How to Build a Sustainable Wardrobe
If you’ve decided to start taking steps to create a more sustainable, green, eco-friendly life, then you’re probably looking for some how-tos on different aspects of your life! We love encouraging people on their journey to committing to a lifestyle that leads to a better carbon footprint. It’s important to start considering different things you can do on your climate-conscious path, especially when it comes to the clothes and accessories you wear.
One of the most common questions we hear is usually: “Is silicone eco-friendly?” As people transition into sustainable living, they want to be sure every aspect of their lives becomes sustainable, including the jewelry they wear! Because we know how important it is to learn the best ways to incorporate sustainability into our everyday lives, here are some ideas on how to build a sustainable wardrobe!
What Is a Sustainable Wardrobe?
First things first: Let’s talk about sustainable wardrobes. You might have heard the phrase “fast fashion,” typically referring to clothing companies that make their pieces quickly, but with terrible consequences. Because people want their clothes so quickly, the companies typically have to cut corners in order to meet demands. They use lower quality products so the pieces don’t last as long and get thrown out by consumers, landing in landfills or other waste-dump areas. The companies falsely claim to low-income workers in poor countries that they will earn a decent living by sewing for them, but they actually are forced to work in disparate conditions for long periods of time with little to no breaks.
For many people, learning the truth about fast fashion has led them to dedicate their lives to finding more eco-friendly and ethically sourced clothing items. This is where sustainable wardrobes come in! A sustainable wardrobe is not only one that is filled with clothes that will last a long time, but they are made by people who are treated fairly by their employers and with materials that aren’t destroying the Earth. In fact, a lot of pieces are made of recycled materials!
But, Won’t I Spend More Money?
The short answer? Yes. The long answer? Because you’re no longer purchasing from brands that pay their non-corporate employees so little, and you’re purchasing from brands that have less staff and use brands made of higher quality materials, you’ll need to spend more upfront.
Think about all the times you purchased a cute dress or soft t-shirt you thought was the best, but after four washes it started to look dingy or frayed. First, you tried switching out your detergent or fabric softener, hoping that would do the trick. Then, you tried to wait a few more days between washes before wearing it. But, after no luck, the shirt had lost its look from the store so you threw it away. Then, you turn around at the same store, find another top that was to die for, pay for it and go home to do the whole thing over again. What does this scenario tell you? First, that not all fast fashion stores’ prices are worth the pain. Second, that you are actually going to end up paying more to a fast fashion store over time because you have to keep going back to replace the items that didn’t last!
Nothing about that sounds sustainable – or fun – right? Now, imagine this: You search for sustainable brands in your area, find a shop that is locally-owned, produces their own fabric products and employs locals, paying them a livable wage. Sure, you balk at the price for a t-shirt, but you decide to purchase it anyway just to test if this “sustainable wardrobe” trend is just a gimmick. When you pick up the shirt from the store, the staff is friendly, there isn’t a line to wait and your shirt is in packaging made from recycled materials. You get home, try the shirt on and it fits perfectly. Of course, the true test is whether or not it holds up in the wash! To your surprise, the shirt fits exactly the same as it did prior to washing! That shirt will most likely now stay in your wardrobe for years, never wearing away its quality.
Even though you’ll be spending more money at first, you don’t have to replace everything in your wardrobe right away. Sustainable living can be very expensive, especially for people who live paycheck-to-paycheck. However, you shouldn’t feel pressured to scrap your entire wardrobe and start from scratch! Keep the things you wear often, especially since most people tend to wear less than half their wardrobe regularly. Don’t feel discouraged just because you don’t have the money right away to start a sustainable wardrobe. Instead, visit a consignment shop or a thrift store! Typically, those stores take in gently used clothing and resell them for great prices. Plus, you can take your unwanted items to a consignment shop, too, and see if they’ll pay you cash for your clothes. Then, take the money you just earned (without really doing anything!) and purchase a couple of new, sustainable pieces of clothing.
Even When the Clothes Start to Wear and Tear, Get Them Repaired
Much of building a sustainable wardrobe includes following the #30wearschallenge. For this challenge, you catalog how often you wear a piece of clothing. The point is to see what pieces of clothing you own can last for at least 30 wears, which is typically the lifespan of an item of clothing (hint: our silicone rings pass the test!). It’s a great way to keep yourself accountable with the items in your closet. Plus, it also helps prevent you from purchasing more clothing items when you don’t need them. The more items you have in your closet, the more times you have to try and find 30 wears for them!
When your clothes get past the 30 wears, you don’t have to get rid of them! Instead, look for a good tailor or repair shop that can mend broken heels or stitch up a tear. You’ll be supporting a local business, especially because the need for tailors has started to dwindle since most people are working from home and companies are moving away from the staunch business-professional dress code. Plus, your items will hopefully last for another 30 wears! The best part about getting your pieces tailored is that you don’t have to stress too much about how they fit when you purchase it off the rack. As a rule of thumb, it’s easier to take something in than take something out. Look for items that fit you a little larger so that a tailor or seamstress can remove material and make it fit better. Your items will then look like they’ve been made for you!
Research Is the Name of the Game
Nowadays, practically everyone has a computer or smartphone that has search engine capabilities. Do yourself a huge favor and use it to find sustainable clothing stores in your area! You’ll quickly find that just a bit of research can really go a long way in helping you build your sustainable wardrobe. There are so many brands out there that employ smaller numbers of people, but still produce quality products. It’s not just clothes, either. From shoes to wedding bands, companies like ours exist to really help consumers on their path of sustainable living. We are committed to providing products that are durable and will last for many wears – the cornerstones of sustainable wardrobes!
It really doesn’t take much to do your research. And, sure, you’ll probably be disheartened when you find out that some of your long-time favorite places to shop are actually fast fashion stores, but change is good! It’s important that you face the reality that most of us have spent years purchasing from places that aren’t the most eco-friendly or ethical, but we can each make the decision to stop and change our habits. You can choose to purchase from companies that offer better products that make a better impact on the environment. There’s a sense of freedom and liberation you get when you turn away from what everyone else is doing, and switching from fast fashion to ethical, sustainable fashion does just that!
Get Your Friends Involved
You don’t have to build a sustainable wardrobe all on your own! In fact, building your wardrobe with the help of friends might be just the thing you need to stay committed and accountable. When you’re doing something with others, the sense of comradery and togetherness really helps endeavors be successful, and you’ll reach your goals easier! Share new sustainable shop finds with each other and host a monthly clothing swap Clothing swaps are fun because you get rid of items that you hardly ever wear, and someone else gets to give them some love. Plus, you get to snag that awesome dress your friend has owned but hardly ever wore – and maybe even her heels to match! Don’t stress if you all aren’t the same sizes. Clothing swaps also include accessories such as jewelry, shoes, scarves, ponchos and hats! It’s also a great incentive to have a good tailor on standby. You can take your friends’ items that might be a little too big or small for you and have them adjust it to your sizing. Problem solved!
Look for Comfortable Fabrics
It’s important that you feel comfortable in all your clothes – that’s usually why we let items sit in our closets for months! We trick ourselves into thinking that the slight discomfort at the store will go away after a couple of washes or we’ll “get over it.” Inevitably, the discomfort wins out, and we spend the next few months glaring at the item in our closet because we want to wear it, but just don’t feel comfortable in it. Then, we throw it away, angry that we fell for the age-old “I’ll still wear it!” trick.
One of the best ways to avoid this when shopping for items in your sustainable wardrobe is to look for comfortable, breathable fabrics. Some of the most common include cotton, linen and wool. Some companies are even starting to use Tencel, which is a fabric that’s made from the pulp of wood! You’ll want to stay away from products made from polyester or nylon. They’re produced with harsh chemicals and don’t actually last very long. While it might be tempting to purchase them because they’re typically cheaper, you should only purchase these from consignment or thrift shops because you can then say the items have been recycled.
In order to truly find sustainable clothes, they need to be clothes you can wear all year! Find a mix of pieces that you can wear together or separate. This includes cardigans, boots, jeans, dress pants, blouses and t-shirts. A huge trend that’s made headlines across all levels of fashion is the idea of a capsule wardrobe. Typically made of a limited number of pieces, capsule wardrobes focus on the different ways you can pair each item together more than once. Combined with the idea of 30 wears, the capsule wardrobe is perfect for anyone who is looking to build a more sustainable wardrobe.
An interesting aspect of the capsule wardrobe is that it goes by seasons. Some experts believe you should switch out some clothing items per season in order to keep things fresh. In order to keep this aspect sustainable, make sure the items you choose to get rid of go to a consignment shop or a thrift store! See about exchanging them for items found within the store, such as trading a pair of winter boots for spring sandals.
Regardless of the season, the point of a capsule wardrobe is still to keep you from spending lots of money on clothes, instead focusing on things that matter: i.e., your bills! And, really, isn’t that the point of most sustainable living?
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