Wartime Wardrobe Update - March 2013

In January 2013, I started participating in the Wartime Wardrobe Challenge, put forth by Little House in Town and The Double Life of Mrs M.  In short, it's a clothes-rationing project focused on ethical consumption.  Factoring in ecological and labor standards, items are assigned a "price" (i.e. 2 coupons, 4 coupons, no coupons) and you spend up to your maximum of 66 coupons for the year.  Obviously the nastier the item is for workers and/or the environment, the more coupons you lose.

My interest in participating in this challenge is that it gives me a novel way to track my purchases and offers a re-framing of consumption habits.  I think it's interesting that when all people were buying less, it made a certain baseline level of consumption the norm and therefore it wasn't seen as impossible or weird.  However, nowadays, there is a huge culture of consumption and I find it funny (and sad...and frightening...and interesting) that we have to invent projects or challenges in order to buck the current social climate of consumption.  It is now an event to consume differently. 


After three months, my veganism has finally tripped up my ration coupon counting.  I bought two bags in March but lo, when I looked up their coupon value on the rationing list I found that bags weren't even listed.  (Cue the "if it has no price tag, it's free!" joke.)  Mrs. M thoughtfully and helpfully filled me in:

I think the reality in wartime Britain was that they were not rationed but just not available in the shops. There was a real shortage of leather in the country, with most being prioritised for army use. In fact, leather was in such short supply that many shoes were made with wooden soles! For the purpose of this challenge, I am just aiming not to buy bags this year. It is not as if I have any shortage of them... If I do succumb and buy one I really don't need I shall count it as two pairs of shoes on the basis of the amount of leather involved.

Clearly this puts me in a bind because my bags aren't leather and don't take the resources leather does - one of them barely takes the resources that a skirt would.  How many coupons do I give up for these bags?  (There is always the question of how sustainable synthetic materials are - so please visit Pleather vs Leather - Which is Greener? to witness me hashing out that matter.)

Exhibit A:  Baggu duck tote, organic cotton, "made ethically in China"

Exhibit B:  Chrome waterproof bike messenger bag (for weekend travel, other occasions when I need to schlep a lot of weight around), made in the USA, made from sturdy long-lasting albeit synthetic materials

The other question is whether Bag B counts It's mainly for weekend travels or carrying bulky stuff -- not a wardrobe item.  Does that count towards Wartime Wardrobe rationing?  In real wartime it'd likely be rationed under a different category or not available at all.  And that speaks to some of the challenges here -- this isn't wartime in the '40s so I can't act as if everything I buy fits into the challenge categories.  

However, the challenge's purpose is to track my purchases and re-frame my consumption habits.  Given that, I'm going to go ahead and assign coupon rates to these bags.  I'm counting Bag B because I think it's only fair.  I bought it and it's not housewares or food so I will assume it falls into the Wartime Wardrobe challenge category.  

Here's what I charged myself:

Bag A:  5 coupons (comparable with cardigan/sweater/shirt re fabric usage; organic cotton) $20
Bag B:  10 coupons (comparable with a coat, heavier fabrics but much smaller) $206
Vintage poly dress from Cool Pony:  mentioned in previous post, 0 coupons (re-used) $20


 15 spent out of 66

You can find my previous Wartime Wardrobe Challenge updates here:

January 2013 Update = 0 Coupons, 2 items purchased ($42 total) for 2013

February 2013 Update = 0 Coupons,  2 items purchased ($42 total) for 2013

March brings me to 15 Coupons, 5 items purchased ($288 total) for 2013


  1. I'm so entertained and tickled by this project and hoping to reference it in a future post about buying new clothing, ethics and all that jazz. Happy spring with your fabulous wartime wardrobe ;)

    1. Thanks, Milla! Hope you're having a happy spring as well!

  2. Ouch, 10 coupons feels steep. But you seem to be right on track for the year, and nothing good would come of trying to eat your own self-imposed self-discipline.

    I didn't start the Wartime Rationing because second-hand things are free. My problem isn't buying too much new stuff, it's Thrifting too much stuff that isn't really right for me. Consequently, I always feel style-less and frumpy. Sigh.

  3. Aw, you are so very noble to count your bag purchases! But you're right, I guess if you're coming at the challenge from a consumption point of view then it seems to defeat the object to exclude them. Good old Mrs M! She always comes up with the best advice on things. :) And naughty me for suggesting you take a 'hall pass' on them... *slaps wrist* Love Exhibit A!

    Nik x

  4. Jesse Anne, I totally agree. It is a bit surreal coming up with a challenge to recalibrate our habits but it starts a conversation... This is my second year of curtailing clothes consumption (although it was hardly off the scale before) and in terms of volume it doesn't feel like a chore. The challenge for me lies in finding 'suitable' items that fit with my values and style as the market for ethical/sustainable yet elegant clothes is still pretty limited.

    I had hoped that general levels of clothes consumption would come down in the UK as the recession bites but I fear that will not be the case. In this country there is an obsession which cheap stuff/bargains; what we really need to do as a society is be prepared to pay the true cost of stuff - whether it is food, clothes, furniture... even if it means fewer items but of better quality.

  5. As I was reading your post, I thought bag #1 was a 5 pointer, based on the fabric type and quantity of it. I can justify almost anything, and I would have given bag #2 five points as well because it's all recycled materials (almost like thrifting something) and it's not really part of your wardrobe. Either way, you're doing really well in the challenge. Better than I am! I've used 24 points at last count and will be out before the end of the year at this rate. Then I can still shop but I'll have to donate to charity as "punishment." That's how it works after the points are gone, right?

  6. How weird that bags are not part of of the list! I'm also very surprised of how few coupons shoes are compared to dresses. I love the first bag!

  7. This challenge is super interesting and fascinating - although I agree with you that it is a little scary that we have to come up with all sorts of challenges to either control or understand our consumption - I've certainly been there, and keep being stuck in understanding myself. :) The blue tote is really cute!

  8. I should have written "stuck trying to understand myself", or something along those lines - I clicked publish just as I saw that there was a word missing. :)

  9. hey! i tried to find your email address but couldn't anywhere! There are two vegan restaurants in nashville, the sunflower cafe which is GREAT and really fresh and healthy. i get the sampler plate usually and they fill it with whatever you want! they usually have one thing with cheese, but everything else is vegan. The other place is the wild cow and is more vegan versions of meat dishes. their vegan queso is GOOD! the place we go the most is Woodlands. It is all vegetarian. we got at lunch for the buffet a lot and all the vegan stuff is marked. it was voted "best vegetarian place to trick your meat eating friends" a few years ago, the food is amazing.
    If you want curated retro shops, pre to post modern is the best in town. There is a place called Katy K's that you will probably like! And of course there is the tennessee antique mall, and the gas lamp 1 and 2. If there is time to get out of town a little, goodletsville is a little north of town and had the rare bird, which is love!

  10. oh, and the dog of nashville has veggie dogs and is a good place to go if the meat eaters have to have meat. fido's is close to it, and it has vegan options too!

  11. wow this is such an interesting approach!


Post a Comment

Hey there! Thanks for leaving a comment. Please don't apologize for writing a lot - I like long thoughtful comments so bring on the "wall o' text" if you wish and have no shame.

Short comments are, of course, also always welcome.