If sustainability is something you’re interested in, fashion can be a tricky subject… I never want to feel like I’m encroaching on anyone’s freedom to express themselves through their wardrobe; in fact I encourage it! But I also feel compelled to share some of the things I’ve learned about filling my own closet with more sustainable and responsible choices, and avoiding the detrimental practices of much of the fashion industry.
Read on for 5 Tips to a More Sustainable Wardrobe.
The term “fast fashion” has been buzzing around a lot lately, and in this overly-consumerist culture we find ourselves living in, it’s important to understand what that means, and how to combat it’s dirty practices.
fast fashion: an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers. Merriam-Webster
I don’t think any individual actively or knowingly chooses to support the particular evil that comes along with fast fashion, but many do not know the effects that it can have. Of course we all love a good deal, but cheaper production has unseen costs manifested in the form of labor abuse, environmental pollution, human rights violations, and global destruction.
My goal with this post is not to make anyone feel guilty, but to share information on how we as consumers can do better.
It’s okay to love expressing yourself through your clothing or accessories.
It’s even better to do so responsibly.
5 Tips to a More Sustainable Wardrobe
- The most ethical wardrobe is the one you already have.
This is one secret that I believe to be absolutely true. Wear what you have, work with what you already own. Avoid clothing waste and avoid consumption in the form of falling prey to the #1 fast fashion strategy: buying a ton because it’s cheap. Fall in love with what’s already hanging in your closet and neatly folded (or balled up) in your drawer. Try a capsule wardrobe for a spell, and see how you feel. Gratitude for what you have is truly the strongest weapon against the lie that we must consume, must have more, to be worthy. We are all familiar with the cliche of “I have nothing to wear” while surrounded by clothing. The problem isn’t with our wardrobe; it’s with our perception.
**I’ll be sharing a wardrobe challenge next month to help explore the spirit of minimalism, be creative with your clothing items, and streamline your mornings. I did this last year and it has changed the way I think about my own closet, gratitude, and finding peace in having less. I can’t wait to share it with you!**
- Learn to repair and care for your items with a few basic sewing skills.
Acquiring a new skill not only makes you feel accomplished, but basic sewing skills are also extremely useful! A small hand-sewing kit doesn’t cost a lot, but a new pair of jeans does. Utilize the vast expanse of knowledge granted to us by the internet and check out some YouTube videos, Pinterest articles, or phone your grandma for some tips on basic repairs. If you find that sewing (or knitting, or crocheting) is something you enjoy, you might even consider making your own clothes! A sewing machine is an investment my own little family has been considering for quite some time.
- Try thrifting.
Feel the itch for some retail therapy? Grab your reusable bag and go thrifting! If you aren’t already shopping at and supporting your local thrift stores, you need to give it a try. Supporting thrift stores and second hand shops feels good on the wallet, and feels good on your heart. Second hand items are significantly cheaper, your hard-earned money does not contribute to fast fashion companies and the pollution they create, and you are typically helping an organization that does good for your community. It may sound bizarre if you don’t frequent second hand shops often, but there is an extra special sort of sense of accomplishment that comes from finding an awesome, high quality, brand-that-you-love addition to your wardrobe for pennies on the dollar. Another perk: when you decide to live by the less-is-more model, you can feel good about donating your own lightly used items.
**I have heard plenty of negativity surrounding certain larger thrift store organizations in regards to where the money goes, how much they help the community, etc… If you have a problem with a specific organization, find another one! I highly suggest seeking out smaller, local shops — some of my favorites are run by churches that use their profits for specific purposes, like helping human trafficking victims or providing meals for the homeless. Do your research, and make your own choices; there are some really great clothes AND some really great causes out there waiting for you to find them.
- Fill in the gaps with high quality items you love.
If you find holes in your wardrobe (after honest reflection and taking stock with gratitude), go ahead and fill that void as an informed, ethical, and well-budgeted consumer. Only purchase items you truly feel great in, and stay away from fads or trends that are great for instagram selfies, but terrible for your wallet and the environment. This is HARD because we are constantly bombarded with ads, promotions, sponsored posts, and “influencers” telling us what we need to purchase in order to be worthy of (fill in your own blank). Remain vigilant in the fine art of limitation, and focus hard on what items you know you will wear, need, love, and pay attention to where they come from.
- Do your research to find out which ethical brands you want to support.
This is the key to being a responsible shopper. Check certifications and seals on products, be familiar with the vetting process, and make it a priority to do a quick search on companies before you buy. Keep an eye out for “Fair Trade Certified,” “USDA Organic,” and “B Corporation Certification.” Look into shopping local, handmade, and less online. When you find great companies and products you love as an alternative to fast-fashion companies, share them with friends. Feel good about higher-quality clothes made ethically, carefully, and eco-friendly. Knowledge is power!
Here are a few of my own favorites. prAna, Patagonia, Everlane, Proclaim, United By Blue.
I’d love to hear about some of your own ethical wardrobe tips and what brands you love to support! Let me know in the comments, and please share! If you’re interested in joining my wardrobe challenge, be sure to “follow” so you don’t miss out! As always, thank you for taking the time to read and engage!