The Buyerarchy of Needs: How to Build a More Intentional Wardrobe

How do you feel about the start of a new year?

I’m not a big celebrator of New Year’s Eve (It always feels like a bit of an anti-climax!) but I absolutely love the fresh start that comes with a new year. Reflecting on the past 12 months and deciding where I want to take my life in the coming year is an activity I take a lot of pleasure in.

One of the goals I have made for 2018 is to be more intentional about building my wardrobe. Whilst I now have a great understanding of my personal style and keep a pretty small, well-worn wardrobe, I would like to explore more ethical and sustainable options before I jump right into buying what I want/need.

Sarah Lazarovic’s Buyerarchy of Needs

You might be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but have you discovered illustrator Sarah Lazarovic’s Buyerarchy of Needs yet?

This fantastic illustration presents a new way of finding what we need. The first level, using what you have, is the highest priority whilst buying is the last level, after all other options have been exhausted.

This framework can be applied to almost anything you would usually buy and is a great way of saving money, however, I intend to use it more as a way of building an intentional wardrobe. By using the other options as often as possible, I will save money to put towards high-quality purchases from ethical companies I care about - when I eventually do end up buying something!

If this is something you, too, would like to work on this year, I have broken down this practical framework to help you to try it for yourself.

Priority 1: Use What You Have

How much of your wardrobe do you actually wear? 50%? 40%? Statistics show that most people only wear 20% of their wardrobe, which is absolutely staggering!

Before you go out and buy a new outfit for that party you’ve been invited to, stop and think: do I already own an outfit that would work for this occasion? This is particularly important when you know that you are not going to have many other opportunities to wear that outfit again.

The same could apply to craft supplies. Do you really need to buy more yarn when your stash is already overflowing? Consider using what you already have before purchasing more.

Altering, repurposing and mending your clothing can also be a fantastic way of using what you have. Consider all of the clothing in your wardrobe that you don’t wear because of minor problems with them.

Trousers won’t stay up? Have them taken in. Stain on a light shirt? Dye it a darker colour to hide it. Holes in your socks? Darn them. By taking care of your clothing, you can continue to wear them for a long time.

Priority 2: Borrow

Borrowing clothing is something that doesn’t come naturally to me. Even as a teenager, I didn’t like to borrow my friend’s clothes - it made me feel like I wasn’t myself.

This year, I’d like to get a lot better at this.

Think of those occasions when we are required to wear something out of the ordinary, such as a wedding or a black tie event. Wouldn’t it be better to borrow something from a friend or family member than purchase something you may never wear again?

Priority 3: Swap

I’ve never done a swap before, but the idea is very appealing.

We all have perfectly lovely, wearable clothing floating around in our wardrobes that we never wear.

What if you and your friends organised a swap? You could trade your unused items for the things you actually need that were unused by your friend!

If organising your own event feels overwhelming, why don’t you look for swap meets in your area.

A quick search on Meetup for swap meets in London brought up these suggestions. I’m sure these will be similar swaps going on in your area too.

Priority 4: Thrift

My boyfriend, Ulysses, is the king of “thrift shopping” or as we call it in the UK, secondhand shopping. Almost all of his wardrobe was bought secondhand, whether that’s from charity shops, vintage shops or good old eBay.

The benefits of shopping this way are numerous: it’s more affordable, it’s better for the environment since you reuse old clothes that might have otherwise ended up in landfill and you can often find really special pieces that you wouldn’t easily find elsewhere.

I sometimes don’t have the patience for charity shopping - I find the mixture of colours and sizes on the rails too stressful and time-consuming to trawl through - but I love using eBay. I recently discovered that I love TOAST clothing, but I can’t afford them at full price. eBay lets me buy the high-quality pieces of clothing I want at a fraction of the price.

Priority 5: Make

Now, I’m sure this is an option we can all get behind!

As you all know, making something is not necessarily going to save you money over just buying it, however, you have so much more control over the end product. When you make your own clothing, you can make it to fit your own unique body, personalising it to meet your specific requirements.

You also have more control over the ethics and sustainability of the garment, since you are the one sourcing the materials and doing all of the making.

One of the “problems” of being a maker is that it’s tempting to make all of the things. If you find yourself making more than you could possibly wear, perhaps it’s time to slow down and consider exactly what your wardrobe needs, rather than giving in to those sudden crafting whims.

Priority 6: Buy

Notice how this is the final option. As tricky as it sounds, only when you have explored all other options do you go down this route.

At this stage, it’s good to question ourselves again: Do I actually need this or do I just want it? Be honest with your answer and budget accordingly.

I anticipate that I will have more budget for clothing purchases after using the other options for most things I want/need. This means that I can spend more on high-quality pieces that I know I will wear for a very long time. Often, ethically made clothing costs more than clothing bought on the high-street, so this system will help me to buy clothes that reflect my values without going into debt!

Your Buyerarchy of Needs

This system is the one that I will be using throughout this year to curb my consumerism and make more intentional purchases. Your system might look a little different, but that is that beauty of it - whilst this is a fantastic guideline, it can be totally customised to your unique requirements.

I’m hoping, more than anything, that this will encourage you to start using and looking after the clothing that you already have before adding anything else to your wardrobe. It’s an easy way to fight the temptation to make unnecessary purchases and it costs you absolutely nothing!

So what are your purchasing habits like right now? Which level of the “Buyerarchy of Needs” do you mostly use and what would you like to introduce in the future? Let me know in the comments section.

Happy new year, everyone! I'm so happy to be starting the year with this community and hope the coming months are extra special.