Could you go a whole month without buying any new clothes? That's the challenge being set this September by Oxfam, which is trying to tackle the issues associated with our overconsumption of fast fashion. The Second Hand September campaign encourages people across the country to take the pledge to shop second hand and rewear their old clothes, sharing the results on social media with the hashtag #SecondHandSeptember. By inspiring new second-hand shoppers, Oxfam hopes to reduce the amount of clothes that end up being thrown away before their time. Apparently, 11 million items of clothing end up in landfills each week, and given that not all fabrics are biodegradable, that has a huge impact on the planet.
According to the charity's research, "In one month alone, the carbon footprint of new clothes bought in the UK was greater than flying a plane around the world 900 times." Luckily, there is an easy way to make a difference. "This is the same amount of carbon emissions the nation could save if we all took part in Second Hand September," Oxfam explained. By restricting your spending for 30 days, you can not only save the planet but save money, too. The hope is, obviously, that once we all stop the panicked online shopping and unnecessary hauls for a few weeks, we'll realise how easy it is to do it long term. Plus, you can use the money you save to buy one true investment piece you'll wear for years, like a leather jacket, a designer handbag, or a great suit . . . or to buy wardrobes full of second-hand clothes.
If you are looking to do your part for the environment (and your wallet), here are a few ways to keep your wardrobe looking up to date without buying anything new.
Clean or Mend Anything That Needs It
Got a stain lurking on a dry-clean-only dress or a pair of trousers you've been meaning to get hemmed for months? Finally make the effort to get those little jobs done, and you'll discover a whole host of almost-like-new clothes in your own wardrobe. Set aside a Sunday afternoon to sew on buttons, fix holes, and wash anything that's been lurking in the bottom of the linen basket for too long.
Shop Second Hand
Charity shops, vintage stores, consignment shops, eBay, Depop, Facebook marketplace . . . just because you can't shop for anything new doesn't mean you can't buy second hand if you need something for a specific reason or occasion. If you're a true shopaholic, this is the perfect opportunity to shop smartly in some new places and hopefully pick up some bargains that may not be brand new but will still be new to you.
Sewing, knitting, and crocheting are all much easier than you think, and with just a few hours and a few YouTube videos, you'll be well on your way to making yourself something you'll treasure for years. Extra points if you pick up your materials second hand, too; there's always someone giving away yarn or fabric if you ask around. You can also repurpose your old clothes into new items: old Summer dresses make perfect patchwork squares, for example!
If you're not quite ready to make something from scratch, try giving a new lease of life to something you already own by customising or altering it. Try lopping a few inches off your jeans to turn them into crops, or turn that boho Summer dress you never wear into a tunic top that you can throw over jeans well into Autumn. The trick here is to start simple, with fabric dyes, buttons, and hemline alterations. This is not an excuse to raid your local Hobbycraft for dozens of beads, jewels, and ribbons you'll never actually use — they end up in landfills, too.
Swap With Friends
Organise a clothes swap with friends or colleagues who wear a similar size, and you'll not only snag some new threads, but you'll also make sure your unwanted items go to new homes, instead of landfills. Anything that doesn't get swapped can then be donated so long as it's clean and undamaged.