Happy New Year

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Happy new year from this city by the bay!

Looking back at 2015 I realize it was a big year for personal changes – most particularly a shift in where I spent my money.  Early in the year I decided to reduce my consumption by creating a small, well crafted wardrobe of quality basics.

Then this summer I watched The True Cost and resolved to have my future clothing be from ethical companies.  I stopped purchasing from fast fashion companies like H&M and Forever 21; no small feat for someone who previously relied on these companies for everything.  I started researching clothing companies, holding them to a stricter standard – suddenly I was not valuing clothes based on how cheap they were but rather on how production impacted the environmental and the workers.

By the time winter arrived it became evident that I needed to hold my personal care and cleaning products to the same standards I was holding to my clothing.  I switched over to organic products – makeup, shampoo, dish soap, you name it.  All in all, it’s been a huge learning curve, but I’ve enjoyed the experience.  I  heard that it takes 66 days for a new pattern to become habit.  But now that it’s 2016, it finally feels like its become habit.

So what’s next for 2016?  I just read about a woman who decided to have a shopping ban for ONE WHOLE YEAR!  She only bought necessities for a year and gave up clothing, excess cosmetics, books, household items and electronics.  Can I do it?  Can I stop buying things I want but don’t need for an entire year?  It does sound like a exciting adventure!

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FPFW: My Fall/Winter Collection

I’m already 6 months into my Five Piece French Wardrobe challenge.  Its been liberating (I can now put together an outfit in less than 1 minute flat) as well as difficult (when I see new things I want but I’m already at my 5 item limit).  This season, I added the new complexity of trying to buy only sustainable clothes.  All my purchases were from one, ideally more, of my ethical shopping guide categories:

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Overnight Bag ($100): this duffle bag by Purse and Clutch is made in Cambodia by a women’s artisan collective. This company partners with artisans from around the world to create beautiful purses. I loved that when I received my bag it came with a description on how these textiles are made, giving me a much more personal connection to my bag and the artisan that made it. Also for every $200 spent an artisan is employed for one month.

Black Lace Up Boots ($18): These black wedge booties were not sustainably made. But it’s a good point to make that buying USED clothes is another way to be more socially responsible. These shoes are from Goodwill, and its far better to buy used items than for these products to go in landfill. Also, by purchasing used items I am not increasing the amount of products made.

Black modal/spandex dress ($88):  Marine Layer is a great USA made company. Almost everything is made in California – the one exception is they recently partnered with a factory in Thailand where they sew more technical products, such as outerwear.  My only critique is I don’t beleive their cotton is organic, yet their modal is made from 95% recycled beechwood. Their clothes are rediciously soft – my CA-made dress feels like pajamas but looks super chic.

White and black pullover sweater ($60): Marine Layer has got me hooked.  This is a reversible sweater – its black and white striped, but if you turn it inside out its black and white polka dot.  So cool that its actually like buying two sweaters!  The quality of their products is amazing.  I love that I’m buying locally-made clothing.

Plaid flannel long sleeve ($5): I included another item that falls under the sustainable category because I got it used from Goodwill. Plaid is the quintessential fall look!

Also, on another sidenote, when a piece of clothing from my basics collection has finally bit the dust I am planning to buy replacements from ethical companies.  Here are two I’ve found that I love:

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Grey pencil skirt ($38): This skirt is from Alternative Apparel and its so lightweight and timeless. It’s made from organic cotton, recycled plastic bottles and used non-toxic, low-impact dyes. This company really emphasizes the sustainability of their materials. They don’t specify where their factories are located, only that they work “on a global scale.” Factories they work with are in accordance with the Fair Labor Association Workplace Code of Conduct. While I applaud their use of sustainable materials I am not  completely satisfied with the information regarding their factories and worker rights. I plan to do more research….

Blue and white striped long sleeve shirt ($35): This modal shirt is from Amour Vert.  This company is the cream of the crop when it comes to ethical companies.   Some of the other companies I found appeared to be using sustainable fabrics or were locally made, but not both.  But this company delivers!  (…at a higher price.  This shirt was originally $90 before its sale price).   The original price may be a little steep for many of us, but don’t give up on them because their sales are great. Also for every item you buy they plant a tree!

The True Cost of Our Clothes

If you watch one thing this week please make it The True Cost.  It’s streaming on Netflix right now, which is where I ran across it.  This powerful documentary shows us the real cost of our clothes – the disregard of worker rights, the environment – all for cheap, disposable, trendy fashion (fast fashion).

This movie opened my eyes to how much I am contributing by purchasing from environmental and socially irresponsible companies.

I did some more research and found lots of great blogs including Life, Style, Justice that has this wonderful guest post on the garment industry.

Thankfully, it’s easy to change the way we shop!

From this day forward I will strive to have at least 80% of my clothes come from ethical companies.  I will define ethical companies as companies that use at least one if not more of the following: organic fabrics, fair trade practices, socially responsible factories, USA made, and donations to social/environmental causes.

I plan to continue my Five Piece French Wardrobe Challenge, because I believe that having a small wardrobe is also an important step in a sustainable direction.  The tools I learned here about a minimalist wardrobe are still completely relevant.

 

FPFW: What I’m Learning from My Downsized Wardrobe

I’m now three months into my Five Piece French Wardrobe challenge.  Already I’ve learned so much that I wanted to share.

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Embrace your own style.  I don’t like those posts about the items that every woman should have in her closet.  We are all different in our style, so why should we conform to one checklist of clothes?  I had a black blazer in my closet gathering dust for 6 years.  I never removed it because I believed it was a staple I needed; I must have read this countless times in fashion magazines.  The worst part is that I didn’t even buy it – it was a hand-me-down from a friend and I still couldn’t bring myself to part with it.  But once I was finally honest with myself and admitted it was something I would never wear, removing it from my closet became a liberating experience.  My closet was closer to representing me and less of what I thought I had to be. The more I embraced my own style the happier I became.

Investing in quality items doesn’t have to be financially daunting.  I thought that my switch from fast fashion (Forever 21, H&M etc) to quality fashion was going to cause me to spend more.  But I’ve been surprised at how many quality items I can buy on sale. For instance, I buy all my jeans on sale so none of them are over $40.  This spring I got a gorgeous sweater from Lucky during their blowout sale for $10 even though it was originally $100.  And good finds are not just in the sale section.  Check out thrift and consignment stores. I found a brand new, unworn, pair of Madewell boots (that retail for $230) at my local consignment store for $45.

Sometimes you may get in a style rut. After investing in some quality basics I was tickled by how small and versatile my wardrobe was.  But then I started to wear the same striped shirt, jeans and faux leather jacket every day because it was easy and comfortable.  I realized that with a small wardrobe you have to maintain the motivation and creativity to make your style shine through.  Otherwise it’s easy to starting looking pretty monochromatic.  So maybe I could wear those jeans and striped shirt every day but I needed some other pieces to make the outfit reflect my own style. But even though this was a hard hurdle, overall…..

Basics make getting dressed easier.  I’ve heard bloggers say this before, but it’s hard to believe until you actually try it yourself.  But it’s true – creating outfits becomes so much less time consuming and stressful when you have a small closet made up of your favorite items that you know pair well together. And I really love that I can get up in the morning and quickly put an outfit together.  It’s so refreshing to not have that feeling of “I have so many clothes but nothing to wear.”

FPFW: My 5 Spring/Summer Purchases

I’m still holding fast to the Five Piece French Wardrobe.  Here are the 5 items I purchased for my Spring/Summer collection:

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Blue summer dress (Goodwill, $10): I love how light and flowy this dress is.  Plus it has a vintage feel, with a cut similar to 1940s tea dresses.

Bathing suit (Aerie, $$50):  I bought this top because it offers a little more coverage.  No accidental flashing everyone at the river when jumping off a rock!  I also wanted a pair of high waisted swim bottoms.  In theory these seem perfect because you can adjust the height.  I am going swimming this weekend so I will test how functional they really are.

Baggu leather tote (Urban Outfitters, $100):  The brown leather tote craze hit SF (and the blogging world) hard and I admit that I wanted part of the action.  But the one that every woman has is the Madewell Transport Tote, and while it’s beautiful it is also HUGE!  Even similar totes at Banana Republic and J Crew are really too big for me (what am I suppose to bring in them, I don’t get it?!).  I guess I don’t cart a lot of stuff with me in my purse.  It took a while to find the perfect brown tote, but when I saw this one online for 50% off I knew it was worth a shot.  It’s much narrower that the Transport Tote and it has a basket weave design.  Plus it’s the most gorgeous orangey brown color.  I’ve really fallen in love with it, and I like  that not every woman has the same tote as me. I love it so much it’s become one of my basics.

Baggu leather clutch (Baggu, $16):  After having such a positive experience with the Baggu tote, I thought I would try their leather clutch too. I found it on super sale, and while I like it, I don’t think I would buy it full price ($54). It’s fun but hasn’t been too practical yet.

Blue billowy tee-shirt (Lucky Brand, $14):  I wanted a bright oversized t-shirt that I could wear to the pool or to the beach.  It’s a simple shirt but it provides a jolt of color  to my monochromatic basics.

Total cost for spring/summer 2015: $190

Overall I’m happy with my 5 purchases.  But only buying 5 items for 6 months is more challenging than I thought.  There is a lot of self restraint!  This is my first seasonal collection and I bought all the items within a month of each other and right at the beginning of spring.  I realize now that this was not the best way to do it.  I’m thinking that in the future I will space my purchases out and buy a few of them later in the season.

FPFW: Defining My Basics

I am embarking on the Five Piece French Wardrobe (FPFW) as I detailed here. My goals: downsize and streamline my wardrobe, reduce the amount of money I spend on clothes, and make getting dressed easier. FPFW is an exciting challenge for me because I have never been one to invest in basics. In the past, my impulse shopping resulted in a cute wardrobe with a not so cute headache because I couldn’t figure out how to pair anything. This winter after purging my wardrobe (check out this great resource), I did have to spend some money on basics like plain tee shirts and pants. I’m now thinking of my basics as the glue that holds my outfits together.  These are pieces that should be timeless, reflect my personality, and be easy to pair with each other. shirts    16 Shirts (black, blue and 2 grey t shirts, 4 striped shirts, black tank top, nude tank top, black and blue long sleeve, polka dot blouse, 2 denim shirts, black and white abstract print blouse) pants     2 Dresses (formal LBD and casual white and black striped); 2 pairs of pants (black and grey); 2 skirts (black and white striped, black pencil skirt) coats   4 Outwear pieces (back faux leather jacket, red blazer, blue wool coat, thick houndstooth sweater) assessorites   Accessories and shoes:  5 pairs of shoes (black booties, brown clogs, black t-strap heels, black boots, brown boots).  4 purses (brown tote bag, black crossbody, grey shoulder purse, black laptop)

Minimalist Closet: Five Piece French Wardrobe

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This last year I’ve become increasingly interested in the concept of a minimalist lifestyle, something that has gathering steam with blogs like The Minimalists, Becoming Minimalist and miss minimalist. But creating a home centered around simplicity has proved to be a much easier task than downsizing my closet.  My large walk in closet, coupled with living in a city with great fashion at my fingertips, has left me with an ever expanding wardrobe and ever shrinking wallet.  This last winter I made efforts to purge roughly 30% of my wardrobe.  Granted, I felt liberated by having less stuff yet I haven’t gained a better awareness of how to maintain this small wardrobe.  There are tons of articles about reducing your wardrobe but after you’ve succeeded, what’s next?

Fueled by this question, I spent many an hour on Pinterest looking for answers.  I learned about Project 333, also known as the Capsule Wardrobe.  While I love this idea, it doesn’t feel like the right fit for me.  Everyone has a different lifestyle and location where they live, so no one wardrobe tool will work for everyone, right?   The concept with a capsule wardrobe is that every season (4 seasons a year) you put together 33 or 37 pieces (the number can vary depending on who you talk to) for those 3 months.  Caroline of Un-fancy made the capsule wardrobe look effortlessly cool.  But my biggest roadblock is that I live in a place that is characteristically unseasonable.  In San Francisco I tend to wear the same clothes in winter that I wear in summer.  There are some variations – especially the colors I choose to highlight depending on the time of year – but my wool coat is never retired from my uniform.  The other obstacle with this program is that there are no strict rules to how many items you can buy a season for your capsule collection, just the general assumption that you will strive for less.  When I read about bloggers dishing out over $500 a season for new items, I knew that there was not enough structure for my shopaholic nature. After all, this isn’t just a project in downsizing my wardrobe, I also want to start saving money that previously went to shopping.

Just recently I came across the Five Piece French Wardrobe (how did I miss it when it first gained popularity a few years ago?). The concept is that you build a wardrobe of quality basics – some people give a number to how many basics you can own, others don’t.  Then you restrict yourself to buying only buy 5 items per fashion season, and there are only two seasons: spring-summer and fall-winter.  These 5 items can be trend based…..think of them as your embellishment pieces to liven up your basics.  Throughout the year you can replenish your basics if an item is in disarray.   The emphasis is placed on a wardrobe of quality items over quantity.

I excited about the Five Piece French Wardrobe (FPFW) and have decided to try it out and blog about it here.  It seems like this idea is so much more conducive to living a place where the seasons are not pronounced.  Also I am more of an impulse shopper, drawn to an item because of its unusual print or to a cute summer dress without thinking about the fact that I already have 10 cute summer dresses and I live in SF, land of fog.  My hope is that committing to the FPFW will help me to streamline my wardrobe and learn to shop with intent.