If you are trying to make your wardrobe more sustainable, the most important thing is to determine which aspect of sustainability matters the most to you. And that’s not to say that all aspects aren’t important, but you need a starting point. For example, maybe you care that your clothing was made by an ethically run factory or maybe you just care about the environmental impacts of the fabric being used. Pick your focus and then you can build a sustainable wardrobe that truly reflects your values and expand over time.
Step 1: Perform An Ethical Closet Audit
Moving towards a more sustainable wardrobe people feel like they just need to throw their entire closet away and start from scratch. Throwing stuff away is actually part of the problem. I would start by performing an ethical closet audit first. I won’t go into too much detail as I have a previous article dedicated on how to conduct an ethical audit, but tossing your clothes out is environmentally damaging and is one of the major issues with fast fashion culture.
After you perform your ethical closet audit, separate your clothing into four piles: clothing you love, clothing you may wear, clothing you like but it doesn’t fit well, and clothing you won’t ever wear again. After you have created your piles give yourself a few weeks to decide if you still want to keep anything before donating them or reselling them.
Step 2: Invest in a Tailor
I can’t begin to express how useful a tailor is. I’m sure I have mentioned this in other posts as well. A lot of your discarded clothing can be saved by simple mending. If you can mend them yourself, great! Because free is obviously better, but if you don’t know how to sew and mend clothing you can easily find a local tailor within your budget.
Take your “clothing you like, but doesn’t fit well” pile and decide if you love it enough to spend money having a tailor correct the fit so you can actually start wearing those pieces. If you don’t love it as much to spend money, try to find ways to re-purpose those items. For example, a lot of my old cotton based clothing turns into cleaning rags or makeup remover cloths. You can always head on over to Pinterest for inspiration so you can start your own DIY projects.
Step 3: Take Inventory of What’s Left
Once you know the items you’re actually wearing in your wardrobe, it’s time to locate the gaps. What are you missing? These are typically foundation pieces that should be included in everyone’s wardrobe. For example, are you missing a white button up blouse? Maybe you don’t have a little black dress for date nights? Try to also take stock of the things you wish you had while getting dress. Try writing those things down so you know what to look for during future shopping trips.
Lastly, don’t get distracted by trends during this process. Try to notice the styles in your wardrobe you naturally gravitate towards. Make a mental list or write those pieces down as they will now become your investment pieces. So when you are out shopping you know which styles you love and which ones you don’t. There’s nothing worse than buying the entire outfit on the mannequin because you’re unsure of what style means to you.
Step 4: Buy Less, Choose Well
We all know the infamous Vivienne Westwood quote. Buying with intention is an essential part of creating a sustainable wardrobe. Once you know what you like, how you plan to wear it, and why you are buying it you can shop smarter, not harder.
Once you’ve streamlined your closet and taken stock of what pieces you need, start thinking about three other ways you can style that item with other items in your wardrobe. Remember, multiple wears is key! And I personally strive for 30 wears or more. If I can’t envision at least 30 wears, I’m more than likely putting it back.
Step 5: Shop Responsibly
Buying from ethical and sustainable brands is not always possible due to cost. Which is totally understandable. Please do not feel bad if you cannot purchase from a sustainable brand right away. Our minds have been essentially brainwashed by the fast fashion industry to accept cheaply made clothing. What we forget is that making clothing is not cheap or at least it’s not supposed to be. You’re supposed to be paying for the fair labor, quality fabrics, and ethical treatment of all individuals involved producing the garment.
So if you are financially able and are clear on what you like, it’s time to go shopping! Focus those hard earned dollars towards the brands that really deserve it. They are going the extra mile and have chosen to be a sustainable brand. Going against the grain is not easy, so vote with your wallet.
A great tool that I use all the time when shopping is the Good on You app. They have done all the hard work for you by researching and rating brands. The app will tell you clearly if they’re a sustainable brand or a brand you should avoid due to their unsustainable business practices. I also appreciate that they have a detailed explanation as to why each brand received their rating. Of course, you should do your own research but it helps to have tools to help with your search.
Good luck with starting your sustainable wardrobe journey! Feel free to leave a comment or send me a DM via Instagram if you have any questions or just want to chat about style and sustainable fashion. Until next time…
Mynka is a personal wardrobe stylist sharing some style tips, outfit inspiration, and using this blog as a platform to continue the important discussions surrounding sustainable fashion.