I’d never claim to be the most fashionable girl in town – I’m probably closer to being on the front cover of Country Living than Vogue. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy getting swept up in the latest trends and buying something fancy for a special occasion.
It was around five years ago that I sat down for another regular wardrobe clear-out session and realised that something needed to change. As I attacked the mountain of clothes tipped out on top of my bed, I felt a little sick with guilt each time I tossed away a barely-worn item. It wasn’t just the impact on the planet that I was feeling for… it was also the impact on my wallet.
And, so began my small steps towards a more sustainable wardrobe. Years have passed and I’m still on this journey, but I hope that you can take some inspiration from what I have learned so far.
Here are my top tips towards creating a sustainable wardrobe…
TRY SECOND HAND
If I had a pound for every time I’ve been complimented on something I’d bought from a charity shop, I’d be, well, considerably richer! I love them. Partly because there’s no one telling you what your style should be – you can choose freely without the fashion gods passing comment – partly because it’s the best way to satisfy that fast fashion impulse. I can buy something impulsively and it doesn’t really matter if I just wear it once, it can go back to another shop and hopefully be enjoyed again. And of course, for the frugal Yorkshire lass within me, it doesn’t burn a hole in my pocket.
A note of warning: Don’t give up if you don’t find anything you like on a first visit. It can take time so try to enjoy the rummaging. I have also found that I just prefer some charity shops over others. Keep at it and style treasure shall be yours!
The traditional charity shop has also now evolved into brilliant online platforms, which serve the same purpose. Here are a couple to have a look at vinted.co.uk and depop.com.
BUY LESS AND BUY BEST
According to a 2019 government report we Brits buy more items of clothing per head than anywhere else in Europe. It’s an issue that’s been gaining increased attention and the spotlight is being put on fast fashion brands to become more eco-conscious. I quickly came to the conclusion that buying quality and not quantity takes you on one of the quickest paths to a sustainable wardrobe.
Slow fashion is the term being used to describe sticking with what you have for a long time. Quality is the key to slow fashion. Take time to consider a piece carefully before you purchase and if something gets worn down, consider ways of fixing or altering before giving up on it. Buying pieces that are a classic rather than ‘this season’s’ design is also a good way of ensuring that you get the best out your purchase. My ultimate goal is to have a capsule wardrobe; a small, carefully-selected wardrobe of clothes, which, in the words of Mary Kondo, ‘sparks joy’!
SUGGEST A CLOTHES SWAP
I’m at an age where, in pre-Covid times, I was attending five or more weddings a year! My girlfriends and I decided to start an outfit swap over WhatsApp, to go easy on the planet and our purses. It’s been great to expand my style through my friends and I’ve worn things I wouldn’t usually have selected. We tend to swap on a short-term basis, however, you don’t have to team up with pals to do this, there are organised clothes swaps where you can take your unwanted items (as long as they’re in good condition) and permanently swap them for a fresh look. Try searching for a local clothes swap group on social media. Leeds Community Clothes Exchange is another great resource.
We have all heard this message recently and it rings true for clothing too. Buying British can be a great way to reduce the carbon footprint of your clothing. Be warned though that the ‘made in’ label doesn’t always mean it was entirely manufactured in that country. If it’s unclear be sure to ask, companies with a sustainable track record tend to be transparent about their production methods.
KEEP AN EYE ON MATERIALS
I’m still learning what to look out for in terms of sustainable materials when buying clothing. There are plenty of blogs out there, providing helpful tips such as looking out for ‘100%’ materials, which are much easier to recycle than blended fibres, which can’t be separated. The website supplycompass.com is particularly helpful, providing advice on certifications and standards to look out for. Be warned that just because something is made out of recycled bottles doesn’t mean it will last forever. The process to recycle PET bottle also uses a lot of energy and chemicals, so be sure to closely inspect products to ensure they’ll last you more than just a couple of seasons.
For me, becoming more sustainable has been a gradual process. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by suddenly trying to overhaul your entire life. I like to make a few sustainable New Year’s resolutions each year. For example, one of mine this year was to only purchase sustainable footwear. Try making a change for a short period and see how you get on. This month is #SecondHandSeptember, taking on one challenge for a month could be a great place to start.
As a final message, start small, but do start.
Do you have a story about how you’ve changed your habits to become more sustainable? We’d love to hear from you! Contact us via our Facebook page, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org