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Book Review: The Conscious Closet, The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good, by Elizabeth L. Cline

March 17, 2020

By no stretch am I a fashionista. Nobody is checking their IG to see what I’m wearing today. Still, I’ve always enjoyed clothing and the opportunity it gives us to express ourselves. What I neglected to consider seriously enough for years, though, is the huge impact the fashion industry has on the environment. I’ve carried home new scarves in my reusable tote bag rather than store bags. And I’ve laundered and mended clothing to make it last. But I didn’t really tap into the impact my purchases were making. I had a lot to learn about ethical fashion.

Did you know, for example, that each person in the United States throws away about 73 pounds of clothing and shoes every year? (We have a habit of buying a lot and wearing little of it.) Or that a third of the microplastic polluting our oceans right now comes from the garment industry? There are more sad facts, but I’m more interested in solutions. I’m interested in learning to make clothing decisions that are good for the planet and the people who make the garments.

What I love about Elizabeth Cline’s The Conscious Closet is that she give us scores of actionable advice for being more mindful about the clothes we wear. 

book cover of conscious closet by Elizabeth L. Cline — a book about ethical fashion

In her earlier book, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, Elizabeth outlined the dangers of fast fashion — in particular its impact on the environment and garment workers. It’s a great read if you’re looking for some background or convincing. In The Conscious Closet, she helps us take action. She teaches us how to be mindful about our wardrobe. And it doesn’t feel restrictive. It feels enriching and empowering. 

Elizabeth acknowledges fashion types, from minimalists and traditionalists to style seekers, and she gives super helpful advice for each. (For the Style Seekers, for example, she suggests resale and renting as sustainable options.) There’s a lot to learn about having a consciousness about your closet, such as buying less but better clothing, choosing more eco-friendly fibers, and supporting sustainable clothing brands.  Elizabeth walks us through each approach. She also provides a “Make it Last” chapter, outlining how to care for clothing (via laundering methods and repairs). The book ends with information on the movement to improve conditions and wages for garment workers and how we can hold brands accountable. 

Regardless of the level of commitment you’re ready to make to a mindful wardrobe, The Conscious Closet will be helpful. I don’t want to feel guilty about my clothes when I get dressed in the morning. With Elizabeth’s guidance, I’m transforming my wardrobe into something I can feel good about as I dress each day. (It’s a slow but rewarding process!)

Does ethical fashion interest you? Do you have favorite sustainable clothing brands? (I’m especially interested in affordable options!) Are you working to make your wardrobe more sustainable? Please share your thoughts!

You might also like: Prevent pilling — How to keep sweaters, bedding, and other items from pilling and Tights — How to make them last

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