Sunday, January 5, 2020

Weekend Review: The Conscious Closet

NY: Plume, c2019.
348 p.

This is a great book to start a new year with! Elizabeth L.  Cline is well known for her 2012 book Overdressed, about the effects of fast fashion. It made quite a splash when it was published. And now she's followed it up with The Conscious Closet, which is also about fast fashion but goes further into sustainability issues and activism, reflecting the growth in awareness of these issues.

What does she cover? The book is broken up into six themes.
  1. Fast Fashion: The industry & background. Clothes are not garbage!
  2. Art of Less: buying less, mimimalism
  3. Art of More: thrifting, renting, resale
  4. Sustainable Fashion Handbook: big brands, fabrics & chemicals
  5. Make it Last: laundry, mending
  6. Fashion Revolution: politics, activism
I've tried to give a sense of what is covered in each section. If you follow this topic, some of it will be "old news" to you; I feel like I knew everything that is covered in this book, but I still enjoyed reading it.

For those who aren't as familiar with these topics, and are just starting to get interested in this area, this book gives a great overview into many facets of the bigger picture which readers can then explore further. There is a nice list of resources at the end, so if a reader has a particular interest in one theme they can explore some organizations who are involved in that area or read some recommended books that cover specific topics in more depth. Cline also mentions that she is keeping updated lists of information and resources on her own blog.

I was glad to see some of my own favourite things mentioned -- mending, home sewing, the Fashion Revolution org, among many others. And one thing I thought was unusual about this book (and really useful) was her approach at the beginning recognizing that people are different and have different goals for their wardrobes. She breaks it into three "fashion personality types" -- the Minimalist, the Style Seeker, and the Traditionalists. She then directs various chapters to the needs of these types: the Minimalist will be happiest with less (Ch. 2), the Style Seeker who still wants lots of variety can be more sustainable through new ways of obtaining clothing (Ch. 3) and Traditionalists who are a mix can use ideas from anywhere that suits them. I like the recognition that everyone will have different levels of expectation for their wardrobes.

Overall, a book I would recommend to those wanting to know how to tackle fast fashion both in their own closets and in the wider world.


  1. Thanks for this review. I read Overdressed, but somehow missed this new book. I often get impatient with authors who publish about sustainability as if it's a new thing they've just invented, but Cline does an incredible job of researching and incorporating many different complex aspects of society. Her Slate article showing the damage caused by the Kondo-influenced purge craze made me her fan for life. I'll check out The Concsious Closet.

    1. 100% with you on the Kondo craze and its effects. I really like how Cline can share info helpfully, not being condescending or fearful, but with lots of solid facts and also what we can do next. Really a good book.


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