When I first learned about sustainable fashion, I wanted to go through my closet and weed out everything I had ever bought from a fast fashion retailer (which, unfortunately, was almost half of my clothing). At first, it didn’t occur to me that I didn’t have to start from scratch. In fact, it was actually more sustainable not to reinvent the wheel. So to save you time (and money), we put together a quick guide on how to begin building a more sustainably minded closet.
1.Work with what you have.
There’s no need to put together an entirely new wardrobe. Instead, use what you have for as long as you can. By wearing the clothing you already own, you’re extending the life span of these garments and keeping them out of a landfill for a longer time. If you’re feeling bored of your wardrobe, challenge yourself to approach your closet from a new perspective. Use platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, and fashion blogs as places to gain inspiration for new outfit combinations rather than places to buy entirely new outfits.
2.Mend clothing before immediately throwing it away.
Instead of tossing clothing at the first sign of wear and tear, try your hand at a few creative mending practices. An annoying stain can be covered up by a colorful piece of scrap fabric. A missing button can be an opportunity to sew in a funky, mix-match button in its place. Of course, we aren’t all master tailors, but by leaning into a less perfect approach to mending, we can get creative with our wardrobe and keep our favorite pieces around for longer.
3. Shop at thrift stores, second-hand shops, and vintage stores.
It’s possible to still buy clothing that’s new to you, without it actually being brand “new”. Thrift stores are the perfect place to spice up your wardrobe with garments that already exist (No new fabric! No new waste!). There’s also something so gratifying about going on a bit of a treasure hunt before finding exactly what you’re looking for.
If you’re someone who craves uniqueness in their style, then this is a great place to start. And if you’re someone who likes keeping up with current trends, then don’t cross out thrifting just yet. Styles always have a way of circling back around…
4. Host a clothing swap.
When I was younger, I always envied the styles of my older cousins and neighbors, so receiving their hand-me-downs was like being given a bag full of treasures. I got to wear new clothing (for free!) that came from people whose styles I loved. I’ve started to recreate this process with my roommates in the form of clothing swaps! Before donating clothing we’ve outgrown, we always let each other look through the pieces first to claim anything we want to keep for ourselves.
This can be done super informally between your roommates and family OR you can go all out and host a whole clothing swap event! Any excuse to throw a party, right? Have everyone come over with a few pieces of clothing they no longer want and then let everyone exchange their garments until each person walks away with something new that they love.
5. Shop at sustainably and ethically minded businesses that are transparent about their practices.
Sometimes we’re on the hunt for something very specific and the easiest way to find it is through businesses we know and love. Luckily, there are so many ways to indulge in new pieces without heading straight towards fast fashion companies! Do your research and make sure you can answer questions like: Where does this company get their materials? How is their clothing made? Who actually makes the clothing?
And then hold yourself accountable for your needs vs. your wants! Of course, we all love buying pieces “just because”, but make sure you’re investing in something you can see yourself wearing over and over again. Try to picture different ways you can style the garment and whether or not it can be paired with items you already own. This will help you commit to more versatile pieces rather than buying something with plans to only wear it once. A good rule to follow is to ask yourself whether or not you’ll wear something at least 50 times. If the answer is yes, then you are making a more sustainable choice!