A Sustainable Wardrobe Refresh

A Sustainable Wardrobe Refresh

It's often said that if we think hard enough about the purchases we make, we can buy a "perfect wardrobe" that we will wear forever. That may be true for a few people but the majority of us will need to replace clothes that have worn out, upgrade shoes for hardier pairs, and say goodbye to things that no longer fit our bodies or our needs.

Very few of us are happy with wearing the same handful of outfits repeatedly, day after day, week after week. I love to repeat outfits! I also love to have some choices because style is so much more than just what we wear, it's a form of self-expression. It’s quite natural to get bored of your wardrobe or grow out of your style too.

It's a nice idea to believe we can invest in our wardrobes and buy timeless pieces made from fabric that lasts decades, and to some extent we can. Slowing down our purchases and wearing what's already in our wardrobe should always be our top priority. The reality is, we change, our style changes, our lives change, our bodies change, and our wardrobe needs to change too. There are, thankfully, ways to tackle these transformations in a sustainable manner.

Wear What You Have

The most sustainable option is to wear what's already in our wardrobe. Wearing what we own will always be better than buying something new, even if that item is ethically and sustainably made. I think we've all felt bored of our wardrobes before and been tempted to shop for something new when we really don't need to. There are a few ways to refresh our delight over the contents of our existing wardrobe; taking it all out, trying it on, and having a good look at it all certainly helps. Old items of clothing we haven't worn for months suddenly feel new again, while restyling old favourites adds a new appeal to them. Discovering new ways to wear the items already in your wardrobe can give you that thrilling rush of a new purchase without spending any money.

When I've been inspired by an outfit I've seen on Instagram or Pinterest, I try to recreate a similar look using what I already own. The details on a coat might be slightly different, the bag is cross-body and not handheld, and the shoes lack a heel but overall the outfit appears similar enough to pass. Jewellery and accessories can completely change an outfit and make your outifts feel fresh again. What I always notice is that those feelings of wanting to buy something new to fill a "gap" I think I've found in my wardrobe, completely disappear after shopping my own wardrobe.

Thrift What You Need

Fast fashion brands run on "micro-seasons" releasing new "collections" every week. We're buying 60% more clothing than we did 15 years ago, and only keeping them for half as long. With 41% of 18- to 25-year-olds feeling pressure to wear a different outfit every time they go out, that's a lot of unwanted clothing going unworn. Hopefully those items end up being sold online or donated to charity shops for others to buy and wear.

Aside from thrifting, you could also borrow or swap for items. In case of a special occasion where buying a whole new outfit to wear only once would be incredibly wasteful; asking a friend or family member if they have a dress or pair of shoes you could borrow, or an unwanted coat you could swap for something of yours, is worth a shot. You might find your new favourite outfit forgotten about at the back of someone else's wardrobe.

I've learned a lot about shopping second-hand. There's so much unwanted stuff out there, both online and in charity shops, and buying pre-loved clothing is often much cheaper than buying new. If you're hesitant about thrifting clothing (or anything else), I think you need to read this. These are my thrifting tips to help you shop both online and offline for pre-owned clothing.

Buy What You Can't Find

It's unrealistic to expect our wardrobe to look and feel the same decades later. I know I'm not wearing the same style of clothing as I was ten years ago, and I doubt I could fit into them either! Our bodies change and so do our lives, and therefore so must our clothes. The need to buy something new is unrealistic and practically impossible for most of us but that doesn't mean we can't make better choices about what we buy.

When we discover a need that can't be fulfilled by our existing wardrobe and can't be purchased second-hand or borrowed from our friend's wardrobe; buying something new is the last resort. In order to refresh your wardrobe sustainably with a new purchase, it needs to be made from a sustainable fashion brand. If price is a barrier, there are more affordable ethical brands out there; looking for discount codes and shopping the sales will help knock down cost too.

You might also want to try making your own clothes. Although that's a much harder ask especially for those of us who have neither experience nor skill. It's not necessarily going to be a more affordable or even easier way to restock your wardrobe but it would arguably be the most rewarding.

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