gemnewcol.jpgGemma Cartwright writes...

Without even realising it, I've changed my shopping habits over the last few months. It wasn't a conscious change, more a reaction to what I've seen (or not seen) in the shops. I've been buying fewer items from fast fashion retailers and high street brands, and have found myself spending more time in charity shops, searching eBay, scouring designer discount websites and planning craft projects instead.

I can't really explain this change properly. Some could argue that being part of that Panorama child labour documentary hit a nerve, but if I'm completely honest, I didn't learn anything watching that footage that I hadn't already suspected. It didn't surprise me, it just reminded me that I have a responsibility, just like everyone else, to think before I spend...

There's the credit crunch, as well. As much as I hate to say it, I'm going to have to tighten my belts after an expensive first half of the year if I ever want to move onwards and upwards. Frivolous spending on disposable fashion seems a bit irresponsible when I should be saving for a mortgage.

The main reason is far more simple. I've just had my share of fast fashion clothing this season. And I don't think things are going to change going into Autumn / Winter.

For me, the thrill of shopping has always been in finding that one item that's completely 'me'. I love searching through the rails, hunting down the right pieces. This season, the high street has been jam-packed with cheap knock-offs of one of my big loves, the 40s tea dress, but all that's done is make me appreciate the real deal. Three years ago, I would have killed for a really lovely high street interpretation of the style. But this season has proved to me that you can definitely have too much of a good thing.


[An original 1940s pattern reproduced for Vintage Vogue, and a 2008 modern take on the tea dress]

Now the internet is my best friend. Instead of coming from New Look or Topshop, my coveted dresses are from vintage sellers in France, Betsey Johnson private sales or rockabilly suppliers in the USA. They're still retro, they still flatter curves a lot better than anything 80s-inspired (Shoreditch chic I am not) but they're not disposable.

Working closely with Isabelle, the queen of the charity shops, has definitely had its influence. She comes into the office every day looking so effortlessly chic in her second hand clothes that I've begun to see the light. As a result, I'm 'accidentally' turning far more ethical. I haven't set foot in Primark for months, I've spent more money on fabric, wool and sewing / knitting patterns than actual clothes (I've not made anything yet, but baby steps are better than nothing...) and my main shopping thrill is now spending hours searching via dress size on the vintage section of eBay and seeing what comes up.

You watch. I'll end up buying something in H&M tonight...