In my earlier post, I discussed why it’s important for all of us to move away from fast fashion. But we all still want to be beautiful and look polished. Read on to see how you can do both.
1. Remember: You don’t have to deal with what you don’t buy.
You can save yourself from many future Kondo-style closet clean-outs by just… not buying things. Less to decide on, store, sell, tailor, donate, if you just *stop buying so much.* It sounds obvious, but stores and websites are designed to make you feel like you must have what they’re selling. Remember that the next time you’re browsing, and you can silence the siren song of magenta mohair turtlenecks for long enough to purchase mindfully. It should also go without saying that this rule applies to accessories, beauty products, and jewelry (my Kryptonite).
2. Know what you have, and keep yourself accountable.
This is a very recent victory for me. I’m drawn to flowy black tops everywhere I go, but I don’t actually need nine of them. And I forget I have nine of them because the stores are literally designed to suck you into a retail K-hole. Again, shop mindfully: focus on what you actually need to purchase that day, and commit to only buying that. Consider making a no-fly list in your phone for things you already have too many of: blue skinny jeans, hand lotion, 3/4 sleeve cardigans. Don’t buy another one of those until you actually wear something out.
3. Wear your clothes in as many seasons as possible.
Turns out my purple cowl-neck shift that I purchased in October works just as well with slides and bare arms, as it does with tights and a blazer. If you live in a four-season place, challenge yourself to make your wardrobe pieces work in as many months as possible. To that end, you should also avoid buying things that are overtly season-specific. You didn’t really need that pineapple-printed onesie, trust me. Airy floral sundresses can look surprisingly fresh and cozy with a chunky cardigan and boots. A lightweight sweater can keep you warm by the lake in Maine in July, in just about any color.
4. Take the French approach to shopping.
It’s cliche, but the French really do emphasize quality over quantity. I keep a memo in my phone of all the wardobe-related things I want. I often note them down in a hurry on the street when I see someone looking fabulous, but I won’t buy them right away. When I have decided I don’t already have the Thing, and I know exactly what I can wear the Thing with, and I have found a good-quality Thing that is ethically crafted… then I take out the plastic. Most of the time though, after a couple of weeks in my phone, I get over that initial craving for the Thing and don’t buy it, because it was impractical or unflattering on me, or because it’s actually just not my style (white patent-leather Oxfords). Delete! When you consider cost per wear, it really does make sense to buy the best quality you can afford, and wear it to death. Which brings me to…
5. Make everything last longer.
After you buy your high-quality, ethically-made clothing, take the time to actually read the label so you can clean and store the items properly. The easiest switch to make is washing all your clothing and linens in cold water (yes, it will still get clean). It’s better for the planet, for your bills, for the fibers in the material, and will let clothes retain their vibrant colors. Besides cleaning gently and properly, learn how to do some simple clothing repairs, like reattaching buttons or sewing small tears along the hem.
For more clothing care tips and fixes, check out this video by designer Justine Leconte:
6. Embrace tailoring.
Another oldie but goodie; tailors can do wonders for fit, but also for extending the life of your clothes. Just like a great cleaner can remove an ink stain from white linen pants, a great tailor can transform thrifted clothing, fix garments, and even reassmble them if necessary. And no, you should not just buy another skirt because “it’ll cost just as much to hem it,” because it won’t if you’re buying good quality. This is especially good advice for anyone who has changed their weight and doesn’t want to spend money on new clothes.
7. Get inspired!
Fashion is fun. So is scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest for fashion ideas. You can still get inspired by these amazing images, but the trick is to not just run out and buy the sunglasses Kylie is wearing. Instead, take your time to make deeper observations about images that speak to you. What’s happening with the silhouette? Can you recreate that color palette with your own clothes? How is a mood created? How do the proportions of body, hair, and clothing work?
8. Devote time to searching for ethical fashion brands.
The easiest place to start is Etsy. You can filter items made in your country, and often designers will custom-cut pieces for you, so size is not a limitation. Check out local artisan markets, too; even if you only see handmade scarves for sale, their website may have sweaters and dresses. Some ethical and USA-made brands I have found include Synergy Organic Clothing, Eco Vibe Apparel, and Smart Glamour.
If quitting fast fashion cold-turkey is a bit much for you, take just a few steps. Even if you cut back your consumption by 50%, that’s a huge improvement. Back in the 90s we would have been at the mercy of what’s at the mall (shudder), but thanks to online shopping, it is easy to find and research all of our purchases in advance and to shop mindfully. When you buy USA-made, you support small businesses and contribute positively to our economy, and that is something to feel good about.