I don’t know about you, but over the past six months I’ve seen so many more conversations in the news and on social media about ethical clothing and creating a more sustainable wardrobe. Traditionally, building a sustainable wardrobe seemed only attainable for those with an unlimited budget, or people who live minimalistic lives, but now the mindset has shifted. More people are wanting to be more thoughtful and ethical with their choices. However, everyone has intentions of being more conscious about how their shopping habits impact people and planet, but following through with them is something entirely different.
So here are a few ideas anyone can try, to create a wardrobe and a lifestyle that reduces the impact on our planet.
One of the best places to start when you’re trying to change the way you look at your wardrobe is to do your research. Think about where you currently buy your clothes and investigate the production processes behind these companies’ products. Where do they make their clothes, how do they treat the people who make them, what materials and fabrics are used?
If you haven’t watched it already, take a look at the BBC’s documentary on the fashion industry: ‘Fashion’s Dirty Secrets’ or the docufilm on Netflix ‘The True Cost’. I guarantee it’ll raise a few questions
After delving a little deeper into the fashion industry, you might feel so uncomfortable with the clothing you’ve got hanging in your wardrobe that you’d like to just get rid of it all and start again. However, that causes its own problems. While having a clear out is a great way to feel a bit more intentional and can help you realise what you do and don’t wear, make sure you look into where you’re disposing your clothes.
Putting them in the bin is a big no no, but giving them to your local charity shop is not always the answer. Make sure that the shop needs or wants the type of items you’re donating, and that they have the best chance of finding a new home. You can also think about rehoming your clothes to other friends and family, having a clothing swap or selling them online. If you’re looking to go down a more charitable route, look into charities like Smart Works, who take unwanted work clothes and give them to other women who are going to job interviews.
Part of the wider problem in the fashion industry is ‘fast fashion’ and the sheer amount we consume. Therefore, the best thing we can do is buy less! Easier said than done, right?
I used to be the type of person to spend hours shopping on the weekend, treating it like a hobby, but now I realise how much I was buying unnecessarily. Now I try to only buy the things I really need, and do my research to get the best quality I can afford.
It’s always so tempting, especially with the Black Friday and January sales, to get carried away with the thought of saving loads of money when products are on offer. But, part of having a more sustainable approach to your wardrobe means taking a step back and exercising a little bit of discipline. And at the end of the day, you’re saving money by not buying you something you didn’t actually need in the first place.
One way to reduce the amount of waste on the planet is to buy second hand. If you’re looking for a particular piece, especially if it’s not dependent on season, try your local charity shop, vintage or consignment store before you hit the high street. Not only are you supporting sustainability in fashion, you’re probably going to save a few pounds too. You could also try online second-hand platforms, like Depop, Mercari and the old favourite, eBay.
One way to feel more confident in your choices is to shop smaller. Supporting local or independent companies over bigger high street chains means you’ve got more chance of knowing exactly where your clothes have been made, who’s made them and with what materials.
Etsy is a great place to start if you’re thinking about supporting smaller brands, and you’ll also find some unique pieces you won’t find anywhere else. Often these small companies are built by individual makers and artists, so you really could be having an impact on their livelihood, as well as getting a garment you love.
Whether you’re familiar with a needle and thread, or you can’t tell one end of a sewing machine from the other, learning to do some simple alterations can help make your clothing last that bit longer.
There’s no need to throw garments away if they aren’t quite working for you; a minor nip and tuck or spin in a dye pot could give them a whole new lease of life. Why not look for a local class or short course to teach you the basics, you might even meet some like-minded people.
If you need to change the size or shape of your clothes, you can even enlist the help of a local seamstress. Thinking more creatively about your current wardrobe can mean the difference between falling in love with your clothes all over again or leaving them to linger at the bottom of your wardrobe.
It’s easy to feel disheartened when you start your ethical wardrobe journey – especially when you compare yourself to those leading the minimalist lifestyle and you wonder how you’ll ever achieve a more sustainable lifestyle. It’s also hard to imagine how your actions alone can really make a difference.
However, adding up the value of unused clothing in the UK totals to around £30 billion, so taking any steps to reduce this figure is a massive step forward.