How to break out of the fast fashion cycle and start building a better wardrobe
I have a ton of clothes, but I feel like have nothing to wear
I’ve spent way too much money this week on clothes, but I reeeeallly want this dress that’s on sale. What the hell! I deserve it.
If that job calls me for an interview this week, I’m literally going to have to go out and buy a whole new outfit. Nothing I have will work!
I shouldn’t buy anything else, but I really need more sweaters. Wait, do I need more sweaters? I think I might have something like this already...
This is me, in my early 20′s, shopping at Forever 21 every week. I would get my measly paycheck from my coffee shop job, and head on over to the Cherry Creek mall in Denver so blow some money on some junk that would fall apart in the wash a week later. I had a ton of clothes, and nothing to wear. I certainly didn’t own any nice clothes. I spent most of my free time shopping but somehow had little to show for it.
I wish now that I had known:
-It would have been smarter and more economical in the long run to save up and invest in killer quality pieces
-My dollars were supporting (and essentially asking for more of) the fast fashion industry’s exploitation of people and animals, and the pollution of the planet.
-I was using my hard-earned money to accumulate worthless crap that just stressed me out to wash and constantly replace.
-My time would have been better spent doing...pretty much anything.
The planet is straining under this enormous weight of people demanding an endless amount of clothes, quickly and cheaply. The average American woman spends about $283 per month on clothes, and wears an item for less than a month before losing interest, according to a Threadflip survey. The average American also buys around 68 new garments and 7 new shoes a year. (Read more shocking stats here!)
You can really make a huge difference if you become one less person that carelessly buys tons of fast fashion crap. Thoughtfully planning out (and reducing!) your purchases will save you time, money, and mental energy. And it will free up that time, money, and energy for other things. Here are some simple steps that will get you started. And remember your new mantra from now on: Just Shop Less!
1. ASSESS WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE.
Go through your entire wardrobe before even thinking about buying anything else. It’s tedious, but do not pass Go until you do this. Don’t forget to go through your t-shirts, socks, undies, pajamas, coats, shoes, etc!
Try everything on, and get rid of what doesn't fit your body, what doesn’t fit your lifestyle, what is no longer stylish, what seems poor quality, what feels too high-maintenance, and what you just don’t like. If you’re not sure about something, hang it in a separate section of your closet for a couple months. If you don’t wear or even think about that item, that’s a good sign you don’t need it.
2. PLAN YOUR STRATEGY IN ADVANCE
Make a budget. Take a look at your income and bills, and figure out what your “fun” money should be. From this, decide how much you feel comfortable spending on clothes. This is also a good chance to go back and look at what you’ve spent on clothes each month in the past.
Decide a clothing allowance and stick to it. If you can’t trust yourself when armed with a credit card, take out your monthly allotment of cash and stick it in a labeled envelope in your purse. Knowing you have a limit will make you think much more carefully about purchases. Or you can allow yourself to spend more upfront, then commit to not shopping for several months.
Make a list of what you need (consider your lifestyle. No one needs ten pairs of heels when they never wear heels) and want (a few items you don’t need in your daily life, but you’re willing to splurge on if you find the right thing) and keep the list in your phone. You will need the list if you end up in a store unexpectedly.
Shop for it used first. Reduce the strain on the planet by seeing if you can buy a high-quality, good condition item first on Ebay, ThreadUp, or other online consignment stores (I know, I should know more. I mainly use Ebay). It doesn’t hurt to check, and If you find it, it will save you loads of money!
Shop online before going into a store. If you know you’ll be tempted to blow extra money by walking into a store and “browsing”, then take that option out of the equation. You’ll make more level-headed choices when not confronted by a nearby sale rack.
Don’t, under any circumstances, walk into a big store without a list on you of what you need/want to buy. This is how you end up accidentally shopping for an hour and leaving either feeling defeated, or with an armful of stuff you didn’t even want. Keep the list on your phone so you never have an excuse.
Don’t allow shopping to be your main hobby. I used to work at Anthropologie and I could not believe how many of the same women I’d see come in every day!! I wanted to shake these women and say “Please, go get a hobby! Go to a yoga class! Read a book!” I know it’s not for me to judge, but how fulfilling can it be to shop constantly? If you tend to shop a lot, set an intention to go out shopping once or twice a month, and eventually, once a season. You’ll find you quickly figure out other, more fulfilling ways to use your free time.
Don’t shop when you’re upset. If you feel confused, frustrated, too fat, too thin, too unfashionable, too broke, or too anything, abandon this project for awhile. Come back to it only when you’re feeling inspired, positive, and ready to make a change. After all, clothes shouldn’t add stress to your life!
Don’t tempt yourself with all those daily marketing emails brands send out. The best thing I ever did was unsubscribe from all of the emails from fast fashion chains, and kept my subscriptions to only the smaller independent brands that I really liked hearing from and supporting. It was hard unsubscribing at first because I was worried I’d miss out on some amazing sales, but I don’t miss them now, and I magically have more free time in my day!
I hope these tips help you set in motion some plans for a more simple and fulfilled life!
[Photo from elle.com featuring Re/Done Jeans]