Yeah, I know it’s February, but I don’t think it’s ever too late to be intentional and mindful about shopping. (About anything, really, but let’s just be specific to one thing today.)
One tendency I’m noticing about myself these past few years is that I’m increasingly discerning about what comes into my life, whether it’s my to-do list, my schedule, the feedback I get from friends and colleagues or the endeavors I commit my energy to. So it totally makes sense that my closet would come under this lens.
I‘ve already Kondo’d the heck out of my closet, so I had a pretty nicely edited wardrobe from years before and have a solid group of core pieces to draw upon. But for many people, especially those who find pleasure in having fun with clothes, a wardrobe is dynamic. It evolves as my life and sense of self does, and for better or worse, my sense of creativity finds an outlet through clothes. (Interestingly enough, I find the better my novel writing goes, the more I enjoy my outfits.)
In concrete terms, this means my eye is always looking for a new ingredient to add to the mix, because the right thing will add a great new twist that might actually reinvent your relationship to other elements. But! I also don’t want to be overwhelmed by rampant consumerism. I do try to live by values of sustainability. (And respect the limitations of my physical living space!)
So I always try to revisit my shopping tendencies and habits. Not in a shame-based way, but more in a spirit of interrogation and gentle self-inquiry. How can I live by my values AND have fun with clothes AND explore a dynamic sense of self and creativity? The following are what I came up with that work for me in this season of life.
This is both something that aligns with the impact I want to make as a consumer, but also the realities of my life. (And also my general feeling that even if I’m buying all new clothes from trendy sustainble labels, it’s still a kind of consumerism.) So outside of things like underwear and performance-oriented workout clothes — and maybe jeans, because they are sooooo hard to find a good fit for — with everything else I will try hard to buy them secondhand. My aim is an 80/20 mix of secondhand vs. new.
BUY MOSTLY QUALITY AND DESIGNER
This is also both a values and practicality thing — and ties into my next rule — mostly because designer things usually have a better resale value. But also because you reach a point in life where you really feel cheapness and realize that it’s not worth the savings if you constantly have to replace something or it feels not so great against the skin. I’m trying to apply this ethos especially to shoes, i.e. buying more properly grown-up higher-quality ones.
TREAT IMPULSE/CHEAP PURCHASES AS A SPICE, NOT A MAIN DISH
So, this one requires some explanation. I know cheapness and fast fashion gets vilified by some in the ethical fashion movement, and they have many good points to make. BUT! I also am way leery of ascribing qualities of what I’ll call “moral virtue” to consumer choices, especially in the context of a global capitalist economy whose engine constantly demands consumption and often fuels it through making consumers feel lacking in some way (and fixing that sense of lack through buying something!) And not just with clothes, but with food and such. This is not to say our choices are unimportant as a consumer — they have an unmistaken impact — but too often they get subtly inflated to signal virtue and worthiness.
To get on my little soapbox here, things like “clean eating” or buying XYZ does not automatically make someone a good person or worthy of love, attention or praise. Yes, it’s a better choice in many ways, but the work of being a moral person — or a lovable and worthy person — is a lot more than just buying stuff, and too often we use our consumer choices as a way to beat up on ourselves and others. I’d rather just do away with unnecessary guilt.
All that said, I’m not really inclined to fast fashion shopping these days. (I’m too old and I’m not a skinny post-adolescent anymore, for one thing.) But on my budget, trying out a trend you’re intrigued by with something on the cheaper side is not super-evil, especially in the context of making the majority of my purchases secondhand. If I decide that the trend is something I will stick with, then I’ll wear out the cheap item and replace it with something secondhand and high lasting quality. Again, I think this all can be done mindfully, and I think I’ve acquired enough self-knowledge on this front to achieve it.
ONE IN/ONE OUT
I started this policy when I lived in New York and had such a tiny closet: for every new item I acquired, I sold/gave away/discarded an old one. I’ve generally been doing this and it works for me. But! That may change in context with my next (and most difficult) rule…
MAKE A LIST AND SHOP FROM IT (AND IT ONLY)
So this is the hard one! Basically the idea is to make a list at the beginning of the season and ONLY BUY THOSE THINGS. “ONLY” being the key word here. This is basically the biggest self-imposed limitation. Basically because I want to cut down on “opportunistic shopping,” i.e. browsing through Poshmark and going “OOOOOOH RAG & BONE NEWBURY BOOTS FOR $60” even though I have a million ankle boots already! Do I really need another pair? NO!
The list will evolve as life unfolds, of course, but the idea is to really think about my wardrobe as it exists, what could truly rejuvenate it, and whether or not an item is truly something I want or just a passing whim.
(I gave myself one opportunistic clause, though: anything I love by Isabel Marant for under $40. Mostly because it’s actually hard to find — secondhand Marant is still expensive! And also because it tends to resell incredibly well. And she’s my favorite, really: she hits a really sweet nexus of boho, rock ‘n roll, classical French chic and sporty. Which is why I snagged those Bluebel sneakers pictures with my Poshmark credit when they popped up at a crazy good price — although wedge sneakers were already on my List mentioned above!)
TAKE MORE RISKS WITH ACCESSORIES
All that said, I decided this year to be more playful when it comes to things like (adventure!) shoes, jewelry, hats, scarves and such. My style is on the subtle, earthy, perhaps classic side of rock ‘n roll bohemian/indie romantic vintage bookworm, and in general I don’t “pop.” I can get pretty sedate, though, so I’d like to find a way to liven things up a bit now and then. So, even if my actual clothes shopping is much more restrained this year, I hope I can riot a little when it comes to accessories.