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Starting Your Sustainable Closet

After a week of getting inspired by everyone’s capsule wardrobes, are you still feeling unsure of where to start with your own Sustainable Closet?

1. Start where you are. Do you know exactly what’s living in your closet? Maybe it’s time to pull it all out and see exactly what you’ve got. You can even call up a friend online and get some advice on new ways to style pieces to give your wardrobe a fresh life.

2. Any piece of clothing that you don’t wear because it has an unwanted hole? Give mending a try! Every day that you wear a garment is another day it’s not taking up space in a landfill. And most of the time repairs are simple and easy. Don’t have a sewing machine at home? Most neighborhood dry cleaners have a professional alterationist on staff that can help.

3. Figure out your “Signature Style”. Your clothing can be a visual language, telling others all about you. But if you’re shopping on impulse, you could be left with a pile of clothes that you don’t know where and how to wear. A stylist could help, but even better? Only buy things you know are really you, so nothing is just waiting to be thrown out.

Make a list of the types of places and events you go to, and see if you have enough tailored tops for work, and if your workout pants are getting worked over. Any glaring holes or well-loved pieces that are getting to the end of their life? Now you have a shopping list and can start planning the hunt. Nobody likes the nightmare of realizing you have nothing to wear the night before you need it.

(If you're struggling to figure out how to define your style and choose pieces to fit, I like Sarai Mitnik's Wardrobe Architect blog series.)

4. Once you have your List, it’s time for shopping!! There’s a lot of places you could spend your money… but if you’re looking to up your game sustainably, then start with secondhand. The last 10 years have seen an incredible increase in the amount of pieces of clothing being produced. We need to slow that down. It’s not uncommon to find clothes with the tags still on when shopping secondhand. (Keep an eye out... we may write a future blog post listing some of our secondhand shop favorites.)

5. Even more fun? Work with a Designer on a custom made piece. Not only are you more likely to get your ideal piece, that actually fits you right, but it’s not hard to find local designers that make ‘one-offs’ for a truly unique garment that no one else will have. It costs more and takes a little longer than just ordering online, but a designer can often work with you to match the garment to your budget. It may take a little saving up, but the investment into yourself (and your community) is worth it.

(Check out our AIBI Thursday Style Section for new-to-you local Chicago Designers and ways you can style them into your wardrobe.)

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