FASHION FAST: What the #SixItemsChallenge taught us about our relationship with clothes
How many items of clothing do you have in your wardrobe? How many of them do you actually wear? And how much do you care about where they come from?
These are some of the questions two of our APDO members considered recently when they took part in the Labour Behind The Label #SixItemsChallenge earlier this year. Mel Carruthers of More Organised and Rosie Barron of The Tidy Coo both took part, each choosing six items of clothing from their wardrobes and wearing only these six items for the six weeks of the challenge.
Mel and Rosie were both interested in the aims of Labour Behind the Label, a campaign which works to improve conditions and empower workers in the global garment industry. Their annual #SixItemsChallenge asks people to embark on a fashion fast, to rethink their wardrobe and really question their shopping habits. So, when APDO President Katherine Blackler suggested members give it a go, Rosie and Mel both volunteered.
This is what they learned along the way!
Why did you decide to take part in the #SixItemsChallenge?
- Rosie: I wanted to raise awareness of the impact that fast fashion has on garment workers.
- Mel: Over the past few years I have tried to keep only items of clothing that I really loved and wore regularly. Having been a fan of Courtney Carver’s #Project333 for several years, the #SixItemsChallenge seemed like a way to challenge my relationship with clothes even further.
What were the clothes that you picked and why?
- Rosie: Here in Aberdeenshire I live a fairly outdoor life, but I also had two conferences in London to attend during the six weeks, as well as clients to help, so I had to pick clothes that would be warm enough for home, but also smart enough to take away with me. In the end, I chose:
– a dress I could wear to the conferences and clients
– a cardigan
– a jumper
– a pair of jeans
– 2 T-shirts
Rosie’s 6 items
- Mel: Like Rosie, I live in a rural setting so needed “outdoor” clothes as well as outfits suitable for client work and more formal occasions. I chose:
– a black and white short-sleeved dress
– a pair of dark skinny jeans
– a black and white jumper
– a black long-sleeved T-shirt
– 2 striped Breton long-sleeve tops
Mel’s 6 items
What was the hardest part of the challenge for you?
- Rosie: With four home-educated children, 11 horses, five dogs, a cat and poultry, keeping clean was by far the biggest challenge! I went to one business meeting in a damp dress and cardigan…
- Mel: The challenge was in March/April, as the weather was very changeable. We’d had a warm spell in March when I was choosing my six items which fooled me slightly… later in the challenge it became very cold again and I wished that I had chosen a couple of warmer items for my capsule collection! It made me realise that in our uncertain Scottish climate we need a variety of clothes for different weathers.
What did you learn?
- Mel: That clothes don’t interest me as much as I had thought. The relief of not having to choose what I was going to wear each morning saved so much time and stress – it was so freeing to simply grab what was clean out of the six items, get dressed and get on with my day!
- Rosie: My experience was the opposite! I realised that I care for clothes more than I thought I did, and that I like wearing dresses.
Were you surprised at this?
- Rosie: Yes, I always had myself down as someone who wasn’t bothered about clothes and I was surprised by how much I missed some of them.
- Mel: I was surprised too. I love pretty things and trying on clothes when out shopping. So it was a real epiphany for me to realise that I don’t need lots of clothes to make myself feel good, and that beating “decision fatigue” when getting dressed in the morning really made up for any feelings of deprivation that I was expecting to have.
Rosie wearing 4 combinations of her 6 items.
How has the #SixItemsChallenge changed your view of your own wardrobe and shopping habits? Will you be doing anything differently now?
- Rosie: I ended up updating my wardrobe a bit after it. Having to use only six items really made me consider how each item in my wardrobe worked with all the others. For someone who usually only shops once or twice a year, this was out of character! Apart from that, I will continue as I was before, buying quality over quantity and keeping my shopping to once or twice a year.
- Mel: I thought that I had a fairly minimal wardrobe (about 40 items in my wardrobe and another 30 stored under the bed for better weather/a thinner Mel). The challenge helped me to decide what I really loved out of those items, and I donated the rest. I then shopped for a few more items to really complete my wardrobe and make it work better… but I did it all from local charity shops and eBay. I have definitely changed my shopping habits after learning more about the distress and waste of our society’s addiction to fast fashion and I don’t want to be part of it.
How has the challenge helped you to better support your clients?
- Mel: I have done a few wardrobe sessions with clients since completing the challenge, and I have been able to share my experience with them which has led to some interesting conversations! At the end of the day though, our clothes say so much about us and are such a personal choice, that I will still coach my clients through their decluttering journey, rather than dictate to them based on my own feelings about clothes and fashion. But I hope that through my experience, I can raise awareness of the misery and destruction of fast fashion and help people to make better choices.
- Rosie: I think it has made me more aware of how some people view their clothes. I am not sure I have the skill to help clients rebuild their wardrobe after a declutter, but fortunately I can refer them to someone who I trust to help them. I know my limitations!
Mel & Rosie’s’ 6 ways to beat fast fashion:
1. Buy pre-loved clothing – charity shops, eBay and social media are rich picking grounds!
2. Share with and borrow from friends – especially for clothes for one-off occasions.
3. Pass children’s clothing to others when they outgrow them.
4. Buy quality over quantity, focusing on more ethical brands.
5. Hold a clothes swap evening with your friends.
6. Develop your own style and rely less on the media to tell you what to wear.
If you would like to find out more about Labour Behind The Label and the #SixItemsChallenge, head to their website at www.labourbehindthelabel.org Perhaps you could sign up to the challenge next year!
Feeling inspired by this post, but need some help with the process? Visit our Find an Organiser page to find support near you.
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