You’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
Whilst 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.
- Environment – look for sustainable fabrics like organic cotton, natural dyes, environmental policies, recycled materials, upcycling.
- People – look for Fairtrade companies, paying a living wage, workers’ rights, safe working conditions etc
- Animals – no animal products like leather/suede, skins or fur. Watch out for glue used in shoes etc
And 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