I love fashion. Always have, always will. For me, there’s nothing quite like adding a new piece to my wardrobe to inspire confidence and creativity — a new look has the power to turn me into any chosen version of myself. So when I agreed to a no shopping challenge for the month of January, I realized it wouldn’t be an easy feat. At least, I thought it wouldn’t, but now, six weeks into 2018, I still haven’t bought a single piece of clothing, save a hoodie I purchased from a tourist store when I was sightseeing and absolutely freezing on an uncharacteristically chilly day. It hasn’t been a total cakewalk, but it has been entirely difficult, either.
This is important to note: I am traveling for all of 2018 and living out of a single suitcase the whole time, so I suppose the idea of a no-shopping January might seem more logical than restraining for someone in my situation. But I’m currently in Argentina, which is brimming with beautiful leather sandals, handmade jewelry, and inexpensive clothing, and not purchasing a single wearable souvenir has certainly tested my self control on a few occasions. Overall, though? I am not missing my weekend vintage hunts, my online shopping splurges, or my post-work jaunts through Zara that would usually result in a purchase or two. I see things in the windows of stores here and think, “Oh, that’s cute!” but never have an impulse to buy them. Have I gone mad?
I realize that knowing that one more t-shirt would bust my suitcase right open is partially to thank for my lessened desire to shop, but as someone used to selling old clothing to make room for new pieces in my closet, lack of storage space has never stopped me before. As cheeseball-y as my self-analysis may be, I’ve realized that I’ve been spending my money on experiences, not things, and that these experiences have fulfilled my desire for newness and change. They’ve also drawn out the different sides of myself I used to coax out through what I wore.
I’m traveling with 50 other people who, before we met six weeks ago, were total strangers. They didn’t know who I was, my strengths, my weaknesses, my insecurities, and when I thrive. Together, we’ve since gone dancing and kayaked in the Tigre river; we’ve eaten the best steak of our lives (a collective agreement) and played polo; we’ve spent too-long bus rides squished up next to one another and spent two hours straight running for charity; we’ve drank and laughed and said embarrassing things and cried; we’ve seen each other. Fashion was how I used to ensure I, a shy and quiet girl, was seen. But here? When put in these situations? When connecting with strangers over shared experiences? There’s no way to not be seen.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love fashion and put effort into my appearance every morning. But that’s the thing about being relegated to six bottoms, 12 tops, four dresses, and three pairs of shoes: they can be mixed and matched to suit any occasion, but the outfit possibilities are nowhere close to endless. When I was packing for this trip, I made sure to only include items that I loved, that are versatile, and I couldn’t dream of getting rid of, so when I get dressed now, I love every single outfit. It doesn’t matter if I’ve worn it before because I know I’ll feel good in it regardless. This has illuminated how excessive my shopping habits were when I lived in New York. I bought too many pieces I liked and didn’t love, simply because it was there. I would feel guilt at wearing something once before donating it, and rightfully so.
Not shopping for over a month has re-instilled in me the importance of buying quality over quantity and of buying things that you’re obsessed with. I have everything I need to feel confident and beautiful and stylish and sartorially inspired, so my once-insatiable desire for newness is fed. Ask me in six months and I might be singing another tune, but I will certainly be more aware of when and how I shop in the future.