As I’ve been reaching regularly for my Per Se pearlized leather jacket, I’ve been thinking about sustainable fashion. On a lark, I decided to Google Sustainable Fashion and found myself down deep in a rabbit hole. Do you ever hear a term and feel you know exactly what it means, but then you find out you don’t?
After reading several articles about sustainable fashion I hadn’t found a simple enough explanation. I decided to go old school and look up the word sustain in my three-inch thick desktop American Heritage Dictionary. I found just what I needed to satisfy me in the first line:
Sustain. 1. To keep in existence; maintain
That’s what I’m talking about! Having clothes in your closet with the plan of them sticking around. To me, sustainable fashion includes taking responsibility for the repair and preservation of your well-thought-out wardrobe.
As a style and wardrobe consultant, I help my clients consume fashion in a responsible way by creating sustainable wardrobes.
Another term associated with sustainable fashion is slow fashion. We know what fast fashion is about: buying clothing in stores that offer current looks at low prices with the intention that you’ll wear it for a few months, toss it, and be back for more. Fast fashion has made it easy to be a weekly shopper.
With prices so low, I fear women are speeding up their consumption of clothes and not slowing down long enough to think about the big picture. We are guardians of our wardrobes. We are the ultimate gatekeepers. We allow things in and out of our wardrobes. Staying conscious about the lifespan of our clothing may be hard to do if we’re binging on fast fashion.
Focusing on bargains can leave you with not much to wear
This reminds me of a client I had super early in my career. We weren’t talking about fast fashion back in those years, but there were places to buy clothes for cheap. I found them in this client’s closet. I helped her go through her closet to discover what she already had that suited her style, fit well, and flattered her coloring. Only after that step would we consider what we needed to go shopping for.
We began the process. Clothing that didn’t pass the CSF Formula (color, style, and fit) was gingerly put on her bed with the plan of donating those items. I watched the pile grow and grow. Mind you, they all had discounted tags on them. By the time I’d gotten through her wardrobe, the bed was sky-high with donation pieces and only two suitable items remained in her closet. She looked at the heap of clothes on her bed and said, “I never liked any of those. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
When we went shopping we found a few things that looked fabulous on her. None of them were bargains. But this is something I’ve noticed throughout my career: It takes far fewer clothes to make a woman ten times happier when the pieces are right, right from the start.
It’s a topsy turvy fashion world
Have I purchased fast fashion? Oh, ya, you betcha. It was such a novelty when fast fashion showed up in stores like H&M and Zara. My first visit to Zara was in New York City years ago. I walked in and decided to try some things on. It turns out most Zara cuts don’t fit my frame well. But I was happy for the experience because I had to stand in line for a dressing room and got to observe other women in their high-end designer labeled clothes with armfuls of low-end things to try on. It truly was the beginning of high-low fashion and the styling fun of cleverly mixing expensive things with inexpensive things.
There are other ways to practice sustainable fashion. One can shop at consignment stores—easy for me because my daughters own one—and find affordable fashion that stopped working for others but may work on you. One can shop at thrift stores or vintage stores and practice recycling. One can shop in their own closet which is a great way to curb one’s consumption especially when there are treasures in there that could have been forgotten. I often pull out a wonderful piece that’s been overlooked in a client’s closet and she’ll say, “I totally forgot about that!”
Honoring sustainable fashion as best I can
In hindsight, I can say, ‘Wow, Brenda, you were so smart to have purchased that leather jacket way back when. Look how you’re practicing sustainable fashion!’ But my closet isn’t filled with clothes that are this age or older. I’ve gone through weight gain, weight loss, weight gain, weight loss. My style has changed over the years and my clothes have too.
But one thing I always do when I’m assessing my wardrobe is to keep the things that don’t seem to go out of style, are of good quality, and if not useful this season, well, maybe they’ll be useful next season. I give clothes the benefit of the doubt.
How I’ve worn this jacket in the last four weeks
I’ve been using my Per Se leather jacket as my third piece with jeans and corduroys these last weeks. I love popping it over a blouse and a jean jacket. Can you spot two recent purchases in this last picture? It’s the polka dot blouse which I suspect will have longevity in my closet. Besides being a polka dot fan, the print is so classic! The sandals are also a recent purchase and I’ve worn them in several different outfits already.
Practice having sustainable fashion with these three shopping tips
You’ve gleaned a few of my sustainable fashion tips already, but let’s review.
- Buy what you love (even when it’s expensive like this jacket seemed to me ten or so years back).
- Go for a good fit. I know fit can be fickle; we gain, we lose, our body shape changes. Never start out with something being too tight. Do your best.
- Choose colors that flatter you. When I bought this jacket I had auburn hair (somewhat artificial) and now I have my older, wiser, natural hair color. This jacket seems to make my skin look happy no matter what I pair it with. I’ve changed but it’s kept up with me.
How I purchased this jacket
It only seems fitting to end this post with a picture of how I originally bought this leather Per Se jacket. It was part of an ensemble with this sequined dress that I wore last month. When I bought it I thought it would make a great wedding dress, plus it would fill a hole in my wardrobe. I don’t dress up much. It’s just not part of my lifestyle but when an occasion comes up, I panic. I have nothing to wear! This was investment dressing in that part of life. It was a bit risky, but as you can tell, I have no regrets. I haven’t worn the dress many times, although it does come out on Oscar night every year, but as you can see, the jacket has been a wardrobe star and a staple. It makes any outfit look better.
Do you have clothes in your closet that you’d consider part of a sustainable wardrobe? I know some of you will tell me about a bargain item you found that has sustained many years of use. Terrific! I want to hear all about it. Sustainable doesn’t have to mean expensive. Let’s discuss this!