The Secret to Slow Fashion? Slow Shopping.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that a slow fashion approach to my wardrobe has changed my life. Five years ago, I was a classic case of a “closet full of clothes but nothing to wear,” suffering from decision fatigue every morning as I rifled through the items in my closet, hoping and praying a cohesive outfit would magically appear from the chaos. It never did.
Then I started reading about slow fashion and minimalism, and I began a radical transformation. I pared down my closet to only the best items. I strategically chose pieces that work together. And I suddenly got a glimpse of how easy and efficient my morning outfit selection time could be! It was, in a word, amazing.
But, unfortunately, a one-time closet overhaul does not make for a new long-term lifestyle. I had focused on how to pare down, yes, but I had not slowed down the rate at which I was purchasing new items! I had focused on what was in my closet, but was ignoring what was in my shopping bag.
After all you can’t maintain a curated wardrobe if you are acquiring new items faster than you can let go of the old ones!
So I made a decision to transforming my approach to shopping. It was not easy. I had years of bargain-hunting, fast-fashion, retail therapy instincts I was fighting against. But slowly, I began to form new habits, and I found ways to slow down the rate at which I was acquiring new items. To help me in my slow fashion endeavors, I began to practice slow shopping.
Some principles to help you practice slow shopping
1. Shop with a list – I used to walk into a store, and just let my feelings guide me. I loved to browse the shop, just seeing what caught my eye. No wonder I ended up with random purchases! Now, I always shop with a list. By making a list beforehand, I have a way to limit the scope of my search. No more mindlessly browsing all the departments at Nordstrom. If something isn’t on the list, I don’t look at it. If something is on my list, then I enjoy taking my time looking for that particular item.
2. Try shopping alone – I can’t count the number of misguided purchases I used to make because I was out shopping with friends (or my husband, or my mom!). I would get caught up in the social aspects of shopping, and I would let others opinions sway me – usually I would get home with the new item and think, why did I buy this? Shopping alone gives me much better clarity. I’m not distracted by conversations with others, I’m not tempted to ask anyone else’s opinion, and it forces me to truly own my decisions. Plus, there are much better ways to spend quality time with loved ones than to go shopping together.
3. Ask yourself: Do I love it? – Like really love it? If you only sort of like it, why are you even considering it? I used to talk myself into buying things I only sort of liked, because it seemed like a smart purchase (usually because it was on sale). And that’s how I ended up with a closet full of items that I felt only so-so about! Asking myself, “Do I love it?” is now the first question I ask myself whenever I’m considering a purchase. It has helped me greatly slow down my rate of purchases, and when I DO purchase, I have the satisfaction of knowing it’s something I truly love.
4. Adopt a one-in, one-out policy – Once you are happy with the current number of items in your wardrobe, a one-in, one-out policy is a great way to keep your wardrobe from getting cluttered all over again. When I’m considering something new, I actually go through the exercise of deciding what item it is going to replace in my wardrobe BEFORE I let myself buy it. If I can’t think of an item that I would be willing to let go of for this new item, then I probably don’t really need this new item in my life.
5. Institute a cooling off period – I used to buy something, excitedly take it home, immediately remove the tags, and put it on. Then a week later I would realize the item wasn’t nearly as versatile or practical as I thought it was, and I would have a case of buyer’s remorse. Now I force myself to take some time, usually a week between when I bring an item home and when I take the tags off. It’s time for the excitement to wear off, time to try on the item with the rest of my wardrobe, and time to see if it really works like I thought it would in the store. I no longer treat the moment of purchase as the final decision – instead I tell myself – “It’s not over until the tags come off!”
Slow shopping hasn’t slowed my enjoyment of shopping.
If anything, learning to slow down has actually increased my enjoyment forshopping. Now instead of being addicted to the rush of buying new things, I enjoy the hunt. I get excitement from delaying the gratification and being patient until I find the perfect thing. I pride myself on being mindful and intentional with my purchases. But the real benefit is when I walk into my closet every morning, and choose an outfit from only items that I love. It’s like having a curated boutique just for me that I get to shop from every morning, and that’s the best kind of shopping there is.