How to Curate a More Sustainable Wardrobe

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So you’ve set a New Years resolution to buy less fast fashion, to buy pieces that are more sustainable and want to follow in the wise words of Vivienne Westwood “Buy Less, Choose Well & Make It Last” but you don’t even know where to begin. 

And whether you’re just starting out, or have been slowly building and curating your ideal wardrobe for a couple of years I’ve compiled some great resources to refer back to throughout your sustainable wardrobe journey.

The Basics
Do a stock take of what you already have – are there pieces you own that you wear loads and some you don’t wear at all? Those that you don’t wear, work out why you don’t wear them – is it the colour, cut or style, the fit, does it not work with any other pieces, does it need repairs or maybe you feel you’ve “over worn” it. Decide if you’re willing to pay to repair, mend or alter these pieces or if you’d rather they be donated/ gifted to someone who will love them or if they need to go in the rag bag (or can be composted – read all about that here).

Do a similar process with the things you love – but work out why it is you love them – is it the colours, the styles, the ease of wear, the flexibility to be worn with anything, the sentimental reasons – and take note because these things will help you in curating your wardrobe to be a collection of pieces you love and feel great in.

Think practically. What activities do you do regularly like work, exercise, outings etc and what sort of clothes do you need for these activities – there is no point in having a wardrobe full of beautiful fitted and frilled or lacy pieces that you love but are not practical or allow the movement you need for taking your dogs down to the dog park or going hiking in etc. Also think seriously of how many pieces of each item you realistically need – if you live in jeans and hate skirts – then it’s clear to rather invest in a few pair of good jeans and not buy skirts. And of course consider your climate – no point in having 4 or 5 big jumpers when it only is cold for 2 weeks in the year.

Is there anything you need but don’t yet have? Some timeless and well wearing pieces like denim or leather jackets are worth saving up for and investing in good quality, well made versions. And if you need to replace staples then make sure they go on the list too. Clothing does eventually wear out and need replacing so it’s inevitable you will need to replace some things no matter how well you choose and care for your clothes.

A fantastic free resource to help you take stock of your closet is the Closet Audit Guide from Alyssa Beltempo.

Adding into your collection
When you do need new pieces think on these things from the above activities. You can even keep a note on your phone or in your wallet if its helpful. Some people use apps to track their wardrobes and create their outfits which I haven’t tried but think it could be a helpful tool. You can see an analysis our friends over at Style Within Grace did on a few different apps here and here.

I always take my time in deciding on new pieces to avoid impulse buying and buyers regret, but also to make sure it is something I need and that I’m not adding something into my wardrobe that I either have already or doesn’t fit with what I’ve got (I’m often guilty of this one! loving a top but not having any pants to wear it with or vice versa). I find browsing online and then shopping in person (where possible) is handy because it breaks the “desire” away the purchase. Consider setting yourself a fashion budget if you have a tendency to impulse buy. This can help prevent you from buying things unnecessarily and encourage you to really consider each purchase intentionally – especially if you want to save up for a special piece.

Consider who you are buying from. Every company would like to be perceived as being “green” these days to get a slice of the “sustainable pie” but we really need to be careful of greenwashing (I’ve shared tips to avoid being a victim of greenwashing here). There are plenty of things to look out for in sustainable companies – the top being transparency. If they are transparent about where their garments are made, who makes them, what their policies, values and ethics are and if they support other green initiatives then you are probably in the right place. A few excellent resources to check the true sustainability efforts of companies are the Ethical Fashion Guide, the Good On You Directory, Ethical Clothing Australia and the Sustainable Brand Index. These resources can help you make decisions on which brands you would like to support – because at the end of the day we vote for the future with where we spend our money.

Other Considerations
Some other things you may want to consider is the fibre content of the garments you purchase – it doesn’t have to be all organic cotton or linen, but purchasing natural fibres over synthetics aids the environment in reducing the amount of micro plastics that will go into water resources every time you wash. Synthetics are made from petrochemicals, so you are also aiding yourself by putting naturally derived fabrics on your body – they breathe better, allow airflow so sweat etc doesn’t get trapped. Synthetic fibres have also been linked to increased risks in numerous health conditions.

If you are open to the idea, consider shopping second hand or hosting fashion swaps with friends where you trade pieces in your wardrobes to keep your wardrobe feeling fresh without having a massive impact on the environment – because the most sustainable fashion are pieces that are already made and owned. You can also alter or upcycle pieces you have in your wardrobe to give them a new life. Repairing clothes as soon as they get a hole or are torn is the best action as it stops the damage becoming worse and harder to repair. Caring well for your clothes is the best way to make them last (I talk about some good ways to care for your clothes here).

Don’t be afraid to rewear! It is unfortunately designed into many garments today that they are expected to be worn only 7 times! The more times you wear a garment, the more sustainable your choice becomes as the cost per wear decreases and your environmental impact also decreases. Think of it this way – if someone loves the outfit you are wearing they will probably want to see you wear it again, and if they don’t remember it then they don’t know you’re re-wearing!

If you would really love a new piece for an event but don’t want to buy then there is the option to hire fashion – our friends at Love Me & Leave Me have an incredible selection of high end fashion you can hire for a day or a few days for the fraction of the cost of buying it new – this is another fantastic way to be more sustainable in your fashion purchases (rather than buying a dress for a one off function that then just sits in your wardrobe and makes you feel guilty for spending so much money on it!)

Lastly I recommend not buying into trends for the sake of trends. Stay true to your personal style (which will change and evolve – that is okay!) and buy pieces that reflect your personality and make you feel comfortable and yourself. Your wardrobe will be a reflection of colours you love, clothing that works for your lifestyle, pieces that hold sentimental value and beautiful memories.
Remember, as Yves Saint Laurent put it “Fashion fades, style is eternal”.

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