On July 4th weekend in 2015, I decided I wanted to take a more decisive step in my growing interest in clothing sustainability and ethical fashion. I had also just finished reading the amazing book Women in Clothes and wanted to push myself to discover more about what clothing and sewing means to me and how I can better harness that energy.
So for one whole year, I did not buy any new clothing. I was only going to find clothing at thrift stores, clothing swaps or make it myself. I did make a few exceptions for things I know I can't thrift or make: shoes (but I would make a valiant thrift effort first), anything with underwire, shoes and tights.
A notebook page where I first wrote out what my rules would be.
When I first started this journey, I thought I would be sewing and thrifting all the time so I could have all the clothes I wanted. But as the months went on, I focused more on paring down my closet and working to create multiple outfits out of garments I already had.
I didn't buy any tights all year. Turns out, I didn't need more than what I had. I also only bought one pack of socks a month before my RTW fast was over. I threw out socks along the way as they became too worn to wear, but instead of replacing them, I decided it was okay to have a smaller sock drawer that wasn't overflowing.
I only bought one RTW pair of shoes:
And the rest of my shoes have come from thrift stores. But I also only bought a couple of pairs this whole year. All the shoes I had before are still in great shape, and still fashionable enough to wear. Lesson learned: you don't need a dozen and half pairs of shoes to have cool outfits.
I sewed my own formal-wear for events and bought jeans secondhand when my favorite pair wore out. I found black sneakers at a consignment store and got all sorts of interesting shirts and dresses at clothing swaps. And I kept wearing all the clothes I had accumulated in years before, instead of pushing them to the back of my closet. I wore so many garments until they were worn out - and then I salvaged or donated the fabric so it could be used again.
Here's the best part: I didn't even miss ready-to-wear clothing. I saved so much money this past year and I love the clothes I have more than ever have before. I felt like I was pushed to dive deep and ask myself about what I really truly wanted to wear and what I was most comfortable in. After doing so much capsule wardrobe research, I could feel myself gravitating towards a few shape, silhouettes, fabrics and looks that I loved the most. There was a capsule wardrobe emerging from what I already had. So I started donating and giving away garments I didn't wear so often anymore.
There were still several garments that I wanted very badly and I had a hard time finding at thrift stores. Things like high-waisted jeans, a good denim skirt, a casual black dress, or the perfect green t-shirt. After several months without good high-waisted jeans and wishing every week I had a pair again, I know I'll get good use out of them and want to bring them back to my closet.
When my RTW fast was over, I didn't want to immediately go on a shopping bender and buy a ton of garments who's origins and impacts I didn't know. But I also wanted to finally craft my ideal wardrobe before I went off to college, and I definitely didn't have enough time to sew a dozen garments this summer.
My main color palette
So I decided to design my own conscious wardrobe. I looked at the garments, shapes and fabrics I loved the most and sketched them out. I looked at the colors I know are most flattering on me, but also work together as a color palette.
Accent colors and silhouettes for pants/shorts
I love variety, so it was difficult to finally pare down what I was drawn to the most, but I think I'm almost almost there.
Silhouettes for shirts and dresses.
This project was very similar to designing a fashion collection, but instead I was designing a collection for myself.
Silhouettes for skirts and a pair of overalls.
I made several copies of the silhouettes and colored in each one. Then I spread them out and moved all the pieces around, making sure each garment could (hypothetically) be worked into several outfits.
And about the part where I'm a variety junkie: I realized a completely minimalist wardrobe was not going to be 100% me. You'll notice I didn't sketch shoes or sweaters/jackets, because that's generally where I throw in some weird thrift store find that makes the outfit special. I decided I was reserving those areas (and my 90s floral print mom jeans) for the off-kilter, non-mainstream looks I love.
Then I put each of my final pics in my sketchbook, and looked around online for a sewing pattern to match each one. In some cases, I had the same pattern in multiple colors.
I also noted what I needed for each pattern. Sometimes, I knew I had fabric that would match or already owned the perfect pattern. So I noted where I needed to go shopping or save up to buy the PDF online.
In some cases, I already had the perfect garment!
And in other cases, I just needed to slightly alter something I already had.
I also decided that if I can find the garment at a price I'm willing to pay and I know it was ethically manufactured, then I will buy it ready-to-wear. I don't have time to sew all these garments, but I still want to maintain the minimal-consumption shopping I've kept up this last year.
Of course, I will try to thrift the fabric or find the garment secondhand if I can, but that isn't always a guarantee.
And then I made a plan for what I'm doing moving forward!
My next step is finding out where I can buy ethically manufactured fabric and notions. I'm looking to support business that have little to no negative environmental impact, are made locally, pay all employees a living wage, or support other social initiatives. Right now, I'm going to try salvaging fabric from thrift store garments, but if anyone has suggestions, I would love to hear them!
I'll keep you updated as my Conscious Wardrobe adventure continues...
P.S. You might have noticed there was not a post last Wednesday. Since my summer is coming to an end and I'm moving to college soon, I will be going back to a post every other Wednesday. I'll try to keep this up as long as I can - it just depends on how much sewing and crafting time I'll have when classes start.