How to shop for new clothing in a mindful way?
We've engaged our Social Outfit family member and stylist Irina - also known as The Conscious Stylist - as a guest writer for our blog! In this post, she goes through the steps for shopping for new clothing in an ethical, sustainable and mindful way and the top tips for practicing conscious consumption:
A recent report by the Australian Fashion Council* revealed that Australians are
some of the highest consumers of clothing worldwide, with the average person
purchasing 14.8kg, or 56 items of new clothing, per year.
The temptations to buy new clothes are everywhere. It could be the latest outfits must-have list from a fashion magazine, stylist or influencer, a review post on social media from a trusted account, a friend's look you like, or the latest 'don't miss out on this sales' email you saw in your inbox. It's tough!
So we keep buying new clothes because they are on sale, we need a new outfit
for a special occasion, or we think we have nothing to wear.
Don't worry, don't feel guilty. I've been here! And I have good news for you, I have changed my shopping behaviour and learned how to shut down all the noise, bring the focus to myself and start building a conscious clothing collection, one step at a time. Mindful shopping is essential to building a sustainable, responsible and conscious wardrobe.
First, you need to understand your shopping behaviour. How often and when do
you go shopping? How many items do you buy per week/ month/ year? Why do
Write it down and see if there is a theme. It is a good first step to working out the habits you have to reflect on them and understand your shopping behaviour. I want to share with you some questions I ask myself before a new purchase or even before I try on a new item of clothing or click the 'add to the shopping basket'-button.
1. Is this an impulse buy?
Sometimes I would walk through a shop or scroll through a website and see
something I like. Before taking it into the changing room or looking at it further, I
stop, check in with myself and think about my intention and motivation to buy
this particular element of clothing. Is it an impulse or a conscious decision
because I’m really in need of the selected garment? Or was the sale offer too
2. Do I already own something like that?
This question requires knowledge and understanding of what's already in your
closet. My tool here is an inventory list, where I document the quantities of
clothes I already have. I consider if I already have items similar to the chosen item of clothing. The similarity could be in colour, fabric, cut, pattern or style. For
example, I probably don't need to add more if I already have four striped tops at home, three pairs of blue jeans, four black pants, and ten cotton t-shirts. So if I already have something in my wardrobe that serves the same purpose the new piece would perform, I would let it go.
3. What can I wear it with?
When trying on a new item of clothing, I would already imagine outfits I could
create with it. The more, the better! This step is critical to understanding how the new piece will work with my existing wardrobe and fit into my lifestyle. That's also a good moment to check if the chosen item is even my style. It is crucial that the new garment is a practical addition to my collection and I can see myself wearing it. If it's a new style to me, it could also be an unfavourable purchase where I have to buy something else to wear the new piece. If one purchase leads me to another, I will not proceed with it. The ideal would be that the new item will help me get dressed easier and even release some clothes into rotation I don't wear often.
4. How many times will I wear this?
As described in the previous point, when I choose a new item of clothing, I already imagine possible new outfits. Ways I could dress the piece up or down, on which occasions I would wear it, and if I can see myself wearing it the following year or the year after.
I want to create as many outfits as possible with the new piece to increase its
wearability. I want to have it on a high rotation. If I can create, let's say, ten
different outfits, I know that I will wear the new purchase many times and for a
long time. Wearing clothes for a long time and very often will give me joy, and I
know that the resources which went into manufacturing them were not wasted.
5. Is there a way to minimise the impact of my purchase?
Whether we want it or not, our clothes and the choices and purchases we make impact our environment and the people who made them.
Talking about the impact alone is worth a separate blog post, but in general, I consider the following points: Where was this garment made, what was it made of, and what will I do with it once it reaches its end-of-life?
In the above four paragraphs, I was talking about the decision-making of buying a new garment. I’m very passionate about it, as I see every purchase has its impact: resources that went into making the fabric, people who made that piece, me having it in my home and being responsible for disposing of it once I’m done wearing it.
I always look at the garment label to check the fabric content. Was it made of natural fibres or recycled fabrics? Was it even made of fabric remnants rather than virgin materials? Clothes made of existing fabrics, like deadstock or upcycled materials, have a lower environmental impact. The sourced fabric by ethical brands is primarily high-quality, the piece has a unique design and you can see the craftsmanship. Clothes well made have high wearability, which is essential to reduce the environmental impact of a garment.
Another information I look for in the garment label is the country of origin. Our purchase also impacts the people who make our clothes. Buying a piece of clothing made locally by an ethical brand means that people who made it get paid fair wages, have good working conditions and can afford a life of dignity and safety. This should be a matter of course, but sadly it’s not always the case for fast-fashion and mainstream brands.
Buying second-hand is another excellent sustainable choice. It’s fun, less expensive and gives you a story to share. It helps to keep the clothes in circulation and out of landfill.
I hope these five questions will help you step into mindful shopping habits and
become a conscious shopper, which will help you build your conscious and
sustainable wardrobe. Remember, you can't shop your way into sustainability.