It’s been a few months since the end of my original operation revamp project, in which I renovated my unpredictable, totally un-remixable wardrobe into something resembling style and function. I tossed some of my old, worn-out pieces and found higher-quality, classic replacements. I sorted through what was young and fresh and what was immature, and I started on the journey toward defining my style.
In the months and weeks that followed I identified a few holes that still needed patching in my closet and prepared for some shopping. But the deadly explosion in a clothing factory in Indonesia that sent the fashion world into a tailspin also helped to change my perspective on how I vote with my dollars as a consumer. I am a big believer in spending my money where it is valued in the food world — purchasing from local famers and buying high-quality whenever possible — and so it made sense to revamp my attitude when it comes to clothing.
In this world of “fast fashion” where new styles are churned out every season for low prices with cheap workmanship, I as a consumer am being conditioned for a disposable lifestyle. Behind the flimsy, on-sale tops are people, poor business practices, environmental irresponsibility…it’s about much more than finding a cute outfit.
Since my perspective shifted, I’ve been more conscious of how and where I purchase my clothes. Most importantly, I do my best to use and enjoy what I have. I am not in the business of collecting more objects than I can use, and so whenever I can repurpose a piece of clothing, I will. (One of my goals for 2013 is to simplify and reduce the amount of objects I have in my possession; this fits into that goal nicely.)
I can count on both hands the instances in which I’ve purchased from a big store in the past few months, whereas before I relied on those retailers to clothe me. Now, I try to buy secondhand, either at vintage stores, thrift shops, or via consignment. When it comes time to buy an investment piece, I try to find an ethical option that shows respect for the workers and the environment. It can be expensive, for sure, but it is training me to see my purchases as a lasting investment, with more of a consequence.
For a vintage-lover like me, this has been a ton of fun. I’ve scored some incredible finds at my local thrift shops — a strapless JCrew sundress, a red pleated tennis skirt, a silk shirtdress, a pair of worn-in overalls and several pairs of high-waisted cutoff shorts — and have rediscovered some of my favorite vintage shops in Fayetteville and Austin. I’ve developed a relationship with a tailor, and she’s done an amazing job helping me repurpose a pair of flare-leg jeans, a backless dress of my mom’s from the 80s, and a silk thrifted skirt. Sometimes I take matters into my own hands and chop the legs off of some high-waisted jeans or the sleeves off of dresses that weren’t feeling so fresh anymore. There’s little a good pair of scissors can’t solve.
I’m learning to focus on quality — in fabric, design and in construction. Now, when I go into a more modern store, I’m not drawn to all of the many polyester and poly-blend products as I once was. In fact, I’m finding incredible silk pieces at the thrift store for less than what it would cost to buy an on-sale tank from the Gap. My tolerance for “cheap” is diminishing and I’m learning to understand the value of what I buy.
That being said, I am still lured by the siren song of Marshall’s or the Banana Republic outlet now and then. For that, I don’t feel guilty — this is NOT about guilt or privilege or superiority — but instead I remind myself that everything comes at a price.
And so, what does my closet look like now? Because it’s a zillion degrees where I am (it was 102 last week), I like to rock my thrifted high-waisted shorts with beat-up flat leather sandals I’ve loved since last summer. Maxi and midi skirts are also good friends of mine, also mostly thrifted, plus a few silk and cotton tanks that are so very breezy. I’m trying to trade out my juvenile v-neck tees for a more sophisticated option, and I’m making sure that everything I add will be appropriate for my next steps in Hawaii.
I’m trying not to give into feelings of want, and instead to love what I have and wear it to death. I have plenty. I don’t need anything. But when I finally decide to spring for a pair of white jeans or for a silk dress, I’m going to try to stick to the small brands I admire so much. I’ll save up my pennies and I’ll make my purchase count toward something good.
Interested in some of the brands and companies I admire for their pursuit of ethical fashion? Check out my Pinterest board for artisans, stockists, and plenty of pretty things.
I’ve also enjoyed shopping — and selling — on Poshmark. If you’re even interested in creating your own profile to buy or sell, Poshmark is offering the first ten people to join through my recommendation a $5 credit for purchases. Simply use the code “HUPAI” when you sign up to activate the credit — I’ll also get a $5 bonus for sending you in their direction.
Nifty Thrifty has been my go-to source for online vintage shopping. As great as the thrift stores are in my area, we’re lacking in curated vintage stock. I get emails in my inbox every time they release a new collection at Nifty Thrifty, and with it I feel like I’m a part of some sort of insider’s club. It’s a great resource for cool vintage goods, without having to dig through thrift store racks. Use this link to sign up — I’m inviting you!