Does this sound familiar … you wear less than 50% of your wardrobe, you find yourself staring into the cupboard thinking “I have nothing to wear”, you go shopping and impulse buy items that look good in the store but when you get them home, you’ve nothing to wear them with or they disappoint when you put them on? So you stick to the familiar 50% and the new items decorate the cupboard with the tags on. Well it was only cheap so it’s no big deal. Unworn items are given away to charity but Africa has enough of our unwanted clothes and our donations are stifling their home industries. And despite what H&M have told us this week, very few textiles can actually be recycled into new textiles, the processes simply don’t exist.
The idea of buying clothes based on what we need is long gone with past generations when people had a Sunday best outfit, a party dress, clothes for work, home etc. Have you ever thought about those beautiful antique wardrobes? People actually used to be able to fit their clothes in them! Now, it’s a whole wall of storage required and we claim to have nothing to wear.
My ethical guide to fast fashion starts with 1) plan a capsule wardrobe for the season ahead. In order to plan what we need, we need to know what we have. Then when you know what you have in your wardrobe you can identify the gaps, key purchases that will offer new outfit combinations and make use of the pieces you aren’t wearing. The other element to this is knowing yourself, your body shape and what suits you. That’s the secret to style, it comes from within, it’s a confidence that is born out of knowing you look good and feeling comfortable, wearing clothes that fit well and flatter your shape. Style is not being able to copy someone else’s look or pick the latest trends off the shelves.
This all takes time, of course, but it’s worth some upfront investment … I guarantee you will feel liberated. You will be able to buy quality items because you will be buying less of them and you will love your clothes again because you will know them. This is the basis of our Wardrobe Restyling service, aimed at guiding clients towards creating a capsule wardrobe by upcycling and restyling existing pieces, using what you already have in your wardrobe. I’ve adapted our service to a Restyle Your Own Wardrobe Guide, to help you tackle your own wardrobe, find some clarity and hopefully, a few ideas to find your own style. It’s a good idea to get a friend to help you, someone with a good eye who will be honest. You’ll need a couple of spare clothes rails, keep one empty. You’ll also need some luggage tags, a camera, a pencil and paper and a black bag.
- Groups like items together; trousers, dresses, tops etc.
- Have a look at each group …
- Do you have multiples of the same item? Do you wear one or two more than the others? Why? Put your favourites back into the wardrobe and the others on the empty rail. What made you buy these pieces when you already had similar in your wardrobe, what do you like about them ….. write on a tag and hang the tag on the hanger with each item.
- Pick out items you don’t wear and think about why … is it because you have nothing to wear them with? Or that you like them but you don’t know how to wear them? Is it simply that you bought it on a whim and you don’t like it? If it’s the latter then put it in the black bag. Otherwise write the reason on a tag and hang it on the item.
- Pick out items you’ve never worn. Why? Do you like some element of the item but not others; the shape but not the colour, the style but not the fabric, is the fit wrong? Write the reason on a tag and hang up. Is there a common quality about these items that makes you buy them but then you don’t wear them?
- Be ruthless about the quality of items. If they are washed out of shape, faded or scruffy, they’re not going to spark that inner confidence … black bag. If they’re looking scruffy and damaged, think about how long you’ve had them and how many times you’ve worn them, you may even remember how much you paid for the item. Was it a wise purchase, how much did it cost per wear?
- Comfy clothes – remember you need to love ALL your wardrobe to spark that confidence and develop your style. Don’t wear stuff you’d be embarrassed to open the door in, it’s probably because they make you feel crap. I’ve discovered recently the joy of decent house clothes, wearing them reminds me I dress for me and it makes me smile when I look in the mirror.
Ok, so you now have a rail of duplicates, items you like but don’t wear and items you like some element of but there is something wrong with them.
- Put on a pair of leggings and a tight vest top and take a good long look in the mirror. Get your friend to take a photo of your back and look at that too. Make a list of your features, start with the GOOD and then do the BAD.
- Pick out two favourite outfits, that represent your personal style … ones you get complimented on and make you feel confident. Try them on and have a good look at each. Take photos and make a list of what you like about them. Is it the colour, shape, style, fit, details … does your friend agree?
- If you are brave, try on a couple of things that don’t fit properly, where are the problem areas .. the hips, shoulders, length?
- Look at yourself with and without makeup, think about your complexion. Try different colours against your skin or treat yourself to having your colours done.
So, you’ve had an honest look at your shape, a rest and a cup of tea, it’s time to try on. Spare a thought for your undies, they may be hidden from view but can make such a difference to how an outfit looks and how you feel. Wear undies and a bra that suits your shape, if you don’t know what that is, it’s worth promising yourself a bra fitting.
Come back to your rail;
- Things you have multiples of or you’ve never worn because you like the colour but not the shape, for example, can they be upcycled taking advantage of the bits you like and getting rid of the bits you don’t? A dress can be made into a skirt, a top into a jacket, a cardigan into a waistcoat. Collars or trouser legs can be reshaped to update style or simply changing the buttons can alter the look. If it’s the fit that’s wrong, have the item altered, shorten the length or nip in a side seam can make a dress look completely different. Have a go at sewing yourself or find a local seamstress, you can pay someone to alter items with the money you’ll save with your new strategic approach to shopping. And don’t forget items that can be repaired to make them wearable again.
- Things you don’t wear, try them on. Think about what would go with it, bearing in mind your shape. Try something random, you never know; be brave … clash a pattern or introduce a colour. If you really can’t find an item in your wardrobe then write on your “to buy” list. If you find some new outfit combinations, take a photo and hang back in your wardrobe. Any items awaiting a match, hang in your wardrobe in a group and label them, give yourself a time limit to find a matching piece.
- Have a play with your accessories, they can be key to lifting an everyday outfit or getting multiple looks from the same item. Be brave, even the craziest combination can make sense with the right accessory because it says you’ve made a fashion decision rather than a random match. Scarves, beads, belts, jewelry ….. pick out the detail or layer vests under tops that match with your accessory.
- Take photos of outfits you like and items to be upcycled or repaired.
- Have a rummage through the tags, make a note of any pitfalls you might want to avoid in future … are you prone to impulse buy in the sales, do you panic when you need an outfit for a special occasion and buy rather than try what you already have. Are there colours and styles you are drawn to but don’t suit you, don’t follow trends if they don’t suit you.
- Compile your photos into a booklet to keep by your wardrobe for inspiration and take it shopping with you to remind yourself of your best looks. Also take photos of styles and colours you want to avoid, a stark reminder of what you look like in shocking pink rather than the model in the store ad will steer you away from an unwise purchase.
- Always make a list of what you need before hitting the shops. Pick out the stores you plan to visit and research online what they have before you go.
- Keep reviewing your wardrobe. Keep taking photos of new combinations. Those items awaiting a match, if you still haven’t found one in x months, maybe it’s not meant to be.
- Now you are buying fewer items, buy quality and make them last longer. You know what suits you now so you’ll want to wear for longer.
- If you do want to get rid of stuff, think about where you donate it. Local charities are good who help the homeless or refugees and organisations such as Dress for Success or Career Wardrobe who provide clothes for people trying to get back to work.
Good Luck and most of all Have Fun, watch your confidence grow and your style develop. Let me know how you get on and share your experiences with me by social media.