Take a look at what you’re wearing right now. Do you know what it’s made of? Do you know where it came from? Do you know the path it took from raw materials through production and into your closet? Chances are you don’t. To be frank, I’m wearing yoga pants, a sweatshirt, and a tank top right now and haven’t a clue how they got to the store from which I purchased them.
The same can probably be said for much of the food we eat, but I’ll save that for another day.
I think about this regularly and have slowly spent time learning a bit more here and there to educate myself. I’m not going to stand on a soap box and condescendingly spout out all the knowledge I have about the roots and travels of our clothes. I don’t know a lot of the answers. I do, however, want to learn more and would love to have you along for the journey.
As I explore the past, present and future of our clothes within the realm of the larger, global fashion and consumption industry, I’ve shared my 90/10 Socially Conscious Style Challenge (90/10 SCSC) as well as the first update on my progress not long ago. While I still have lots of clothes, I continue to pare down my closet and donate or sell to resale shops more than I replace. It feels refreshing.
What’s a “Responsible” Style Blogger?
Being a style blogger feels a bit at odds with my distaste for fast fashion and excessive consumption at times. I know some bloggers execute their style stories through minimalist and capsule wardrobes or through serious remixing tutorials and ideas, like Caitlin at Greater Than Rubies. These are the exceptions.
Most style bloggers share loads of brand new outfits day in and day out. While I won’t name any names, I’ve read some blogs from ladies who love all these pieces and then routinely buy them in multiple colors. They share about so many new things they buy, they can’t possibly wear them all. Certainly they aren’t wearing them more than a few times before they collect dust or get tossed. The credit card bills must be outrageous?!
I’m not throwing stones. I’ve been there. In the continuing process of defining and redefining my style, I purchased things I never wore enough to make them worth my dollars. It kills me. As I’ve become more cognizant about it, I’ve done this far less frequently. But there’s still room for improvement.
Beyond buying insane amounts of clothes for ourselves, many style bloggers use affiliate links and encourage readers to buy new pieces as well. I have done this. I still use affiliate links for a select number of brands.
I’ve been at odds with myself, though, about the extent to which I should use them ever since I started the blog. I’ve even had readers ask why I don’t use them or why I don’t use LIKEtoKNOW.it on Instagram. Should I use them, I ask myself? It can be time-consuming to add in all the links, especially for smaller blogs that don’t convert purchases at the same rate as larger blogs. On the contrary, we’ve learned just how lucrative affiliate links and related sponsored style content can be for certain bloggers, bringing in tens of thousands of dollars for bloggers per post at times.
To be clear, that will never be me. I’m no style maven and, quite frankly, I’m probably too old to garner that level of appeal. Thus, I don’t contemplate whether I should choose ethical or socially responsible style promotion over tens of thousands of dollars in my bank account. Those aren’t my options.
I have contemplated though whether the tiny affiliate commissions I might earn would be worth encouraging readers to buy outfits inspired by what I wear. I’d be remiss to suggest that nearly every blogger wouldn’t appreciate a financial reward in exchange for the vast time and effort dedicated to development of their blog if it fit with their values and brand.
There are plenty of cases affiliate links might be entirely reasonable. Let’s say I wore a lovely dress and a reader wanted to add it to their sparse collection of work wear for a new job with a new dress code. They like what I shared and can’t replicate it or use it to inspire an outfit from something they already have. They likely will buy something anyway, so why not facilitate that process for them by linking directly to it in my blog. This mutually benefits the reader, the brand, and my bank account.
In the end, I decided generic affiliate links for clothing and accessories weren’t consistent with my personal philosophy. I have chosen to pursue a few select affiliate relationships with companies that provide products or services I use regularly and feel are genuine to my personal brand.
I’m also not here to call out or criticize others who use them. I read some really great blogs from bloggers I love that use them. I’m not saying they’re wrong. I do, however, encourage all of us to honestly consider how many clothes we really need and when our purchases might be excessive. Does that 10th skirt or 12th pair of jeans or 53rd dress (in my case) really bring joy to our lives? If so, is it more joy than using that money in another way like a date with a friend or family member, toward a membership at a yoga studio, or even a donation to a favorite charity?
The True Cost
I recently watched the new documentary, The True Cost. For all but those of you who are experts in the fast fashion supply chain (and probably already know everything it has to share), I encourage you to watch it. I suspect it will bring a new perspective to the impact buying another new piece from the latest cheap fashion depot has on the world around us. As you might expect, it’s not good.
Aside from its inclusion of scenes from high end fashion shows, I really appreciated the stories. High end fashion, with its limited seasons and better, longer lasting quality and construction seems unfairly juxtaposed next to the fast “throw-away” fashion that’s spawned massive and harmful growth in consumption around the world.
If nothing else, watch it and learn a bit more about the side effects of the fast fashion churn on our world and the communities producing it. You can rent it for $4.99 on iTunes; just about the cost of one throw-away shirt. Better yet, grab some friends for a movie night. It’s definitely less than the cost of a meal otherwise shared with girlfriends.
The documentary doesn’t suggest we set aside all desires for fashionable attire, only that we consider being more responsible about the choices that we make. We can avoid the options willing to compromise fair wages and reasonable quality working conditions in exchange for cheap, throw away clothing. These are my words to paraphrase, but you can watch the documentary to garner your own perspective.
It’s Not That Hard
As I progress through my 90/10 SCSC, I hope to share with you ways to be more conscious about your filling your closet. Does it even need to be full? Maybe half full is plenty to get dressed for your everyday life and even a few special occasions? I know many of us don’t have hours of extra time or bank accounts full of extra dollars, but I don’t think being a more responsible shopper has to be time-consuming or expensive.
Next time you like an outfit I share, pin it to your Pinterest Style Inspiration Board and then check your own closet. Can you shop your own closet to recreate something inspired by the outfit you loved? It doesn’t have to be an exact replica. Remember when I shared about taking one style formula and making it yours in five different ways? Apply that practice. You might be surprised at what you find.
I’ve also shared an entire series on using Pinterest to Remix Your Closet; learn to love what you already have.
If you’d like more inspiration to be a more socially conscious shopper, check out my Socially Conscious Shopping Pinterest Board. I’m always adding new goodness!
If you have ways you shop more responsibly, please share in the comments. I’d love to hear about them!