Have you ever struggled to feel creative with the clothes in your closet? Do you ever feel uninspired by your wardrobe?
Then you will definitely want to tune into this episode of the Conscious Style Podcast with slow fashion creator and sustainable stylist Alyssa Beltempo.
In this episode, Alyssa shows us how she uses her platform to inspire people to get more creative with their closets and consume less. You’ll hear:
- Tips for ways we can maximize a piece’s use and discover more outfit combinations;
- How to “get the look” of outfits we see and love using only the items already in our wardrobes;
- How to break down style elements to emulate an aesthetic without copying exact looks or having to buy new things;
- Why it’s so important to get past the idea that fashion is just about shopping; and more.
Tune in to this episode of the Conscious Style Podcast below, or on your favorite podcast app.
Want to watch this interview? Check out the video interview on YouTube.
The transcript of this episode of the Conscious Style Podcast is below
You’re listening to the Conscious Style Podcast, where we explore what it will take to build a better, more sustainable, and equitable future for fashion. I’m your host, Elizabeth Joy. And let’s dive into today’s episode.
I don’t know about you but between being bombarded by brands’ weekly new collections, fast fashion haul videos and daily new outfits from influencers, not to mention a pervasive disposable fashion culture, it’s easy to think that creativity in fashion requires newness and shopping.
But, as today’s guest is going to dive into, this is not the case.
In fact, buying less and challenging ourselves to make the most of what we have can inspire some of the most creative outfits and help us feel more satisfied with our style and wardrobes.
As you may know, this season of the podcast is focused on circularity. And as I talked about in the first episode of this season, the first step two circularity has to be about producing and consuming LESS.
So I’m super excited about this episode with Alyssa because she is talking about why fashion is about more than just shopping and also sharing tips for:
- How we can break down style elements to emulate an aesthetic without copying exact looks or having to buy new things;
- How we can maximize a piece’s use and discover more outfit combinations out of the same piece;
- How we can “get the look” of outfits we see and love on places like Pinterest by using only the items already in our wardrobes; and more.
If you like this episode, make sure to hit subscribe or follow so that you don’t miss any future episodes like this one. And, I would really appreciate it if you had a moment to give the show a rating and review on Apple Podcasts.
And if you want more conscious fashion content, you can subscribe to the Conscious Edit, which is my weekly newsletter, over at consciouslifeandstyle.com/edit. In this newsletter, I share what I’m reading, listening to, watching, supporting, browsing, and more all related to sustainable fashion and living.
Alright, now let’s get into today’s episode, Alyssa is going to start us off here with a background on herself and share how and why she decided to create her slow fashion platform.
I am a slow fashion content creator and a sustainable stylist. So I offer virtual styling for people who want to shop their closets and learn about being a more conscious consumer.
And I also create content on YouTube and Instagram all around shopping your closet and learning how to shop less but still feel really stylish.
But before this, I actually worked in finance. So my career started in banking and then I left that to work retail in a luxury boutique. And that’s where I really learned a lot about dressing people and making sure that they’re investing in quality pieces over quantity like it was definitely a more high-end boutique.
So that’s where I learned a lot about good quality garments and things like that. I got a lot of great experience and then branched out on my own to do freelance wardrobe styling.
I did that for a couple of years, and a bit of freelance writing. But I learned a lot, again, in freelance wardrobe styling about dressing people really using what you have because when you show up on set, all you have is the clothing that you brought.
So I learned a lot about wardrobe styling and dressing people in that experience.
And then about halfway through that experience, I was asked to do a talk on reducing your consumption
And there was a bunch of stuff going on in my life as well, like I had moved my husband and I had moved from a townhouse to a condo I had left my finance job, so I didn’t have a lot of money.
So over time, I had really been learning about, having a very small closet, I couldn’t afford to buy a lot.
And then at the same time as I was styling people, I really understood that there was a huge disconnect between how satisfied people were with their closets — or dissatisfied I should say… they had so many clothes and yet, they always wanted to shop more.
So I was in this kind of, well… odd period, and then I got asked to do this presentation, and that’s what really got me into researching slow fashion and sustainable style.
And of course, I watched The True Cost, which is I think everybody’s jumping-off point into this world, and I realized that I was already doing a lot of these practices of slowing down my consumption.
And that’s when I really decided to focus my content creation on helping people shop less through everything I learned as a stylist.
So really trying to understand looks from almost like, like an “Elements of Style” perspective, versus “oh, I have to go out and buy more”. So I thought it was an interesting marriage. It took a very long time to get here, though, like…
ELIZABETH: Yeah, that’s a really interesting journey. There’s a lot of connections with saving money, finding satisfaction with our clothes, and also a sustainable approach to creating our wardrobe.
And so there are a lot of approaches to sustainable fashion, which is one of the things that I love so much about this movement, one of my favorite things about this podcast, talking to people going at it from such different directions.
And your approach, as you talked about, is all about creativity over consumption, or, making the most of what you have, restyling your wardrobe.
So could you tell us a little bit more about what that means? What does all of that look like in practice?
ALYSSA: Yeah, of course, that’s such a great question.
I think the first step in using creativity over consumption for me, and a lot of what I talk about is just starting off by being aware of how much you actually have. Thinking about, before you shop, even just being aware, like wait a minute, how many shirts do I actually have?
So kind of the first step in being more creative is to start kind of training your mind to be like, wait a minute, what do I have at home first?
So it’s not even like into the styling portion yet, it’s really just about thinking that your first option is always what you already have.
Because I think the more you know what you have, the more you see what you have in your closet…a lot of us have so many pieces that are just kind of hiding at the back, so you don’t actually get to use the clothing that you have.
If the first point is awareness and understanding that you actually do have a lot of clothes.
Maybe they don’t fit, maybe they don’t suit.
But I think looking at our closet from a mindset of abundance instead of scarcity is like that first shift that I think has to happen. I think a lot of us are very lucky in that we have access to clothing.
That’s the very, very basis of it.
Then the next step, once you get used to realizing like wait a minute, I already have a lot of clothes in my closet… I don’t need to go out and shop, then that creativity piece really comes in.
So taking time to style what you already have. I think that’s the biggest piece that is difficult in this whole slow fashion thing and with using what you have and mending and maintaining your clothes.
For a lot of us, our lives are very busy, they’re very fast-paced. So there is that slow piece that has to enter into every step of your interaction with your closet.
So whether it’s taking the time to plan your outfit, for example, for the week, or taking the time to mend or take something to the tailor that you really love but it’s falling apart or it doesn’t fit you and you just need a minor adjustment to maybe get it to fit a little bit better, and then you’ll wear it again.
So time is that second piece that I think is quite involved in learning how to be more creative with what you already have.
As soon as you spend like an hour of time with what you have, whether it’s planning your outfits or just playing around and trying to come up with something new, it makes all the difference…
You start coming up with ways to wear what you already have.
Before my virtual styling sessions, I get people to fill out a form and just put some clothing aside, and they often start our session by saying, oh, I’ve already come up with so many different outfits. And they haven’t even started; we haven’t done anything yet because all it took was that time.
So I think it has to be a very conscious effort.
Because I think the other piece is that a lot of people assume that creativity is something that is only for a select number of people, but I don’t think that’s it at all. Everyone can be creative.
But I think time and awareness are the two kinds of foundations to just give yourself that little kick in the pants to start getting creative, and then it gets easier every time.
ELIZABETH: Mhm. I love what you said about creativity there because sometimes we think creativity is just for certain people, but it’s really for all of us.
And that’s something that I find really cool about your videos is that you kind of train people or educate them and give the foundations for how to be creative with their closets with your Elements of Style framework.
And I think that is such a transformative mindset when it comes to fashion.
Because basically, the mainstream fashion approach — whether that’s magazines or influencers — is buy this, copy this look, wear this because it’s in, don’t wear that because it’s out…
And this trend cycle really becomes how we even perceive what fashion is. But how do you think that we can kind of work to shift this collective mindset and expand our minds for what fashion and style can be?
ALYSSA: Yes, absolutely.
It’s so funny because that’s where that like the fast piece comes in, right? It’s always about the new and getting rid of the old.
But you really hit it in that question about the “Elements of Style”, and I think that’s kind of the very first piece.
As you said, I try and train people to see clothing two ways.
First of all, not necessarily as the garment itself, and really breaking it out into these elements like color, and texture, and silhouette and all these things.
Because as soon as you shift the focus from a white plain white T just being a plain white T to it being… Oh, but it’s a contrast to black and navy and bright pink or it’s a soft texture in comparison to a harsh leather pant, it fully changes your perspective on this one little white t-shirt.
And I think it also brings more value to that T-shirt.
Because again, with this idea of disposability, which is so problematic for the environment, and the people who create our clothes, of course, it kind of gets us out of that mindset, “oh, this is just a white t-shirt, I only paid $5 for it… the end.”
So that’s that first piece — it is why I focus so much on the elements.
Because I think fashion can become more artistic in a way and more individualized. And I don’t know if individualized is a word… personalized to safer word.
It becomes more personalized because you’re not just looking at whatever trends of the moment. You’re looking at the elements that actually suit you and your lifestyle and what fits your body and what you love.
So that’s kind of the first piece that I think fashion can really start shifting into something that is so much more personal.
I think this approach also helps us to become a little bit more materialistic — but in a good way. No matter how much you paid for your garment, someone made it and it clothes you, it protects you from the elements, it’s an extension of your personality.
I would hope that this can also expand our mind into bringing value back into our garments, so that we don’t treat them as disposable and we don’t see fashion as something that is quick and in and out and completely based on someone else’s construct of what they think looks great.
Because like the magazines and the fashion influencers, I mean, I follow them too… they’re great. But they don’t know your life and your daily habits and what your body is.
So I think that’s how those Elements of Style can really change how we see fashion.
ELIZABETH: Yeah, I love that. I love how you break down garments into these elements in your videos.
Like I never would have thought of that, but it’s so genius. And an extension of that is like how you help people copy the look, you know copy what they see on Pinterest or Instagram or whatever, and then recreate that outfit by breaking it down into the elements of that outfit.
Instead of being like, well “I need a green jacket and a white blouse” but really like getting people to model the feeling of that outfit.
So could you talk to us a little bit more about that? How you reverse engineer this look to help people model that look without actually buying new stuff?
ALYSSA: Yes, yeah. I love doing those too.
It’s just so neat to see what comes out of it because it’s usually not at all — or like it’s similar to what the inspiration look is but it’s not you know, it’s your own piece.
Yeah, so the reverse engineering… Gosh, I start with as you mentioned: The style vibe and the personality of the look which I think has a lot to do with the wearer, and the person who’s modeling it.
So I think doing that is the first step in understanding, okay, this is the vibe that they’re giving off, whether it’s edgy or retro or vintage-inspired.
And a part of that you can, if those aren’t your personal style traits, by starting off with the guidepost of what is the overall energy and vibe of this look, you can start to translate it already to a look that is more suitable for you.
I think there are so many times when, I, I’m sure this has happened to me… when you buy a piece that you see on someone or even a mannequin or in a magazine, and you get home and you put it on, and maybe it fits, but it just doesn’t, like it’s just not you.
And so I think that whole style personality is a really important piece of that reverse engineering.
So I always usually start with that, so that when you are shopping in your closet for a look, you’re keeping your own style personality in mind.
And I find that the more we do this, like the more solidified we are in our personal style, the easier it is to really focus on what we want, what we like, and drown out the noise of these trends, and this consumption model that is constantly being thrown at us.
But when you’re pretty solid on what you like and why — it’s so much easier to say no.
So I think doing that is such an important exercise. And I do kind of like to focus on what is within the consumer’s control.
Especially if they’re just starting to get into slow fashion, it’s kind of a nice way to help people slow down their consumption.
So I always start with the overall style vibe of a look. And then after that, I break it down into these elements.
So like you said if someone’s wearing a green jacket with white pants or something… instead of seeing the fact that it’s a specific green jacket, maybe you just look at their overall use of color.
Is it contrasting? Is it analogous? Like, is it all tonal?
And so it stops really being about the color green and the jacket, and it starts being more about how this person used color? And how can I apply that use of color with the palette that I have in my closet?
Maybe I don’t look good and green? Like, it’s just it’s that kind of concept.
And so I really think that style vibe piece is the important part because that’s when you can really step into your own style and have so much more power over the trends that just come and go.
Did that answer your question?
ELIZABETH: Yeah, yeah. And like the green jacket one, I think she was wearing like a turtleneck, for instance, like a turtleneck sweater.
And you’re like, I don’t have a thick turtleneck sweater, so you put a scarf. Yeah, and it looks similar gives the same vibe or whatever. But you didn’t have to go buy a turtleneck… something like that.
ALYSSA: Oh, yes, I know exactly which one you’re talking about now. Yes!
ELIZABETH: I’m going to link the net series is like Shop Your Closet series in the show notes so that everybody can check that out because they’re really great videos.
So another style of video that you have on your channel is you break down the elements of a specific style genre, like Italian style, or boho or minimalist or feminine or whatever, and teach people how to replicate that vibe in their existing closet.
I think that would be really interesting for people to hear kind of like how you do that. So I know one type that is really popular in your channel is Italian style, as well as I think French style was really popular as well.
Can you give us a brief synopsis of how you go through that process of replicating a style?
ALYSSA: Yeah sure. I think again, it really falls into pinpointing the elements that are most repeated.
I always start with like a mood board. So it’s almost as if you’re going to do a shoot or something like that. And I find all sorts of inspiration from everywhere, usually in fashion, but it can be from anywhere, really.
And I think that’s kind of the neat thing about using these elements as a base is that you can take elements from nature or art or wherever, right? And it can still be recreated!
That’s another part of that whole creativity overconsumption piece when you start seeing inspiration from everywhere.
But anyway, so I create like a big mood board and then I just try and pinpoint the elements that I see repeated in all of those different images.
And I find that when you look for it and you take the time, you do see these kind of patterns developing or something that is like an element that is prevalent.
So for example, in the Italian style, it’s really about like fit and tailoring.
It didn’t matter about what size the person was, or how old they were, their clothes were always really beautifully tailored in a way that flattered their body the most.
So it’s really about taking the time to identify these overarching elements that happen within one certain vibe, and of course, it’s never black and white, everything is very nuanced.
But I think when you do that, it’s also a way for you to incorporate your own values into the picture as well.
So you can follow certain elements that suit you: Certain artistic elements, like the fit with Italian style, another piece was that everything is usually beautifully balanced in proportion.
So like, if they had a big dramatic top, it was balanced out with an equally or really interesting shoe. Or vice versa: everything was really harmonious, or they balanced out something very dramatic with a very understated rest of the look. So there’s always that sense of balance, which I think is really beautiful.
But you can take those Elements of Style, and then apply your own values to them, which I think in slow fashion, and as you start to get into the world of sustainability and sustainable fashion, there is so much wrong with the industry, and it can be very overwhelming.
So you can apply what values that are important to you, whether it’s buying secondhand, or perhaps buying only recycled fabrics, you can still apply those values and be true to your values, while still following a style genre that speaks to you and works for you.
ELIZABETH: Mhm yeah!
Sometimes you see a style that you like, and if you maybe only focus on literally copying the looks that you’re seeing, you might be limited to fast fashion or something because they’re really quick to copy trends, what celebrities are wearing… all that stuff.
But when you more look at the feel of the outfit or the vibes, the elements, it’s easier to then find those pieces sustainably through secondhand or from conscious brands or whatever so I think that’s really helpful.
And then another sort of concept that you touch on in your YouTube channel is styling a single piece in many different ways, which I think is another helpful approach to making the most out of our closets.
So what tips do you have for making the most of individual pieces in our closet? Maybe we have a shirt that we really love or pants that we really love… How do we style them in a myriad of different ways?
The best thing I always find is to pair them first with pieces that are kind of on the opposite end of the spectrum from whatever else you have in your closet.
So like if you have a pair of jeans, think about styling them with something that is not so casual, like something that you wouldn’t normally wear.
If you’re just wearing jeans to go out on the weekend, try and find something that maybe you would wear to a more elevated occasion and see what those look like together.
So mixing and matching, just very different styles within your own closet, I think can be a really interesting thing to do with one piece.
And then the other thing that I think it is really fun to do is to do a reverse lookup on Pinterest is where you just Google “white jeans outfits” and then all these different ideas come up. So that’s really fun.
But what I think can also be interesting is if you again, think about the opposite elements [from a color standpoint]. So if your jeans are white, would a cool contrast be really interesting?
So what contrasts with white? Try like all the darker, brighter colors in your closet and think about it that way.
And on the opposite end of the spectrum of thinking about it perhaps from a proportion play.
Where do your jeans hit you? Do you want to layer something really long overtop? Or do you want to perhaps do two layers with like a crop and something long, like a longer cardigan? Or perhaps do you want to do a long tunic that is layered with something shorter?
So it’s really about doing like the opposite almost to the garment itself and seeing what comes out of it.
And again, those apps [Stylebook and Cladwell] are pretty good. If you’re not comfortable doing those mixing and matching pieces on your own, I think those are really great.
But the other thing too is what because when you do this, you kind of get out of your comfort zone and it’s not sure and I think a lot of people just need that validation. So I would also recommend taking a picture of these weird mixes that you’ve done that you’re maybe not sure about.
Then you kind of take away that nervousness when you’re going out because you have this like second set of eyes on your own, because there’s nothing worse than going out in an outfit that you’re uncomfortable with.
Then you’re not going to do this exercise again, and you’re not going to be happy with what’s in your closet, which will make you feel like you don’t have clothes and you go out and shop.
So I think it’s really important to make this a very positive experience so that you want to repeat it.
Taking a photo so that you feel sure, wearing it around the house just so that you can see how you feel in it comfort-wise, is really important.
And the other thing you can do, when you have time, to get the most out of just one piece is to do like a little roulette with it.
Like if you have a pair of jeans, try it with every single top in your closet. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think it’ll look good. Like, who knows? Just try it!
I think the biggest part of this is just having an open mind. And even trying non-traditional things like do you have a big scarf? Can you wrap it into a little halter top with your jeans? Like, just try it!
ELIZABETH: Yeah, sometimes I’ve been surprised at what works together. And also what doesn’t work together.
Things I thought looked great in my head didn’t really turn out or things I was like, I don’t know if that’ll go together and it works beautifully, so sometimes you don’t know!
ALYSSA: And that’s where that time piece comes in.
Like it’s not just about slowing down our consumption. I think when we slow down the time we spend with our clothes, we take time to appreciate them, I think that trickles over into how we actually consume our clothes as well.
ELIZABETH: And sometimes we might not think we have time and some people absolutely of course it is a privilege to have that time.
But also when we slow down and start shopping less, we might be surprised at how much time we’re getting back. Like how much time we had been spending going shopping before.
So on this thread of making the most of clothes that we do have and shopping less. Of course, most people will shop at some point.
So what tips do you have for making an intentional new to us or newly produced piece, secondhand or firsthand… how can we make sure it’s something that’s versatile and that we will wear? What’s your advice for that?
ALYSSA: Yeah, I think the first thing always, is to start by looking at what’s in your closet.
I think if you don’t have a good handle on what’s in there, then you’re not going to make an intentional personal purchase.
So knowing what you already have, and understanding your gaps are the biggest. And then I often have a series of questions that you can ask yourself:
Does this suit my lifestyle? Is the very first like, is it realistic?
I think so many of us — I’ve done this so many times — make aspirational purchases that don’t really suit our lifestyle.
So ask yourself sort of what lifestyle piece is this item going to satisfy? Is it my work? Is it my day-to-day? So it really has to be in alignment with one of your core lifestyle activities.
Does it suit my values? Is another I think, really important question.
I think it’s very easy to get overwhelmed, as I mentioned in the world of sustainable fashion. So I think you have to understand what is important to you whether it’s fair and ethical manufacturing, or perhaps its natural dyes.
So really, focusing your attention on where you can find those pieces so that you know that when you come home with it, you will feel good about that purchase. And you will actually wear it because it’s in alignment with your values. That’s a really big one.
And then finally — well not ‘finally’, there’s so many more — knowing your personal style is the biggest.
And I always feel like when I say that it sounds kind of superficial, knowing your personal style, especially because it changes all the time and we’re all human, everybody changes.
But I really think that is just so important. Because as I mentioned you become so much more… oh, the French word is in my head — impervious to the trends that are around.
So yeah, so that’s a really big one. And then, of course, does it fit (if you’re trying to piece on)? Does it fit properly?
There are little things like shoulders and things that are kind of uncomfortable, and we think “oh, I’ll settle because I’m in a hurry or because I really need this” or whatever.
But I don’t think it’s worth it to settle on a piece that doesn’t really fit you well. And if it doesn’t fit, will you commit to taking it to a tailor? So I think that’s a really good question.
And then of course, can I create five outfits with it with what’s already in my closet? And can I see myself wearing it for the next five years?
Depending on where you’re at in your life, and obviously, everybody’s body changes, like weight fluctuations and things like that.. so that’s not an easy question to answer.
But I think if I saw myself wearing this in five years, would I be “Oh my god, what were you thinking?” Or will I be like, “yeah I love it! Future Alyssa will love this garment?” kind of thing. So there’s like a little bit of that forward-thinking as well.
And then, depending on where you’re at in your slow fashion journey, if you have a very big closet, I think you should — or I don’t like the word should — I think it might be helpful to ask yourself: Is there a piece that you are willing to let go of to make more room in your closet when you add this one? So it’s kind of the in-one-out rule.
I think, again, it helps you kind of really understand the value of whatever it is you’re bringing in if you’re willing to let something else go.
So I think those are that’s mostly what I go through when I’m trying to make an intentional purchase.
ELIZABETH: Yeah, right.
Finding your style maybe sounds vain to some people. But it is super helpful when it comes to slow fashion and sustainability because you’re going to buy less or what you do buy you’re going to actually wear.
I mean, these moto jackets or leather jackets have been in style in and out of style for like a while.
And every time I see it I’m like, “oh, it’s kind of cute”. But the second I start to envision myself wearing it, I’m like, that’s SO not me. I have a really feminine style. Like, I would feel uncomfortable in that I think.
And so knowing that is important.
Yeah I think it is so important.
So this has been a fantastic conversation Alyssa. It’s a bummer to wrap it up. But I have one final question for you. And that is: what would a better future for fashion look like to you?
ALYSSA: A better future for fashion looks like less overall to be completely honest.
Yeah, just consuming less in general, and for the value to be brought back to our clothes both on the perspective of truly valuing and appreciating the people who make them. Understanding that the resources that we use to create these clothes are finite and that it needs to be more regenerative.
I think regeneration, and a more circular and aware approach to fashion where we all consume less but we are so much happier in our individual style and in our appreciation for the people and resources who made our clothes.
That’s what a better future for fashion would look like for me.
And that’s a wrap for this episode. Be sure to take a look at the episode description in your podcast app for the links referenced in this episode, as well as the various links to learn more about today’s guest.
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ABOUT ALYSSA BELTEMPO:
Alyssa is a slow fashion content creator and sustainable stylist. She believes that everyone can be a conscious fashion consumer by choosing creativity overconsumption, and has changed the way thousands of people see their closets via her Youtube channel and online events. Alyssa’s approach to slow fashion is non-judgmental and fun, with a focus on celebrating the abundance of what we already have. Her previous role as a commercial wardrobe stylist allows her to break down fashion into intentional elements of style so that everybody can learn how to shop less, and love their closet more.