Beginners Guide to Creating a More Sustainable Wardrobe

May 3, 2017

Beginners guide to creating a more ethical and sustainable wardrobeYou’ve watched eye-opening documentaries like The True Cost or read about the truth behind the fashion industry and decided you want to change. You want your wardrobe to do good as well as look good.

Deciding you want a more ethical and sustainable wardrobe is a great first step. But where do you go from there? The world of ethical and sustainable fashion can be overwhelming. You go from having no idea it existed to discovering so many shocking facts about the clothes in your wardrobe and feeling incredibly guilty about you previous shopping habits. How do you move on from this guilt and start your journey towards a more ethical and sustainable wardrobe?

4 Steps to an Ethical and Sustainable Wardrobe

Value and Take Care of the Clothes You Already Own

The easiest (and cheapest) way to get started on your ethical and sustainable wardrobe journey is to enjoy the clothes you already own. You’ve spent your hard-earned money on them so enjoy them. Value your clothes like the investments they are. Take good care of them. Read and follow washing instructions, hang them up/put away after use. Our wardrobes are one of the most valuable items in our homes so take care of your clothes.

The average British woman hoards £285 of clothes they never wear (this works out as over £30 billion of unworn clothes in the UK). This is the equivalent to 22 outfits wasting valuable hanging space in our homes. So why do we continue to shop? Try putting yourself on a shopping ban and working with what you already have. You’ll be surprised at how many great pieces you already own and had forgotten about. If you want to take it a step further try a style challenge like a capsule wardrobe, project 333 or a 10×10 to refresh your style. I’ve always found these challenges leave me feeling excited about my wardrobe again. And best of all they cost nothing.

Shop Less and Invest in Quality over Quantity

Buy less, choose Well, Make it lastWhilst a spending ban is a great way to get started we all need to shop at some time or another. This is where we need to change our habits and attitudes. Stop thinking of shopping as a hobby. There are plenty of other (more enjoyable) ways to spend your weekend than shopping.

When you do shop take your time to really think about what you need and create a list before you start looking. Really think about your lifestyle and gaps in your wardrobe. Shop for your real life, not a fantasy lifestyle. Ask yourself will I wear this a least 30 times before purchasing. If not then it probably isn’t right for your lifestyle.

Have a cooling off period after you spot something you like. Leave it in store and go home, if you still want it a week later then buy it. This should help avoid impulse buys.

Think of new clothes as investments and look for the best quality you can find/afford. Yes, high-quality clothes do tend to cost a little more but will last longer in your wardrobe. Consider the cost per wear of your clothes. But remember that expensive does not always equal high quality so learn how to spot quality clothes.

Buy Second Hand or Vintage

This is perhaps the most budget friendly way to make sustainable purchases. You are reducing landfill as well as finding exciting new clothes to enjoy. And depending on where you shop you are supporting great charities too. It’s a win/win situation.

Support Ethical Brands

Whilst shopping second-hand is a great way to build your sustainable wardrobe sometimes we all want something shiny and new. There is nothing wrong with buying new clothes and there are so many ethical options out there for you to chose from. It is so satisfying finding a great ethical brand which matches both your style and ethics.

However, the world of ethical fashion can be overwhelming. Once you start researching brands you discover there are hundreds out there. Take your time to research brands which match your personal ethics. Read their policies, look at how often they get new stock (more than once a season is a fast fashion trigger), look at quality and design (are they trend led or classic pieces) before making decisions.

It may be helpful to choose an area to focus on based on your personal ethics.


How to create a more sustainable wardrobeAnd finally, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. This all takes time and won’t happen overnight. No one has a perfect wardrobe, we’ve all fallen for the fast fashion trap in the past. I certainly have a few lingering pieces from my fast fashion addict days. They remind me of my past mistakes and also encourage me to continue to change my ways.

don’t let perfect be the enemy of good

Want to create a more ethical and sustainable wardrobe but don't know where to start? Then this beginners guide to creating a more ethical and sustainable is perfect for you. Read tips on how to get started, what to look for in ethical brands and where to shop.


6 responses to “Beginners Guide to Creating a More Sustainable Wardrobe”

  1. Caroline says:

    Hi, new reader here! This is a really good post, so simple and clear but with a lot of substance. Looking forward to reading more!

  2. Olivia says:

    I’m interested to see how this philosophy extends to cosmetics. For the most part I suppose the same principles apply, but then clothes can be more easily recycled than half-used plastic tubes of product. Hopefully more brands will begin taking their own packaging back for recycling like Lush do.

    • Jen says:

      I think the main difference is cosmetics are consumable whereas clothes should last for years. I guess it’s a case of using up what you already have and making more conscious decisions when replacing. For recycling, you’re best to empty the product out of its packaging before recycling. Your local council may take the leftovers off you as some cosmetics are considered hazardous waste (nail polish etc). Womens shelters normally except donations of products if you can’t finish them.

  3. Rachel says:

    Do you have any resources that tell you about the practices of different companies? I find it so hard to find info. I tend to assume that if a company doesn’t explicitly say they are sustainable/ using fair trade etc then they aren’t.

  4. Hi Jen! I’m Nicole, I have a blog casualcolie too, where I’m trying to focus on sustainable street style and simple beauty. You are inspiring! Thanks for this helpful post in continuing my journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Your blog is super helpful! Thanks!

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