How to Winterize Your Wardrobe without Buying Anything New

Now that it's November in Chicago, we're packing away our shorts and sandals for more practical closets of sweaters, wool socks, and boots. Commuters give harried looks to one another on the train, as if to nervously whisper "winter is coming." And if it's anything like last winter, it will be brutal and long. Do you remember that Counting Crows song, "A Long December"? Well, how about a long December...and January...and February...until April? 

Fall and winter in the Midwest certainly have a distinct beauty. The fiery leaves of fall. The crisp blankets of new snow. But one of my favorite parts of the changing seasons is the changing wardrobes.

If you've been following this blog for some time, you know that I've been on a now 2+ year journey of buying nothing new, unless it's ethically and/or sustainably made. For the most part, this hasn't been that challenging, although there have been times that I've wanted or needed something new.

As the seasons change, I'd like to share some tips on how to winterize your wardrobe without buying anything new. 

These steps are derived from my own experiences and are loosely based off of Sarah Lazarovic's "Buyerarchy of Needs," a handy visual for those trying to consume more consciously.


1. Refashion 

The first step in updating your wardrobe without buying anything new is to refashion what you already have in your closet. Even if you're not a master sewer, there may be items tucked in the back of your closet that could be upcycled, refashion, or tailored. For example, upcycled fashion blogger Charity Shop Chic refashioned an oversized, boring trench into a Kate Middleton-inspired feminine trench. 

Photo credit: Charity Shop Chic

Photo credit: Charity Shop Chic

Photo credit: Charity Shop Chic

Photo credit: Charity Shop Chic

2. Swap 

If you are still missing what you need from your winter closet, then consider hosting or attending a clothing swap. Swaps are fantastic ways to not only trade for new clothes, but also make some new friends. Earlier this fall, I hosted my first clothing swap with 25 women who brought bags and baskets full of clothes. We sorted and organized and style the clothes around my apartment as people snacked on homemade chili and apple cider. Everyone went away with at least a couple new items and cleared out their closets without paying a penny.

3. Thrift

Most of the items in my closet were sourced from thrift stores. From the first time I thrifted in high school to now, I've developed a spidey-sense of sorts for picking out the treasures from the massive amounts of trash a thrift stores. While some stores are better organized and don't have that funky smell (what IS that??), the inventory of each thrift store is constantly changing and therefore it's always a gamble for whether you'll find what you want. 

A couple weeks ago I found an amazing black wool jacket with a real fur collar from the thrift store for $7. The label marked it "Carson Pirie Scotte," meaning that it was likely made in the 1960s (score!). While I didn't absolutely need a winter coat like this, it was an amazing find that I couldn't pass up.

4. Resale 

Thrift stores are often hit or miss in terms of finding a specific item you need. For instance, for the last few months I've been scouring the local thrift stores for some knee-high black heeled boots that are both professional and trendy enough to wear inside and outside of the office. Every weekend I would strike out from finding a decent pair: there weren't any boots, or they weren't in my size, or they were too beaten up. 

With winter around the bend, I made the decision to start looking on resale apps like Poshmark for pre-owned boots that for my size and requirements. Luckily, I was able to find some nearly new boots that met all my conditions...and for only $30!

Some other resale apps for fashion are below: 

  • Poshmark (use code HNLUV to get $5 for signing up)
  • thredUP (use the link to get $10 off)
  • Tradesy (use the link to get $15 off)

More information about these apps and the sharing economy is in this post.

5. Support Sustainable Fashion 

Sometimes the items are you are looking for to update your wardrobe – especially for winter – can't be found in swaps, thrift stores, or in resale. In these cases, my personal policy is to make the most informed, conscientious decision I can and buy from reputable brands.

Check out my Pinterest boards of ethical fashion brands or ethical shopping marketplaces for more information and ideas. And as always, feel free to email or tweet at me with any questions! 

Hopefully these 5 tips will help you in your own journey toward more sustainable fashion, while looking stylish and not breaking the bank.