Maker Crush: Natalie of The Tiny Closet

Maker Crush: Natalie of The Tiny Closet

Shortly before Slow Fashion October kicked off this year, I ran across @thetinycloset on Instagram and a post that summarized what I’m driving at with this year’s Action Items in a single short paragraph: “Clearing out half your closet will feel great short term but chances are, you’ll have to do it again. And again. The thing is, having clutter is just a byproduct to the real issue. Which is buying clutter.” She goes on to counsel, “Spot the future clutter before you buy it by asking yourself these two questions when looking through your closet: Why did I buy it? Why am I throwing it out?” Same goes for making, obvs. Natalie is an advocate for the capsule-closet concept (after having dealt with an out-of-control closet) and now runs The Tiny Closet, a tiny fashion brand, by which I mean she makes everything herself and to-order. She’s sewn over 1000 garments since she got her start in 2016, can you imagine? I’m really heartened seeing so many sewn-to-order businesses like this cropping up (it’s how Liz Pape of Elizabeth Suzann began, among others, and I have an interview with another coming up later this month!) so you should check out her designs. But she’s also just a fount of wisdom as far as keeping your closet under control (whatever your personal definition of that might be, capsule or otherwise) so do give her a follow on Instagram and read back through her recent posts. Or at the very least, read this one on fear/lessness.

Are you taking a hard look at your closet this week? How’s it going so far?


PREVIOUSLY in Crush: Style Crush x 3

28 thoughts on “Maker Crush: Natalie of The Tiny Closet

  1. Are we in danger of sinking into analysis/paralysis? I read posts on various sites about slow fashion october and can’t help but wonder what any of us could do with the time spent reading/writing. Get in your closet, get rid of the crap, and spend the saved minutes campaigning for the right candidates; giving the unspent junk fashion dollars to those in need; working on saving our environment, etc. Yes, it’s easier to ponder the joy given by deciding whether to keep or discard that stained tee shirt – and it’s a lot less harrowing to toss a pair of shoes into a bag for Goodwill – but we’re spending our time on small, less significant things. We need to be reading to children, helping at soup kitchens, and bringing meals to the homebound. Life has become too short for frivolous pursuits. Balance is what we need right now – sanity and vision.

    • Hi, Carol. Actually, caring about what’s happening with the fashion industry and our role in it, trying to find ways of not contributing to it, is very much a matter of helping those in need and working to save our planet — it’s anything but frivolous. I’m not sure if you’re new to this blog or subject, but if you click on Slow Fashion October up in the menu, you’ll find some background and resource links. People are literally dying, and waterways and villages are being poisoned all over the globe (except, of course, in our own backyard or where we can see it), because we as a society don’t think about where our unsustainably cheap clothes come from or what happens to them after we drop things off at Goodwill, where the damage takes new directions. Our unprecedented level of buying and discarding has grave repercussions. These are issues of human exploitation on a grand scale, and a level of pollution exceeded only by the oil industry. I care very much about poverty and homelessness and the planet. To me, making sure I’m not contributing to exploitation and destruction through unconsidered actions with regard to dressing myself goes hand in hand with all of my other efforts to help in various ways. So that’s what Slow Fashion October is about.

      • I have read your blog from day one. I have supported your company quite well. My simple point is that the number of words spent on clothes, closets, slow fashion, buyers’ excessiveness, ad nauseum helps no one. Words don’t make the changes – actions do. Nothing we say here is going to put H&M out of business. I refuse to further belabor the indulgence of endless prattle about clothes. If slow fashion is such a great idea, why one month and not all twelve?

        • I apologize for not realizing that, Carol — it was only your first name before and I took you to mean you had newly found your way here from references on other blogs. I appreciate the feedback (and your business) but am honestly not sure what to say, since this is action I’ve been taking in my life every day for several years now, and documenting on this blog throughout the year. But having a month to focus a larger discussion on an important topic is part of my attempt to do good by raising awareness and helping people make better decisions about difficult choices. Obviously I regret that it feels like prattle to you, but it does feel important to me and like part of the whole array of things that I do to try to be a force of good in the world, in whatever small ways I can.

    • why not both? I imagine that people who do good in their closet are also capable of doing good in the world. I agree there is a lot of analysis and deep discussion, but it shapes a frame of mind that can also be applied to how we shop for other goods, how we eat, treat the planet and each other. I guess its knowing when to pull away from the computer and get back to our lives.

      • Exactly! People see different values in different things and we all have our ideas on what “doing good in the world” means–as well as our limits, talents, interests that contrain the extent to which ideals become practice. But talking about these things IS important. And being reflective and encouraging others to share and talk and also reflect are super, super important. For one, its how uneducated or confused people get educated. It’s also how we continue, encourage and support each other and it’s how we continue to grow and learn and build community.

  2. I walked into the shopping mall the other day wearing slim jeans and an oversized top. I was looking for those Katharine Hepburn trousers, they’re the new thing.The clerk at the store saw me in the trousers and was surprised that they looked so bad on me saying I was the perfect figure for this style. She also said that I looked great in my slim jeans. Everybody can’t wear every style that comes along pick yours and stick with it. For me it’s slim pants!

    • Yes! tThis is exactly what I’m driving at with this year’s Actions. It’s so important to know what works for you so you’re not buying or making the wrong things and perpetuating the cycle of acquisition and disposal. I want you to have a closet of clothes that really work for you and that you love, whatever that may be. Because it’s the only way to break the cycle.

  3. I agree with Carol. I have some problems with the slow fashion thing. It’s fine and good for those who can afford to buy fewer, better quality items and I try to do that, as well as make some of my clothes but I can’t help but wonder how this sounds to those who need to clothe a family in theses expensive times. I also think of the people who struggle to make a living, somewhere in the world, doing piece work…. it’s a complicated issue.

    • As someone with a tight budget, I do embrace slow fashion for the simple reason that I don’t see any other choice. Fast fashion is synomous with the destruction of the environment and human lives. I couldn’t possibly put my clothing needs before either of those. There are many options these days. I see a lot of fast fashion in second hand stores and as hand-me-downs for my child. Back in the days when I had a higher income, I invested in a high-quality wardrobe that still works for me even a decade later. So for me it’s more a frame of mind. And it calls on you to be creative.

    • It is *definitely* complicated, Linda, you’re right. Which is why we do this each year — to try to figure out how we can each make the best decisions possible within our circumstances and means, and stop contributing to what’s happening. I second what Anna has said here, for starters.

    • I feel you on the ambivalence–the craftosphere (or whatever this rising community of social media/websites/makers’ retreats/indie producers/writers/etc. should be called)–represents a very limited slice of humanity, both in terms of economic privilege, but also race, gender/sexuality and ability–and educational background. It IS a privilege to be able to have a wardrobe and live the life that we see on-line in this community. But I also feel like that’s true of lots of things . I also feel like, LOTS of people from backgrounds that aren’t well-represented in the online public spaces of the craftosphere are doing the same things and who also care about lots of these things and do a lot of the same stuff. I can get that there is something off about thinking that knitting oneself a sweater with bougie, local wool is somehow saving the world–but I also have to admit that I personally think there’s something off about thinking that donating money to Unicef is somehow better. I have spent some time around both the disposal/recycling/donation end of modern fashion and the industrialized/outsourced production end and, frankly, I both feel like Fast Fashion has actually done lots of good in the world (ask China or Taiwan, for instance) and also represents an enormous threat to humanity and the planet). I think anybody who is in a position to provide information and get the conversation roling about all of the complicated issues and feelings that come up with something like Slow Fashion is, in fact, helping to make the world better.

  4. Someone very wise once said to me “There is no courage without fear” –
    while I was undergoing many months of cancer treatment – surgery, chemo, radiation therapy

  5. I’m joining your Maker Crush Club for Natalie! And will be diving deeper into her posts. “Minimalism” has become a background conversation for me, every day. When I open my closet door in the morning, walk through my home and studio. I’ve come to see that the bottom, deep down fear is “not enough.” Which is goofy since I’ve always had enough. So the compulsion is, get one more “just in case.” Or the compulsion to shop for that momentary “high” of the new. It feels good to know that by staying in this conversation its become an habit of thought. Focusing at the moment on accessaries to keep me warm for winter and add the spot of color to the clothes I have now.

  6. On Natalie’s Instagram she has a saying “The less I see, the less I want.” How true. I periodically need to “unsubscribe” to email subscriptions to not view all the deals, ads and “gotta have these” images and plug my inbox. “Slow email” I guess:)
    I am working on being affected less by the media out there and really thinking what do I need and feel good in vs what do I want because it’s out there and looks great on a 5’9” model. I do hear Carol and try daily to find the sane in what seems like a fast paced crazy world of late. When you feel good you do good-and hopefully that helps one walk an altruistic path in all areas of life.

    • It’s really true. I read a book called Your Money or Your Life after reading an interview with one of the authors in which she said something you open a catalog and see something you didn’t need but “by the time you get to the end of the catalog, you’ve created the need.” And I’ve always remembered that, and yet it’s hard to turn off those sources of temptation.

  7. I totally get where Carol is coming from, and as a regular reader of the blog, I get that too. My closet is already so minimal that people may feel sorry for me, this is not my issue, but loving to make things and ending up with too much begins to be an issue too, even more so because I am of an age where we cluttering and downsizing is a topic of a different sort of urgency.

    So this is my philosophy: continue to wear what I already own, add only what I need, and wear it till it dies. Make what gives me joy, but try to make use of the stash on hand. Be thoughtful about what I buy. All easy to say, right?

    But here’s the key: make for others too: almost every community has worthwhile charities that actively solicit hand knits and hand sewn items. Find them, support them, and use your stash and leftovers from previous projects. Donate: last week I took a large bag of yarn to an inner city library soliciting yarn for after school craft programs. This weekend I am planning to sort a three generation button stash to pull together a donation for an organization that runs free mending clinics (if you sew, this might be something to organize). When you buy, buy responsibly, support your local shops and local makers. There are lots of valid ways to make the world a better place.

  8. It takes time to get where Carol and others have landed in the slow fashion journey. It is a journey not all of us begins at the same time and many have not stumbled on the blog or story that will jump start their journey. There is a wisdom in spending your clothing budget dollars on what you will actually wear, no matter how large or small that budget is.
    The glut of new patterns/yarns/books that hits my inbox second by second is an overwhelming challenge to me. Every independent designer, farm to fiber hero, fiber company and publisher I admire seems to strive to achieve a rate of production I cannot absorb let alone support. I have begun to apply the same concepts for a slow fashion closet to my making world. First steps have been to gradually “turn off temptation” by unsubscribing as discussed above. I need to continue to cull the inspirational input down to a few sources while making use of what I already own.

  9. I really appreciate the discussion around slow fashion October (and throughout the year). I’m sorry Carol feels the way she does.

  10. Wow! this was such a weird and kind of dark but also really interesting, thought-provoking round of comments! Really glad I took a moment from my crazy life to check in with Fridge Association today.

  11. Interesting side to the discussion here, Carol. Ellen at 4:16 pm, you introduced an idea that hadn’t occurred to me. Thank you. I’m a year retired and a year into making my own clothes. I’m rather drunk with the power to make what I want to wear and what looks good on me (IMHO) but now see that I need to temper that enthusiasm with balance of need vs want. We all come to realizations in our own time so what may be so much wasted words and a need to channel energy in a different direction for some re: Slow Fashion October might be a flash in the darkness to others new to the idea. We’re all adults here and can choose what to read, what to follow, what to endorse, how to spend our money whether we have plenty or are just squeaking by. Thank you, Carol, and all others who chimed in with their thoughts. This is why I read Fringe Association, for the lively discussion. Remember, this is Karen’s forum, first and foremost, for her thoughts and her business.

  12. I will chime in that I don’t think your posts about slow fashion sound remotely like prattle, Karen. You have been very influential in my evaluating and changing my clothing choices. Talking about it is the first step. I don’t sew my own clothes (yet) but I have taken to carefully buying high quality clothes (preferably pre-owned) and buying fewer clothes. I also appreciate the introduction to Elizabeth Suzann and The Tiny Closet, among others.

  13. Interesting exchange here! I came here today to say that I read this blog often but don’t often enough say “thanks” for providing this blog. I also decided to comment because I’ve been observing slow fashion and those who follow it, but haven’t joined in really. Today I decided I won’t buy any clothing until February 11. Before I even read any of the comments, I had become curious about what I will do to make myself feel good since that’s why I shop at second-hand shops. We shall see! Like you have said, Karen, we all have our different paces and I am glad for this first tiny step. I live in a small town where fashion consciousness isn’t really a thing. With that I mean I think few of us here give much thought to where our clothing comes from. By the way, I am also active in my community and feel that I contribute, in a small way, to making it a better place. Hopefully this first tiny step will lead to another and so it goes!

  14. I’m really glad this discussion is happening because it’s been something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. I feel like everything that is going on in the news and the world at large is really sad and frustrating. In addition to that, I am a RN case manager and work with people every day who are very sick and don’t have the health insurance to get the care they need. I understand where Carol is coming from – fashion does seem frivolous with all that is going on. But for me, fashion and making is my self-care from living and working in a broken world. I think it’s great that we can have this passion that also is making the world a slightly better place by reducing our consumption and supporting ethical producers. I committed to the idea of Slow Fashion in 2012 (not sure that was even a term at the time) and the movement has grown so much since then because individual by individual has chosen to make that change.

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