Recently I spent a weekend cleaning out my closet. I’m not great at donating or selling clothes — I always assume I’ll have some reason to wear that piece again, or feel confident I’ll gain or lose a few pounds so that thing fits. But during this purge, while organizing my dresses, I discovered that I owned 26 sleeveless black dresses. That doesn’t include sleeveless black jumpsuits or rompers, or sleeved black dresses. I could almost wear a different sleeveless black dress every single day of February. And, well, that’s just too many.
I filled a large moving box with clothing to drop off at Arc’s Value Village, and another large moving box to sell or trade at a clothing swap this spring. It felt good to have some space in my closet and to know my old things were going to a good home.
While I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, I was shocked by how many low-quality, fast-fashion items I had in my closet, so I made a decision to shop more responsibly this year. Kate has written about capsule wardrobes, but I love to have a lot of options and have trouble making decisions, so here are a few of the things I'm doing to be a more responsible clothing shopper.
Vintage Shopping Online
Vintage shopping can be difficult because even when you find something you absolutely love, it’s usually only available in one size. Many of your favorite brick-and-mortar vintage shops also sell through Etsy, which opens up a whole world of vintage shopping online. Spend a few minutes searching shops on Etsy, add them to your favorites, then look them up on Instagram so you can get consistent updates. If you have some standby styles or classic cuts you love, search those keywords (and even let the shop owner know your size and favorite styles, they might send you personal notes when items come in!).
Consignment and Thrift Shopping
I always have better luck at thrift and consignment stores when I don’t have anything specific in mind. Typically, the prices are low enough to justify purchasing items that you weren’t planning to, but it’s best to stick to staples or things you know you’ll wear more than once so you don’t end up with a closet full of “Why did I buy that?” items. Locally, I like My Sister’s Closet, Arc’s Value Village, and Unique (prepare to dig).
Garage and Estate Sales
My garage- and estate-sale shopping is usually focused on finding antique dishes and furniture, but I always take a look through the clothing racks too. I’ve scored a few great pairs of shoes and skirts at garage sales. Just like I did when cleaning out my own closet, many people will donate or toss lower-quality items and sell high-quality things at a sale.
Saving Up For Better Quality
It’s important to understand the difference between high prices and high quality. Many designers charge a lot, but still use child labor or bad labor practices to produce their clothing. Local boutique Hazel & Rose is committed to selling clothing that is made ethically and primarily within the US. Flynn Skye and Grown & Sewn offer trendy, quality items made in the U.S.
In short: a little bit of research can make a big difference in buying more responsibly!
(this post also appeared on the Fast Horse blog)