How to shop for style and sustainability

Looks shot by Grace Harper Photography

It’s 2019 and in terms of curating your closet, your options are endless. As I’ve previously articulated, style is different than fashion. To me, fashion is trendy and finds its base in accessibility and replication. Style, on the other hand, is a creative force that integrates texture, silhouettes, and innovation to generate an outfit that evokes and provokes.

I take pride in curating my own personal style from multiple sources: e-commerce, vintage stores, and local boutiques. In 2019, I wanted to take my closet to the next level by reducing my closet’s environmental footprint. Therefore, in the spirit of responsible style, I decided to detail how you, too, can shop for style and sustainability.

Make room in your closet by donating to non-profits or selling clothes to secondhand shops.

Before buying new clothes, it might be in your best interest to clear your closet of clothes that 1) no longer fit 2) are no longer your style. I did this recently, and let me tell you, it felt amazing I separated pieces into different “categories” to donate or sell, and I felt like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

Not only do I feel better about donating — and in some cases, making money from — my clothing, but I know that those clothes can be put to use by someone else. The rest of this post will be focused on sustainability from the consumer angle, but this first point is from the vendor perspective.

“One person’s trash is someone else’s treasure.”

Shop for vintage/thrifted items.

If I had to give one advice to increase your style sustainability, this would be it. And this is the #1 way I’m working on creating a more sustainable closet. In the past two months, I’ve donated 30+ items of clothing and accessories to non-profits or secondhand stores. In the same stroke, I’ve bought ~4-5 vintage pieces, an effort to curate a closet that remains stylish through the repurposing of others’ pieces.

There are so many places in Baltimore to shop for thrifted items, I’ll have to write a post on this soon. It’s one of the questions I get asked on the regular, so it’s about time I just flesh it all out on this blog so I can redirect you to a page instead of typing it out each time, hah! I’ll link here when it’s complete.

Purchase from sustainable retailers, avoid fast-fashion.

Finding the right vintage pieces can be challenging, so sometimes, we need to turn to more traditional retailers. BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t ensure those retailers are emphasizing sustainability in their own practices. There are a handful of sustainable retailers that are dominating e-commerce.

Here are a few of my favorite sustainable retailers:

Everlane. You can read more about their story here.

Kotn. You can read more about their story here.

ABLE. You can read more about their story here.

Re-tailor or alter something you already own.

This is one of my favorite suggestions because it adds a layer of innovation and creativity. Fit can dictate so much in terms of an outfit; and by taking an old piece and having it tailored to a new fit, you can completely reinvent a piece. Old jeans can be made into shorts or a skirt. A jacket can be tailored into vest. The possibilities are endless!

Refocus buying habits on versatility vs. trends.

Another approach to building a sustainable wardrobe is evaluating the reason you’re buying each piece. Ask yourself: Am I buying this piece because it’s trendy or because it’s versatile? How many outfits can it create? Can it last through multiple seasons? Is it work appropriate?

Remember, versatile/classic pieces can play into trends while retaining the ability to last through them. Buy wisely, trendy isn’t always sustainable.

Rent, don’t buy.

Rent the Runway made sustainability trendy by igniting a renting revolution. Renting clothes is a great way to cut down your closet without giving up stylish options for work, events, or everyday. Plus, you get to don designer items without committing to the price tag and closet space. After your 4 or 8 day rental period, you get to send it back. It’s like online shopping with half the guilt, and the clothes actually fit!

There are other companies backing the renting revolution such as Le Tote (get a free tote through link!) and Stitch Fix, brands that allow customers to rent clothes and return them. This totally alleviates the need for buying and keeping and encourages users to be more sustainable with the turnover of their closets!

Be mindful of material.

I touched on this point briefly in my Top 5 Tips for Shopping Vintage but I consider material as a pillar of sustainability. In the context of vintage, material can indirectly impact the quality of an item; and it more directly influences whether or not I’m going to actually purchase the item.

The same logic of quality and longevity of a material play into the sustainability of the purchase. Cotton is renewable and biodegradable, therefore it’s an all-around more sustainable fabric. Polyester, on the other hand, is non-biodegradable. It’s popular in fast-fashion because of its monetary cost — but comes with a high environmental cost via its production.

Collarless shirt-dress from Everlane , Vintage cape from Milk & Ice Vintage

This list is obviously not exhaustive, but you all asked for more information on sustainable style and ways to reduce your impact while maintaining your personal style! I’m not perfect, so I definitely have areas I could stand to improve when it comes to shopping for sustainability. Incorporation of just 1-2 of these tips while shopping can have a profound impact. If you have any additional suggestions on how to remain stylish and sustainable, feel free to leave it in the comments below!

Looking for sustainable looks? Check out my Wandering Wardrobe to see how I’ve styled my Everlane purchases and thrifting finds! And as always, keep up with my everyday looks and adventures over on Instagram!

Until next time, keep it sustainable!

Xo,

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