Cassandra Dittmer, Sustainable Wardrobe Stylist, Offers Tips on Being More Eco-Minded

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1. First, the closet assessment

Before we even get started, Dittmer has me fill out an electronic questionnaire, so she can get a better sense of my style and what I wish to get out of the service. “We start with what’s important to you and we work from there,” Dittmer says. After that, we zero in on my two essential closet needs: to declutter what I have, and to find more sustainable pieces to add to it. From there, we moved into a closet clean-out session, which is done over Zoom. I walk Dittmer through some of my most-worn pieces, as well as the pieces I’m unsure about or want to get rid of. (I also photograph these pieces and later send them to her—more on that later.) We talk about the best way to donate clothing, and she sends me a list of shelters in New York City who accept donations. We also discuss what can be altered or salvaged to be wearable again. Together, we then instantly recognized the main area where my closet still needs work: I’m in dire need of basics, such as plain tees and button-ups, and neutral knitwear or dress pants.

2. Addressing the wardrobe gaps

Dittmer says I’m actually in luck: finding sustainable basics is easier than ever. The problem, however, is finding menswear options. “I would guess that 70 percent of my go-to brands don’t have menswear,” she says. Even so, she starts compiling a list of brands who do specialize in sustainable men’s basics. “I definitely hold brands to a higher standard when they’re producing basics, just because we know it’s possible [to do sustainably],” she says. But even though we’re on the hunt for simple pieces, she says she doesn’t want to veer into bland territory. “Your existing outfits are so fun, so I really want to focus on basics with interesting details or fabrications,” she says.

3. Finding sustainable alternatives

About a week after our first Zoom consultation, it was time for round two. I hop on Zoom and Dittmer walks me through my “curated digital boutique.” The PDF includes an extensive list of about 12 sustainable brands, all tailored to my personal taste and needs. Dittmer includes a description of each brand, as well as styling advice: she curated mood boards using photos of my own wardrobe pieces, and then mixed them in with pieces from each sustainable brand, to inspire outfit ideas. Dittmer introduces me to basics brands such as Atelier Phi, a Swedish brand. “They’re less than 2 years old, and they make garments out of recycled cashmere and merino wool,” she says. She also envisions me wearing pieces from South Africa’s Maxhosa and Nigeria’s Orange Culture, two menswear brands focused on small supply chains and eco-friendly textiles. “Orange Culture is androgynous and streetwear driven,” she says. She even found me a heeled boot brand—my go-to shoe—called Kiing Daviids. All their boots are custom and made-to-order. Having a rich selection of eco-conscious brands to go off, I then log off Zoom and begin browsing for basics. There turns out to be a surprisingly large amount of options.

4. Providing additional resources

At the end of our session, Dittmer provides a list of other helpful resources, which are meant to make me continue thinking about sustainability—yes, even after our Zooms. She included retailers such as Garmentory or Temple Muse, which highlight small businesses. She provides me with a list of shelters that I can continue donating clothing to. She also included links surrounding how to shop package-free, or where I could attend workshops about sustainable living. She recognizes it’s a commitment to think about all of these things at once, but she ultimately hopes to inspire her clients to put in that extra bit of work. “Sustainability is a privilege, and it does take time and effort,” Dittmer says. “One of my main goals with clients is that they leave feeling like they know how to make better decisions, and are introduced to brands that are more aligned with their values.” And for the first time, I feel like I really do.

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