How to Create a Sustainable Wardrobe
How many of the items in your wardrobe do you actually wear? How often have you purchased a sale item, never to even put it on? How many times has your new dress started to fall apart after only 2 wears?
All these problems are symptoms of a fast-fashion industry that is out of control. The incredibly fast rate at which we are producing, wearing and discarding items is putting a serious strain on our planet and resources. In fact, the fashion industry is the world’s second largest polluter – second only to the production of oil. The crisis is worsening, with the production of clothing more than DOUBLING in the last 15 years in order to meet increasing demand across the globe. In its wake, it has left growing piles of cast-offs, with over 50% of fast-fashion garments being trashed within the first year of purchase, according to a report conducted by McKinsey.
As always, education is key. It’s imperative to get your WHY straight in your head. Why are you interested in pursuing sustainable fashion? What’s your priority? Is it to support local, sustainable brands, or to reduce your impact as much as possible by purchasing second hand? Do you want organic materials, or are you focused on reducing your chemical exposure? Maybe your top priority is wearing garments that are vegan and cruelty free. Doing your research and arming yourself with information is the first step in getting ready to do battle with the fashion industry. In fact, researching the industry and realising how harmful it was led me to take my first major step towards creating a sustainable wardrobe – stopping to accept clothing from lots of brands each month.
The thought of creating a sustainable wardrobe can be daunting. There is so much pressure in society to have the latest and greatest fashion pieces, and the media storm perpetuates this idea of how looking fashionable is linked to our happiness – it’s actually crazy when you think about it. Yet because of this ingrained mindset, ditching a high-turnover, fast-fashion wardrobe can often seem like a scary task.
I’m here to tell you that it’s not as hard as you may think, and it is 100% worth it! Here are my top tips for creating and maintaining a sustainable wardrobe – you’ll help the planet, reduce your impact, and look FRESH with hardly any effort at all!
Clean Out & Donate
The first step is to go through your wardrobe and donate the clothes that go unworn. We all have them – they hide on coathangers or sit crumpled at the back of your drawers. By donating these items instead of leaving them hanging uselessly in your wardrobe, you will help others be more sustainable, and play your part in creating a circular economy.
Get Informed & Inspired
Pull on your PI hat and do some investigative work. Figure out if your favourite brands create their clothes sustainably; if not, cross them of your list! Find a bunch of brands you love that operate ethically and sustainably and start from there. I understand that it can be a delicate task to balance reducing your consumption with supporting ethical brands, yet it would be naïve of me to think we will never purchase new clothing again. Because of this, it’s so important to vote with your dollars and support ethical brands – it’s a great way to stand up to the rise of fast fashion and the high demand for cheap, trendy clothes.
Quality & Care
Buy clothes that are better quality and take care of them. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often we forget it. Buying better quality clothes and looking after them will help your clothes last longer. This will reduce the demand for fast-fashion, which is so detrimental to our planet. Sure, it will cost you more upfront, but you will only need to purchase ONE item, as opposed to the 5 you would have otherwise purchased. Synthetic fabrics take over 200 years to fully break down, and the microfibers from the garments often end up in the ocean and in the bellies of sea creatures. INVEST TO BUY LESS!
Thrift Shops & Clothes Swaps
I’m not sure how much time you’ve spent in your local Vinnies, but there are so many high-quality gems to be found on those racks! Whist I understand it is luck of the draw, you can often find amazing vintage bargains that are in top-notch condition. Another great idea is to hold a clothes swap with your friends. My friends and I love sorting our clothes into piles, getting together and sifting through the finds. Every new item of clothing produced has a large carbon footprint attached to its creation, yet we often forget that the incremental resources required to produce second-hand clothing is zero!
Upskill & Fix It
If your heel snaps, your button falls off, or your shirt tears, you don’t necessarily need to chuck it out. Spend a Saturday upskilling and learning how to repair your clothes – take a course offered by your local Tafe or fashion school, ask your grandma, or for those lazy people like myself, pay someone else to fix it! There is much to be said for making full use of the clothing we already have. Whilst it may be ‘easier’ just to purchase a new garment, by taking the time to fix your existing piece you are playing a part in reducing a global footprint that includes 132 metric tons of coal and 6-9 trillion litres of water consumed each year – all used by the fashion industry to create these new clothes.
Shift & Ditch
Last but certainly not least is to shift your perspective. It’s time to ditch the visions of second-hand, sustainable clothing as bland, oversized garments. Just because something is created in a way that is sustainable and ethical DOES NOT MEAN it cannot look sexy and sleek.
Goodluck, and happy thrifting!