A lot has been made of organic cotton and other eco-friendly fabrics made from Tencel, hemp and bamboo as fashion rides the mega-trend of environmentalism. But recycled clothes purchased at thrift and consignment stores, as well as upcycled items reworked from out-of-date castoffs, may be an even greener choice. Almost half of the climate impact of clothing occurs before it reaches consumers.
It was this idea I embraced when I hired a wardrobe consultant for a desperately needed eco fashion makeover.
So I called Meg Gallagher, a personal stylist who, in 2009, started a bicoastal fashion consulting business and runs a blog called Madison to Melrose.
Gallagher, 40, is a fashion industry veteran who worked as a design director for a New York knitwear company for several years before moving to the L.A. area. Part of a growing legion of personal stylists, Gallagher does not specialize in eco fashion, though she does have some clients who prefer vintage.
A shopping list is critical, Gallagher said. Most people buy impulsively: “They keep buying and buying and they wind up with all these clothes they don’t know how to put together.”
My appearance already shouted it loud and clear: I’ve been thrifting most of my clothes for a couple of years now, my usual go-tos being Crossroads Trading Co. and my local Goodwill. But Gallagher had some additional ideas that incorporated the many fashion-forward thrift and consignment shops.
Thrift often takes longer to shop than first-run because everything is one of a kind, so for our first shopping excursion, Gallagher went out 90 minutes ahead of me to pull items. The next two hours included the usual series of dressing room hits and misses. In the end, I walked out with nine items totaling $411, including a pair of black Marc Jacobs skinny jeans, a lace-trimmed Ella Moss sweater, a pair of flats and two feminine leather jackets, all of them in excellent condition.
Still, I was missing certain things, according to the shopping list Gallagher had created, including some neutral sandals and a taupe handbag. At the next store, I purchased two drapey tank tops made from fabric overruns for $75 apiece.
Finally, we picked up my biggest splurges: two pairs of heels, a Chloe handbag and an Alexander Wang leather vest that represented, to me at least, a shift in my thinking toward quality and longevity rather than easy and cheap.
I ended up giving 57 clothing items, or about two-thirds of what was in my closet to my local Goodwill. I spent $710 purchasing six tops, four pairs of shoes, three leather jackets, two fabric jackets, two sweaters, one skirt and one dress, which are now in heavy rotation. I spent an additional $1,240 on two of the most expensive clothing items I’ve ever purchased in my life, the designer handbag and leather vest, and $40 more on a pair of new white skinny jeans from Zara.
In total, Gallagher’s services cost me $875, including the last hour she spent assembling 30 outfits from the items she’d found and taking pictures so I could use them for reference.
I spent far more than I anticipated, but I’m feeling a lot more attractive and confident than I have in years. And it’s enormously satisfying to accomplish so much in a way that didn’t compromise my environmental values. As a whole, that’s priceless.