In January I committed to keep going with the Wartime Wardrobe Challenge (with a few modifications). Another year of self-imposed rationing may seem like madness but I have experienced more upsides than hardships from living with a degree of restraint. Less choice and clutter certainly make life easier! Also, last year piqued my curiosity. British women put up with clothes rationing from 1941 to 1949! Although I do not intend to commit to an 8-year plan, I am interested in exploring what constitutes “enough” for a good life for a little longer.
Based on last year’s experience I have made a few tweaks to the project. As modern knickers involve considerably less fabric than capacious wartime ones, I shall equate three pairs of smalls to one pair of camiknickers (4 coupons).
I have also made a reluctant decision about knitwear. Last year I found it harder to limit the amount I knitted than the number of clothes I bought. I enjoy knitting: it relaxes me and is part of what makes up my ‘good life’! And like sewing, it is allows me to take more control over the supply chain of my clothes. Therefore, and as knitting your own woollies is the opposite of fast fashion, I have decided to discount my own cardies and jumpers from five to three coupons, but only for the first three knits so this discount does not become a carte blanche for unbridled consumption.
I reckon these two tweaks bring me broadly into line with the allowance adopted by Alexandra and Malin, two Swedish sewers who have devised a similar challenge. They intentionally opted for 75 coupons as they wanted a challenge that is sustainable over several years.
Planning and double-duty
As I shall extend this challenge for a couple of years, planning will be even more important. With my glacial internal thermostat, I know that most of my ‘budget’ will go on winter/autumn clothes. And by sticking to flattering cuts, fabrics and colours, I already have a useful capsule wardrobe to work with. On this basis, I reckon I can allocate one quarter of my allowance to teeshirts and knits and another quarter to trousers/skirts/dresses to maximise my existing clothes. I shall use about a third of the coupons to replace underwear, stockings, shoes or coats (as necessary), leaving about 12 coupons per year for emergencies and frivolities.
Wherever possible I shall favour double-duty garments. As my style tends to smart but rarely dressy, I have always favoured clothes that can be dressed up or down (like black trousers or jersey dresses), but I shall increasingly be looking for ones that work for different activities. Like long-line yoga teeshirts that look stylish under a cardigan. Or my new raincoat, a waxed organic cotton affair in a daring mustard yellow. This shade would not normally be my first choice but as I am increasingly cycling rather than taking the bus or train, this coat ticks the ‘relatively smart’ as well as ‘visible’ box (and avoids me having to buy a hideous fluorescent cycling jacket).
Applying the updated coupon chart, I have spent nearly a third of my allowance in the first quarter, mostly due to the raincoat (11 coupons). A further ten coupons went on a long-sleeved yoga/smart teeshirt and a merino mid-layer running top that also looks cute over jeans, once washed of course!
As I mentioned in my last Wartime Wardrobe Challenge post, for me the project was never about clothing per se. Clothes were just a good vehicle for starting a conversation about consumption, resource use, needs and wants… Like my fellow WWC deviser Nik, I am therefore delighted that other bloggers have taken up the baton, whether with formal projects or not, like Jackie over at Life during Wartime Challenge or Alexandra and Malin’s Sew for a Change.
Although I shall check in occasionally on the topic of clothes, I am widening my focus. After all, clothing only accounts for about eight per cent of an average UK household’s carbon footprint, compared to the big culprits: travel (27%), food (24%) and heating (13%).* Nevertheless, clothing is a good starting point and one that can segue into other areas. For example, did you know that wearing a thicker jumper (rather than turning up the thermostat) can be more effective at cutting greenhouse gas emissions than installing energy-efficient lightbulbs?!**
*Druckman, A. and Jackson T. An exploration into the carbon footprint of UK households, RESOLVE Working Paper, University of Surrey, 2010.
**Druckman, Hartfree, Hirsh, Perren, Sustainable income standards: towards a greener minimum? Loughborough University, 2011.