ETHICAL FASHION + FINDING YOUR PERSONAL STYLE
Clothing is often referred to as our chosen skin – often the most obvious medium we use to say what we want to say about ourselves to the world. What do you want your clothes to say about you? This may sound like a frivolous question (and it’s certainly a privilege to be able to even have this conversation) but what we wear can give us confidence and help us to be the best version of ourselves. We all have to get up and get dressed every day (shame). We all buy clothes and our money will be given to the garment/fashion industry so it feels important to use it as an opportunity to buy wisely and wear clothes that really reflect who we are.
I think that there often comes a time, particularly for women, when clothes become a chore. We wear them for function and not for expression or joy. Often this rut in personal style can come because other more pressing seasons in our life (like, becoming a parent - HELLLOOOO LEGGINGS). Sometimes the fashion industry, with its 52 micro-seasons a year (yes, really) can leave us spinning with so many emerging trends completely baffling our ability to know what we actually like when we eventually try to claw our style back.
We roll into the high street shops or browse online and wonder – am I in the right place? Have I stumbled into the fancy dress section? What part of my body does this item actually go on? Does Topshop only cater for tween-sized women now? Is this top supposed to not have a back and two arm holes? I think my head is supposed to go in here, but I can’t be sure. Have I lost the sartorial plot?
It’s bonkers out there.
I have often felt lost and frumpy and out of place in terms of my own style but lately I’ve been trying to tune all of the trend nonsense out and properly figure out what I want my clothes to say about me and how I want to feel in them. I imagine I’m not the only one feeling like this (many of you told me similar things on IG stories this week as well).
For me, I have found that focusing on buying more sustainable, ethical clothing is an amazing way to hone in on your personal style for so many reasons. Stay with me.
Fast fashion has lured us into a culture of instant gratification; of quick and empty dopamine shopping highs. In just two or three clicks we can have that item that we fell down the instagram rabbit hole to find because we saw the person we don’t know online wearing it. We don’t need to think about where it comes from, how it’s made, who it supports. We see it, we want it, so we’ll have it.
Before I took the fashion industry seriously as a major culprit for exploiting people and the planet (it is the second biggest pollutant industry in the world – second only to the oil industry), I loved a bargain. I would pride myself on spending very little on clothes. In the end I was the fool because I ended up spending much more buying too many cheap things I didn’t need that would never last.
Slow, thoughtful fashion asks us to step back and consider what we buy; to actually make space in our heads for sensible, honest questions that will lead to more satisfying, long-term purchases.
Making purchases that feel good because some thought has been put into it is rewarding in many ways. It means you are making a purchase that you are certain you will love and look after and want to wear for a long time; purchase that goes with many things in your wardrobe already. Ultimately, prioritising slow and sustainable fashion enables you to buy clothes that are purposefully aligned with good values and help lead you to prioritising buying thing that are really and truly a reflection of you.
If, like me, you want to rediscover your personal style without compromising on ethics, I have put together a few key questions and ideas that I know if you make space to explore, will help you to find your style mojo again.
WHAT FITS IN WITH YOUR LIFE?
No, really. Think about how you really spend your time. Where are you going most days, what are you doing? What daily environments are you in that need to be accounted for? There is no point in spending your money on dressy clothes if you spend most mornings in the house working on your laptop. Of course you can absolutely dress up fancy for homework time at the kitchen table if you wish (that's one way to make it bearable), but why not look for some casual, every-day clothes that you really love and feel good in. Research shows that 80% of the clothes we have in our closets have not been worn in the last 6 months - yikes. We need to get real about what kind of clothes fit in with our day-to-day lives and buy things that serve us well instead of sitting collecting dust.
WHAT DO YOU ACTUALLY LIKE?
We are all drawn to particular styles and trends at different times in our lives. We gravitate to certain textures, colours, patterns and cuts. My style aspirations have moved from high-street trendy in my teens to retro/vintage in my twenties and now a more earthy, simple palate in my thirties. What are the looks that feel aspirational to you in this season of life? What do you really want to wear? When I’m considering a purchase, I’ll often skip over to my pinterest clothing board. I’ve curated a board on there over the years that I know is a good reflection of the style and feel that I’m consistently drawn to, whatever the season or trend. For me it is earthy tones, light draping fabrics that can be layered and items that can be easily dressed up or down. I measure the item I’m considering against those particular things. Does this piece of clothing feel like it fits with the style I’m drawn to? Is it something I really like or is it just trendy right now?
WHAT LOOKS GOOD?
There is plenty of space for throwing caution to the wind and just wearing whatever the heck you like, but I’ve found that the items I end up liking most are pieces that I know really suit my body shape and colouring. For me, I’m an Autumn girl – my auburn hair tones and fair skin works well with earthy autumnal hues. I also know that because I have a fuller bust that high necklines can make me look extra big on top so I tend to stay away from them. Lighter knits are also better for me because chunky knits bulk me out too much (unless it's a cardigan with a lighter layer showing). I have slimmer shapely legs, so I make sure that dresses and skirts don’t cut them off in weird places. It really helps to know what suits you best so you can narrow down your choice of clothes and be sure that what you are buying is going to make you feel good when you wear it.
WHAT FITS IN WITH YOUR VALUES AND LIMITATIONS?
Are you keen to align your spending to you’re the things you know to be important? One of my values is fairness. This means that I try my best to make sure that what I consume is made fairly - in a way that isn’t creating too much waste, is protecting the environment and is made by companies that care for their workers and the communities their factories are located in.
Ethical clothing doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be thoughtful. There is no getting around that.
If there is an item of clothing you are after, it’s worth taking the time to look around and find the best version of what you want that fits in with your values and your budget. I don’t have a lot of extra cash for clothes so I will look for second-hand quality options on eBay to start (find my guide to buying amazing clothes on eBay here) or buy from ethical clothing companies that I really trust (even waiting for items to come on sale before I buy). Waiting is hard because our culture has elevated instant and fast as the best way to buy.
While you are considering these questions above - I would suggest to start going through the clothes you have already and begin to weed out items that you are regularly passing over. Usually we are passing over those items because we know deep down we don’t like them, they don’t fit right, they were an impulse trend purchase or they aren’t ever going to be worn in our day-to-day lives.
Donate them. Stick them in a bag and get them out of your eye-sight at least. Starting with a clean slate of clothes that work for us in all of the ways above (even if you are culling down considerably) is hugely important in giving you a clear perspective of what you really need and how to find your style again. It’s much harder to get that clarity when you have unwearable clothes cluttering up your wardrobe and staring back at you when you open it.
I really believe that making more mindful choices about what clothes you buy can set you free and help you hone in on your personal style. Instead of anxiously following the trends that the fast fashion industry tries to convince us we need to follow, we can drown out that noise by focusing on what we really like, what looks good on us, gives us confidence and fits in with our lifestyle and values.
Now it's your turn to let me know what you think! Have you struggled to really find your personal style lately? Would you like to make space for buying clothes more wisely? Let me know if any of the above is ringing true for you and we can chat more about it...
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