Although I decided a while ago that I was going to start making my wardrobe work for me, for the most part I am still working for it. I have to admit I have been drawn to the allure of the high street and handed over my cash faster than I earned it for the short-lived satisfaction that comes with a new buy. That is until I visited South Africa.
I flew out with some knowledge of what to expect where poverty was concerned; I’ve been to other countries which are considered third world where I’ve seen little children roaming the streets begging for enough money just to be able to eat. It’s something that nobody wants to see or experience for themselves but for millions it’s a way of life; albeit not one that they purposely choose to live.
One area in which I was a little less educated was that of the shanty towns (or townships) of South Africa. The homes I have seen in other countries would have certainly be considered run down but in places like Soweto in South Africa bricks don’t even come into the equation when building a home. Most houses in the townships (I say most because some were fortunate enough to have access to breeze blocks) were constructed from scraps of metal but more often than not they were little more than sheets of rust. One house I saw even made use of a huge road sign to make up one of its four walls.
I have to stop here and mention that this isn’t going to be about a life-changing moment I’ve had whereby I boycott the high street in order to live a life wearing clothes made out of hemp and living in a recycled house. But I have developed a better sense of the needless waste that we as humans constantly create.
I spent a total of ten weeks in South Africa and with a luggage allowance of twenty kilograms I had to rethink the mountain of clothes, shoes and accessories that were cascading out of my suitcase. Several kilos of clothes omitted later and I was just about ready to jet off to the African continent.
Out of all the clothes I brought with me there were two jumpers and a pair of jeans that barely saw the light of day when I was in England, but which I wore constantly in South Africa. This proved two things:
A: That when you only have a limited wardrobe you tend to wear what’s in there a lot more.
B: That wearing those clothes again made me remember why I bought them in the first place.
I then got onto thinking about the bags of discarded clothes lying in my wardrobe ready to sell or give to a charity shop, which had maybe only been worn a couple of times before I succumbed to the call of the high street and replaced them with something new and ‘more fashionable’. So with all the unworn clothes already cluttering my wardrobe did I really need another embellished, scoop-necked top from River Island? Probably not.
Perhaps we should all give ourselves a luggage allowance every once in a while; it might just be a surprise to discover what you will wear when on a limit.