I am embarking on my project to transition to an intentional wardrobe. An intentional wardrobe is one that reflects my desire to use sustainable and environmentally friendly materials and manufacturing processes. It also includes garments purchased from companies that support their workers with living wages and ethical labor laws. To learn more about how I got started on this project, check out this blog post. My goals are clearly defined but how will I measure my success?
What is an accidental wardrobe?
The wardrobe I have now is the opposite of intentional. In fact, my wardrobe isn’t curated in any way or fashion at all. The clothes I have ended up in my wardrobe mainly because I came across something that fit and was inexpensive so I brought it home without much thought. This wardrobe that has accumulated up to now without much thought is my starting place. I am going to call in my accidental wardrobe.
Over this past week, I took a good hard look at my clothes. I looked at every single tag (because I’m a nerd) so I could analyze the accidental wardrobe I currently have and gather data about my clothes. If I want to end up somewhere else, I needed to figure out where I’m beginning. I looked at everything including where each garment was made, the fabric content, and how each item came to be in my closet. I also tallied some information about what sizes I have in my wardrobe and the condition of my clothing to see if those things will also change over the course of the year. Buckle in friends, I made a spreadsheet for this project! Read to the end to find out how you can analyze your closet too!
I like numbers, so let’s analyze my wardrobe!
It seems to make sense that the first thing to look at is the overall condition of my wardrobe. How did I acquire the items I have, what condition are they in, and what is the size range of my current wardrobe? When I started this project after watching The True Cost (include link here) and learning more about the problems with the fashion industry, I felt a little justified in myself because I do shop at second-hand and thrift shops. Shopping second hand is a good thing! Every garment that can be worn for its full life cycle and not sent to a landfill or to be burned is one less piece of trash being replaced by an unnecessary new item. It is a budget friendly solution that almost anyone can implement without too much effort. However, I don’t have as many thrifted items in my closet as I thought I did. In my initial shock of learning about the problems caused by the fashion industry I clung to my thrifted wardrobe pieces to reassure myself that I wasn’t a part of the problem. Having thrifted items is good however, I know I can do more.I was suprized that I didn’t have more thrifted items in my wardrobe. Do you know where your wardrobe came from?
Does My Wardrobe Fit My Current Body Size?
Anyone who struggles with their weight knows that their closet is actually made up of several wardrobes. I have labeled my wardrobes as follows:
- I’ll fit into that when I lose weight wardrobe
- I can squeeze into this with shapewear wardrobe
- This probably fits right now wardrobe
- I’ll hang on to this just in case I gain back a few wardrobe
- I’m not going to address that this was my highest weight wardrobe
Clearly, I have more issues than Vogue! But as a word of encouragement for anyone who also struggles with fitting into some of the clothes in their closet, I found that analyzing my wardrobe was helpful. We all know that a 14 in one brand is not the same as a 14 in another brand.
Taking away the mental games regarding size numbers and just looking at what I have as what fits or doesn’t fit felt like I was taking back control over my wardrobe and I found it to be healing to my self esteem.
For the most part, I’m currently a size 2x (20). I really want to try some sewing projects and learn tailoring skills so that I can have a complete wardrobe that actually fits.
I did come across some clothing that has seen better days. I’m playing with some ideas of what to do with these things so they can be upcycled, mended, or rehabilitated. What I certainly don’t want to do is put anything into the trash! They will all stay for now.
The next thing I looked at in my wardrobe was the country of origin. I wanted to know if my small sampling of clothing aligned with the larger statistics of clothing manufacturing in the world. The data I used came from the World Trade Statistical Review 2019. So far, it looks like the trends in my closet accurately represent those of the global economy and I feel like that makes sense for a wardrobe gathered from a random selection. The only large discrepancy I saw was that I only had one piece from the EU. Perhaps the clothing exported from the EU goes to brands, stores, or other locations where I don’t shop? It will be interesting to see if I can discover an answer to this question as my wardrobe becomes more intentional. I had a handful of other countries where my clothes were made that represented slightly less than percent of my closet (0.8% to be exact) and they were not listed in the top ten exporters of the WHO report so I did not include them in my graphic, but I’ll list them here. Those countries include Kenya, Taiwan, Bahrain, Korea, Lesotho, El Salvador, Honduras, Dominican Republic, and Jordan. In addition to the above, 3% of my clothing was of unknown origin due to missing tags. The only exporter in the WHO report showing the top 10 clothing exporters that I didn’t find in my closet was Turkey (3.1%).
There is no wool in my wardrobe.
The next thing I examined was fiber content. This one shook me. To. My. Core. I have been a knitter since my Grandmother taught me how to knit years ago. Since then I have also learned how to spin yarn from raw fleece. Yes. That is right, I can take a fleece, straight off a sheep and wash, pick, card, and finally spin it into yarn. I love to spin yarn and I have several spinning wheels and spindles in my home. Go check out my YouTube channel if you want to see me spin! So please understand how horrified I was to learn that I have no wool in my wardrobe.
None. Grandy would be dissapointed. I’m dissapointed.
I’m having a hard time writing this because I feel as if it might damage my credibility as a spinner, knitter, and weaver. It is not as if I don’t have any wool garments. I have a pile of hats, scarves, cowls, mittens, headbands, and shawls that I regularly wear. However, I don’t have any wardrobe pieces made from my own yarn. That is about to change though! I have just about completed the Harvest Cardigan from Tin Can Knits. I have another sweater planned that I will begin as soon as the cardigan is complete. I made a sweater several years ago, but it was made from an acrylic blend yarn that I didn’t like the feel of in the final garment. It was also a 3X pattern that fit strangely when it was finished. I’m not sure if that was a reflection of poor design or my skills at that time, but either way, it was disappointing. I ended up unraveling it to make several other projects. I also have a cotton vest that I made years ago, but it is so small that I’m honestly not sure if I’ll ever be able to wear it again. It lives in my bin of nostalgia along with several other sentimental items that I don’t consider to be an actual part of my wardrobe.
I think something that held me back from creating my own knitwear for a long time was my weight. Bigger sizes are difficult to design patterns for and I always told myself I would lose weight so I shouldn’t “waste all the yarn” on a 4X sweater. I will definitely be making more of my own garments this year. Therefore, I expect that the wool category will drastically increase over the upcoming year. I have several fleeces in my crafting stash that I need to clean and spin. That wool will make garments that I can feel very satisfied to wear.
The Fabric Content of My Wardrobe
After the shock of the lack of wool wore off, none of the rest surprised me. I knew I had a large amount of polyester in my closet. If you don’t try, you will have a large amount of polyester because it is cheap to produce and is the content of most clothes available today. If you didn’t know, polyester is literally plastic. If I want an environmentally sustainable wardrobe, the polyester will have to go. My wardrobe is made of too much plastic.
Another material I found a lot of in my accidental wardrobe analysis was cotton. Denim is made from mostly cotton so if my wardrobe includes jeans, it will include cotton. I also have a stack of shirts I wear to work that are mostly made of cotton. Cotton, although renewable and biodegradable has other inherent problems. Unless specifically grown organically, cotton agriculture uses massive amounts of pesticides. The entire process of growing cotton from the plant to cloth is also a thirsty process and requires tons of water. While cotton can be grown and produced in environmentally conscious ways, most cotton produced is not. None of the cotton found in my closet is labeled as “organic” so I’m hoping to include that category in the future.
For the chart I made, I kept rayon and viscose separate even though viscose is a type of rayon because rayon and viscose rayon have a different look and feel (cottony vs silky). I did combine Spandex and Lycra into the elastane category because their slivers were so small it was difficult to see them separately in the full chart. Spandex and Lycra are trademarked names and that is the only difference that separates them from elastane.
What about the brands?
The other metric I tracked was brand names. It was very clear that certain brands were predominantly featured in my wardrobe and the rest were only one item of various brands I didn’t recognize. I didn’t have any surprises when I saw this data. The brands that I own the most carry plus size clothes and that is the range I have been wearing for the past couple of years. I think the biggest surprise to me was that I don’t own any Torrid. Not that I’m very sad about that. In the future, I would like to invest in brands that align with my intentions to have an intentional and ethical wardrobe. I look forward to seeing a shift in that direction.
When I became fully aware of the fashion industry’s rampant destruction of the environment and exploitation of human labor, my defensive knee-jerk reaction was to think I couldn’t possibly be a part of that atrocity. I thought I was avoiding the mess by shopping secondhand, but the reality is I own far more new clothes than I want to admit to. I wanted to think that the worst of the problems were perpetuated by certain fast fashion brands that I didn’t own. Unfortunately, it turns out that it takes a lot of research and effort to find brands that are actually environmentally sustainable and treat their workers fairly. They won’t find their way into my closet accidentally. I wanted to think about myself as a good person because I abhor terrible things. However, the sad fact is that being complacent is participating. These destructive and exploitative systems are firmly in place in society. Defensive and cynical thinking won’t change anything. It is the actions I take after the knee-jerk reactions wear off that will speak to my commitment to change. Taking a good look at where I am is the first step to making sure I end up somewhere else. I will count this hard analysis as progress.
Do you want to join me in my journey?
I got pretty deep into the math of this analysis, but you can create a simple snapshot analysis of your wardrobe using a free downloadable organizer I made for my readers. Make a tally of your clothes and decide what you want to change or add to your wardrobe in the future. To get your free download, subscribe to my blog and click the “Intentional Wardrobe” box. Click the spinning box too if you want to learn how to make your own yarn!
2 thoughts on “Wardrobe Analysis: Beginning to Create an Intentional Wardrobe”
I am also going to invest in environment friendly wardrobe pieces from now.
I hope you will share with me how it goes for you. I’m determined but still a little intimidated. Especially by some of the prices. Clothing really should be more expensive than we have gotten used to it being.
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