Step Three: Slow Growth and Limiting Factors
You’ve figured out what to get rid of. Maybe you’ve honed in on a color palette. You’re working on building a solid base. But how do you begin to add the other pieces to love?
The best answer I have is slowly and with limiting factors. When you voluntarily limit the things you consume by self-imposing standards of construction or manufacturing or material, logic follows that you finish by consuming less.
Maybe it goes without saying, but we’ve got a fast fashion problem on our hands; cheap clothes produced in ways that compromise just about everything and everyone involved in their production.
Faced with a list of all things one need evaluate in order to determine the ethics of a garment, one can quickly throw up her hands and declare, “I’ll just run around naked, then.”
While I’m quite sure that all of us are glorious sights to behold in the buff, I think it’s reasonable that society at large might expect us to be clothed. And so I can only suggest that we allow ourselves the time to consider the where and the what and the who of how something has been made and try our best to make choices that harm fewer people and ransack fewer precious resources.
It’s hard to tick every single box of what makes a perfectly ethical garment, but if you embrace shopping with a critical eye, chances are you’ll come out ahead.
Cheap clothes rendered unwearable after the first wash quickly expose the affordability fallacy of fast fashion. But inexpensive clothes aren’t the only problem. Clothes at a range of price points can have questionable construction or dubious origins. And how very disheartening it is to splurge on something only to find that it’s been poorly made. So, make like your fussy grandmother and run your hand along those seams. Try things on before buying them. Lift your arms and check to make sure the arm holes are even. Hold t-shirts up to the light. Consider buying just one blouse before deciding you need the whole rainbow.
Factor in Fabrics:
I try hard to build my wardrobe with as many natural or naturally derived fabrics as possible. For me it’s often a question of feel: I prefer a rich wool or soft cotton to a polyester blend. But there are also other considerations of breathability and wear and environmental impact.
For me the key to a minimalist wardrobe is to turn a blind eye to at least some of the seasonal fads. I’m not saying I haven’t been a victim of fickle fashion. There’s that diary entry from 15-year-old me reporting that I wore a tie-dyed tube top with a pair of Jnco jeans and confiding that I “like to wear sexy-ish clothes.” YIKES. But terrible fashion choices of the past aside, I do find that the more I stick to simple, timeless looks, the more versatile my small warbdrobe becomes.
An amazing result of a rich online community is access to small-scale designers who can sell high-quality clothes direct to consumer. I am endlessly impressed by these small business owners—many of whom have supported this site over the years (just take a look at those sponsors to the right). A word to the wise: small businesses don’t always have the resources of larger outfits when it comes to returns and exchanges. Do your homework before splurging and double-check measurements and return policies. When possible, try the garment on in person or seek the opinion of a friend or, say, blogger, who has experience with the product. The bottom line: there are lots and lots of people doing things right. Who are your favorites?
Mull over your decisions. Impulse buys account for 99% of the clothes that I’ve allowed to take up space in my closet without getting enough back in return. Make a Pinterest page if you think it would help. Or tear pictures out of magazines and make an old-fashioned mood board. The point is to identify things that you think you’d love to own and then let the idea marinate for awhile before pulling out your wallet.
Okay. Your turn. What are your rules of thumb? And more importantly, where are you shopping?