The shopping crash diet

August 2008

Could you survive without the shopping? This month's columnist, Ilana Rehavia, takes up a four-week challenge not to buy any new clothing

Week 1

I start my shopping crash diet full of energy with a big wardrobe clearout, which brings back some shameful fashion choices of the past. On a happier note, I find some hidden treasures like a forgotten leather bag that's perfect for my bicycle journeys. A little bit of polish and it's ready for the city.

Still, by the end of the week, I'm missing my lovely lunch-break walks around London's Covent Garden, from which I usually come back with a little something. I discover that window-shopping without the possibility of buying is, unfortunately, not as much fun. The fact that most shops are having a sale only makes matters worse.

Week 2

I decide to remain positive and concentrate on another find from the recesses of my wardrobe - a pretty floral dress bought on Ebay that I've never worn because it's too long.

With a summer wedding on the horizon, I'd usually hit the shops for a new frock. Instead, I enlist the help of a crafty friend and make my debut into the world of sewing. I show up at her flat thinking we can cut the dress at the hem and make it a quick affair. In fact, we spend three hours unpicking stitches and completely redesign the piece over the course of two days. In the end, knowing all the work that went into it makes an average frock quite special to me.

Week 3

The week starts off full of excitement with the approach of my long-awaited holiday. But not before panicking over the discovery that, after a few disappointing British summers, most of my beach-friendly stuff belongs to ancient times. I kick myself for not having done a bit of pre-emptive holiday shopping before starting the challenge.

A quick run to the local Oxfam, however, leaves me with two cute skirts and the feeling that second hand really could take care of most of my sartorial needs. I consider searching for some bikinis as well, but decide that used swimwear could be a step too far.

As I fly to the Turkish coast for a week of sailing, I breathe a sigh of relief that I'm finally free from shopping temptations. That is, until a woman offering handmade jewellery approaches our boat. While my friends happily go through necklaces and fuss over bracelets, I sit in a corner feeling slightly moody. A dip in the sea, though, quickly takes care of things.

Week 4

All the novelty of the challenge starts to wear off a bit and, especially with the post-holiday gloom, I feel that familiar urge to swipe the credit card and buy myself a little happiness. But, not one to fall at the final hurdle, I ignore the high street and hit my favourite vintage shop, the East End Thrift Store, where most things cost less than a tenner (and which my friends and I had promised to keep our little secret... sorry girls!).

By the end of the challenge, something surprising happens. Even considering some of the low points along the way, I'm not as ecstatic as I expected. Instead, I'm determined to incorporate most of these changes into my life and realise that buying nothing new isn't so challenging after all.

Ilana Rehavia is a journalist and producer, specialising in fashion and beauty

Ilana Rehavia wearing her re-styled dress, carrying shoes and a parasol
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