Slow Fashion October, week 2: What’s in your closet? [with Erin Boyle]

Slow Fashion October, week 2: What's in your closet? [with Erin Boyle]

Week 1 of Slow Fashion October has been so inspiring — I’m in awe of the diversity and thoughtfulness of responses to the What’s Your Look? action item and discussion prompts that have been shared (so voluminously!) on #slowfashionoctober so far. I’ve been highlighting what I can on the @slowfashionoctober feed and Story, so make sure you’re keeping an eye on that. This week, we’re going to dig into our closets and start making sense of what’s in there as compared to how you mean to be dressing, as explored last week — again, all in pursuit of a better loved, longer lasting, slower closet. You can find this week’s Action Item and Discussion Prompts on the Slow Fashion October directory page and on @slowfashionoctober. But the short version is: It’s time to clean out our closets, responsibly. So welcome to week 2: What’s in your closet?

Today I’m happy to be able to publish this conversation with Erin Boyle about taking care and ownership of our clothes. Erin is the author of the book Simple Matters and the simple-living blog Reading My Tea Leaves, and if you follow her @readtealeaves on Instagram, you know that she’s doing her best to walk the walk every day, in every way, always thinking and learning and challenging herself and others.

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The term “slow fashion” has different meanings to different people, so let’s start with what does it mean to you?

More than anything, for me Slow Fashion has been about thinking proactively about my clothing choices rather than retroactively. Fast fashion (and the incredible quantity of clothes that the industry puts at our disposal) aside, my relationship to clothing has often been knee-jerk. Something inspires me, or it doesn’t, and I make my move accordingly. But it’s not often until after I wear it — really welcome it into the fold — that I come to love a particular piece of clothing. After thirty years of dressing myself, I’ve gotten better at identifying what I’m going to love for the long haul, but not perfect. This is the most challenging part of getting dressed for me: finding things that I genuinely love to wear every single time I put them on. For me, really loving something is always the goal because the stuff I love is the stuff I’ll wear and I think wearing your clothes — really wearing them — seems like one of the most sustainable choices we can make.

What makes me love something? The fit and look and cut, definitely. But also the story. I love knowing that something has been made with care, or loved by someone before me, or contributed positively to a community. It’s a privilege to get to take the time to bring all of that into consideration when building a wardrobe, but I think for me, that’s the beauty of it.

When did you first become aware of the trouble with fast fashion (and how), and what was the state of your wardrobe at the time? Were you ever a big shopper?

I can’t tell you with certainty what first got me thinking about fast fashion. I know it was shortly after I moved to New York City in 2011. At the time I was working for a sustainable agriculture nonprofit and I think that working in sustainability more generally got me thinking about all of the ways that we need to have conversations about our consumer choices and the impact of them on people and the planet.

I had a fairly lean wardrobe at the time — most of it purchased on sale at major retailers — but it was a real hodge-podge. I was fresh out of graduate school, I’d just moved to an expensive city, and I’d never spent a lot of money on clothes. (In fact, growing up, I got a lot of messages about the ethics of not spending a lot of money on clothes.) What’s most notable about the state of my closet at the time is that I didn’t have very much in my closet that I really liked to wear. Getting dressed felt like a slog of putting on clothes and taking them off and trying to put outfits together from components that I didn’t really like or that didn’t go together.

I’ve never been a huge shopper. I’ve always been interested in clothes and fashion, but somewhat more as an observer and admirer than a participant. As a kid, I wore mostly hand-me-downs and always felt a little wistful about it. I remember feeling a sense of excitement and freedom when I discovered fast fashion brands as a teenager and realized that there were clothes that I could buy myself with babysitting money.

As I got older, I started to think more about quality. It’s a bit of an American cliché, but I lived in France during and after college and I was really struck by the different relationship to clothes that the women in my life there had. Maybe most noticeably, their clothes were of a visibly superior quality to mine and they wore them over and over again. Teachers who I worked with would show up to teach in the same outfit for several days running. For the first time I really started to notice the difference between cheaply made clothes and sturdier, longer-lasting ones.

I think the final push for me to try to change the way I get dressed was really understanding the human and environmental cost of so much sartorial indecision. I was frustrated by a cycle of buying clothes and then feeling like I didn’t really want to be in them. And ultimately I wanted to do my best to not contribute to a wasteful and harmful system.

Slow Fashion October, week 2: What’s in your closet? [with Erin Boyle]

From first-hand experience, and through having this conversation for several years now, I know it’s common for people to feel almost in a state of shock when they find out what they’ve been unknowingly contributing to. [I should inject here, too, for anyone new to the subject: the best introduction I know of is the documentary The True Cost.] There’s a natural urge to want to empty the closet of anything questionable, but that’s not really the responsible solution, right? What’s your advice to people who are at that point and wondering where to even start? 

It is shocking. I think the first natural urge for me personally was to cut a lot of shopping out of my life cold turkey. I hadn’t been a huge shopper before, but when I’d eliminated a lot of my go-to sources for clothes shopping, I was left with options that required a lot more care in terms of decision-making because the price points were so much higher. When I couldn’t afford what I most admired, I largely abstained from buying very much of anything new.

That said, I’m also a true believer in keeping only what I love and use, so I’m very familiar with the impulse to purge more generally. I don’t have a lot of space to store clothes, but more than that, if I’m hanging on to something and not wearing it, my reason for keeping it is usually negative. With a few exceptions I think if there’s something in my closet that I don’t wear, it’s because I don’t love it and I’m keeping it because I spent hard-earned money on it, or someone gave it to me, or I’m afraid of hurting feelings. It sounds a little woo-woo, but keeping things out of a sense of guilt or obligation mostly sounds like keeping around a lot of bad energy.

But for me, the biggest reason I never did a wholesale swapping of a fast-fashion wardrobe with a more sustainable one, is that it flies in the face of what for me is the best part about sustainable fashion in the first place — a relationship to clothes that means making careful, thoughtful, slow choices so that I end up with things I really cherish.

I think one of the biggest contributors to our disposable-fashion mentality has been the rise of the charity donation bin. Not only are the dropboxes seemingly on every corner now, but the messaging is that you’re doing a good deed. Speaking from personal experience, I definitely used to think “hey, it’s cheap and if I wind up not loving it, I’ll donate it and someone else will benefit.” Who knows how many purchases I justified that way. Clearly, being able to get rid of things easily makes it feel ok to acquire at a ridiculous rate, leading to the destructive churn we find ourselves in. Can you talk about why it’s not really that simple?

I think it’s fair to blame the fast fashion industry more than the drop-boxes, but I know what you mean. Donation bins make it exceedingly easy for folks to clean out their closets without thinking about the ramifications of the clothes they’re giving away. I write about this in my book, Simple Matters, and reference Naomi Klein’s work, which essentially debunks the notion that the clothes we give away are always going toward a good cause. Simply: There are more clothes produced than we have uses for. Shipping our clothes overseas disrupts local economies and craft traditions. And cheaply made clothes that degrade quickly are of very little value. We certainly shouldn’t be putting our old clothes in the landfill, but neither should we imagine that every ratty tee-shirt we give away is going to live a productive second life.

And a lot of what gets donated is barely worn — but even then, there’s too much (and often of poor quality) for the charities to be able to sell, which is why they wind up in bales on boats back across the ocean again. Once you stop thinking of clothes as easy to get rid of, I think that inherently slows down the rate of acquisition. “What will I do with this if it doesn’t work out” is a head-scratcher. So what are some ways we can responsibly find new homes for the clothes that need one?

I’ve written quite a bit about this in this post, but my favorite approach is to find a specific person to give a specific item. Just because I don’t personally value something enough to keep it, doesn’t mean that that item is valueless. Whether I resell something or give it away to a sister or a friend, I think having a specific person in mind when I separate from my clothes is the most responsible route to take.

Slow Fashion October, week 2: What's in your closet? [with Erin Boyle]

The focus of your blog is “life in a tiny apartment,” meaning you have some built-in limits: not a lot of room for a closet to get out of control in the first place. I probably have a little more room than you do, in that I have a whole little 1953 closet to myself. I describe it as portion control, and strive not to exceed the capacity of that closet, and it makes me think hard about what I want to let in. That said, I’ve argued that “small” or “capsule” isn’t necessarily a requirement of a slow wardrobe. I think it’s about how thoughtful you are about what you acquire, from where, and then taking responsibility for it — keeping it out of the landfill. Do you think we have to think small to be responsible?

I don’t think you have to think small to be responsible, but limiting factors really help me personally to parse what’s important to me and stop me from participating in mindless accumulation. But I’d also say that the whole point of thinking more mindfully about my closet is to make getting dressed less of a chore, not more of one. I’m not here to be a killjoy. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how getting dressed can be and often is, a way to feel good. Finding joy in material possessions is a lovely thing. For my part, I am currently the owner of four very special sweaters. Do I need all of these sweaters? No. Do I love wearing them? Yes! Does it make me happy to spend the winter in things that are cozy and wonderful and that make me feel happy? Yes! Absolutely.

You’re very crafty, in the sense of finding furniture on the street and transforming it into something beautiful, making garlands from dried flowers, and a million other examples. But you don’t make your own clothes. The response I hear from people all the time upon learning about the issues with fast fashion is “I can’t possibly make all of my own clothes.” Which isn’t necessary! In fact, I’ve said before that I don’t want to make all of my clothes — I like being able to support brands who are doing the right thing, and there is an ever-expanding realm of clothing brands out there striving to make clothes in a more local and responsible way. But when the laborers are being paid fairly and the clothes are constructed of quality materials and made to last, the clothes often come with a higher price tag (depending on what you’re comparing against). You live in NYC, one of the most expensive places on earth. You’ve spoken recently about still having student loans you’re paying off, and you need to pay for childcare. On the other hand, you have the benefit of working with sponsors for your blog, some of whom are slow-fashion brands, and I know you only work with brands whose business and ethos you genuinely respect. So with all appropriate disclosures, what are some of the resources you’ve found for responsibly made clothing that’s not out of reach for the average working person?

Full-disclosure is that this question is tricky for me. When I decided to write my blog full-time and I had to take on the personal responsibility of figuring out how I would finance my work there, I decided that I would make it a priority to work with and direct folks to companies that I think are doing admirable work and causing minimum harm to people, to the environment, to consumers, etc. Given the opportunity between directing folks toward a shirt made by a small designer making tough decisions to preserve the integrity of her product and a fast fashion label, the choice was clear. But absolutely, many of the goods that are thoughtfully made come with a high price tag and many of them come at price points that are unattainable for me, too. (That’s part of the premise behind the Make-Believe series on my blog.)

I never want folks to feel alienated or like they can’t participate in ethical consumerism without extremely deep pockets and I do try to work with brands that have a range of price points. But we also live under capitalism and it’s inherently exploitative. A lot of sustainability measures can be co-opted as pure marketing fluff and there’s an enormous amount of greenwashing to try to wade through. I think folks are right to sometimes feel skeptical. Still, I think there are people working hard to minimize harm and produce superior products within a flawed system. Making environmentally responsible decisions and paying fair wages costs a lot of money. Beyond that, we’ve all gotten used to artificially low prices. I’m constantly asked to provide examples of less expensive clothing in the same breath that I’m asked to provide examples of clothing that’s being made sustainably in every sense of the word. That’s a really tricky task. It sounds like a bit of a cop-out, but I’m not really convinced you can have things both ways.

And this is where the subject of “privilege” comes in. Each year when we do this, I hear from quite a few people who, quite understandably, feel left out of the slow fashion movement. People might say “All of my clothes are from the thrift store because that’s all I can afford” or “I’ve never had the luxury of acquiring and discarding things at a rapid rate.” To me that suggests you’re not part of the problem, which is great in that sense. But I also 100% understand the underlying desire there to be able to afford small-batch farm yarns or handwoven fabric or beautifully made, natural-fiber, small-batch clothes from transparent companies. It feels good to support those efforts and have those things, but they do come with a higher price tag. I can honestly attest that I made my initial shift toward slow fashion during one of the leanest times of my life (a serious tight-rope-without-a-net moment) by gradually changing my mindset about how much I need in the first place. But I acknowledge that even being broke and trying to make those choices is different when, like me, you don’t have kids or debt, and you do have the ability to make some of your clothes for yourself. It’s SO complicated. What are your thoughts on that aspect of it all?

It is complicated. On the consumer level, I think people need to be given the space to make choices that reflect their values and stay within their personal constraints to the best of their ability and knowledge. We all have to compromise sometimes. And I acknowledge that having this conversation in the first place is a privilege, no scare quotes needed. I have the time and space and energy to devote to thinking about where my t-shirt came from (to say nothing of trying to decide whether or not I really love it).

I guess at the end of the day, I’m not sure if everyone wants to wear natural-fiber farm yarns or small-batch clothes — or if that should even be the goal — but I do think everyone wants basic access to fresh food and water, to clean air, to roofs over heads, to healthcare, to safe working conditions. I think at its core, shifting away from fast fashion needs to be about that. How do we find a way to hold corporations responsible for creating safe working environments? How do we value the people who make our clothes? How do we convince companies to be good stewards of the planet?

That’s a really great way of framing it, and gets at why I tend to think of it as an imperative — stopping to think about the impact of our buying habits — more than as a matter of privilege.

Another really complicated subject is kids clothes — especially given how quickly they go through them. You have two small children: What is your approach?

I follow a similar approach with my kids’ clothes as with my own. We try to keep their wardrobes lean, to buy things that are well made and sturdy enough to hold up to lots (and lots) of wear. We also tend to buy a bit big at first and to keep our kids in clothes until they’re well past snug. Right this minute, my son is dressed entirely in hand-me-downs from his big sister and my daughter is dressed in leggings that are cropped (though not by design). (Hopefully they won’t also be wistful about that one day.)

And knowing how committed you are to environmentally friendly practices in all aspects of a household, what advice do you have with regard to laundry methods that are good for both the clothes and the environment?

Laundry is a challenge for our family because we live in an apartment building in New York City that doesn’t have washing machines or dryers — not in-unit, or in the building. We send most of our laundry to the local laundromat, so we’re fairly separated from the process but I wrote a lot more about measures we take to keep our clothes in good shape in this post. I also try to remember that clothing is not a suit of armor. Clothes get stained, and ripped, and worn through.

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Amen to that — and by the way this last photo is from the night when Erin recently wore her wedding dress out for date night.

Slow Fashion October, week 2: What's in your closet? [with Erin Boyle]

For more from Erin, do check out her blog where you’ll find an entire series of posts on Growing a minimalist wardrobe. (As I told Erin a couple of years ago, her blog is where I turn when I need a moment of calm.) And of course follow her on Instagram for lots more!

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PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: Weekend Reads (and more)

All photos © Erin Boyle / Reading My Tea Leaves, used with permission

Winners + Weekend Reads + More

Marlisle winners + Weekend Reads + More

OK! LOTS to get to today, starting with the winners of the Marlisle Knitalong. It was not easy choosing from all the beautiful knitting, and Anna and I went back and forth a few times trying to decide, but in the end the category winners are as follows:

best marlisle:
@samandramones for her Humboldt sweater — we loved the simple-but-effective choice she made to change up the color of some of the spots. (top left)
(Honorable mention to @katharineemma for her color choice on her Kraai mitts — they’re so beautiful — and a nod to @belleofthewoods for the inspired yarn choice that makes her Ess shawl look like Aspens.)

best marlisle mod:
@ivyknitsfast for her Shantay cardigan — in addition to modifying the proportions and details, she was inspired by the colors of lichen and rocks and totally nailed it. (top right)(Honorable mentions to @sheryllwolffbaker for the most eye-popping mod and @luckypennyknits for converting Humboldt to a doggie sweater.)

best original marlisle:
@redefinedpieces for combining the broderie anglaise stitch and marlisle, and deploying it beautifully on her hat. (bottom)
(Honorable mention to @mossstitches for using marlisle withe a leopard motif — such a fantastic idea!)

To the three winners: Please send an email to <contact@fringesupplyco.com> to collect your prize, a $75* gift certificate to Fringe Supply Co.

And in the random drawing, the five winners of the $25* gift certificates to Fancy Tiger Crafts are @nakamili @yopurlygirl @hey_mama_wolf_yarns @mosstitches and @knitshed. Please send an email to <orders@fancytigercrafts.com> to collect your prize!

Thanks so much to Anna Maltz for her wonderful Marlisle book and method, to Fancy Tiger for the prizes, and to everyone who knitted along!

. . .

It’s been a whirlwind week on the #slowfashionoctober feed (I’m already behind!) and at Fringe HQ, so here’s a mixed-up list of great links for you, slow fashion and otherwise:

– I had the pleasure of talking to the Love to Sew Podcast ladies about wardrobe planning and Slow Fashion October back in August, and that’s now live as episode 61

– Don’t miss Kate Atherley’s guide to joining a new ball of yarn

– I loved Dianna’s thorough answer to “what’s your look?” on her blog, and @thewitchofhedgerowcottage (among others) managed to be almost as thorough in an Instagram post!

A whole other level of exploitation in the high-fashion world

How much plastic is your washing machine sending out to sea?

– This doll-sized Summer of Basics trio is killing me

– There’s nothing I love in quite the same way as a marked-up muslin

Kay Gardiner’s bujo tip for knitters

– I mentioned Anuschka Rees’ book The Curated Closet on the blog last year and finally cracked it open this week. It’s really good and highly recommended for anyone wanting a whole book beyond What’s Your Look? week for Slotober

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In shop news we’ve got three new lengths of Lykke Driftwood fixed circular needles in stock today! You can now get 12″ circulars (along with 16″ and 24″) as well as 47″ and 60″ (along with all the other lengths) at Fringe Supply Co.

Happy weekend, everyone — I’m looking forward to catching up on the #slowfashionoctober feed, and will back next week with a great interview, Week 2 action item and prompts, some excellent New Favorites, and more!

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*Winners are responsible for shipping fees and duties

PREVIOUSLY: Elsewhere

The stories clothes can tell …

Stories my clothes can tell ...

Two years ago, I wrote a short essay about the moment I realized I’d lost all interest in storebought clothes, which was published last year in Hannah Thiessen’s book Slow Knitting. It’s still one of my favorite bits I’ve written about how transformative slow fashion has been for me, so I reached out to the publisher and got permission to republish it here in honor of Slow Fashion October

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Slow Knitting by Hannah ThiessenI’VE BEEN a clothes horse and fashion junkie my entire life, and have always understood fashion as an art form, style as an act of creative expression. I was the typical kid who never properly appreciated all the beautiful clothes my mom made me, and the atypical kid who lived for the Saturday morning runway news on CNN. (Google “Elsa Klensch,” seriously.) I’ve also always understood that clothes could become special to you, souvenirs of a place or time in your life — the outfit you picked out to boost your confidence upon arrival at sleepaway camp for the first time, or the dress you were wearing the night your husband proposed. But I had no idea how many levels of meaning a garment can hold until I began to make my own in earnest.

As every knitter knows, we stitch our lives into our projects. A sweater can take weeks or months to complete, and when you put it on, you’ll always be aware of the trips, waiting rooms, or cross-country moves the sweater accompanied you through. Learning to knit a few years ago led me back to sewing (after years of gradually forgetting most of what my mother had taught me), but before I really dusted off my machine, I enlisted a talented friend to make me two garments that were beyond my skills — a dress for my brother’s wedding and a tunic with a faced yoke and hand-stitched finish, both of them beautiful. And both complete with memories of working with Alyssa on them — going to her house to try on muslins and all of it. Not fancy clothes, but genuinely one-of-a kind. At the same time, I was filling my closet with sweaters made with my own two hands and their respective sets of memories, and slowly falling out of love with storebought.

The more you think about this stuff, the more you tune in to — and it turns out there’s a whole other level beyond the making itself, such as where the yarn and fabric come from, and how they came into your possession. I have a vest, for example, knitted of Hole & Sons wool, from British sheep I followed on Instagram for years before the farmer decided to make yarn from their fleece and I got to have some! Direct from that beautiful farm. I have multiple yarns produced by friends who worked directly with the farmers and mills to make something meaningful and unique for their shops, despite making no profit on it, and those stories and friendships will be part of whatever the yarns become. I have a top sewn from fabric a friend back in California sent me after I’d moved away to Tennessee, that she dyed in the natural indigo vat she worked so long and hard to bring to life. It’s some of the best sewing I’ve ever done, and so represents both of our triumphs. The list goes on. And on.

I remember the moment I realized that my lifelong relationship with clothes had changed irrevocably. My husband and I were in a J.Crew store (long one of my most reliable sources) and I was standing in the sale area, sliding hanger after hanger along the racks, unmoved. Even the lilac cardigan I’d coveted in photos — now more than half off! — stirred not an ounce of want, and not just out of concerns about what sort of faraway factory it might have been made in, and whether the workers were paid a living wage. (Although of course there’s always that.) I just remember feeling so intensely, these are just clothes. I have the power to make treasures.

. . .

On a similar note, I posted on Instagram the other day about how the simple outfit pictured above is actually a walking scrapbook, a post that began with the words “My clothes tell stories, even if only I can hear them… .” I plan to tell these stories more often and would love to hear yours, too — both during and beyond Slotober. Let’s use hashtag #myclothestellstories, shall we?

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PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: Style Crush x 3

© Karen Templer for Abrams Books/Hannah Thiessen; reprinted with the publisher’s permission

Style Crush x 3

Style Crush x 3

I’m taking this opportunity to revive the long-neglected Blog Crush / Maker Crush series by posting a few of them throughout Slow Fashion October. Highlighting people who inspire me is one of my favorite things to do, and during Slotober there are always way more people I’d love to call attention to than I actually can, so this is yet another way to point you at some people worth knowing about! Since our theme this week is What’s your look? (zeroing in on your personal style), I thought I’d kick it off with a trio of people who are living a slow-fashion life and whose very different personal styles I admire tremendously. I believe I’ve made smaller references to all three on the blog at various points in the past, but all deserve a bigger spotlight!

TOP: Sienna Parfitt / @notaprimarycolor
Sienna has possibly the most dialed-in personal style I’ve ever seen and an astonishing internal well of creativity. She lives in the earth tones that surround her namesake color in the spectrum, and she is the walking epitome of that “funky art teacher” vibe so many makers aspire to. She is both an art teacher and a design student, makes her own wardrobe and accessories — all perfectly in step with her aesthetic — and every time I see her sketchbook or chalkboard make list, it just makes me want to make things! She is nonstop inspiration both on Instagram and her blog.

BOTTOM LEFT: Ebony / @ebonyh
Ebony is a city girl (San Francisco) whose style I would describe as urban-casual. Polished but comfy. Chic but unassuming. She has a closet after my own heart, in other words, which looks to be a pretty steady mix of RTW and handmade — but good luck telling which is which, as she’s an awesome maker. You may have spotted her on my Fall mood board, in fact.

BOTTOM RIGHT: Libby Callaway / @libbycallaway1970
Libby is a Nashville acquaintance so she is someone I admire from a’near, through her Instagram and the very occasional bump-into around town. She is a lust-for-life maximalist and a masterful one — color and pattern and pizzazz are her signature, and the more the better. I have no idea how massive her vintage collection actually is, but she is one of the stalwarts keeping the good stuff from ever becoming landfill, while also supporting small, emerging brands. She’s a publicist who used to work in fashion in NY and now makes sure the world knows about all the creative good happening in Nashville (including most recently curating the Greetings From Nashville pop-up at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn, which I’m mentioning because if you’re in Brooklyn please go see it and send me pics of the Porter Bin in the mix)! She’s the kind of wizard who makes me wish I were a better vintage shopper and had a stronger color sense, but I’m happy to admire it all on her!

Of course, it’s impossible to convey anyone’s style in a single image, so please make sure you click through and check out all three! This was one of the discussion prompts this week — who inspires you? I’d love to hear about your favorites below (or on #slowfashionoctober), whoever they may be.

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PREVIOUSLY in Blog Crush: Meeting Rosa Pomar

Idea Log: Shrunken crewneck Charles

Idea Log: Shrunken crewneck Charles

I mentioned in my Queue Check last week that I only expect to knit one more sweater this year, and I really want to get it right, in terms of feeding what I’m yearning for while also filling a legitimate gap in my sweater collection, which means a non-wool pullover, and I’m really really really wanting navy. A feeling that was compounded yesterday by seeing (once again) that pic of Sofia Coppola in her perfectly plain navy sweater on my forever mood board. But the sweater I can’t get out of my head is Michele Wang’s Charles, which I’ve gone on about how many times since it published last year? That fixation is meaningful, and I want to heed it, and while I can make a case for adding an aran-weight wool turtleneck to my closet to replace the sad old storebought one currently playing that role, it’s by no means by most pressing need at the moment. Do you know about L’Envers? It’s a small-batch sweater company in France — a wonderful slow-fashion brand worth knowing about — and if I weren’t a knitter, they’d be getting some of my money. (They might anyway, at some point.) The other day on Instagram, they posted a sweater that brought ol’ Charles to mind again, their Jane & Serge jumper. Although I like it even better in ivory, I’ve well established that I do not need any more ivory sweaters! So I’m thinking about knitting Charles at a lighter gauge, scaling down the silhouette to more like my aran-gansey (not nearly as long as the L’Envers one), and knitting it in a blend of some kind.

This is the always challenge for me: What I enjoy knitting is more fanciful, shall we say, than what I enjoy wearing, but I think this idea would satisfy both. Still, I’m not quite ready to commit. It could be another fisherman sweater in navy, which would also be Sofia approved, if you know what I mean, or a navy version of my aran-gansey, or a navy-and-black marlisle sweater, which I’m also never not thinking about. But I need to find the perfect yarn: dk or light worsted weight, a nice deep dark navy, and not 100% wool. Which is even harder than just finding a nice deep dark navy wool, which is hard enough. (A vexation for many of us, I know, and I’ve promised a roundup!) If you have yarn suggestions that meet all of those criteria, please let me know! I’ve got a decision to make.

(And a ball of Navia Bummull headed my way for a round of speed dating …)

p.s. If you’re wondering, I promise I’ll have Marlisle KAL prize winners for you very soon! 

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PREVIOUSLY in Idea Log: Carbeth coat

Slow Fashion October, week 1: What’s your look?

PLEASE NOTE: This mood board and palette are a nutshell version of my look. In no way do I think it needs to also be your look! Let’s figure out what yours is. But if this feels like you, too, by all means have at it!

Slow Fashion October, week 1: What's your look?

Here’s what I would love to see happen this Slow Fashion October. I would love for each of us to get (at least) one step closer to having a closet full of clothes that we absolutely love and wear and feel great in and feel great about. Clothes we want to take care of and mend and make last because we will be so sad when we’ve finally worn them out. If that means a rainbow of color and sparkle and skirts that twirl, then that’s what I want for you. If it means black trousers and white button-downs and grey sweaters, then that’s what I want for you. Whatever it is, it will take time to build it into just what it needs to be — slow fashion is slow — but we’ll talk through how to get started and how to get there, gradually. Because every closet that fills more slowly and thoughtfully, that lasts longer and suits its owner, is a chink in the fast-fashion industry. And chinks add up. So that’s what I want us to do this time around. Whether you’re brand new to slow fashion and trying to figure out where to start (in which case, here are some resources!), or whether you’ve been working on a slow closet for years (as I have), every closet benefits from a periodic assessment and course correction, a reckoning with the wrong decisions we are all capable of making, and a renewal of intention.

The key to having a loved, lasting, low-turnover closet is to put the right clothes into it. The right clothes for you. And the key to that is knowing who you are and how you like to dress; making good choices for your body and soul and style and lifestyle. So that’s where I want to start: with a little getting-to-know-yourself exercise.

About five years ago, Bob and I were in a little shop in Berkeley that he liked to pop into. He was on a hunt for a (California) winter jacket, and found one he liked on the rack — a waxed canvas utility jacket sort of thing in his favorite color, which I like to call smudge. He pulled it on over his typical logo t-shirt and baggy jeans (i.e., not a look) and turned to look at the sales girl to see what she thought. She cocked her head and made a slightly quizzical face and said, “Mm, what’s your look?” And we are still giggling about it to this day, simply because Bob doesn’t have “a look,” which is clear from looking at him. But the fact is, that was exactly the right question. The only way that jacket was a smart decision for him is if it not only fit him, physically, but fit in with his life and the rest of his clothes. And that’s the question I want you to try to answer for yourself this first week and on into Slow Fashion October. What’s your look?

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ACTION ITEM

Each Monday this month, I’m going to give you (and myself!) an Action Item — one step to take in the gradual process of better knowing ourselves and the contents of our closets, and making sure they’re compatible. So here’s the first one:

Make a mood board or pinboard that reflects your ideal style — colors, shapes, attitude. Think about how that has evolved over time, and the difference between what you like or admire and what actually feels like YOU — these are not the same thing. Just because something looks great on a friend or celebrity or passerby or pattern model, and you love it, doesn’t mean you would feel like you in it. Look for images that make you go Now that’s me right there; that is who I want to show the world. You might also be inspired by a landscape or a vintage car or a movie still; whatever speaks to you, not just outfit photos, but certainly that too. This may involve photos of clothes that aren’t necessarily slow fashion, and that’s totally fine — it’s not a shopping list! It’s just to create a visual reference for your style that can help you focus and guide your decision making. (For some people, this could be a single photo that says it all to you.) Tear out photos and put them in a file folder or on a cork board, or use Pinterest to find and gather things online, or a saved images folder on Instagram, or whatever works for you. Take your time with it — do it gradually, trying not to overanalyze what you’re throwing in there; reflect; edit. You’ll start to notice patterns: recurring colors or shapes or types of garments. Take note of that. Get it to where it really tells you something about how you want to dress. If you feel like you could use advice on how to get started, please feel free to ask below.

Those of you who are regular readers here will recognize this Action Item as part of the Wardrobe Planning process I put myself through a couple of times a year, and which has been wildly beneficial for me in shaping a high-functioning closet. (You can see my seasonal mood boards at Pinterest, but the one that speaks to me the most strongly about how I would actually like my closet to feel, in terms of color and mood, is called all things lovely.) For the sake of today’s post, I decided to put together a mini-mood board of just a handful of images that speak to me of myself past, present and future, and wound up with the 9 images above, which manage to say pretty much everything about how I like to dress!

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DISCUSSION PROMPTS

I’m also going to give you some discussion prompts each week, as in years past. These are meant to get your wheels turning and also give you ideas for things you might want to share in comments, among your friends, or on Instagram with the #slowfashionoctober hashtag. This week’s:

Do you have a color palette?
Whose style inspires you; do you have a muse or icon?
Is there a brand you’re always drawn to, for their clothes and/or how they put them together? Why?
What shapes and styles of garments work best for you, your life and your body?
What are your clothing pet peeves? (lengths, necklines, sleeve types …)
What is your favorite garment or outfit (right now or always) and why?
What is the image you would like to project with your clothing?
Can you describe your style in five adjectives?
What showed up in your mood board that surprised you?
What’s an example of something you own and love (had to have!) but never wear, and why not?

. . .

Other than that last question, try not to even think about what’s actually in your closet right now — we’ll get to that next week. For now, just think about what a deeply loved and truly you wardrobe would look and feel like. And let’s talk about it!

For an intro/preview of what’s to come, where I’ll also collect all of the links to this month’s content, see the Slow Fashion October directory page.

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PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: 20×30 outfits and afterthoughts

Elsewhere

Elsewhere: Book sale and yarny links for your clicking pleasure

Fun news: There’s another standalone marlisle pattern now available! It’s a hat called Pheasant Plucker, which combines marlisle with stranded colorwork in a feather motif, and there’s still time to knit it for the Marlisle Knitalong! Relatedly, I’m hoping to get to listen to Mimi’s Yarnchix podcast discussion with Anna this weekend.

And what’s with all the book pics up there? We need to free up some shelf space so we’re having a little sale — use code HITTHEBOOKS to get 20% off everything in the Books section at Fringe Supply Co., now through Sunday.

And with that, how about some Elsewhere? —

– Kate Davies is doing ready-to-wear sweaters and I’m a little obsessed with Finnich

I love this post of Lee Vosburgh’s about how she’ll wear her summer favorites for fall (and the shape and proportions of that black turtleneck are 100% perfect in my view.)

This year’s Refashioners challenge has me thinking about having a go at it

The story of Chloe’s yarn cabinet is magic

– And also the story of Annie Rowden’s redwood-dyed California yarn souvenir

– Anyone know where I can get some horse chestnuts?

This photo makes me want to knit socks

This photo makes me want to mend some

And I’m tempted by Tamarack all over again

Happy weekend, everyone — thank you for spending your time here this week!

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PREVIOUSLY in Elsewhere: I know what you missed last Summer