If you love handmade or just prefer to shop local boutiques or thrift stores rather than the mall, chances are you are at least a little interested in building a conscious closet. But once you learn that a conscious closet also means shopping ethically + mindfully, you realize the real implications of the things you buy. I have to admit, this can be pretty tough: we all have budgets to balance with both our basic needs and our personal style, so being choosy about where we buy can complicate it. But like anything, the hurdle is getting started! Once you do, you’ll be so much more confident about the clothes you wear being pieces you truly love, and by not buying into trends and fast fashion, you save room in the budget for quality, thoughtfully made clothing.
But how to FIRST create a conscious closet? Shout out to our designer/developer Jennifer for creating the handy graphic above for you to pin and go back to when shopping.
Take inventory of your current closet.
Don’t start from scratch. Instead, build upon what you already have. Set aside an afternoon to try on every piece of clothing you own and create two piles: the things you’ll never wear, and the things you like or feel like you can breathe new life into. There are a lot of ways to revive old pieces: You can get things altered that don’t quite fit anymore or never really did. Create new outfit combinations. Use old tops for layering pieces. You get the idea!
Purge only what you’ll never use.
About the never wears? If donating to a chain thrift store is your first thought, think again. It’s a last resort, as it does help keep clothing out of landfills, but it’s not as good for other people or the environment as you might think, since the supply is MUCH higher than the demand. Before sending clothes to a donation bin that receives tons of unwanted clothing, be thoughtful with your unwanted clothes: sell it via a resale app/site (or Instagram shop) or host a clothing swap in your community (or even with friends). While we like to think that donating clothing out of convenience just so happens to help us do good too, these ideas instead guarantee that the recipient actually wants the clothing. If you go the selling route, you can always then donate the money to a reputable charity.
Still think donating sounds more up your alley? Look into local organizations that give directly, like shelters or those that help people with interview clothes, etc, rather than a thrift store.
It may seem counterintuitive to suggest a thrift store after #2 but trust me, with people buying so much more than ever before, there’s still plenty of good finds available to thrift even if us conscious shoppers chose to stop donating there. The most conscious closet of all is one that doesn’t involve purchasing new goods, so try thrift stores, consignment shops, resale apps, and other used clothing sources before going for never worn. I personally buy about 90% of my wardrobe at places like Crossroads Trading Co. (More on that later!) since they’re fairly curated, but still secondhand.
I’m trying to get better at being just as mindful at used clothing stores as I am at the mall. Since used is much cheaper, it’s easy to justify all the $6 shirts, just ’cause you can. While it’s better than buying new fast fashion, it’s not very thoughtful or budget friendly, and it means you have to spend more time finding out how to consciously get rid of it once you realize you don’t really love it. Plus, if you buy used clothes online, you still have to consider the implications of shipping + packaging! Might not want to get too crazy with it.
When buying new, buy ethical.
Ethical shopping simply means that you buy with both the good of people and the environment in mind. This requires research into how your products are made, and involves asking lots of questions. It is likely going to be much more expensive than you’re used to, so it helps that you only buy things you really need new, and save the rest for secondhand shopping. Things that are hard to find thrift shopping are unfortunately hardest to find ethically, like undergarments, shoes, etc., but we’re working to bring you more options on Conscious Shop Collective. I’ve also found that shopping with your particular size in mind is easier when doing so ethically: many conscious brands do custom work or are small businesses, so it’s easier to get something that personally fits you best.
Phew, this seems like a lot, right? These 4 main steps to a conscious closet are actually quite simple, but I wanted to give you as much info – in my personal experience – as possible. A conscious closet is a journey, but once you get started you’ll find that it’s a lot more do-able than you originally thought. It’s empowering and fulfilling to wear only things that represent your values and intentions, too. xx