Happy New Year! A huge thank-you to everyone who has read, liked and commented on my blog posts in 2017, it’s been so encouraging to find out that I am making a positive impact. I’m going to continue writing about ethical and sustainable fashion, featuring my upcycling and refashioning projects (and maybe a few fabric-stash-busting new makes as well) and reviewing any interesting panels, talks or exhibitions I go to, but I’m also starting a new project which I might feature here occasionally: The Wardrobe Diary.
I’ve been discovering new ethical brands, switching to second-hand shopping where possible and dreaming up ways I can get more wear out of my clothes, as well as reading about other people’s efforts to make their clothing choices as sustainable as possible. One option is to carefully curate a capsule wardrobe, ensuring every piece is well-made, adaptable and something you’d love to wear again and again. I admire the self-discipline and organisation of this approach, but I just don’t think this is for me.
I enjoyed taking part in Labour Behind the Label's Six Items Challenge last year, choosing five dresses and one cardigan to wear for six weeks. I liked having more of a reason to wear accessories, and having to be more adaptable rather than panicking about finding the “perfect” outfit. I did miss my extensive wardrobe of other clothes though; I love being able to match my clothes to my mood, the weather, or what I’m doing that day.
I’ve been making considered choices about the new items I add to my wardrobe, and I’d like to think that I’m making a good effort to wear the vast majority of my clothes wherever possible, but in reality am I still playing favourites; wearing the same small selection of things over and over again while other items languish, unloved and unworn? I also like to think that having plenty of clothes means I do less washing, but is that actually true?
As I discovered at The Laundry Pile panel discussion, the way we wash our clothes has a big environmental impact. It can seem that for every careful choice we make about the fabrics we wear, how our clothes are manufactured, how we look after them and what happens to them after we no longer want them, there is a negative impact being made somewhere else. It can seem exhausting and overwhelming, but every small thing we can do to reduce the harmful impact of the fashion industry is important. Unfortunately, my wardrobe choices will probably still have some unwanted impact on the environment, but I want to minimise that as much as possible. And, to be as effective as possible at minimising my environmental impact, I want to really understand it.
The only way I can keep tabs on what I’m actually wearing, how often I’m washing it, and how frequently I add new clothes to my wardrobe or discard old ones is to keep a comprehensive list. I saw some cute log books for recording travels, walks and other adventures on Twitter, and a couple of people remarked how fun it would be to have one for outfits, so I thought I’d create my own!
Each day I am making notes on my outfit, here is a (probably incomplete) list of the questions I’ve given myself to think about:
- What am I wearing?
- What shops/brands are my clothes from?
- What fabrics are they made from?
- Where were the clothes made?
- Did I buy them new, or secondhand?
- How long have I owned them?
- Where am I wearing them?
- How has the weather/location influenced my clothing choices?
- What will need a wash at the end of the day?
At the end of each week, I’ll do a little round-up of what I’ve worn the most and how much washing I’ve done, and at the end of the month I’ll do a more comprehensive overview, looking at the ratio of new clothes to vintage/secondhand items, and I’ll also make a note of any new clothes I buy, as well as any clothes I am planning to get rid of.
I purchased 17 new-to-me items of clothing in 2017; 11 from sustainable or ethical brands, 3 from charity shops and 3 from vintage shops. I gave away a lot of unwanted clothes at clothes swaps, but picked up 4 items for myself. I also added two pieces of clothing to my wardrobe that I had made from scratch (with materials I already owned), and introduced 10 unworn items back into circulation after refashioning or altering them.
This seems like a high turnover of clothing, so I’ll be interested to see if keeping my wardrobe diary encourages me to wear a wider selection of outfits (maybe to avoid having to make shameful monthly reports?!) or helps me to understand if I’m overestimating my need for certain items. If I discover any fascinating insights I’ll share them here, otherwise it’s a good excuse to take a load of selfies and share outfit photos on Instagram, and to rediscover which clothes I really love. The wonderful thing about having a big wardrobe is being able to wear exciting and imaginative outfits, and I want my clothing choices to stand out for the right reasons.