A few years ago, my mother introduced me to a consignment store with an incredible Black Friday sale: everything was half off for the entire weekend.
Mom and I made it a yearly tradition of shopping there. I’d buy several name brand, high-end outfits worth hundreds, while only spending around 40 dollars total. I’d buy my work wardrobe for the entire year. The clothes were always clean, fresh, tidy and neat. Friends and co-workers were constantly commenting on my new clothing – asking me where I purchased it, and where did I find such a great deal.
Many were pleasantly surprised when I confided my sharp new look was actually used clothing from a consignment shop.
This lead me to an idea: Go one year without purchasing any new clothing.
For this experiment, I set some basic rules:
– I could not purchase any new clothing for exactly one year beginning Black Friday, 2013 and ending Black Friday, 2014.
– Shoes were excluded (I had to have a new pair for work)
– Underwear, including socks and tights, was excluded (obviously)
It was going to be hard. I live 10 minutes from Target, Kohls, TJMaxx, Rue21, and so many other places I’d normally frequent for clothes. It was hard to stop the temptation of “just stopping in” when passing by one of the stores.
During this year, I had to find alternative places for clothing. This lead me to really research what we wear, where it’s made, and what really goes into the production and sale of a clothing item. I immersed myself in the research of Chinese sweatshops, which is where much of our clothing is made. Children as young as five work in sweatshops, earning pennies a day sewing out oversized sweaters with chevron stripes. It repulsed me.
The things I learned during this year completely changed my life. I became a conscientious consumer in everything I purchased – learning the origin of my products. I dove headfirst into vintage living; replacing new “trendy” items in my home with vintage items made in the USA. By the summer, I wasn’t just buying consignment clothes, I was only buying clothing that I knew the origin of. Weather it be a vintage dress at an estate sale, or an all-American company creating an manufacturing goods ethically. (Note: I still only purchased used; just to keep with the yearlong experiment).
Did I make it? I’m still making it. We can work to change sweatshop labor every single day. Small changes, like being informed consumers, add up to big differences.