The key to a better closet (and a better you)

Since announcing that I will soon be launching an ethical apparel brand, my entourage has turned to me for tips on how to better their closet. While I do tell my friends that being knowledgeable about eco-friendly fabrics, shopping at vintage stores, and supporting socially responsible brands are all great ways to improve the sustainability of their closets; there is one tip that I find to be much more powerful, and that is finding your unique style.

Yes, really.

Because when you know which pieces make you feel your best self, you stop buying the ones that make you feel any less. You don’t let yourself be distracted by the fast-fashion trends, and this results in buying less clothing. So you not only can invest in better pieces but you start recognizing the value of a well-constructed garment. When you get to know the fabrics that feel good against your skin and drape well on your body, you know it is worth it to spend a couple of hours at your local thrift shop to find a sweet deal on a particular piece. You develop a sense of belonging to the community who wants to change the fashion industry for the better, and naturally, make it your mission to support local designers.

To me, that is the essence of #slowfashion. Dressing for yourself, not to sustain the 52 fashion seasons that the industry imposed on us.

Additionally, someone equally as important as the planet will benefit from this change in your life; you. As you adopt the silhouettes, colours, and accessories that contribute to your new personal style, your self-confidence, self-esteem and overall well-being will transform.

All of this can happen if you are willing to put in the work to discover your style.

“So how do I do that?”
There are a ton of resources out there that can assist you in this mission, but below you can find my 5-step process.


Using a platform such as Pinterest, save style images that speak to you. You can create various style boards for different types of outfits. They can be titled by activities, such as work, night outs, exercising or even by seasons. I recommend exploring styles you never thought you could pull off. Get familiar with what is out there and get inspired by the overall vibe of different looks.

Now that you have assembled a good amount of photographs go back to them and clean them up a bit. Think of yourself in those outfits. Would they make you feel confident? Are they adapted to your lifestyle? Then, try to identify patterns between the different looks. Make a list of what fabrics, cuts, silhouettes colors, prints, and accessories are present in the photos.


Time to try stuff on! Take your list and hit the mall. (Warning, depending on your personality, this step may be heaven or hell.) You are not buying anything at this stage. You have to try on everything that is on your list. Mix and match the different items, add accessories, and refer to the inspiration photos to recreate the looks you like most. Snap mirror selfies of your favorite outfits.


It’s now time for a debrief. You should already have an idea of what you like and what vibe you want your style to portray. But look through your selfies, and back at your reference photos. Pull your try-on list out and cross off anything that did not work out as you thought. Identify common elements and moods.

In bullet points, write down the characteristics of your style and how they are achieved. Don’t overthink this step. Style is always evolving, what you will write is not set in stone. What matters is that you take notice of the different elements that compose your style so that every future purchase you make will fit within your overall vibe. You need to be clear on your color palette, the key pieces of your style, the fabrics, cuts, and silhouettes, the styling, the accessories, and the everyday outfits.

Short example
Feminine 90’s grunge’s key outfits
Mini floral dresses paired with black heels, leather jacket and choker style necklace.
High waisted rolled up jeans paired with a graphic tee, black blazer, and ballet flats.

Once this is done, take all the elements and create a mood board for your style. Save photos to your desktops and put them together in a clean reference document that portrays your style in a very clear way.


Now that you have a clear idea of your style, go into your closet and remove whatever does not fit your new personal style. Donate what you know you won’t wear again and put the items that don’t fit your style but that you don’t want to part ways with yet elsewhere than in your closet.

As you complete this exercise, you will start noticing that there are pieces in your closet that can totally work with your new style. You simply were pairing or styling them wrong before. (i.e. For me it was buttoned up shirts. I used to hate the way they made me look. Now, they are my go-to office casual outfit when tucked into high waisted jeans. I reconnected with 5-year-old shirts!).

Always be in control of what is in your closet. Treat this space as the important real estate that should be reserved for the pieces that contribute to the best version of yourself.


Certain items of clothing are more fun to purchase than others. The result is an overrepresentation of certain categories of items in our closets. To counter this effect, know exactly what you need to dress for on a regular basis.

In her book, The Curated Closet, Anuschka Rees recommends to write down everything you do in a two week period.

Work in corporate office: 8 days
Chill days (running errands, work from home, etc.): 6
Date nights: 2
Fancy girls’ night out: 1
Workout: 6

Turn this information into a pie chart and compare what you already have in your closet versus what you need. In the example above, if your closet is full of fancy dresses and you only have three pairs of work pants there is an imbalance.

Once you have established your needs in agreement with your lifestyle, look at what you already own and fill the gaps. I warn you; this process may seem like the perfect excuse to run to the store and buy everything new. Don’t do it! Or else you will be back to square one. Finding the right pieces that will define your new personal style takes time. Search for pieces that will bring your style together rather than stand out on their own.

Follow Harly Jae for more inspiring tips & posts

Written by Laïla Bédard-Potvin

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