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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Fashion Versus the Environment: Your clothes can reflect both style and sustainability. Personal stylist Loren North shows us how.

Sep 29, 2016 04:32PM

Looking into our closet, we may find ourselves wearing 20 percent of what we own 80 percent  of the time, while seeing unworn items with the price tags still on. We may feel guilty about spending the money or frustrated about our body image. This is called wardrobe rage.

The impact of the fashion industry on the environment and society is becoming better known, too—cited by some as the second-biggest polluter after oil. Data from 2012 estimates approximately 145 million tons of coal and approximately of 1.5 to 2 trillion gallons of water go into fiber production every year. It’s not just the garment manufacturing that is an issue. The average American throws away more than 60 pounds of textile waste each year, and only 10 to 20 percent of that is donated and resold.

Following fashion trends is not a sustainable habit for the planet. It’s time to assess our closet and lifestyle to evaluate what we own and determine how we can best use it. The solution lies in purchasing the best quality we can afford, buying less and keeping it longer. Here are some tips.

Define our style – This is an often overlooked part of the process and why we find ourselves impulse shopping for items that do not go with anything in our closet. Oftentimes we purchase something and are not sure what else to wear it with or maybe it doesn’t sit right because it’s not part of our style. Rather than continue the impulse buying cycle, critically think about the style we are trying to achieve both professionally and outside of work. Take stock of our lifestyle as well – are we on our feet all the time, do we have children, do we travel? All of these are our realities and can help us focus on what works for us. Use magazines, Pinterest and street style for inspiration.

Buy less – This is crucial. Make a list of the items we need for a month to limit impulse shopping, which will decrease as we focus only on items that make the cut. By buying less, we will have the budget to buy the best quality we can afford, which generally lasts much longer. Shop secondhand, consignment or online for bargains.

Inventory what we own – If we are not wearing certain garments but can’t bear to part with them, use a critical eye to determine if it’s due to the style or fit. If it’s the fit, support a local business and have the items altered. For accessories that need repair, consider a shoe/luggage repair service; they can make a pair of shoes look like new or more comfortable. The same goes for bags, purses, luggage and computer cases. Remember to adjust the fit, silhouette and proportions so they are flattering. If the item is no longer a part of our style, donate it or give it to someone.

The objective and trained eye of a personal stylist can help refine our individual fashion style and help us make the difficult decisions about what should remain in our closet. Stylists can also provide shopping services and a network of support for alterations and repairs.

Loren NorthLoren North is a personal stylist in the Phoenix-metro area and owner of Through the Closet Door. For more information, visit


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