Six Books to Read About Intentional & Sustainable Fashion
I should have actually shared this post last week, as it would have been rather perfect for Fashion Revolution Week, but I guess today will do just as well. Fashion Revolution isn’t just applicable for one week in the year anyway, so perhaps this is timely, in case you have been wanting to read further about the fashion industry and how to put “sustainable fashion” into action.
I have a disproportionately large collection of fashion related books, compared to other topics at least, on my shelves. But as nice as social media and blogs can be for inspiration and information, there is still something special about pulling out a book and learning in-depth about a topic. So for today, here are some of my favourite books about sustainable fashion, as well as some of the books that sparked my interest in fashion, in case you are looking to add some books to your own library, or are just getting interested in sustainable fashion and aren’t sure where to start.
“Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” by Elizabeth L. Cline
This is the book that started it all for me. A blogger recommended this book years ago (I think it was in 2012?) and I immediately went and checked it out of the library. It was an eye-opening look at what really goes on in the fashion industry supply chain, and is a deep dive into what happens before our clothing makes its way to the store.
While I had never been a shopaholic, or even very addicted to fast fashion, this book definitely changed the direction of my wardrobe, since I realized that many of the pieces of clothing I owned were from fast fashion brands. I immediately started looking at my clothing with new eyes- knowing the story behind the pieces- and changed my shopping habits for the better. If you are at all interested in ethical and sustainable fashion, this is definitely the place to start.
“The Conscious Closet” by Elizabeth L. Cline,
Also by Elizabeth Cline, rather than the investigative style of Overdressed, her follow up book about the fashion industry is more of an instruction manual or guide. I would say that this is probably the second book you should read once you’ve finished reading Overdressed and have become interested in ethical fashion. I have been reading about the cheap fashion industry for almost 10 years now, so this book was probably not as helpful for me when I read it in 2019, as it would have been if I had read it in 2012, because I was already familiar with a lot of the information within.
Nevertheless, it does have some very good tips, so if you’re just starting out, this is also a good place to start to put the ideas into practice. She includes tips on how to change your shopping habits, create a more ethical wardrobe, how to sustainably pare back your wardrobe, as well as how to care for your clothes and other steps for getting involved outside of your own personal closet and shopping.
“Wear No Evil” by Greta Eagen
This is another comprehensive “instruction manual” style book that includes many aspects of the fashion industry, as well as the beauty industry. I found this book extremely helpful when I first read it years ago (early on in my sustainable fashion journey) and I actually should read it again. I really like how she gives practical tips for how to move past the “awareness” stage to the “actions” stage.
What makes this book so helpful is what she calls “The Integrity Index”, which is a list of sixteen attributes/categories that a garment could potentially fit into. While you are probably not going to be able to find a garment that ticks all of the boxes, you can start somewhere. For example you might not find a garment that is organic, natural fibre, recycled, closed loop, biodegradable, fair trade, and locally produced, but you might find one that checks off three of those categories. I found it so practical and helpful to pick the causes that are most important to you and use those as your guide while shopping, and she includes some very helpful charts and lists with suggestions to make shopping easier.
“The Curated Closet” by Anuschka Rees
I don’t own this book, but I’ve checked it out from the library a few times and mentioned it before here (I probably should just buy it!). Even though I don’t own this one, I wanted to include it on the list because it has been a helpful tool to shape my closet. It’s not strictly a sustainable fashion book, but when you focus on creating a more intentional and curated closet, it is going to be more sustainable by default.
One of the biggest driving forces behind the cheap, fast fashion industry is the insatiable desire of consumers for more and more clothing. These impulse buys, in turn, push brands to create cheaper clothing and more and more trends each year in order to make more sales. But these clothes are often so poorly made that they degrade quickly or are flash trends that fall out of fashion so quickly that they need to be replaced- thus starting this unsustainable cycle all over again. By curating your closet to reflect your own personal style, with items that are thoughtfully purchased, you are going to automatically purchase less items and thus become more sustainable in the process. This is an excellent guide book if you are wanting to create a more streamlined closet by reducing the number of pieces you have as well as changing your shopping habits.
“The One Hundred” by Nina Garcia
I got this book when I was 16 for a Christmas gift, and I have no idea why- I must have paged through it at the store and liked the illustrations. However, it is actually a fun book to read, and it sparked my interest in classic styles. While this book isn’t sustainability focused in any way, this book is about those timeless pieces in your closet that you always reach for over and over again. While some might say that 100 “must have” items is too many for a sustainable wardrobe, I think it’s a good start.
Rather than following this book as shopping list and going out and getting all 100 items to add to your closet, I think of this as an evaluation of why some items are so timeless and chic, and in finding the value in the items you have in your closet that you always reach for over and above other items. These are the pieces that you love and care for, and aren’t rushing to replace any time soon. Again, a more thoughtful and curated wardrobe is by default a more sustainable wardrobe, so it really is a good idea to reflect on what particular items are your most loved pieces, and why. And, of course, the alphabetical format of the book, witty quotes and illustrations just make this one all the better!
“The Sartorialist” and “The Sartorialist: Closer” by Scott Schuman
Finally, the last one on this list is the blog/book that started it all. I discovered Scott Schuman’s blog in about 2007 or 2008 (the olden days of the internet) and put his first book on my Christmas wish list when it came out in 2009. I wasn’t a very fashionable teenager because, while I liked fashion (especially historical), I had no idea of how to interpret my interests into a style that was wearable. His blog, and then later his books, about real people’s street-style showed me the value of breaking fashion rules, stepping outside of the norm and then going on to create my own unique style. Even though he never photographed vintage styles, without his blog I don’t know if I would have ever gotten interested in incorporating vintage into my wardrobe on a daily basis. And while I don’t wear strictly vintage looks anymore, without that early inspiration to dress in a different way, I probably wouldn’t have evolved to where I am now with my style.
Scott is an excellent photographer and I love to look through these books occasionally to be inspired by all of the unique and different people in these pages. This book is 12 years old, but when I page through it, while I do spot some trends, it still seems as fresh as when it was first released. Again, this book isn’t one that promotes ethical and sustainable fashion in any way, but I think that it really demonstrates this quote by Yves Saint Laurent: “Fashions come and go, but style is forever”. When you aren’t concerned about the latest trends, but instead are choosing to wear your own unique, collected style you are, by default, creating a more sustainable wardrobe that is going to last you longer than any fast fashion trend.
So, there are some of my favourite books for learning about sustainable fashion. If you are wanting to learn about how to turn your wardrobe away from fast fashion, then these are a good place to start- though they are only the tip of the iceberg!
What are some of your favourite fashion books? Have you read any of these? Do you have any other recommendations to check out?