Sunday 18 July 2010

No Shoes is Good News

Do you ever find yourself reading an article or blog post that you empathise with so strongly that you unwittingly start saying out loud ‘EXACTLY!’, ‘AMEN to that’ etc. ? It’s an interesting feeling, that connection that often transcends continents. I couple of days ago I read through this lovely lady’s thought-provoking, touching and honest post about her stuff and consumption, which included a link to this post by Hayley entitled ‘pulling apart my relationship with buying stuff'. Basically, it blew me away to the extent that I was glad I was sitting down when I read it (although, who reads the tinterwebs standing up?!). When my boyfriend realised I’d gone uncharacteristically quiet, he began to read the post over my shoulder and made the massive understatement, ‘Ooh this is right up your street isn’t it?’ Umm, YES.

First up, Hayley’s description of her formative patterns of consumption as an adolescent could have been an almost word for word account of my own experience. My Saturdays were invariably spent in Southend wandering around Topshop, Miss Selfridges and all the rest, which sufficed until we were old enough and solvent enough to intersperse this pattern with shopping trips to London. At university, the acquisition of my student loan (I clearly didn’t get a handle on the ‘having to pay it back someday’ clause in its terms and conditions) meant that my consumption of ‘stuff’ reached new shameful heights. I think the crux of the reason why so many young people (admittedly particularly girls) buy so much stuff, is that they are struggling to find an identity and the new things, particularly clothing, shoes and makeup, become the materials through which they experiment with the ability to semiotically communicate these possible identities with the rest of society. However, I've discussed this before.

Aside from the depth of her self-knowledge on this topic, what really impressed my about her piece, was Hayley’s thoughtful approach of the changes she felt she still had to make. Her acknowledgement that we are all in transition: that our lifestyles, beliefs and practises are constantly evolving in particular interested me. I have a tendency to forget change takes time and often has a natural flow if you allow it, but in specific regards to shopping and the consumption of things, new or otherwise, I have been aware that the changes I have been putting in place for the last four years or so are part of a personal evolution, and a fascinating one at that.

Hayley writes:

'I’d like to do more when I’m ready. And I’m working on it. But it’s understandable that I won’t be able to make lasting big changes in a short amount of time. So I’m okay with where I am right now. I’m okay with being in the process of working on my stuff. That’s where I’ll always be, after all.'

She also outlines some steps that she feels are necessary for her to work through to get closer to where she feels she would like to be in regards to shopping. Reading it I realised that I have actually already come quite far myself in letting go of a lot of the emotional baggage that contributes to the desire to buy stuff, and that was very heartening.

But I, too, see improvements to be made and further steps I can take. Which is why I have made the decision to not by any new shoes for a year. Many sewers who are trying to replace their former shopping habits with home sewing compulsions have documented how easy it can be to continue the same patterns of shopping, but instead simply refocus the hording compulsion towards fabric, patterns, notions etc. I have tried to be mindful of that trap, which is one of the main impulses that let to Stash Bustin’. I also think that putting an embargo on clothing purchases can possibly lead to heightened levels of shoe and accessory purchasing, which I can help but think somewhat undermines genuine good intentions. I can’t say if I’ve become guilty of that, but I do know that my shoe collection certainly hasn’t got any smaller in recent years. Time to go cold turkey.

So, the plan is simply to not buy any new footwear until July 2011. I am permitting myself to purchase second hand shoes and boots within limitations. For example, if I need some shoes for work or to replace one of my more practical pairs, I am allowed to hunt some out on ebay. If I happen to chance upon some that fit well in a charity shop, I am allowed them even if there is not a direct ‘need’. Your thoughts and comments on these topics and your personal experience are more than gratefully received.


Carolyn said...

Wow, I take my hat off to you! I don't think I could do this one myself... Good luck!

Kelli said...

You can do this, it's easier than you would think! I too, loved shoe shopping and each outfit had several pairs of matching shoes (casual, business, formal, etc) I realized I didn't wear most of them more than once or twice and it was a pain making space for them in my limited closet, or packing and moving them across the country... twice. Now I buy quality over quantity and my shoes get worn and loved just as much. Plus the 'cost per wear' is down to zero :)

Good Luck!

~Kelli @ Smidgens

Uta said...

I found that since I started sewing more I hardly go shopping anymore... and it's such a relief. Who needs crwoded, stressful high street settings when the time can be spent having a cup on coffee on the terrace?! Overconsumption hasn't been my problem really ( and I even curtailed my fabric shopping since the stash cupboard has become full!) since I'm so picky when buying. I typically have "one" of each type shoe e.g. because it takes me several years to find a pair that fits and that I really like! Also, I wear my stuff forever. As in, I have sweaters that are 15 years old (and wear them). The last thing however leads to full closets even though I don't buy or sew a whole lot. I decided to start being more critical whether what I'm sewing really fills a hole in my wardrobe or leads to "doubles". The things that "helps" me with consuming less is that too much stuff overwhelms me. My dream closet is 20 chosen garments; my nightmare is 10 yards of clothes and having to choose. Interesting post, as always!

Alyssa said...

I always surprise myself, personally, with shoes. I was briefly obsessed with a line Mudd came out with a few years ago and I used to buy lots of Converse when they hit bargain stores for $20, but other than that I generally don't buy them. It is even fairly easy to talk myself out of thrift store shoes. However, I still don't wear the pairs I have!
But I am certainly familiar with shopping obsessions, so good luck Zoe girl! Do we get a photo of your ginormous shoe pile?

Minnado said...

Thank you for your lovely reference to me! Tee hee - it made me smile. I agree that Hayley is so good at putting her finger on things that I have been thinking about. She is so good at expressing her thoughts. I think you will find the no new-shoe buying okay to cope with. I have been trying to get my shoes mended and take better care of them rather than ditch for new ones.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. Sadly, my husband has been at war with my shoe collection, so I'm pretty much down to the bare basics at the moment; I don't even have sandals (again) this year. I was surprised at how many "costume" pairs I had kicking around pre-purge, however... they add up! I think the seductive thing about shoes is that how they look on the shelf is pretty much how they look on your feet. While you may not find your size or find a given shoe comfortable, it's not like trying on clothes where you really don't know how it will look until it's on you.

Now that I'm sewing garments the desire to buy store clothes is pretty muted, but the fabric does tend to accumulate, doesn't it?

Penny-Rose said...

I am so heartened that I am not the only girl / woman who says "exactly" and "that is SO right" when reading blogs! Your words really pierced me!! I "purged" my shoe collection last week of all the $20(NZ) pairs bought on impulse which are now looking trashy rather than cool. I confess (imagine really small writing) I put eight pairs in a bag for the Salvation Army. Since March I have only bought 3 pairs of retro shoes from charity stores. My wardrobe and my soul feel better for it. Good luck and I look forward to reading more of your blog, Penny-Rose

Carlie said...

Good Luck with this!

My problem is not the purchasing of shoes, but the hoarding of ones that are past their used date. Time to declutter that show cupboard me thinks.

I've always been a fabricoholic, it is slightly worse now that I don't shop so much, but then there is a lot more sewing going on. And the hand-me-downs are refashioned for the littlies, so not too bad I hope.

The Long & Winding Bobbin said...

Oh you have hit the nail on the head (Both you and Hayley)
I too speak out loud when reading thought provoking stuff.
I have always liked pretty things and I am a very visual person. I was always buying pretty things even if they didn't quite fit right and if they were a little out of my price range. Why is that? What posesses us to buy expensive and unnecessary things even when we have 10 exact copies in our wardrobe already...(But oh this one is in a mint green, I don't have that colour yet!)Or expensive items that are expensive only because of a tiny logo/brand?
eek its ridiculous when some people in the world have Nothing.

But since I jumped aboard the sewing train a few years ago I have rarely shopped for ready to wear garments unless it is something special or something that I am unable to make myself. I have cleansed most of the wardrobe to the "essentials".
I think it is fantastic that you think about these things and try to minimise because it is so important. And it makes you feel good too...
It is too easy to give in the the consumer monster!

thanks for a thought inspiring post!

Hayley Sarah said...

Thanks so much for your lovely words, they totally made my week! I'm happy what I wrote rung home with you.

I'm glad you brought up young people and the need to define their identity with their stuff. That's such a great point. I studied youth culture at uni, and it's kind of ridiculous but youth culture pretty much IS consumerism. You could make an argument that the culture of every age is also based on consumerism but that kind of makes my head hurt.

Love this: "I have a tendency to forget change takes time and often has a natural flow if you allow it." I absolutely agree.

Good luck with your shoe fast, I'll be following along & watching out for further posts on this subject.

Celkalee said...

As usual, a very thought provoking post! Now a little story...I have had a shoe "thing" ever since I can remember. I specifically remember a pair of blue leather penny loafers that I HAD to have, I was 7 years old, my Father was having mini-strokes! Blue shoes!!! When will she ever wears those??? I liked them so much I used to watch my feet when I walked, not where I was going, guess how that turned out? I have a nice collection, colors and styles that suit my lifestyle. No, not a pair per outfit, but many black ones. One can never have enough black shoes. I wish I could go on a shoe hiatus, but I am not going to even try. I will love hearing about others adventures though. Carry your torch past that shoe store, smile and know that you are a better person than I!

Nancy said...

Hi there - I've read your posts on the Colette Patterns blog, and just found your blog.

This topic is something I have thought a lot about. I've narrowed my shopping down to "the only new things I buy are undies and bras." The rest is either from the Salvation Army, from vintage shops, or made by me.

But shoes have always been my weak point. I used to sell shoes for a living. I love them. I dream about becoming a footwear designer. And yet I know how wasteful the shoe industry is, and how much pollution it creates. Buying fewer, higher quality shoes has always been part of my shoe shopping approach, but even still, I have a lot of shoes.

My compromise? Mohop sandals. They're basically handmade wooden soles (made from sustainably harvested wood, with recycled rubber bits on the bottom.) They have loops along the edge of the footbed, through which you can lace any type of ribbon or trim your heart desires! You can have an infinite sandal wardrobe by buying ribbons instead of new pairs of sandals. I ordered my pair a month ago and am still waiting; the team at Mohop is a little behind in orders because they've gotten a fair amount of press lately.

I salute your moratorium on shoe shopping. This kind of change does take time, and it's a process; not something that can happen instantly. I hope to move farther along this continuum myself!


Anonymous said...

I was prepared to hate the Mohop sandals and they are quite cute. I was surprised. Unfortunately the price tag will keep me from buying, no matter how well made, cute or good they are, since that is slightly more then my entire shoe and purse budget for the entire year.

I don't like used shoes, and I won't wear them. I do luck out that I find new, unused shoes sometimes at thrift stores, but mostly I buy clearance ones in the opposite season. I am a shoe horse (and a clothes horse, too), and I have to buy purses to match.

I have a ton of patterns, and my boyfriend swears I have too much fabric. Thing is, sure I hoard patterns, but I use them. Some are used to learn drafting, some are used as is, some are just inspiration. My stash stays under 100 yards and I don't shop for more. I don't even hardly go into a fabric shop unless I need more.

I have always been a weird consumer. It takes me forever to find anything that I like, and when I do, I buy 2 or 3 pairs that are the same, and on 5-10$ clearance, it doesn't kill me (and I have shoes for 10 years or more). Even shoes I get at places like Forever 21 or Hot Topic are under that price range and I still have the first pair of heels from each of the shops...that are still wearable and look nearly new. I change my shoes out to match outfits (and I have black shoes that match different things, and colored ones) so they never get a lot of use. I also keep my shoes to about 20 pairs, with a pair of athletic shoes to run in that are not counted (although I count my pink converse and orange vans as part of the 20).

Sewing hasn't affected my shoe shopping, plus or minus. I always have a few sensible shoes, a few that match most of the things in my wardrobe and a few casual shoes. Accessories...I wear the same jewelry (necklace, earrings, watch, anklet), and get bracelets here and there at thrift stores to change the look once in a while.

Sewing hasn't affected my shopping overmuch. I spend less then some and more then others and take care of what I have.

Doesn't mean I want to not buy shoes :) Sorry.

PeixBlau said...

Nowadays, I do go shopping with more sensible head. It is hard. Sewing keeps me busy. I think I become less compulsive with shopping or food. Though I might become compulsive with sewing projects or fabrics.

Gail said...

I have given away shopping for clothing, except what I sew or buy second hand (not much of that these days). But I still love buying shoes, especially boots.

Freya said...

Your post really resonated with me too. I completely agree with your view that our need to find an identity for ourselves when growing up somehow dictates our shopping habits. I wasted my student loans on frivolous things.

And though I've been feeling particularly proud of myself for not buying new clothes nor shoes (as i've been trying to save money) i've been in complete denial about my compulsive stash and notion purchases. Thank you for bringing that home to me.

Irene Bullock said...

This resonates with me too, last week I had the same feeling. I was putting order in my summer clothes and I was wondering "when do "many clothes" becomes "too many clothes". I probably could go one full year wearing different clothes without repeating! My problem isn't so much with shopping but with hoarding, I never throw anything away unless is really in rags. I have definitively slowed down my purchasings lately (also shoes and fabrics). Luckily I'm not a shoes or bags person and being realistic I have enough patterns to make a garment a week for several years. *Sigh*

Roobeedoo said...

I go round and round in circles in my stance on consumerism. On the one hand, I struggle to spend the £s my husband gave me for my birthday to buy clothes, and find it quite overwhelming. On the other, I can web-window-shop for hours on end. I LOVE funky shoes, and have several pairs that don't fit my lifestyle at all. I tend to wear the same few pairs over and over again. However, discovering vintage style has really helped me to gather some focus. I work my way towards identifying the perfect pair of trousers or the perfect blouse and it can take weeks to find the right pattern / fabric and then make it up. The slower pace makes me appreciate the final garment a lot more, and I don't have the same "binge" approach to shopping. If you are going to avoid buying new shoes, make sure you know where you can get your heels / soles repaired. There are surprisingly few cobblers out there anymore and leather soled (vintage) shoes are not so hard-wearing.

Fourth Daughter said...

I haven't bought stuff (clothes, shoes, accessories, in fact just about everything except food) from "real" shops for ages, can't remember the last time I bought new shoes even though I have a voucher sitting around for a shoe shop... because look what you can find if you look in op shops!!
But I do identify with trying not to buy more stuff. Even if it is cheap because it is from op shops, it's not like I really NEED a lot of the (fabulous) stuff I find there.

Tasia said...

Wow, I'm impressed! No new shoes?
This would be hard for me, not because I'm a fanatical shoe shopper but I'm always on the lookout for cute, comfortable, walkable heels. If they come along, I'm buying them!
However, the more I sew, and the more I read thought-provoking posts about consuming, the less I'm inclined to spend for the sake of spending. It's less about the thrill, and more about filling a need.
Good luck with your new challenge! As always, you've left me thinking about my own patterns of consumption and inspired by your choices.

Anonymous said...

love the sentiment of your post, I was there in Topshop c1995, only I was in Manchester :)
it made me think of the song lyric by Lily Allen (I think the song is called The Fear)it goes

'I am a weapon of massive's not my fault, it's how I'm programmed to function'

good luck with the shoes - i'm sure I couldn't do it!

Tilly said...

Hey Zoe
Thanks for pointing out Hayley's blog - I've spent waaay too long browsing it, some might call it stalking. Good luck with the shoe embargo - you can do it!
Tilly x

liza jane said...

I'm so glad I found your post. This has been on my brain lately. My husband and I recently bought a house and my financial issues have all come to light. I realized how sad it is that I have this crazy debt simply because of buying myself things, mostly clothes and shoes. I, too, have the "oh, I have to pay these back?" student loans. I started sewing last year and have become really excited about how I can make things instead of buy them. I have been thinking about starting a Year Without Mass Retail on my blog, but I'm kind of being a chicken about it because I'm not sure I can follow through. Thanks for this post, it's inspiring

Minnado said...

Hi Zoe, I only just read the comment you left about Spain and vintage style - thank you for the lovely comment and for that link. I will read it and get back to you x

Ali said...

Zoe, I love that you're continually giving yourself restraints that align with your values, and I've been thinking that perhaps these aren't restraints at all (as Hayley mentions) but an opportunity to explore your interests in other ways.

I had to place a shoe- and denim-stop on myself. It was so easy just to pick up these at thrift stores and I found myself with near-duplicates that accrued space and rarely got worn. This self-knowledge helped me to focus my energy on other things and keeps my life a little less cluttered.

I look forward to seeing how your newest journey goes! :)

Corinnea said...

I enjoyed your post. I am a lot older than you and I can confirm that changes do take time and wax and wane..... Just being more aware of what and why you buy is a big step. The biggest problem I continue to have is that clothes are just so pretty!!!!!

Unknown said...

Wow, this could be a real challenge! I don't tend to buy shoes new unless I really *need* something (you know how it goes, you see smart office shoes in charity shops and vintage stores ALL the time until you need a pair...) and then I tend to go for something cheap with the idea that I'll replace it with something unique and vintage as and when I find it. What generally happens then is that I don't find what I'm looking for and end up wearing the cheap nasty shoes until they're literally falling apart, at which point the cycle begins again.
I think if I were you, I would make a list of all the shoes I need and wear regularly and keep it in your wallet. Then if you're out and about and you see a pair that fit the bill, you can buy them second-hand, even if you don't need them just then, and store them until you do need them. That way you don't end up panic buying rubbish from Primark! That's what I always plan to do, I should really just organise myself and do it!

Anonymous said...

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