We all know that feeling of facing a full closet and thinking, I have nothing to wear. You may have many garments, but somehow nothing sparks joy or conveys what you want to express. Naturally, you think of fixing that with an infusion of newness. And it works! The problem is that the quick fix does not last. The novelty soon wears off, and the piece you were so excited about becomes just another bland item in an oversaturated wardrobe.
Often, we simply repeat this cycle without giving it much thought. It seems insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But when we zoom out, we discover that our buying habits have a massive impact collectively.
The Global Impact of Our Everyday Choices
From a big-picture perspective, the apparel trade is anything but normal. Global fashion consumption has grown exponentially over the past 20 years. Studies show that we buy four times as many garments as we did in the past but only wear them half as many times. An average wardrobe may contain 125 to 150 items, but 20 to 50% go unused.
The fast fashion system has created an addiction to newness and disposable clothing. It generates massive profits for a small group of big players but also widespread environmental damage and social destruction (not to mention countless unwearable wardrobes).
A Vital Role to Play, with Style
The good news is that there is a better way: A sustainable wardrobe that is kinder to the planet and its people. But that does not imply tossing everything out and switching to unbleached calico and vegetable-dyed hemp. Nor does it mean spending a lot of money. More than anything, it is about awareness and taking a different approach.
In this post, we share four simple steps to move to a greener closet that does not compromise your style - no matter your budget.
Step 1: Get Organized
The golden rule of a green lifestyle is to reuse what you already own, so the first step to a sustainable wardrobe is a thorough edit. The goal is to discover what you have, what must go and what you truly need. Remove unwanted items and sort the remainder into categories that make sense for your lifestyle.
Edit your wardrobe by asking questions like these:
- Does it need repair or replacement?
- Does it fit comfortably and if not, can it be altered?
- Is it versatile enough?
- Is it too high maintenance?
- Have I worn this in the past 12 months?
- Am I holding onto it for sentimental reasons?
- Does this align with my lifestyle and identity today?
Step 2: Get Creative
We all crave a bit of novelty from time to time, but that doesn’t have to mean buying a new garment. Instead, you could look at your wardrobe with new eyes. Scroll through Instagram or Pinterest for inspiration, or curate wish lists on your best online stores. Newness could be as simple as opening up to fresh ideas or being more selective to bring your style into focus.
Reimagine what you have by asking questions like:
- Can this be remixed to create a new outfit?
- Can it be dressed up or down?
- Can it be layered with different pieces?
- Can it be accessorized differently?
Step 3: Get Smart
How we care for garments significantly affects their lifespan and the environment. All textiles shed tiny fibres in the wash but some, like microplastics from synthetic fabrics, are more harmful than others. Harsh laundering wears out garments of even the purest organic cloth though.
Transform laundry into a conservation activity:
- Check garment labels for fibre content and care instructions
- Learn about the properties and impact of the fabrics you wear
- Switch to more eco-friendly laundering
Step 4: Get Rid
Figuring out the best way to deal with unwanted garments can be tricky. Throwing them away only transfers the problem to a landfill. Keeping them but not wearing them is also wasteful because the resources that went into making them reach a dead end. So it is better to let go while the garment is still relevant enough for others to get wear out of it.
Responsibly dispose of unwanted clothes with these options:
- Sell them so that someone else can buy second-hand clothes instead of new
- Swap them with your friends, eliminating the need to buy
- Donate them to your local thrift store or charity
- Send them to a trustworthy recycling center
Being Part of the Solution
The core principle of a green closet is to keep garments in circulation for as long as possible. That means you already have a sustainable wardrobe, regardless of the origin or fabric.
Making it even kinder to our world is as simple as:
- Editing your wardrobe
- Reimaging what you have
- Transforming the way you do laundry
- Disposing of unwanted clothes responsibly
Following these four steps creates a sustainable base to build on, mindfully and purposefully. Planning a capsule wardrobe around what you truly need and will use often. This will allow you to shop with intention and integrity, keeping your wardrobe sustainable and infinitely wearable.
Achieving sustainability in the fashion industry is a beautiful vision that drives many of us to do all we can. But the reality is that the system is immense, complex, and saturated with harmful practices. The journey is long and fraught with challenges.
On the other hand, achieving wardrobe sustainability is within reach for all of us. Our individual actions do have a collective impact. All it takes is a shift in perspective to turn that power into a force for good.
The sustainable fashion shopper's buyerarchy of needs.
[Image: Sarah Lazarovic]