THIS WEEK, FASHION & BEAUTY COLUMNIST, NANCY BUCKLAND KIRK, TAKES THE LONG VIEW ON STYLE.
It seems a contradiction in terms to be discussing new fashion buys and being more mindful about style consumption all in the same sentence. It certainly is a challenging time for fashion fanatics. We have so much to choose from, whether it be cheap and cheerful retailers to don’t-ask-the-price luxury stores, and everything in between. But it seems the more choice we have the more bemused we may be feeling, which is where Project 333 Challenge comes from. Backed by information from WRAP (the Waste and Resources Action Programme), in the UK we now spend £200 per person each year on clothes we will never wear. That means our wardrobes are stuffed with things that still have tags on, things we have worn once, things that don’t fit and things we don’t want to give up without a fight.
Project 333 has a simple premise: choose 33 items from your wardrobe and wear them, and only them, for the next three months. The challenge comes courtesy of writer Courtney Carver, who decided that living with so much stuff, for want of a better word, was not making her happy. In fact, being surrounded by too much of a good thing is not a positive move for your health and well being in any way. Before you even think of the environmental consequences of constantly buying things you will never wear, you also have to look at the personal cost, and it is not just financial.
Is it easy to edit down your wardrobe and stick with you new choices? It is if you have just read about what a brilliant choice it is to make. It is not when you are surrounded by piles of clothes and accessories and you actually have to be ruthless about what to keep, and what to leave behind. Some people are brilliant at editing. They then sell on great items on online sites to recoup some of the expense, and buy something useful and worthy with the proceeds.
I am not one of these people.
Thankfully, I don’t feel the need to buy a new dress every weekend and then discard it after every wear. I am not a fan of throwaway fashion. However, when it comes to buying fashion, I am far from mindful and sometimes go on sheer instinct. I just love a piece or I don’t love it. I sometimes don’t think, though, of what I need it for, how often I will wear it, and if it goes with anything else I own. I am also a repeat purchase offender. Do I need a new white shirt? Rarely. Do I want a new white shirt? Always. I have never found the perfect one, which is why I am always on the hunt.
In an era of £20 dresses, it seems a little old school to talk about investment dressing and cost-per-wear, but they are standards which stand up well and still count. If you buy a handbag that costs a month’s wages and you use it nearly every day for a decade, it is actually a bargain. If you buy a bag that costs the same as a lipstick, and never use it, it is a waste of money and of space. The skill is finding anything you want to wear for a decade.
Perhaps there is a middle ground. I am never, ever going to tire of wanting to throw caution to the wind now and again and fall in love with something fabulous. But I can certainly make a start by setting aside sentiment and finally parting with those Moschino cowboy boots, purchased in my JLo-goes-bling phase, circa 2001, which look entirely out of place on me but would look gorgeous on someone with coltish legs at Glastonbury. I have a whole host of these hidden gems, but I am not sure what I am saving them for. The Juicy Couture teeny-tiny velvet beach dress with the tags on is so ironic it’s back on the style map, but I think it’s missed its moment with me.
Perhaps it is finally time to grow up. This doesn’t have to mean a lifetime of ‘useful’ separates and good quality control underwear, but it does mean that buying things that you don’t love, that don’t inspire you and that look like they have walked into the wrong bedroom, is not the way forward. So I will be inspired by the Project 333 challenge, but will add three pieces that I have really given my heart to this season, none of which will be destined for landfill, as why would they be?
Think with your head, but now and again, you can still use your heart. It keeps you alive, that beat. And even if I live to the ripe old age of 90, I know that the perfect shirt while remain elusive. It will never be the right time to call off the search.
Trousers (£79), Striped Sweater (£89) and Mock Crock Leather Mules (£89) all from www.uterque.com
About the author: Nancy Buckland Kirk is a writer with a keen interest in fashion and beauty and a career which has spanned modelling, teaching and spreading the word about leading beauty brands.
Related features: Prepare to meet your make-up hero products