The cost of fast fashion – i.e., most of what is available to buy right now – is considerable, from unsafe working conditions for the people making the clothing, to the tons of textile waste created once it’s discarded. Many of us love the idea of choosing more sustainable fashion, but might feel overwhelmed by figuring out how to start. I’ve experienced some clothing size changes lately (having a kid can do that), so I’ve had more reason than usual to think about this. Here is my new, improved approach to fashion.
Opt Out of Planned-Obsolescence Fashion
Did you know that most of the clothes sold in the world right now were basically designed to be thrown away? For years I pored over every fashion magazine I could get my hands on, and I still daydream occasionally of designer clothes. But the majority of on-trend clothes that a regular woman like me can afford are designed to be obsolete in a short period of time, and that’s not good enough for me anymore.
So what’s a woman to do? First and foremost, STOP SHOPPING. Not forever, just until something new is actually really needed.
The Real Sustainable Fashion
The clothes you already own, whether they were sustainably made or not, are the most sustainable clothes in all of existence because you already own them. Chucking an entire wardrobe just so you can replace it with new, sustainably-made clothing is not, in fact, sustainable at all.
But I am in favor of cutting out clutter. If you haven’t yet read it, Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up really will change your life. Keeping only the clothes you love or need will work wonders for you. It’s liberating to look at my closet and my one drawer of clothes and think, I could fit all of these in one suitcase and go live abroad in a heartbeat! It might not be realistic, but I still enjoy the thought.
Deciding What to Keep
As you whittle down your wardrobe to what’s essential to you, keep in mind that getting rid of a piece of clothing just because it’s not perfectly on-trend is really just throwing away a perfectly good piece of clothing. The skinny jeans that are more low-rise than the perfect new ones at Madewell? If they fit and they cover your assets adequately, you can still make them work by pairing them with a longer shirt.
Once you’ve narrowed down your wardrobe MVPs, make a commitment to make those pieces work for you as long as possible. Here’s how to do that.
4 Tips for Prolonging the Life of Your Existing Clothes
- Learn How to Remove Stains
- Learn How to Sew Buttons Back On
- Learn to Fix Holes in Clothing
- Learn How to Hem Pants
There’s something odd that happens when you spend time sewing a button on a piece of clothing or removing a stain. The time that you’ve invested into it makes that piece of clothing feel more familiar and loved. When I put on my jeans that I’ve hemmed myself, I positively revel in how well they now fit.
5 Sustainable Ways to Procure New Clothes When You Actually Need Them
When you’ve lived with your existing clothes a while – almost like a “fast” from fashion – here are a few tips to begin adding more sustainable fashion to your lineup.
- Have a clothing swap. It’s a fun excuse to get together with friends as well as meet new friends-of-friends, while unloading clothes you don’t wear anymore in exchange for clothes that are new to you. A win-win for everyone involved. Add snacks, beverages, and happy music and it’s a party.
- Buy clothes second hand. Your newfound skills as a clothing mender and stain-removing ninja will serve you well as you check out:
- Local thrift stores.
- Sites such as eBay, ThredUp, Etsy, or Poshmark.
- Yard sales.
- Only buy brand new clothes that you really, really like if they are made sustainably and constructed to wear and launder well for years. Check out the Good On You app to find ethical clothing brands, and this list of sustainable fashion blogs is a fabulous foray into sustainable fashion. When you spend less on fashion you don’t need, you’ll be able to afford better pieces. That trendy $9.99 top from Forever 21 which says dry clean only on the tag? Be honest: you are probably not going to dry clean it after wearing it (and you really should be washing new clothes before wearing them too). Odds are it will get crumpled up in a bag with the rest of your dry-clean-onlies and by the time you get around to dry cleaning it, you won’t even like it anymore.
- Eschew trends in favor of basics. You’ll get so much more mileage out of each piece.
- Adopt a uniform. I recently realized that I mostly wear black tank tops in the summertime, all summer long. Why not just get a few of the same high-quality black tank and be done with it? No more fretting about what to wear and wrestling with my desire to just put on another black tank top, and no temptation to shop the clearance rack at Anthropologie for trendy shirts I won’t get much wear out of anyway.
Another Benefit of Sustainable Fashion
When I said goodbye to pretty much my entire wardrobe because it no longer fit, I thought a lot about why I had so much clothing in the first place, most of it purchased cheaply. I realized that I used to shop because I wanted to distract myself from how I actually felt about my body, which wasn’t great. And I may have done some compulsive shopping to distract myself from how lonely I was, too (although that’s not the case anymore).
You don’t have to settle for defining yourself by what you wear. You are so much more. Choosing more sustainable fashion, and only when you actually need it, might help liberate you in other areas of your life. Your energy will be freed up to focus on bigger and better things more worthy of your time and magic.