When I was in college, I worked for a while in the theater costume shop and it remains one of my most favorite experiences. Not just the atmosphere itself, though that was pretty great, but I loved the thought process that went in to the different looks we created for the characters and specific plays. It helped me to realize that our appearances can tell a story, whether we want them to or not, and this can be a powerful tool. While I was still in college, I also got to do the entire costume design for a community production of William Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, and I LOVED it. Choosing details, accessories, and color palates that enhanced the story that the actors were telling was such a thrill, and it enforced for me that everything we do and say and wear is constantly conveying information about who we are to the world around us.
While my time in theater costuming gave me a serious love for fashion and clothing, it has taken me years to actually apply this love to my own life and wardrobe. I’ve been on the larger side of female body types since my mid-teens, and until very recently that did not allow for a lot of popular clothing options. I also didn’t know how to shop, or what looked good on me, or what I even really liked for my own personal style. For a long time, fashion was something that I loved on other people but never knew how to apply to myself.
Over the last few years, however, this has slowly been changing. The years on either side of my 30th birthday have proved revolutionary in my thinking about a lot of things, and fashion has definitely been one of those top areas. Of course, I didn’t get here all on my own. Discovering Body Positive bloggers and fashionistas was a gift from heaven, because these ladies taught and showed me that beauty really comes in all shapes and sizes, and not just in the thin, svelte super-model-look that is only naturally achievable by 5% of the population. Seeing bodies similar to my own or larger, in cute dresses with great make-up, who I could instantly recognize as gorgeous human beings, this did so much to give me a clearer vision of the world and the life that I want to lead.
Once I finally wrapped my head around just the possibility that I could myself be fashionable, then I had to contend with how to go about that. I believe in shopping with your morals, and so I don’t want to support brands and companies that either perpetuate stereotypes, immodesty, body negativity, or inhumane conditions for their workers. But I am also poor, and buying “ethical fashion” is not cheap (nor should it be, but that’s a rant for another time). So what’s an up-and-coming fashionista to do?
If you read my post at the beginning of the year, you know that I like to choose a single word to be my theme for the year. But the truth is that I’ve also had a single word that has been my theme for the last several years: Intentional. I want everything in my life to be done with intention and not just out of habit or mindlessly following the trends of others. I try to eat intentionally, for nourishment and genuine enjoyment. I try to be intentional with my relationships and the people that I invite into my life. And now I’m trying to be intentional with how I shop and how I present myself to the world.
I’ve issued myself a little fashion challenge for this year, and I’m mostly sharing it in case it might help inspire other aspiring fashionistas.
- Buy from thrift stores as much as possible
Yes, there are some items that it’s worth it to buy new, especially if it’s something very specific or that you need on short notice. But for the majority, I find thrift stores really to be the way to go. I like very classic styles and basic staples, and generally the clothes made in earlier decades are actually much better quality and will last longer anyway. Thrifting does require some patience, and you don’t always find much of a haul when you want to, but I’ve found serious treasures at my local Goodwill when I was least expecting it. I can also feel better about not supporting Fast Fashion and the throw-away culture that it encourages.
- Track every purchase
I have no idea how much money I spend on clothes in a year. It probably isn’t all that much these last few years, because I just haven’t a lot of money to spend, but it’s probably still a lot more than I would estimate. So this year I am giving myself the task of tracking every item that I buy, where I buy it, and how much I spend. I’m really just curious to see what the results are at the end of the year.
I’m lucky to come from a line of seamstresses and crafty ladies. I have my own sewing machine and I know how to use it, but I just don’t use it very often. I already have piles of clothes that need small repairs or alterations to be wearable again, and I’m determined to actually work through that pile this year. Up-cycling is also a key to making the most out of thrift store shopping, so it’s time I really began to put my sewing skills to use again.
- Refine and weed out closet
Last year, I did a big clean-out of my clothes and managed to fill a trash bag that was nearly as tall as I am. I probably need to do the process again, because I still seem to just have a ridiculous amount of clothes and yet only wear a very small percentage of them. I am hoarder, and I freely admit it, but I am getting better. This over-abundance of clothes is also a side-effect of not really knowing what my style was for so long, and so I would buy all of these different pieces because I thought they were cute at the store, but then never wear them because I didn’t feel like myself in them. Now I have a better idea of the styles and cuts that I like and that look good on me, and it’s time to clean out everything that doesn’t fit that.
Do you have any specific fashion rules or guidelines that you follow? I’d love to hear them!