I love shopping, I’m not gonna deny. I love Abercrombie&Fitch. I love luxury second hands. I could die for certain types of shoes. I am a jacket/coat freak. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong about it, as long as I always think twice before I buy something and I don’t buy clothes that I’m actually never gonna wear. But I had to learn this.
Recently, we’ve had a series of workshops called “The Efficient Wardrobe” with one of the top Czech stylists in Minimum Waste Prague (the space that I’m in charge of). Throughout the four workshops, we’ve learnt how to buy well and waste less. Since I’ve always been a bit of a shopaholic and therefore my wardrobe contains lot of pieces that are just there (without being worn, ever), I was so glad to learn how to change my shopping and clothing habits.
Why do our wardrobes matter and what do they have to do with sustainability?
Well, first of all, the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. Textile production and eventually the waste (the clothes that are thrown away) have a large impact on our environment. With the rise of the “fast fashion” chains (H&M, Zara, Gate, Bershka, New Yorker, Primark etc.), clothes are being produced in enormous quantities and pitiful quality. Why? The trends are changing twice a year, so why would people buy good quality pieces for a higher price, if it’s gonna be out next year? Customers don’t demand quality. They demand the copies of the trends set by high fashion designers introduced during fashion weeks and promoted by influencers on Instagram. No matter what material are they from. No matter how, where and by whom were they made. To be in is more important than to have a good quality and durable piece that will look good on you for the next 10 years. The result? People keep buying, clothing chains keep producing and the whole system keeps creating more and more textile waste. Recycling of the textile waste is basically non-existing, so most of it (73%) end up in landfills (1). Not speaking about how and in what conditions is the fast fashion clothes being made, that would be for another article.
All in all, I came to the conclusion that I don’t want to contribute to the piles of waste nor do I want to support the whole idea of fast fashion and consumerism.
So, how do I think of my wardrobe?
I know exactly which colours, cuts, prints and materials fit me and that I like wearing. When I’m in a shop thinking about whether to buy or not, I always examine if the piece:
- has a colour or print that fit me
- has a cut that I will feel comfortable in
- is made from a good material
- matches with at least 5 other pieces of clothes that I have
It has to comply with all these criteria. If it doesn’t, I don’t buy it. No matter how painful it is at that moment.
But how do you actually find out the type of clothes that you should stick to?
Clothing is a very broad topic and you should actually start with an analysis of yourself. Who you are, what do you want in life, what do you do, draw a work life balance diagram etc., because it all projects into what you wear and into what you should base your wardrobe on.
Then, you can do a simple test. If there was a fire in your place and you were about take only one piece of clothing (including jewellery, shoes and bags), what would it be?
When you find that one piece, try to ask yourself why? What is it that makes it so special for you? Is it the material? The colour? The cut? The feeling you have when you wear it? Is it because it’s easy to combine? Etc.
Then, try to find four other pieces of clothes that you would save after this one and ask why again.
These should help you to see what is the basis of your wardrobe.
Another, more advanced type of a wardrobe analysis is the capsule system. It is a system based on approximately 30 essential pieces that are rather basic and timeless, topped up with a few not-so-essential (occasional, colourful, extravagant) pieces. You can try to make the capsules from what you have in your wardrobe by writing down 10-15 pieces that you wear the most and for each write down at least 5 pieces that they can be combined with. This too will give you a better idea of a foundation of your wardrobe.
Let me give you a few practical examples from my own wardrobe.
In the capsule system, these are a few of my essential pieces:
– Cambridge Satchel Co. nude purse
– Tom’s silver slip-ons
– Converse shoes
– Levis denim jacket
– Blue jeans
– Black jeans
– Denim skirt
– COS khaki skirt
– Abercrombie&Fitch grey sweatshirt
– Burgundy sweatshirt
– Abercrombie&Fitch lace white top
After making these capsules as well as the first fire alarm analysis, I started to understand why I never wear that orange-yellow-blue printed blouse. Eventually, I learnt not to buy such things just because they are on sale and they are a great bargain. I learnt to choose the clothes according to the material. Most importantly, I learnt which pieces are the ones worth investing in (and vice versa those that are not).
Little by little I’m starting to have a wardrobe that doesn’t contain unnecessary pieces that I never wear. A wardrobe that I don’t need to sort out every six months to throw some of the clothes away.
Now, it doesn’t mean that I don’t buy clothes anymore, or that I threw away all the clothes that I don’t actually wear. I do buy clothes – but when I buy something, I make sure that it will make sense in my wardrobe, it will stay with me for a long time, I will feel good in it and it will fit well within my style. It’s a process that takes time, but I’m on my way.
Please note that it took us four Efficient wardrobe workshops to learn the basics of a minimalist and efficient clothing habits, so this article is very (much!) simplified.
Thanks to Kamila Vodochodská for the workshops and her passion for a more sustainable fashion.
(1): Make Fashion Circular. Ellen MacArthur’s Foundation report. https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/our-work/activities/make-fashion-circular/report