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Northern Ireland women share how they go for months without buying any new clothes


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Fashion choices: Lynne McCabe sorting through her wardrobe

Fashion choices: Lynne McCabe sorting through her wardrobe

Lynne McCabe with husband Jonnie and sons Clarke and Austin

Lynne McCabe with husband Jonnie and sons Clarke and Austin

Carla going through her wardrobe

Carla going through her wardrobe

Shopping around: Carla Rollock Kieran with some of her recent discoveries

Shopping around: Carla Rollock Kieran with some of her recent discoveries

Fashion choices: Lynne McCabe sorting through her wardrobe

Fashion choices: Lynne McCabe sorting through her wardrobe

Fashion choices: Lynne McCabe sorting through her wardrobe

Fashion can be the perfect pick-me-up, but it's becoming ever more trendy to abstain. Two women tell Helen Carson why they embraced the challenge.

‘I was often tempted to buy something on impulse even though I didn’t need it’

Lynne McCabe lives between Hillsborough and Dromore and runs two guesthouses, Lisnacurran Country House and Ralph's, Moira, with her husband Jonnie. They have two children, Clarke (12) and Austin (eight). She says:

My wardrobe is in my children's old nursery which I have converted into a walk-in wardrobe for all my buys.

Last year I wanted to do a total reboot of my wardrobe because there was too much stuff - it was ridiculous. It was a feeling of total excess.

So I called on the services of Northern Ireland personal styling consultancy Evolve by Samara who comes in and assesses everything in your wardrobe.

She explains the psychology behind why you buy and what you're buying.

She strips out your wardrobe and looks at what items don't suit you. For me it was pieces I just wasn't wearing, and she was able to tell me why I didn't feel comfortable in an outfit.

Often it was the wrong cut for my shape or a colour which didn't suit me.

Last April I cleared all the unsuitable items out of my wardrobe, donating most things to my church sale. Because I buy quality clothes and not fast fashion, anything that was unworn was sold on eBay.

Some of the things I'd bought at local boutiques were pricey and rarely worn.

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Fashion choices: Lynne McCabe sorting through her wardrobe

Fashion choices: Lynne McCabe sorting through her wardrobe

Fashion choices: Lynne McCabe sorting through her wardrobe

Even then, the clearout didn't seem to make much difference, there were still lots of clothes left.

When I shop it's at boutiques like Lily Rose in Moira or Katriona's in Banbridge.

I also go to the Outlet in Kildare twice a year, but I really buy too much. It's not just a single item but an entire outfit. I was spending too much every month on clothes.

I didn't save the money though, it was simply spent on other things.

A shopping spree to London once a year means buying some items from Jigsaw and Kate Spade, while I buy the odd top or polo jumper from M&S at Sprucefield.

There are clothes in my wardrobe that I've had for 15 years as I don't like to throw out expensive, stylish items.

I'm a country girl and a farmer's daughter and I understand the value of money.

My shopping trips weren't planned - they would just happen when I was out and about.

I decided to stop buying new clothes for a year but only managed to do so during January, February and March last year.

I didn't need all the clothes in my wardrobe and even when I stopped buying clothes I had lots of smart outfits. Buying so much is not about changing trends as I don't follow trends and buy what suits me.

I didn't miss not buying new clothes because I had everything I needed.

Now I've learned not to buy so much and will have another three-month moratorium this year. I don't think it's realistic to not buy any new clothes for a year, so I wouldn't be an advocate for that idea.

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Lynne McCabe with husband Jonnie and sons Clarke and Austin

Lynne McCabe with husband Jonnie and sons Clarke and Austin

Lynne McCabe with husband Jonnie and sons Clarke and Austin

We should give online shopping a rest and support our local shops, get out and have a conversation with the shop assistant and make buying clothes more of an experience.

During the three months I didn't buy one single thing, not even underwear or a pair of shoes.

I was often tempted to impulse buy, snapping up a high end designer item reduced by up to 75% even though I didn't need it. Recently I was in a boutique and bought some clothes but when I got home I realised I didn't need them so they will be returned. Shopping can become an addiction with feeling the need to upgrade.

Once you buy a bag for £100, the next one has to be £200 and so it goes on. You're always trying to better the last buy.

I was going in the wrong direction and there was no need for it."

‘I only buy one or two new items a year now ... the rest I get from charity shops or second-hand’

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Carla going through her wardrobe

Carla going through her wardrobe

Carla going through her wardrobe

Carla Rollock Kieran (42), is a PR consultant living in south Belfast with her music producer husband Phil Kieran (42) and their two children Lily Rose (13) and Felix (9). She says:

Having watched a documentary on the labour exploitation in the fashion industry I set myself the challenge to not buy any new clothes in 2019 as my New Year's resolution.

I wasn't that aware of the environmental impact of fast fashion in terms of the amount of clothing which ends up in landfill or the pollution caused by its production.

My goals were to buy fewer clothes and recycle more. It seems to me that the only way to reduce the endless supply from the fast fashion industry is to stop feeding the beast, so I set out to do my own small part by not buying anything new for one year.

Most of my shopping was already done in charity shops or online auction sites. However, I'd still find myself making impulse buys in Primark and other high street stores just on a whim because they're so cheap.

It's the kind of purchase I'd often wear only once or leave it hanging unworn until I next cleared out my wardrobe.

I'd also buy about one designer or higher end item a year for a wedding or special occasion, a winter coat and a few pairs of shoes and boots.

Fortunately, there are four charity shops within walking distance of my front door. My idea of retail therapy is going for a walk with my dog as most charity shops allow you to visit with pets.

I'll browse the rails and have a chat with the volunteers and people staffing the shops. I nearly always find something to buy. You can pick up a new dress or top for about £5 or a whole outfit for £20 if you're in luck.

Charity shops are an important revenue stream for a lot of worthwhile causes. They're a win-win, you save money shopping in them and the money is put back into society.

I probably buy more than I need in them because if I'm in two minds about an item I'll buy it because the money goes to charity.

In turn, I'll have regular wardrobe updates and clearouts by donating unwanted clothes back to the charity shops for someone else to get their turn.

I always wash second-hand clothes before I wear them but I'd worry more about wearing box-fresh clothes which are often coated in materials to keep them crease-resistant.

It can be tricky to find boots that fit right as I wear a half size and have slim calves. Saying that, I recently ordered some pre-owned Emma Hope boots online as I know the design fits me.

Doing this Belfast Telegraph photoshoot has made me realise just how many shoes I've gathered this year. Let's just say I have a lot of options now.

There is so much variety in charity shops. Not just in colour and sizing but you'll also find in-season items mixed in with older pieces. Some shops like Oxfam have a vintage or designer section.

It helps if rails are a bit organised or sorted into sizes. Other than that I'm happy to rummage and get inspiration as I go. Shopping second-hand has forced me to think more creatively too and mix and match more.

Charity shopping feels like a treasure hunt - every find is like you've struck a little bit of gold.

I found a gorgeous green wool coat by Arket in Oxfam in Castle Street, Belfast, that I've worn a lot this year.

When someone compliments me on an outfit I'll tell them its second hand and exactly how much it was. I think there used to be a bit of a stigma, as if it meant you couldn't afford to buy new or second-hand meant second best.

Now, it's become a preferred lifestyle for lots of people who are trying to shop more conscientiously and sustainably. I feel like I'm part of a wider movement towards circular fashion rather than an influencer, but I do have a friend who has made this her New Year's resolution for 2020.

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Shopping around: Carla Rollock Kieran with some of her recent discoveries

Shopping around: Carla Rollock Kieran with some of her recent discoveries

Shopping around: Carla Rollock Kieran with some of her recent discoveries

I'd never say never to buying new clothes but I'll think more about how they were made. I'll probably only buy one or two items a year now, and only if I know I'll get a lot of wear out of them.

This year has re-booted my buying habits. I've better outfits because I've given them more thought and I've definitely got better value so it would be hard to go back.

I've definitely saved money on each individual item but I've also bought more clothes than I usually do. At a wild guess, I'd say I've spent about £400 less than usual over the year.

Some of the clothes I've found second-hand are great quality or designer items so if I'd paid for the same clothes and shoes new they'd probably have cost over £3,000.

I'd urge anyone, especially if you're on a tight budget, to visit your local charity shop, clothes swap, online auction or online swap shop.

You'll still have fun with fashion but you'll be helping to protect the environment too."

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