So, you might be thinking, where do I start? Oftentimes my friends and family would come to me daunted and completely overwhelmed by the idea of switching to a sustainable wardrobe. I understand why it could be overwhelming to make that switch, because it can feel like a complete 180° of what we already know of our usual shopping habits, changing the way we think about how and why we buy clothing. First, I would like to start by saying a sustainable wardrobe doesn’t have to happen overnight, or a weekend, not even over a month. The most sustainable way is to make sure that you are making conscious decisions at each point. To take some of the stress out of the transition, I've noted a few pointers that have helped me make the change, ways to improve your wardrobe and reduce the stress our clothing purchases make on the planet.
Vanessa is the Jade Dress in Shiny Black
Knowing what to declutter and what to keep
Many times, over the years I’ve seen YouTube videos titled something along the lines of “Getting Rid of All My Clothes” to completely switch to a sustainable wardrobe. The problem with this approach is that when we swiftly get rid of everything fast-fashion. While we feel good about our accomplishments, and become excited about having a fresh start, we miss the mark by sending these pieces to our local thrift and charity shops. In turn send the surplus to the landfills because they are unable to store the large volume of clothing or to sort them for sale. The best way to avoid this and still give yourself a fresh start is to declutter with intention. Having and loving your old fast-fashion pieces does not make you a bad person. It is better to hold on to those pieces that still work with your style and continue to wear them than to just discard them all at once. The best way to go about decluttering is to ask yourself “Is this still my style?”, “Does it fit my body well?”, “Is this still in good enough condition to wear again and again?”, and “is this a piece I can style in different ways without getting bored?”. Whatever pieces don’t fit that criteria should go.
Vanessa in the Diana Skirt in Rust
Wear again and again
The internet has cultivated this culture around wearing our clothing once then discarding them for a new piece; never to be seen in it again. That mentality is what fast-fashion brands use to thrive; our insecurities and need to be liked. Unlike food, clothing doesn’t go bad. It’s okay to wear something over and over again because chances are you bought it because you loved it. This practice is probably the best one we can adapt on our journey. Even if your friends see you wear an outfit to brunch or a party or even on Instagram that shouldn’t stop you from washing it and styling it up again! This practice isn’t just beneficial for the planet but imagine the amount you would have saved when you reduce the cost per wear of your clothing!
Mend and Upcycle
Things move so fast in this consumerist society that skills like mending and upcycling our clothes have become a thing of the past. It really shouldn’t be that way. Mending our clothing is a perfect example of how we can get as much bang for our buck. There are plenty of videos online about different ways you can stitch, embroider, patch, glue, dye, bleach and quilt small imperfections that may happen over time. If an item has passed the point where mending is feasible, consider upcycling it to another item of clothing (example, jeans pants to shorts, a t-shirt to a crop top etc.). Use your imagination to rethink the future of your clothes before discarding it.
Vanessa in the Diana Skirt in Rust
Thrift, Swap, and Depop
The second-hand clothing market is huge and is getting more and more popular. The best part is that second-hand clothing comes in many forms. I am a huge thrifter! I find it immensely rewarding to search for gems to add to my closet to add a personal and unique twist to my wardrobe. I know that not everyone likes the idea of getting down and dirty in a dingy thrift store. If I’m being real, it can be overwhelming. However, with social shopping sites like Depop and other online thrifting platforms, second-hand shopping has become even more accessible. The importance of buying second-hand is that it closes the loop on a linear economy. Instead of clothes going from the consumer into landfills they gain a second life with a new owner until that owner then passes it on again. Another fun and exciting way to implement more second-hand into your closet is to have swap parties with your friends. Maybe you have pieces that you love and cherish but might not be your style or size anymore, gather a few friends and all come together and trade your fabulous finds. This way there is no waste, you didn’t spend a dime and you have a whole new fresh set of clothes that are new to your wardrobe. The swap method might seem impossible right now because of COVID-19 but maybe a Zoom Swap would be fun!
Invest in quality from sustainable brands
Usually, the first thing that comes to mind with sustainable and ethical brands is that they are sometimes a bit pricier than our problematic fast-fashion favorites. Most sustainable brands usually make it their mission to pay their employees fairly and source materials ethically which to me should be fundamental in running any business, which in turn explains the higher pricing. So even though the price tag is higher you are paying for quality as well as not supporting the exploitation of garment workers. How I like to think of my purchases from a sustainable brand is as an investment in building my wardrobe. I call these my foundation pieces; they will last me for a very long time and are easy to style in an infinite number of ways with the louder statement pieces I’ve thrifted. And because of this versatility, even though the initial price may seem more costly, the cost per wear is significantly lower as opposed to their fast-fashion look-alikes.
Think before you buy
How many of us are guilty of going on a shopping spree simply because we are bored, sad or angry and use shopping as a way to cope then stack your closet full of things you never wear with the tags still on? (I also raised my hand so you have company). The change in mindset is the core of this change being long-lasting. As customers look to move towards a more sustainable way of life, questioning not only where we shop but how and why, are also major parts of the equation. The current fast fashion structure has put us all on a hamster wheel of buying for temporary happiness and until we are able to step away and think more critically about why our emotions are tangled to our buying power we won’t be able to fully escape the rat race.
I’m not going to write this post and tell you whether you need to be a minimalist or not, have a capsule wardrobe or a full walk in closet, especially not what style choices you should be over another because I do believe highly in individually and self expression. I can suggest to become truly sustainable we all have to consider, planet and people before profit and if companies we shop with don’t comply to that idea maybe it’s time we break up with them and call it quits!
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