Do you have more clothes in your wardrobe than you will ever wear? Do you tend to jump on the bangwagon of the latest fashion-trend only to find that you only wore the item twice? You are not alone...
Here are 6 easy ways to make your wardrobe more sustainable, and not only save space in your closet, but also save some money:
1. Opt for natural fibres over synthetic
As mentioned in 3 Reasons Why You Should Rethink Your Reliance on Synthetic Clothing, the prevalence of synthetic fibres in our wardrobes is having detrimental effects on the environment. All clothes shed microfibres over time, but since fibres released by synthetic clothes are effectively little bits of plastic, these can take hundreds, if not thousands of years to decompose. As a result, with each wear and each wash (not to mention the tons of unwanted clothing thrown away each year), we are depositing more and more plastic into the environment, which is wreaking havoc not only on plant and animal life, but potentially on our own health as well, as microfibres have been found in our drinking water and food chain.
Even though over 60% of all clothes today are made from synthetic fibres, we can help turn the tide by opting for clothing made from natural materials like cotton, linen and wool. These materials are not only more environmentally friendly in the sense that they will degrade over time, and do not pose a threat to humans and animals if ingested, but they often feel more natural on the skin as they are more breathable than synthetics.
Even though there is often a perception that clothing made from natural fibres will be more expensive than synthetic fibres, this is not always the case. Cheap, but good quality clothing (especially for kids) can often be found in supermarkets like Walmart, as well as off-price retailers like TJ Maxx. In addition, make sure to take advantage of the regular sales offered by more expensive retailers, when you can make savings of up to 60%.
2. Try on clothes before buying
With the proliferation of online shopping, many people have gotten into the habit of buying clothes (even in physical stores) without trying them on first, and then ending up with clothes that do not fit or we do not like the look of after all.
While spending ages in a changing room may seem like a hassle at times, it actually helps you save time and money. Trying on clothes in the shop gives you a chance to assess the fit and quality before you make a purchase decision (i.e. spend money) based purely on the look of the item – something that looks fetching on the rack may not actually work with your shape or colouring. A recent survey by VoucherCloud estimated that 20% the average woman’s wardrobe is never actually worn, and that such clothes have a retail value of over $550 – though another survey found that the percentage of unworn clothes in our wardrobes could be as high as 50%! In addition, investing the time to try on clothes before buying them saves you the hassle of going back to the shop at a later date to return or exchange them.
3. Give back unwanted clothes within return/exchange window
Of course, if you buy the majority of your clothes online, it is not possible to try items on before buying them, and sometimes what you end up with when your order finally arrives is not what you expected when you were looking at the sleek photos on the retailer’s website. And, even if you tried on the clothes at the shop, you may only realise that an item is not for you after a couple of wears.
In such cases, rather than letting your unwanted purchases languish in the wardrobe (only for them to end up in the bin when you end up doing a spring clean), make the effort to return/exchange these items within the window specified by the retailer (which can be anywhere from 7 to 30 days). The returns policy is often shown on the receipt, or on a sign at the till, but it is also worth asking the teller as you’re being rung up.
4. Go for timeless classics instead of the latest fast-fashion trend
Part of the reason why we buy clothes is so that we can look and feel good. But in the age of social media, so-called fast-fashion has come to dominate over sustainability. Whereas designers used to only create four collections a year (one for each season), nowadays, many designers are creating micro-collections on a monthly or even weekly basis! And, if an item gets an endorsement from a celebrity or influencer, it can quickly become a ‘must-have’, only for its popularity to drop as quickly as it arose, to be replaced by the next ‘it’ item, creating a vicious cycle that is not only bad news for the environment, but also for your wallet.
But, it is possible to be fashion-conscious and sustainable. Instead of jumping on the ‘must-have’ bandwagon each time, take time to assess whether the item is actually something that you would enjoy wearing over and over again and whether it fits with your current wardrobe. In addition, rather than building your wardrobe exclusively from one-hit-wonders that quickly fall out of fashion, make sure that you include some timeless classics like jeans, flats and blazers that go with everything and can be dressed up or down, meaning you can create multiple unique outfits from just a few simple items.
5. Invest in quality
Unfortunately, with the proliferation of synthetic clothing and fast-fashion, the overall quality of clothes has been on the decline recently. Low quality, combined with the fast-fashion trend means that the world now consumes 4 times the number of clothes than it did 20 years ago, leading to resource depletion and environmental degradation.
In order to counter these trends, Livia Firth – sustainable fashion advocate and wife of Oscar-winning British actor, Colin Firth – launched the #30wearschallenge (now with a handy app) in order to encourage us to think sustainably about our fashion choices, instead of mindlessly following every short-lived trend. Therefore, before making a clothing purchase, it was worth thinking about whether an item would actually last 30 wears, so do consider quality as well as looks before shelling out your hard-earned cash. To this end, you may find that you are willing to spend slightly more money for a well-made item, instead of a cheaper knock-off, as the former will last longer and (chances are) will be more comfortable than the latter.
6. Browse second-hand and thrift shops
Finally, do not be afraid to browse second-hand and thrift shops if you are looking for new clothes. Hidden gems (like designer items) can often be gotten for a steal, and not only are you helping a good cause, but you are also saving clothes from the landfill. Plus, second-hand shops and thrift stores also allow you to donate your own unwanted clothes, so they can find new life in someone else’s wardrobe.