How to Make Your Wardrobe More Sustainable

Environmental issues have never been so present in our conversations, the news and the world around us.

If you’ve asked yourself recently “what can I do to contribute to positive change?” you’re not alone. Indeed, it seems there is more awareness than ever of the impact industrial practises and by extension, our buying habits, have on natural resources and the environment.

Green up your wardrobe

On an individual scale, there are things we can all do to minimise negative impact when it comes to fashion. In changing our habits to become more eco-conscious, we may also influence others. Where one person leads, colleagues, friends and family may follow.

Let’s look at some small, practical changes that could lead to a more sustainable future for the fashion industry and our wardrobes.

Put the brakes on fast fashion                                                      

The breakneck uptake of fast fashion has offered us variety, convenience and speed. However, when it comes to the environment, supply chain ethics and sustainability, its consequences are cause for concern.

If the outlets you buy from use inexpensive, low-quality fabrics and offer lightning-fast delivery, the chances are that these factors have a cost somewhere else along the supply chain.

There’s no denying the advantages of being able to buy what you need at a minutes’ notice. But in the long-term, fast fashion equals false economy. If you buy a mass-produced shirt made using cheap fabric, it won’t be long before you need to replace it. On the other hand, a well-tailored shirt made from better-quality fabric may last twice or three times as long. A useful mantra to adopt when shopping for clothes is the 30 wears rule. I.e. if you won’t wear it at least 30 times, or you think it may not last for 30 wears, then re-think the purchase. The same could be said of accessories, shoes and bags.

Buying fewer but better-quality garments need not impact the versatility of your look. Wardrobe staples such as blazers, jackets, shirts and dresses can be accessorised with ties, scarves, hats, cardigans, jewellery and other accessories.

Commission some tailor-made staples items

Before the mass production of clothing, many people relied on tailors and seamstresses to make them a small selection of wardrobe staples.

Granted, much lower demand for sewing skills means tailors are less ubiquitous today. Plus, it wouldn’t be practical to apply this to your entire wardrobe. But having two or three staple pieces made professionally may represent better value for you in the long-term.

Firstly, choosing a quality and durable fabric could equal an extended lifespan. Secondly, you’d be opting for professional designing, cutting and sewing versus one-size-fits-all. This can ensure that seams, hems, buttons and embellishments stay in place for longer. Finally, you’re less likely to tire of a piece cut perfectly for your shape and size and may be inclined to keep it for much longer than an off-the-rack garment.

Sew it Yourself

With a surge in the popularity of crafts, knitting, crocheting and sewing in recent years, courses or even skillswaps have never been so accessible.

Therefore, if you have the time for a new hobby and are looking to escape the computer screen, a short course in garment-making or attending a regular meetup could give you the skills to make a few of your own garments.

Not-so-damaged goods

We all have items in our wardrobe that need a little TLC. Whether it’s a loose button, missing sequins, a dropped hem or an undone seam. Such things take an expert almost no effort to swiftly repair. Often, however, we put it off and may even eventually discard something rather than take the time to have it repaired. Solve this problem by having a clear out , sifting through your wardrobe and taking those out-of-action things for repair or restoration. It’s incredible how a little work can make an item, such as shoes, handbags, or even home textiles, look like new.

Make the time and effort and you’ll soon have your items back in action, while making a positive contribution to the environment.

Reject throwaway culture

More than half of the clothes disposed of by European consumers are placed in mixed household waste, rather than a recycling bin. Correctly disposing of your worn-out clothes is a must when it comes to positive action. Recycling is an obvious solution. Most localities offer residents their own bins. If not, there are almost always facilities not too far away.

You could also cut clothes into scrap fabrics and re-use them around the home, such as in the garden or for car cleaning and oil changes. Another option would be to donate old clothes to a local initiative. Craft groups or charitable foundations such as animal sanctuaries often appeal for unneeded textiles.

Swap and sell

The European Environment Agency (EEA) estimates that over 30% of the clothes owned by Europeans haven’t been worn for at least a year. This could be because they’re not the right fit or cut, because they don’t complement other clothes, or because they hold sentimental value. This suggests that they’re likely to be in good condition and could therefore offer some kind of return.

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. But a little tough love could see you make gains with cash, extra wardrobe space or an exchange. You could put your items up for sale on a local ‘for sale’ platform, or a national auction website. Another option is to attend a clothes swap party. These events are now widespread and you could come home with an arm full of near-new items in exchange for your own.

A borrower be  

Another option is clothes and accessories rental. This is a service that has undergone prolific growth in recent years. Instead of spending big on your favourite labels, you can now rent an item for a set time and return it for a fee. This has the added benefits of keeping your look refreshed, allowing you to experiment with new styles, reducing costs and freeing up wardrobe space. Plus, of course, you would not need to dispose of the garments after wearing them.  

Make a material choice

Choosing your clothing materials wisely could contribute to better practises by the industry in future. A good starting point is research. Seek fabrics that require minimal processing or water usage during production. Organic cotton, recycled materials, plant-based leathers and linen are often discussed as having less environmental impact than others.

Another interesting development is the advent of alternative ‘leathers’ made from natural resources or by-products that help reduce waste. Pineapple ‘leather’, for example, made from the fruit’s leaves, has been in the spotlight of late.

Everyone has individual values and priorities, so doing your homework on this will ensure you find a good material match for you.

Lighten the load

One aspect of keeping a greener wardrobe is re-thinking your approach to packaging. Again, small steps can make a difference and may even contribute to keeping your clothes in a better condition.

Refuse hangers at the store when you’re offered them. Instead, invest in some sturdy wooden ones. They can last a lifetime and protect your clothes from shoulder sag and becoming misshapen during storage.

Another positive change to make is carrying eco bags when you go shopping, rather than using plastic bags from the retailer. Additionally, when caring for your clothes, choose tailors and dry cleaning experts with an emphasis on sustainable practises

However you choose to contribute, each step is one in the right direction. From our team here at Jeeves, we support and commend your efforts to reduce negative environmental impact.