How I started curating a wardrobe instead of mindlessly shopping for the latest styles
By Stuti Garg
The principle of conscious consumerism is essentially thinking before buying. Yet, shopping today is a leisure activity done either to improve a bad mood or a terrible week at work.
I have always been fascinated with the idea of buying new clothes and dressing up for certain occasions. Over the past few years though, my perspective towards personal shopping has completely changed. The credit goes to increasing awareness about sustainability and easy access to thrift shops via Instagram.
The other reason stems from my discovery of a new market in the streets of London – vintage markets. In my time spent in the city for further education, I came across vintage treasures or pre-loved pieces at a great price. Apart from getting access to vintage luxury pieces, I came across some pre-loved pieces from the high street brands. It was quite unsettling to see some of the pieces on the secondhand market only after coming out on the shop floor two weeks ago. This made me realise the amount of mass production high street brands were doing. Hence the changes in my shopping habits.
The whole concept of sustainable shopping was new to me but I was open to explore it more. As I dwelled on new things, I did want to shift to sustainability but my pocket didn’t allow me.
Sustainable brands are usually expensive when compared to generic brands due to various reasons. Better quality materials, care during production and fair wage make sustainable garments expensive from fast fashion alternatives. Yet people choose quantity over quality. Hence, high street and fast fashion brands are popular amongst the masses including myself.
Seeing what I had and learning the evils of rapid consumption, I could not continue on the same path as before. My inner conscious rose many questions and I couldn’t shop the same way anymore. So, I took some major steps into changing my shopping habits for good and practice conscious consumerism.
The difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’
The very first question I ask myself while looking at a piece is, ‘Do I need this in my wardrobe?’ If the answer is yes, then it moves to my next category of questions.
Apart from the basics or essential pieces, there are a certain number of pieces one needs for some particular occasions. Identifying the need is the first step to avoid unnecessary purchasing.
Can I style it in different ways?
This question always goes around my mind. My whole life I’ve found it difficult to part ways with my clothes. One, I don’t want to waste my money by just wearing it once and instead use it to its full value. This often makes the clothes find a corner in my cupboard to live in forever. Two, simply because they are too pretty to be bid farewell this quickly.
So, I always question myself when looking at a piece- ‘Can I style it in at least 5 different ways?’ If I can, then I go ahead with my purchase. Reusing and restyling any piece in at least 5 ways lets me explore my style and allows me to consume the garment to its full worth. Plus, you won’t buy new clothes for 5 times or occasions at least. That is a small step to helping take away unnecessary textile waste from the environment.
This process becomes easier if you look at clothing pieces as an investment. Identifying investment pieces helps you to be organised and minimise bulk purchasing. A classic example is a white shirt – it can be worn in every season, last for at least two or three years and can be paired with almost everything in your wardrobe. Shopping for investment pieces that can be reworn instead of trendy junk is a good exercise.
Turn off sales notifications
Offers like buy one get one or discount deals are general market tactics to allure the customers into buying stuff they might not even need. This leads to impulsive and unnecessary purchasing.
What I personally like to do is make a list of the ‘essential’ pieces my wardrobe needs during the beginning of the season and then shop accordingly. A few minutes taken to plan saves me time, energy and money when I am out shopping.
Look for conscious alternatives
Finding alternative brands or local shops actually helps a lot more people than yourself. Sustainability isn’t just about buying sustainable or few clothes, it is also about choosing locally produced pieces over mass production.
For instance you want a little black dress from a high street brand. After all a LBD is a wardrobe essential. However, if you research a bit then you can easily find the same exact piece made by a small-scale, local brand or a thrift store that delivers to your doorstep.
Buying from small businesses won’t just be light on your pocket but it’ll benefit the small shop owners
and promote the local brands. Plus, local stores have better customer satisfaction rates since you are directly in contatct with the business owner.
Learn to care and repair
Apart from buying less, maintaining clothes is another important approach towards conscious consumerism. If we do not care for our clothes and discard them due to small wear and tear, then we are not being conscious consumers. Staying aware and alert throughout the clothing consumption process is essential.
I am relatively new to this particular topic as well. It is always good to research when in doubt. Another good practice is to read and get acquainted with what your clothes are telling you. Simply reading the wash care labels or reading about the fabric properties is a great way to get familiar with your clothes and care for them better.
Another good practice is to learn to repair and mend. If learning these tasks is tough or time-consuming ask for help and increases the life span of your clothes. . A trip to the local tailor to get a zip fixed or a rip repaired is a good way to start.
While I was able to share 5 easy steps to start your journey towards conscious consumerism, You may have the question – Is buying less boring?
Definitely not! I have been preaching what I shared since 2019 and I can say with utmost certainty and buying less is neither boring nor deprevating yourself of the pleasure of shopping. Buying less doesn’t mean you have to keep a 3-colour tone in your wardrobe or the basic pieces only. You can dress as extravagant as Lady Gaga and still buy less.
It is all about building an interesting wardrobe one smart purchase at a time. You don’t have to compromise with your personal style. All you have to think is how to use a piece as many times as you can. You just have to explore, read, research, watch and not waste. Conscious consumerism may sound tough but it is definitely not impossible!
Stuti is a freelance fashion stylist and currently on the journey of conscious consumerism. Her styling projects usually explore the idea of rewearing clouting pieces. Stuti shares her conscious fashion journey on her Instagram page. She loves to learn new things and taking one day at a time.