A guide for anyone who wears clothes.
Despite working in the fashion industry, I would never describe myself, my interests or my sense of style as Fashion, with a capital F. I actually kind of hate the term “sustainable fashion” because it paints pictures in our minds of luxury brands with price tags out of most of our budgets — a wonderful ideal, but only a reality for a few. It gives us an excuse to not participate in the conversation if we aren’t self-proclaimed fashionistas and it doesn’t represent the openness and diversity that the sustainable fashion movement truly embodies.
Sustainable FASHION should really just be called sustainable CLOTHING. Even though Reformation says that “being naked is the #1 most sustainable option,” most of us do tend to wear clothing (most of the time), and there is no reason that our sustainable values can’t extend into our closets. It doesn’t mean scraping everything and starting over or filling your drawers with designer labels —
a conscious closet isn’t about the clothes, it’s about the mindset.
So, let’s get rid of that members-only sounding word and open the conversation to anyone who wears clothes. To get you started, here are five ways to create and maintain a conscious closet:
ONE // Shop your own closet
We tend to wear a small selection of our wardrobe over and over again. Spend some time with your clothes — a few hours reorganizing, putting new combos together or trying old things on — you’re bound to find forgotten favorites, pieces that don’t fit or the remnants of a back-in-style trend.
This process is a great mindful practice to use before you go shopping (a bit of advice from Eileen Fisher). You’ll learn what you already have and don’t need, what you have and don’t wear, and you’ll make more mindful decisions at the shops.
TWO // Take good care
All that lint you pull out of the dryer…. that’s little bits of your clothes as they fall apart. To keep your favorite garments in your closet longer, simply wash in cold water, with natural detergent, and hang dry. Fold your sweaters in a drawer so they don’t stretch out on a hanger and protect them from moths with some cedar sachets. And most importantly, when your trusted pieces get a little hole or a stain, lose a button or bust a seam, take them to the seamstress to get fixed up or learn some handy dandy mending yourself.
THREE // View clothing as an investment
When you do decide to add more clothing to your closet, do so with the intention of investing in good quality pieces. With sustainable brand directories and apps popping up everyday, it’s easier than ever to find clothing made with a conscience.
Look for natural and organic materials like silk, wool and linen and inspect the seams of your potential new purchase — you don’t have to know how to sew in order to be able to make a basic judgement on the quality of a garment’s construction. Look for wonky seams, weird pulling of the fabric or fraying threads. While high quality materials, and top-notch garment construction make the price tag higher, you’ll be ensuring that you’re collecting a piece that will be a trusted friend for years to come.
FOUR // Shop second hand
This is an easy swap to make your impulsive shopping habits a lot more conscious. Head to your local thrift shop or Salvation Army and enjoy the thrill of the chase. You’ll be sure to find some cheap basics and might even inspire yourself to test the boundaries of your usual style. Remember to ignore the sizing and just go for whatever you’re feeling is the right look for you.
Even though these garments are second hand, it doesn’t mean they’re disposable — you want to give these pieces a nice long life too. Try to avoid fast fashion brands like Forever 21 and H&M, instead opting for higher quality pieces that are made to last.
FIVE // Dispose responsibly
When it’s time to rid your closet of some clothes because they don’t fit, you don’t love them anymore or you just need to purge make sure to do so consciously. While is still not the easiest and most convenient process, there are more options for donation and resale now than there ever have been before. Donate clothes in decent quality to charity, like the Salvation Army or take them back to a local retail store that accepts donations, like H&M or Northface. Resell good quality clothing at a local consignment or thrift shop or enter the growing world of online resale and use a service like Poshmark or Thred Up. You could even host a swap event with your friends or colleagues.
For damaged and stained garments that aren’t able to be fixed or worn again, separate them out into a separate bag labeled “recycling” and donate to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. They’ll take them off your hands and sell them to a textile recycler.