Miss part one? Check it out here. Both articles are excerpted from an April 21, 2016, presentation I gave on ethical fashion.
So are you ready? Here are the small steps.
#1. Go through your closet, on a fact-finding mission.
Identify the pieces you love and that look amazing on you and that make you feel so happy when you wear them, even if there aren’t many.
#2. Raise your hand if you’ve heard of a capsule wardrobe.
If you haven’t, do yourself a favor and Google it. un-fancy.com is a great resource, but there are tons of people and bloggers who’ve jumped on board with this. The idea is, you’ve gone through your closet, you’ve pared down to only the pieces you love and that make you happy, and from there you form a small collection of totally versatile pieces for each season that you can mix and match and add accessories to. You’ll shop for clothes approximately twice a year, and you’ll love wearing them.
#3. Shop secondhand.
This is by far the best way to do ethical fashion on a budget—because by buying secondhand you’re not contributing to the fast fashion problem—and there are so many great options out there right now in consignment and resale.
schoola.com is actually a kids consignment site that donates to the school of your choice, so you can enter your kids’ school and get your friends and family to also. Pretty cool. If you’re local, check out Repurposed, a thrift store on McKnight Road. It’s owned and operated by Living in Liberty, a ministry that provides a safe house to victims of sex trafficking and does street outreach with victims right here in Pittsburgh!
Another option if you’re getting rid of a lot of clothes at once is to host a clothing swap. They are so much fun; let me know if you’re interested in organizing one. Everyone brings the seasonal clothes they’re getting rid of (in good, rewearable condition), and then you swap! You can even use it as a fundraiser by having people bring a couple dollars to participate.
#4. When you can, stick to slow fashion:
Buy fair trade, made in the USA, handmade, organic, mission-driven (brands that give back, like TOMS), transparent, upcycled or recycled, zero-waste, and from local and independent designers. Also check out the ethical fashion blogs listed in the resources at the end of this post. The idea here is you might pay a little more than you’re used to on a single article or accessory, but you know where your money is going. And the quality of slow fashion garments is generally better, so in the long run it’s a good use of resources. You’re saving money in the end because you can hold onto and wear the pieces much longer.
#5. Whenever you can, mend your clothes rather than throw them away, or even better, make or have someone make clothes for you!
All of these are great small steps to take, but the bottom line is, unless you feel comfortable and confident in your own personal style, they won’t work very well. For a couple reasons. One, if you don’t know your style, you’ll be much more likely to hold onto clothes you don’t wear and continue to impulse buy cheap clothes you’ll wear a couple times or never. Two, if you don’t know your style, you’ll be more likely to buy clothes simply because they’re cheap or “on trend”—to experience the thrill of getting a good deal or of being “in”—not because they make a solid addition to your wardrobe. Again, this will cost you more over time and contribute to the fast fashion problem. Knowledge is power, girls.
To conclude, let’s have some fun. Let’s talk style.
What is your style? Do not tell me you don’t have a style. Everyone has a style. I’ll say it again: Everyone has a style. Don’t worry if you can’t define yours, or if you’re still figuring out how to make the switch from single lady style to married lady style to mom style. Or if your style hasn’t changed since college. That’s okay. There are ways of finding out what your style is. And don’t think you have an excuse because you “weren’t born with the fashion gene” or “everyone has a better fashion sense than you.” They have a better sense of fashion simply because they’ve spent more time looking at it and practicing it than you have.
The first step to finding your style seems obvious, but we don’t take the time to do it. Look around you.
On the street, at work, at church, at parties, on TV, in magazines, online. What looks are you always, always drawn to? Why, what specifically draws you? The whole look, certain pieces, the colors, the lines, the accessories? Make mental notes or start a Pinterest board. Instagram is my go-to for researching styles. I follow fashion people (not high fashion, mostly mom and street fashion), and by simply scrolling through the images I learn what works and get ideas.
These seven words define seven styles (used by Stitch Fix, a great resource for discovering your style) you might identify with. Search them on Pinterest, and look at the outfits people have put together. Decide which style is the most like yours and own it. Start to experiment outside your comfort zone by trying different ways of styling what you already have.
Also, look in your closet.
What outfits do you love and always gravitate toward—which are your best? Which are your worst? Which are the most and least comfortable?
This next one is so important. Always choose clothes that compliment your shape and body type and that camouflage problem areas.
It can be the trendiest pair of jeans in the world but if it isn’t right for your body type, it will not make you look good.
Finally, can’t say this enough: less is more!