Top – Equipment (sold out), similar here, affordable alternatives here and here
Jeans – ASOS Petite, regular length here
Bucket bag – Mansur Gavriel, affordable alternative here and here
Necklace – Thrifted, similar here
Picture this: a blogger/influencer you follow buys a cute dress from Nordstrom, or perhaps they received the dress for free from a brand. They post on Instagram about how much they love the dress, how much you need to go out and buy it RIGHT NOW, and how much of an investment piece this is for their wardrobe. A week later, you go onto their Poshmark and see the dress listed for sale, often with tags still attached, often with the description “worn once for a photo.”
If you follow a fair share of fashion/lifestyle influencers, you’ve probably witnessed this scenario in action. I’m always a little disappointed when I see this — not only because I think it’s inauthentic (why say you love a piece of clothing when it was in your closet for less time than a carton of milk was in your fridge?), but also because it’s wasteful.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the wastefulness not only in the fashion industry, but specifically in the culture of wear-it-once-for-the-gram and never-repeating-outfits. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been guilty of this. Scrolling through my Instagram feed, it’s not uncommon for me to get bored of my closet and feel the pressure to shop for the sake of shopping. I’ve bought new dresses for weddings and graduations and holiday parties, only to stick it back on the hanger after its first wear and never touch it again.
In the age of social media, we often place value in excess (just look at how many people in the comments of Jaclyn Hill’s closet tour think her closet is #goals) and label the repeating of outfits as a fashion faux pas. Insert that iconic scene from Lizzy McGuire here.
Earlier this year, I took a step back and to really think about my style journey and how I wanted to curate my wardrobe. What did I want to communicate with my style choices? What differentiated an item that will be a staple in my wardrobe for years to come something I only wear for a season? Why did I often associate the idea of “joy” with new clothing? When I took a step back and thought about why I felt pressured to always have the newest clothing, I quickly realized it wasn’t about the clothes or style. It was about my habit of chasing the feeling of being up to date and relevant, of showing that I could keep up with trends and have the newest things. Not only is this a wasteful habit, it’s also a profoundly stressful habit to maintain.
I know there are some people who will read this and think I’m advocating for a complete minimalist lifestyle, or going through and konmari-ing every single sock and sweater in your closet until you’re left with a bare bones, 10 item capsule wardrobe. I’m not. Playing with fashion brings me joy, and I think it’s absolutely possible to explore trends and shop while also being mindful about the items you’re bringing into your wardrobe. Kate Middleton is a great example of this. Though she has a killer closet filled with hundreds of dresses, she’s worn this Alexander McQueen outfit 3 times, looks incredible every single time, and is getting repeat value out of the piece. In fact, she repeats outfits all the time.
As with any journey, making changes to the way I consume and shop isn’t an overnight process, but it’s a journey that I’m excited to begin. Below are 5 habits I’ve adopted in an effort to transition my shopping habits to be more sustainable, thoughtful, and conscious.
- Identify the staples you wear on a weekly basis and invest in high quality versions of these items.
What these “staple pieces” are will be different for everyone depending on their lifestyle, climate, and taste. For me personally, the dollar-per-wear mindset is extremely helpful in figuring out what is worth investing in. For example, I live in Seattle, so I find myself wearing heavier jackets at least 45 days a year. If a high quality $350 wool coat lasts me for 5 years and I wear the coat 45 times a year, that’s less than $2 per wear. This is the same price as if I were to buy a cheaper, lower quality $80 coat that only lasts a year.
- Shop smart – take advantage of sales for high quality, non-fast-fashion items.
It’s true, higher quality items are more expensive than their fast fashion counterparts, and conscious shopping can be hard on your wallet. I’ve found that shopping smart and being aware of end of the season sales and discounts allows me to fill my wardrobe with high quality items while also staying within my budget.There are some staples I almost never pay full price for because they go on sale all the time. This includes cashmere sweaters and jeans. I always find MSRP $250 AG, Paige, and rag&bone jeans for $100 or less at Nordstrom Rack, on sale at Neiman Marcus, and on clearance during end of season sales. I also take advantage of store wide black Friday sales — for example, I love AllSaints and always wait until Black Friday to buy their more expensive items, because the whole site is discounted 40%!
- Shop at thrift stores and online consignment stores, and re-home your clothing when you’re done with it.
It always makes me so happy to give a second life to a pre-loved piece of clothing. If thrifting at conventional thrift stores gives you a headache because there’s just so much to sort through, consider sites like like eBay, Poshmark, ThredUp, and TheRealReal, which are more expensive than Goodwill but also give you the ability to filter through brands, sizes, and colors. You can also find many new with tags items on for a fraction of the price.
- Know what to look for at Fast Fashion retailers. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to completely avoid fast fashion retailers! When shopping at places like Topshop, Zara, Forever21, H&M, etc., look for timeless, classic silhouettes and focus on higher quality fabrics. I often type”linen” or “100% cotton” into the search-bar of these websites which makes it much easier to filter out the fabrics I’m trying to avoid (like polyester). By focusing on the fabric makeup of fast-fashion clothing, my clothing from these retailers have lasted well beyond just one or two seasons.
- Consider a capsule wardrobe. Not forever – just for 10 days. One of my favorite mindful shopping bloggers, un-fancy, blogs about seasonal capsule wardrobes and also 10 x 10 projects where you use 10 items of clothing/shoes to create 10 outfits for 10 days. Experimenting with short term capsule wardrobes has allowed me to discover new ways of styling clothes I already own, and also helps me identify which items are staples and which are not.
What are your thoughts on conscious shopping? Is it a habit you’re trying to adopt for your wardrobe?