What Comes to Mind When You Think of Your Personal Style?
Does the concept of defining your personal style give you anxiety? Did you embrace the comfort of leggings and haven’t looked back since? Or is getting dressed an extreme sport? Perhaps everything is a theme party?
Whether you are a fashion-loving baddie or a creature of comfort, you can curate your personal style in a way that works for you, and it starts with your closet and making space.
Here are my go-to moves when it comes to using my clothing to help express who I am or what I am feeling. Remember, clothing is supposed to be fun! Dressing up our human suit is a form of play. Naturally, this isn’t for everyone. But if you’re here reading this, odds are it’s for you.
Five Tips for Defining Your Personal Style
1. Define Your Vibe
Choose three words that you want to embody through your clothing. By selecting clothing around your three words, you’re more likely to enjoy your wardrobe and how you express yourself through it.
The first time I was introduced to embodying your vibe through choosing words to identify with was from one of my podcast guests, personal stylist and overall sustainable baddie, Maddie Graham. Ever since, I have really taken this advice to heart! By selecting clothing and outfits around my three words, I’m better able to curate my wardrobe by honing and owning that vibe. Plus, I’ve found that I’m more likely to play with my wardrobe and take style risks.
For example, here are my go-to words; sometimes they change, but I always come back to: classic, whimsical, and bowie. I identify with David Bowie on many levels, so this addition to my list spans many vibes and that is intentional. But I typically embody it as a dose of androgyny.
Remember, vibes are real. Energy is vibration and everything is energy. When we look at this scientifically, it is called “sympathetic resonance,” or in more common conversation, it is known as the “law of attraction.” Essentially, a vibration attracts a vibration of that likeness. More specifically “it is a harmonic phenomenon wherein a formerly passive vibratory body responds to external vibrations to which it has a harmonic likeness.”
2. Find Your Style Muse
This doesn’t have to be a celebrity, but it can be. Perhaps consider a sustainable fashion influencer. Use your three words as your guide; does said muse align with your would-be aesthetic? Just be cautious of overconsumption or fast fashion haulers, especially if you are looking on Instagram. There are a lot of thrifting baddies and pre-loved darlings out there. To help you find them search hashtags like: #thriftedfashion #vintageseller #vintagecollection #vintagestore #vintageshop #thriftstorefinds #fleamarketfinds #thriftscore.
But remember, these individuals are style muses and not meant to be someone you compare yourself to. There’s no room for that here. As with anyone, if the content isn’t making you feel good and you’re stuck in comparison mode, unfollow.
3. Don’t Buy into Trends
Unless something is really speaking to you, don’t get sucked into the fast fashion cycle. Fast fashion’s micro trends account for so much waste! For example, ultra-fast fashion brand Shein lists anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 items on its website daily! No one asked for that! This ultra-fast fashion model takes fast fashion’s resource-depleting, human-exploitive growth model and plunges it to new depths of terrible.
The “test and repeat” model that made H&M a fast fashion behemoth, is also Shein’s production model. Only about 6 percent of Shein’s inventory remains in stock for more than 90 days. Plus, Shein will often display a timed mark-down clock that perpetuates this idea of consumption and urgency. Which, in turn, feeds the “test and repeat” model.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Shein ships to more than 150 countries. That is a staggering amount of countries, so what might appear as “good for business” is a sobering thought when you take emissions into account. And that’s not just deliveries, think about returns. Most of which get damaged out, never to be resold and head straight to a landfill or the global south, because that is cheaper for the brand (but that’s a topic for another day).
The sheer amount of clothing that ends up in landfills each year is atrocious! Roughly 92 million tons of clothing—or one garbage truck every second—end up in landfills each year.
So, how much a fashion brand produces matters.
4. Consider What is Already in Your Closet
What do you gravitate toward when you’re vibing with yourself?! Remember, the easiest way to embrace sustainable fashion is to wear what you already have.
Fashion brands are producing twice the amount of clothing they produced in 2000. To add insult to injury, much of that growth is due to clothing being made with plastic-based, synthetic fibers. In tandem with the growing amount of clothing being produced each year, so too does the fashion industry’s plastic pollution problem.
“The current fashion system is broken. We use resources to make products that are used very little and then ultimately thrown away,” says Juliet Lennon, program manager at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular initiative.
“We’re going to need to fundamentally transform the way that products are designed, made and used. And for that, we need a circular economy,” she added.
5. Let Yourself Evolve
Just because you liked something a year ago, doesn’t mean that it will flow with who you are now.
Don’t continue to align with an outdated narrative of who you were! Allowing your clothes to transform with you is often liberating. Plus, it is fun! You get to decide what comes with you into these next versions of yourself, clothing included.
If you’re wanting to experiment with textures, shapes, or colors hit up (or host) a clothing swap. This is truly a win-win because you won’t be purchasing unnecessarily and you’re keeping clothing out of landfills! I highly recommend a Swap Omaha clothing swap if you’re in the area.
“If you want to improve your life immediately, clean out a closet. Often it’s what we hold onto that holds us back.” ~ Everything.Aligns
Five Tips for Tackling Your Closet
Okay, cleaning out your closet comes with an aside because not all donating is created equally, and I am here to really foster a more circular clothing model and give people more tools to do so.
In theory, donating is a great way to clear out our closets because in our minds we believe that our preloved pieces will go to someone who will make use of them and add to the garment’s story! Sadly, when you donate to chain thrift stores that isn’t what typically happens.
I’ll elaborate; here in the States no more than 20 percent of the clothing that gets donated to thrift stores ever gets sold. With a majority of those remaining garments being sent directly to landfills. Those that aren’t are baled and shipped overseas. A staggering 70 percent of all global donations end up in Africa. Unsurprisingly, most of this waste and excess comes from the Global North–namely countries like the United States, Canada, and the UK. This growing trend is known as waste colonialism.
Never one to like coming in second, the USA is the leading exporter of used clothing. These secondhand exports account for 40 percent of the resale market globally. While Africa has been a favorite waste can of ours, we are now seeing textiles being exported to countries such as Chile and Guatemala, which are often immediately incarcerated or head straight to landfills.
Pollution aside, this often chokes out local artisans and textile workers as they are not able to compete with our uber-cheap preloved exports.
Now that that is out of the way, the fun stuff!
1. Use the Buddy System and Make an Event Out of it!
Grab your favorite bottle of wine or sparkling cider and an honest friend and get real with your closet. Try things on. I can’t stress that part enough. Sometimes that dress that looked beautiful on last season just doesn’t hold sway like it used to. Allow that to be okay. If you’re feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of analyzing your clothing and decision-making, hire a professional to help you sift through your wardrobe.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Part with a Garment
There will be items that are hard to part with; in those cases ask yourself, “Do I want to include this piece in my next chapter? Does this get to come along in this next version of me?”
Purge things with old stagnant memories and energy attached to them—that dress you wore on the first date with a partner you’re no longer with…set her free, bb! If all an item does is trigger memories of a life you no longer have or want, let that piece go and find a new home. Preferably at a clothing swap.
On the flip side, if there are deeply sentimental pieces that you don’t wear, like the sweatshirt of a loved one who’s passed, tuck that away so you don’t get emotional each time you open your drawer. Eventually, it will get easier and perhaps you’ll want to move that item to a place where you will see it regularly as a fond memory. Remember, only you can make that decision; don’t let anyone pressure you into getting rid of something special. Clothing can carry a lot of emotion and that’s okay.
3. Keep What Fits, Be Rid of What Doesn’t
As simple as that is, perhaps there are garments that no longer fit but that have great fabrics or patterns! In cases like that, consider getting that piece reworked by a tailor or designer! This allows you to get creative, contribute to circular fashion, and keep money in your community, another win-win!
4. Last Chance Wear
If you’re debating a season-specific piece, give it one more chance in that season. Or as a friend of mine likes to call it, take it on a farewell tour.
A good rule of thumb is to check in halfway through the season: are you wearing this piece? If not, it’s time to swap. Swap Omaha holds a swap at least once a month; plus, any items that don’t get new homes at the swap get donated to local charities—charities and homeless shelters are always in need of warm jackets, hats, gloves, and scarves during the colder months, so there are many options before heading to a big chain thrift store to drop off your items.
5. Check pockets, Purses, and Wallets
Check any compartments of all the pieces that you’re getting rid of and donating. No one wants to find a dirty tissue in a pocket. But maybe you’ll find a 20 tucked away in a jacket pocket from that wedding you went to. I hope you do.
Bonus Tip: Make a Vision Board
Making a vision board in the physical is a great way to call these items in (remember talking about energy and the law of attraction earlier). If making a vision board IRL (in real life) isn’t going to work for you, save style inspiration to a Pinterest board or an Instagram collection and refer back to stay on track when curating your wardrobe and personal style.
Curating your personal style allows you to think outside of trends and align with an aesthetic. To be sure, trends aren’t inherently bad, but fast fashion and the waste and pollution they contribute to this world sure is! Not to mention the way they neglect and violate basic human rights in the name of profits.
The conversation around fast fashion being more accessible is nothing new. Fast fashion brands are often applauded as inclusive due to the ridiculously low price point. While on the flipside brands are called out for their reckless use of resources and labor. I believe that this issue has several layers, most of which exploit the earth and her people for profits at every level and on all sides. I don’t believe that there can be a conversation around clothing for individuals with a lower income if we are not including the individuals who make our clothes.
In no way shape or form should we ever believe the lie that fast fashion and ultra-fast fashion brands focus on democratization; their business model has everything to do with exponential growth and extreme wealth for those at the top.
While I believe that fast fashion, ultra-fast fashion, and the fashion industry as a whole needs to be held accountable for their environmental and ethical practices, I believe that we can be a part of the solution too. When I talk about fast fashion, it often comes down to people in need versus people in greed. Or, to put it in other terms, the fast fashion hauls versus the individuals who purchase one or two pieces on occasion because of the price point accessibility. But that always begs the rhetorical question: if a shirt is being sold for $2 there is no way that the person making it is being paid a sustainable wage, and I think that should be considered in our decision-making process.
“Nobody’s free until everybody’s free,” Fannie Lou Hamer