I preface this blog with the following: I have always been a conscious consumer. I’ve never been a reckless spender so when I do spend, I spend it on quality and originality.


One of my favourite outfits creating during my 12 month clothes shopping ban.


Well! I did it! I abstained from buying any clothes for 12 months! I attended more fashion events, work events, networking gigs, social outings in the past 12 months than I have in the past 30 years* (*slight exaggeration) all the while saying, “It’s a No from Me” when shopping sprees presented themselves. The ol’ sewing machine got a work out as did my design and pattern making skills. I’m feeling quite nostalgic towards the project, reflecting on all the insights, notes, blogs and outfits I made along the way.

On 1st August, 2017, I embarked on a 365 days clothes shopping ban. You can read about it and what it entailed here. Yesterday it all came to an end and because I’m a generous nut and now the prestigious winner of my own personal challenge, I thought I would share with you the highs, the lows, the personal discoveries and the realizations that dawned on me over the past year. I’ll also be releasing a series of blogs which delve a little deeper into some of the themes and topics I touched on in this blog, so make sure you keep an eye out for them, too. Included in this blog are photos of some of the clothes I designed and made, the outfits I styled and other the bits and pieces that helped get me through.


This MSGM Tokyo sweater has been one of my best investments to date.


What I learnt…

I enjoy wearing clothes

I really, really do! For me, choosing what I wear everyday is quick, easy and fun! I see it as an exercise in creativity, an extension of my personality even. Clothes are a part of our ‘first impression’ and I find that exciting! I want to be seen as interesting, considered and my own person so I dress accordingly. If my personality screams for silver metallic skirts and wild earrings then I will do my very best to make it happen with what I’ve got!

My love of being creative with my clothes is still well and truly in tact. I experimented with my style on the days I struggled to find new outfits from my existing wardrobe and whilst I didn’t hit the mark every time, it was a good lesson in throwing caution to the wind!


Eye T-Shirt designed by Penelope Bell


Clothes and personal style affect my mood – BIG TIME

Right, I could (and I will) write a lengthy blog post on this because this one rocked my self image equilibrium and I think if it disturbed mine, then it must be disturbing a whole lot of others out there too. In short, if I don’t feel good in my clothes or take pride in my personal appearance I find it very difficult to operate as an effective human being! I’ve noticed that if I’m careless with my physical appearance there is a strong correlation in being careless in other areas of my life ie. keeping my bedroom tidy. This affected me more than what I care to admit, which is why I think it deserves a blog all to itself.

Taking pride in your appearance isn’t so much about what you wear, it’s about HOW you wear it and how you show up in the world.


Eye t-shirt designed by Penelope Bell. It was one of my staple wardrobe pieces throughout the project.


Being time poor, makes you poor

I had suspected for a while that my work/ life balance was poor and unsustainable but this project really brought it to my attention. It was REALLY difficult to find spare time to design, pattern make and sew the outfits or items of clothing I needed. Like, REALLY hard. Realizing and admitting this to myself meant I had to make a lot of changes in my business habits but also in my personal life, in order to fit it in. And as we all know, making a change can sometimes be challenging and daunting to adopt. I felt a lot of guilt around “not working” in my out of work hours, indulgent for allowing myself the time to create and at times resentful of the amount of time this project was stealing from my ‘spare’ time. Tearing myself away from the hamster wheel of work and its attached guilt, as well as my phone (a cringe worthy admission) was really liberating and no where near as hard as what I thought it would be. And guess what? Lo behold, my business became more successful too – who’d have thunk it?!


Designed and sewn by Penelope Bell as part of her CSLTCM project.


Creativity drives purpose

Allowing myself to create something with my hands, whether that be an item of clothing, a garden, a bouquet of flowers, a cake, soap or something of the sort, freed and frees my mind from a lot of clutter and noise. It’s not about the final product (although it’s definitely an added bonus) but instead about the practice of mindfulness (yep, I said it!).

Creating something, literally from nothing with our own bare hands, unearths a deep sense of accomplishment and I don’t know about you, but when I feel accomplished I start doing more and being more, for myself and those around me. And that feels nice! The more I created for myself over the past year, the more clarity I gained around what actually matters to me and not surprisingly, it’s not Love Island. Being conscious of what I was wearing directly led me to being more aware of what I was consuming in the other areas of my life, not just in clothing.


Drafted pattern pieces for a dress designed during my Consciously Spending Less To Create More 12 month fashion project.


Invest, invest, invest

Namely in quality. The biggest lifesaver for me throughout the entirety of this project was that I have always invested in good quality clothes which are made to last. The clothes in my wardrobe got a thrashing this year and almost all of them are still going strong. I had to wear the same pair of black pants, almost twice a week, for 6 months (because I only own 1 pair of black slim leg pants) and they STILL look peachy. I’m so grateful to those pants for holding up on me because otherwise I would have had to have sewn myself a pair and let me tell you, I was running out of steam! If you aren’t sure what constitutes an item being good quality, invest the time into educating yourself on understanding things like fibres, fit, craftsmanship ect.

I also highly, highly, highly recommend investing in a personal stylist. I hired my good friend and stylist, Anna Mabin before I began the project and it was the best thing I could have done. Not only did Anna and I plan out my wardrobe and the items I was to make to inject into it but we also mapped out my outfits for specific events I had coming up in my events calendar. Anna was there to keep me accountable, cheer me on and provide a supportive ear (particularly on the morning of the Melbourne Cup) and she did all that and more! FEELING good about how you look is not indulgent, frivolous or narcissistic. Rather, it’s the positive and healthy relationship you have your own self, both internally and externally. If you don’t love yourself sick every time you look in the mirror or leave the house, wearing the clothes that you’re wearing, then invest in a personal stylist. You deserve it.


Penelope Bell Spring Carnival Dress


Consciously Spending Less To Create More is seriously one of the best challenges I have done as grown adult. Considering we wear clothes every single day they are an important part of our daily life yet they are so often dismissed for being indulgent and frivolous. Fashion isn’t for everyone , I know that, but personal pride in one’s appearance is and clothes are a part of our personal presentation. I was interested to see how much fashion and clothing plays into our self image and how much I rely on them for my own. I know, as a human, my worth is in my mind, my actions and what I can give of myself. That has and will always be where my pride originates from. However I also know that how I see myself physically is just as important as how I see myself emotionally. Wearing clothes that make me look and feel like I’m living my best life is a pretty wonderful feeling to wear every single day.

Being conscious of why you are wearing what you are wearing and understanding how it makes you feel is worth your consideration. Anything I have made for myself, or which has been made for me by someone I know always feels precious, therefore often when I wear these pieces I feel loved.


This outfit was designed and made by Penelope Bell for her Consciously Spending Less To Create More project.


I consciously chose to spend less on clothes in the hope I would gain more… more (saved) money, more time to sew, more time to create, more skills, more life balance, more perspective, more insight into the fashion industry and more mindfulness. It gave me all of that and more. I’ve come out of the project with far more than what I had going into it. I thought this project would be a walk in the park when I first started it, I thought I would be able to do it and I knew I would stick to it. However thinking something isn’t the same as doing it. As it turns out, it wasn’t a complete walk in the park (if at all) and I definitely considered buying a couple of dresses (which I screen shotted about 10,000 times in the hope it would alleviate the urge to buy – it did). I had to work through and unpack some beliefs and stories I’d conjured up about myself along the way which is never normally a pleasant experience but often necessary!


Invest in quality. I refuse to buy “good enough” pieces. Buy less by buying better. I bought these pink agate earrings when holidaying on the Isle of Capri. I love them like I love the sunrise in the morning.


I’d encourage anyone to take on a challenge or a project like this! As for me, I’ll leave this one here, I feel no need to do another 12 month clothing ban off the back of this one. Consciously Spending Less To Create More highlighted a much bigger purpose for me which has fueled my desire to begin another, bigger, different and more exciting fashion project, starting in a month or so’s time. To keep up to date on this and all of my news, please subscribe to my newsletter here.

Until then… Peace. xx


About Penelope

I’m a fashion illustrator, designer, storyteller and ambassador who helps brands in the fashion, lifestyle and travel industries, build brand recognition, credibility, loyalty, and trust whilst offering a fresh perspective.

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