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I am writing this on the eve of the final day of my ‘Six Items Challenge’. I have been wearing the same six items of clothing for six weeks in order to raise money for ‘Labour behind the Label’. This organisation campaigns for better working conditions and a living wage for the garment workers who labour in terrible conditions for low pay in order to bring us cheap fashion on the high street.
What have I learnt from the challenge?
- I could survive with a minimalist wardrobe and a washing machine
- I evidently don’t need many clothes therefore I should buy less, but purchase good quality as cheap items soon look worn out
- People don’t tend to notice whether you’re wearing pretty much the same all the time!
- Choose fairly plain, classic (less memorable) items that mix and match
- The secret of not getting bored and creating new looks is accessories – scarves, coloured tights, belts, different footwear and jewellery.
- Fewer clothes meant doing housework in my work dress and not getting changed to go out somewhere nice
- Try to avoid black, it gets depressing wearing it so often
I am looking forward to wearing the rest of my neglected wardrobe and changing the coat I have worn everywhere for 46 days! Go on try it!
I have read a variety of ‘clothes’ books covering image makeovers and styling tips to exploring our psychological relationship with clothes, to the ethical impact of the whole fashion business on the world and its inhabitants. See my ‘Fashion Reads’ page for reviews then if you’re tempted to read the books, revisit my site with your thoughts.
It’s easy to put this to the back of our minds when we’re indulging in retail therapy and clothes shopping is such a taken-for-granted part of our lives. But please take a few minutes to watch this hard-hitting video from Cambodia care of ‘Labour behind the Label’, which will make you think about the conditions the people who make our clothes have to put up with.
Visit https://vimeo.com/120054782 to see the video and share.
I spent 2 long days traipsing around Sheffield city centre and its outlying mega shopping centre Meadowhall, returning frustrated, with only one jacket to show for it! How could I fail to spend my well-earned cash on a few choice garments in this multiplex of fashion excess?
Maybe I’m a difficult customer, or just indecisive or too fussy? Did I know what I was looking for? Did I identify a gap in my wardrobe or was I there on two days’ escapism hoping to return home armed with wonderful purchases that would transform my image and my life? I searched through the rails – nice, but not my colour, not my size, wouldn’t suit my body-shape or would make me look like a teenager or a granny. Is this really me? Should I be more adventurous or would my transformation cause small talk in the office. The quality is poor or the price is extortionate and come to think of it, do I really need it? That’s nice, but I’ve already got one at home just like it!
Despite my lack of purchases, I actually like shopping and prefer to see clothes and try-on there and then rather than shop on-line and wait. So I’m pretty determined that next time I shop I will be more successful because I have a plan of action! You may be someone who comes home with bag-loads of super outfits, or maybe you go overboard and impulsively buy things you’ll never wear. Either way failing to plan is planning to fail! So before I hit the shops again I need to prepare:
- Lay out the all clothes I currently own that are suitable for the coming season on my bed
- Remove tired, least favourite, hardly worn and dated items
- Mix and match to identify some favourite outfits
- Identify what is missing – a top, a jacket, a bag, shoes?
- Start a shopping wish list to include what are the most important factors about each item, for example, shoes must be fit for walking round town, top must go with work suit, jacket should be lightweight for summer and smart enough to go out in, bag should be big enough for laptop
- Plan a day out on my own, trying most likely stores first, with coffee stops along the way
- Wear or take anything I’m trying to match
- Have fun and allow for creativity whilst being focussed on what I’m looking for
- Don’t forget accessories
My only problem then will be once I’ve bought everything I need I won’t have an excuse to go shopping!
Remember Benetton, the shop with the piles of neatly folded colourful jumpers? If you dared to unfold a jumper you would get frowned upon by an exasperated assistant!
Remember the Rana Plaza disaster of 2013 where over 1,000 garment workers were killed when the factory collapsed?
Two weeks into my ’Six items challenge’ I am remembering why I am wearing the same six items of clothing for six weeks. I am supporting Labour behind the Label (LBL), an organisation which campaigns for better conditions and a living wage for the garment workers who make most of our clothes. The sponsor money I raise will help their campaign.
LBL has managed to secure compensation for many of the survivors and remaining families affected by the Rana Plaza tragedy from the companies whose garments were produced there. However, Benetton has failed to pay up! To sign a petition to encourage Benetton to pay compensation, click here
Thanks for your support!
23rd February – 8th March 2015
At a weekend conference last year the Do-it-yourself Saturday night entertainment involved bringing your own Fair Trade/upcycled or recycled item of clothing to model in an ethical fashion show. This was a great opportunity to show off my Fair Trade ethical organic dress from ‘People Tree’. Others brought charity shop stunners to the catwalk, and one lady had made a beautiful skirt entirely from her husband’s ties.
Fair Trade is not just coffee and chocolate! Cotton labelled as Fair Trade ensures that farmers get a fair price and growing cotton organically helps protect the environment. So in Fair Trade fortnight search online to see what you can find.
People Tree is a recognised fashion industry pioneer in Fair Trade and environmentally sustainable fashion. They were voted as the No 1 Best Buy for alternative clothing and were voted into the Top 5 UK’s most ethical companies in 2014. Take a look at their beautiful dresses!
My Labour behind the Label Six items Challenge started today!
For a university visit and a 5 hours of travelling I wore my black jeans, red top and grey cardigan, with a necklace handmade in Africa. I am relying on my jewellery (and scarves) to bring subtle changes to the limited number of outfits I can make out of the 6 key pieces of clothing I am allowed to wear from now until 4th April, which seems ages away.
I recently cleared out my jewellery box to get rid of some of the ‘tat’ I have bought over the years. If yours is full of broken chains, bad taste costume jewellery, rings that don’t fit and the odd broken watch I have the charitable and environmentally friendly answer.
You can send your unwanted, broken and damaged gold, silver, costume jewellery and watches freepost to Traidcraft at:
FREEPOST RSXA-GJBY-ARRZ, Traidcraft, Unit 14, Amber Business Village, Amber Close, Tamworth B77 4RP
Traidcraft is a charity that fights poverty through trade, for example by providing skills and saplings to grow tea in countries like Bangladesh where thousands of families struggle to grow the food they need to survive.
‘When less is more’ is the title of an article written by Maggie Bright that I tore out of a magazine years ago. I re-read it regularly and have shared it with dozens of people. Maggie describes how she started de-cluttering on a small scale, gradually taking it to extremes and claimed it turned her life around:
- Get rid of some of your belongings and you’re free to redefine yourself
- Once you de-clutter, life becomes simpler
- Apply the William Morris rule – everything you own is either beautiful or useful
She suggests you start by sorting out your sock drawer, see how therapeutic it is, then carry on through all your drawers and you could even end up clearing out your garage! Her entire wardrobe could fit on 10 clothes hangers, although I’m not suggesting you might want to go that far! I have to admit that I can be rather tentative when it comes to saying goodbye to some of my clothes, and keep things just in case. However, given that as part of the LBL Six items challenge I am attempting to prove that I can survive for 6 weeks with 1 dress, 1 pair of trousers, 2 tops and 2 cardigans (that’s only 6 hangers), this should surely dispel all worries that I won’t be able to manage if I part company with a few old favourites.
Compared to climbing the 3 peaks, running 10K or sitting in a bath of custard for 24 hours, wearing 6 six items for 6 weeks, as a colleague commented, “doesn’t sound very hard – as long as you’re allowed to wash them”! But 6 weeks is a very long time! With a wardrobe full of clothes, some of which I never wear, once that becomes a ‘no-go’ area, chances are I’ll be dying to wear that old bodycon beige skirt by day 29 in the black dress.
So my strategy for keeping up my spirits and momentum up is going to be ‘accessorise, accessorise, accessorise’. As NHJ (Nicky Hambleton-Jones) presenter of ’10-years younger’ with the signature spectacles says, “1/3 of your clothing budget should be spent on accessories”. “They are the one thing that separate the stylish from the average”, and “they will help you get more out of your existing wardrobe”. This is particularly encouraging if it’s going to consist of only 6 lonely specimens. So as the dictionary defines it, I’m going to ‘complement, enhance, set off, show off, beautify, pretty (up), embellish and even festoon to my heart’s content.