Slow Fashion: Curating A Conscious Closet

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When I started my minimalism/simple living journey back in 2016, I knew I was committing to more than decluttering my closet and organizing my wardrobe. Minimalist fashion is more than a style trend or closet full of neutrals – the aesthetic is not the movement or the meaning behind it. It’s the conscious choice to align actions with beliefs and values, to put your money towards meaningful pursuits. What it looks like is putting my money into brands that help this beautiful planet of ours, curating a closet with fewer but better quality items, and consuming less overall.

Which means…

I’m done with fast fashion.

I’m wholeheartedly throwing myself into slow fashion. And honestly? I’m breathing a sigh of relief.

Not only am I beyond exhausted and overwhelmed with fast fashion, but I am also tired of the poor construction, low-quality materials, and the horrid return policies. 

So, fast fashion? Hi, I’m breaking up with you completely. To be honest, over the past few months, there has been a radical shift occurring in my life as I’ve sought to change my closet from a consumerist one to a conscious one — without destroying my bank account. As I progress further into my minimalist, simple and slow lifestyle, each new positive decision makes me feel I’m coming more into alignment with what my life should look like.

And so, this shift got me thinking — what happens now? I don’t have a big salary anymore; I earn a little more than minimum wage, what’s a do-gooding fashionista to do in order to look good on a budget?

Which begs more questions:

  • How do you pivot away from fast to slow fashion?
  • How can you afford it?
  • Where do you even begin?

We all want to play our part in helping our environment and becoming more conscious consumers. We want to stop being contributors to the consumption problem. And, I’m sure you’re with me on this one, you’d like to spend less time shopping and more time doing things that matter to you. 

Let’s look at how I got off the merry go round and am working my way to a slower, curated closet.

How do you pivot from fast fashion to slow fashion?

Changing your fashion mindset

Pivoting begins with your mindset. You have to think differently about your closet. You have to break the traditional consumerists mindsets that are lurking in your brain. You have to start paying attention.

The first few mindsets I broke? 

  • Searching for deals. 
  • Convenience. 
  • Ridding myself of the “throw away” mindset. 
  • Getting off the “trends” bandwagon.

And then I started thinking of my wardrobe differently…

I’ve always imagined my wardrobe as a living breathing curation of the woman I want to be — an expression of the creative, artful woman within.

To me, a wardrobe is a representation of who we are. 

Slow fashion is ethical, sustainable, accessible, and fair. And it’s becoming more transparent. Companies like Everlane are making the supply chain transparent to consumers. 

Slow fashion aligns with my beliefs:

  • I invest in garments that last longer. For example, one well designed and well-produced garment will outlive five cheap pieces. 
  • I repair or repurpose old clothes instead of tossing or donating as much as possible.
  • I ask why before I buy something.

I’d always thought of slow fashion as inaccessible, too expensive, and filled with tent-like dresses and boxy blouses that make me look frumpy and make my hourglass shape appear three sizes bigger than it should be.

But, thankfully, slow fashion is changing.

Starting a slow fashion journey

First off, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Slow fashion is about rewarding brands that are better for the world and rewarding ourselves by caring about what we put on our bodies.

  1. Don’t toss everything you have now! Instead, start curating.
  2. Let things wear out, then toss them if unrepairable.
  3. Find your go-to’s and favourite staples.
  4. Give yourself some style rules, here are my 11 Simple French Style Tips I Live By

How can you afford it?

Two of the biggest challenges with slow fashion are price and accessibility. Some garments can cost upwards of $300, and with most retailers located in the US, shipping to International countries can increase costs more.

From my travels across the googleverse in search of slow fashion, one thing became apparent to me: it’s not low cost. So how do you curate a slow and conscious closet without breaking the bank?

Many of us, myself included, on lower incomes argue the point that fast fashion is a necessary evil. We play the victim and beg the fact that we can’t afford more. Oh, but you can my friend, you can. You see, it takes a little planning and some willpower. It requires training your brain to think differently; you need to develop a different mindset.

Here’s what I do and it’s not glamorous or quick:

  • I’ve adopted a mindset of GO SLOW. Take your time choosing garments and don’t let emotions or impulse take over. Ditch the shiny object syndrome and instead focus on if a garment fits well, fits into your lifestyle, and your closet.
  • Do your research. What is the average cost of the slow fashion items you want to purchase? Is it $200, $300, $500? Once you have an idea of what an average clothing piece will cost, you can start saving for it. You’ll know how much an entire outfit or even capsule will cost you.
  • Hone your willpower. Ignore deals. Stop shopping at the outlets. And yes, you may even see capsule wardrobe bloggers and minimalist fashion blogs showing you new items each season, but that doesn’t mean you need to buy something each season. You need to be a discerning consumer.  Take your time, go slow, and learn what fits you best, create your own wardrobe rules, and then shop.

Where do you begin with curating a slow closet?

Curating a slow wardrobe in a fast fashion world

Go slowly!

Don’t feel as though you have to replace everything immediately. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the money to oust all of the potentially unethical, non-sustainable pieces from my closet. Simply keep a mental note that when those items wear out, replace them with more conscious choices.

Less is more.

This is a dramatic change from my shopaholic days, but I’ve gotten much more comfortable with less in my closet. I love the fact that there’s less laundry to do! Fewer decisions to make. It’s such a time saver (and sanity saver) having less in my closet to choose from and worry about.

Fabrics, construction, and where it’s made.

If you take a closer look at some clothing, its easy to tell that they’re poorly constructed and made of poor material. When I purchase a piece of clothing, I thoroughly inspect it before purchase. I look at if the seams are sturdy, I check where it’s made, and I look for only natural materials like cotton, wool, silk, linen and steer clear of most anything else. Sure, there’s lyocell (Tencel), viscose, hemp and bamboo but I find those are prone to strange shrinkage and stretching. I’m much more careful about choosing garments from viscose. Tencel is a 100% no for me from experience.

How much alteration is required?

While I don’t mind altering a good piece of clothing to get a better fit, I stay away from extensive alterations. It can easily add hundreds to the price of a garment.

How versatile is it?

Can you create several outfits with this piece of clothing? To get the most wear out of an item, you need to look at how it fits with the rest of your closet. Think on if you’ll be able to wear it over and over and mix and match it.

Does it fill a gap?

If a piece of clothing fills no gap in my closet, it doesn’t get purchased. When considering adding a new item, I always ask myself: do I have another version of this? If yes, is it really different? Do I really need this? Will I wear it over and over or am I buying it for one occasion only?

Is it trendy?

Ugh. Trends. I swear I’ve tried almost all of them in my (almost) 43 years on this planet. And now I’m seeing some come back and it’s quite literally freaking me out. This is a personal choice whether you let trends into your closet or not. You have to be able to answer the question – can I still wear this when it’s no longer trendy? If the answer is no, it’s better to leave it out and save yourself money. If you can see yourself wearing a zebra print five years from now, then go for it. Do you. And a little warning, slow fashion is also a bit of a trend.

What’s the Return Policy like?

A big bone of contention with me is return policies. I recently nixed a Canadian retailer that sold some sustainable garments because their return policy is ten days. Way too short. I work two jobs (writing and part-time barista) which makes it challenging to return things quickly. Be sure to research return policies before you buy! You don’t want to pay return shipping charges, extra duties, or miss a return window on an expensive item.

A list of ethical, conscious fashion brands I’ve tried to get you started:

I’d love to know, have you changed your shopping to slow down your consumption of fashion? 

PIN IT FOR LATER:

If you've ever wanted to start an ethical wardrobe but didn't know where to start, I've got you covered! Here's how I'm transitioning my wardrobe slow fashion and curating a conscious closet and my tips on how you can get started too!

Comments +

  1. Love this guide! I personally do as much of my shopping as I can at secondhand or vintage stores. Even if it’s a sustainable piece, I struggle to buy things that are new new. It also helps that I just love old style and old time things (so I know this isn’t a strategy that would work for everyone). I’ve been meaning to look at Cuyana, but the last time I checked, they weren’t shipping to Canada. So this is good to know!

    • Michelle says:

      Thanks Britt! I wish I could shop at secondhand! I’ve tried but have such a hard time finding anything that fits or works. But when I clean out my closet I donate or consign.
      Yep, Cuyana ships to Canada now, they just don’t offer returns. It’s tricky and definitely a sticking point for me.

  2. Patricia Hornbeck says:

    Dear Michelle, I loved your blog on slow fashion, it resonates with me! I have been working hard on my capsule wardrobe but haven’t quite made it and I don’t feel satisfied with the results. I think this is the answer for me, nothing seems to fit right, when things get washed they look like rags that I’m so fed up! I think I’m going the sustainable way but I haven’t figured out my size or quite my style when I purchase online. I’m seventy five years old and I love classic styles. I put on a sweet pair of very subtle checkered pants and a simple black cashmere sweater, little black flats the other day and I felt like I had come home, these were the clothes I loved when I was younger.
    Thank you so much!
    Patricia

    • Michelle says:

      Hi Patricia, thank you for the kind words!

      I hear you! It’s difficult buying online and getting classic, timeless garments. When I buy online, I use the online chat or email the retailers and ask loads of questions about fit. I also pay a lot of attention to their return policies if I’ve never bought from them before.

      I adore your style that you’re talking about! Reminds me of classic Audrey Hepburn! She’s one of my style icons.

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