The Ultimate 12 Step Guide to a Conscious Closet on a Budget
Hello my lovelies! Lately, I’ve been getting tons of messages asking for tips on ways to be more sustainable. It warms my heart so much seeing people’s genuine interest in reducing their carbon footprint and making conscious choices.
The conscious fashion world seems so daunting to get into, but I promise you it’s a lot easier and more affordable than you’d think! To make it easy, I’ve made a 10 step guide to get you all started on your conscious closet journeys! Before we get to that though, we need to clarify the difference between sustainable and conscious because the correct term is conscious fashion.
Sustainability focuses on environmental factors, but being conscious also encapsulates ethics, social standard, and human rights. Believe it or not, ethics is what first drew me into the conscious fashion movement. Here is an easy formula to remember: Sustainable + Ethical = Conscious. Got it? Good! Now let’s get into how you can have a more conscious closet on a budget!
1. Identify Need vs. Want
You don’t have to throw out your entire closet to begin your conscious fashion journey. In fact, I highly urge you to NOT throw your closet out! If you’re getting rid of anything, donate it, sell it, recycle it, or do a clothes swap with your friends. There are enough clothes in the landfills and incinerators as is.
I had a HUGE shopping addiction. Whenever I knew I had some extra money, I would get this internal itch to go browse my favorite stores. Why couldn’t my inner voice tell me to save my money instead?! Fighting that addiction and coming to terms with what I really need vs. want was, truthfully, pretty difficult at first. The reality is we probably do not need 70% of what is in your closet—most of it is just a want that’s been conditioned into us through social media and “influencers” and the Instagram Effect.
Luckily overtime, it’s become really easy to fight that shopping urge! I’m proud to say that about 90% of the time I shop now, I’m making very conscious choices. When it comes to clothes, I think about multiple ways I can wear items before purchasing, so I know I will get maximum use out of them. I stick to basic pieces I can re-wear across seasons and that’ll match other items I already have. It’s all about realistically coming to terms with what you need vs. want.
2. Avoid Toxic Fabrics
Stop. Buying. Polyester!!! Polyester is NOT biodegradable and very difficult to recycle! It’s basically a type of plastic made with petroleum and every wash releases microfibers into the water. Other synthetic materials to avoid include nylon, rayon, and acrylic. All of these are made with extremely harmful toxins, some proven to cause cancers—not just through our water systems, but skin absorption.
3. Invest in Natural Materials
Cotton! Linen! Wool! Silk! Cashmere! Hemp! TENCEL! Besides having a friendlier carbon footprint, these natural fibers are a much better investment in the long run because they will last longer and hold up through washes.
4. Look for Certifications
In this clout-chasing world of greenwashing, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with common conscious fashion certifications. These are logos you can find in clothing tags. The trustworthiest one in the game is Global Organic Textile Standard, better known as GOTS. GOTS certification ensures that the textiles meet a rigorous set of environmental standards. Other certifications to keep an eye out for include OEKO-TEX, B Corp, World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), Organic Content Standard (OCT), The Higg Index, and the Cruelty-Free bunny logo.
5. Avoid Fast Fashion Brands
The most accessible cheap, trendy (ew) brands are considered fast fashion. Fast fashion retailers rapidly (I’m talking weekly) bring in new inventory of styles so consumers can ‘wear the latest trends’ they see on celebrities or influencers. But why should that even be a societal pressure?! Who suddenly decided we should all dress in the same tacky trends? One of the first steps to having a conscious closet is slowing breaking up with fast fashion brands. It’s totally okay if you already have a ton of them in your closet already. Wear what you have well, appreciate those pieces, and make an effort to avoid those stores in the future.
Goodbye Zara, H&M, Missguided, Primark, Zaful, Boohoo, Forever21, FashionNova, TopShop, Victoria’s Secret, Nike, Lululemon and all your environmental and human rights violations…
6. Research and Invest in Slow Fashion Brands
…and hello affordable conscious brands including Reformation, DL1961, Everlane, Outdoor Voices, Thought, Kotn, Alternative Apparel, Proclaim, People Tree, Tamga Designs, Made Trade, and Pact.
Looking for fair trade sneakers? Check out Veja! For sustainable jewelry my favorite is SOKO. And for ethical homewares, The Little Market. 🙂
7. Buy Secondhand
You know where I buy most of my closet? The RealReal! Buying secondhand luxury brands is my favorite! Resale is an amazing way to support the circular fashion economy. Other places to check out are ThredUp, Poshmark, Depop, and your local thrift stores!
8. Rent Your Clothes
Renting your clothes is another fantastic way to practice conscious fashion! In the last couple years almost all my friends have become subscribers to Rent the Runway or Nuuly. Other popular ones include Le Tote, Infinitely Loft, Gwynnie Bee, and Style Lend.
9. Go Capsule
The more I’ve transitioned into a capsule closet, the more I love it. It’s SO much easier deciding what to wear since nearly every item in my black/white/neutral closet matches and I’ve saved so much money—yay! I have more quality pieces that look chic and effortless and I rarely waste time stressing about what to wear in the mornings. For the first time in YEARS, I have every item in closet collectively. I used to have to rotate seasonally, with big, bulky storage boxes hiding my winter clothes during the summer and vice versa. Now I can see every item of my closet hung up or folded in its proper shelf without storage boxes. It’s been a slow transition, but it’s been extremely rewarding!
10. Buy Less, Choose Well, and Make it LOCAL
In the wise words of Vivienne Westwood, “Buy less, choose well, and make it last.” True, but I’m here to tell you to add one more piece to that—make it local! By supporting local businesses you are investing in your community, helping your neighborhood economy, and making a positive impact on the environment. Chances are the local beauty and soap brands are made with organic materials and safer ingredients, the clothes and accessories are most likely sourced from nearby community mills, and the food is fresh and pesticide free!
11. Learn the Language and Use Your Voice
You’ve made a commitment to slowly transitioning your closet into a conscious one. It’s important to brush up on the language and terms. Fair trade, circularity, GOTS certified, sustainable, cruelty-free, greenwashing, and transparency are definitely some important ones that come to mind. Now that you know the terms, it’s time to use your voice. Use your voice to inspire change. Teach your friends and family about the human rights violations and environmental impact of fast fashion brands. Inspire others around you to adopt conscious habits by watching you. Your voice matters.
12. Use Resources to Learn More
What I’ve compiled here is just a starter list. I’m continuously educating myself on the world of conscious fashion through numerous platforms and organizations dedicated to raising social awareness on this topic. I also attend conferences and go see speakers and panels. Some of my favorite resources is Good on You, a platform (and they have an app!) dedicated to researching and ranking brands on their environmental and social standards. Here you can find PLENTY of brands in all price ranges broken down into what they excel or lack in. Other resources I like include ReMake, Fashion Revolution, and the Conscious Fashion Campaign.
I began my own conscious closet journey a few years ago after I heard about the horrific Rana Plaza collapse. Majority of our clothing is made from unfairly treated (I’m talking majorly abused) women and children in poor factory conditions with little to no pay. On top of that, the waste from the fashion industry is majorly hurting the environment, our home. Pursuing conscious fashion has led me to find more meaning in my life, in a way I never expected. I truly ask myself #WhoMadeYourClothes constantly now and feel good knowing that by adopting a few habits, I’m helping support working women, not hurting them. Sending you so much love and luck on your path to conscious fashion.