A 90/10 Commitment to a Consciously Curated Closet

I’ve thought long and hard about this. I actually wrote this post about eight months ago and deleted it. (Dang it!) Here I am, however, writing it again as my thoughts and intentions on the topic I’m about to discuss continue to resonate and percolate in my mind and heart.

We make a lot of choices about style and fashion each day. We choose where to shop, how often to purchase clothes, how to maintain our clothes, and what to do with our clothes when we’re done wearing them, just for starters. If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you know I’ve spent considerable time in the past writing about conscious consumption of fashion and my thrifting tendencies.

For many months, I’ve contemplated attempting some sort of conscious or sustainable fashion challenge. Could I buy only thrifted clothes for an entire year? What if I bought only sustainable clothes for a year? What does that really even mean? How would I feel if I decided not to shop at all for an entire year?

After a few minutes of excitement about such a challenge, I always talked myself out of it. I don’t buy a lot of brand new clothes. A healthy portion of my wardrobe I already purchase secondhand. When I do buy something new, I often support independent designers, companies selling products made in the USA or with socially responsible components, or small businesses focusing on sustainable manufacturing practices. My more adventurous brain implores that it wouldn’t be a terribly hard change.

But what do I do when I want a nice new dress, an investment piece? Have I failed if I purchase a new pair of high-quality shoes on huge clearance that will last years in my closet with loads of quality wear? I didn’t want rules so definitive. I wanted a cheat option (call me soft, I don’t care).


I’ve decided for the next year I will commit to a 90/10 ratio of consciously curated additions to my closet. 90 percent of any new purchases will be secondhand, made in the US, sustainable, socially responsible, what have you. I know this definition will be refined and evolve over the course of this challenge as I continue to learn even more about being a conscious consumer of style. I already have many resources, and I look forward to finding more.

I will calculate my 90/10 ratio based on the number of pieces purchased, not the price of those pieces. Suggesting I spend just 10% of my “budget” on non-conforming investment pieces is a formula for failure. It’s also not really about the dollars. I simply strive to make conscious decisions about the origin and life cycle of my interpretation of fashion and personal style.

A few ground rules I’ve set for myself:

  1. 90 percent of items, by item count, should fit into the ‘conscious’ category. This will be my goal for the end of the twelve months, so not every month will necessarily follow this formula.
  2. Gifts don’t count. We all like receiving gifts on occasion and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t agree. However, I don’t intend to require others to unwillingly conform to my rules. My goals are mine. If others want to follow, that’s fantastic. I don’t intend, however, to force anyone to practice something not genuine for them. If they want to buy me a brand new something from their favorite fashion outlet, I plan to say “thank you!”
  3. Monthly updates. I suspect this will hold me more accountable and might be useful for others interested in joining me in this endeavor. I’ll share with you what I purchased (and ultimately how I’ve styled it) as well as whether it’s part of the 90 or the 10 and why.

If you’d like to join along with me or have suggestions about your favorite socially responsible style brands, I’d love to hear in the comments. Sharing a post about a similar challenge you’ve taken? Let me know and I’d love to check it out!

Here are a few of my favorite conscious purchases I’ve shared previously.

FashionablyEmployed.com | Orange and Navy geometric pattern dress, burgundy tights, gray belt and oxfords, camel winter coat | wear to work outfit, office style | versatile wardrobe workhorses

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  1. That’s a fantastic idea! I’ve discovered the fun of shopping for myself and my daughter on sites like moxiejean and thredup, and I like selling our gently used items to them as well. πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks. So glad you liked it! It’s really been great to find easy, affordable ways to dress our little ones. πŸ™‚

  2. Hi Jen! I work for a resale shop in Missouri and I was wondering if you’ve implemented this 90/10 rule into other aspects of your life, such as home decor? We sell a lot of clothing but home decor is a big part of what we do as well. Wondering if you have any more tips for 90/10 living that I could share with our customers and consignors on how to best shop sustainably without feeling guilt over purchasing brand new items. Thanks!

    1. That’s a great idea. I haven’t done it yet for home decor. We have a pretty minimalist home so we just don’t have much decor (ha) but a lot of what we have is secondhand or from friends.

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