Create a Sustainable Wardrobe Without Spending a Penny

November 8, 2017

When you start to think about creating an ethical wardrobe your mind turns to finding ethical brands to buy from. Then you do a quick google of ethical brands see the price and suddenly change your mind about that ethical wardrobe. I totally get it ethical fashion can be very expensive. As much as I’d love a wardrobe full of beautiful pieces from ethical brands like People Tree and Reformation my budget means that isn’t going to happen right now.

For people on a budget, the recommendation is always second hand. But that still involves spending money and isn’t always super cheap especially when buying vintage. Whilst second-hand offers many bargains it may not always be the super budget-friendly option it’s made out to be.

Start With What You Have

The answer is staring us in the face every morning. The most ethical wardrobe is the one you already have. It’s such a simple solution but it’s often forgotten when talking ethical wardrobes.

When I first started looking into ethical and sustainable fashion the whole topic felt so overwhelming. I knew I wanted to make a change as my shopping habits but couldn’t figure out where to start. In the end, as you all know I went down the capsule wardrobe route. The thought process behind this was about learning to live with less and to break my disruptive shopping habits. For me, this method was a success and my capsule wardrobe has turned into a minimal, sustainable wardrobe. To me, this isn’t about making my wardrobe perfect or 100% ethical. But it isn’t wasteful like my old wardrobe and I love to wear everything I own.

This to me is what makes my wardrobe sustainable. I live by the 30 wears concept rather than insisting that everything comes from an ethical brand. Although I always go to ethical brands first. The 30 wears concept is the super simple idea that you wear your clothes at least 30 times. Which just makes sense after all you have invested your hard-earned money on your clothes.

Fashion Shouldn’t be Disposable

But when you think about fast fashion it encourages you to update your wardrobe regularly. Some brands even encourage weekly purchases. If you’re buying something new every week you won’t be able to enjoy wearing the clothes you already own. Because they are always being replaced by something newer. This means our clothes don’t get worn as much as they should. In the UK women only wear 44% of their clothes regularly and have around 57 items they never wear in their wardrobe*. You may think that because you are keeping these pieces in your wardrobe and not throwing them out you aren’t being wasteful. But this is such a wasteful way to shop, whilst you may not be creating landfill waste you are wasting money, space in your home, your time and the skills and time of the garment workers. That all sounds pretty wasteful to me.

This all goes back to the idea that fashion should not be disposable. It’s not enough just to keep things in your wardrobe you need to keep wearing everything you own. It sounds so basic but if you really take the time to think about it it’s, unfortunately, something we all do. Making the most out of the things you already own is one of the most sustainable things you can do. It isn’t all about buying expensive new clothes from ethical and sustainable brands.

We all need to stop thinking about our next purchase and focus on what we already own. If we remember that new clothes feeling for everything we own we’ll be able to change the way we feel about our wardrobes. But how do we change our mindset towards loving everything in our wardrobe rather than always thinking about our next new purchase?

Make the Most Out of What You Have

Style challenges like the 10×10 I recently took part in is a great way to get excited about your wardrobe again. I loved my autumn 10×10 taking part in the challenge allowed me to get creative with my clothes which is something that doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m a very simple dresser so having a challenge which forces me to try new ways of styling my clothes is invigorating. I came away from the challenge feeling excited about my autumn capsule wardrobe and loving the process of getting dressed in the morning. If you’re feeling uninspired by your current wardrobe I highly recommend trying a wardrobe challenge. If a 10×10 sounds a little too much maybe try a 5×5 or 12×10. It’s not about having the smallest wardrobe it’s about experimenting and playing with your wardrobe.

If a style challenge isn’t for you start small maybe choose a day a week when you will wear something different. Try pairing that cute top with something other than jeans. Or styling something you normally wear for nights out for a casual daytime look. Or style a casual item in a work outfit. Challenge yourself to find as many ways to style one piece as possible. You never know a night spent playing with your wardrobe could result in your new favourite outfit.


*Study by Marks and Spencer, 2016

4 responses to “Create a Sustainable Wardrobe Without Spending a Penny”

  1. Jojo says:

    This is such a great way to look at ethical and sustainable fashion. I browse the Free People site occasionally but I can’t afford anything on there right now and most of the clothes don’t fit with my personal style. I’ve been travelling with hand luggage only for three years now so my options are limited and everything gets worn A LOT. I’m definitely looking forward to having more clothes to choose from when I eventually stop travelling but it’s been a great way to show that you can live with less.

  2. Rebecca K says:

    Hi Jen, I’ve been following you a while, having discovered your blog through pinterest. I just wanted to say that you’ve been a bit of an inspiration and I really like both your sense of style and also your honesty about ethical shopping, capsule wardrobes and how you’ve been making changes. So true that the most ethical wardrobe is the one you already have!

    I’ve already been trying to be a bit more conscious in my clothing choices when it comes to buying new, and although I like the idea of a capsule wardrobe I’ve struggled with actually organising one. Next year I’m thinking of trying the radical approach of just full on stopping shopping – and making an effort to look at the clothes I already have, rather than buying new just because!

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