Once upon a new year, key moments caused two friends to embark on a challenge: choose not to buy any clothes for 3 months. Gillian and Lizzy share their story:
By day, Lizzy supports storytellers and filmmmakers, focusing on underrepresented voices in front of and behind the camera. By night, she's busy with book clubs, making playlists and mixes, connecting with women, hosting storytelling & community building events and going on long walks with her husband Pat and their pooch Farley.
After years of avoiding starting her own company, GIllian is now the proud and terrified owner of Pilot Creative. When she isn't busy working as a Brand Creative Director, she is hanging out with her dog (and all the other dogs), takes part in book club, sings, works out and runs an entrepreneurial women's support group called BOD (Board of Directors).
Why did you embark on this no shop challenge?
Gillian: I was getting married and had been shopping NON STOP for things like dresses, shoes, stuff for the event...it just became a regular daily habit to buy something on Amazon and honestly I felt kind of gross and empty afterwards. We chose sparse decor but even so, there was still so much garbage and clothing I was never going to wear again.
It made me really sad but it also helped me realize that I can do SOMETHING to change my habits. I want to become more aware of my purchases and WHY I am shopping. Also - Lizzy and I are super into being accountable to each other so I asked her to join and help me stick to this challenge.
Lizzy: This article by Anne Patchett (a favorite writer of mine) showed up in my newsfeeds last December. Her story eloquently illustrates the power of simply saying no to buying and when this act challenged her. She tells a story about scrambling to buy a new dress for an interview with Tom Hanks and then realizing that Tom Hanks doesn’t give a shit about what dress she is wearing, nor does the audience - she needs to feels good.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had an event, party or big meeting and attempted to squash my anxiety or insecurities by buying something new. Anne's idea really spoke to me and is what inspired a shorter version of this challenge (three months to start). All challenges are better with partners-in-crime, and Gilly is that accountability buddy - along with a handful of other fantastic folks around town.
Before starting this challenge, I wrapped up 2017 with a closet clean out supported by Lizzy Marks. Donating over 50% of my closet felt freeing and empowering.
What was hard about not shopping?
L: Once I noticed my triggers to shop - I’ve been surprised how easy it’s been. Shopping is so linked to confidence for me: feeling professional or polished, sexy or cool. Maybe I would feel nervous about something and then would cover up that feeling up by piling shit in online carts and having it follow me around like a ghost online. That was difficult for me to observe.
There were a few things I did do to minimize triggers: unsubscribing from fashion brand newsletters and making a promise to not enter stores to browse. I thought saying “NO” would be so much harder, but in fact it’s really freed up the decision making part of my brain which feels sooooo good.
Also, by cleaning out my closet and simplifying my options, things feel fresh again. I was given some BEAUTIFUL hand-me-down from my pal Kim, which I’ve integrated into my wardrobe. For those who are interested in taking a break from shopping - it helps doing it at the beginning of a season, rather then during a “transition” time.
But, I have to confess - I cheated a few times. I bought this shirt, these pins, and a gig shirt from the DJ crew Soulection. As far as cheats go, not too terrible and it helped clarify how, when and why I really want to buy. All these purchases were bought directly from the maker and the purchases speak to my big passions (supporting women in film, everything dog and music).
G: It's only been 3 months so its not "hard" in the typical sense - not as hard as cutting out sugar or booze...or cigarettes or doing a Whole30 challenge or something like that!
But I've realized that one of the reasons I had been shopping so much in these last few years is because I'm not happy with my body. Shopping was a way to momentarily make myself feel "better" (hello serotonin spikes!). Without shopping, I've come to face this issue more often, directly and head on. It's not a bad thing it's just... a thing.
Something that has helped with body image and not shopping is unfollowing fashion brands on instagram and unsubscribing from their emails. I was spending a lot of time online window shopping. With the time I've saved not doing that, I'm more productive and that makes me feel really good.
How will this experience impact you moving forward?
L: In my work I am very focused on the impact of who tells stories and who owns businesses. Taking a break from mindless consuming confirmed this focus needs to extend to my consumer self. I am more committed than ever to purchase all things from local businesses - or direct from folks online. I want to go out of my way to buy from women, people of colour or creative folks using clothes or accessories to make a living.
Travelling to the United States during this shopping cleanse reminded me of the shopping stories I inherited as well: “COSTCO IS LIFE” - buy more, buy cheap, some of these ideas are deeply ingrained in me. I’ve loved digging into these stories. I'm fascinated by the insecurities that are showing themselves. When do we feel like we have enough? When we are enough? Who are we really dressing up for? How can our style evolve (or does it have to)? What else can we do on weekends together aside from drinking & shopping (spoiler alert: dog parks).
Post challenge, I have a very clear picture of what I need and who I want to support. I want to skip down Main Street to select something nice from Eugene Choo, perhaps a Banquet printed dress, and maybe a breezy top from Woo to See You. I’m also desperate for a new Utah Jazz uniform to work out in. Choosing consignment has also peaked my curiosity.
I have a short list of things I need, and have found more resources and folks online (cough cough, Elim) to help remind me why conscious consumption is empowering and necessary.
G: I'm so much more aware of what I reach for in my closet now. I understand what I feel best in, and what shapes and styles suit me and my body as well as the styles I love and have always loved. I've come to understand the differences in quality with each piece from t-shirts, dresses to socks. I want things that last a long time and am becoming more aware of those pieces already in my closet and what I'm on the hunt for. Because I'm shopping less, I'm thinking so much more about what I need long term, making lists, checking them twice, taking the time to research the brand, what they stand for and the impact they have on the world.
I've realized it's a choice, not just a purchase and that's been liberating.
Would you recommend this challenge to others to try? Why?
G: Absolutely. Start by purging your closet, it will help you see what you have. You might even find items that have been missing in the back of the wardrobe!
I find myself looking forward to getting dressed and being more creative with what I have, which to me feels so much more stylish. I have a uniform of sorts: jeans and a white t-shirt so when I go out I'm excited to try new, weird combinations and get "dressed up". I think 3 months is key and definitely worth doing over a couple seasons. The challenge is also within seasonal transitions, I find this is where we tend to buy new clothing. Also, PRO TIP: no one notices when you wear the same thing, in fact I get compliments on the same outfit by the same people, within the same month. So yeah, the short answer is YES, DO IT NOW.
It's easier to get dressed when there are less options
Maintenance becomes more of a priority (ex. dry cleaning)
Choosing to mend or repair instead of just giving it away
L: Hell yes! The pitch is simple: Save cash, feel grateful for what we have, actually daydream about dressing for the next season, discover local businesses and ethical clothing options, clear the inbox of SALES and give your brain a break from the act of browing and shopping online...I can’t recommend this enough.
In a time before Instagram, Gillian met Lizzy at housewarming party. Upon greeting Gillian at the door, Lizzy declared them to be "best friends". Gillian thought this was very "forward and presumptuous" but after an evening of wine and quality conversation, she realized Lizzy was 100% right and they have been in love ever since.