Letting go of fast fashion has been easier and more fun than I could ever have imagined | Laura Snapes

WLTo some extent, I can paint my life in clothing stores. M&S and Asda as a child; New Look and a pre-teen Tammy Girl, then a topshop, surf shops and our local ’60s den for mega-corduroy flares—a complete compliment from my country hometown show. When I transferred to university, I enjoyed the terrible hiatus (for me) and Zara; During my twenties, London provided untold riches of Cos, Monki and & Other Stories.

After turning thirty, that sense of confidence faded into flames. I was probably too old for everything cropped up in Topshop, plus I found his owner a bit squished. I was annoyed by Cos’ strict dental hygiene clothes. And the emerging age-appropriate uniform of a pink midi skirt, cute blouses and heels look like a millennial update to an old M&S classic, AKA an early fashion death. Where next?

In case the aforementioned collection of high street pedestrian stores isn’t clear, I haven’t been a fashion adventurer since I was a teenager, when clutter was my style. (Mismatched Converse stockings, mismatched striped knee-length socks, a skirt that looks like a trash bag.) These days, I struggle to buy clothes (Zara, with its so-called XL, is no bigger than a size 12—I’m looking at you.)

I had tried shopping for antiques but was neither expecting nor impatient. My wardrobe was haunted by my only frugal purchase: an ’80s gray silk jumpsuit with quilted shoulders, bought in Berlin at the encouragement of a friend who can actually carry this sort of thing. What thrilled me in the changing room made me feel like a poor mechanic at home. I stayed on the coat hanger.

Recognizing the climate crisis and the ills of fast fashion, I wanted to try flea markets like Depop. But when I was first surfing, it seemed to me that I found a large amount of fleece – the kind I would have worn after a swimming lesson in 1998 – albeit custom and cabin. I have no desire to recreate this look, nor the abs to reinvent it. Another dead end.

Then earlier this year, I was looking for an interview with 21-year-old British pop star Holly Humberston. Like many of her generation, she loves saving for creativity and environmental positives. In her shows, she runs a clothing swap initiative where fans can get entangled in one of her old clothes. Inspired (not to mention the sense of opportunity to procrastinate) I re-downloaded Depop.

I don’t know if the scope of the site has expanded or my mind has just changed: the possibilities and the fun I must have become suddenly clear. I saw a colleague in cool white pants and wondered if I could find something similar: still with their tags, in my size, half the price of new? Sold out, the woman is confident she will have it within weeks.

The jeans I was wearing before the pandemic were leggings I never wanted to see again; I searched for clothes for generous bottoms and learned that a luxury Swedish brand I wouldn’t normally deal with seemed to have the answer. And here they are, in my size, in perfect condition: £15. (It turns out they were right about the annoying thing.) There is a degree of fun similar to slot machines in finding exactly what you’re looking for. The darling, shabby, M&S polo neck in a new color? Jackpot win.

This design success encouraged me to commit to not buying new if I could help it (I exclude pants, pajamas, and gym clothes). In addition to making a small contribution to the planet, which, to my delight, has also unleashed a desire for self-expression that has been dormant since those strangely scheming days. Stepping into a store and encountering clothes you’ve never dreamed of wearing prevents me, at least, from looking for hidden gems. (Other stories near the action currently have a display that I can describe as a “cyberpunk Sloane Ranger”, and more power to you if you can stop that.) Plus the risk in new wildcard items is expensive and potentially wasteful. But on Depop or eBay, immersing yourself in a new character comes with less stress. Cherry pink velvet hot pants for £8? I could be that person – and if I wasn’t, I could sell it to someone who might be.

I began selling my discarded things, and quietly raised the idea that they were apparently desirable: perhaps I had a desirable style after all. I even sold that German suit. Its new owner – a vintage junkie – told me they loved how it hangs and the uniqueness of the details; They would wear them anywhere, “dressed up or down”. I am oddly pleased that this item that I could never love turned out to be just what someone else was looking for.

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