How to build a conscious and authentic wardrobe
Your body, bank account, and the earth will thank you.
In the spirit of embracing the things that absolutely light us up, I have a confession…
Y’all. I love ethical fashion. It used to be fashion in general, until I grew up and got a conscience about my personal carbon footprint and the impact that my everyday choices have on the environment. I started this whole process, or evolution rather, a few years ago, ya know, when I got divorced and moved to a new state into a 560 sq ft studio with barely enough room for my shoes. Casual. After those minor life changes, I finally had the time and space I needed to not only figure out who I am and what I love, but also to purge a ridiculously overflowing closet (read more about my journey to slow-living here). I won’t lie to you, it took some time and soul-searching and obsessive Instagram stalking to lead me to the brands, fabrics, and styles that I now regularly invest in. However, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t also an incredibly enjoyable process to find said brands, binge-browse their sites, fill up my cart, and let them sit for weeks until it fit into my budget and I could commit to the purchase, all while casually sipping coffee, probably without pants on.
What a time to be alive.
Curating a uniquely you wardrobe is essential (IMO) to being a conscious human today. It takes real self-awareness to stand in your authenticity through your style in a society that constantly berates us with the “NEW THINGS YOU HAVE TO BUY RIGHT NOW” because everything is “on trend” or “in season” and won’t last forever.
Personally, I think we’re over being trendy. We’re over things that quickly expire. We’re growing out of it as a collective because mass consumerism is so early 2000’s. We have a planet to save - #biggerpicture - and it’s time we all started taking conscious action in our lives, cleaning up our messes, and investing in things that last. Why not start with your wardrobe? After all, public nudity is still a misdemeanor and our planet is still suffering under the weight of all of our non-biodegradable stuff. Clothing isn’t going anywhere. You are fully capable of being intentional with your money while still looking cute AF.
If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.
Nailing down your personal style is by far my favorite part of this whole process. If you’re going to invest in quality, sustainable clothing, you really have to get down to the nitty gritty of who you are and what image you feel best represents that self to the world first. Sh*t’s expensive and you want to be sure. Pinterest is a dream for this (hands-down my most used app) as a tool to vision board who you are and what inspires you, without the scissors or sticky glue fingers (we don’t have to be toddlers about it, no messes = win). Once you’ve pinned your heart out and have a solid grasp on your goal aesthetic, the next logical step is to take inventory of your current closet. I recommend channeling your inner Marie Kondo, pulling absolutely everything out, and separating it all into three piles:
- 1) items you never wear/have worn only once, maybe twice, or to your second-cousins wedding four years ago
- 2) items you love but aren’t ready to toss yet/also a good place for gifts from other people that cause you emotional hesitancy
- 3) items you wear on a regular basis and bring you all the joy (I see you, black skinny jeans and plain tees)
Once you have your piles, celebrate! I think sorting is the hardest part, but I also have years of built up conditioning around obsessively consuming new clothes in order to reinvent myself when life gets tricky.
Yes, it’s all always related.
Back to your piles. The first pile should be fairly intuitive – get rid of it, responsibly. Just because you throw something away doesn’t mean it disappears. You can donate the items to your local women’s shelter or find a clothing recycling center (Brass Clothing also has closet clean out bags with perks!) but for the love of all that is holy in this world, PLEASE do not throw your things in the trash where they will inevitably sit for hundreds of years, without decomposing, all the while adding to the drastic climate change we’re already experiencing. I don’t even care if you donate to Goodwill - although I am personally morally opposed to for-profit donation centers - just don’t throw it away.
It’s. All. Related. Your everyday choices matter. Take that to heart.
The second pile is more of a gray area. Maybe seeing these things in the light of day, next to things you actually love to wear, is motivation enough to donate them as well, but sometimes it’s harder than that. I realize this is a limiting belief, and my PSYCH-K® tendencies are pinging here, but I am not above getting emotionally attached to things, you guys. I just need a little space to sort through it and I’ll be alright. Typically, with this ambiguous second pile, I place all the items in a box and put them out of sight. I get some space and it’s way less committal this way. Besides, if I’m not regularly pulling out those things to wear, then I know I can live without them and it becomes a logical decision versus an emotional one. The best rule of thumb, however, is “if it’s not a hell yes, then it’s a no.” Which comes in handy in any life situation, really.
Your third pile of garments is for keeps. They’re your favorite jeans, that go-to T-shirt that always fits just right, or the cozy sweater you reach for almost every day in the winter when you just want to be held. These are the hell yes’s and they are yours 4E, congratulations!
Reduce, re-use, Poshmark.
After you’ve identified your personal style, and cleaned out the things you no longer use, you’re ready to start wearing everything you love and maybe make some investments. First, however, is the fact that clothing can wear out, especially if it is your favorite thing ever and you wear it all the time. We’re aiming for longevity, people, and this is where the final step in building and maintaining your conscious/authentic wardrobe comes into play. The way I see it, you have two options. The first – find a good seamstress. Yes, other people can still sew, not just your nana. If you really love something, spend the minimal amount it takes to fix it instead of scrapping it. It’s so very worth it and I promise it will be way less expensive than replacing. The second option is to DONATE or RECYCLE items (I’ll never stop stressing this) and then ethically replace them. There are loads of brands popping up these days that have ethical foundations and sustainable practices in place. Ethical meaning fair wages and working environments for their employees, and sustainable referring to their production methods and fabrics. If you won’t eat something that causes you cancer, why would you put it on your body? Skin is an organ too. And I think it’s safe to say that we’re all against child labor at this point in our evolution, right? No amount of money could remove the mark that would leave on your conscience. It’s really fiscally and morally responsible at this point.
Below is a list of ethical, sustainable, eco-conscious brands that I have personally vetted and repeatedly purchase from. Keep in mind that they are more expensive because of the principles and practices they carry. Pieces you love should be an investment. Purchases should be intentional. The more you spend on something, the better you will take care of it and the longer it will last you. However, if buying something new isn’t in your budget right now, buying second-hand is the next best thing. I have found tons of quality pieces on Poshmark for reasonable prices with limited wear. You can even sell your old stuff (from piles 1 and 2), if it’s in good condition, to not only purge and lighten your load, but also make a little money in the process. Win-win! You can also check out what Morgan from The Garment is doing. She hosts virtual pop-ups regularly with discount codes from responsible maker’s.
The bottom line is this: investing in a conscious, authentic wardrobe is one of the best things you can do for not only yourself, but also for the environment, and it’s an easy way to reduce your impact. Besides, how great would it feel to get dressed in the morning knowing that every single article of clothing in your closet is your favorite, has a low eco-impact, and cute AF?
Ethical brands I love
Twofold Clothing – I own like 3 krissy tees, zero shame
Everlane – definitely a more affordable option!
Teysha – because, shoes.