This post was inspired by my over-all goal of trying to live more waste-free, especially during Plastic-free June and July. Check out this list of all the areas I’m working on in a previous post, if you are interested, and join me on Plastic-free Thursdays in my Instagram stories.
Some people don’t consider clothing as part of being waste-free, or think that if they did try to limit their consumption in this area they would have to look lame, or wear the same thing everyday and deny fashion completely… However, my friends and family can attest to the fact that after making this one change in my life, I have never looked more stylish!
But Aren’t all Artists Naturally Stylish?
I can personally answer that as a No. I am a professional artist and up until a couple months ago, I did not consider myself stylish at all. I dabbled, but no one would really describe me as always looking put together or fashionable. I didn’t have a lot of passion for shopping, though, and if I did like something I had trouble finding multiple ways to wear it once I brought it home. I still somehow accumulated plenty of clothes since I was 15, and just held on to whatever worked... forever. It was really time to purge some of my crazy art teacher, maternity, milk-stained, and no-effort outfits to decide how I wanted to represent myself as a professional artist and ocean-enthusiast. Just like with most things I do, I went a little extreme. Within 4 weeks, I had completely revamped my entire wardrobe. I donated, or cut up (for rags) 75% of my clothes, bought some new quality items, and ended up with 33 items of clothing accessories and jewelry! Best part was I could actually style my own outfit in minutes every morning. I did it through googling (as per usual), and with the help of my good friend, and fashion blogger, Blaire Rogers.
I’ll give you a little background on what brought me to this point, and then with Blaire’s help, I’ll explain the meaning and process of creating a capsule wardrobe.
A Little Background On My Fashion Journey…
I went to an art magnet middle and high school and there were so many unique and interesting styles to compete with, that I think that’s when I just decided to wear whatever was comfortable if I couldn’t just wear flip flops and a bathing suit. I focused on other things, and just let my mom shop for me, or make my clothes (yes, she really did, see above photo with my sister and grandma for proof). One of my high school friends, who has always been naturally gifted with styling her clothes, is Steffy. She has used her fashion sense and love of the color orange to create an entire career out of it! (Check her out @steffy on IG or Steffyspros&cons.com). It just wasn’t me… We were both artists in the same classes... I don’t know why it didn’t click for me, but it just didn’t.
After high school and college, my journey (or avoidance) of fashion continued… My goal as an art teacher was to become as much like Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School bus as I could. Fashion was a functional teaching tool. If the 4th grade class was learning about complementary colors, you better believe I was wearing a yellow shirt and purple skirt! If the kindergarten was learning geometric vs. organic shapes, I had shirts for examples, If the 10th graders had a unit on surrealism, my outfit was complete with a melting watch- ok, I wish I found a melting watch, but you get the point. My wardrobe was more like costumes that I preferred not to wear outside of work, than anything that represented me. I did see that having a purpose was something that motivated my shopping though.
Next, was maternity to motherhood. There are some very adorable and stylish pregnant women, but not having an affinity for shopping on top of being pregnant left me with the easy option of using the Mejeur family hand me downs. Teddy is the youngest of 6 and they had been through almost all of the daughters and daughter in laws before me…
Then, before I knew it, Cody was four, and Tanner was almost two. I realized it was time to purge and buy some new clothes, but then creating my own apparel made it easy to go back to my no-effort style, and wear my own shirts or tanks everywhere I went. Was it shameless promotion or pure laziness? Pretty sure it was the latter.
A Door Opens and Ignites Some Interest
Finally, an opportunity with Vineyard Vines came about. (See more photos here). They asked if they could take photos and video of me in my element for their Real Good People campaign. Um, Sure! I surfed, painted, and drank a smoothie at Modern Juice Co. wearing some of the cutest, most well-made clothing I’ve ever worn. The stylist paired my shoes, jewelry, hats, jackets… it was like a dream come true. The things I didn’t have a natural knack for, done for me. At the end of our day together, they gave me a generous gift card. What would have made most girls swoon, made me feel a little anxious. I realized I needed a plan. These quality clothes were definitely going to last me awhile, so I needed pieces that could create tons of different combinations. I had no idea where to start in choosing, with such limited shopping experience as it was. I did know how to google though…
After a late night, blood-shot-eyed, search session, I found the answers in the form of something I AM naturally passionate about- sustainable and minimalistic living. This woman, Courtney Carver, created a challenge called Project 333. Some of you have heard about this, or the seasonal capsule closets, but in case you haven’t, I’ll explain:
You pick 33 items of clothing, accessories, shoes, and jewelry to last you for at least 3 months (more if you live in Florida and don't have all the seasons!)
The purpose is to live with less, and use what you have to make tons of different outfits. Sounded like a crash course in styling to me! It was also the right amount of boundaries to thrive in, rather than having unlimited options. The other thing that I was drawn to about this technique was the fact that you pick a color scheme for your wardrobe, and then stick with it. I love colors, but painting with a limited palette can sometimes help you focus on specific details, create harmony, mood, and even a recognizable trait for your work. I’ll never forget when Planet Love Life gave me a bracelet as a gift and said, “We knew this had to be your favorite color, because it’s present in ALL of your paintings.” Can you guess which one? The first color in my new Project 333 color scheme; Cereleum blue. (My palette basically looks like a sunset over the ocean, ha ha).
Implementing The Plan
My reasons so far for loving this challenge:
- I didn’t have to shop much, because I could find many of those colors in my closet already (unless it was looking raggedy). I only needed 33 things total, so it really didn’t break the bank!
- I like a good color scheme and new that shopping would be a lot easier with my new limited palette, because I wouldn’t get overwhelmed with any and every color I saw. It also made sense to have a color scheme to match my artwork, since I am standing next to it or working on it in pictures so often.
- I would have so much more space in my closet after purging the unnecessary items, to clearly show what I did have and could play with.
- I would HAVE to learn how to style or I’d be wearing the same thing every week, and that would be extremely boring, (truth be told that’s what I had been doing because I didn’t even really know what I had until I purged and reorganized my closet).
After using the Marie Kondo Method, I was left only with the things that sparked joy. I was feeling very joyful, but was also missing a few staple items. I bought white jeans, blue jeans, a blue and white striped top, a romper and a jumpsuit from Vineyard Vines to start, and felt really good about it. I still had a major question though, how will I make a bunch of different outfits from what I have? I needed some professional help!
Meet Blaire Rogers. This sweet southern gal, fashion blogger, great friend, and mother (@texflora on IG), is always sharing tips on sales, ways to wear, and tutorials. I asked her if she could come over and give me some tips on styling, and answer that big question. Take it away, Blaire!
Just like Carly's amazing artwork, fashion and style is an art form in and of itself and there are no hard and fast rules to stick to. Feel free to express yourself in the way you feel best about yourself! I do think there are a few guidelines to help you when it comes to purchasing clothes and building outfits
- Choose three words that you best feel describe your personal style. For me, this is: classic, feminine and whimsical. As trends come and go and fads fade, make sure you aren't buying into a trend that doesn't match your personal style. For example, the clunky FILA athletic sneakers are a current fad in the fashion world. As cute as I think they may look on some people, it just doesn't match any of the existing clothes I have in my closet. I would have to create an entirely new outfit in order to successfully accomplish the look of this trend because it just doesn't match my personal style. Those three words you choose will help you in your decision making as you go about your shopping for clothing items. Ask yourself "does this item align with me and my personal style?" If the answer is no, no matter how cute you think it might be...put it back. There is nothing worse than unworn clothes hanging in you closet taking up space.
- Make sure your closet has tried and true staples. These are the pieces that you can keep in your closet season after season, year after year. They are versatile and timeless and my personal list of those pieces looks like this:
- a white blouse
- a great pair of jeans
- a denim jacket
- classic sneakers like converse, keds, or nikes
- a good ballet flat
- a basic camisole you can use for layering
- nude heels
- a classic black dress that can be worn for events or work
- a neutral purse you can carry with many outfits
I know for Carly, flip flops and tank top would have to be on her list, so again, it's still going to be personal to each of you when you decide. Maybe make a list of your current staples and see what else you can do with them to mix things up, or if there is something you see missing? For Carly, just adding a hat made a huge difference in her style!
(The outfit to the left is my go-to, but Blaire spiced it up with a colorful sports bra underneath and a hat. The outfit to the right is actually a dress that I had only worn once, and she said it could easily be tucked in to make a shirt!! Who knew?!)
- Regularly Purge Your Closet: If you haven't worn something in over a year, its time to part ways. No matter how sentimental a shirt may be that you wore 8 years ago when you went on your first date with your husband, if you haven't worn it in the last calendar year...it's time to donate or re-purpose it. One thing that I like to do is sell things from my closet on Poshmark. I’ve had great success in making a little extra cash to purchase new pieces for my closet. Also, my husband and I are both allowed to filter through each others wardrobe and pull out anything that we don't particularly care for, or that we don't see each other wearing often. Once we have each done our sweep, we then get to keep up to 25% of the items from the pile if we aren't ready to part ways. I can honestly say this is the easier way to purge your closet because it allows you to take the emotion out of it and have someone who's opinion you care about help you decide what you are truly using. If not a significant other, maybe a family member or friend could take on that role for you.
- Find someone who's personal style aligns with yours (or that you admire), and ask them what they like! Luckily for us, we live in the day in age where we can do this right in the palm of our hands! With bloggers and influencers providing daily outfit inspiration and ideas, we can shop their looks right there on the spot, or discover a new way to wear items we already have!
- Lay out your outfits. Yep, just like you did when you were a kid the night before the first day of school! It really does help to visually see an outfit before you put it on yourself and it can allow you to see just how versatile a piece from your closet can be by mixing and matching pieces quickly. Pull a top and then three different bottom options like jeans, shorts and a skirt and see how many ways you can create an outfit with a single piece. This is exactly what I did with Carly and she commented on just how helpful it was to be able to have a plan with how to wear each item in her closet. (You can watch one shirt worn several different ways in our video below).
- All in all, have fun with fashion! You can follow the rules, make the rules or ignore the rules...that's the beauty of personal expression!
Well, There you have it. We styled about 30 different outfits, complete with shoes, jewelry, hats, jackets, etc. and I feel so much more prepared to get dressed in the morning. Every item is versatile, functional, and represents me and my work. The cool thing is that with such fewer clothing, I notice I take better care of them too. I catch stains quicker, and I hang them up where I can see them instead of stuffed in a drawer. I know that they have to last me at least 3 months to stick with my plan, so I want them to stay nice. In Florida, most of the items in my wardrobe will be used year round for years, but I will probably add a couple long sleeves in the winter and obviously donate and replace pieces that are looking too worn, (or use them as cut up rags when they are too far gone). In this way, I will limit my own consumption, keep good quality clothes for longer, and help avoid contributing to the mountains of waste that fast fashion produces everyday.
I know I took it to an extreme with the 33 items, but I really just hope this inspired you to look at your closet a little differently, and maybe if fashion overwhelms you, this challenge (or your version of it) can help you learn to have more fun with it too!