80/20 Rule and Thoughts on a New Wardrobe – Part One

Before I left Italy I had a long talk with my amazing Italian doctor. I had to pay for her (because in Italy access to the state healthcare system is based on Italian citizenship and being from an EU member country doesn’t entitle you to anything more than you’d get as a tourist) but she was worth every penny. When I told her we were returning to the UK she ordered a huge battery of blood tests and we talked for ages and the conclusion was that I had turned a corner with the CFS/ME that’s dogged me for several years since the vile virus/nervous breakdown combo after my father died. I don’t want to talk too much about it as there are far better, more informative specialist blogs out there but in my case the constant exhaustion had the side-effects of weight gain, fitness loss, and depression, all three of which are still with me.

I’m slowly working out a nutrition and exercise plan. The nutrition I’ll talk more about later but it’s being helped enormously by the lovely, lovely, lovely cookery blogs I’ve found. As for exercise, well, even if I didn’t hate gyms I live on the edge of the middle of nowhere, so it’s going to be down to dvds and lots of walking. I’m going to take as much advantage as I can of living in a scenic area and walk every day even though winter in Scotland is not really the brightest time to do anything outside but it won’t rain, sleet, and hail every single day between now and next June. Actually it probably will rain, sleet, and hail every single day between now and next June but I have to do something before I’m too big to fit through doors.

Yesterday I went for a coffee in Victor Hugo’s on the Meadows to think.


I love colour, embroidery, embellishment, natural fabrics, vintage, accessories, and jewellery.

I can’t be bothered with trends and I refuse to accept the idea that something is passé because it is a year old.

I believe in ‘occasion appropriate’ and someone else’s occasion, e.g., a funeral or a wedding isn’t the place for me to go all out expressing my over-caffeinated/sari fabric obsessed personality.

The rest of the time is my occasion to dress the way I like. Please forgive me, dear little Scottish country town. I know you want me to move to Glasgow.

I don’t believe in ‘age appropriate’ (if you ever see me in the Classic section of M&S please lure me out with chocolate cake) and I will probably end up in prison one day for thumping someone for describing a woman as “looking good for her age.” Again, please send chocolate cake, the fudgey, ganache covered kind.

My challenge to myself is to purchase mindfully and morally. Like most of us I care about who makes my clothes but I’m also overwhelmed by the effort involved in policing production (shouldn’t be my job) and the fact that I suspect some producers lie by appropriating the language of fair-trade and concern but the bottom line is appalling labour conditions anyway. I don’t want to part of that. I want lovely things and I want the woman who makes them to have lovely things of her own and she won’t as long as she lives in a shanty town and works in a sweatshop.

Things have come a long way in the fair-trade clothing business over the last twenty years or so. It used to be that fair-trade clothing either looked as if it had been made in a peace camp hippie commune by Flower and Moonchild in between brewing and drinking vats of vegan hooch or it was entirely white organic cotton tee shirts. The first made you look like a gypsy fortune teller and the second would stretch the ingenuity of even the most dedicated minimalist.

It’s true though that boycotting “third world” producers isn’t always the best idea because any job is better than no job. If our actions close down all the unethical clothing factories then the people that work in them have nowhere to go and for some of the women and children the alternative will be the sex trade and for the others it will be destitution and starvation. It’s a tragic, terrible scenario and it makes my blood boil.

I’ve chosen to take control of what I can which is my own life. In the end that’s all I’m answerable for.

I’ve chosen to implement an 80/20 rule in all my clothes and accessory purchasing from now on. I’d like to say I’m going to be 100% fair-trade but I know myself and I know my environment plus the issues around boycotting.

The 80/20 Rule

From now on – that’s today – 21st September 2016 all my purchases will be 80% (or more) from these sources:

Fair Trade/Ethical Producers.
Vintage/Charity shops.
Direct from artists/artisans.
From countries with decent labour laws.
Cherishing items I’ve had for years already.
Micro businesses as long as they’re not exploiting others.

And 20% (or less) from ordinary retailers although if I hear they are gratuitiously bad/making zero effort/lying I will find someone else. There’s always someone else.

The one area I won’t compromise is toiletries and cosmetics. There is no need for animal testing either on ingredients or finished products anywhere, anyhow, ever. I would rather support companies who have never abused animals rather than the ones who were forced by EU law to stop and are doing heaven knows what elsewhere in the world.

If you’ve read this far I apologise for the lack of photos but I’m away from home helping my sister and her husband prepare for their new life/early retirement to Malta.

Victor Hugo’s is at 27 Melville Terrace EH9 1LP.  It’s on the other side of the Meadows from the university area and the nearest bus stops are 2 minutes away on the parallel Melville Drive. The coffee is good and they always have a yummy selection of sandwiches and cakes as well as a lovely deli counter.