When I first told my best friend and faithful shopping partner about my plans for a dry August—that is, to give up shopping for an entire, 31-day-long month—she smirked and said “that’s cute.” And I deserved it: Nearly every Saturday since 2014, we’d meet around noon, go to brunch, take some outfit photos, then run into a bunch of our favorite shops—Tictail, The Frankie Shop, Totokaelo, Reformation—and pick up a few things we wanted but definitely didn’t need.
In between our weekend shopping trips, I’d browse Zara, throwing about $250 or so worth of basics in my cart with the intention of returning 75 percent of it, but I’d inevitably like everything just enough to rationalize keeping it: The cost-per-wear of those $50 jeans would be, like, nothing; I might as well get two or three super-cheap off-the-shoulder tops because they only needed to last one season or until they fall apart; the sweater I’d found was a dead-ringer for a much more expensive iteration that I could afford if I stopped shopping at Zara, but I have no intention of doing so. I had all the excuses, and they were costing me about $1000 a month.
So I took a month off.
And I did it cold turkey: Not only would I resist purchasing anything during our weekly shopping trips, but I couldn’t buy anything for the three weddings (and bridal showers) I had coming up; shopping for my best friend’s bachelorette party scheduled just a few weeks away was off limits; I had to pick one of the 150-some-off items in my closet for all of my boyfriend’s work functions, and I definitely couldn’t buy anything for the ‘gram (guilty)—no exceptions. If that wasn’t bad enough, I made a deal with the devil (also my boyfriend): Not only would I have to deal with the unrelenting shame of having no self-control if I bought something, but I’d also owe him twice the cost of that item. In cash. The same say. I’d ostensibly be paying 3x the amount of anything I bought, but without the pleasure of owning said thing in three colors. (In another veiled attempt to keep myself accountable, I also told everyone that would listen about my plan. This was supremely annoying to anyone that doesn’t shop as much as I do.)
To further prove I had the willpower to keep from shopping, I didn’t bother unsubscribing from the 30 or so store newsletters I subscribe to. I even joined my best friend on a couple shopping trips, always to leave empty handed. August sales were everywhere, and I wanted nothing to do with them, so Instead of browsing Zara or Need Supply or Madewell, I got into the habit of checking my bank account. (Wells Fargo later informed me that I logged into my bank account 362 times in August, about 320 times more than most months.) I wouldn’t say I’m truly addicted to shopping, but the whole thing was torture to say the least.
Without anything shiny and freshly bought to distract me from my existing closet/occasional unhappiness, I realized my rolling rack was filled with poly-blend basics that were one or two wears away from their demise. And I soon realized why they were relegated to the back: Even if I’d taken perfect care of that sweater from H&M or my ever-rotating collection of cheap workout gear from Forever21 (again, usually worn until it falls apart or I bought something else), the quality was still shoddy at best after half a dozen wears. Mind you, I involuntarily scoff at anyone that calls an $800 pair of shoes or a $1,750 bag an “investment—like hell either of those would ever appreciate in value the moment you take them out of the box—but I know I can afford to spent a couple hundred on the basics I wear every day to ensure they won’t literally unravel at the seams before the season’s over.
Of course, fast-fashion chains like Zara, H&M, Mango, or Forever21 totally have their place in every wardrobe—the ever-elusive “going out” dress; a pair of flats you’ll only wear a few times; the aforementioned off-the-shoulder top, or whatever the of-the-moment piece happens to be. But when you build your entire wardrobe with rayon, you’re bound to end up disappointed.
Happy to say I successfully made it through the entire month without buying anything—and I’m trying like hell not to “reward” myself with a Zara run. Instead, I’m taking notes from Marie Kondo and whomever it was that created the “capsule wardrobe” by buying only carefully chosen, often-sustainable pieces that I know I’ll get a few years out of. I’ve also found myself taking my time when choosing brands: I look forward to putting my money in the hands of women that design or create their own garments, like Mary Young , or brands that are committed to transparency and ethical business practices, like Everlane. Plus, buying a dozen or so great items a few times a year that can stand up to the wear-and-tear of NYC, rather than ten or so meh things every month, will hopefully help me curb my obsession with consumerism.
Oh, and now that I can finally use my credit card again, there’s a few things I’m looking forward to scooping up for fall. Click through to see ’em all—and not a single fast-fashion item among them.