For the past few months, my close friend has been sticking to a closet regimen that most people would go weak at the knees at the thought of merely attempting: wearing a new outfit everyday. This entails going through every combination of pants and shirts before recycling a pairing. She has a note on her phone in which she keeps track of what she’s worn, what sets work and what was a closet flop.
As a girl who is heavily reliant on my comfort baggy Levi’s and the trusty long sleeve and baby tee layering combination, my friend’s closet roulette has inspired me to dive deep into the drawers and pull out those shirts that have been balled up in the back corners. It has also led me, inevitably, back to thinking about the relationship of fashion and the environment.
I’ve spent many a morning or a getting ready to go out evening staring at my — I’ll admit it — way too overstuffed closet and dresser, yet still lamenting over my lack of clothing to wear. I make the effort to thrift before buying new, but even then I end up coming home with many items that I only bought because they were cheap and that inevitably become permanent fixtures in my drawers.
Is it possible to be happy with what we own, no matter how minimal or maximal our closets are? Why are we always on the hunt for something new, something better, something more in style?
We are constantly inundated with messages to buy new items, whether or not we are consciously aware. In fact, capitalism can only function if we keep playing into this desire, into these signals to keep consuming products and casting away what our fast paced society deems as no longer up to standard.
The constant cycle of purchasing and trashing items that are most likely still usable is, you guessed it, a no go for the planet. The revolving door of new products takes greenhouse gasses to manufacture, transport and sell and landfills pile up with what has fallen out of fashion. The emissions associated with this myriad of activity will only fast track our route to rapid temperature rise and degradation of the planet. And even if you buy sustainable products or thrift items, you can’t escape the pollutants embedded in your purchases.
The best action step you, as an individual, can take to fight climate change as well as the capitalist systems that benefit from our consumerism is to use what you already have.
Taking inspiration from my friend’s stylistic endeavors, I’ve been trying to wear more of my wardrobe, in new combinations. I’m not ready to take the step of wearing a new outfit everyday until the cows come home, but it’s at least getting me to branch out and appreciate everything that piles up in my closet. And it’s worked. Not only have I remembered why I still have that tank top from years ago, but I’ve also felt less of a desire to buy new clothes each time I pass a thrift store. If I have a top I don’t love, I’ll try it with different pants than I usually wear, or pull out the craft scissors and chop it into an off the shoulder or halter look. Nine times out of ten, I love the result and have a new item to throw into my growing rotation of comfort outfits.
Maybe one day I’ll be able to commit to not re-wearing clothing until I’ve gone through my entire closet. Maybe not. But by taking a closer look at what I already own, I’ve been breaking my consumerist desires, those embedded tendencies to buy whatever is new and flashing in front of our eyes. Whatever steps you can take in your own routine to break out of the mindset of consumerism, whether that be with your closet, your shoes or anything in which you have a large collection, will benefit the planet.