This is pretty hard to believe, given that I’ve loved shopping for as long as I can remember.

That said, I wasn’t always open about my passion for fashion. It was not “cool” or “smart” to care about it, and I desperately wanted those adjectives to apply to me. In my career as a corporate professional, that desire has not gone away, but my views on fashion have evolved. As the pressure to look good and my disposable income have grown, they have created the perfect shopaholic storm.

So, what possessed me to self-impose a year-long ban on buying anything newly manufactured?

Well, it was only supposed to last for one month. It all started with a secret Instagram account I created to post outfit selfies and work on my personal style.

As I got more engaged on the platform, I discovered a marvelous community: fashionable women all over the world who were totally #killinit without hurting the environment or perpetuating the exploitation of low-wage workers. I joined a #nonewnovember challenge to see if I could be just like them.

The first month was easy. It was a lot like promising yourself to shop less for a month because you felt guilty about last month’s credit card bill.

So, I challenged myself to do it for another month. The second month was definitely harder, but by the end of it, an insidious idea planted itself in my brain: could I make this a true lifestyle change? I gave myself a year to test it out.

To make it through an entire year, I had to do more than just reorganize my closet. I revolutionized my entire approach to clothes and style. I learned a surprising amount about decluttering, mending, wardrobe planning, capsule wardrobes, shopping my closet and how to style things I already own to stay on trend without buying new things. (If you read that list and felt overwhelmed, don’t worry! I’ll cover the strategies that worked wonders for me in future posts.)

My current work capsule wardrobe, planned using the Stylebook app.

I’ve also discovered the unique thrill of secondhand shopping. I had a lot of hang-ups about it at first, so it took some time to get used to it. Now that I’ve fully embraced it, though, it’s one of my favorite hobbies. From studying the trends to inform my wishlists, to finding hidden treasures in the men’s section, I can confidently say I’ve become a thrifting expert. 

The making of a thrift wishlist.

I expected this challenge would push me out of my comfort zone. I didn’t expect that it would help me uncover my true sense of style and that I would be able to do it without sacrificing my ability to look “professional.” The proof is in the pudding:

I hope that this brief history of my sustainable fashion journey has piqued your interest in trying out a similar challenge, even if it’s just for one month. In my future posts, I plan to share more details on how you, too, can make this change, so please leave your burning questions for me in the comments. In the meantime, there’s a wealth of information already out there to get you started. If this is something you want to do, for yourself and/or the environment, I have total faith that you can do it! I’ll be here to support you along the way.

Catherine of @cccstyledc is a healthcare strategy consultant, self-proclaimed “sustainable fashionista” and a secondhand shopping pro. Follow Catherine for key insights on how to level up your style game (in and out of the office) without compromising your values.