My Conscious Closet
I used to think that a good wardrobe equated to more items and less outfit-repeats. I saw my wardrobe as a collection, and so the bigger the collection, the better. It was an eclectic concoction of bargains I had to grab, hand-me-downs, op-shop finds, ASOS steals and chain store trends. I did a twice-yearly purge but there were always some things that went untouched but survived the cull. After a few years, I had items which I had only worn once or twice, and these hung next to things that came off the hanger at least once a week. I always told myself I was 'saving' them for something, and that I would need it 'one day'. It was when I packed my life into a suitcase for university, that I realised I never needed them. I realised that more, was not merrier.
After moving out of home, I've moved every year since. Every time I pack up, my wardrobe gets smaller and smaller. However, it hasn't downsized out of pure convenience. It's become more thoughtful too. My wardrobe choices now consider my body, my budget, my future and the environment. These days, I challenge myself to have less items, and more outfit repeats. Because if it's an outfit you look and feel amazing in, then why not wear it again... And again?
Building a conscious closet is an ever-changing, constant process. Every time I want to add an item to my sartorial collection, I go through a considered decision making process which I've shared below. It's resulting in a collection of clothing that expresses my style, is cohesive and easy to mix and match, and one that is also mindful of the environment.
WHAT MAKES UP MY CONSCIOUS CLOSET?
1. PIECES I LOVE
I believe that 'infatuation-at-first-sight' is very real. I fall victim on the regular: hopelessly standing outside the shop window, staring at someone's midi+boot combo for far too long, or obsessively searching through Insta to find that yellow seersucker playsuit on different bloggers. I've made snap decisions and ended up with a pile of things I thought I loved, but barely wore once. In the past few years, I've learned to slow down my purchasing process by realising and overcoming infatuation. Just like loving a person, I find I need time and information to make that commitment. Before I buy something, I need to assess my instant attraction: what am I drawn to and why? I feel the fabric, check the content, and most importantly, I try it on. How it fits and how it feels will give me an indication of how strong our bond could be. Sometimes the process takes me ten minutes, and sometimes it takes me ten days. But working hard for that true love has resulted in a very wearable and purposeful wardrobe, with pieces that I treasure.
2. PIECES THAT ARE VERSATILE
I spend five out of seven days in an office, but I don't own work clothes. With a strong aversion to poly-blend button-up shirts, and an annoying inability to fit pencil skirts and blazers, you may wonder what I wear on the daily grind. Instead of choosing these classic items, I make sure that pieces in my wardrobe can be dressed up or down, so it is easily applicable to office and weekend life. The more ways one item can be worn, the less you'll have in your closet, and the less you'll need to shop! For me, that also means more meals out, more money I can save for travelling, or more I can put towards my savings account... Or an investment piece!
3. PIECES THAT ARE LOCALLY MADE
Working in the New Zealand apparel industry, I have a strong respect and preference for locally made fashion labels. I love being able to participate in the industry, and choose items which have been made in my own backyard. Shopping locally means that the environmental impact is smaller than an imported item, as it has journeyed across the globe to get to you. Whilst travelling, I also look to buy local designers and handmade goods. It's a unique, meaningful souvenir that serves more purpose than a fridge magnet. I know who has made it, where it has come from and the story behind it, so I treasure it even more.
4. PIECES THAT ARE INVESTMENTS
There are over twenty-four million search results when you Google 'investment piece'. Everyone has their take on a list of six, ten or twenty items, a selection for an 'ultimate capsule wardrobe' or 'perfect pieces'... You know what I'm talking about. For me, investment pieces are high quality items that are the building blocks of your wardrobe. Think classic items that you'll always need: a white t-shirt, black boots, a go-to skirt, a power blazer, a wool coat. Then think about what will best serve your lifestyle, personal aesthetic and body. For example, my first ever investment piece was a Juliette Hogan Pleated Midi Skirt that came out of my first paycheque of my full-time job. It's something that is timeless, made well and worn on rotation. A traditional list may have suggested a pencil skirt, but as I love to feel free in my clothing, I went for a flowing midi.
5. PIECES THAT ARE PRE-LOVED, AND FROM SUSTAINABLE, ETHICAL SOURCES
Knowing whether an item is sustainably and ethically made is almost impossible at the store or point-of-sale. Yes, the label tells you where it was made and what material it is made from (in most countries), but it definitely doesn't tell you it's factory details, environmental or social impact. Thanks to movements like Fashion Revolution and app Good On You, it's never been easier to just do a little brand research before you buy. Instead of heading to your local mall, take some time to look into a sustainable, ethical or local brand that you can support.
Alternatively, for some guilt-free instant gratification when you need some retail therapy, hit the op-shops. Give old items new life, and support the charities or local business owners with your money. Second-hand items may not have an ethical origin, but by choosing a pre-loved item, you are not supporting the fast-fashion industry and instead, supporting a slow one.
Build a CONSCIOUS CLOSET THAT INSPIRES AND EXPRESSES YOU, and you will ALWAYS HAVE SOMETHING TO WEAR.
Photographer: Bryan from Optic By Law