My relationship with clothes is one of my favorite things I like to nurture. Clothes are a way I care for my body so I take care of what I put on (and in) it. There are many reasons why I like to look put together. Because it comes naturally, I like to look good, I like the idea of exploring different styles and aesthetics, as a Black dark-skinned woman I am aware of the perceptions people make of me based on the way I dress…oh and did I say I like to look good? Lol!
However, I’m not particularly financially free as I would like to be at this moment. That student budget…
Additionally, as I become aware of the repercussions of consumerism on the environment, I have been also making an effort in taking more cautiousness when buying or disposing of clothes.
So what do you do when you love clothes but also want to be conscious of your budget and the environment?
Here are some tips I follow when I shop:
- Shop seasonally: I allow myself one big shopping spree during each two seasons fall/winter and spring/summer, around sales time.
- Wait for great deals: one thing to know is that the sales are gonna come. Do not be afraid to miss one, there’s another one coming. Aim for one you think will be the best for you, Labor Day deals, Black Friday, 4th of July or Easter deals. Choose one and stick to it for the year. For example around November, Sephora has a week dedicated to deals and discount, and that is when I allow myself to buy gifts, buy that “want” product that I have been eyeing, restock on certain products. Know to not fall for certain discount tactics some companies employ such as giving out discounts that span around the same month you made a purchase. Just don’t take the card, it’s just an incentive to make you fel like you have to come back else you are not taking advantage of “saving money”. The best way to save money is to not spend any. Throw it away, there WILL be another opportunity.
- Plan ahead: Planning your outfits (clothing attire for work, a big event coming up, outfits for the week) can help to not impulsively buy items. Also this gives you time to see what can be created with your current collection or what you may not need, lack. More tips below.
- USE PINTEREST: this app? Chef kiss. Save pins of outfits you like and try to replicate it with things ALREADY in your closet. As shown in the pictures, except for the ruffled pants, I used pieces already in my closet to recreate these looks I had saved in my Pinterest board. Sometimes it’s not that we don’t have clothes, we just don’t know how to style them into outfits. This also is helpful in moments when I feel like I don’t know what or have nothing to wear.
I also use Pinterest to keep track of things I plan on buying so that when it’s time to shop, I’m not mindlessly buying clothes but outfits that fit my aesthetic/style.
Like the ruffled pants shown above, were saved in my board for months before purchasing them and that is where the planning comes in. I buy an item with concrete outfits planned for it. Having clothes is not the same as having outfits and knowing this difference is helpful in creating a look, saving money, and being sustainable.
- Sell/donate clothes and buy used clothes: if you have something you don’t wear, doesn’t fit you, you don’t like please donate or sell them. See if your school/company is doing a donation drive, donate to companies who aren’t overloaded. There are several tailors around in dry cleaners, see if they can modify the item into something new, or a quilt, blanket. Do not indulge in mindless dumping of your clothes. Don’t be afraid to buy second hand. It’s the same experience and no one can notice if that’s a concern. Have you ever noticed? You can also sell your clothes on several platforms like Mercari, Poshmark, local thrift shops etc. Please don’t overprice your items. People in actual need, shop from the same platforms and with a lot of people overpricing their items this has been affecting communities who depend on these platforms to get their clothing needs met. Don’t be that Gen-Z.
- Do not follow these trends til the point where you are buying clothes to keep up: Unlike other generations, ours with so much social media we are more bound to see trends coming up every two weeks literally. For your sanity find what you like and don’t be afraid to stick to it. Or switch it up mindfully! Do not indulge in mindless shopping with the mindset that you’re going to sell or donate. Do not follow several influencers who just do clothing hauls. It’s not a sustainable or realistic practice, there are other ways to express ones love for fashion without constantly buying new clothes.
- Exchange clothes: hold a clothing haul amongst your friends, see who likes what and see whether you can mix match just to refresh each other’s closets.
- Invest in staple clothing pieces and jewelry: sometimes it’s okay to save up for something a bit more expensive that you like and will be a unique piece in your closet. It gives you a thrill, elevates your closet, and teaches you discipline while you save to buy something. Also once you buy it you will care for it more because it took a lot to obtain it. Same comes with jewelry. Jewelry just like shoes can elevate an outfit. Have staple pieces that are going to last. Even if it’s just one, that’s perfectly fine.
- You don’t need several versions of the same thing. PLEASE ABEG! I promise you having 4 pairs of black jeans, is unnecessary, it is not that deep. No one is gonna notice. We are the main characters of our lives, but not the world. No one is tracking your clothes. Don’t fix what doesn’t need to be fixed. If what you have works fine for you, then leave it.
- Recognize needs versus desires. If you get a new job that requires more professional clothing than what’s in your closet, that’s a need. Visible changes to weight therefore new clothing is needed, (because current clothes can’t be modified by a tailor) that’s a need. Impulsively buying new items because you want to keep up? Pause, re-evaluate, ask “what can I use in closet to recreate this fit?”, sleep on it for several nights, if you don’t think bout it for five more times, you don’t need and this want can wait.
Disclaimer: I am aware of the discourse of not supporting certain brands because of particular insensitive actions and ethics they perpetuate when it comes to workers’ rights and sustainability. However, until there is a change in our capitalist society that doesn’t place the burden of change on poor people (ie why don’t people buy from more sustainable brands vs why don’t sustainable brands make their clothes more affordable) this conversation will have not realistic executions.
The required significant changes need to happen from the people above in the chain, those profiting from the market. Smaller changes can from those of us who can afford to be more conscious of our shopping habits. Please don’t go around shaming a single parent of 4 or a low-income family for not being more sustainable with their clothing choices.
Nonetheless, as we need to individually evaluate why we feel the urge to purchase. Are we buying things to show off to others, keep up appearances? Is our self-care only dictated by consumerism, does it come tied to money? Why? We ought to give thought to how consumerism is affecting ourselves, others, our planet.
To Watch: “Fast fashion: The dumping ground for unwanted clothes” -BBC World News
To Watch: Black women deserve more than “luxury.” -Kimberly Foster
P.S. There is so much discussion occurring right now over Black women in luxury, I have not quite gathered my thoughts together on the topic yet, however, I do want to say Black women showcasing their luxury online are not the problem. First, if we truly look at the stats of who is majorly contributing to waste it is not Black people. Secondly, these stories need to be shown, even though they may not be relatable to you. Just because you don’t find something representative of your life, doesn’t mean there is not someone out there who does. Allow their content to inspire you. When they carry their Chanel bag, carry your non-designer bag with the same attitude. I think it is about damn time Black women occupy these spaces. Yet, as explained in Kim’s video, we also should not allow this to override the struggles that are still occurring and systemic changes that need to occur so ALL Black women can enjoy (not just materialistic) luxury. We are not free until we all are.