There’s no better time than now to clean out your closet: It’s spring and you’re at home socially distancing. There’s also no better time to create a stylish and sustainable wardrobe. Companies like Taylor Stitch, Buck Mason, and Thursday Boot Co. have proven that responsible fashion can look just as good as disposable fashion. The added benefit of sustainable fashion, though, is that you help reduce climate change. So here’s a guide to help you create a wardrobe that looks great and is socially responsible.
This is the first and most crucial step to creating your ideal, stylish wardrobe; figuring out exactly what it is you consider stylish and why. Start gathering images of clothing you like in a folder. Gather 30 to 50 images and put them into one document. This is what’s known in the design world as a mood board. With this many images of things you like, you’ll start to see a style emerge, maybe a preppy vibe, or athleisure, or bold colors and prints. Those recurring moods are your style.
As a stylist, my clients often think they don’t have a “look” or preference for anything in particular until I asked them to create a mood board. Then they see it. I then ask them to define their look more sharply by answering a few questions. Ask yourself: what are my favorite colors? Which silhouettes and cuts look best on me? Who are my favorite designers or brands? Who is my biggest style inspiration? Keep in mind, the trick to having great style, especially sustainably, is to avoid trends and opt for clothing that is timeless. If an outfit will look dated five years from now, it’s a passing trend and not a smart investment.
Continue answering these questions and adding images to refine your mood board until a clear look emerges that is your ideal wardrobe. Then, write a brand statement about your look. Pick a few key adjectives that define it, pin down the key colors, fabrics, and designers. This is what I call actively creating your style.
Go to your closet and pull out any pieces that fit your mood board, but be discerning. Rank each piece on a scale of 1 to 10 for how well it fits your newly defined style. As you edit, keep in mind that sustainability is about reusing and upcycling as much as possible, so look for things that can be altered or repaired and transformed from a five into an eight. Jeans, for example, can be slimmed to be more stylish, shoes can be re-soled and polished, a jacket can be given a new set of buttons to give it a new flavor.
As you pull things out of your closet, make a stack on your bed of anything that’s an eight or higher. Anything that’s a seven or below, put in a box. What you’ll discover when you see all of your least favorite clothing together, is that you’ve been wearing things you don’t really like, simply because it’s there and it’s clean when you need it. Some of these items probably came to you passively, meaning they were a birthday gift or a free T-shirt from a convention. You didn’t see these items and think “This is so me!” and then buy it. These pieces found their way into your closet and have been killing your style game ever since. So in the interest of style, kick them out. Sell these unwanted items online, so more clothing doesn’t end up in a landfill. You can also use the money you make to replace anything you edited out that was necessary but ugly. If items in your “To Sell” box do not, donate them to charity.
Once your closet is sorted through and empty, give it a good cleaning. Dust the shelves and vacuum or mop the floor. Now put your favorite pieces back in the closet organized by category and color. This will look and feel amazing, but after your big edit, you’ll probably need to fill in some holes.
Now you’re going to set about actively shopping for exactly the things you need. First, determine your overall wardrobe needs. How many pants do you need a week? Shirts? Shoes? How many for work? For fun? For activities like hiking? Make a list of the things you edited out but need to replace. For example you got rid of a blazer because it was frumpy and you never liked the color, but you need a blazer for work meetings. Add “blazer” to your shopping list. Consider anything your lifestyle necessitates: you go to a lot of weddings, meetings, concerts, etc. What clothing best suits your lifestyle? And of course, keep referring back to your mood board. If there are key pieces that create your look, make sure you add them to your list. Once you’ve made a targeted shopping list, make a budget and determine your spending limit for each item.
Before you shop new, revisit the online shops where you sold your clothing. Shopping recycled fashions both saves you money and saves the environment. Next, research sustainable brands and find the ones that best match your mood board stylistically. Read their company statements on fabric sourcing, labor conditions, energy usage, and community involvement to see which brands deserve your purchase. There are many great companies out there today making stylish, sustainable clothing. We’ve even put together pre-styled sustainable looks that are ready to shop and have you covered from streetwear to business casual.
Now that you have a targeted shopping list and have found brands you feel good about supporting, it’s time to shop. Now you’re actively pursuing the pieces that create your well-defined style. Look for personality pieces with pattern, rich color, texture, and excellent fit. In all things, quality is better than quantity, so keep a narrow focus: clothing that is timeless, built to last, and can be tailored or repaired as needed. Remember, don’t buy anything that’s not on your list, no matter how tempting it may be. When your online purchases arrive, try things on immediately and return anything that doesn’t work. This is key. Don’t let any fives weasel their way back into your closet.
Once you have a closet full of strong pieces that have been actively purchased based on a look you thoroughly considered, you’ll see that styling your outfits becomes effortless, even fun. For each outfit, remember a few basic styling rules. To create an outfit with depth, stick to two or three complimentary colors (like espresso, midnight blue, sage green) and two to three complimentary textures (like leather, raw denim, and wool). Layers of color and texture create depth and visual interest. Too much color, print, and texture is overwhelming to the eye; too little can look flat. For prints in particular, one at a time is best, but two can work if they are subtle, a small piece like a tie, or they’re complimentary.
To take your style game to the next level, do a weekly fitting. Photograph eight different outfits and flip through the options. You’ll start to learn which outfits look best on you and why (silhouette or color, perhaps). Pick the top five outfits for your work week. On the weekends, do a separate fitting based on your weekend plans. Always photograph a few more options than needed, and pick only the best. Remember, you’re the man with impeccable style now, who’s also doing his part to save the planet. Damn, you look good.
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