My shopping habits in the year after my Low Buy Year

Last year, I did a low buy year, a year in which you try to keep your purchases to a minimum. The main goal of my low buy year was to buy as little fast fashion as possible, and try to be more of an eco-minimalist. The only things I was allowed to purchase were secondhand items or pieces from sustainable and ethical brands. Although I ended up succeeding in the goal, I also decided that putting so many restrictions on what I was allowed to buy just didn’t work for me. However, I did still have the intention to purchase the majority of my clothes secondhand or from sustainable brands.

So I thought it would be fun to see what my shopping habits actually were in the past year. How many clothes did I buy without putting any restrictions on myself (apart from just budget restrictions) and how much of it was secondhand, sustainable or fast fashion?

The clothes I bought this year on a white sheet. In the top left is a pile of folded pants, from bottom to top mustard yellow, mid blue, faded black, light blue and black linen pants. Beside it is a folded knit cardigan. In the bottom left is from left to right a black, black-white, royal blue-black, navy blue-white and black-white striped t-shirt. On the right is a red sleeveless dress with a white flower pattern, a blue dress with a colored flower pattern and short sleeves, and on top of both dresses towards the bottom is a pair of light pink heeled sandals.
The items in the order in which I bought them: black-and-white striped t-shirt (ArmedAngels); blue slim fit jeans (GAP); light blue skinny jeans (J. Crew, secondhand); black culottes (Pieces); blue flower pattern dress (C&A); pink heeled sandals (Anna Field); red sleeveless dress (GAP, secondhand); navy-white striped longsleeve (C&A); yellow straight fit jeans (ArmedAngels, secondhand); washed black skinny jeans (ArmedAngels, secondhand); dark green cardigan (Vero Moda, secondhand); black & black-white striped longsleeves (C&A); blue-and-black striped longsleeve (C&A).

I bought a total of 14 pieces, which is almost twice as much as the 8 items I bought during my low buy year – but still definitely not a lot compared to the average, which is 46 items in the Netherlands. It is still a little more than I anticipated, but because I didn’t put any restrictions on myself it didn’t feel like I failed at anything. This is very different from when I attempted a low buy year in 2020, which felt like I failed despite only buying 11 items that year.

If I break down these 14 items into categories, 8 were fast fashion, 5 were secondhand and 1 was from a fair fashion brand. That is a little more fast fashion than I wanted to buy. Preferably, if I buy fast fashion, I go for more sustainable fabrics and want to do so from brands that are actually trying to do better. The majority of the items I bought are made from more sustainable fabrics, such as organic cotton, EcoVero, or recycled materials. However, only one of the fast fashion brands I purchased from (C&A) gets the score “It’s a start” from Good on You and actually scores pretty well on sustainability, the other three (GAP, Pieces, Anna Field) unfortunately score “Not Good Enough”. So I definitely could have done better there.

However, most of the fast fashion purchases were very intentional. They were all items I actually needed (for example longsleeve underlayers which I didn’t have, or the dress and the sandals for a wedding) or things I’ve wanted for a long time and simply couldn’t find secondhand or from a sustainable brand. The only thing that was a bit of an impulse purchase was the blue with black striped longsleeve, but even in this case I thought about it for a day or two and being Cradle to Cradle certified it was my most sustainable fast fashion purchase.

Funnily enough, the one item that I regret buying was the item I thought the longest about: the yellow jeans. I spent at least 2 months doubting about it, wondering if I’d actually wear it, before I finally decided to take the plunge – and then when it arrived, it was a little too big and baggy for my liking. So while last year I learned that it can be incredibly useful to wait a couple of weeks to see if you really want something – this year I learned that if I’m still in doubt after 2 months, maybe it’s just best to take that as a no.

I also learned that, like I suspected, not restricting myself gives me a much healthier relationship with clothing. I spent a lot less time thinking about clothes and even stressing over them than last year. But because I still had an intention to be minimal and sustainable, I still didn’t buy too many things and managed to buy quite a bit of them secondhand.

Although I would love to be able to buy everything secondhand, sustainable or ethical, there are all kinds of reasons why that is not feasible right now, including budget, chronic illness and weight gain over the last few years. Sometimes you just need new things because of body changes or items wearing out, and I think it’s okay to give yourself some grace here. I absolutely have the intention to purchase even less fast fashion and more sustainable and secondhand clothing in the future – but it’s still a work in progress.


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