The Free Fashion Challenge


This is one not-so-easy step that you can take to help you change into a world changer and make a difference with your purchasing habits. But I will warn you, it isn’t as easy as you might guess. But it is so worth! Keep reading to learn how to not buy clothing for a year so you can live generously.


Where Will You Be in a Year?


A lot an happen in a year. You can pay off a 10K loan or slip 10K into debt. You can fall-in-love with, buy, listen to on repeat over-and-over, then loath that new song the radio is still playing. You can get a new job. Or move away. Or get accidentally knocked up and within year have a beautiful baby. Or worse, in our fragile lives, we could have some catastrophic event shake the foundations of our world.


Here is one of my examples of something I didn’t expect to happen within a year: I married my husband almost a year to the day we have met.  At the beginning of the year when we first met, although I thought he was cute, there were no other initial sparks. I thought he was boring and he thought I was a passionate fireball (which wasn’t necessarily a compliment). But one year later we were in-love, hitched, and driving accross the country to start our new life together.


From this moment on, I don’t know what I will be doing in a year. I have my plans, but I can’t predict the future.


Last year when I asked this question, “where will you be in a year,” I might not have known where I would be at the end of 2012, but I did know what I would be wearing.


That is because in this past year, 2012, I decided to take up the Free Fashion Challenge  year-long sabbatical from buying new clothing. I thought it would go well in conjunction with my very first Little Black Dress Project, a month-long project where we wear the same item of clothing to help us become a world changers for the issue of human trafficking (you can read about the real reason I started that first LBD Project here).


Almost exactly a year since embarking on this Free Fashion Challenge, I thought I would review it for you as an advocacy project.


First, I don’t see myself as someone who spends a lot on new clothing. I buy cheap stuff that falls apart quickly, from classy places like Target’s or Old Navy’s sale rack (although I am re-thinking that due to the exploitation of those workers making those cheap pieces of clothing). Being a flip-flop girl from California’s Central Coast, I am still unaccustomed to buying shoes because I feel like my feet look weird in them. So, shoes aren’t a big thing for me either (although I kinda like Toms and their One Day Without Shoes).


In otherwords, I am far from a shopaholic and overall I don’t really go to town with the clothing buying thing. I do get new stuff, but just a few things here and there.


But once I stopped buying new stuff, I was kinda annoyed I couldn’t buy new stuff. And then I noticed I had been getting new stuff a little more often than I thought. I also discovered I paid a lot more attention to fashion than I thought. Although I don’t think I am particularly fashionable, I certainly don’t like being totally unfashionable, either.


The Fashion Free Challenge was great because it helped me see that I cared more than I thought and showed me that maybe I was and still am spoiled a little. Because It is not like I really need most of these little things.


Instead, my thoughts might be similar to what yours are–Heck, since I can, why not get new stuff that I like and others might like on me? There is nothing wrong with that, right? Might as well. It isn’t that much money.


And no, there isn’t really anything wrong with buying yourself stuff.


But before you move on, check out what I learned.


Eleven ways I’ve Changed Through the Year of Not Buying Clothing


I was surprised at how healthy this project was for me and don’t regret it in the slightest! Here is why:


1.) I’ve saved probably days worth of time, cutting out the five minutes here, twenty minutes there of browsing clothing.

2.) I am less greedy. I rarely go to clothing areas of a store, because, well, that just makes me want new stuff. And I am realizing wanting stuff is actually the same thing as being greedy (whoa!).

3.) I realized I had more stuff that I thought I did.

4.) I became much more creative with what I owned.

5.) I realized I don’t need as much.

6.) I have probably saved $50 a month, as that was what my old clothing/shoes budget was before this year.

7.) I was able to be more generous with that money, giving it away to more charities and causes. During my 40 days in a my black dress, I was able to give clothing money to end famine for the first year of what is now the Little Black Dress Project (check out Review: Action Little Black Dress in Retrospect).

8.) I have also been giving my old clothing away and am not attached as much to it.

9.) I became much more content and confident with who I am, fashion aside.

10.) I became more grateful.

11.) I experienced others’ generosity.  I actually now have either just as much, if not more clothing than when I started the challenge!

On Experiencing Generosity


This was the fascinating aspect of taking on this challenge–when I wasn’t concerned with clothing, other people randomly gave me stuff. There is a verse in the Bible I think makes sense of this:


Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be . . .

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.”

Matthew 6:19-21; 28-32


Honestly, I didn’t even need people to give me clothing this year–heck, I lived over a month in the same dress! After that I could get used to living with very little but I still had a lot. Even so, I was being given clothing by people who weren’t aware I was doing this challenge. Even high-quality, brand-name stuff, some from people I didn’t even know!


Hum . . . I was giving more than I had before, I was not concerned with fashion, and I was being given a lot more too!

Cheating – I did Buy New Clothing


In full disclosure, I did buy some stuff.  I got a necessary “uplifting garment” when the Free Fashion Challenge let me have one freebie in the year.


I don’t actually remember all their rules of the game, but I am pretty sure I couldn’t buy accessories, or take new clothing as gifts or gift cards. I know that for sure I totally cheated because I bought a bracelet (even though it was fair trade).  And I did accept a few of presents of new clothing that I got as gifts, a $10 gift card I got to a clothing store, and free underwear coupons. But if I was given money, I didn’t use that to buy clothing.


Then, here is the account of my most infamous cheat of the year, Action: The Power of The T-Shirt. And–big confession–it wasn’t just that one time! I got another shirt that I swore I wouldn’t wear until the new year but I wore it anyway. I just couldn’t resist because it had a ninja on it! Lastly I bought a pair of $3 turquoise fishnet stockings which I haven’t touched and I just might never (update: these fishnets are now wardrobe staples for me in the yearly LBD Project).


So, although the Fashion Free Challenge was mostly fashion-free, I still had some difficulties. And it is okay if you do too. The goal is to learn how to not be controlled by our stuff, learn about what giving up stuff can mean for other people around the world, and curb our unknown greed.


For me this project was much easier than it would be for some, as shopping isn’t really my big addiction. But for some of my friends, it would be almost impossible, and they just might have to go to Alcoholics Anonymous for help. Which would be great, because even if buying stuff is an acceptable addiction, it is still an addiction that hinders us from changing the world.


Action Ideas to Live Generously & Create Margin


1.) Sign up to do the Fashion Free Challenge by taking a year-long sabbatical from buying new clothing and maybe even giving your clothing budget to those who are poor or exploited! Unfortunately, whoever started the Fashion Free Challenge isn’t doing it anymore, so you will just have to contact me here or commit to it in the comments below so I can hold you accountable. I’ll be so proud of you!


2.) Take part in the Little Black Dress (or shirt) with me in March–here we will encourage you to give up a month of buying clothing and walk you through caring about human trafficking while you are at it.


3.) Ask yourself what you really need from what you own:


free fashion challenge

Not Buying Clothing For Your Own Free Fashion Challenge



If you liked this advocacy idea and want more, check out the below guide: