My Plan For a Sustainable Wardrobe in 2021

A little while back I was tagged in a video challenge by Lauren McKinney to share my style icons, and it had me stumped.

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After really sitting with my closet, I realized that my clothes are a bit sporadic, and that I need a plan for my sustainable wardrobe in 2021. While I would definitely consider my wardrobe and consumption habits high on the sustainable wardrobe scale, my wardrobe currently has varied textures, colours, and themes – much like the wardrobe of a chameleon (even though a lot of these items are 5+ years old). While I wear a lot of these pieces for my videos, I don’t wear them all in real life. Most of the eccentric items have come from a few years ago when I was a stylist, or accepted a gifted item for a job, or fell for a beautiful vintage item offered to me by friends, clients, and family who know I like secondhand and vintage.

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I love having these pieces in my closet, but when I put them on, only a rare few make me feel like myself. I think there is a fine line between slow fashion and keeping things because they still serve a purpose, and I may have crossed it. I realized that I need to do a proper declutter (I’m not going to go crazy – watch the video here to see what I end up letting go and what my process is to declutter your closet with intention) and re-evaluate my wardrobe. 

If you’re in the same boat, I thought I would share my wardrobe plan for 2021 with you to give you some ideas. Starting with the absolute basics: 

1 – Changing hangers: I have kept my very expensive yet totally annoying stainless steel hangers that came with our custom-built closet in our first condo. These hangers are sturdy and great, but everything slips off. The pant hangers are also not well designed, and the clips keep sliding to one end of the hanger, leaving my clothes lopsided. Lopsided clothing does not make shopping in my closet appealing. 

I went to the dollar store and found a whole bunch of velvet hangers. Not the most sustainable I know, but if it means I’ll be more satisfied with what’s already in my closet, I’ll take it. I will keep some of my stainless steel sturdy hangers for bulkier items like blazers and all my coats. 

2 – Decluttering: I do this on a regular basis, and keep a pile of “maybes” throughout the year which I go through periodically, but I’m going to dedicate time to be really ruthless. I have pieces that I have put aside to sell but never got around to doing, and items that look great on, but that I don’t wear because they don’t suit me. 

3 – Closet Audit: Alongside my declutter, I’m going to do a closet audit. I already have a section of notes on my phone where I keep my shopping list as well silhouettes and colours that suit me, but I really want to dig in and make sure I haven’t missed any insights I’d never thought of before. If you’re interested in a closet audit, you can find my free guide here.

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4 – Choose my seasonal colour palettes and go back to basics: I’m slowly trying to migrate my closet to a series of colour palettes that I love for cold and warm seasons. While none of these are set in stone, and I think they can be interchangeable over the seasons, here’s what I’ve decided on: 

Core Colours: 

Black, White/Cream, Navy, Camel, Denim, touch of Grey

Fall/Winter: Core colours + mustard, navy, olive 

Spring/Summer: Core colours + baby blue, pale yellow

Prints I’ll allow: stripes, polka dots, stars, maybe a vintage floral 

I’d also like to make sure I have a robust set of basics before venturing into my accent colours like yellow or bolder prints. (I should have listened to my own advice about this before making a failed mustard sweater purchase on eBay – watch this video to see how I rectified it!)

5 – Revamp my loungewear: Thanks to pandemic lockdowns, I realized that I seriously need to up my loungewear game. As someone who always worked from home, I understood the importance of getting dressed for the day, even if it meant a simple jeans and sweater combination. But on days when I really wanted to be comfortable, I resorted to old hand me down sweaters and a mish-mash of ancient sweatpants or work out pants that would do double duty. After spending almost a year at home daily, I finally decided to let go of these items in favour of one new sweater from Tentree, a secondhand pair of faux leather leggings, and a pair of secondhand UGG slippers. I have been mixing these pieces with comfortable everyday basics I already own and it already feels like I have a whole new loungewear wardrobe. 

6 – Start adding smart: I’ve already decluttered some pieces and have replaced them with items that are more to my taste. There are a few basics I need to upgrade. I’ve been making-do with not-so-great pieces for me because for the longest time, I felt guilty letting go of something that was still in perfectly good condition.

Take for example, my Club Monaco trousers which I’ve had for 10+ years. I remember paying $80 for them when I first started working in banking. They were among my first grown-up purchases and I still love and wear them to this day. The cut, tailoring, and fabric is beautiful, but they are slightly lower waisted than what would look optimal on me, and the thighs are cut a bit tighter than what I would like. I’m keeping them until I find a new pair that I love, but I never put the replacement pair on my shopping list because they are still in great condition and do the job they need to do. I also have an emotional connection to them that makes it difficult to let them go. 

All that to say, I have added a few items to my wishlist even though there is a current satisfactory piece hanging in my closet. 

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7 – Shop secondhand first: This isn’t anything new – I always shop secondhand first but felt like it was necessary to put pen to paper on this one. Setting a more formal wardrobe goal is a more intentional way to stay on track with building a sustainable closet. I go in depth on this topic in my January newsletter which you can read here

8 – Rent the whimsy: This is a new one. Given I’m going to streamline my wardrobe and lose those magical pieces that are fun for special occasions, I plan on filling that personality gap with rentals. As I mentioned above, there are several pieces that I don’t wear on a regular basis, but do pull out for videos. I don’t want to keep items that aren’t a true representation of my style just for the sake of it. When I want to experiment or add an unexpected punch of personality, I’ll look to rentals. This way I’m not putting added pressure or demand on the earth’s resources, and I’m extending the life of clothes and participating in a circular economy. What about thrifting these kinds of pieces, you might wonder? I often get really attached to thrifted finds because I’m so proud of them (lol am I the only one?) – this option eliminates the emotional burden of having to declutter fun and beautiful items. I write more about rentals and which options are my favourites here.

9 – Re-evaluate: This might be a complete failure. I’ve always approached my closet (and life) without hard and fast rules. I like to do things that are intentional and intuitive, and get into a good flow that feels healthy. Maybe I’ll hate having such a regimented plan, I really don’t know. But I’m excited to give it a whirl.

Thank you so much for reading (it was a long one, sorry!), and if you decide to draw up a 2021 wardrobe plan, let me know! I’d love to hear how you plan on being a more conscious consumer in 2021.

photography by Kat at boakviewphotography.com 

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