The Eco-Minimal Wardrobe Starter Pack
This post has been a long time coming. I had started writing this post back in June, but let it fall to the wayside as I wasn't entirely satisfied with the information I was putting out there. Fortunately, some big changes came up and I now know exactly how I want to present this post.
In a few short weeks, my mister and I are going to be leaving our de-facto home and moving to the west coast of Canada. To the damn pretty city of Victoria, to be exact. Calgary has been my off and on basecamp for the past ten years, for my man --almost fourteen years. There was a three year gap in there where we shipped off to Europe, but more-or-less it's been Casa Cow-town for us.
We most definitely didn't intend to stay this long. No way. I mean, I don't even like Calgary. But school, amazing friends, some decent work, a cozy loft apartment, endless Rocky Mountain adventures, and we got comfortable. There is a lot of good here, but this city has never been for me and has never felt like home. I have always considered it to be like a pit stop. A great place to stop and have a snack, stretch your legs, take a pee, and hang out for a while. But for me, it was never part of the greater journey I had in mind.
Right now, our journey is taking us to the island. And along with us, comes our stuff. In the first part of this series, I am going to detail how you can get rid of your unneeded clothing and how to start an eco-minimal starter pack! Part-two will detail how to reduce clutter in the rest of your home.
How to get rid of clothing:
Twice a year, before you transition into the next season, separate your stuff into Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer. This is super important to do in advance because you are going to want to consign and donate your things when the stores are getting ready to accept them. For example, I go through my Fall/Winter stuff in late July/early August. This is because all clothing stores --from thrift to new-- make the complete transition to Fall clothing by the end of August. If you try to bring them flip flops and shorts in August they'll likely get discarded or thrown out. Respect the merchant's time and only bring them what they can use. This goes for donations as well!
Find an empty space in your home and toss all of your clothing on the floor. This is best done away from where you normally store your wardrobe so you don't sneak pieces back into drawers. Now make three piles:
- Throw away
Throw away/Recycle: This pile is the easiest. If it has sweat stains, rips/tears/holes, is in the sock and underwear category, or is missing buttons and you know you won't repair it yourself, toss it or recycle it (don't make it someone else's problem!). Clothing recycling programmes vary by country and region. So be sure to check out what is offered where you live.
Consignment: Understand that some of this pile is going to end up donated. A lot of people struggle when they consign clothing because they believe that their personal story or emotional attachment to the item is going to be transferred onto the merchant. Not true. The person at the consignment store only views your item as something they can sell or not. They are not in the business of romanticizing your old t-shirt. If the merchant doesn't want your item, don't take it personally and understand that they know what they're doing and know their market. Don't agree? Try a different store.
The best items for this pile are very gently used or rarely worn, are designer, still have tags attached, are still relevant to the current trends, or happen to be a really spectacular piece of vintage.
Donation: This pile will consist of seasonal items that are in great condition but aren't necessarily stylish, may have some minor wear and tear or pilling, or have been rejected by the consignment store. I keep this pile in a box until after I've been to a consignment store just in case I'll be adding a few more pieces.
So, how do you decide what to get rid of?
Understand that if you haven't worn it in a few months you probably aren't going to wear it ever again. Get over it and move on. Even the pieces that you've worn once or twice. You've only worn it a handful of times for a reason, there is a good chance you don't actually like it, you only like the idea of it. Trust me, I've been there and I've helped a lot of people in this mindset. Also, if it doesn't fit anymore and hasn't fit for a long time, IT'S GONE! Say goodbye! You aren't doing yourself any favours by clinging on to something that might be making you feel bad about your current body composition. Adorn your perfect body with what fits it and rock the hell out of it.
Eco-Minimal Capsule Wardrobe
This post is intended to give you a guideline as to which pieces I think would compliment an existing wardrobe and give you more options with freedom of movement and sustainability at the forefront. I'm not going to tell you to adopt a closet of black, grey, and four different shades of oatmeal. But if that's your jam, go for it! Because I don't want you to sacrifice your personal style or preferred palette, many of the suggestions I make include brands that hand-dye each piece to your liking. It's the fit and fabric that I emphasize. Colour and styling is all you!
- Jackets: One sure-fire way to squash some 'feeling fly' vibes is to have to pair your banging outfit with a frumpy coat. As every Canadian can contest, it really sucked as a child on Halloween when you had to put your snowsuit on over top of your Power Ranger costume. Maybe I'm projecting a bit here, but it was truly awful.
A solid jacket doesn't have to be expensive either. This is best opportunity to hit up vintage or consignment shops and start the hunt for a one-of-a-kind piece. Start early in the season and take your time. It took me years to find my perfect denim biker-style jacket. But I've worn it at least a million times now over the years and will continue to do so into the future. I am really inspired by Instagram shop, Alki & The Minnow (here). The vintage pieces are perfect!
Look for a jacket that is slightly cropped and even angled upwards in the back. This shape tends to be the most flattering on lady hips. It can accentuate them or give you some if you don't have any. For a bad-ass and ultra-cool version, I am swooning over this up-cycled leather jacket. Another great option is a wrap jacket. This one and this one from Gaia Conceptions are stunning and come in a variety of colours, fabrics, and are made to order. This one in the a longer style is blowing my mind.
- Pants/bottoms: The most important rule when it comes to bottoms is to avoid pieces that cut off your circulation and limit your digestive and lymphatic flow. Bottoms that are tight in the waist and hips really affect how your digestive system does it's job. This is especially important if you have a job where you will be sitting down for the majority of the day as your waist and guts are going to be compacted. Solution? Look for items that are wider and flowier in the hips to allow you to move around in your chair and sit comfortably for longer periods of time. Avoid anything that pulls too tightly across the hips or forces you to 'suck' your stomach in at all. Do the 'squat test' whenever you try bottoms on. Don't listen to sales associates who tell not to worry if they're too tight and that you have to 'break them in'. This always results in pants that stretch out in unflattening locations and always return to they're original snug fit after your wash them. Buy pants with stretch and flexibility from the get-go. This skirt from Conscious Clothing is easy to dress up for the office with boots, and leggings or to wear on the weekend (preferably barefoot) with your favourite t-shirt. I am also crushing on their Hemp capris (here). All items from Conscious Clothing are also made to order and hand-dyed in your choice of colour. I would also go for this organic cotton skirt from For Good Luck and wear it exactly like she is in the photo.
If you are on the hunt for a 'conventional' cut of pants that are mimic standard denim but still give you a full range of motion, I highly recommend these pants from Prana. They are ethically and sustainably made from organic cotton in factories that adhere to the strictest guidelines. Prana offers other cuts and colours to find the right pair for you. I have two pairs of their shorts in the same cut and wore them almost everyday this summer. But for fall, I have my eyes on the terracotta-coloured pants.
- Shirts/Tops: I think this is the move that we get kids to do in change rooms when trying on new shirts: lift you hands above your head. Did the shirt scrunch up in the shoulders and armpits? When you put your arms down is the shirt entangled around your torso in a quasi-straightjacket? Either go find a bigger size or move along to a fabric that is less restrictive. You should be able to move your shoulders and chest without impingement.
Speaking of chests, try to avoid squishing your boobs in overly tight clothing and especially in bras (below I'll give you my recommendation for underwear). If you don't need to wear a bra or feel perfectly comfortable and free without one, aim for layering! Basic tank tops are easy to layer under shirts, tunics and sweaters. I want to wear this top by Groceries Apparel as my daily base layer.
My favourite line of everyday basics is Jungmaven. I have dresses, t-shirts, and long sleeve tops by them and love how the organic hemp wears over time. I wear this dress all the time with leggings in the winter (I tend to throw it on over my gym clothes after most workouts). I am also loving this dolman-style top from Synergy and this kimono-style top from Conscious Clothing that I can imagine wearing over every dress and t-shirt I own.
For sweaters, I recommend investing in a great knit sweater. A good quality knit will be your friend for life if you take care of it. I have one that's a similar shape to this one available at Westerlind Outdoor. I bought it over five years ago in Italy and it's boxy and chopped shape makes it easy to layer over everything.
- Business-casual: This is a category that makes me vomit a little in my mouth. I have dedicated my life to avoiding all situations that require blazers and pencil skirts. If I had to make myself presentable for a adult situation like this one, I would probably want to wear everything by Eileen Fisher. Like this outfit or this one. Eileen Fisher has been making ethical and sustainable clothing for years. Her pieces are clean and sophisticated and have always been designed to fit looser with plenty of freedom of moment in mind. Office-wear for both genders is restrictive and limited in both fabrics and cuts. There is an expectation that women in the business arena are meant to dress slightly like men, but also sexy. So basically a suit, but tighter and with really uncomfortable shoes. This is a trend that needs to die. You know what else needs to cross the great divide? Dry-cleaning. Save your body and the environment and all fabrics that requite this harmful and toxic practice.
Fancy Stuff: Thoreau said it best:
"I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes"
I bought a $20 flowy black jumpsuit at a consignment store and wear it to all events. (similar to this one). Don't fall into the trap of shopping for something new for every event or gathering. Stick with one or two things that you feel absolutely amazing in and wear them as much as possible. A basic like this one from People Tree or this one from Synergy are a good place to start. Or this one from Gaia Conceptions would be amazing. For an extra sultry look, I love Zhennymph. I have a few of their pieces and love them. This dress is gorgeous.
Activewear: For this category I am a huge fan of Prana and Patagonia. Both of these brands have been around for years and are pioneers in the ethical and sustainable fashion realm. This top from Prana includes a shelf bra which is great, since conventional sports bras are extremely tight and limit the natural flow of your bodily systems. And I would totally wear this sweater over top of it. For my body type, I have had amazing success with the activewear pants from Patagonia. I have a variation of these capris (image below) and wear them to the gym or hiking and they haven't lost their shape nor do I have to constantly adjust them over my booty.
But what I really have my eye on, is everything by Purusha People. Another hand-dyed line, this top actually has SEASHELLS OVER THE NIPPLES. They also manufacture organic and hand-dyed leggings that I'd like to try out (here) for the gym and for layering under tunics and big sweaters over the winter.
- Underwear: SUCH an important area that often gets overlooked. Our magic bits are extremely permeable and sensitive to different fabrics that don't breathe, or contain hidden toxins. If you aren't going to buy organic for the rest of your wardrobe, at least buy organic underwear. I am a huge fan of Brook There. All their pieces are effortlessly sexy and extremely comfortable. This set is magical.
I am considering making this type of post a bi-annual publication to give you beauties my top choices for the coming seasons. If this post is a hit, let me know and I'll give you a spring/summer update in the future.