As another Fashion Revolution Week has come to a close, I've noticed the slow fashion movement gaining some real steam.
Like the organic food movement, sustainable fashion has become more of a standard amongst consumers. Some women are willing to take the leap and completely forgo all fast fashion products in protest of the inhumane working conditions of fast fashion factories as well as the pollution crisis the industry is causing. In a recent Instagram post, I wrote about the more personal problem that occurs when women depend upon fast fashion.
But a Zare-less existence can feel like a personal style death sentence for those who've been shopping there (and at similar stores) for so long. While many are rooting for the demise of fast fashion, many can't help but wonder:
"What will I wear?"
And look, it's nothing to ashamed about. The fast fashion industry has created a problematic behavioral condition amongst it's consumers (i.e., everyone) and that's what we've all grown up with. But trendiness doesn't equal stylishness and your personal style (no matter how simple or bold) is by far more unique than the cheap looks Zara churns out every two weeks.
Discovering your true personal style is both liberating and enlightening. It can help you take a moment to ask yourself, "What do I really like?" and "How do I actually want to present myself as an individual?" You'll find a new confidence in yourself as you face the world more honestly and experience the joy of finally feeling like yourself in your clothes.
Not sure where to start? Here are my tips from when I quit fast fashion and finally discovered my personal style.
1. Go On A Fast Fashion Detox:
Quitting fast fashion is a lot like quitting sugar. At first it hurts, you crave it like crazy, and then after a while you aren't even attracted to it anymore. Three months into my decision to quit fast fashion, a friend asked me if I would stop in Zara with her. I was nervous entering the store would be like re-opening a wound and that I would feel the "I gotta have it!" fast fashion compulsion. But weirdly enough, as I looked at identical clothes all lined up on racks -- I felt nothing. It was as if a veil had been lifted and I was finally seeing the clothes for what they were; cheaply constructed and uninspired.
When we predominantly shop fast fashion, we don't allow ourselves to develop taste. We suppress the thing inside of us that appreciates art and beauty, because we are letting something else tell us what we think based on the mass consensus that something is "cool." Which of course, is controlled by fast fashion companies.
Taking yourself off the fast fashion diet gives your brain a second to think for itself. I personally felt like I was finally seeing a reality I had been denying, which was what style and fashion really are. Big box stores are so far removed from what style truly is because at it's core, style is the unique, personal expression of an individual through their clothing of choice. Once a company tries to cash in on that by telling people what their style is (and that it's the same as everyone elses), you completely lose the meaning of style itself.
2. Do A Closet Inventory
While you're taking a step back from fast fashion, do a inventory of your wardrobe to understand what you're working with. Usually, it's when you shop a ton at Mango, H&M, Asos, etc., that you start to feel like your wardrobe is random and inconsistent, resulting in the age old, "I have nothing to wear" dilemma. Because fast fashion stores create items based on trendiness, they usually lack versatility and become items you can only wear once in a blue moon.
Start separating the items in your wardrobe between things you wear every week and the things you rarely wear. Note the common theme of items you wear repeatedly. Why do you think you always come back to those pieces? What is the general traits of these items? Are they more expressive in character with lots of colors, stripes, prints, etc? Or more neutral? Identifying the types items and styles you already wear will help you define your personal style and make it easier to find new clothes that suit it.
It's important, however, to honestly ask yourself whether you really like these items or not. Just because we wear things a lot doesn't necessarily mean we love them. Fast fashion can really skew what we think we love, so really be candid with yourself.
3. Go Back To Basics
Upon quitting fast fashion and doing my own closet inventory, I realized there were many gaps in my wardrobe. As I said above, trend driven stores produce clothing that's only "cool" for a few months (at best) and they aren't very versatile. When you spend your clothing budget on trendy items, it's easy to neglect investing in the foundational items that go with everything. Whenever I got dressed I found myself wishing I had more versatile items to complete the look.
"If only I had a pair of classic light wash Levi's to balance out this bold top."
"I wish I had a pair of brown leather oxfords to go with all my dresses, jeans, skirts, and more."
I found that in order to develop my style more, I needed to build a stronger foundational wardrobe. I also had to accept that not every item I owned had to be exploding with pizazz. Fast fashion created the idea that every item in your wardrobe should be bold. The problem is, when you have a wardrobe full of super distinct, bold items, they aren't going to match each other. This then perpetuates the need to buy more fast fashion clothes.
Personal style is built upon versatile items that can be molded and crafted according to your interpretation. Think of these items like a canvas and your personal style as the painting. When shopping for these items, I recommend going to the thrift store first as well as searching Etsy. Since these items are more classic and have been made and re-made for the past few decades, you'll be able to find tons of secondhand high quality garments in mint condition. For anything you can't find secondhand, I recommend Everlane.
(Items I consider basics: vintage Levi jeans, black skinny jeans, pencil skirts, blazers, trench coats, relaxed button downs, denim jackets, plain t's, turtleneck sweaters, black booties, ballet flats, oxfords, and any items within this realm of versatility.)
4. Unfollow Trendy Style Bloggers:
There has been a few articles going around about the death of personal style thanks to Instagram. With fast fashion brands paying style bloggers thousands of dollars to wear their clothes, can we be surprised? Not to mention all of the girls who look up to these bloggers and crave inclusion and recognition through likes and follows. It's a weird "join the cool kids club" mentality and I whole heartedly recommend unfollowing anyone who makes you feel like you need to look a certain way in order to belong.
If you start noticing the influencers you follow all wearing the same thing yet claiming to be pioneers of style, maybe it's to hit that "unfollow." I promise you won't miss them.
5. Create An Inspiration Board:
Start doing a little research on style icons of the past and today. Pinterest is an easy to way access beautiful images and save them for future inspiration. Type in terms like, "Classic style icon" and see what comes up. Do you find yourself drawn to anyone in particular? What about their outfits do you like? Or perhaps dislike? Look at the styles of Audrey Hepburn, Jane Birkin, Francois Hardy, and Jackie O, but also reference modern day style icons like Olivia Palermo and Alexa Chung and those I listed above. Note decades of style that are particularly inspirational to you. Reference films, TV shows, music, and more.
Start saving the images that inspire you and that you identify with onto your personal style board. Make note of the similarities between the looks, the overall vibe and the specific items you're drawn to. Imagine yourself wearing similar styles -- would you feel comfortable and like yourself?
6. Experiment with secondhand:
Lastly, when re-discovering your personal style, you want to give yourself the freedom to experiment. I recommend first going to the thrift store to find the items that are a little more descriptive of the style you want to try. When thrifting, allow items to jump out at you -- no matter how un-trendy or weird they seem. Allow unique fabrics, cuts, and designs to speak to you and give them a shot! You might be surprised when trying them on in the dressing room.
For any unique items you're specifically looking for, I recommend searching Etsy. Throw in some search terms and filter the settings to "vintage." Have fun as you peruse Etsy and be open to items you would've never thought of wearing during your fast fashion days. Click around into vintage seller shops and see what their curating style is -- their inspiration may become inspiring to you too!
There is an element to secondhand items that is vastly more authentic and sincere than what fast fashion stores create. When you wear a style that comes from the actual era it was created in, it doesn't come across as trendy because they're apart of fashion history and which (usually) makes them timeless.
Rediscovering your personal style isn't an immediate makeover. As cheesy as it sounds, personal style is not a destination, but a journey. Your style will evolve with you as you grow because the things you wear will reflect who you are as an ever changing person.
If you keep the foundation and base of your wardrobe versatile and flexible, you'll be able to seamlessly incorporate whatever new inspirations you decide to wear. As long as you choose to wear what you love, there will be an underlying cohesive thread throughout all your looks, tying everything together and creating a style that is entirely your own.