We were first introduced to Micha (pen name Olivia de Winter) when she won our Tjula Designs split-back tank. Little did we know what a worthy recipient she was to win our giveaway! She is currently challenging herself to a year without shopping and we were so inspired that we asked if she would be willing to share some of her story on the blog. This idea of wearing what you already have and making it work is central to our ideas of ethical fashion. We hope you will enjoy what Micha has to share about her year without shopping!
What inspired you to embark on a year without shopping?
I have done year-long challenges before, and I had been thinking about a personal shopping ban for a while. I’m as guilty of falling for “retail therapy” as the next woman, but of course I’ve always known that buying stuff to console or reward myself – or just because I am bored – is unhealthy behavior. I knew it was time to act when about a year ago, I realized that I had managed to fill my entire walk-in closet after only two years of being in the U.S (and I had only brought four suitcases with me when I moved!).
What have been your challenges of sticking to your year without shopping?
As I’m allowed to buy groceries, basic cosmetics and medical needs, I didn’t find it difficult at all in the beginning. Actually, I found it pretty exciting as I was learning so much about different aspects of minimalism in general and slow fashion in particular. Purging my wardrobe and donating and selling almost half of it was a pretty cathartic experience. (And I still have plenty of things!)
It’s become more difficult in the last few weeks as I am in the last third of my Year Without Shopping because certain staples like my white tank tops or simple black sweaters have worn out and need to be replaced really badly. Also, I had to discard my black loafers and I miss them dearly now that it’s too cold and wet outside for ballerina flats. So my “2017 Shopping List” is starting to grow …
What have you learned from this experience?
Like most things that seem “impossible” it’s not. Not shopping for a certain period requires some honesty with yourself and some change of habits, but that’s about it. I still love fashion and being well-dressed matters a lot to me, but I hope that I have learned to identify why I want new clothing – is it because I’ve worn out a similar piece or because it is a perfect piece for my wardrobe? Or is it for all the wrong reasons: low spirits or stress or plain boredom?
In future, I want to take the same approach for clothes shopping that I take with art: I have a (very tiny) collection and I truly love every single piece I have, and most of them come with a story too. The same is true of my furniture – a mix of inherited pieces mostly from the early 1900 and some Henry Miller pieces I’ve hunted down at insolvency auctions and flee markets. I have a very curated living space – why should I not have an equally curated wardrobe?
What has surprised you about not shopping for a year?
I still haven’t run out of panties or sports bras or tights! I guess if you take good care of your things (I wash lots of sensible items in garment bags and put almost nothing in the dryer), even those basic and often used items last much longer than I would have thought.
But I surprised myself most with the realization that I don’t need to physically own books. I read about a book or two a week, and back in Germany I still have a library of several thousand volumes. Having spent almost ten months now reading only books already on my shelf or from the library has taught me that I am comfortable with not holding on to books after I’ve read them. I am now “collecting” my books on Goodreads instead of on big shelves, which has the advantage that I have a rating and little comment with each one – and much less dusting to do around the house. (Those books I still have back in Europe will be sold or donated when I have enough time back home to take care of it.)
Once your have completed your challenge, how do you want to move forward with your shopping habits?
When it comes to books, I haven’t made the transition to an e-reader yet because I just like the feel and smell of paper so much, but for environmental and practical reason that’s high on my list of priorities for next year when I can buy myself a new gadget.
As for clothing, I’ve always loved consignment stores and vintage pieces (I’m an enthusiastic treasure hunter), so I am planning to shop mostly second-hand. But thanks to all those amazing ethical fashion and capsule wardrobe bloggers I’ve met through Instagram, I now also have a list of sustainable and stylish brands to shop for new things in the future. Plus, as I have learned to work with a smaller wardrobe, I will be able to afford nice pieces when I really feel they are the perfect fit for me. No excuse to buy any fast fashion any more!
Originally from Frankfurt, Germany, Micha lives in Seattle, WA, with her husband Scott and their 21-year- old cat Leighla. She received her M.A. in literature, history and communications from the University of Munich, Germany. After teaching German and French at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, MO, for a few years she returned to Germany, where she founded her communications agency, wort5. She provides translation and editing services primarily for customers from the German automotive industry. Together with a colleague, she co-authored her first women’s fiction novel, ‘Mopskusse’, which was published in 2009 by Random House. Her second novel in German, ‘Wann Wenn Nicht Jetzt’, was self-published in September 2014. In the US, she has published several short stories in print and online magazines as well as in ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ under her pen name Olivia de Winter.