No New Clothes: A Fashion Lover’s Resolution for the New Year
I love clothing as a form of self-expression. I have never been the type to be on trend with the latest fashions, but I have an affinity towards color, prints, and textures. In recent years, I have become more conscious of the fashion industry’s effect on the environment. With the proliferation of fast fashion, clothes prematurely end up in landfills. Newsweek reported in 2016 that Americans are generating 14M tons of clothing waste a year. To exasperate the problem, much of the clothing today is made out of synthetic fabrics that are not biodegradable. Even clothes made from natural fibers go through chemical processes and are harmful to the environment when they end up in landfills. We can change this trend, save money, and preserve our planet. In 2019, I will buy no new clothes, and I am asking you to join me.
The New Clothes Cleanse Gameplan
To survive this year, I am employing a collection of strategies as well as a new mindset.
- Better utilize my current wardrobe: In a recent series on my favorite podcast, 99% Invisible, Avery Trufelman profiles six fashion related “Articles of Interest.” In a follow-up episode, she reflects on her main takeaways from doing the series. She traveled for the series with only a pair of overalls and a shirt. After returning home to her wardrobe, she describes a feeling of newness she felt, like when buying new clothes — only shopping out of her closet. There are so many clothes in my closet I don’t wear because I grab the most accessible items in my morning hurry. I plan on categorizing my wardrobes so I can put away 75% of clothes, and circle in sets throughout the year. If you are not in San Francisco, you can use seasons to guide this categorization process. For me, it will be a more arbitrary exercise with a little bit of everything in each set — dresses, sweaters, tops, bottoms, and outerwear.
- Find a tailor: A non-trivial portion of my closet filled with things that do not fit. I can’t bring myself to part with these clothes, because with a few minor alterations I could wear them. This year, I plan to \ find a tailor to finish these projects. Some of my favorite items among this group are my mom’s old silk dresses that she brought in the 80s when boxy, oversized clothing was all the rage. The fabric is beautiful, and with a little TLC, these will be standout items.
- Leverage my community: I am lucky to have a fantastic group of fashionable girlfriends. In those times when I need a particular piece to complete an outfit — e.g., a gold sequin shrug (looking at you, Jenny Ng), I will borrow items from friends. In return, of course, I will open up my closet to friends.
- Better clothing care: One of the biggest reasons I end up throwing clothes away is because I have somehow managed to ruin them in the laundry or byways of their precarious placement in my closet. This year, I want to do a better job of actually reading and following care instructions of clothes I own and love. By creating more space in my closet via #1, I can also reduce the likelihood of tears, dye-transfers, etc.
Can’t go cold turkey? Here are some alternatives
I know that fashion addiction is a hard habit to kick. The pleasure of a new piece that perfectly rounds out your wardrobe is unmatched. For those of you, who cannot go all-in, there are some alternative options.
- Buy fewer, better pieces: When it comes to the environment, fast fashion is poison. When you pay pennies for cheaply made clothing, you will think of it as disposable. Prioritize quality over quantity. Develop your heritage wardrobe of high-quality, timeless pieces that you can pass down to your grandkids.
- Buy second-hand: If shopping from your wardrobe or your friends’ is not enough, expand the pool. There are a plethora of second-hand clothing retailers, both brick-and-mortar and online (thredUP, The Real Real, Tradesy). Both virtual and physical stores make it easy to find high-quality pieces in your size. Think of it as a treasure hunt!
- Shop eco-fashion: On my last trip to New York, I bought a coat from the Anita Dongre showroom made from a 100% recycled fabrics. Seek out designers who have eco-friendly lines. You have an opportunity to vote with your dollar and encourage more designers to do the same.
I am still at the beginning of my journey to make better environmental choices about how I dress. Make no mistake, dressing up is something I take tremendous pleasure in. Fashion designers are artists, and I want to support their art form. I think there’s a path to be walked between leading an environmentally friendly lifestyle and supporting designers. During my one year cleanse, I plan on discovering that path.
Join the movement, or at least stay tuned!