UK Clothing Poverty Awareness Day–Rags and Riches amongst us all

Published on: 09/06/2021


I am standing in front of one of my wardrobes, full to the brim, different fabrics of various lengths and thickness bulging towards me, as if to bribe me to pick each garment next. I am staring at years’ worth of clothes, nearly two decades of money spent on something I decided I wanted to buy back then, be it on a shopping spree, at home during online shopping or a rare charity find at a festival. The number of times I enviously stared at others, at mannequins in shop windows, or images on my phone – the promise of a new dress, skirt, a pair of shoes or trousers – it’s a quick surge of excitement and then adds to the piles in our closets. I don’t want to dare think about how much of my hard-earned cash I have spent on clothes and shoes, handbags and other accessories. It scares me a bit and maybe I also feel ashamed. Some of those items I have worn once and then never again. Some I have never worn, bought in a moment of wonder and admiration for fashion, secure in the knowledge that one day, at some fancy event, I may be wearing it. Adding to this is my inability to get rid of clothes. What if I need that pair of jeans again? What if that cardigan could come in handy at a fancy dress party (I hate fancy dress, by the way)? What if that style of jumper comes back into fashion in a few years? And so, I close my wardrobe and guiltily walk away, wearing the same jeans I have lived in for the past few months.

Consumerism is the wheel that keeps our western societies turning round and round, we scroll through apps on our phones, compare the best prices and at the click of a button it’s ours. Fashion influencers show off their latest styles and the fashion industry keeps churning out collection after collection, convincing us that we need that new t-shirt, that blouse, those sandals.

Whilst some of us are turning towards a more sustainable shopping experience and regularly browse Vintage and second-hand stores, many of the UK’s population don’t have those nice problems of too many clothes or deciding whether to shop sustainably or not. For them, clothing poverty is real. The fact that not many of us know about this highlights how hidden this issue is. Therefore, today, we acknowledge UK Clothing Poverty Day, which has been supported by the Sharewear Clothing Scheme. Its aim is to raise awareness of clothing poverty in the UK which many people experience. Sharewear provides emergency clothing for those that need it most, and often also partner up with other charities and services such as The Red Cross. This year, alongside a festival called “Rags to Rhythm”, they also sell a T-Shirt with the slogan “Don’t wear it? Share it!”, encouraging people to recycle their clothes or gift them to charities, rather than throwing them in the bin.

As I walk back to my wardrobe, I feel newfound gratitude and awareness of my privilege to be able to choose what I buy to wear. Many don’t have that luxury. I also know that I want to change things. Never one to throw clothing or shoes in the bin unless they are broken beyond repair, I get a box and start sifting through my stash of clothes. Have I worn it in the last few years? Will I ever wear it again? Is it in excellent or good condition? Out it goes. As the mountain next to me grows and my wardrobes empty, I feel better and better. It’s a lovely thought that someone else will find use for my clothes, that they will get a new lease of life. In addition to that, I can help those that haven’t got the money to buy new things.

I’ll probably always love clothes and be a bit of a fashion addict, but I want to do better. More second hand, more sustainable shopping, and thoughtful decisions like: “Do I really need this?”

So let’s each do our bit. Sell the stuff you don’t wear, pass it on or give it to charity. Either way, you’ll do something worthwhile and maybe give someone in need something to wear.

References:

UK Clothing Poverty Day | Events | Sustainable Learning

UK Clothing Poverty Awareness Day 2021 - National Awareness Days Calendar 2021