Slow Fashion: Surprisingly Practical Benefits And Effortless Style

slow fashion


People look at me funny when I tell them there is joy to be found in owning only clothing that I wear, love, feel comfortable in, trust the brands and materials of, and can easily use in my lifestyle, but slow fashion has given me all of these things and more.

If you’re familiar with my love for slow living, slow food, and slow everything, really, then you probably aren’t too surprised that I embrace a slow philosophy for clothing as well. Slower means a more intentional, mindful, and sustainable way of doing something, and this mindset applies to your wardrobe in more ways than you might think.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

I’m often asked about my slower lifestyle and minimalist wardrobe. While I have a lot of tips for minimizing your closet, at the heart of why I choose, buy, keep, and discard the clothes that I do, is my slow fashion philosophy. Choosing clothing intentionally has made my life easier, more enjoyable, and more comfortable.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

What Is Slow Fashion?

What Is Slow Fashion

A slow fashion lifestyle will look a little different for everyone, but at its core, slow fashion is all about putting quality over quantity and pursuing mindful ownership over thoughtless consumerism. Picture your closet with one goes-with-everything, quality handbag (possibly a little pricey and preferably ethically made). Now picture your closet with ten “bargain,” event-specific or color-specific handbags in a haphazard pile. These bags were made quickly and cheaply in poor working conditions by fashion retailers pursuing fast money over ethical durability.

slow fashion lifestyleI’m not saying you’re only allowed one handbag, but if you gravitate toward the principle of that scenario, then you get the heart behind slow fashion: less, but better. Fewer items in your wardrobe, but purposefully bought, whole-heartedly loved, long-lasting pieces that fit your lifestyle and your values.

Slow fashion is all about purposefully choosing what clothing you wear and why rather than using clothes shopping as a hobby, buying something just because it’s cheap, or buying from a seller that wastes a crazy amount of clothing every year to support cheap, fast consumerism.

You don’t have to adopt a minimalist wardrobe to embrace a slower clothing lifestyle, but the two often go together. I have a small wardrobe and a minimalist uniform because I am a minimalist who purposefully doesn’t own more than I need or use. Slow fashion, on the other hand, is why I thoughtfully choose my clothing to reflect my personality, values, and lifestyle, while also making sure it’s ethically produced, made from quality materials, and long lasting.

Where Did Slow Fashion Come From?

Slow Food’s reaction against fast, processed, mindless meals started a revolution in the way people thought about so many facets of life. If slow, thoughtful food is better for me and my family, people started thinking, what about a slower approach to life in general (slow life movement)? A slower approach to finances (slow money)? A more mindful way of making and purchasing clothing (slow fashion)?

slow living quotes

Slow Fashion And Sustainability vs. Fast Fashion And Big Waste

I think it goes without saying that slow fashion is the opposite of fast fashion, and intentionally so. In the interests of making money, fast fashion brands use cheaper materials to make mass-produced, low-quality clothing while, at the same time, making trendy pieces that cycle quickly.

As a result, people buy a lot of cheap clothes and ultimately have to buy a lot more to keep up with fashion trends (or to replace the shrunken, torn, faded clothes the low-quality brands have given them in the first place).

Fast fashion brands appeal to people trying to economize by selling cheap clothes, but they don’t tell you that they waste literal tons of clothing every year, all while not actually providing clothing their buyers can wear for any length of time.

how sustainable is minimalism

Slow fashion puts the brakes on the mass production of cheap, trendy clothing, bringing the focus back to how long material will last, how timeless an item of clothing can be, and how ethically and fair the whole process can work. In short, slow fashion pushes for sustainability in a world of waste.

The Benefits Of Slow Fashion

The Benefits Of Slow Fashion

I’m not going to try to push my version of slow fashion on you because I want you to find the benefits a slower wardrobe has for your own unique life and personality. This will happen organically as you put some slow fashion principles into practice.

benefits of a slower wardrobeWhat I’ve found in my life of slow fashion is comfort in the clothes I’m wearing, confidence in how I look, security in having the clothing items I need for my specific lifestyle, assurance that my clothes are ethically produced and made to last, and contentment with fewer clothes because I know I’m being responsible with my money and possessions rather than wasteful.

I feel more at peace because I don’t have to make a countless number of decisions every morning between outfits, shoes, and accessories.

Slow fashion also benefits the environment and the lives of clothing workers around the world by reducing waste, promoting a slower form of production, encouraging quality and organic materials, and pushing for fair labor laws by supporting companies who treat their workers well.

minimalist peaceful home

Slow Fashion’s Values And Importance

Slow Fashion Values And Importance

Slow fashion is changing the way people shop for clothing (and the way companies produce clothing) for the better. This change hasn’t started happening overnight, but the more people become interested in purchasing durable, ethically produced clothing (preferably made from eco-friendly materials), the more slow fashion companies such as Encircled and Not Perfect Linen are being born to fill the need.

Some Slow Fashion Principles To Guide You

  • Quality is better than quantity in how clothing is made and bought
  • A smaller (but better) wardrobe can make your life easier and your conscience lighter
  • It matters who you give your money to
  • Fast Fashion’s enormous amount of waste is unnecessary and preventable
  • Cut down on waste by supporting slow fashion brands and shopping second hand
  • Viewing your clothing as an investment will help you take better care of it
  • The lifespan of a piece of clothing can be extended through repair, reselling, or donation
  • Mindful shopping improves the usefulness and enjoyability of your wardrobe while benefiting the planet
  • Materials with toxic ingredients should be replaced with clean ones such as organic cotton and linen when possible

Tips For Joining The Slow Fashion Lifestyle

Slow Fashion Lifestyle Tips

Ready to try slow fashion on for size? Here are a few strategies to put slower living into practice in your wardrobe.

Declutter Your Clothes And Create A Slow Fashion Capsule Wardrobe

Whether you choose to set a number for how many items of clothing you will own or designate a space for your clothing to fit into, set up a parameter of some sort for the size of your wardrobe, and stick to it.

Then comes the hard part. Having a slow fashion wardrobe means decluttering clothing that no longer matches your lifestyle, values and needs. Get rid of anything you don’t love, anything you haven’t worn in the past year, anything that doesn’t fit, and anything that makes you feel bad about your body shape.

If you need some more tips for clearing out your wardrobe, I have a post dedicated to helping you purge your closet of clothes that are bogging you down.

how to build a capsule wardrobe

Don’t Hold Onto Things You Barely Wear

You don’t have to create your own weekly uniforms like I do (I promise it’s less rigid and boring than it sounds) , but please don’t keep clothes you hardly ever wear just in case you might, possibly, at some point in time, if a specific event ever happens, wear it in the hypothetical future. Do you get my point?

marie kondo

“When we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.”

– Marie Kondo, KonMari

Allow yourself to live in the present, grateful for (but not tied to) the past, without fear of the future. Let go.

rules minimalists live by

Use Minimalist Tricks And Rules To Make Decisions Easier

If you need some help deciding what to keep and what to get rid of, don’t stress. Downsizing your wardrobe is an area I am something of an expert in, and I have many tricks and rules in my toolbox to help make decisions less personal and more practical.

Tricks And Rules To Make Decisions Easier

Dispose Of Your Old Clothes Responsibly

Remember, slow fashion is partly about lowering waste and creating a more sustainable system of buying clothes. Just because some clothing items don’t work for you doesn’t mean they won’t work for someone else. Find a place near you to donate your used items, and, when possible, repurpose your ruined clothing.

Consider your options, and choose what works best for you, whether that’s selling, borrowing, trading, tailoring, repairing, repurposing, or donating. If you’ve worn something out and don’t have a use for it, though, give yourself permission to throw some items away guilt free. Use your desire not to be wasteful as motivation to be selective in the clothes you buy moving forward.

Places To Donate Your Decluttered Items

Try A Month Of No Shopping To Set Goals And Evaluate Your Needs

Before you even start shopping for quality or thrifted items to build your perfect wardrobe, stop. I mean completely. Squash your instincts to go out and buy the first expensive (or thrifted) addition to your closet you can find, and just slow down.

Slow fashion is all about mindfulness, remember? Take some time to gather your thoughts.

A no-buy challenge is a favorite strategy of mine for many different times of life, but I think it’s best applied at the start of a wardrobe shift. This challenge might sound strict, but a month is a relatively short amount of time to take a step back and evaluate what your lifestyle needs are right now (not what they were five years ago or what you hope they will be sometime in your future).

no spend challenge

You can also use this time to research what brands you might want to support, what materials you gravitate to, and what thrifting options are convenient in your area.

Choose Your Clothing Mindfully

This isn’t actually about being picky, honestly. But mindfulness is at the heart of living a slower lifestyle. You and the life you live are worth investing time and thought into (and some money, too). Carefully choose the clothes you will wear on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Notice that I didn’t say yearly. Buy clothes you will actually wear regularly.

Set some criteria for the clothing you allow into your closet. Make each piece of clothing answer specific interview questions to make sure it is worthy of taking part in your life. This might sound weird, but it really works.

Interview Questions For New Clothing

  • Will I be able to wear you at least once per month (hopefully more)?
  • Are you made of quality materials that will last a long time?
  • Are you either thrifted or made in a store that has ethical production standards?
  • Are you a color that looks good on me and can be worn year-round?
  • Are you trendy or timeless? Will I be able to wear you in five years?
  • Can I see myself wearing you at least thirty times?
  • Is your fabric forgiving? Will I be able to wear you if I gain or lose 5 pounds?
  • Will you pair with multiple other pieces in my wardrobe?
  • Are you comfortable for the long-haul?
  • Are your care instructions simple enough for me to do frequently?

how to embrace a minimalist wardrobe

Ditch Impulse Shopping

I think this really goes without saying, but choosing your clothes intentionally doesn’t jibe with a “just because it’s there and I kind of like it” purchase. Impulsivity has its advantages in some aspects of life, but shopping isn’t one of them if you want your wardrobe to be small enough to easily pick from and carefully chosen enough to work for your personality and lifestyle.

Choose Quality Over Quantity

I’m not going to lie, shopping slow clothing lines is, generally, more expensive than going to your average retailer. I like to use this to my advantage. Higher priced clothes from quality materials are an investment — one that I like to think carefully about before making. I also take better care of my clothes when I have handpicked them for their quality and ethical production.
cheap clothing quality versus quantity

Opt For Timeless And Trademark Over Trend: Build Your Style Thoughtfully

Don’t put an expiration date on your wardrobe by purchasing trendy pieces. When you’ve decided what look and functionality you’re going for in your slow fashion wardrobe, carefully select clothing that will support your unique style for the long-term.

Ways To Build A Timeless Style

  • Avoid season-specific pieces when possible
  • Build your wardrobe like a house — with trusted staples as the foundation and structure
  • Create a uniform you feel confident in for your average week and activities
  • Choose classic, simple jewelry — nothing faddy or that matches only one outfit

Take Care Of Your Clothes So They Last A Long Time

The truth is, if you’re used to buying cheap clothes, you might not be used to caring for them all that well. No judgement here, honestly. But, if you want to commit to maintaining a smaller, more sustainable, and longer-lasting wardrobe (and probably a more expensive one in the process), you’ll want to dedicate some TLC to the clothing you choose to put into your closet.

minimalist laundryTake a little time to read your clothing tags and do research on proper ways to wash different colors and materials. Change up your laundry schedule a little bit if you need to in order to accommodate the techniques you learn.

Learn some new folding, hanging, and storing tips from experts like Marie Kondo to keep your clothes as fresh, wrinkle-free, and easy to wear as possible.

Also, try being eco-friendly in your laundry habits to avoid wasting water or using harmful chemicals and allergens.

Don’t Be Afraid To Thrift And Shop Second-Hand

Thrifting is slow fashion’s best friend. That might sound weird to say when you’re looking for higher-quality clothing, but I didn’t say I recommended buying whatever you find quickly.

Take your time and search for items made from good materials, items that are in good condition and will still last you a long time. Thrifting can help you be frugal, slow a wasteful cycle in the clothing industry, and still help you find quality clothes you feel and look great in.

shop at thrift stores

What You Can’t Find Thrifting, Buy From A Trusted Slow Fashion Brand

Do some research and shop smart. Find a few brands that you trust and go to them first for products rather than mindlessly shopping wherever you are.

Like I mentioned, shopping slow fashion brands is not bargain shopping, but if you do your research, you can find some brands that are on the lower end of the slow clothing price spectrum and stick with them if you need to. Don’t go out and overspend, here. Take your time, and slowly evaluate which pieces will build your wardrobe in the best way and which pieces you can afford.

Treat Fashion Like Food To Avoid Waste And Toxins

Chances are you were taught as a child not to waste your food. And, hopefully, as an adult you try to avoid eating food that contains toxins and unhealthy ingredients (for the most part). Think of the clothing you wear in the same way. Clothes, like food, are for your body, are meant to be used up, are meant to be enjoyed, and should made be of good quality, natural ingredients.

Apply Hygge To Your Wardrobe — Think Comfortable, Cozy, And Happy

This is, quite possibly, my favorite tip. Hygge is Danish for warm and cozy, and it’s becoming big as a lifestyle trend. Everyone loves being cozy and happy, after all. We want our belongings to inspire us with joy and comfort, and that’s what the concept of hygge is all about.

neutral sweatersWhile hygge is most often applied to our home atmospheres in the form of throw blankets and glowing candles, it works just as well in our closet. Don’t buy clothes, shoes, or accessories that make you itch, suck in your gut, or limp when people aren’t looking. Your clothes are, in a weird way, the home you live in as you go about your day, no matter where you go. You want that portable home to be comfortable and make you feel cozy and happy, don’t you?

You don’t have to sacrifice style, but choose nice looking pieces that are also comfortable and soothing with colors that make you feel warm and cozy on the inside. You might be surprised what a difference it makes to your overall vibe.

the basics of hygge

Get Ready For Your New Fashion Perspective To Change Your Lifestyle

Get Ready For Your New Fashion Perspective To Change Your Lifestyle

With a little bit of time and effort, your wardrobe can transform into something that supports your values and lifestyle rather than presenting you with an overwhelming amount of decisions and question marks. Does this top go with these pants? Does this dress still fit me? Can my feet last all day in those pumps, or do I need to bring some flats to change into for the commute home?

Regardless of what level of slow fashion you commit to, a slower lifestyle of clothing choices is better for you and better for the planet, and it all starts with small, intentional choices.

Slow Fashion Wardrobe

Your Turn!

  • Which aspect of slow fashion seems most relevant to you?
  • In what ways would a capsule wardrobe make your morning routine easier?
  1. This came at a perfect time for me. I am completely redecorating my bedroom with the minimalist approach. I was just about to start cleaning out my closet. This will help me in getting rid of those clothes and items that I have not touched in years. Lately, I only by clothes from brands that I know that are comfortable and will last. Funny story- I was having pain in one of my feet and I was not sure of the reason. I suspected it had to to do with my shoes. I tried going to a specialty store that claims to have the answer to foot pain. They tried to sell me a package of orthotics and tennis shoes that would have been over a $1500. Later that day, I happen to purchase a pair of Saucony tennis shoes and the pain went away. It is only Birkenstocks and Saucony’s for me. I just need to work on the fact that I do not need multiple colors of each. 🙂
    I really enjoy your articles. Thank you!

  2. J, Same here!! Perfect timing!!!!!!

    I have been downsizing for 3 years, but today’s perspectives gave me inspiration and direction to complete the tasks!
    Since I have received most of my clothes from family and friends, guilt issues have made me reluctant, but my new tiny life requires steps to downsize.

    Thank you for another great article!!!!!

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