases a year and it urges us to turn to a circular economy “where waste is eliminated, resources are circulated, and nature is regenerated”.

Best anniversary conversation ever, I shouted, and 10 minutes later I’m shaking hands on a deal that could potentially save me hundreds of euro and make the world a slightly better place. Husband, who has silently (hey we’re still married for a reason) watched every click and collect and every free delivery over €50 package drop, doesn’t believe for a second that I’ll do it. However, I am allowed to buy jewellery and underwear — I’m not a total animal.

So here we are in January, I’m nearly halfway there and I’m doing surprisingly well. I’ve slipped three times, and Joanne Hynes is to blame.

She drops a mid-season collection in Dunnes and I order two dresses, a pair of gold metallic leggings and a coatigan. Buyers’ remorse kicks in as soon as they land on my doorstep and I ask myself the question that I keep returning to, my new mantra: Do I really need this? Fabulous as those gold leggings are, where do I actually think I’d wear them?

We’re in a global pandemic, I’m working from home, walking the dog, doing school runs. Dropping the kids to the GAA club and swimming pool is about as glam as it gets. Rocking up to the littlest fella’s gymnastics session once a week is still a bit of a novelty, but I’m not likely to go anywhere that requires a metallic dress code. I do pop into RTÉ to go on the Today Show every now and then, but Dáithí Ó Sé wears the same shagging shirt multiple times, so why can’t I?

Looking at your accessories and other bits is a good place to startLooking at your accessories and other bits is a good place to start

So I take a breath and return them all. My conscience (and my bank balance) thank me.

The next time, a second-hand dress from an old JH collection comes up on a preloved clothing site. It’s my size, my colours, and under €30. I buy it and convince myself it’s only half a sin as it’s not new and I’ll definitely get the wear out of it.

Then there’s a sale on her 2020 collection in November, and a sequin vest dress I’ve been coveting is reduced from €120 to €50. I put it into my cart peeking through my fingers, and throw in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt for good measure. 

I literally get a rush — oh yeah baby, there’s that sweet, sweet dopamine — but I return the three items the day they arrive, full of an addict’s remorse, sickened at myself. I can only apologise to the fine people of Dunnes delivery service, you are right to be allergic to me.

I slowly start to assess the clothes I own. I put a couple of bags of summer clothes in the attic and find, to my utter chagrin, bags and bags of winter clothes I’d forgotten about, plus two big black bags of perfectly good shoes and boots. Two! That night Imelda Marcos visits in my dreams and tells me to cop on a small bit. I feel like I may need psychological intervention at this point.

I ruthlessly send most of it to charity.

I have a little bit of a revelation. Historically, when I browse new clothes, I imagine myself wearing them and I project a feeling of happiness and good times on to that new top. Now I ask myself: Where will this piece live? I imagine the closet space it will take up. I try to picture that summer dress languishing for most of the year in the back of a cupboard, rather than a slow-mo of me skipping down a sun-dappled beach in it, with massive hair and a tiny waist. 

It’s a dress, not a magic cloak. I’m already taking up a full Sliderobe in my room, a complete wardrobe in son number two’s bedroom (the pet is too young to realise this is an outlandish act on my part) and most of the storage in the attic. Yet I wear the same five or six pieces 90% of the time.

I do another purge just before Christmas and send five big bags to charity. With lots of clothes going out of the house and none coming in, I feel I’m making headway. Yes, there are deliveries of earrings every so often, but they don’t take up much space and I’ll never get too fat for them, so stop judging me. I refuse to be lobe shamed.

Christmas was a bit harder. I’d usually enjoy buying a couple of new outfits for the festive season, but I just didn’t go into the shops — physical or virtual. I did buy a pair of boots in December and thrust them into Paddy Power’s — I mean husband’s — hands. “Your Christmas present to me,” I explain.

Then I find a pair of Timberlands in the garage I’d forgotten about and, when I open the new ones on Christmas morning, I feel deflated and realise I don’t need them, ergo I send them back.

I believe come August 20, 2022, I’ll have three things — a pared-back wardrobe; an inflated bank balance; and, most importantly, the smug satisfaction of lording it over my husband that I won the bet. 

Let’s keep that preloved purchase between ourselves; some mystery is good for a marriage.

Help and tips to live sustainably

I asked environmental scientist and author of How to Save Your Planet One Object at a Time, Tara Shine, to share some insights for anyone else looking to live more sustainably in 2022.

“It will make a difference if one person cuts down on buying clothes – everything we do matters particularly if we share what we learn along the way and get our peers, friends and family following in our footsteps. So if you make a point of buying less or enjoy having more money in your pocket as a result – share that with your friends. They are more influenced by you than anyone else.

“Be curious, do your research and ask questions to figure out what brands really are sustainable. Sites like Good on You rank brands if you would like more insights. 

Actively look for sustainable brands that they you how they are being sustainable and show you results – look for actions and not words.” Here are Tara’s three tips to help you reduce buying clothes.

  • Share – try a clothes swap, share clothes with friends, use sites like DEPOP to sell clothes on to someone else, support charity shops.
  • Repair – fix the button, the hem, the small rip and give your clothes new life. By repairing your existing clothes they can last longer.
  • Rent – next time you have an event like a wedding or an interview – rent, don’t buy!

Esther’s websites and apps to help you be more sustainable in 2022 

Search for preloved clothes groups on social media, suss out Ebay, Marketplace, Gumtree and Donedeal. 

There’s a private group called Preloved Funky Clothes for Grownups on Facebook that is fabulous.

This article was originally published on the Irish Examiner Website. You can read the original article here.

Privacy Settings
We use cookies to enhance your experience while using our website. If you are using our Services via a browser you can restrict, block or remove cookies through your web browser settings. We also use content and scripts from third parties that may use tracking technologies. You can selectively provide your consent below to allow such third party embeds. For complete information about the cookies we use, data we collect and how we process them, please check our Privacy Policy
Consent to display content from Youtube
Consent to display content from Vimeo
Google Maps
Consent to display content from Google
Consent to display content from Spotify
Sound Cloud
Consent to display content from Sound