Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about size. Specifically, closet size. I’ve been steadily making most of clothes for the past two and a half years, which has been super rewarding as a creative outlet, a way to challenge myself to learn new things, and a way to feel good in my clothes and express myself through my style. It has also been an amazing portal to deepen my understanding of and appreciation for slow fashion, and a lens for thinking critically about the current fashion system — the #2 most toxic and harmful industry worldwide.
Something that comes up a lot in conversations about “what you can do” to change the status quo of fashion is the “buy less buy better” adage. My takeaway is that by growing a wardrobe slowly, we can choose longer lasting pieces and likely spend more per item (which can help bridge the gap for internalizing the costs of clothing production) but get more out of them (reducing the cost per wear as well as textile waste). I wholeheartedly agree with this as a guiding principle, but for a while when I started making clothes I wasn’t necessarily following it.
Even as my sewing and knitting skills improve and shave time off the process of making clothing, I still feel like my handmade garments are a slow and lengthy production. And I think this is a good thing because it automatically slows the pace of growing my wardrobe. And yet, sometimes a new pattern comes out or a new (or secondhand find) fabric catches my eye and I feel like I need to whip through a project right away, or I see someone sharing a recent make on Instagram with a comment along the lines of “love this pattern, definitely need 10 more!” and it always makes me pause — do I really need this new item of clothing superfast, or does anyone really need TEN of the same basic tees/sweatshirts/dresses?
So I’ve been thinking about slow growth, appreciating what I already have, and being intentional with what I make. This illustration by Sarah Lazarovic really hits the nail on the head:
Between a big closet cleanout, a smattering of Wardrobe Architect exercises, a cross-country move, and 2 me-made-Mays documenting what I most love to wear, I’m finally coming to a place that feels like a good balance of a small, curated closet with just a little room to grow, and plenty of room to breathe (by the way, Jenn and I share a closet so mine is the left side of the photo above, and about half of the dresser drawer space).
No doubt this evolution has been informed by the “capsule wardrobe” movement, and more recent approaches like the “minimal wardrobe” or “lean closet” framework. This past fall I actually went so far as to use the capsule wardrobe model to plan out what to wear for my first cold winter in several years, and I fell in love for a few reasons:
- It was immediately reassuring to know that I had enough winter clothing to layer and enjoy the cold weather
- It was a good motivation to put away summer clothes and really embrace the cold instead of trying to layer warm weather prints under heavy sweaters (fun in early fall, not so much in the depth of February)
- I could easily identify a few gaps in my wardrobe and that helped me focus my “making” time budget as well as my spending budget
- I had no stress about “nothing to wear” because I could quickly, and mentally sort through my options
- It was a lot easier to take care of my clothes and keep them orderly, which was soothing since my bed faces my open closet storage
- I like a good challenge!
- Bringing out my spring clothes was like seeing old friends and going shopping, without spending any money!
With one extended seasonal wardrobe exercise down, I’m thinking of approaching the capsule wardrobe concept with a little bit of flexibility within each season and a lot more holistic contemplation to make sure all items in my closet are interchangeable and well loved.
There are plenty of great terms out there that capture this clothes-minded sentiment: lean, minimal, capsule, conscious, curated, even un-capsule, and so I’m just going to term this series small closet chronicles. Because my closet space is small, and I think my handmade, intentional wardrobe can be too. I’ll be discussing, documenting, and reflecting on it here.
In my next post I’ll share a few resources for different approaches (like those coined by the above-listed terms), and what I’ve found useful or gleaned from them, and then I’ll dig into how I’m putting this into practice. I hope you’ll share tips & thoughts on intentional making and slow fashion too!