Creating a sustainable wardrobe not only helps the planet, helps support fair and ethical trade and working conditions it also helps you. Not only are you more likely to start wearing more natural fabrics, which will allow your skin to breath, helping your mind and body. You’ll become wiser in what you buy, where from, what works for you and your body shape, loving and utilising all of your clothing and then options for reusing or recycling once an item is no longer wanted or beyond repair. In the long run, you will also save time, money and energy!
Here are 14 sustainable fashion tips you can start doing today to create that stylish sustainable wardrobe
- Press Pause on Purchases
- Be Confident In Yourself Your Style And Your Vision
- Choosing colours and clothing styles that support and compliment you
- Organise – What do I already have
- Create a sustainable capsule wardrobe
- Use Accessories to change a look
- Sell, Swap, Donate
- Decide on what you need
- Sustainable fabric choices
- Where to buy
- Take care of your clothing investment
Press Pause On Purchases
Over-consumption is one of the biggest factors regarding environmental issues. Fast fashion is exactly that…fast, not made to last or even expected to last because next season a different version will be made, and you’ll be expected to buy.
Creating a sustainable wardrobe involves thinking about your clothes in a sustainable way. They are an investment and an investment in you. You need to think about you, change your mindset don’t feel pushed into ‘The must have’s’ for the season. Start thinking in terms of ‘might have’s‘ and if its right for you and your wardrobe needs.
Stay away from the sale rail, unsubscribe from store emails, clear your browser from automatically opening to stores and make it difficult to buy anything clothes related. The chances are that unless you literally have no functioning underwear, socks or tights, you really don’t need to buy anything for at least a month and probably longer. Giving you a chance to work through most, if not all of the steps below.
If you think there is something you desperately need or has popped into your inbox with a massive discount, leave it where it is for 48 hours or even better a week. The chances are you won’t feel the same or have the same rush of ‘must have’. Putting distance between you and your habits in purchasing is where you can make the most gains in time and money. Most of us have bought something in the heat of the moment, then regretted it later or only worn the item once. Yes, you can return the item, but lets face it, its not usually something any of us want to be bothered with, and it could have been omitted just by pressing the pause button!
Being sustainable is not just about buying everything Eco-friendly, its about shopping wisely ensuring everything is really what you want, need and love to wear.
Be Confident In Yourself, Your Style And Your Vision
Be honest, and ask yourself the following questions:-
Do you buy clothing items because you personally like them?
Are you following a trend, friend or a brand or celebrities advertisement or endorsement?
Its one thing to admire someone’s look or a picture and want to take it forward as something that you may want to recreate for yourself. It’s quite another to be at the mercy of the next look or seasons complete change of wardrobe.
Do you look for items by the brand, the quality or practicality?
Do you use clothes shopping as a therapy when your low or emotional?
Start forward thinking with the things you like, the looks you want to create for yourself and the different scenarios of what you need. You may have some practical, seasonal or work restrictions, but start envisioning what you want to wear and when.
Write your thoughts down, draw, use magazines, create mood boards, look through old photos remembering what you loved and why. Likewise, what didn’t work well for you is equally important, as this will help you avoid the types of items or materials that you didn’t enjoy wearing or didn’t suit you.
Choosing colours and clothing styles that support and compliment you
Finding the colours that best suit your natural colouring and styles that suit your body shape go a long way in making wise purchases that you are going to both love and utilise.
There are plenty of colour and body shape advice online. You can upload a photo, perhaps have a trusted friend or family member to help you or even do it together. I found my complimentary colours by using a free online app from Direct Colour International you can find them here.
This way you will scale down the range of items, only purchasing those that fit into the category of colour , size and style, enabling you to confidently ignore everything else because you know what is best for you.
Organise – What do I already have
Ok so you have a vision, you are aware of what you want and need, a colour palette and types of clothing that work best for you.
Its now time to schedule an afternoon or a day to sort through what you already have.
I really like Marie Kondo’s number one rule in getting everything including, shoes, coats and clothing accessories in one place. EVERYTHING, no matter what season. Get all of it in one huge pile it really is the only way of really seeing how much you have. It’s also the best way of really realising how much of it you need, or can possibly wear, and how much of it have you not actually worn in months or years…and probably never will!
Its often good to have a friend or family member with you that will keep you moving, and stop you getting stuck on a particular item. You may need to try on, although holding can be enough. There will be lots of decisions to make and you will need some nice big bags or boxes as you sort into piles.
- Pile 1 – Definitely love, good fit, and in keeping with your complimentary colours and body shape.
- Pile 2 – Unsure, you like it, but perhaps haven’t worn it much or struggle with what it goes with. Struggling to move to pile 1 or pile 3.
- Pile 3 – Definitely going, doesn’t fit, don’t like, don’t wear and non complimentary colours or body shape items, beyond repair etc
- Pile 4 – Definitely keeping but need a repair.
- Pile 1 – Return tidily to your wardrobe/ drawers etc
- Pile 2 – Pop in a bag/box/suitcase you’re not going to use for more than 6 months. Stick a label on it with the date 6 months ahead and a note in your diary. Place it out of the way but not so inaccessible that you can’t get to it if you need it. If you miss or need something, or need to shop! ….You can visit this bag. If in 6 months you haven’t touched it, it then becomes pile 3!
- Pile 3 – These are definite no no’s. By this time you are probably tired, so its probably best you box them up, because you are going to reuse, relocate, re-purpose later.
- Pile 4 – Again box up, your keeping them, but the chances are you’re tidying up your tired and now is not the time to sit and fix unless you have finished put away seriously energised and just need to sew! We will revisit pile 4 in Repair.
Create a sustainable capsule wardrobe
To be honest if you have followed the above then you are pretty much there in terms of creating a capsule wardrobe. Although there are different methods and different numbers of items suggested for example Project 333 (See end of post).
Essentially it is about creating an easy to use wardrobe of clothes that fit, you love wearing, you utilise, and they can be mixed and matched for multiple looks and with each other making life simple. Subsequently you will end up buying less and only what you need and will work well with existing items. When you do buy you’ll be able to afford greater quality more sustainable items that will last longer. You are also less likely to shop and purchase on a whim or emotionally.
Use Accessories to change a look
Bags, belts, scarves, hats, headbands, jewellery, shoes all work to create a different look. A scarf can be worn in 20 -25 different ways! Accessories are also a great way to add your own unique take of your ensemble. Giving you more options on a possible smaller quality wardrobe content.
Be confident have a play. Again if you have less but quality accessories you are more likely to easily access and utilise them!
With a throw away society, repairing something is not necessarily the first thing thought of. However, its a lot easier than people think. A quick google search will lead you to a ‘How To’ video very quickly. Often items have a lost a button, have loose threads, a small tear or hole. A replacement zip may be a little more tricky, but most of the time all you need is just a needle, cotton and pair of scissors. Stick a nice film on and get to work! I often delay repairs and then bulk mend one evening, although I am frequently surprised in how quick it can be and why I waited so long in the first place.
For more extensive repairs or alterations you may need help with someone you know who’s handy with a needle, if you’re feeling confident ‘How To’ videos or pay a professional. They are often hidden away local to you, or services offered via dry cleaning or other repair services.
Sell, Swap, Donate
So its time to pull out the Pile 3 box and go through the items that are designer, vintage and/or popular. The chances are that you could sell them, swap or pass on to friends, family or charities. Anything that you try and sell or give to charity needs to be in good condition and not in need of repair or ensure you’re being honest about the problem or showing photos.
There are lots of online platforms like Ebay, Vinted, Depop, Asos, Etsy. Facebook, Vestiare to name but a few. That you can list your item and sell on. Not wanting to do online, you may have dress specialist in your area. Wedding dresses are expensive and well worth the effort in selling on.
You can also find organisations that buy from you in bulk, by weight. It is a quick way of moving on the items, although in my experience you receive so little cash, you may as well donate the clothes to charity, they will sell for so much more and feel happy that you have contributed to your favourite cause.
Whether selling or giving them away to friends, charities and hand me downs, you’ve stopped the item at this point from going to landfill and moving it on for hopefully another life somewhere else. If you’re keeping the money for yourself, you can keep it and reinvest in your wardrobe or use it for another purpose. Either way you’ve used items that have been sitting taking up space in your wardrobe and done something with them. For high end designer, having something you don’t wear taking up space possibly depreciating makes no financial sense!
So if the item is past its best, not suitable for selling or giving away and not worth repairing what can you do with them?
- Rags – cutting them up into usable sizes for cleaning, polishing, mopping up messes, cleaning your car or bike. Endless options instead of buying paper towels or disposable cloths. Rags can be washed and reused or if you don’t want to wash it because of what its been used for subsequently disposed of. Rags that are made of natural fibres for instance cotton can be popped in compost (depending on what you have used them for)
- Fabric patches whether to cover holes in for example a pair of jeans. Patches can be sewn together to create cushion covers, blankets or bed or pet covers. Quilting.
- Whole items of clothes can be used to make memory cushions, covering pillows or upholstering a small piece of furniture, creating reusable tote bags.
- Leftover fabric pieces can be helpful for crafting and small scale sewing projects.
- DIY Food Wraps instead of using cling. Easy find out how, here.
- Making a reusable face mask.
For those items that are well worn and you are unable to pass them on anywhere else check out your local council/authorities textile collections or clothes recycling bins, again it stops the item from going to landfill and could become something else entirely. Also if natural fibres like hemp/cotton or bamboo it will biodegrade quickly, so you can actually break it up and put it in your compost.
Decide on what you need
So if you have had a good sort out and know what best suits your colouring and body shape. It’s worth spending some time mixing and matching those items so that you are utilising them to their fullest potential.
You may find that you’re starting to find gaps, or one of something isn’t enough because you’re in it a lot. First port of call is to return to your Pile 2. Which is why you want it somewhere out of the way but accessible.
As you are getting more to grips with your own style needs, you may find revisiting Pile 2 gives you ideas or items that may fill that gap that you hadn’t thought of.
Sustainability is also about using what you have. Moving away from the idea of immediately acting/consuming … scrolling on your device or heading to the shops for that instant need. Checking what you have, what else is available to you ie Pile 2.
For a one off need for a special event, consider borrowing a suitable outfit from a friend or family member or even hiring one.
Sustainable fabric choices
Bamboo – This fast growing renewable tree sized grass, is made into a pulp and subsequently a super soft viscose type breathable fabric. Its easy and comfortable to wear. Once tried you could be forgiven for not going any further as its luxury soft quality means you never want to take it off!
Ecovero – This is a brand name made by an Austrian Company Lenzing it is the most ecological and clean viscose currently being produced. It is created from wood and pulp purchased from only certified and controlled sustainable wood sources, and manufactured using a highly eco- responsible production process. It produces and gently flowing fabric that has a silky glow.
Hemp – This plant is mature in just 4 months making it super renewable and has been used for centuries to create clothing. The mature plant is stripped and the inner core fibres prepared and spun to create hemp cloth. It responds well to colour and is a soft linen type fabric, which wears well and gets softer with age. It also mixes well with other natural materials.
Organic Cotton – Is produced from organic seeds, and not genetically modified ones. It is handpicked rather than machine picked. This effects the quality of the cotton. Organic cotton will not only be softer, it will have been produced from an organic farm, and organic soil, usually by crop rotation ensuring biodiversity and providing organic food for the workers. No pesticides or other harmful chemicals can be used ensuring no risk of transfer into the cotton itself, damage and leakage of chemicals into the soil, surrounding area or poisoning of the people whom work in the farming or production industry. Organic cotton is soft, breathable and kind to you and the earth.
Kapok – This soft silky fibre comes from the Kapok tree it is extremely light weight much lighter than cotton, it is also water resistant and holds heat well. It is durable, biodegradable, hypoallergenic (used in bedding stuffing) Often blended with other fibres to create a fabric as a pure Kapok yarn due to its waxy covering is often too slippery and brittle to be spun alone.
Tencel – This is again a brand name made by an Austrian Company Lenzing for a type of lyocell that comes from wood pulp specifically Eucalyptus trees. Eucalyptus trees are renewable and the production process reuses 99% of the non toxic chemicals used in the process making it super efficient and using far less energy and resources. Tencel is super soft, takes colour well and breathable, also mixes well with other fabrics to bring greater softness.
Modal – This is a fabric is created from beech tree pulp and often used for soft stretchable items such as underwear, T- shirts or pyjamas. It’s frequently blended with cotton or spandex which adds strength. Its a soft, stretchy breathable fabric absorbing more water than cotton making it ideal for sports clothing. Beech trees take less water to grow than cotton, they also reseed themselves making this an excellent increasingly popular renewable fabric.
Recycled Polyester – rPET is just as good as what is known as virgin polyester but is made from recycled plastic bottles considerably less energy is used to make rPET than virgin polyester around 50%. Once melted into a fibre it can then be woven into a fabric as any other. It also helps stop the billions of tonnes of plastic bottles going to landfill.
Wool – Predominantly created from sheep fleece, but there are other animals such as alpaca’s, goat, llama, rabbit, camel and others. The hair or fleece from the animal is spun and used for clothing. Wool is durable, widely recycled, allows the skin to breath as well as naturally insulating. The fleece is washed and spun, no chemicals are needed to create the wool to weave into fabric. Each animal hair has its own benefits for instance, Alpaca’s wool does not contain lanolin and is hypoallergenic so is often beneficial for people with sensitive skins. Angora wool is from the Angora Rabbit, a silky soft white hair that creates high quality knitwear.
Buying Second Hand
When needing an item I tend to checkout my local charity/thrift stores first.
- Its Cheaper
- You’re supporting a charity
- I’m helping prevent an item ultimately going to landfill
- I don’t have to think about the brand it may have come from as it has already been purchased once.
If unsuccessful however, I do then go on to make a purchase elsewhere.
Where To Buy
There’s nothing like voting with your wallet. I have put together a list 16 sustainable clothing companies that use natural renewable fabrics and care not only for the environment and the source of their fabrics, but the people behind the production.
|Company Name||Clothing Type||Who For||Fabrics |
|All including underwear||Men |
|Organic Cotton, Tencel,|
Lenzing Ecovero, Organic Linen, recycled plastic, Kapok, Alpaca Wool.
|All except socks and underwear||Women|
unisex T shirts
|Men||organic & recycled cotton||1 pair socks £16||Yes|
|mainly casual wear including underwear||Men |
|1 plain Tshirt|
|T-Shirts, casual wear, accessories||Unisex||Organic Cotton, recycled textiles, sustainable cork||1 TShirt|
|organic & recycled cotton, recycled polyester & denim|
Tencel, Refibra, Linen, T400 Ecomade, Vegetable Tanned Leather
|1 plain Tshirt £30||Yes|
|Lucy & Yak|
|All + unisex dungarees||Women|
|Organic Twill & Cotton||1 pair|
|All||Children & Babies||Organic Cotton, |
Tencel, Econyl, Recycled Polyester, Organic Wool
|1 Pair socks|
|Organic & Recycled Cotton||1 pair jeans|
|Organic Cotton, Recycled Nylon, Tencel, Recycled |
wool, Silvertech TM, Polygiene R, Recycled Cashmere,
|2 pack socks|
|All||Women||Tencel, Ecovera, Lenzig |
|All||Tencel, Recycled Polyester, Organic Cotton, Hemp||Socks|
|The Classic |
|100% Organic Cotton||T-Shirt|
|Organic Cotton, Hemp, Bamboo, Tencel, Modal,|
Recycled Polyester, Wool
|Women||Organic & Recycled Cotton, |
Linen, Tencel, Ecolux
|Whimsy & Row|
underwear & socks
|Organic Cotton, Linen, Tencel, Modul, Upcycled Deadstock, Printed Viscose Crepe||T-Shirt|
Below is a list of companies that specifically use recycled plastics, nylon or surplus dead stock fabric rolls to create their clothes
|Company Name||Clothing Type||Who For||Fabrics|
|Sportswear, Casual, lounge wear, underwear||Men |
|Econcyl (recycled bottles & fishing nets), recycled nylon, Cupro||1 pair ankle socks|
|Oh Seven Days|
|All except underwear||Women|
|Tights, socks, leggings & shorts||Women|
|Pre & post-consumer nylon waste||1 pair|
Take Care Of Your Clothing Investment
The better you look after your clothes the longer they are going to last. Even if you think you may go off them or later down the line or they no longer fit. If the item is in tip top condition, you are more likely going to be able to sell or donate on.
Here are some tips –
- Read the label / manufacturers instructions – Sounds simple but amazing how people don’t bother, and the manufacturer is more likely to have tested the item or fabric or ask you the question should you have a problem.
- Wash Less – Less washes means a garment last longer. How often does an item of clothing end up in the wash when it really doesn’t need to be washed purely through the habit of wear once then wash. Is it really dirty? or smelly? Can you give it an air outside for a couple of hours or overnight? Spot wash a stain instead of the whole thing some things will literally brush off when dried!
- Wash At A Lower Temperature – Both for environmental reasons and saving your clothes. Washing at a lower temperature protects your clothes and uses less energy.
- Wash Inside Out – Spins can be a hard workout on clothing, washing inside out means its the inside getting the battering rather than the outside, giving the outside more protection.
- Wash With Eco-Friendly Detergent – Better for the environment and better for your clothes!
- Forget The Iron – I came from a parent that literally ironed everything including flannels, towels, socks and knickers! I don’t iron anything unless its absolutely essential, my iron lives in the garage, probably also due to lock downs I don’t think I’ve used it in a year! You are more likely to damage the fabric via an accident with the iron. Gently pulling into place, hanging correctly and air drying saves the environment and saves you time!
- Avoid the tumble dryer – Not only does it take high energy to run, it can damage garment fibres. I live in the UK, it rains a lot, I’ve never owned a tumble dryer. Wherever possible my laundry goes outside just for some fresh air even if its not going to fully dry. OK I won’t put it out if its raining, and we don’t get sandstorms or huge amounts of snow. But inside, outside or a bit of both it dries! It also means, I’m more conscious of what really needs washing!
- Fold On Creases & Button Or Zip Up – Making your folds on the creases stops lines in areas you don’t want them. Keeping buttoned and zipped up helps your garment remain in its shape, as does emptying pockets and removing any accessories like belts. You want your garment to hang or sit in position with some air space and relax.
- Put Them Away – Not rocket science! But clothes that hang around on beds chairs the floor, are more likely to get dirty, attract dust, snagged, dragged about or played with by a pet, young child or caught in the hoover! Hung and folded clothes will thank you for the care and more likely to remain damage free.
- Cut Down On Dry Cleaning – Assuming you may still have dry cleaning items in your wardrobe, reducing the amount they are dry cleaned benefits the product and the environment, as it is a highly chemical intensive process. Unless the product has parts that may become damaged in the machine, most items can be washed on a delicate cool, hand wash cycle. Consider spot cleaning, airing, gently wiping down or hand washing. Always check the label for the fabric details and a google search if your nervous!
- Repair – Whether DIY or professional, repairing the item as soon as possible is better for you and your garment. Hanging around too long in a repair pile or wearing it and making the damage worse won’t help. As by now you love all your clothes and have less of them to manage, you’ll have more time to organise repairs and wear them again!
If you’ve got this far then well done! Creating a stylish sustainable wardrobe is far more than just buying sustainable clothes. It takes, thought, action and time, but its worth it for you, the environment and your clothes. Good Luck!
Project 333 is a Minimalist Fashion Challenge created by Courtney Carver from Bemorewithless.com Essentially you scale your wardrobe items down to 33 items for 3 months. Her book Project 333 not yet available via Bookshop.org but can be purchased from Amazon here.