SwapUp book review: The Conscious Closet

Got no time to read books? Worry not, SwapUp got you covered. We are writing a bi-monthly book summaries to help you stay up-to-date on current thinking and pass on some tips to help you stay sustainable.

Our inaugural book is The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good by Elizabeth L. Cline, a journalist and expert on consumer culture, fast fashion, sustainability and labour rights in the apparel industry. 

The book is a follow-up from Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, which uncovers the true nature of cheap clothing. The Conscious Closet, in many ways, is her suggestions of how we can move away from the cheap clothing industry she investigated in Overdressed.

The Conscious Closet encourages readers to learn where their clothes are made and how they're made so that we can shop and dress more sustainably. There are lots of handy tips in the book, but our favourite is the suggested “components” of a better, one-of-a-kind wardrobe (or a “conscious closet”):

  • For keeps: clothes you already own, love and want to keep wearing
  • New-to-you: thrifted (from thrift store like SwapUp) and hand-me-downs (never be too shy to accept them!)
  • Rentals: leased fashion (great for one-off occasions like graduation)
  • Better Big Brands: clothes by brands and retailers on the path to being green and ethical
  • Conscious Superstars: pieces by the pioneering, ethical and sustainable brands

You probably know which component makes the most of your wardrobe. For me, it’s the new-to-you because I love thrift shopping and am a proud thrifter (also, I run a thrift store, so naturally.... I preach what I teach). For others, it could be the rentals because they have rental subscriptions. Regardless, we recommend that you keep this in mind next time you go shopping as these options tend to be more ethical and less wasteful. 

Now, what items should you “purge” from your wardrobe? The book offers the following tips:

  • Dingy underwear and basics — you hate them (your partner probably hates them too), so they should be one of the firsts to go. If they’re no longer in good condition, please do not donate them as they’re just a burden to charity shops. Consider looking up a local textile recycler that can turn them into new fabric, or if there’s none available, put them in the bin instead (we know it is heartbreaking…)
  • Dead ends — some pieces are just difficult to work into your style. Maybe they’re something you received from an old colleague as your farewell gift, or maybe they’re just from a shopping mishap you had a long time ago. In any case, they just don’t go well with the rest of your wardrobe because you don’t know how or where to wear them to. Cut your loss and let them go so they can be loved by someone else. SwapUp’s consignment platform is a great way to rehome these items, letting you declutter your wardrobe while making some cash! 
  • Bad performing items — for whatever reason, some items in your wardrobe just perform poorly. They may feel uncomfortable, fall apart after washing or lose the colour intensity. If you know you won’t wear them, you could repurpose them for some art projects or cleaning essentials. Importantly, we recommend that you take notes of their characteristics such as fabric, style, brands or colours, so you can avoid them next time you go shopping. 

There's loads more in the book but we can't tell you everything, can we?! Hopefully that was enough teaser so you'd pick up the book yourself.

What other tips do you have for building a more conscious closet? Leave your comments below!

Much love,
Al