It is no secret that the fashion industry is one of the least sustainable industries in the world, and is showing little sign of cleaning up it’s act. We, as consumers are huge contributors, purchasing more and more clothing, and often disposing of it after just a few wearings. Thrift shops and charities are overrun with our cast offs, so much so that they find themselves looking for alternative methods to rid them selves a growing percentage of items donated that they can’t sell, simply because there is such a glut of clothing being donated. Bales of clothing are now being burned because they simply never sold.
Consumers have moved from purchasing one or two new clothing items per month to an average of two or more items per week. Doing the math, that would be a minimum of 104 new items of clothing per year, which may not seem like much, but when you multiply that across the population, well, it makes my head hurt.
Often we wear a fast fashion item once or twice or for a month or so before loosing interest. Clothing trends move on a six to eight week cycle, and for some it means not wearing an item that is not up to the minute on trend.
As a fashion blogger, I am always trying new items, but a high percentage go back to the store for various reasons. I consider how often I would actually wear the item in my every day life, how many other things in my wardrobe go with the item, the fit (often things don’t fit properly) and whether I LOVE it. Not just like, but LOVE. I believe that the right piece, it’s cut, color, the feel of the fabric, the whole thing should light you up, not just be “ok”. Thus I keep far fewer items than I try. I also have my own version of the “capsule” wardrobe built around colors and pieces I love.
Finally, I prefer quality over quantity. My “essentials” are more costly, so I think carefully before making a purchase, and they stay in my wardrobe much longer because I love them, and they always look great. I look for durable, comfortable well made clothing that can be easily laundered and cared for at home, rather than items requiring special care such as dry cleaning.
If, like me, you are interested in taking a more mindful approach to your wardrobe, here are a few tips to creating a more sustainable wardrobe you love.
- Consider purchasing quality items over quantity. For fashionistas “of a certain age”, the idea of “investment” wardrobes is deeply ingrained. We were taught how to identify quality clothing and how to take care of it, though many of us have quickly adapted to purchasing low cost “fast fashion” items to fill out our wardrobes. Millennials and younger have grown up with fast fashion and don’t know how to spot or care for good quality garment
- Create a long range wardrobe strategy, based on curating high quality suits and separates that work together to create multiple looks. You may be spending more per item, but in the long run, because the clothing lasts longer, you will spend less in subsequent seasons.
- Curate your wardrobe based on flattering color palettes or capsules rather than outfit by outfit. The more you create a wardrobe that can be mixed and matched, the fewer new items you will need. My list of updates is pretty short, season to season, now that I have strong basics in my favorite colors.
- Buy from brands which employ sustainable practices. More and more brands are implementing sustainable practices in producing their garments. More and more companies are improving various aspects of garment production, such as how much water is used, the type of dies used, and the pay and working conditions of their employees.
- Buy ‘pre-loved’ items. I must admit, I am not a thrifter, however, I wear the one item I have thrifted almost on a weekly basis. It’s a Banana Republic shirt I bought from a thrift shop for $4, while shopping with my daughter over five years ago now. I’d say it’s had good cost per wear, wouldn’t you?
- Consider laundering and upkeep before purchasing, choose clothing you can care for at home rather than having to send it to the dry cleaner after each use.
- Tailor older items rather than purchasing new. Adding new buttons, or having a tailor reshape an item to keep it current is a great way to stretch your wardrobe.
- Use accessories such as scarves, jewelry, shoes and handbags to update your look, rather than purchasing new wardrobe items.
- Learn to properly care for your clothing to keep it fresh and in good condition.
- Host clothing swap parties. I’ve found that when I’ve invested in pieces but have grown tired of them I will host a clothing swap party with friends. It’s fun, and everyone comes a way with “new-to-them” items.
- Take some time to actually style new looks from your closet. I start the season by assessing my wardrobe, releasing old pieces, and making a list of new items to add to my wardrobe. I then style a few looks incorporating new and old pieces to make sure the pieces work together. Make sure you look at yourself in a full length mirror, from the front and back.
- Consider vintage style. I love vintage styling, but am too tall to actually purchase true vintage items. If you are petite, or good with a sewing machine, cultivating your personal vintage style will not only save money and be easy on the environment, you will have a style that is a unique work of art that no one can duplicate. That’s pretty special, isn’t it?
- Consider capsule wardrobe dressing. Capsule dressing is a great way to look great, and carefully curate a mix and match wardrobe. There are all sorts of guides for capsule wardrobes, some are built around a specific style, such as Parisian styling, others are built around color ways or specific pieces. Make sure the pieces and style you choose reflect your aesthetic, and life style. I’ve found that capsule wardrobes should be unique to the wearer.
So, there you have it. 13 ways to build a more mindful and sustainable wardrobe. I love spending time combing through my Instagram and online shops as well as visiting my favorite shops planning my wardrobe for the season. I pull out old favorites and enjoy the fun of adding new pieces. It’s even fun to save up for a special item.
Nina, great post and great tips! I however, am a clothing hoarder and would never be happy with a capsule wardrobe! That being said, I have been shopping second hand much more frequently than new so that’s a step in the right direction for me. But I do love all my clothes and have the hardest time parting with anything. I need to get on it though!