Shopping my Shipping: shop your closet challenge, Part 5

Reduce your clothing consumption by rediscovering what you already own

Shopping my shipping has turned into something of a journey in its own right. I didn’t expect to learn so much about my relationship with clothes just by trying on a few old things! The idea of shopping your closet is a simple one: that by rediscovering clothes you already own but had forgotten about you will be able to resist the temptation to buy new ones, and therefore reduce your overall consumption of clothing. I have certainly found this to be the case. But more than that, I’ve also found it is starting to change the way I think about clothes in general, and what clothes I want to buy in future. I’ve always been something of an over-consumer when it comes to clothes, and have spent a truly shameful sum of money on clothes over the years, so finding a way to totally rethink my experience of clothing has been surprisingly profound. Even when I am now drawn to browse a clothing website, I really feel myself thinking ‘why do I need that garment specifically? Will I still love it months or years down the line, and does it fulfill a need?’ I’m hoping that this engagement with the purpose of clothes and making sure that each piece earns its place in my closet will mean that I can spend less overall, and that when I do buy clothes it can be from more expensive but ethical and sustainable brands.

Here are a few more pieces pulled from my shipping! If you want to see what else I discovered check out the rest of the Shopping my Shipping series.

New Look Button Detail Vest Dress

Full length photo of Helen wearing a black, ribbed sleeveless dress, with large buttons down a v-neckline, with yellow sandals.

This is another example of a vest dress (see the first one here), and one that nearly falls foul of the same issues as the last one I looked at. The proportions aren’t quite right, I feel the shoulder straps are a little out of alignment. But the thicker, ribbed material and the buttons give this one enough interest to work as a standalone dress. In the office I can actually do up more of the buttons to make it a little more work appropriate, and again, I’ve popped big skirts on over this. So it does double duty as a dress and a top, and thus has earned a place in my wardrobe.

Oliver Bonas White Stripe Dress

Full length photo of Helen wearing a white with thin black stripes knee-length dress with a belt in the same fabric around the waist, and black sandals.

Shockingly I have to admit I’ve never actually worn this dress. I bought it online not long before I left for Australia, thinking I didn’t have enough summer dresses. Sadly this one did not live up to my high expectations of Oliver Bonas. It is made from a jersey material that, while very comfortable, is almost completely see-through. I don’t think I own anything that matches my skin tone closely enough to be hidden under this, and even if I did I think that would still look weird. So this one, shameful though it is, will be going to a new home without ever having been worn out of mine! There truly are some perils to buying online.

Zara Flower Print Peplum

Full length photo of Helen wearing a poppy print peplum top with mock neck, over black jeans with black sandals.

Remember what I said about loving peplum tops? This is an absolutely classic example. The waist is in totally the wrong place for me, and combined with the high neckline makes my proportions look totally off. I don’t know what I was thinking with that neckline. I’m always quite self-conscious about my double-chin area, so this was never going to be a great choice. Whatever it actually looked like, I was unlikely to feel great it in. Below is an illustration of how this top makes me feel. Someone will feel great in this top, but that person is definitely not me.

Closer up photo of Helen wearing the same top, with hunched shoulder and arms out to emphasise her neck region.

Green faux-leather New Look skirt

Full length photo of Helen wearing an above-the-knee A-line dark green faux leather skirt with a black ribbed turtle neck top and black flat pumps.

This is one of my all-time favourite pieces. It’s faux leather, so I don’t need to worry about breaking my vegetarianism, and I love this dark green colour. Strangely I don’t wear this skirt casually very often; it tends to spend more time in the office. Pictured is one of my favourite ways of styling it: with a black turtle neck and little black shoes (also frequently paired with my patent black brogues). I got this in the tall size, but even then it’s a touch short, so I like how the turtle neck balances this out. I can just about get on my bike in this too, so it’s point all round!

Off-the-shoulder floral print dress

Full length photo of Helen wearing a knee-length wrap-style dress in black with red and pink floral print.

From the hey-day of off-the-shoulder/cold-shoulder dresses a few years ago, this one has managed to maintain a high standing in my estimation even as fashions have changed. I love the light, floaty fabric, the length is good, and the shoulder details are pretty. The wrap style makes the skirt a little dangerous in high winds, but so far I’ve managed to not embarrass myself. This one isn’t so easy to dress down; it has a distinctly garden party feel to it. But if you pop the off-the-shoulder bits on-the-shoulder it goes well with a black top underneath. This is perhaps a slightly over-used way to deal with a summer dress in the colder months, and it’s one I can’t admit to doing very often. But it’s a cute dress, and I’m not sure how many garden parties I’m going to get to any more, so it’ll have to earn its keep in my wardrobe somehow!

Shopping your closet can be seen as one of the many tools at our disposal for reducing the carbon footprints of our wardrobes. The world of fashion, and fast fashion especially, teaches us to want new things all the time, to ‘refresh’ our ‘look’ with new trends each season, and to throw items out once they’re no longer ticking the right trend-led boxes. But by stopping and thinking about what we buy, and actively engaging with what we already own, we can take important steps towards reducing the enormously damaging impact these practices have on our environment, and on labour standards across the world.

Fashion isn’t going to revolutionise through individual action alone, but any acts we can take to improve our own habits must be celebrated. Many of us, myself included, will have closets full of items from fast fashion companies, and it’s not always possible, financially or otherwise, to entirely cut out non-ethical brands from our new purchases. But if we take steps to reduce our new purchases, and re-use what we already own, we will be helping to reduce the negative impacts of our consumption. So next time you feel the pull of ASOS sales, or find yourself scrolling through Topshop, put the phone down, step away from the laptop, and see what treasures you can re-find by shopping your own closet. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised.

Have you tried shopping your closet? What was your favourite piece you rediscovered? And what steps are you taking to try to reduce your clothing consumption? I’d love to hear your suggestions and experiences in the comments!

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