My mom has always told me to be a smart shopper. I’ve also heard her use the term “sustainable” shopping. But what does that really mean? I think to truly understand this term, I had to go back and assess what I wore on a daily basis and compare it to my mom’s closet. In my eyes, she will always be the first person I looked to for style advice, and still do to this day. She has always had this great way of buying the basics that will last a lifetime and can be continuously mixed and matched, or passed down to me. I cherish the few things that she’s given me from her tried and true closet: a vintage denim jacket, a classic little black dress, a field jacket from L.L. Bean, and some wonderfully well-made cardigans and jumpers.
The things that my mom owns – as well as the rest of her generation – have the same purpose: items that are meant to remain classic. This could mean different things for every person – for my mom it’s an old pair of broken-in Blundstone boots, a relaxed flannel button down, and Ray-Bans passed down from her dad. I just think it’s simply amazing how she (and her parents – my grandparents) learned to cultivate a collection of items in their closets that still look brand-new today.
Now I look at my own closet and am thoroughly disappointed. Not because I have nothing to wear, but because it is the exact opposite of what my mom would say about being a “smart” or “sustainable” shopper. I’ve got a few random blouses and dresses I’ve worn maybe once, a pair of trousers I’ve had since I was 12, and a plethora of other things that are simply just collecting dust or aren’t being worn. The only things in there that I constantly wear are the “classics” – my striped tops, blue jeans, cable-knit sweaters, and pea coat plus a 30 year old Hawaiian shirt that my grandfather used to wear that somehow fits me perfectly.
Smart shopping isn’t about buying what is “in” or immediately buying an item that is on sale. I mean, let’s be honest – a lot of the stuff we buy was on some form of sale rack. Would we have bought the same item had it been full price, or did we like it just enough to buy it when it was 75% off? I think we have to learn to save and splurge on items that we really love – especially as university students. It’s sad that fashion today is simply “fast” fashion, and not built to last more than a few months. In fact, one of the biggest producers of waste is the fashion industry. There are tons of unsold clothing piling up landfills, when we could really be focusing on choosing things that will last longer in our closets rather than outside polluting the earth.
So, my goal for 2018 is this: to invest in classics, reevaluate what I own, and to limit the purchases I make. My parents have items in their closets that they’ve had since they started university and are still in pristine condition. I think that it’s simply amazing that they really saved for these items and they’ve lasted till now because of how much they took care of them and the effort that went into making them. I believe “smart” shopping is easy if you amount just a few minutes of your time researching a brand or even just opening your closet and asking yourself “Do I really need a new _____?” be it a dress, sweater, or new pair of shoes. Hopefully, I’ll be on track to being more of a smart shopper. If not…well, I can always look to my mom.
Here are my top 5 tips to being a smart shopper:
- Ask yourself if the item is worth the splurge. Can you afford it? Does it go with at least 5 things you already own? Do you have something similar? Always think before you buy, and invest in things that are good quality
- Cleaning out your closet is a messy business. Definitely get rid of items you haven’t worn in a year. Make sure you leave things for each season – it’s a bad idea to get rid of all your summer clothing all at once, and then it gets hot all of a sudden and you’re in a pickle.
- Ask yourself what you already have, and what wardrobe you can make with the items you already own. Do you see a similar color palette coming together? A similar style or trend that all your clothes adhere to? The next items you add to your closet should adhere to the things you already have.
- Ask your parents or a friend if you’re on the fence about a purchase. Most likely, you won’t actually need it. I know it seems silly to ask your parents for fashion advice, but it is most likely that they haven’t changed their style in years and somehow things still work out for them.
- Always start small if you’re building a wardrobe. Start with the basics and then you can add to it. Don’t go crazy, and always remember: quality over quantity! And keep in mind, the best things are found in the most unexpected places: a charity shop, your mom’s closet, or maybe you already own it!