This post was sponsored by BuyMeOnce, all opinions my own.
Fast fashion, beyond being mass produced, cheap and unsustainable, equals trends. While there used to be four seasons, the industry has grown so much that now there are literally 52 micro seasons. New lines and trends come out faster than people can even buy them, and new things are delivered to high street stores daily. It’s unethical and unsustainable yes, but it’s also exhausting and confusing, as we’re constantly overloaded with new visual information. No wonder we get bored of our clothes in an instant and feel like we’re always behind. So how can we combat it?
Even if we take sustainability out of the equation, fashion is meant to be about personal expression and having fun, not following trends set by someone else. Instead of trying to keep up with what other people tell you you should buy, why not treat investing in your long term wardrobe as an act of self care? Not in the fluffy ‘you need to consume things to care for yourself’ kind of way that the wellness industry can sometimes push, but in the sense that you’re invested in creating a closet that accurately reflects who you are, makes you feel good in your skin, and is kind to your body. Long term. So instead of following fast fashion you can figure out your style, and curate a closet that will bring enjoyment for years to come.
Here are five tips on finding your personal style and building a long lasting wardrobe:
1. Stay out of high street stores
This is always the first step that I recommend to people. It’s much easier to stop impulse buying and getting sucked into trends if you’re not surrounding yourself with them, so remove the temptation from your life as you work to realign your values and perspective. This also goes for impulse internet shopping, get some parental controls on your browser and block those fast fashion sites if you can’t trust yourself! If you’re a frequent shopper or trend follower, you may soon find you’re saving more money than you realise because, while fast fashion may be cheaper, when you’re consuming a lot of it those prices add up quickly. You can save that money to buy durable pieces that you actually like and are guaranteed to last a lifetime from sites like BuyMeOnce, which ultimately work out cheaper over time too. Or alternatively spend it on another treat you wouldn’t usually get, like a nice meal or concert tickets. When you take your money out of trend buys and spend more time considering your spending, you open up the opportunity to use your money in much more interesting and enriching ways instead.
2. It’s not just about ethical items
Buying things that are ethical and sustainable is not the same as consuming sustainably. The first step for most new ethical shoppers is to embrace more secondhand clothing in their closets, which is amazing, but the low price point of thrifted items can put us at risk of simply transferring our fast fashion habit over to secondhand goods: mindlessly buying, wearing a few times and then throwing away. At the same time, if we have a higher budget, we can even do this with the most sustainable clothes on the market.
‘The unsustainability in over consuming organic clothes is a fine example of the difference between Sustainable Fashion and Slow Fashion. If you are going to throw clothes out after wearing it one or two times, it doesn’t matter how organic the cotton is, or how great the working conditions were during production. It will still be a waste of resources, and the workers will still be put to extra work because they have to produce twice or three times the organic garments… Slow Fashion moves beyond short trends in the fashion industry, because it holds a certain sustainable durability.’ (source)
After all, more and more mainstream fashion bloggers are shopping at Reformation these days, and they definitely haven’t quit fast fashion or trend based buying.
So if you’re transitioning to more ethical purchases that’s awesome, but also ask yourself how you’re purchasing. If there’s something I really like from a sustainable brand I tend to bookmark it for at least a month, seeing how I feel when I come back to it, and then buying once I’ve really considered it. I don’t buy anything if I don’t plan on wearing it for at least ten years after purchase. It’s why I love working with BuyMeOnce so much. The clothes they sell are always designed with this time frame in mind; either by being made from the most durable materials, designed using innovative technology to keep them from wearing out quickly, or their brands guarantee lifetime repairs, making it super easy to stick to my long term planning.
Perhaps you set a limit on how many fashion pieces you’ll buy in a certain time period, perhaps you decide to spend time saving up for one bigger purchase (for example the perfect versatile coat or an LBD with a lifetime guarantee) instead of buying lots of small ones, or maybe embracing the capsule wardrobe is a good tool for you to simplify for a while (FYI I don’t have a capsule wardrobe myself, read why here). Think about what boundaries you want to put in place or changes you want to make so that you consume sustainable items in a sustainable way.
dress – vintage (read more on sourcing properly ethical vintage here)
3. Think about styling
‘Her idea of being modern and following the latest trends is not necessarily about buying new all the time, but more so by being able to style modernly and in that way capture the tendency of the current time with the same garment over and over again. If a design is functional and of good quality it will keep renewing itself from within, and in that way, it will feel and look new every time it is put into a new context.’ (source)
The more you intentionally curate your wardrobe, the more you’re able to express your identity and values. So when I want to buy anything I first make sure I could style it with multiple other things I already own, making five outfits in my head so I know I’d get good use out of it after purchasing. It’s really easy to get caught up in the moment, especially as trends are thrown at us from adverts all over the place, so taking a minute to breathe and think about how a piece can actually be incorporated into our wardrobe and day to day dressing is key. When in doubt, pause for a moment. If you need to, make sure you’re prepared by taking photos of what’s in your wardrobe (there’s even apps for that now), so that later you can actually see if the piece you’re looking at really would go with your current clothes. And if you buy things that aren’t trend based, then you can have fun restyling them again and again as time goes on and new things make their way into your closet. Timeless quality, endless fun, and you get the most out of your purchases!
4. Find the Yin Yang of your closet
Less Magazine has a fascinating article that talks about the ‘Yin Yang of aesthetics’ and long lasting design. The writer, Kristine Harper, initially believed that the most durable designs are those which are ‘easily decoded, balanced and well proportioned‘, alongside ‘a degree of “neutrality” and minimalism‘. Essentially what we’d think of as a classic minimalist wardrobe. I think this suggestion that the only long lasting wardrobes have to be full of plain and unremarkable pieces, in order to be constantly mixed and matched with each other, is what makes people think that long lasting wardrobes are boring and not for them. However Harper soon discovers another idea:
‘Could the most durable expression be so complex and challenging that the exploration of it would (nearly) never stop? Is the most aesthetically sustainable object, in other words, a thing so complex that the receiver/user is continuously challenged?’
The idea is basically that, alongside the enduring nature of basics that won’t go out of style, perhaps the other way to approach this is to find things that are so interesting that they never bore us. Interesting patterns, new materials, asymmetrical silhouettes, unusual colours. These are all things that hold the potential to continually interest us or make us happy when worn, no matter how many times we wear them.
Harper then goes on to argue that these two things can work in harmony together, despite being polar opposites. While a familiar, neutral design is comfortable and easy, part of a structure we’re used to, the more avante garde, chaotic side of our wardrobes can surprise and challenge us each time we style it, letting us discover something new each time. There’s a sense of reward in both.
This is definitely how I relate to my wardrobe, and how I have so many pieces that I’ve been wearing for close to a decade. In the past I’ve felt a sort of tension between wanting to be a neutral minimalist and loving patterns, but this article helped me see that these two sensibilities don’t oppose each other, they can work as solid foundations for building a long lasting wardrobe. Classics and avante garde together can create a sustainable yin and yang.
That being said, what we define as a classic and what is avante garde is truly unique to each person. In order to build your wardrobe this way, you need to figure out what your style actually is. I love the way that Jenny Mustard approaches this. She gives two particularly helpful tips for finding your core style.
The first, ask yourself what aesthetics you liked five years ago, and could see yourself liking five years from now? It doesn’t have to be fashion but also art, photography, design… any type of aesthetic. By looking at what has stayed with you and attracted your attention, you can figure out what you’re drawn to and apply that lens to the style you curate. It also means that if you want to buy something, but realise you probably wouldn’t have worn it in the past or can’t see yourself wearing it five years down the line, it may not actually align with your style, it’s just a seasonal trend you’re in danger of jumping on and regretting later.
The second, write down a list of specific words that you feel capture your aesthetic, again it can be any words not just fashion. From there pick three words which best capture your whole sense of style, and you’ll have defined the broad definition of your dream wardrobe. If you keep these in mind while shopping it becomes easier to make clever, long lasting choices. If you’re wondering my words are playful, artistic and whimsical.
These will also help when figuring out what classic and avante garde is for you. For me avante garde can be really out there patterns or colours, but for some simply wearing a skirt may be more daring than their usual look. And that’s ok! It’s about making it work for you. Classics are mainly known as classics for their versatility and timeless quality. They can look good any time, styled many ways. But there’s no point buying the perfect pair of skinny jeans if you’d never wear them. It’s about nailing the key features of your specific wardrobe and how you enjoy dressing. Whether it’s elevating those classics with simple, elegant styling, or using them to mix and match with much more experimental pieces, allowing you to highlight them without having too much going on. We can use classics to balance out our stand out pieces and to elevate our look, or to make dressing easy and stress free, so figure out what staples you need for your tastes and lifestyle. And at the same time those unique items that stand out will be inherently timeless. Not just because they’ll keep interesting you, but because they don’t fall into mainstream trends so can’t be specifically dated. You can constantly remix these pieces with your basics in different ways, giving you the best of both worlds. Here are some examples.
Classic white tee from The White T-Shirt Company & avante garde oversized vintage trousers
5. Put your clothes away
You know when you go on holiday and only take certain clothes with you, there’s suddenly a feeling of excitement when coming home and getting to wear the clothes you left behind again? It’s possible to recreate that. Even if the fashion industry is determined to have a thousand seasons, stick to your guns on your seasonal items, and pack away the ones you don’t currently need.
In the UK, spring and autumn tend to lump together weather wise, so really we have three main seasonal periods that require different types of dressing. Depending on the time of year, I’ll hide my winter, summer or spring/autumn clothes out of sight when they’re not in use. You really do forget what you own, and it becomes a treat all over again to rediscover them as the weather changes. I’ve learned this through lived experience: going on tour for a few months at a time with only a carry-on, or even this summer as I’ve been subletting whilst finding a new permanent home, so I only unpacked the clothing necessities. As it stands I couldn’t give you the full inventory of my winter clothes, so I get to have the joy of pulling them out in October and remembering what fun things I have to play with. By hiding away your own seasonal clothes when you don’t need them, you get to recreate both the feeling of newness, and remember how grateful you are for what you have. When you curate a wardrobe full of items you really love, you get to fall in love with them all over again once a year, instead of looking at them and realising a trend has now passed and you’re ‘behind’.
Hopefully by using these tips, and by taking the time to really delve into your own tastes and preferences, you can find a method that works perfectly for you. Before you know it, trends will be a thing of the past, and instead you’ll have a long lasting, money saving wardrobe that you’ll love for years to come.