Conscious Closet: One-Year Later

April 06, 2021

Natalie Spring Shoot

Happy Earth Month! 

As Dakota alluded to in last week's Spring Update, we are taking Earth Month to focus on Harper & Tucker's journey to sustainable style. Over the next four weeks we will explore various topics related to sustainability and ethics in the fashion industry. We are certainly not experts on these topics, so we will always be mindful to cite our sources so that you can see where we are finding our information, and you can read on to learn more.

One's relationship with fashion is personal - it is a reflection of you and how you would like to present yourself to the world. By having these discussions and conversations, we never want to make assumptions or pass judgment, which we find can be the tone of so many conversations around sustainable fashion. Instead, are goal is to introduce these complicated topics so that you can feel empowered to make thoughtful yet, uniquely your own, choices. To kick off these conversations, we thought it would be fun to check in on our own journeys of curating our conscious wardrobes. 

Exactly one year ago, I wrote a blog post that introduced the concept of the "conscious closet" to the Harper & Tucker community. This idea was the brainchild of journalist and advocate,  Elizabeth Cline, who has written two books (Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion and The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good) on the rise of fast fashion in the fashion industry and the ways in which we can build a more thoughtful and mindful wardrobe. Later this month, we will be addressing topics from Overdressed, but first I wanted to reintroduce this notion of a conscious closet and check in on my own wardrobe one year after embarking on this journey. 

The Conscious Closet is a guide for the reader to think about and maximize their current wardrobe. Understanding that everybody has their own unique relationship with clothes, Cline's formula applies to the style-seeking fashionista with 500 items in their closet as much as it does to the minimalist with 50. The goal of this guide is to encourage an intentional approach to one's wardrobe via a clean-out process. This way you get the most out of every item in your closet as well as extend its life cycle.

My Conscious Closet Clean-Out

This now brings me to my own conscious closet challenge! If you want to get a more thorough analysis from last year's challenge (and learn about the ins and outs of how I completed it) you can revisit last year's post. To refresh our memroies, here were some of last year's key takeaways: 

2020 Wardrobe Impact Inventory: 

  • Kept 76% of my closet (196 units)
  • 41% of my closet was not being worn frequently
  • 13% of my wardrobe was produced domestically, 70% of domestic products were being worn frequently 
  • Shoes were the 'trendiest' clothing type the one with the least % worn (43%)
  • Sweaters were my highest garment count, but with the highest % worn (80%)

For my 2021 clean-out, there are a couple of factors I want to address before diving in. First, I moved into a new apartment in the Summer of 2020 with a larger closet. This allowed me to consolidate all of my clothing into my closet, while last year I had a separate bin of sentimental items in storage that were never a part of the original count. Because these pieces have a certain amount of sentimentality to them, I have decided to keep them all, so they do skew the numbers slightly because I would not consider them to be in the "worn" category. 

Second, this is not my first clean out from the last 12 months. While I may have not analyzed and tracked specific units, I find myself to be in more of a habit of checking in with my wardrobe at the end of every season to see what items I was not wearing. Obviously this year presented a unique backdrop to do this. I stayed in lockdown for all of summer and into most of fall, so warm-weather items like dresses, skirts and rompers I erred on the side of KEEP solely because I didn't have the chance to really see if I would have worn them.

Natalie 2021 Wardrobe Impact Inventory

Like my last clean-out, there was so much I took away from this exercise. I even surprised myself in how many specific details I remembered from last year (i.e. fabric content of certain items, countries of origin used by specific brands etc). Because I had already adopted a more discerning attitude toward my wardrobe, it quickly became apparent that I knew exactly what was in my closet. There were no surprise items that I had forgotten about, or pieces that I may give "second chances" to (besides warm-weather items I didn't really get a chance to wear last year). It was all pretty cut and dry, and if I kept an item it was because I knew exactly what niche it was currently filling in my wardrobe. 

Below is a snapshot of this experience and comparing the two years: 

  • The % of clothing produced domestically in my closet increased by 12% 
  • The % of clothing not worn in my closet decreased by 11%
  • 66.67% of the items that I am not keeping are in good enough condition to be donated or resold 
  • Because last year I pinpointed a sportswear brand that I did not like to wear, I have not bought from them again. Sportswear is now my highest category worn at 81%
  • Last year, I recycled/donated trendy shoes that I kept in my closet but never wore. I have been much more particular in the shoes that I have since purchased and have increased the pairs I consistently wear from 43% to 78%
  • I bought more sweaters this past year, dropping the % of sweaters I wore in my closet from 80% to 66%. Of the sweaters I did not wear frequently, I am only keeping 1 (for sentimental purposes) and selling/donating/recycling the others

It is interesting to see how there is truly one continuous narrative as I purge, expand, maintain and rethink my style. I can see how revelations I made 12-months ago are continuing to impact how I am dressing today. I have a much more intentional approach when it comes to purchases - buying for events and occasions, finding a missing staple, and upgrading niche items to a luxury piece that will be worn for years to come. I have learned that if I have a favorite item, I will choose to wear it over and over again before wearing one of its likeness. This revelation has allowed me to expand my wardrobe so it feels fuller and larger than it has ever before, even though technically it is smaller than it was a year ago.

Click HERE for an excel sheet to complete your own Closet Clean-Out (remember to download and save to your desktop before entering data)!

The first tab lists the same guidelines I gave you last year, a link to purchase Cline's book, as well as resources for reselling and recycling your clothing. For donations, I like to look for small, local 501(c)(3) organizations that are serving your community - if you do live in the Rhode Island area, The Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island does amazing work for the local refugee population. 

There is no one right way to think about your environment footprint when it comes to how you dress. If you buy an article of clothing that was manufactured by the fast fashion machine but wear it for years to come, is that better or worse than buying something used only to discard it next season? As we continue these conversations this month, we hope that we can help you feel more confident in your awareness, and inspired to cultivate your own closet how you see fit.

Stay tuned for more updates and enjoy the gorgeous Spring that has sprung up on us!  

Natalie Signature