“I can’t afford slow fashion.” This is something I hear said often. And i get it! When I first started moving away from fast fashion and towards slow fashion, I was sure the best way to do that was to buy a bunch of new clothes that aligned with my sustainable mindset. I desperately wanted to erase my old ways by purging my closet and getting rid of my previous purchases to make room for my new sustainable wardrobe. How wrong I was. I soon learned this quote, “The most sustainable wardrobe is the one you already own.” (I’m not sure who it was who first said this.) It is something I repeat to myself often, especially when that shopping urge kicks in. These items have already been purchased, so wear them!
top: thrifted, pants: Free Label, shoes: Poppy Barley, necklace: vintage family piece, bag: vintage family piece, hat: 5+ years old
So let’s unpack the idea of slow fashion being unaffordable. The thing I had to learn, after wearing what I have more, was that the pieces I wanted to purchase would not be affordable if I continued shopping at the rate I was. I would no longer be able to buy new pants every Fall, new tops every Spring, and new dresses every Summer. I needed to slow down, and make more mindful purchases less often. I also discovered the wonderful world of secondhand + thrift shopping. The enormity of what is already produced, sitting in a thrift shop, having been discarded, with still years of wear left in them, is staggering. Have you ever stood in the middle of a thrift store, stopped and just looked around at the sheer volume of things people have gotten rid of? Then think that this is just one thrift shop out of who knows how many throughout the country? Throughout the world? There is more than enough for us to find secondhand. At least 50% of my wardrobe is now secondhand items. The other half is made up of small, sustainable brands and older pieces I’ve had in my closet for years. (NOTE: I want to also point out, that I say this as a small fat person which still comes with a certain amount of privilege with shopping. I completely understand that there are huge limitations when it comes to shopping sustainably and secondhand for those in larger bodies and those who need to shop with disability in mind. For those, like me, who have the privilege to do things differently, we should. For those where accessibility is a hurdle, you buy what works best for you, and what you can, where you can. Most people who are living in larger bodies are already making slow fashion, mindful decisions (even with fast fashion brands) as their options are limited.)
For many of us shopping has been more of a habit or hobby instead of a necessity. It is important to determine why you shop. For me, shopping has and can be a feel good, pick me up. I’d love to tell you that I’ve completely kicked this habit, but I haven’t. This last two years has been a rollercoaster. Between a changing body due to weight change and the mental strain of all the uncertainty, I found comfort in shopping. Most of this shopping was secondhand, with some sustainable brand shopping thrown in. I’m happy to say there were no fast fashion purchases. I have bought some incredible things I wear all the time, and made some errors. For the errors, my job is to find those garments a new home.
dress: Buttercream Clothing, denim shirt: vintage from Elizabeth O. Vintage, leather clutch: 10+ years old, shoes: secondhand, hat: 5+ years old, necklace: 10+ years old
So how can we join the Sustainable or Slow Fashion Movement in a reasonable way?
- Wear what you already own.
- Slow down and stop shopping at a rapid rate. (Also, show yourself grace. This takes time. I still have those shopping urges, and probably shop more than I should. It’s ongoing work.)
- Shop secondhand. This can be through thrifting, through an online curated shop, from a consignment shop, or through a resale app.
- Get creative with your styling. Challenge yourself to style something like a cardigan or dress multiple ways. This is where personal style is born. If you need help with your creativity, seek out inspiration. Blogs, slow fashion YouTubers and influencers, Pinterest, are some great places to start.
- Care for and cherish your clothes. I have a new found appreciation for my clothes. I often do a little outfit inventory when I get dressed. I think of how I acquired each garment, ask myself “Who made my clothes?”, I think about what fabric it’s made out of, and give it some thoughtful love. By laundering our clothes properly, mending items, and caring for them properly, they will last us longer too. Care for all clothing equal. I treat my old fast fashion and thrifted pieces with love and care just like my more expensive small, sustainable brand pieces.
As someone who is working as an influencer in this slow fashion space, I’ll be the first to say that I’m doing this all imperfectly. I am constantly learning more about the harms of the industry and tweaking my behaviour as I learn. As a Slow Fashion Influencer, I will introduce you to sustainable and ethical brands, while also sharing me shopping my own closet and secondhand shopping finds. I will share hard truths about the industry and fun style videos. I will promote small brands who I receive gifted items from and get paid to work with, and they will all be brands I believe in. I’m here to do this all imperfectly with you. I hope you’ll continue to join me on the journey.
I was recently featured in our local paper, where I’m talking about slow fashion. You can read the article here.