12 tips to a sustainable wardrobe

With time to spare Lily Holbrook shares the perfect checklist to achieving the ultimate sustainable wardrobe

Lily Holbrook
1st June 2020
With more time in the house inviting less physical shopping and more internet browsing, the temptation of online clothes during lockdown has made shopping faster than ever.

But with the average piece of clothing having a lifespan little over 2 years, the fast fashion industry has a lot to answer for when it comes to the environment.

If you fancy making your wardrobe (or floordrobe) that little bit greener, here are some top tips for ridding your life of fast fashion once and for all...

Image Source: @missguided on Instagram
  1. Buy things you love

This sounds super easy but it's amazing how often we'll buy things we just don't like. A great measure for knowing when to buy is by taking notice of how an item makes you feel. If you feel like you could conquer the world when you put on an outfit, the decision becomes a lot easier, while any hint of uncertainty might be a sign that it's not quite right. If you love an item, you're way more likely to keep it for a long time and that can only be a good thing.

2. Do the 30 wears test

On the theme of loving an item, it's said that you should only consider buying something you think you'll wear 30 times. Thinking of 30 occasions for one piece of clothing might seem a bit daunting, but if you can picture at least 3 occasions in the near future you can see yourself wearing it, maybe it's worth the buy.

Image Source: @missguided on Instagram

3. Find things with a story

One of the amazing things about fashion is how it lets us express individuality. Whether it's a pre-loved piece from an older family member, a reminder of a day spent with someone special or something you bought on your travels, let the things you wear tell their own story. It'll make you feel good and is a great conversation starter when you receive a compliment.

4. Secondhand is your best friend

If lockdown has left you with a shopping-shaped hole that you need to fill, second-hand sites like Depop are the perfect answer.

Why not also support local friend and family businesses?

From jewellery to bandanas, there's plenty of Instagram pages with students making their own ranges so if you fancy a little boost this is a great alternative to stock imported from thousands of miles away.

4. Try out eco ranges

From People Tree to Cuyana there's plenty of small eco-friendly brands that deserve a lot of love, but even the bigger high street stores have eco ranges (think H&M Conscious and Topshop with their vintage collections). It might not be possible to physically sweep the high street, but now is a great time to start thinking about how we can change our shopping habits for whenever things do get back to normal.

5. Clothes swaps with friends

A lot of the things on this list are made harder by not being able to get close to people, so why not put together some things you think a friend would love that you could leave on their doorstep or send in the post?

6. Try a fashion show with family

If you're looking for a bit of fun and the people you live with are up for it, spend an afternoon trying on each other's unwanted clothes and see if there's anything you can donate to each other.

6. Repurpose and make things yourself

Whether it's an old bit of fabric you've got lying around or a once-loved dress you could make into a shirt, the opportunities to repurpose clothes are endless. If things get damaged, have a go at fixing it yourself - you could even use bits of colourful fabric to cover holes to give your clothes a fresh new look. Try embracing the new rip in your jeans before investing in another pair.

7. It's not just how you wear it, it's how you wash it...

Synthetic clothing like polyester is a nightmare for releasing microscopic plastic fibres when washed. These can end up polluting waterways, harming aquatic life and even finding their way back to our plates. Limit the number of washes and turn down the temperature when washing things other than underwear and gym gear.

8. Have a sort out

A great way to find any gaps in your wardrobe is to streamline the things you do and don't need. Work out the things you love and definitely want to keep before making separate piles for the things you want to revamp and things you're happy to donate. Not only will your wardrobe thank you for it but so will your head.

9. If you can, pay a bit more for high quality items that will last

The concept of a capsule wardrobe is centred around the idea of having a few high quality items that are versatile. If you can afford the initial payout, investing in these high quality garments will save not only the planet in the long run, but also your purse.

10. Imagine your wardrobe as a charity shop rail

This is a bit of fun but if you're lacking inspiration with your clothes, open up your wardrobe and imagine you've walked into a shop for the first time. What do you gravitate towards? Think about the things you'd pick out if you really were out shopping and the things that'd stay on the rail. It's a great way to work out the things you like and where, in future, things are best left.

11. Be inventive with how you work an outfit

Rather than thinking you need a new outfit for every big occasion, be creative with the way you wear it. Accessories can do so much to change an outfit and it's a lot of fun to see how different you can make the same core clothes.

12. Take a break

With shops closed, see this time as an opportunity to take a break from the hectic world of consumerism that we're all too often immersed in. Next time you're thinking of that online purchase, consider opening your wardrobe to give your old clothes a new lease of life...who knows what gems you might find?

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AUTHOR: Lily Holbrook
MA Media & Journalism student and science sub-editor for the 20/21 academic year.

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