Here at Neighborhood Notes, we’re kicking off the new year by taking a good, hard look at…our closets. Sounds superficial, we know, but hear us out. From the beginning, we’ve been all about showing you the latest and greatest in Portland style, but our “New Year’s resolution” is to up the ante a bit by making our closet a bit more sustainable. So, not only are we looking for the best and the brightest in local fashion, but hoping to keep it all as green as we possibly can. All while saving a little green, natch.

In the coming months, look for our take on the best sustainable fashion in Rip City, but for now, well, it’s the season of cleaning house, so we thought we’d take a moment to offer a little Sustainable Style 101 for you eco-conscious, budget-minded fashion fiends. If you’re a bit blue about all this green, never fear…each and every one of our earth-friendly tips is absolutely as stylish as can be.

Take Inventory

Take stock in you closet for clothes you forgot or no longer wear.
Take inventory of your closet.

Without rehashing that whole “recessionista” nonsense from last year (yawn!), we do have to take a moment to sing the praises of a thorough closet check-up. Block off a Sunday and spend a few hours in the loving company of your clothes. Don’t worry so much about cleaning house…think of it more as an inventory. Find those pieces you don’t wear often enough and move them to the front of the closet—out of sight, out of mind, after all. We promise you’ll find at least one thing you’ll have forgotten about entirely. And maybe a piece or two you’d wear with a little tweak. 

Mend or Tweak It

Mend your clothes to make them last longer.
Mend or tweak your clothes and give them new life.

Make a pile of the pieces that could benefit from some TLC or a good tailor, and make it so! It's silly to let a missing button or defunkt zipper stand between you and a great outfit. Take basic sewing classes at a local sewing studio, and learn to mend your clothes. And if your clothes need more than a simple fix, remember that a good tailor is like a good hairdresser—utterly instrumental to looking your best. You’d be amazed what you can do with a good tailor. Turn an old evening dress into a cocktail dress by cutting it short. Take the sleeves off an old blazer your significant other isn’t wearing, and you’ll have a piece that’s on all the runways for Spring ’11. Or just have some fun, and give new life to a dingy old cardigan with a set of suede elbow patches. Give an old blazer, that’s a little bland and baggy, new life with a little nip at the waist and some new buttons.

Sell It

Red Light Clothing Exchange, Customers dropping off clothes: man: Rich Mackin and woman: Lacey. Employee by register: Ryan White
Employee Ryan White buys clothes from Rich Mackin and Lacey (left) at Red Light Clothing Exchange. Photo: © Heather Zinger

Now that your favorite pieces are looking fabulous, we’re guessing you may have come across a few things you’re just not in love with any longer, or that maybe aren’t fitting quite like they should (we’re sure you lost weight over the holidays, after all). If they’re the right season and the right label, try taking them to a consignment, thrift or vintage shop. Just make sure you’re taking clothes that are clean, in good condition, and for the current season (no coats in July, or sundresses in December). Instead of taking the cash, be daring and go for store credit…you’ll usually get more to spend than choosing the cash option, and you’re sure to find something to love without spending a cent!

Swap It

Clothing swap with grey sweater: Portia Roy, Brown shirt: Laura Atkinson
Portia Roy (left) and Laura Atkinson (right) examine clothes at a clothing swap.
Photo: © Heather Zinger

Another great way to change it up is by organizing a clothing swap. It sounds tricky, but really it’s as easy as pie. Pick out a few friends or co-workers whose style you love, and suggest you get together for a swap—you could even have each friend bring one person that’s new to the group to really up the ante. Offer to host, clear out a room, and maybe bring a rolling rack up from the laundry room if you’re feeling ambitious. Work out the swap rules in any way that sounds fair (round robin, draw names, free-for-all), have everyone bring about the same number of items, and don’t forget jewelry and accessories too (after all, you may not all be the same size). Chances are you’ll go home with a pile of new pieces to love…and whatever doesn’t make the cut can head off to charity.


Become a More Sustainably-Minded Shopper

Now that your closet’s as green as can be, we’d like to offer a few tips on keeping it that way.

Get Thrifty

Red Light Clothing Exchange. Woman: Lacey
Lacey shops at Red Light Clothing Exchange on Southeast Hawthorne.
Photo: © Heather Zinger

Consignment, thrift stores and even Goodwill are gold mines if you know how to scavenge properly. Take a friend along with you when you’re thrifting…you’ll double your searching capabilities, and chances are, you’ll find great pieces for each other.

Buy Fewer, Quality Pieces

cashmere sweaters at Souchi. all sweaters hand made black sweater is called: Trina Cardi Cape - Margi Hazen examines stiches, a sign of quality
Margi Hazen examines the stitching of cashmere sweaters at Souchi on NW 23rd Avenue. Photo: © Heather Zinger

Less is more. Buy fewer, quality pieces that will fit better and last longer. Never spend a lot of money on trendy or poorly-constructed items. Invest in wardrobe staples—such as a pencil skirt or cashmere cardigan—that never go out of style.

Buy Organic

Jet on N Mississippi Ave uses organic cotton in her clothes.
Jet on North Mississippi offers a great selection of organic cotton clothing.

If you do buy new, keep an eye out for pieces that are made from organic fabrics, tout sustainable construction methods and materials, or are made as close to local as you can get. Just like you’ve been doing with your fruit and vegetables for years now, check out the distance it had to travel to get to you—the closer, the better when you’re going green.

Nix Dry-Cleanable Fabrics Whenever Possible

Avoid clothes that require dry cleaning.
Avoid buying clothes that require dry cleaning.

Last but not least, pick natural fibers whenever you can, and learn the fine art of hand-washing—there are excellent tips and tutorials available from The Laundress, a great source for delicate detergents. Not only is it infinitely better for your clothes (those drycleaning solvents will wreak havoc on most fabrics over time), but it’s the perfect way to top off your eco-conscious closet.

Now that you have the tools to make your closet a model of sustainability, we’re looking forward to giving you even more tips and tricks to keep it that way. Stay tuned!

Do you have any tips or local resources for greening your wardrobe? We'd love to hear them!


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