CREATING AN ETHICAL WARDROBE
Adornment, it elicits ideas of elegance, refinery, thoughtfulness. It conjures ritual; a mother buttoning her daughter’s wedding gown, slipping on an heirloom ring, applying that favorite shade of lipstick. But as we consider adornment, we must conjure the reality - a daily universal mundane performance. We all put our pants on the same way, one leg at a time. But truly, we all must get dressed and most of us don’t have forest animals running a fitting room for us each morning. Frankly, it doesn’t always feel like we’re stepping into the best version of ourselves.
For years I walked the line of being empowered and enslaved by style. Trends would leave me with whip lash at the best of times and almost always with my self-esteem in shambles. My wardrobe began dictating my worth and with the speed of fast fashion, it also began to diminish the worth of their makers too. It seemed like every other season, my wardrobe would fluctuate with almost entirely new pieces. Nothing seemed to last long. I began to ask questions about the longevity of my investments, wondering if I could start to see a pattern in my aesthetic to establish better shopping habits. A spark.
What if I truly had a mix and match wardrobe- adornment becoming effortless and easy that fits who I am, my body and my values. No longer tearing myself apart in the name of “fashion”. Let me usher you into a new world of symbiotic love in addressing the real question- how?
My journey truly began with the capsule wardrobe system. It allowed me to step outside of my stagnant cycle and paralysis with concrete goals. A capsule wardrobe is not just a numbers game, but a tool to effectively go hand in hand with ethical purchasing. Conceptually, yes it is about minimalism, a less is more sort of thing. You’d be surprised by how much creativity that starts to flow when restrictions and boundaries are put in place. But it is also about refinement to establish clear patterns for your aesthetic. Suddenly shopping is easy when you have an unwavering vision of who you are and realistic ideas of what you are asking your clothes to achieve.
Here’s a real life example: My lifestyle is primarily casual (80% stay at home mama), with elements of professionalism (20% girl boss) in a 60/40 winter to summer ratio climate. My aesthetic is architectural minimalism meets soft femininity. Think neutrals with touches of chambray, blush and rust; structure and texture with hints of lace and florals. No longer are my eyes deceived by a deep turquoise or “trend of the season” because I know that those pieces will just sit in the back of my dresser or tossed in the donation bin barely worn. I’ve done the work to establish my palette, what fits for my body (and starting to soften with self love on sizing) and the story I want to express about myself. Getting dressed each day is not something I want to dwell on. I am a mother, a maker, a wife and a follower of Christ. I have been given many realms of influence. I really don’t want most of my valued energy going into worrying about what I’m wearing. It really should just be a tool to empower in the daily grind. Not enslave.
We’ve established means of evaluating and developing a firm foundation of personal style. The story about you. Now that that is out of the way, how do we honor the story about who made your clothes? After years of endorsing my purchasing power into places that did not align with my values, I made a choice: second hand style, because second hand is the new, well... new.
My conscience did not require me to start from scratch. There is no sense in throwing out something that might have longevity simply because its production was questionable. Reducing and reusing also play a huge part in the counter cultural mindset you are unnaturally conforming to. Building a wardrobe with ethical pieces is a process. In this transition, it is about considering what you do have and when finding a need, then sourcing a great piece.
Currently, I’d say my closet is 60% second hand (my postpartum body created more needs than I had imagined) and 40% long term pieces. Evaluating where the need is comes from doing an exhaustive inventory. With honesty, keep what gets a true rotation, fits well and works within your aesthetic. You know yourself. You’ll see holes. Make a list. Stick to it. Envision your story. Pin it if you must, keep it close to your heart. Be gentle with yourself in filling them. Slow to quick fixes. Remember, you are changing the way you think. It comes with Jedi like discipline and patience. May the force be with you.
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