Almost exactly one year ago, my partner and I moved out of our 200 square ft. studio apartment in NYC and into a 150 square ft. Airstream travel trailer. Losing out on 50 square feet of space may not seem like all that much, and honestly it wasn't much of a big change at all, but the large amount of clothes and shoes I had managed to cram into our tiny apartment closet was more than I felt like I needed.
I knew that I had to sell or donate lots of clothing and shoes which I had accumulated over the years of working in retail and also from accepting sponsored clothing as a fashion blogger. I had piles and piles of clothes, crazy high heels, leather boots, all of which were no longer in alignment with who I felt like I was anymore or what I wanted to support or promote.
Most of my clothes were way more bold and attention-grabbing than I felt comfortable with anymore. I'm not even exaggerating, a significant portion of my wardrobe was actually rainbow tie-dye or holographic.
I don’t know if this is just a side-effect of getting older, as I’m 26 years old now and most of those clothing items I had gathered in my late teens and early 20s, but I knew I had to make some changes to my wardrobe if I was going to be leaving NYC and moving into a smaller space outside of a big city. I also knew that I no longer wanted to support fast fashion brands or buy any new clothes or shoes made from animal products.
How I got rid of most of my clothes:
Some of my clothes were worn very lightly or even still had tags on them so I knew I wanted to try to sell them to get some money back, but I didn’t know how to make that happen. Then I heard about an app called Poshmark. I created an account on there and began the process of photographing and listing my freshest, best quality, name-brand items. I priced everything to sell quickly as I didn’t have a ton of time, and to my surprise and relief everything sold very quickly.
I’ve also heard of people having success on a similar app called Depop, but since Poshmark worked so well for me I stuck with that one. Poshmark is a US only site though so consider Depop if you live anywhere else in the world.
There were also some well-worn items of clothing that I loved so much, specifically tons of vintage dresses I had accumulated over the years. At one point in my life I worked at five different vintage clothing stores all at the same time. That meant working at a different location of each vintage clothing store every day of the week all over different parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Needless to say I accumulated a lot of vintage items.
I decided to save three of my favorite vintage dresses, even though I don’t get to wear them often these days, and the rest of my well-loved clothing items I gave to friends who didn’t mind the rips and imperfections. It felt really good to give away some of the clothes that I had sentimental attachments to to my friends because I knew they would love them as much as I did.
The rest of my clothes which I couldn’t sell or friends didn’t want, were all donated to a local Goodwill. This was about two giant duffle bags worth of clothing and shoes.
Regrets & what I wish I had kept:
While I don’t need a lot of fancy clothes anymore as I don’t go to parties or events, there’s one item I definitely regret donating and think about often and that’s this vintage ruffled lace top.
I gave it away because it had always been too big on me, but I didn’t realize how unique of an item it was and how difficult it would be to find a replacement for. I could have gotten it tailored to fit me or worn it with a top underneath, but in the rush of clearing out my closet, it got donated and I definitely miss it a lot.
Is it a practical item to have in my wardrobe? No. But sometimes when we find something that’s special to us and as unique as vintage clothing items can be, it’s good to think over the decision to part with them a little more carefully as they will be nearly impossible to replace.
Things I kept that I probably shouldn't have but did anyway:
My most cherished clothing item which I still have in the closet of our tiny RV, is my white frilly late-1970s gunne sax dress. There’s definitely a theme going on with all of my most loved clothing items and it has something to do with white lace, high victorian collars and ruffles.
I haven't even worn it since moving into the RV, so clearly it doesn’t make any rational sense to keep it around, but having just one special vintage dress there that I could wear should the occasion ever present itself makes me feel happy, and since we have the closet space in our RV I’ll be keeping it for now.
I don’t think minimalism and downsizing should be as all-or-nothing as some make it out to be. A lot of people have said if you haven’t worn something in a year or even six months, that it’s time to get rid of it. Generally, that’s sound advice, and for most items in our wardrobe this makes sense, but I think this mindset of having less just for the sake of having less and getting rid of your most favorite impractical item could leave you with regrets in the future, so maybe don't apply it to every single item.
Things I still have from before I went vegan (Leather, Wool, Fast-Fashion):
When I went vegan in 2015, I knew that changing my diet would be the easy part. However, I had a closet full of animal-based clothing. All of my shoes were leather and so was my favorite bag which I took with me everywhere.
At first, I didn’t stress about it and decided I’d continue to wear the leather shoes and bags and replace stuff as I go. Then, about three weeks after going vegan, I got a job working at a vegan shoe store and suddenly I had replaced many of my shoes and bags way faster than I had ever expected to be possible.
When this happened, I began to either donate or give to friends all of my leather stuff. Some of the stuff I hadn’t even found replacements for yet, but at this point I was beginning to see leather for what it was, cow’s skin, and it genuinely gave me the creeps. Parting with my leather stuff became much easier once I fully allowed myself to understand the cruelty in it.
Wool, however, is almost just as cruel. Even though you don’t have to kill a sheep to take their wool, and sheep must be shorn because they are bred to produce so much wool, the practice of breeding these human-dependent, product-producing, sweet gentle creatures into existence and treating them like commodities is just wrong. In a profit-driven system, sheep are shorn as fast as possible to save money and time, which often results in injuries or death to the sheep, and once their wool production drops as they age, they are sent to the slaughterhouse.
I don’t even like wool as a fabric, sure it’s warm, but it’s also so itchy. Still though, I have a few items in my tiny RV closet that contain wool that I have yet to replace. Being that wool is not skin, it doesn’t gross me out quite as much as leather so I can almost tolerate it being in my wardrobe, although I’m still not proud of it and I don’t promote it to others. I definitely don’t plan on buying anything with wool in the future, but for now my two wool sweaters and one light purple wool jacket are some of the warmest winter clothes I currently have and they’ll be with me until I can afford to replace them.
While I would love to have a closet full of entirely sweatshop free clothing, the truth is that some of the clothing items I have are from back in the day when I’d shop at companies that use sweatshop labor like Zara and H&M. Fortunately, these clothing items are few and far between because most of my clothing is thrifted, but there are still some items that I bought before I was shopping more consciously.
I still wear those items occasionally, but since I don't want to promote them, when people ask where I got them from I either say I forgot or I straight up tell them it’s from a fast fashion brand so it’s likely long gone from production and also not from a place I actively support anymore.
What I’ve learned through downsizing my wardrobe and trying to have a more ethical closet:
The journey towards a smaller and more ethical wardrobe is going to be a long process that looks a little different for everyone. You shouldn’t take an all-or-nothing approach and get rid of every impractical or unethical item all at once, because it’s usually not that easy to replace so many items quickly.
When you first start to connect to the truth of what you are purchasing, especially with going vegan, you might feel like you want to get rid of everything but then you realize how expensive it can be to buy new clothes that aren’t made in sweatshops. Sure there are always thrift stores, but this isn’t practical for many busy people who don’t have the time to sort through everything. This is why I never want to push my views on other people and fully get why everyone can’t 100% stop buying fast fashion and go completely eco-friendly or vegan.
The process is going to depend peoples unique circumstances and ability to make these big changes. The fact that so many people are beginning to think about these things and care about what they are supporting with their dollar is a huge step in the right direction. Even if they’re not at the point yet where what they are purchasing reflects their values for whatever reasons.
It’s important to not get wrapped up in having to be completely perfect or make the most ethical choice every single time, but just to bring more awareness to each purchase and consider where it’s coming from and the effect that’s having on the world. Not to feel guilty when we make a “bad” purchase or go the other way and adopt a virtuous identity as a consumer who makes more conscious ethical choices, but just to simply connect with the reality of what we are doing regardless, so that we don’t blindly consume and end up with a bunch of junk that we don’t need or that falls apart after one wash cycle.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! Are you trying to buy less and/or buy things that are vegan and sweatshop-free?
I plan to write more about this topic going forward and eventually do a tiny closet tour to show some of my favorite ethically-made vegan clothing and shoes, so check back in for that if this is a topic you're interested in!