Picture from Rokkerdam

September 1st marked the end of my ‘free fashion challenge’, which means I have abstained from buying any clothes for a year. A WHOLE YEAR! How things have changed since then… Let me take you back and reflect on some of the things I have learned.


It all started with personal styling advice by one of my friends: I kept wearing the same combo’s, but she showed me how to be more creative with my existing wardrobe. I took pictures of the outfits she created for me and after that I decided to register all my clothes in the Stylebook app; this gave me much more oversight, less stress in the morning and it was a lot of fun to play with different looks. I ended up with over 200 unique combinations, and it shocked me: I didn’t even have to wear the same outfit twice a year! I then decided to put the brake on it. I read about the free fashion challenge and convinced myself that that would be the right thing to do: simply stop shopping.



I unsubscribed from fashion newsletters, unfollowed clothing brands and it-girls and avoided the city center as much as possible to keep myself away from too many temptations. Instead, I basically used this year to reflect; on myself, my spending habits and my personal style. I soon realized that clothes may create short-term happiness, but it’s way more effective to work on your actual self esteem. So I decided to invest more time in sports and to spend my money on styling workshops, to learn how to play up my strengths and how to avoid bad buys in the future.

Netflix & chills

Last September I also watched the documentary ‘The True Cost‘ and it gave me chills. With 52 new collections in a year, made of bad quality fabrics and materials at staggering low prices, you just know that the fashion industry nowadays is over stressed and unfair.

Luckily fair fashion isn’t just for tree-hugging hippies anymore; it is modern, diverse and available for everyone. And I think we can all agree that fashion is a way to express your personal style. But why are we all shopping for uniformity then? Why are we all walking around in the same Zara, H&M or Primark outfits?


The documentary really intrigued me and soon I developed a general interest in sustainability. But once you learn more about sustainability, it becomes impossible to ignore it. It makes you question your own habits and can even make you feel guilty in the beginning. However, soon I learned that even tiny changes can have big effects; the Dutch book ‘Dit is een goede gids‘ written by Marieke Eyskoot was a true eye opener in this regard. For example, I switched to cruelty-free home care brands and I cut down my meat consumption to once a week. I guess I became sort of a tree hugging hippie after all :)…

Jeanine modelling for Rokkerdam
Jeanine modelling for Rokkerdam, a brand that tailors custom skirts in Rotterdam.

Swap till you drop

The things I stopped wearing were added to my stash of ‘swapping clothes’; from time to time I attended clothing swap parties, where you can trade your old clothes for ‘new’ ones. It felt like treasure hunting; you never knew what kind of pearls you would discover! At the same time it made me feel good to see that others were happy with my clothes that would otherwise be disposed.
This month I’m even throwing my own swapping party, to celebrate the end of my challenge and to show friends how much fun it is, hoping they will all realize that style doesn’t come from the latest fashion but from creativity, adornment, joy and quality.


Looking back, the free fashion challenge turned out to be easier than I thought. Still I only wore half of my total wardrobe and discovering so many new (fair) brands motivated me even more to continue and to change things for the better. I am not saying that I won’t ever buy any new clothes again; my favorite jeans are worn out and I lost one of my favorite shoes while boarding a train (don’t ask), so those are things that I will definitely purchase soon. Some other things are still on my wish list and I will add them to my wardrobe one by one. Thoughtful, considerate, slowly. Like everyone should.


Jeanine Schouwenaars

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