When it comes to having a sustainable wardrobe I am definitely no expert in the matter, but over the years I have learnt a few things relating to how to buy, and what to do with the clothes and shoes that you already own.
I am not here to preach to the converted (although you are very welcome to read on), but if you are seeking to learn how to live a more sustainable life, I would like to share my favourite tips to help you make a smooth and easy transition from where you are to where you want to be.
- SWAP ONE ITEM FOR ANOTHER
The next time you buy a new item for your closet, be it clothes, shoes or an accessory, find at least one item to donate or sell (if you prefer this avenue). That will help you stay organised and keep track of what you have, as well as encourage you to buy less, or only what you need.
- TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOUR CLOTHES.
Washing your clothes too often (when they are not really dirty) will only wear out the fabric faster and make your clothes look a lot older than it should. I often get away with wearing the same clothes 3 to 4 times before I put them to wash.
Another way to care for your clothes is to be wise when washing them. Separate them by colour and fabric, and choose the washing program accordingly. Hang them on the line to dry as often as possible. Tumble drying doesn’t agree with some fabric blends and it is also more detrimental to the environment.
- WHEN YOU BUY, BUY WISE.
Always choose quality over quantity. Some items out there are so poorly made that you can’t get more than a handful of uses before they start to disintegrate. Thankfully certain brands, such as Patagonia, The North Face, and Outdoor Research (apart from using recyclable materials) make their clothing to last and give you a lifetime guarantee on them; and for shoes, both Dr. Martens “For Life”, and Cabela’s also come with lifetime guarantee.
Try to opt for the more classical or conservative pieces; as you know, fashion is always changing and it never seems to end. Keeping up with the latest trends will mean that your clothes and shoes will quickly look out of style. You will be driven to get rid of what you bought last year in order to buy new pieces.
Not only does this hurt your hip pocket, but it is very wasteful resulting in an enormous amount of landfill every year, because contrary to what people might think, not all that gets donated is able to be sold as second hand. The numbers are staggering!
- MIX, MATCH AND ACCESSORISE
A clever way of having less and still being able to put together multiple looks, is to include key basic/plain garments as part of your wardrobe such as: a plain white/black top, a nice pair of denim, and/or a basic black dress/skirt, that you can dress up and alter the look using accessories like a bold necklace; a stripy or colourful scarf; a nice jacket; a belt that is full of character… and so on.
- ALTER OR CUSTOMISE
Before you think about donating or selling an item, see if it can be altered or customised. You can learn to DIY or look for someone to do it for you. If you don’t like a particular skirt or dress because of its length. Change it! Add straps to a strapless top or dress for a new look, or iron on patches to one of your tops; or even replace all the buttons to one of your shirts creating another exciting piece for your wardrobe. Perhaps you have too many full length pants, and need some new shorts or capri instead; have you thought about shortening the ones you were planning to donate?
There’s no limit to what you can do if you take the time to get creative.
- FIX, DON’T THROW
If you can, try to mend small holes, hems that come undone, and buttons that have fallen off. These are not reasons to have you clothes replaced. Some sewing skills and fabric glue can do wonders for small jobs.
A couple of years ago, I had some leather boots repaired for two reasons: it was more expensive to get new ones, and they would just add in the pile of waste. The end result was good, and I am happy that I did it, and I would like to encourage you to do the same!
- WHAT TO DO WITH THE KIDS CLOTHES
One last thing, perhaps on a slightly different note, is how I deal with kids’ clothes and shoes. Since I had my first son, over 8 years ago now, I’ve kept all the garments that he grew out of which were in good condition and stored them in vacuum sealed bags, neatly labelled by age/size. I did this because I had plans of having more kids, so it didn’t make sense to get rid of clothes that were in perfect condition just to have to buy them again with the next child.
I ended up having 3 boys, so it worked out perfectly for me. I still have a significant part of one of the wardrobes filled with bags that I go over every time the kids grow out of their clothes and need new ones. Several of them are being used now for the third time, by my youngest son.
These are all the tips I could think of. I hope this helps, and if you can add to this, I would love to hear from you.