Here’s How “The Art of Less” Can Completely Transform Your Wardrobe

When it comes to clothes, minimalism is key.

Courtesy of Africa Studio / Shutterstock
Courtesy of Africa Studio / Shutterstock

The Art of Less is a philosophy based on the thoughtful, intentional consumption of fewer items of clothing. The Art of Less isn’t anti‐fashion. It’s anti‐clutter, anti‐waste, and anti–mindless consumption. Far too much clothing ends up in landfills and incinerators or just sitting in the back of our closets, unloved and collecting dust. Buying less and wearing our clothes more is a simple and sustainable solution.

But if less were really all that easy to put into practice, we’d be doing it already! To truly unleash the power of less, we need to cultivate strategies in our everyday lives that help us to consume less and to consume better. We need to know how much less and less of what.

The Art of Less has tremendous personal benefits. It is the secret to building a functioning wardrobe, affording better‐quality clothes, and staying sane amid a swirl of fashion discounts, deals, and changing trends. Buying less might sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. We can choose to think of it as wearing what we love more. Most of the chapters in Part Two are dedicated to the timeless arts of buy‐ ing well and, from there, dressing well with what you’ve got.

Less is a boon for the planet. It is the single most effective way we can reduce our fashion footprint. The vast majority of the clothing industry’s environmental toll happens while manufacturing new clothes, specifically in the process of turning fiber into fabrics. According to the sustainability consulting firm Quantis, 93 percent of the carbon emissions and water used in making fashion happens while creating the textiles that become our clothes. That’s why I’ve dedicated several chapters in Part Four to an in‐depth look at sustainable, nontoxic fibers and the companies that use them.

Just by doing our part to buy carefully and wear our clothes for longer, we can help make fashion more sustainable. We can reduce the per capita demand for more new clothes, and stretch out the water, energy, and chemicals used to make what we wear. Less is so simple, but the impacts are huge: One study by Wrap UK found that wearing a garment just nine months longer reduces that garment’s carbon, water, and waste footprints by 20 to 30 percent. That is the sustainable power of less.

Brands also need to do their part to make less clothing. There is a glut of fashion manufactured each season, far in excess of what consumers can buy. It’s trashed or burned instead. An estimated 2.2 billion pounds of overstock and unsold clothing are landfilled or incinerated around the world every year, according to a 2018 report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a UK charity that promotes sustainability. Two billion pounds of clothes is the equivalent in weight of 5 billion T‐shirts, enough leftover stock to dress the adult population of the planet. In 2018, H&M announced that the brand was stuck with 4.3 billion dollars’ worth of unsold goods. And a few months later, luxury brand Burberry was caught destroying 24 million dollars’ worth of excess clothing and accessories (they later agreed to ban the practice), proving that it’s not just fast‐fashion brands whose production methods have gone off the rails.

Incredible progress is being made to make the manufacture of new clothes sustainable. And there are easy ways to keep up with trends that have a much smaller environmental impact. And yet, neither negates the equally urgent need for less.

Excerpted from The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good published by Plume, an imprint of The Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2019 by Elizabeth L. Cline.

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