Waste Not, Want Not 

by Kinsey Gidick

Sustainable fashion tips from stylist Lakyn Carlton

Imagine if all your clothes vanished one day. That’s basically what happened to Lakyn Carlton, a sustainable virtual stylist, in 2015. The native Chicagoan had shipped two 40-pound boxes of her clothing to her new apartment in Los Angeles, and they never arrived. “I got a message on my phone that said ‘Delivered,’” she says. She looked everywhere, but “they were gone.” 

Faced with a fashion crisis, she did what any 23-year-old would and stocked up at fast-fashion stores like Forever 21 and H&M. “But when I wore the clothes, I realized I’d bought all this crap and nothing was cohesive,” she says. “None of it made sense.” Wearing fast fashion didn’t feel good, either. “I began to read more critiques of the way we consume fashion,” Carlton explains, like the fact that every year, millions of tons of clothes are thrown away. As a response, Carlton adopted a purpose-driven approach to fashion and, as it turned out, a new career, too. “I thought, ‘What if I could help other people do this?’” she says.

Today, Carlton helps her clientele rethink the way they spend their clothing budgets with an emphasis on sustainability. And no, that doesn’t mean throwing out your current clothes to replace them with pricey handmade garments. “When I’m shopping for clients, I always begin with their [current] wardrobe,” Carlton says. “We don’t have to raze the earth and completely start over again. We can focus on stuff you have.” This means being mindful about buying new clothes, thinking about what you really need, and pairing potential new purchases with what you already have. As Carlton puts it, “I want my clients to shop not to expand their wardrobe, but to expand their options.”

Help the Earth out and try changing your approach to fashion with Carlton’s sustainable shopping tips: 

  1. Don’t get discouraged before you start.

With a little research, you can discover a world of small-batch, sustainably made, size-inclusive brands.

  1. Ask about customization.

Sustainable brands are often small enough to make modifications upon request. “I’ve written many emails and said, ‘I see you have a 3X, can you add a 4X?’” says Carlton.

  1. Know your measurements.

Rather than your clothing size, which can vary from brand to brand, know your measurements in inches so you can compare them with each brand’s size guide.

  1. Don’t impulse shop.

“Delete those shopping apps from your phone, and while you’re at it, delete your saved credit card info from your phone, too,” Carlton advises. 

  1. Take a shopping break.

“Give yourself a timeline, like a month, where you don’t buy anything,” Carlton says. Besides avoiding impulse purchases, this will help you recalibrate your spending and reassess pieces in your wardrobe that deserve a second chance.

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