I'm Not Buying New Clothes This Year, & It's Easier Than It Sounds

Two months in and I'm still going strong.

Marina Liao
Marina Liao in Chanel earrings and Madewell set for The Shopping List series on The Zoe Report.

As a fashion editor, in order to keep up with the latest trends I write about and the super well-dressed tastemakers, I shop — a lot. Inevitably, this always led me to exceed my monthly clothing budget. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, however, I was inadvertently forced to confront my spending habits. As most of us have pared down our wardrobes to the same few outfits, I, too, realized how small my pool of must-haves really was. Thus, I'm making a simple resolution in 2021: I will not buy "new" clothes this year. Instead, when I feel the urge to splurge, I will commit to making purchases from secondhand online consignment shops, local thrift stores, and vintage boutiques.

In a way, this approach to shopping could not be more timely in 2021 given the fashion conversations on sustainability (PSA: shopping secondhand reduces textile waste), environmental racism, and support of small businesses, particularly those in the BIPOC community, during this health crisis. I've felt inspired by initiatives like Aurora James' 15 percent pledge to rethink, on an individual level, where and how I spend my money — a decision and a privilege I shouldn't take lightly. In addition, as a fan of Marie Kondo's tidying up method and having recently watched Netflix's new documentary The Minimalists: Less Is Now, I'm fully convinced the "no new clothes" shopping guideline I've been adhering to for the last two months will help me become a more conscious consumer who buys less and invests in more quality items.

Though I have tweaked my spending habits, I do still keep an ongoing wish list of items I want from my favorite retailers. (It's part of my job, after all, as an editor, to know what's new or up-and-coming to shop.) The difference is now these items stay on my wish lists and don't appear on my monthly credit card statements. In a more brilliant move, I use these lists as blueprints to scour for those same items on consignment shops, even if this journey takes weeks or months. That's how I came into possession of my beloved gray Tibi coat (it still had the original tags on it!) from The RealReal and my Chanel pearl drop button earrings, which I found on the resale site Fashionphile.

I've wanted a furry coat from Tibi ever since I saw the style in yellow on the Fall/Winter 2018 runway. Last month I spotted the outerwear on The RealReal, in pristine condition, and secured it asap.

In this world of constant consumption and an "I need it now" mentality, which admittedly I have gotten caught up in, stepping back to evaluate my purchases on the basis of necessity and monetary value have also been cathartic processes. Do I really need that cute chunky knit sweater — which will cost half of my paycheck — from the new arrivals section? Probably not. From March 2020 to now I can count on one hand the number of fashion items I've bought, which gives me hope that the whole "no new clothes" regime I'm on is actually doable. Plus, the fact that there are no office gatherings, parties, or press dinners for work makes it that much easier to stick to wearing clothes I already own or to take my time and shop secondhand from small or BIPOC-owned businesses. I almost feel like the whole WFH situation is a loophole.

If you've gotten this far in reading, you probably either agree with me and want to rethink your own shopping habits or ignore everything I've said so far. Either way, I welcome and challenge you to join me in this "new" clothes experiment. Ahead, I'll share three practical ways you can achieve this goal as these are the guidelines I've been following — and so far, it's been working out for me and my budget.

We only include products that have been independently selected by The Zoe Report's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.

How To Not Buy New Clothes: Browse Online Consignment Shops

The world of online consignment shops is so vast, there's not enough room here to go through them all. To start, however, if you're looking to buy or sell luxury goods, you'll want to familiarize yourself with names like The RealReal, Vestiaire Collective, Fashionphile, What Goes Around Comes Around (a Kardashian-Jenner favorite), and Rebag. The latter, recognizing the importance of the resale market now more than ever, even recently launched a new image recognition tool called Clair AI, where users can scan any handbag in their closets, in magazines, or online websites and Clair AI will identify information like the bag's brand, model and style, and generate the price Rebag will pay for said item. Tools like this not only make it easier for people like myself to change up their wardrobes in a sustainable way, but allow you to know the competitive price point when purchasing from another consignment shop.

I personally like to input the same item I'm looking for into a number of different websites to check for the best price and condition. I recently did this for my Prada 2000 Re-Edition Bag and found one that was brand new. In addition to these major retailers, some of the other favorite spots for scoring designer finds include Treasures of New York and Moonstone Vintage LA (model Elsa Hosk loves this spot). Pro tip: Give all these secondhand luxury retailers a follow on Instagram, or download their apps, so you can keep watch for "new" arrivals or drops. For those who are looking for more everyday basics and cool essentials that aren't necessarily luxury goods, thredUp, Poshmark, Depop, and Thrilling will satisfy your needs.

How To Not Buy New Clothes: Shop Your Local Thrift Stores

In the spirit of supporting local businesses, I've been popping into the thrift stores in my neighborhood to browse through its racks. Depending on your level of comfort in regards to social distancing and public outings, this may or may not be a deal-breaker for you. However, all the places I have been to in New York City, specifically in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, have felt safe, clean, and never crowded. Most local consignment shops have even established an online presence such as Beacon's Closet and THE NXCVINTAGE SHOP, so you can virtually shop, whether you live in that state or not. When you're itching to get out of the house after being on your computer for 10 hours though, put on your mask and take a walk to your nearest thrift shop to see what's new. Again, this will depend on your level of comfort. If you're apprehensive, any of the aforementioned resale e-commerce sites will suit your shopping needs.

How To Not Buy New Clothes: Follow Small Vintage Seller Instagram Accounts

There are so many passionate, vintage and thrifting gurus who have launched their own Etsy websites (see Retro Rhapsody) or Instagram accounts (see Nigerian stylist Subrina Heyink of her eponymous brand, above) to share and sell their finds. These fashion fanatics are doing the digging and researching for one-of-a-kind pieces for you, which means all you really need to do is just have your credit card ready. You should note that vintage, which refers to a bygone era of clothing and accessories — think '90s, '80s, '70s, and beyond, is different from secondhand, which denotes a used/previously-owned condition, though the two terms aren't mutually exclusive. Either way you won't be buying 100% newly manufactured items.

Some of my go-to's for this category are: The Vintage Twin, which carries the most comfortable tees (Kaia Gerber recently wore one on her Instagram Stories) and has a vast denim collection and Sami Miro Vintage, which specializes in crafting garments using only upcycled and vintage fabrics. For those who love minimalist French-girl fashion, you'll find joy shopping Elia Vintage; for others who want to support small, Black-owned vintage shops, head over to BLK MKT Vintage for pins in addition to other collectibles and Neutral Ground for quality, previously-owned garments such as a 1930s silk chiffon dresses or a 1980s hand-knit sweater.