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Being more sustainable, when it comes down to your clothes, is hard.
There are so many options, and so many conflicting statements.
Should I buy only “all natural materials?” Should I buy second hand? Should I buy my regular brands, but the sustainable lines? Use what I have, even if I don’t like it anymore?
This can get so confusing and frustrating!!
You may even find yourself being hard on yourself if you haven’t been able to do what you meant to do, or if you find out that sustainable for this brand means something else for another brand!
After spending years working as a designer in fashion, some of it spent trying to change it from the inside out, there is one conclusion that is more important to me than anything else.
Fashion should not be making people feel bad, it should be a source of good and fun!
Fashion was my source of inspiration and the most amazing thing to do, until I realised fashion doesn’t actually make people feel good.
Not in design, not in production, and certainly not the people wearing it!
I had to change how I worked and thought about fashion.
That is what I did, and what I am trying to spread into the world, because I believe that everyone should have as much fun as I am having with dressing themselves!
This blog is for you, as a fashion and planet lover, because I think you deserve to feel fantastic in your clothes!
Buying the right things is stressful
From my own experience I know that wanting to buy the right things can be very hard.
You want to do this right, right?!
When I was starting to look into being more sustainable I became very stressed because there is just no way to be really doing this right.
Everything that appeared okay turned out to also have a red flag.
Buying second hand mostly didn’t work for me. I had to sacrifice looking good.
Buying sustainably meant that I still bought something new, while the world has enough clothes anyway.
If I was shopping with friends and found myself thrilled there was a sustainable or organic line in the stores they went in, I later found out they weren’t as sustainable as they claimed to be.
It was super confusing to find out what I really wanted to do because most brands have a different way to approach sustainability.
Do you want to wear clothes that involve animal-fur? But I don’t really want to wear plastic fibres too, right? And bamboo isn’t as “natural” if you look at the process, either.
Brands try to be more transparent about what they are doing and luckily loads of brands are getting away from the “tree hugger” – style they used to be in.
Unfortunately most companies are a long way from being truly honest about what they do, and with new studies and different interpretations of old studies coming up every minute, there is just no way to be doing this right.
This means it isn’t going to be easy to buy your clothes and be happy in them unless you do something different: yourself.
Let’s assume here, as has been said by many authorities in the sustainable fashion field, that the most sustainable outfit you have is one that you love and want to wear forever!? Something you do not want to throw away and that you will wear as much as you can?
I am sure we can agree on that…
It means you need to put yourself centre stage.
Not the things you should or shouldn’t be doing.
Let’s find out if I can help you with that, right now!
No, I don’t tell you what to wear!
When I was a kid, I used to be very creative.
I had bags and bags of items handed down to me by aunties filled with clothing that I then changed to wear.
Or I simply wore them the way they were.
But that had a downside.
I was thought of as a bit weird.
And when I hit puberty, that was just too hard.
So I finally had a bit more money, and clothes were getting cheap. I went for it.
I was an early adopter. Or, maybe it was just my eye for things that are new and different that made me wear items before they hit the main-public.
I was an intuitive buyer. I can feel it when I really like something.
At the same time, the whole thing seemed a bit ridiculous.
Not wearing things twice, having to keep up with the latest trends as if your life depends on it…. You know, that kind of stuff.
And after a while of working in fashion, I had enough.
I had seen the documents and the reports of how the workers were treated, and what happened with our clothes after we (hardly) wore them.
And then something dawned on me that made it all fall apart in my hands…
It doesn’t make you feel better!
Maybe if we all feel like magic wearing fashion, I wouldn’t find it all so hard, but we don’t!
Fashion is put up in a way that we have an ideal to aspire to about how we should look, but none of us ever have a shot to look like that ideal!
Somehow we ended up in this world where we measure how we look with what we see out there on others.
If how you look fits in with what you see out there, you are good.
But that idea keeps changing, making more waste, and creating the need for new.
It is in fact something that is pushed by the fashion industry to make sure that they can keep selling their stuff.
Making the individual feel like they are never good enough when they look in the mirror…
Because I am a designer, I keep getting the following question, “What should I wear?” or, “how does this look on me?”.
I would never give you an answer.
Because it is not up to me to tell you what you look good in. That is entirely up to you.
You should base your wardrobe not on what a fashion designer tells you. You should base it on you!
I stopped completely as a designer for a while.
I hate to admit this, but for a few years I didn’t look like a designer at all. I looked like a tired and neglected mum.
I had totally lost my joy of fashion.
Until I found back what I had lost so many years ago: that creativity that I used to have when I was a kid.
Now I have a wardrobe that I call a regenerative wardrobe.
It means I keep using my old garments as a basis for new things.
Not all of my garments are regenerative, though.
But quite a few of them are unique items that I love to the bone, and that you wouldn’t find in a store.
The only way that I can do that is by knowing and feeling that the only person I have to dress for is myself.
I hope to inspire that in you, too.
Easier said than done
I believe that if we can let go of what others do and say, we can start to dress the way we want to. If that is the case, you love your wardrobe forever and are very careful with what you buy, tackling the most important issue in sustainable fashion.
It is easier said than done, to dress the way you want to, because we are so used to adjusting to the norm.
The way to stop adjusting and creating a wardrobe that you love is by loving and respecting yourself, knowing who you are, and being creative with that.
That is all there is to it.
But I would never say that it is easy.
I am going to go out on a limb here and assume that you are into sustainable fashion because you are sensitive to others getting hurt and to our planet getting hurt.
It means you are someone who cares about other people and have an antenna for how others feel.
It means that when you were growing up, you adjusted.
How you have been raised and what happened to you may also still have an impact on how you feel about yourself right now.
Add to that your creative spirit that at least a few times in life made you feel like you were a tad odd…
So you are used to adjusting who you are to others.
It is hard to convey in a blog what you should be doing to increase your self-respect, as I work with people for weeks, or even months, to make sure that they feel good about themselves.
It is also a very personal journey.
But fashion and daring to wear what you love really goes that deep.
It is hard to wear only what YOU love and like if you are still apologetic about who you really are.
If you still adjust.
I’ll give you something that might help you, though…
How do you look in the mirror?
What do you see?
Do you see everything that is “wrong” with you?
How you see yourself in the mirror is what is going to make a massive difference when you are trying to decide how you want to look.
Now let me tell you a little something about what our brain does.
We see 4.000 to 10.000 ads a day. That is not taking into account the movies we see in a day.
Our brain takes these pictures and translates them in our brain as “normal” because there are so many of them.
Our brain doesn’t distinguish between fake and real.
It will take everything as real.
So when we look in the mirror we compare ourselves to an image in our head that isn’t real.
The pictures we see of faces and bodies are photoshopped, put under perfect lighting, and have hours spent sitting in professional makeup chairs. Not forgetting that most of these pictures are made of people that make a living posing and being looked at. They earn their money by looking good.
That means their main goal of the day is working out and visiting the beauty salon.
What would happen with your self-image if there was no choice but to only compare yourself with the people living in your street?
How would you feel differently about your body if your neighbour was your reference?
You can make sure this effect has less impact on you, by talking to yourself positively when you look in the mirror and by making sure that you realise the effort that goes into a picture.
When you see a movie-star-poster, realise that much of it is fake and how much work goes into that.
Don’t believe me?
Google celebs without makeup.
They are an awful lot like you and me. And make sure you look at those pictures knowing all they lack is makeup.
They still have perfect skin and eyebrows because there is someone controlling their food/exercise and hair-plucking regime…
So what do you buy?
If you have accepted yourself and learned to love who you are, you are in the perfect position to create your own style!
Give yourself a bit of time. You need to learn how to do this.
It means you have to try stuff out and unleash your creativity.
What is the most important thing to consider when you are curating your wardrobe?
Do I love this?
Do I love this down to the herringbone?
Because it is hard to feel if you do when you are in a store, I came up with a few categories.
You can come up with your own answers so you have a kind of checklist:
• No trends
If you love an item, but that feeling comes from a trend you spotted, it isn’t something you are going to love forever.
• Love the story
Where is the garment from? What does it represent? Was it a small designer that created it? Or is it bought from someone that you want to support?
• Look at your past
There are a lot of tips and ideas of what you should be wearing again, from your wardrobe in your past. Don’t fear them because they “went out of style.” Wear it with passion, and you will look amazing!
• Don’t be too harsh
Sustainable clothing always has a red flag. So make up your own ideas of what you love and like. The most important thing is that YOU love it & therefore will wear it forevah
• Love the material
If you find it comfortable, you will walk around in it. If it is itchy or stingy, you aren’t going to wear it! There are also different ways in which fabric looks in the mirror. Get to know yourself so you can turn down a garment on the basis of its fabric quality.
• Check the quality
Some garments are made in a rush. If the buttons fall off the garment easily, it’s because they are only attached with a few stitches. Also, an overstitch should be straight. It is a stitch line clearly visible, and if it isn’t straight, someone was on a very very late shift making this item.
• Send a message
Ask the maker, “Who made my clothes?” even after you bought something. From experience, I can tell you that the designers making your outfits want to know how you feel about them!
The moment you are unapologetic about who you are, you have your own style.
I mean it!
Even if you wear all kinds of different items.
That may simply be your style.
In fashion nowadays, so many different things are possible, you do not have to scare away from something because it is hardly possible to be “out of fashion”.
I believe that in the future, the style-icons will be people that have perfected their own unique style, because we are currently saturated with trends, and, frankly, quite sick of them.
If you feel good about who you are, you have the guts to wear what you like, and you will develop a style that is unique and that you love.
I hope this helps you to trust your own ideas, instinct, and love for your clothes.
We just aren’t very creative anymore when it comes to clothing.
We don’t know how to think outside the box. What we see is what we believe is possible.
Even if we often do not feel good in it!
Wearing what you like means thinking for yourself and ridding yourself of that standard image.
What do you love?
You don’t know this yet, because it isn’t visible on others.
You can make it visible on yourself, but only by trying, and by dressing yourself only for you!
Enjoy dressing yourself in clothes you never want to get rid of.
Find who you are, and be an expert at that!
After trying to change the fashion industry from the inside out, I realised that all the solutions that I was trying to bring already existed in fashion.
We are just not used to wearing and looking for them.
So, I realised my mission is authentic self-expression because the change isn’t in the fashion system, it is in the people.
Whomever you are, and however you want to change your wardrobe, it is possible.
You just have to go for it, try it out, change, unleash your creativity!
I help people to do exactly that.
Find me on my website www.marjoleinvandedonk.com or on instagram @marjolein_creativist.
I love to hear from you and if this blog helped you in any way!