Since writing my blog on the environmental destruction that fast fashion causes, I’ve been on a mission to curate a sustainable wardrobe. This mostly involves avoiding unnecessary, spontaneous purchases as well as choosing things that I love and know I will always reach for. My current wardrobe isn’t perfect – it’s still growing and changing – but everything in there will get worn. I want all my clothes to have a long life, so no more throwing away after something has been worn a few times.
Almost all the clothes I own can be mixed and matched to make an outfit; this wasn’t always the case because my wardrobe was full of spontaneous purchases rather than being coordinated. Shopping for specific outfits made me feel like I was constantly outfit repeating and that my wardrobe had no flexibility (although I’m not suggesting being an outfit repeater is a bad thing, more on this later). I decided that minimal patterns and earthy colours were a good idea because everything would work together. Only buying things that I love means I reach for everything an equal amount. I’m no longer faced with a full wardrobe and nothing to wear because I love almost every item of clothing I own. Before I buy, I ask myself: will I wear this at least 30 times? Only if the answer is yes, do I buy and even then the goal is to wear it until it has no life left. Before I talk about my wardrobe in a little more detail, it’s important to know that building a sustainable wardrobe takes time and rushing it would be counterproductive. It’s a journey, not something that can be solved by a complete overhaul of your current wardrobe.
It’s winter and I love a cosy wardrobe (summer wardrobes are not my thing), so I’ve opted to talk about jumpers over tops and t-shirts. Most of my tops and t-shirts are from before I started shopping sustainably anyway – not very interesting, but there’s life left in them yet so no need to replace them. The majority of my jumpers, on the other hand, came after the shift in my shopping habits. All the jumpers picture above were either purchased from online secondhand shops or handed down to me. Some are purchased through Depop and some through Instagram vintage shops. Most recently, my Dad gave me two of his jumpers that he never wears (and I’ve hardly had them off since).
Coats and jackets always last me a long time, so the ones I bought new are all over two years old and will last even longer. In terms of my new editions, my two fleeces were bought through Instagram vintage shops, whilst the bright orange one was a hand-me-down from my Mama (aka my grandma).
In the trouser department, it’s probably a case of half new, half secondhand. I find I need to buy black jeans new because I can never find secondhand ones that don’t look over worn. Plus I wear jeans until they’re no longer wearable, so I still have several pairs from before. One pair even has a broken belt hook that’s been resewn so many times, it no longer has anything to be sewn to – I still wear these jeans all the time despite the hole on the waist band. I feel, what I’d call, hindsight guilt about the clothes that were bought brand new in my wardrobe, this isn’t the case for any of my trousers because I know I’ll wear them until they’re falling off me (and then I’ll replace them with a sustainable pair).
I want to focus on ‘going out’ clothes now. The same rules I’ve already discussed apply here (and to the parts of my wardrobe I haven’t discussed), but this is where I struggle and I know others do too. We’re made to feel that outfit repeating is bad – it’s not, the planet thanks you for it. We need to start accepting that we can wear the same dress on our birthday, NYE and whatever other occasion because washing machines are a wonderful thing. I’m far from perfect in this area, I still buy for lots of occasions – I bought two dresses for my birthday: one new and one from Depop; and I’ve bought another dress from Depop for my work Christmas party. It takes a lot of self control and I’m not quite there yet. However I still stuck to some of my rules (just maybe not the buying less rule): the new dress I bought will get worn more than 30 times, and the others were secondhand – something is always better than nothing.
Building a sustainable wardrobe is both satisfying and exciting. I appreciate the clothes I buy more because I don’t shop as often, and I’m a learning to be proud outfit repeater because it feels good to know my outfits don’t cost the Earth. To finish, I’ve created a little list of ways to help you towards a more sustainable wardrobe:
- Choose a theme so everything goes with everything
- Buy secondhand
- When buying new, buy from sustainable brands
- Be an outfit repeater
- Love your clothes for longer
- Shop less
- Accept hand-me-downs (if you like them of course)
- Swap or borrow
- Use the ’30 wear’ rule