The Great American Apparel Diet

It seems that giving up shopping is all the rage. A group of 39 women has vowed to go without buying clothing for a year, and they’re blogging about it at The Great American Apparel Diet. I first heard about their experiment on this post from Planet Green/Discovery.

It sounds just like The Compact for clothing, except that they can’t even buy used. They’re swapping with friends, finding things in their closet that had been put aside, and donating items they’re no longer going to wear. And in the process, they’re learning a lot more about where their clothes come from and how to live more sustainably.

And just like me, they’re finding out that giving up shopping has a host of side benefits, like saving money, saving time, getting organized, and decreasing your carbon footprint.

Could you give up shopping for one year if it was a clothing only vow? Since most of us obviously have plenty of items to last us through the year, it makes you think about why we buy new things: the short term high, filling an emotional void, etc. Please share your thoughts about why you buy clothes in the Comments section.

And might I add that giving up shopping does NOT mean giving up fashion. In fact, making the most out of less can inspire great creativity. Check out The Uniform Project to see what I mean. One dress, 365 days. Proving that style and sustainability are NOT mutually exclusive.


  1. Leasmom says

    If you have a good amount of clothes thats a great ideal. I though only have one pair of jeans and maybe 3 or 4 wearable shirts. I have a few knockabouts too for home-wear only. Thats the extent of my wardrobe but I'm planning on buying a few more duds at the thrift store and at least 3 more pairs of jeans, new because I'm plus sized and its hard to find used clothes that fit me. I had only four pair of jeans before and they all wore out at the same time. So for me unless I had a little more than one pair of jeans, I couldn't do it-lol.

  2. Julia (Color Me Green) says

    hm well i do feel kind of like i've given up fashion since i gave up shopping for fun. or maybe since i graduated college and realized i couldn't wear those cute outfits to work in the real world. humph.

  3. Alea says

    I have found that over the years I have moved towards timeless clothes that fit well. I feel more comfortable in my clothes and have saved a lot by not buying the latest trendy item. I could probably go a whole year without buying any clothing items (as long as I did not have a significant weight change), even used, but like Leasmom pointed out I have several pairs of jeans and several nice pair of slacks to see me through.

  4. Those Tricks says

    holy houndstooth!
    That's like asking me to give up brushing my teeth.
    ain't gonna happen.

    A not buying brand new clothes challenge, I get.
    But sheesh.
    Clothing that fits and makes you feels good is a necessity, in my book.
    Not just for practical purposes, but wardrobe is one of the biggest ways we represent our style and personality and a very important element of how you you are perceived. Whether you are wearing head-to-toe biker leather, a mechanic's jumpsuit or haute couture – your clothes say a lot about you.

    JULIA! You CAN look cute for work…just a different kind of cute. Plus, you have a life outside of work, too!
    LEASMOM! Fashion comes in all sizes.
    Check out these lovely ladies :


  5. Laura says

    I had actually committed to myself to do just that this year. I think I can go an entire year without buying one new thing. The only thing that I worried might be hard to manage were nursing uniforms that I wear to work. I need to look professional, but I know I have many that I have not worn in year that I could re-visit.
    Should be an interesting group to follow. Thanks for posting.

  6. Marie-Josée says

    This is a great initiative, and I think it is really an area that we need to review and think about collectively. I purchase a few trendy items each spring, summer and fall that I pass along to friends after one or two seasons of wear. In addition, I am addicted to costume jewelry, which I prefer over the real thing, as it is much more colorful and expresses my personality more vividly. I am planning on losing a lot of weight this year, and this is not a commitment I could take now, but once I hit my target weight and revamp my wardrobe, it certainly is something I would consider, although doing The Compact next year will come first. I had already decided that I would purchase only fair trade jewelry in the future: I still get to nurture my passion/addiction while supporting artisans around the world.

    Cotton culture is the most polluting crop in the world…I was tempted to write that the cheap clothing bought at Walmart or other large size retailers comes at an incredible cost to the planet and the workers nurturing those crops, but high-end retailers are just as guilty, purchasing their cotton from the same companies.

    I really hope that this movement snowballs into something big, and I thank you Angela for bringing the site to my attention. I will pass the info to others: how we spend is ultimately the way we vote. Companies will change their policies if we refuse to buy the products they propose…

  7. Betsy Talbot says

    I'm so glad you posted about The Uniform Project! I'm planning to do something very similar on our trip around the world – the same basic pants/shirt/shoes and then jazzing it up with scarves/jewelry we get along the way.

    As for the Apparel Diet, I've been doing a version of this for a while now. As we've downsized, and especially after my reverse birthday party last month, I have fewer and fewer clothes and shoes in my closet. And you know what? I STILL have plenty to wear! This has been a really good lesson for me. Before I had so much that it was hard to be creative. Now I can see everything in my closet and knowing I can't buy anything new makes me try a little harder when putting together outfits.

  8. Non Consumer Girl says

    I love clothes!

    After my year of buying nothing new, I have bought some clothes in January in the sales, mainly T-shirts.

    I still need a new swimsuit, and some underwear.

    Apart from these items, now I feel like I really don't need to buy any more new clothes this year, I have a lot of great clothes that I have archived that don't fit in my wardrobe since I have decluttered it earlier this month.

    So, I will "shop my closet" from the archived clothes when I feel the urge for something "new" and rotate something from my closet into "archives".

  9. Angela says

    Thanks so much for all your comments! I really want to answer them individually, but I haven't had time- I have comments for each of you, about plus sizes, the brown dress project, what's the best "uniform" for travel, etc.

    I hope to have a few minutes on Saturday…

  10. Angela says

    leasmom- It's true that you need more to start with. My advice is to get away from blue jeans. There are so many other options that are just as comfortable and so much more stylish- long skirts are a favorite with me. All different kinds of pants, not just jeans. It requires a new way of looking at yourself. Go with your daughter to a thrift store and have her pick out some things for you. Buy a few things at a time and get a new look going.

    Julia- I agree with Steph- there are ways to make those "cute outfits" work for the workplace… My favorite "office attire" is skirt and boots with a blouse or sweater- with or without tights (usually without in California)

    Alea- Same for me. I find that I get annoyed that a "trendy" item is already dated before I've had a chance to wear it!

    Stephanie- Holy Houndstooth! That cracked me up. Hilarious. Yes, you fashionista- I know you can't give it up now. And why should you- you're looking awesome! I agree that clothes are a way of expressing ourselves, but I also think it can be done with a lot less money, a lot less items, and used.

    Sally- thanks so much, but I've got enough on my plate with The Compact- I want to reserve the option to buy used clothes if I want, and I can't give up the clothes swap!

    Laura- I think if you did it for everything except the uniform, that would be a big commitment. A uniform is for work, and you want to feel fresh and professional. I say buy as many uniforms as you need.

    Marie-Josee- You've got a lot of commitments ahead- losing weight and doing The Compact- thanks for the reminder that how we spend is how we vote. I think that's an important point.

    The Saved Quarter- thanks for that link to the brown dress project! I think the main idea is the same, but there are a lot of differences- the brown dress is sort of an anti- fashion statement, and the uniform project is I think about showing style without spending a lot or having a lot. Plus there was only one brown dress that she had to wash at it, etc. And sorry, but in terms of style the uniform project is WAY cuter- sorry if it sounds snotty, but that brown dress… hmmm… not something I'm gonna rush out and put on… while the little black cap-sleeved dress is adorable.

    Betsy Talbot- Yes, you will definitely have a sort of "uniform." My very favorite travel wear is a black knit skirt that I got at Isabella Bird or one of those travel catalogs. I wear it constantly and it never wrinkles- it always looks nice if you add a scarf,etc. but is super comfortable and is long enough you can still sit on the ground, etc. if you need to and the dirt will just brush right off or rinse out and dry almost instantly. I highly recommend it- for me, it's much better than jeans- more comfortable, more lightweight, and easier to wash and dry. It's a bonus that it's really cute!

    Non Consumer Girl- Yes, I love clothes too! The irony is that sometimes I wear more when I have less, when I clean out my closet a bit. And yes, like you, I have started "shopping in my closet" this year, with some great results…

    Thanks everyone for your comments!

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