fiftythings2016: the beginning


What do your clothes say about you, about what you care about, or perhaps about what you don’t care so much about?

I’m not sure I can claim to be passionate about clothing, but I have always loved textiles. I grew up in a family where, until I learned to make my own, and later had money to buy my own, all my clothes – including undies & school uniforms, but not singlets, swimmers, socks and shoes – were made by my mother. So I was strongly aware of what my clothes told the world about me.

I have always preferred natural fibres because of how they feel but in the last ten years or so there seems to be more and more conversations in different spheres about sustainability. This has made me think about the planetary costs of things, the personal and social burden of our consumeristic way of life and has made me consider more deeply the costs of the choices we make about various aspects of how we live: what we eat, how we live, and what we wear.

IMG_3804fiftythings2016  brings to life the commitment I made to myself to live this year within a wardrobe of fifty items of clothing. This count includes shoes, underwear, clothes for exercise and encompasses both winter and summer wardrobes. As much as possible I have restricted myself to completely natural fibres. I did not allow myself to purchase anything new to include in the fifty.

THIS IS CLEARLY A FIRST WORLD THING. I have spent much time earlier in my life, when I worked in the development/humanitarian sector, with people who literally only had the clothes they stood in. As I write this, on January 7 2016, there are also thousands of people leaving the bleak destruction of Syria with what can be crammed into a small bag or trunk. There are also people fleeing bushfires in Western Australia, leaving their homes with only precious memories or maybe a few photos they can grab on the way out the door.

I have been inspired by creator and communicator Jane Milburn whose Sew it Again project in 2014 was her journey into creativity, empowerment, thrift, sustainability, ecological health and wellbeing – woven with threads of childhood, professional expertise, networks and nature (words from Jane’s blog). In 2014, Jane upcycled a garment every day from her own or others’ wardrobes to create & communicate about a different way of dressing that valued sustainability, creativity and wellness.

I invite you to take a look at and follow my facebook page where I am posting a pic every day of what I’m wearing.  I’d love your feedback and thoughts.


9 thoughts on “fiftythings2016: the beginning

  1. This is an interesting and responsible thought to be conscious of environment, wastes and live simple. I love the idea and i have in a way been practicing such a concept for a while. initially, my friends and family thought i was being miser and saving money and being unkind to myself, my justification was why waste the resources and hurt the environment, and i had to be brave not to get upset when people called me “con juice” a term used for people who are thrifty.

    Now i am glad that i could instil this value for money, resources to my two girls.the joy of buying a much needed, high quality, lasting item for oneself after a long long time is priceless. I like to reduce my needs and then recycle as much as possible.

    We have a local saying that we all should be conscious while using water and fire – this helps in conserving electricity and water usage for some of us.

    thank you for your project and ideas.


    1. Hi Karma, it is interesting how we feel uncomfortable sometimes when we are going against the grain of the usual consumerist ‘ditch it’, ‘get a new one’ mentality even when we feel in our bones our values are worth upholding. I agree the pleasure of using our money to buy things are are good quality and long lasting is different from that heady addictive rush of the impulse purchase.
      Thanks for your support and thanks for taking the time to share your experience. Bhutan’s environment will benefit from your forethought.


  2. I’m really interested in the progress of this project Pam. I have long been disgusted with the obscene amount of consumption and waste in the western world.
    This period in human history will go down as the time WE, in the wealthy west, pissed the resources of the world up against the wind, with catastrophic consequences for the planet.

    Our mothers made themselves 1 new good dress for the show, once a year and 3 new ‘house-dresses’.
    How many clothes do we really need? Mostly we throw out far more than we wear out.
    I realized years ago that I am at my happiest with all my worldly chattels in a 12-15 kilo backpack living by my wits with a couple of changes of clothes.
    I have spent 5 full years of my life living like that and I am about to embark on another year.

    Each time I’ve come home I’ve culled more possessions. If you can’t even remember what is packed the box, you clearly don’t need it!

    Each time I’ve come home, I’ve had fun buying a dozen new outfits for work and play and reveled in them for two or three years, before I realized they were starting to get shabby.
    Less is best! Less is liberating!


  3. Hi Pamela,

    I have just stumbled across your blog and I must say that I love it!

    I agree that we are very wasteful with all of our things and throwing away can be far too easy.

    I found a great little clip on the BBC Facebook page on a designer called Carin Mansfield who makes all the clothing for her boutique store in London. I believe she said it takes a seamstress/ tailor with 20 years experience all day to make one shirt!

    While I do wholeheartedly agree with you and what you are doing, I find it a bit pointless to compare ourselves to refugees [when they only have the clothes they stand in] as this isn’t a sustainable goal for us to have. I know I could survive (as in, not die) if I wore the same outfit every day but I would have no joy in my life. Just another perspective I wanted to raise – not to be a personal attack on what you’re doing or what you have written. 🙂

    I have recently downsized my underwear drawer (starting one section of my wardrobe at a time) and I find that having less is GLORIOUS. I filled a garbage bag with unwanted items and only now have the things I love and need. Washing is easier, finding them when I need them is easier and I’m happier for it. I can’t wait to apply this to the rest of my wardrobe too.

    I eagerly wait for your next post!

    Sarah 🙂


    1. Hello Sarahcolors and welcome. I appreciate every comment here and on my facebook posts. This project is about conversation and exchanging ideas not about what is right or wrong. We each have to find our own answers which is NOT the same as saying that there is no right and wrong. In terms of what I said in my first post:
      THIS IS CLEARLY A FIRST WORLD THING. I have spent much time earlier in my life, when I worked in the development/humanitarian sector, with people who literally only had the clothes they stood in. As I write this, on January 7 2016, there are also thousands of people leaving the bleak destruction of Syria with what can be crammed into a small bag or trunk. There are also people fleeing bushfires in Western Australia, leaving their homes with only precious memories or maybe a few photos they can grab on the way out the door.
      The reference to refugees was not to equate myself with them in any way but merely to refer to my experience of being with others who have very little in material terms & how that puts into perspective what is truly important or vital about being alive to acknowledge that my project about choosing to live with 50 items of clothing IS a ‘first world thing’. If you have nothing but your health and your life you see what an incredibly valuable thing that is; also true for when we are staring death in the face. I don’t think what we wear comes into that category at all.
      But I also agree with you that colour and beauty in clothes can add joy, interest and fun to our lives: and that is about taking the time to make choices that really suit us and reflect who we are as people. In my daily facebook posts I try to add a bit of the story of my clothes and my life to show how that can be just as true in choosing to live with a small wardrobe.

      Thanks so much for the Carin Mansfield reference. I look forward to your future observations and suggestions and comments. Cheers

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Pamela,

        I didn’t mean to diminish what you said about refugees at all, and I do understand that this is a ‘first world problem’ (ha!)

        I really appreciate finding people who are willing to discuss ideas openly without fear of being right or wrong. Each answer is as unique as the individual and what is right for me (for example) might not be right for you and vice versa. 🙂

        It was only today actually that I was given a small box of beauty products as they were an un-needed christmas gift. I was so excited to receive them and quickly opened each and every one reveling in the joy of ‘yay! more things!’ .. but that joy quickly faded when I realised that I didn’t actually need any of these things. NOW I’m stuck with what to do with them now that I’ve opened them. I feel terribly wasteful.

        I am SO looking forward to culling my wardrobe as you have and only keeping the essentials although I must say that you have a lot of shoes compared to me (how funny!) But I’d probably have more art supplies than you.

        Thanks so much for your detailed reply, I enjoy the discussion!



  4. Hi Sarah

    This week has gone a bit crazy for me so sorry about the big silence.

    Please tell me how you go with the wardrobe cull. I hope you find it is both fun, yes fun, and positive in terms of the choices you make. Yes I confess I have a lot of shoes in my fifty things ( 14% in fact) and I do think I may have included too many pairs of shoes, and too many pairs of stockings but, well, it is too late to change it now and certainly i will learn from that decision.

    The longer I am engaged in this project, the more i realise that there are so many discussions we need to have about clothes, how we feel about them, how we feel about wearing them and how the need for purchasing and ownership of the ‘look’ is created. One of my daughters has a great arrangement with a couple of friends where they are continuously borrowing and swapping clothes. I like the sound of that but even i wonder how i would feel about it if I had found some amazing vintage item I had coveted for a long time.

    Aren’t humans interesting creatures?


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