Full disclosure: I’m calling this, our final resolution, “spend less,” but it might as well be called “spend around the same amount, but less often, and on better things.”
But isn’t that why we’re here? After all, conscious fashion is not about buying cheap; that’s the gap filled by fast fashion. Conscious fashion is made more carefully, out of higher-quality materials, and in much smaller batches. The people involved in its design and production are paid living wages. You can’t buy a $20 skirt and expect it to last long, or expect that the person who sewed it was paid particularly well. By the same token, you can’t buy something handmade out of eco-friendly materials by a fairly-paid seamstress protected by a workers’ union and expect it to cost $22–unless you find a spectacular sale.
So how can you keep a conscious closet while not breaking the bank?
I can be a bit of a shopaholic at times. Online shopping has made it so easy, in moments of boredom where I happen to have a computer in front of me, to drop by Everlane or Curator or any of my other favorite stores and see what’s new and oooh, that looks nice, and I don’t think I have a silk blouse in that shade, and I just did really well on that work project so I deserve a treat, and I’m getting paid next week after all and…you can see the trouble. I’ve had to impose a few rules on myself to curb these impulses.
First things first: know your closet. This goes back to Resolution #1, cleaning out your closet regularly. If you have a pretty good idea of what you already own, it’s easier to talk yourself down from that mouse-click. I went through a phase where I was acquiring navy blue dresses without realizing it, and although the styles are different enough that they’re not exactly the same, it is easier now for me to stop and think when I see a navy blue dress because I already have that. It’s the same thing with certain cuts or styles: I don’t need another v-neck t-shirt because I have a couple already. I don’t need another pencil skirt. I don’t need another wrap dress. I know what I have and therefore I can back away from something that doesn’t fill a need.
Another important thing to do is UNSUBSCRIBE. Unsubscribe from whatever mailing lists your purchases or loyalty cards have landed you on. There is a fantastic service called unroll.me that looks through your inbox and finds all your existing subscriptions (if you’ve ever signed a Change.org petition, you’ll have way more subscriptions than you think) and allows you to unsubscribe with one click. When you sit down at your computer in the morning and log into your email and the first words you read are PRE-SPRING SEASON SALE! THREE DAYS ONLY! 75% OFF ALREADY REDUCED ITEMS!…well, of course it’s tempting. That’s why they sent it to you. I’m a particular sucker for those sale emails–if I don’t buy, I at least click, which is almost as bad–and unroll.me has been a lifesaver in that regard. No more starting my day off spending money (instead of MAKIN IT, hello).
Shopping sales is not a bad thing. In fact, if you’re on a budget and trying to look cute and not buy things that were made in sweatshops, it’s essential. But the point is to do it–wait for it–consciously. MAJOR CLEARANCE!!! emails create a sense of urgency that is absolutely detrimental to smart shopping, especially with flash sales that give you a timeline in which to shop. When the clock is ticking on these amazing deals, it can be hard to think carefully. Your brain rushes into instant gratification mode: this dress is pretty and I’ll only be able to get it if I get it right now and that means I HAVE TO HAVE IT (who cares if I’ll ever actually wear it).
So when you do shop sales, do so at your own pace. Most stores have sale sections that are pretty well stocked all year round. There’s no need to leap at every TODAY ONLY, FIFTY PERCENT OFF! email a shop sends your way. (I’d also like to add that my favorite shops–namely Everlane and Curator–don’t send those emails at all.)
On the topic of impulse shopping, one of my best pieces of advice for saving money is: WALK AWAY. If you see something you really, really like, either online or in person, walk away from it for awhile. Close that window in your browser, or leave the store. Do something else for awhile, whether that’s a few hours or a day. If, after a decent amount of time (so not, like, seven minutes), you’re still thinking about that item, then it’s a purchase you should consider. If it’s faded from your mind or if you look at it again and go “eh, it’s not as cute as I thought” or “I don’t know what I would wear this with,” or even “I still can’t decide,” then skip it (indecision is its own decision, as my mom tells me all the time). If I bought everything I thought was “love at first sight,” my closet would take over most of my apartment and my partner would have to sleep in the bathtub, except we wouldn’t even have an apartment or a bathtub because WE WOULD BE BROKE.
Another little mental game I inflict on myself is picturing what I would wear with whatever item I’m looking at. That is, what I would wear out of the things I already own. Would I have to buy a new top to go with the cut of this skirt? Would any of my shoes go with this dress? Would this top look okay with my jeans, or would they really look better with a different cut of jeans that I don’t have? While sometimes it’s better to buy items in a set (i.e., suits), I don’t like having to purchase an entire brand new outfit for one thing. I like my clothes to be versatile; a skirt that will only go with one single top or a dress that won’t work with any of my shoes is not, in my eyes, worth the money except in really particular circumstances (like, when I’m buying for a specific event).
My last piece of advice for spending less is, crazily enough, to spend more, but on good shit. You may balk at the idea of spending upwards of $100 on a pair of jeans, but once you’ve been through (as I have) at least five pairs of $20 jeans that stretched, tore, shrunk, busted their zippers and did all of the other terrible things cheap jeans can do, that $100 for a decent, long-lasting pair of jeans is a worthy investment that will pay for itself over and over again. It’s the same with any piece of clothing (or, really, any item at all): you get what you pay for. And with clothes, you often get more than what you pay for, since you’re only paying for it once in your life instead of, like, every month or every season or every time the current version rips or breaks or falls apart in the laundry.
(And with conscious fashion, you’re getting even more than that, since you’re also paying for the earth to be left unharmed and for the people making your clothes to be able to afford a basic, decent standard of living at the very least. Go, you!)
So that brings us to the end of January, which is the end of Resolutions Month. Hopefully, these posts have been interesting and maybe even useful to you; but if not, no worries, we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming in a jiffy. Remember: clean out your closet, be resourceful, share the love and spend less!
If there is a way to make that into a clever acronym or, better yet, ANAGRAM, please let me know and I will edit this post so fast.