Closet Essentials


 

When I first committed to purchasing only responsibly made clothing, I was really into the idea of having a capsule wardrobe. We’ve lived on a low budget for a long time, and so my purchases have always been pretty limited. I’ve also moved almost once a year ever since I graduated from college in 2012, which led me to pursue minimalism in every area of my life because I hated packing so much! I’ve been working towards my goal of having a quality, versatile wardrobe that I truly love for about three years, so I’m now at the point where I’m starting to add a few more pieces rather than just replace items that were old, poor quality, or too trendy to last more than a season or two. Now that I know my style better I’m comfortable with starting to grow my wardrobe again. However, I do still have a small closet and it’s made up of mostly simple, classic pieces that can be mixed and matched multiple ways. A big part of the reason I’ve been able to make such a small wardrobe work over time is because I rely heavily on a selection of well-made essential pieces that I genuinely couldn’t live without. These items are the true workhorses that I wear multiple times a week and do the heavy lifting in my outfits by pairing well with anything and everything. They fit me really well and I feel fantastic wearing them, which is a big part of the reason I reach for them over and over. I thought it might be helpful to share a glimpse into my closet and give a brief overview about my most-worn items, why I love and wear them so much, and how they function in my closet. I’ll link everything at the bottom of each section!

 
 

Straight-Leg Jeans

I have two pairs of straight-leg jeans that I wear regularly throughout all four seasons. I like to have one pair in black and one in blue, and that way I know that I have a pair that will work with every single shirt I own. I used to be a die-hard skinny jean wearer, but I’ve been really gravitating towards straight-leg jeans lately. I like how they aren’t as tight or restrictive as skinny jeans, while still remaining form-fitting. This makes them a great choice for adding some shape or definition to a piece that would otherwise feel really flowy or unstructured - such as tunics, shorter dresses, or oversized tops. I also feel like the straight leg is completely classic and will always be in style, no matter what. I always choose a high-waisted jean because I have such a long torso and really short legs. I prefer a rise of at least 12 inches, which has the effect of balancing out my proportions and adding some length to my lower half. My absolute favorite straight-leg jeans are from Agolde, but the Cheeky Straight Jean from Everlane is a very close second at a more affordable price point. I’m also interested to try out the 90s Cheeky Jean from Everlane.

 
 
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Tapered Pants

Another silhouette that I really love is a tapered, trouser-style pant. Tapered pants are nice to have because, once again, they work really nicely with any shape and size of top, from really loose-fitting to quite tight. They have a silhouette that’s pretty similar to a straight-leg jean, but they’re incredibly comfortable. They also look a little dressier, which is nice for an office setting or transitioning from day to night. My hands-down favorite brand for this style of trouser is Elizabeth Suzann. I really loved her Tilda style (which has been discontinued) but the Andy and Clyde pants are also favorites that are on very regular rotation in my closet. I particularly love my Andy pants in silk - the drape and texture of the fabric highlights their shape and structure so beautifully. 

 
 
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Andy Trouser: Elizabeth Suzann | Clyde Work Pant: Elizabeth Suzann

 


Wide-leg Pants

Wide-leg pants are such a fun look! I was really nervous to wear them for the first time because they felt so different from the skinny jeans I was used to, but after picking up my first pair (the Everlane Utility Crop) I was hooked. I find that I don’t wear these quite as much as my more fitted styles because they aren’t as practical for me and sometimes get in the way. They also don’t work with every top; if I were to pair these with a looser shirt or tunic, my petite frame would quickly get lost in all the fabric. However, they’re still a style that I wear really often and they make an outfit look instantly put together and chic. I really love how polished I feel when I put them on! My go-tos are the linen or silk Florence pant from Elizabeth Suzann because they’re so comfortable as well as stylish. I also really like the more structured look of a canvas or denim wide-leg pant, like my Utility Crop pants or the Wide-Leg Chino (which I haven’t tried personally, but have heard amazing things about). I’ve also been eyeing the iconic Kamm sailor pant for years now and am hoping to save up to buy my first pair this fall!

 
 
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Florence Pant: Elizabeth Suzann | Wide Leg Utility Crop Pant: Everlane | Wide-Leg Chino: Everlane | Sailor Pant: Jesse Kamm

 


Shorts

You can’t live in the Midwest without a good pair of shorts for hot, sticky summer days! I have two pairs for this season and will look forward to adding more for future summers as I can afford them. I’ve found that my favorite shorts are pretty much the same style as my favorite pants - high-rise and fitted in the waist with an elastic waistband, and then more free in the hips and thighs for a look that has a little more volume around my legs. I like the vintage vibe of this style, and I also really appreciate the modesty of a slightly longer length. I also feel like the longer, high-waisted style helps lengthen my legs a lot! My two pairs are the Easy Short from Hackwith Design House and the Aura Short from Harley Jae. The Easy Short is so lightweight and comfortable and absolutely perfect for the hottest days. The Aura Short is made out of the most gorgeous, textured hemp fabric that gives them such a unique look, and I often reach for them when I want to feel a little bit dressier. I love having both a light and a dark pair of shorts because of all the styling options each color opens up! 

 
 
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Easy Short: Hackwith Design House | Aura Short: Harley Jae

 


Simple Tees

Everyone needs to have a handful of good, basic tees in their wardrobe! They go with everything and can be used in every season: you can wear them on their own, layer them under a dress, or pair them with a cardigan. I always wear a tee under my sweaters in the winter, which adds an extra layer of warmth, keeps my sensitive skin from itching, and protects my sweaters, too. My favorites are almost all from Everlane; their tees are high-quality, come in a wonderful range of colors, and are so affordable. I really love the textured look of their micro-rib tees. These are my first choice to wear under dresses or jumpsuits, but I also love them on their own with a pair of pants. The ribbed fabric and longer sleeves help to elevate them from just a normal basic to a piece that’s a little more stylish and unique. I also love Everlane’s cotton crew. I haven’t been wearing this style as often as I used to since we closed Botany (which you can read about here), but when I was working barista shifts every day, these tees were definitely my work uniform. Tradlands also has amazingly soft, high-quality tees if you’re looking to invest a little more money in one that might last you a longer period of time.

 
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Pima Micro Rib Scoop-Neck Tee: Everlane | Pima Micro Rib Crew Tee: Everlane | Cotton Crew: Everlane | Box Tee: Tradlands

 

Tanks + Camis

Tank tops or camis serve a similar function to tees but are more specific to the summer months. I pretty much live in a tank top + shorts or a skirt all summer long! Two of my favorite tanks are once again from Everlane: the Clean Silk Cami and the Air Cami. Both of these tank tops are long enough to tuck in but also look nice untucked for a more flowy, casual look. I also wear my Petra Crop from Elizabeth Suzann very frequently, and it’s the perfect length to wear with my many high-waisted bottoms. The linen fabric is so breathable and wonderful for summertime, but I wear my Petra throughout the cooler seasons under a cardigan, as well.

 
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Clean Silk Cami: Everlane | Air Cami: Everlane | Petra Crop: Elizabeth Suzann

 


Turtleneck

I’ve also found that it’s really important to include at least one turtleneck in my wardrobe. I love the classic alabaster option from KOTN because it’s thin enough to wear under other pieces, but is completely opaque and can also be worn on its own without any anxiety about my bra showing through. I wear my turtleneck most often under dresses and jumpsuits in the winter - I try really hard to wear as many of my pieces as I can through all four seasons of the year, and layering a turtleneck under warmer-weather pieces has been so helpful with that! I also really like the look of a turtleneck tucked into a skirt with tights, or with a good pair of high-waisted pants. 

 
 
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Sweaters

Minnesota winters are absolutely brutal, and have been especially so the past two seasons. We’ve had foot after foot of snow from multiple blizzards, many sub-zero days, and the season has lasted from early November until late April. It’s not a stretch to say that I literally would not survive winter without warm, cozy sweaters to help block out the cold. I’ve really fallen in love with cashmere over the past few years, and I’ve purchased all of mine from Everlane. Once again, they have lots of colors and styles, and the quality for the price just can’t be beaten. My favorite styles are the turtleneck, the crew neck, and the v-neck; this covers just about every situation and creates plenty of opportunities for versatile pairings. I love cashmere because it’s so warm without the sweater needing to be really heavy or chunky. I have pretty sensitive skin and have never had a problem with irritation from these sweaters like I sometimes get from a more scratchy kind of wool. The cashmere is really soft and gentle. I also love cotton sweaters, and the Modern Fisher sweater from Tradlands gets lots of wear all through fall and winter as well as into spring. The cotton is warm and so gentle on the skin, and I love the texture of the cable-knit fisher sweater design!

 
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Cashmere Crew: Everlane | Cashmere Turtleneck: Everlane | Cashmere V-Neck: Everlane | Fisher Sweater: Tradlands

 


Cardigan

I also wouldn’t be able to make it through winter without at least one cardigan. I like to choose cardigans in the most neutral colors to make sure they pair well with all of my tops. The natural cotton cardigan from Babáa was my favorite this past season, and I have my eye on L’envers as my next brand to try when the weather turns cold again. I love that both of these companies offer cotton as an option alongside wool so that I don’t have to worry about itchiness. I also rely on cardigans to carry me through fall and spring, so it’s really essential that they’re high-quality, long-lasting, and classic enough to wear month after month. 

 
 
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Skirts, Dresses, and Jumpsuits

As much as I love pants, I also like to have a few options for a more dressy, feminine, free-flowing look. I don’t own a huge number of dresses and skirts because the styling options tend to be a bit more limited. However, I love wearing them throughout the summer because they’re so cool and breezy, and I’m learning how to style them in the colder months, as well. My favorite skirt hands-down is the linen Bel Skirt from Elizabeth Suzann, which I managed to score second-hand. However, I love it enough that I’m strongly considering adding a silk one to my closet at some point, as well. I really appreciate the midi length, the high rise, and the soft pleating in the shape from the elastic waistband. For dresses, the Georgia dress from Elizabeth Suzann is one I wear really frequently, and Everlane’s new shirtdress has been more than pulling its weight this summer, too. Another place I love to shop for dresses is Not Perfect Linen; their styles are simple, timeless, and so easy. I also love jumpsuits for their ability to be such a simple, one-and-done outfit that still looks so polished and classy. I don’t wear these as often as dresses because I don’t like using the restroom in them, but they’re a wonderful option in every other way!

 
 
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Bel Skirt: Elizabeth Suzann | Georgia Dress: Elizabeth Suzann | Cotton Weave Collarless Shirtdress: Everlane | Smock Linen Dress: Not Perfect Linen

 

Shoes

When it comes to shoes, I have a relatively small collection. I try to make sure that I always have one pair of each of these styles: sandals, flats, mules, heels, ankle boots, taller boots, and some kind of clog. Mules and clogs are definitely my most-worn styles; I wear them on their own in the summer and with socks in the colder weather, and the fact that I can make them appropriate for all seasons is what draws me to them again and again. However, I do also really like to have a pair of flats and heels for some variety, sandals are a must for the summer, and boots are even more important for the winter months. My two favorite shoe companies are Nisolo and Everlane, and they make up the majority of my collection. I’ve also been really impressed with St. Agni and Bryr Clogs and plan to purchase more from them in future years. I purchased a pair of taller boots (currently sold out) from Aquatalia during an amazing sale last winter, and I couldn’t believe I’d managed without them before because they made styling wide-leg and cropped pants throughout the winter so, so much easier. They are the most expensive pair of shoes I own, but the fact that I wore them to death and they’re in near-perfect condition after a six-month Minnesota winter makes them completely worth it in my book.

 
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Liria Double Strap Heel: Inné Studios | Modern Loafer: Everlane | Paris Woven Mule: St. Agni Studio | Paloma Mule: Nisolo

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Day Heel: Everlane | Boss Boot: Everlane | Isa Boot: Nisolo | Janine Boot (similar): Aquatalia

 
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Emma Closed-Toe Clog: Bryr Clogs | Old School Clog: No. 6 Store

 


That pretty much wraps up my closet essentials! I do own a few other pieces outside of the categories listed above, but these are far and away the items that get the most use in my day-to-day looks. As I continue to grow my wardrobe, I’m looking forward to greater variety and a few more options! But this core collection of pieces has served me so well over the past three years and will continue to do so for a long time to come. I hope this is helpful to think about if you’re considering a capsule wardrobe or simply starting fresh with more quality pieces!

 
 

 
 

All opinions are my own, and this post is not sponsored by any brands. It does contain affiliate links, which gives me a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support and the way it keeps my blog going! A handful of these items were gifted to me, but I purchased the majority of them myself over years and fully support each of these companies.

 

Criteria I Use When Purchasing Clothes


 

When I first started working towards a more curated, ethically built wardrobe, my initial step was to purge my closet of everything that I didn’t wear on a regular basis. While the amount of clothing I had was never completely out of control, I did have quite a lot, and there were tons of pieces that I was never wearing! It felt so good to clean everything out. I was able to get my entire closet down to about 30 pieces (excluding shoes) for all four seasons of the year.

 
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For a while, I was really proud of that number. I loved the idea of a capsule wardrobe, and since we used to live on an extremely low budget, it worked out really well for our lifestyle. However, unsurprisingly, I started to feel pretty limited after about a year of having my wardrobe that small. We very much get all four seasons in Minnesota, so making that number of pieces stretch through all different weathers was definitely a challenge! By this time, I felt pretty comfortable in what my style was and which items I would reach for again and again, so I was confident in being able to build up my wardrobe again with pieces that I truly loved and would get plenty of wear out of.

 
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Georgia Tee: Elizabeth Suzann | Riley Crop Jean: Agolde | Maxine Crop: Elizabeth Suzann (not currently available) | Straight Leg Crop Pant: Everlane | Bralette: Botanica Workshop | Earrings: Shop Indio | Circle Clip and Slim Clip: Machete

 

I thought it might be fun to share a list of criteria that I look for when purchasing clothing, which helps to ensure that each piece in my closet will be worth the money that I spend on it. I definitely don’t stick to this perfectly all the time, but it’s been so helpful for me to have guidelines to use when I shop! This keeps me in check so that I’m not impulse-buying or spending money on things that will just sit in the back of my closet month after month. Here are the top things I look for in each piece I buy:

 
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Sheer Blouse: vintage, second-hand | Marlena Tank: Elizabeth Suzann (not currently available) | Tilda Pant: Elizabeth Suzann (discontinued and linked to replacement style) | Linen Tee: Not Perfect Linen
Riley Crop Jean: Agolde | Circle Clip: Machete | Zodiac Necklace: Mejuri (gifted)

 

Practicality. My biggest clothing pet peeve is having sleeves or hems that get in the way, so making sure that tops can tuck easily is high on my priority list. I also stick to shirts that are either short-sleeved or have a sleeve that can roll up easily! I credit this to the fact that I’m always either a) writing and drawing at my desk, so fluffy or buttoned sleeves really get in the way or b) working at Botany, which calls for lots of dishwashing, hand-washing, and working with ingredients. I’ve learned over the past year or so that if I can’t easily keep the sleeves of a top out of the way, it gets almost no wear. I’ve learned that unique, flowy pieces like wrap tops don’t get worn as much, which is kind of sad! I love the way these tops look, but the bottom line is that I want something that’s really easy to throw on in the morning and will then stay in place throughout the day. I always find myself fussing with the neckline and the tie with wrap tops, and I’ll often take them off in the late afternoon and replace them with a tee or cozy sweater. I don’t wear jumpsuits often (also sad!) because I absolutely hate the hassle of using the restroom when wearing one! For pants, the ones that are easiest to slip into are the ones that get the most wear. If I have to shimmy too much or deal with lots of zippers or buttons, it just feels too complicated for me.

 
 

A developed color palette. I love neutrals in every area of my life, and clothing is definitely included in that! When one’s closet is small, it helps so much to make sure that pretty much all the pieces go together well so that you can mix and match multiple ways, resulting in the ability to build more outfits from fewer pieces. My base palette is black, white/cream, grey, camel/oatmeal, brown, and denim. I do add in a few colors here and there (mostly rust/copper, olive green, and navy) but even those stay on the neutral side because that’s just what I feel at home in!

 
 

Comfort. This is always a major factor in making sure something gets worn a lot! We all feel good in different things, but for me it has a lot to do with fabric and cut. I’ve always felt most comfortable when I dress modestly, so I’ve learned that if something has a really low neckline or is too tight I probably won’t wear it. I much prefer tops that have a looser fit, and I love tucking them in with high-rise pants for definition. Linen is my favorite fabric to wear, and I also love tencel, silk, and denim. 

 
 

Classic style + versatility. I want each piece in my wardrobe to last for years, so I try to stick to classic styles that I won’t tire of quickly or that I won’t desert at the end of a season. This results in a lot of my pieces being simple, but that works really well with my point about practicality! As I mentioned above, I like to be able to wear each different item with multiple other pieces in my closet, so versatility is also really important. I used to feel the pressure to really keep up with each trend that developed throughout the years, but I feel like I make purchases with much more thoughtfulness knowing that I’ll be keeping each item I buy around for a long time!

 
 

Rise/Inseam. I only ever purchase high-waisted pants! I can’t remember the last time I bought mid-rise bottoms. I don’t like it when my back (or heaven forbid, my bum) sticks out while I bend over, and I also hate when my stomach shows when I raise up my arms to reach for something. I have a long torso and short legs, and so I prefer a really high rise (12+ inches). I love the leg-lengthening effect that high-waisted pants have! Anything that isn’t high-waisted would stay at the back of my closet 100% of the time. I also prefer cropped pants that hit right at the top of my ankle boots or show a little ankle with flats or heels! I’m petite at 5’3,” so a regular inseam is usually too long and the bottom hem requires rolling up. I don’t like the extra bulk that a roll adds to my silhouette, so cropped is the way to go! For skirts and dresses, I favor a midi length that won’t be too short when I bend or cause me to flash everyone if it gets too windy. I always go for a high rise in skirts, as well.

 
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Plaid Top: second-hand | Andy Trouser: Elizabeth Suzann | Mara Jumpsuite: Elizabeth Suzann (discontinued, new style in progress) | Cashmere Turtleneck: Everlane | Circle Clip: Machete | Zodiac Necklace: Mejuri (gifted)

 

The rule that I make the most exceptions to out of these is only buying practical items that I know I’ll wear really frequently! I love all of those pieces and they truly are what I reach for day in and day out. But sometimes, I just want something pretty or unique! I have three wrap tops, a couple of pieces with flowy or puffed sleeves, and a handful of jumpsuits because it’s so nice to mix things up a bit and wear a more interesting item sometimes. When I buy these pieces, I just have to make sure that I really, really love them in order to make them worth the money I spend. Decorative pieces also tend to be the most expensive, so I have to think really carefully before committing! I usually think about these for weeks to months before finally making the purchase. I prefer the majority of items in my closet to be ones that I’ll wear many times over, but in my mind, the truly special ones that don’t get worn as often do pull their weight, as well. They may not get worn as frequently, but as long as they stick around for a long time, it’s totally worth it to have a handful of pieces that only get pulled out for special occasions!

 
 

I’m doing a wear count for the month of April in order to learn even more about which pieces I choose over and over again! I don’t expect this exercise to completely revolutionize the way I see my closet, but I’m excited to see which pieces I wear the most and which ones take more of a backseat!

 
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Cardigan: Babaà | Boyfriend Shirt: Vetta Capsule | Straight Leg Crop Pant: Everlane | Slim Clip: Machete

 

Those are some criteria that work really well for me and curating my closet! If you have any tried and true methods for choosing clothes that work year after year, I would love to hear about them!

 

Starting Out


 

At the end of 2018, I was feeling so burned out and tired. I absolutely love my job and I feel so grateful daily that I work for myself! However, the combination of me working from home and Aaron working 90+ hours a week away from home had led me into a habit of just working, working, working all the time. By December, I had done 50% more work than the previous year, and I could not figure out what to do with myself when I wasn’t working. I took a couple of weeks off between Christmas and New Years and realized how much I needed to reset. I couldn’t stand the thought of going back to work after my holiday, and that is not the way I want to feel towards the job that is also my greatest passion!

So I decided that it was time to invest more in other interests/hobbies again. I wanted a focus outside of my work and a couple of dedicated activities I could spend time on to intentionally draw me away from my bad work habits! My two other favorite things are fashion and baking, so I started a new ‘lifestyle’ Instagram account to document those things. I found it so refreshing and enjoyable to be on social media just for fun, with no pressure to talk about my products or appear professional before my audience. 

 
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I had already been really into slow fashion since I started my journey a few years back, but actively engaging with others who share the same interest and discovering new brands drew me in even more! I found myself waking with more energy and looking forward to picking out outfits to play around with and share. I was so encouraged every time a follower reached out to me for sizing, fabric, or color advice because it felt like I was able to play a tiny part in helping others explore the very same passion that I have been. I also started blogging again - very casually, and just because I enjoyed it. When I first settled on the idea of starting my own business, I originally thought that lifestyle blogging was the way I wanted to go because I love writing, photography, and reading other peoples’ blogs! I changed direction pretty quickly because drawing and painting has always been my absolute favorite thing, but I still really loved writing those few blog posts early on in our marriage. I wanted to return to that to share more about my favorite brands, our home, and new recipes I tried.

However, over the last few months, I’ve also really struggled with feelings of self-consciousness and doubt, and that’s mostly what I want to talk about today. My fears were - as they so often are - rooted in what other people would think of me. I worried that the people following my business would feel like I was stepping out of my lane and (in some cases) into theirs. I worried that people would wonder why I was trying to start this other thing since I’m already pursuing my passion for art through my job. Why would I need to explore another avenue? Would people think that I was prideful or full of myself because I was posting so many photos of my outfits? Would my friends and acquaintances worry that I was becoming shallow and vacuous? I worried that I looked foolish. I worried that I would appear un-original and uncreative. I wanted to share my thoughts and perspective on slow fashion and on different brands I tried, but I was afraid that I wouldn’t be saying anything different or adding any value to what’s already being said. I worried that people would find my outfit posts annoying. I worried about what people would think of my blog - everyone has a blog these days, and I was afraid that people would roll their eyes and think I thought too much of myself when I started sharing my ideas and experiences in that way.

 
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I’ve also struggled with where to take this interest of mine. I started investing more in fashion for fun with the intention of it being a low-stress, enjoyable distraction from the hectic pace of the rest of my life. On the other hand, ethical and sustainable clothing isn’t cheap and we live on a very average income. I started feeling guilty about spending our money on my clothes and taking what could be put towards savings (or something for Aaron) and using it on myself, instead. I am always very intentional about my purchases, but there’s no doubt that my shopping has increased since I started to focus more on fashion. Now that I follow more brands, I see more beautiful new pieces every day, which is highly tempting! I also feel pressure to not repeat my outfits as often since I don’t want my posts to be redundant, which makes shopping for new and fun pieces more appealing. 

I started wondering if I should try to make something more out of my Instagram account or my blog - maybe I should start using hashtags to increase my following and seem more ‘legitimate,’ with the end goal of being able to receive gifted items from brands. Then I wouldn’t have to spend as much of our money on this hobby of mine. Or, if it became something more than a hobby, it would be easier to justify spending the money.

What it all comes down to, though, is that I started my account and sporadic blogging for fun - as a way to de-stress, not to add more complication to our already crazy lives. I started it because I wanted to do something that I enjoy, and that’s how I want to continue. I don’t want to be swimming in my own fears about what other people think of me or let that rule my actions. I don’t want to let anxiety about the opinion of others take away the joy and excitement I felt about investing in a passion.

 
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There is an attitude in our country these days that encourages people to monetize their passions. It’s almost like there is an expectation that when someone has a hobby, the next step will be to turn it into some sort of business or side-hustle. I’ve heard this talked about more and more lately, and it’s really gotten me thinking. I think it’s wonderful that people are able to pursue their passions and work for themselves (as I have done), but I also don’t think we should all have that as an expectation. I think I have been feeling that pressure to monetize my interest in slow fashion, but there is no need, and I don’t want that to take the fun out of what I’m doing.

I also think it’s really important to note that - because ethical/sustainable fashion often has such a high price point - it often seems unattainable for the average person. So many style bloggers/Instagrammers receive gifted items or do sponsored content, and that is a big part of the reason that they have the wardrobes they do. And don’t get me wrong - I don’t have any problem with people accepting ads, gifts, or sponsored items in moderation! I know that’s a part of many peoples’ business models which also benefits clothing companies. However, I have always wanted my slow fashion journey to be very relatable, and in order to keep it that way I need to purchase the majority of my wardrobe myself. So far, I have accepted two gifted items, both from the same wonderful small company. Everything else I own has been either purchased by me or given to me by a family member. I’m proud of the fact that I can speak from a place of experience when it comes to shopping ethically on a budget, because that’s how my whole wardrobe has been built and that’s how it will continue to be built.

 
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I wanted to write this from a place of transparency and honesty, in hopes that I can encourage other people going through similar feelings of self-consciousness, doubt, or anxiety. I had to talk all this through at length, both with a dear friend and with my husband, before sorting all of the negative voices out from the truths of why I’ve started doing what I’m doing. If we could all simply be ourselves and honestly live out our thoughts and passions, it would be so freeing! This is my first small step in that direction. I don’t know exactly where this is going or where it’s going to end up, but I’m ready to pursue it without letting doubts and anxiety being the loudest voices in my head (so cheesy, but true!). I’m going to end this with a quote that my friend shared with me that was really encouraging:

“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”

- C.S. Lewis 

 

Slow Fashion on a Budget

There are a lot of people who feel that sustainable fashion isn’t possible for them because the cost can be so high, so I wanted to share about how it works for me! I have only ever been gifted one item from a brand, and all my other slow fashion pieces have been bought by me or given by a family member. 

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I’ve always been on a tight budget for clothes, from the time that I had to slowly save up my allowance as a teenager to when I was a struggling barista to when my business was brand new to now. Aaron is currently not earning much since he just opened a brick-and-mortar business. My business has grown over the past year, and we’re just now beginning to make an income that’s considered ‘average’ for the city of St. Paul (and let’s be real - I freelance, so that could change at any time!). But prior to the second half of 2018, our shared income was far below average, and my slow fashion journey started while our funds were at their lowest. Here are the top ways I’ve been able to afford the wardrobe I have: 

1) It takes time. I started investing in ethical and sustainable pieces three years ago. I still have a couple of pieces from Madewell, and everything else is made by small, sustainable, mostly women-owned businesses. But it’s taken me a full three years to get here! Because each item I buy is quite expensive, it takes careful planning and saving before making each purchase. This is one of the things I love about slow fashion: how carefully it makes you consider each item of clothing you choose.

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2) I buy less and it lasts longer. As I mentioned in my last post, I used to impulse shop constantly and there were plenty of items in my wardrobe that I only wore a handful of times - or that fell apart after a couple of wears. The things I bought were cheap, but I bought them often. Now, I spend a lot more per item, but the number of things in my closet is drastically decreased. I have just over 50 pieces in total for all seasons. Since each piece is versatile and pairs with multiple items in my closet, I’m rarely bored and still feel like I have lots of options to choose from! That “I-have-a-full-closet-but-nothing-to-wear” feeling hasn’t been an issue for me in a long time. Each piece has also been made to last, and almost every single item I’ve bought in the past three years is still in great condition.

3) Creating a list for each season. I always make a loose list in my head at the beginning of each season change of which pieces I want to buy and then save for those. The list is usually very short - just three-ish items for each season - which keeps costs down. If I think carefully enough about the things I might need or want, I truly love the pieces I buy and feel content throughout the season.

4) Mix and match between lower-cost basics and higher-cost pieces. Elizabeth Suzann is my number one example of a more expensive brand I adore whose clothes are very functional, but also more special/more interesting than my most basic basics (some other examples of these brands are Only Child, Hackwith Design, etc). I buy my plain tees, jeans, sweaters, and most shoes from more affordable brands like Everlane. As another example, I am itching to buy some beautiful knits from Lauren Manoogian and L’Envers and I would also love to add to my one Babaa cardigan, but those items are expensive enough that I can only buy one per winter season. To fill in the gaps, I love purchasing from bigger companies that are still transparent and producing a high quality product, and that really helps balance out my costs.

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5) Sample sales are amazing! As I just mentioned, I prefer to plan out my purchases. Sample sales are the exception to that rule because you can save so much money. At my first sample sale (Hackwith Design), I bought a pair of wide-leg pants for $25. I was able to save hundreds of dollars by purchasing items from the Elizabeth Suzann email sample sale over the winter. I also recently got an Only Child Tierra dress for 50% off from their latest sample sale. Everlane’s Choose What You Pay events are wonderful, too. Regular, non-sample sales are rare in the small business world, but when they happen, I sometimes take advantage of those, as well. For example, I picked up a pair of Aquatalia boots just before Christmas that were originally $400. I could never have afforded them full price, but they were running a 40% off sale that brought the price down lots! They were still an expensive purchase for me, but they’ve already been worth it because I’ve hardly worn anything else this winter and they are still in wonderful condition. I also want to mention that I try to avoid purchasing for the sake of a good deal (so tempting, but for me that often leads to impulsive purchases). I love sample sales because they enable people like me with average or low budgets to purchase clothing we many not otherwise be able to afford while still supporting amazing companies.

6) Gifts. Many of my ES items are gifts from my husband or my parents and most of the rest are bought with Christmas or birthday money. I always send my family several clothing items I love and have them choose from between those. That way there’s still a fun element of surprise, and the gifter also knows that I’m going to love what they get me. If I feel like asking for a piece of expensive clothing is too much, I like to ask for money gifts or gift cards, instead, and then I can pool those towards one piece of clothing.

7) Buying second-hand. Part of sustainable/ethical fashion is purchasing from brands who make new clothes in a way that is respectful towards its workers and the environment, but another part is buying second-hand. Shopping vintage, trading with friends, and purchasing from second-hand clothing Instagram accounts or places like Poshmark are all great ways to purchase clothing sustainably. I have gotten a couple of my favorite pieces from Instagram closet sales, and I also have a beautiful pair of shoes from a local vintage shop in Minneapolis. Thrifting is another wonderful way to shop, but I honestly haven’t had much personal experience with it since beginning my slow fashion journey, simply because we are so busy. Running two more-than-full-time businesses has meant that I don’t have much time, to the point that I’m even forced to have our groceries delivered - and thrifting is definitely time-consuming. Right now, online shopping is my jam because it saves so much time, but in the future I certainly plan to purchase more second-hand. 

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I also want to add that this is my own way of doing things, and I don’t want to come across as judgmental of those who do things differently. This is what works for me and isn’t necessarily what works for everyone! I wanted to share in hopes that this could been helpful on some level, but I am far from an expert and I have so much to learn! 

Finally, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite brands below. There are so many more brands to add to this list, but these are the ones that I have purchased from so far!

Elizabeth Suzann - my personal favorite for special, beautiful silk or linen pieces 

Hackwith Design - gorgeous pieces in many lovely fabrics and colors

Only Child - more beautiful linen, tencel, and silk

Everlane - basics, undergarments, shoes, denim, cashmere

KOTN - high quality basics

Corinne Collection - the softest, coziest clothing

Vetta Capsule - unique, versatile capsule pieces

Jenny C. Brooks - gorgeous linen dresses

Open Air Museum - beautifully unique, artful clothing

Dallas Daws Designs - beautiful linen and silk crepe pieces

Winsome Goods - lovely, intentional clothing

Babaa - beautiful knits

Tradlands - high-quality staples

Paloma Wool - sweaters and statement pieces

Pansy - undergarments

Pact - socks

Hansel from Basel - socks and tights

Swedish Stockings - tights

Nisolo - shoes

Bryr Clogs - shoes

No. 6 Store - shoes

Aquatalia - shoes



Because linen is my favorite material ever:

Simply Grey 

Kid Philosophy

Not Perfect Linen

Son de Flor



And on my wishlist:

St. Agni

Agolde Denim

Jesse Kamm

Lauren Manoogian

L’Envers

Ovate

Formation Design 

Eli & Barry

Lauren Winter

Two Fold Clothing

Rawson

…..And many more! :)

My Journey into Sustainable and Ethical Fashion

I’ve always been interested in fashion. It’s one of those things that I pursue effortlessly; I don’t have to convince myself to go shopping or spend time exploring the world of clothes because it’s always pure joy and pleasure! I’m far from an expert on sustainable/ethical fashion, but I have developed such a passion for it and really wanted to share my journey so far. It started out as something that I was casually interested in, and I’ve gotten more and more engaged over the past few years. I finally started an Instagram account dedicated towards fashion/lifestyle a couple of months ago as a way to encourage me to spend time on hobbies and interests other than my business (I’m a real workaholic), and I’ve become even more passionate about the sustainable fashion movement since then. I’m not a great researcher, so I know I have a lot left to learn, and I look forward to diving deeper into sustainability as time goes on. For now, I’ll just share my experience and how slow fashion works with my lifestyle!

I come from a family that didn’t have much money. My father is a seminary professor and my mom stayed home with us, so their income was very small. My parents were happy to purchase us clothing if we genuinely needed it (preferably from somewhere reasonable like the thrift store or Walmart), but any “fun” items or brand new pieces from expensive brands were my responsibility. I was quiet, shy, and awkward, so - desperate to fit in - I would purchase things I didn’t even like from the clearance section of the ‘cool’ stores like American Eagle and Hollister. As long as I had something name brand, it was good enough for me! 

When I left high school and started going to college, my style changed, unsurprisingly. I started to enjoy thrifting and soon went through what my friends called my “grandma phase.” I bought massively oversized sweaters, frilly blouses, and anything I could find with floral print. When I could afford it, I would buy new things from Pac Sun and Target, filling my arms with more clothes than I could easily carry and spending hours in front of the mirror in the dressing room.

Shopping was something that I did really frequently. If I was bored or didn’t want to be at home, I would shop. If I was upset and needed cheering up, I would shop. If I wanted to celebrate something, I would shop. There was even a time when I went shopping at least once every week because I had fallen for a boy and was desperate to try and look as pretty as I could. I would take any excuse, and my closet and dresser were full to bursting. And yet, I still often felt like I didn’t have anything to wear.

When my husband, Aaron, and I got married, things changed quite a bit. We share a bank account, and so suddenly all the money that I had spent on clothes wasn’t really just “mine” anymore. We were both baristas, so funds were low, and I became much more aware of my unhealthy spending habits. Although Aaron never made me feel bad in the least, I felt self-conscious and guilty when I spent too much, especially because Aaron made more money than I did.

My first ethical + sustainable fashion item was a pair of street shoes from Everlane. I had seen them on a big fashion blogger’s account and was totally obsessed. I asked for them for my birthday from Aaron, and I was so thrilled when he got them for me! I can’t remember how much they cost, but they were by far the most expensive item I had ever owned. I didn’t know anything about Everlane at the time, though, and had never even heard of ethical fashion. I just loved the way the shoes looked and had my heart set on them.

The coveted Street Shoes!

The coveted Street Shoes!

Heavily decked out in H&M

Heavily decked out in H&M

Shortly after we got married, we moved to Michigan and I was even more tested in my shopping habits. We grew up in Sioux Falls, SD, a small city without much variety in clothing stores. But in Grand Rapids, there was a Forever 21 and an H&M, and I was totally hooked. I felt so accomplished when I was able to go get multiple items for $10, and it was so tempting to be so close to those stores! We still had really limited income (Aaron was barista-ing and I was working part-time as a florist while I started my business), but I lived for the instant gratification that came from impluse-buying a cheap shirt or dress. Everything in the below photos is H&M or Urban Outfitters.

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My feelings towards fashion started taking a slow turn when we moved again nearly three years ago, this time to the Twin Cities. My business was small but alive and I was pretty invested in growing my Instagram to bring in clients, and I had started finding ethical and sustainable brands through the app. We were still making very little money (Aaron was now working part-time for his parents’ orchard and I was just scraping by working full-time as a freelancer), so we still had to be very careful about spending. My first small step in the ethical fashion direction was a purchase of Madewell jeans. They were on clearance and I bought them with my birthday money; if I remember correctly, I spent around $60, and it seemed like so much. I remember telling Aaron that I wanted to slowly replace the cheap, low-quality items in my closet with better-made pieces like the jeans I had just bought. I felt like it was impossible at the time because we had so little money to spare, but I knew that if I put my mind to it and saved carefully, I would be able to achieve my goal over time.

Fast forward a few months and I had discovered Elizabeth Suzann. Needless to say, I was completely obsessed. I was totally drawn in by the values of the company and the beauty and quality of the clothing. I should also mention that I had moved at least once a year since graduating from college (a total of seven moves, two of them cross-country) and had become something of a minimalist because I so hated carting boxes from new apartment to new apartment. I had started routinely purging my wardrobe of anything I hadn’t worn in months because I just didn’t want the extra stuff cluttering up my space. This was another reason that Elizabeth Suzann clothes appealed to me so much: every piece in her collection looked good together and there were so many ways to style, mix, and match each versatile item. She encouraged building a wardrobe in a way that I had never considered before by being able to pair pieces together multiple ways, which resulted in owning fewer items.

That Christmas, I received money as a gift from several family members, and I knew at once that I wanted to spend it on an item or two from Elizabeth Suzann. I deliberated for days over which pieces to buy because I was so determined to make the right choice. I had never spent anywhere near that much money on clothes before, and I wanted to be completely certain that I would wear them for years and years. 

When my purchase arrived a few weeks later, I was over the moon! I had chosen a pair of Tilda pants in black midweight linen and a Marlena tank in ivory raw silk. I wore those pieces constantly over the next year. The tank is still thriving as a staple in my closet, but I wore the pants so much that they developed huge holes in the butt, ha! I still can’t quit them, though - they are my lounge pants that I wear at home and when I do chores. They are the most comfortable item of clothing I have ever owned.

I was completely changed by that first purchase from Elizabeth Suzann. It was a totally new feeling for me to have fallen so hard for not only what a company makes but how a company functions, to think for days before committing to my purchase, and then to be willing to wait for weeks to receive the pieces instead of being able to bring them home from the store immediately. I felt so content and so fulfilled! I knew - even though I was still slightly in shock at the amount of money I had spent - that my purchase had been a wise one. 

Before, my cycle had been to choose one item of clothing at a time without thinking of how it really fit in my closet or how it worked with my other pieces. I was proud when I got things for a steal, and since they were so cheap, it really didn’t matter to me if I only wore them once or twice or if they fell apart immediately.

Now, I was much more invested in each purchase. I thought long and hard before committing to an item, making sure it was something that I would like not only for a couple of weeks but until it fell apart. I wanted to buy quality that would last for years instead of weeks or months. I also started thinking about where my dollars were going. Were they supporting huge, fast-fashion chains that paid their workers a pittance and were only concerned with their own profit and keeping their prices low? Or were they supporting other small businesses who were committed to treating their workers fairly and also caring for our planet well?

Not Perfect Linen  dress,  KOTN  turtleneck

Not Perfect Linen dress, KOTN turtleneck

I decided to commit to a completely ethically and sustainably made wardrobe shortly after making that first ES purchase. I knew that I wouldn’t always have the money to buy expensive pieces and I knew it would take lots of time, but I was determined to make it work nonetheless! 

Hackwith Design  kimono and Madewell jeans + boots

Hackwith Design kimono and Madewell jeans + boots

There are a lot of reasons I love buying ethically and sustainably. I first started because I felt so guilty supporting brands that don’t treat their workers well and that cause so much pollution. I know that my own shopping habits don’t even begin to make a dent in the grand scheme of things, but I still want to do what I can.

The longer I’ve owned a business, the more I’ve also become passionate about supporting other small businesses. It means so much to me that I’m able to do what I love for a living, and every single bride, small business, or person who purchases stationery, branding work, or art prints from me literally makes my whole world. It means so much to me that people are willing to support me, and therefore it’s a great joy to be able to support others who are in the same position as me.

I genuinely love the feeling of intentional purchasing. It feels so good to open my closet each day and know that I love and wear everything inside on a regular basis. Nothing beats the feeling of receiving a long-awaited package in the mail and finally being able to wear and style what’s inside. It’s so fulfilling, and it makes me so happy to know that the pieces I bought three years ago at the very beginning of my slow fashion journey are still pieces I love now.

This is getting long, so I’ll call it a day for now! I’ve been working on a list of tips for how to make slow fashion work on a budget, which I will be sharing soon. To be continued! :)