8 Tips for Building a Sustainable Wardrobe

Our closets always seem to have too much and yet too little. If you’re the person who can never find anything to wear but also is trying to keep to a budget, then a sustainable wardrobe is the ideal fit for you. Sustainability is always in fashion, and your wardrobe can easily reflect that. 

Here are eight tips for building a sustainable wardrobe.

Understand what you already own

Just like a clothing store would do, you should take inventory of what you already own. Typically, this is done at least twice a year for those who live in transitional weather (and it’s broken down into spring/summer and fall/winter clothes). If you can stick to that schedule then you’re already ahead of the curve. However, if you don’t go through your wardrobe twice a year then now would be a good time to get an understanding of what you own. So many of us stick to the same 15 to 30 items on an annual basis—from casual to formal wear—which leads to a vast percentage of our closets being unused. That means that as large as your closet might be, as many things you might own, you will usually only wear about 20 percent of it 80 percent of the time. What happens to those other items? They’re saved for a rainy day or special occasion. Sometimes they even just sit around with the price tag on (a big sustainable no-no).

Donate what you don’t wear

Now that you’ve taken stock of what you own it’s time to pull a Marie Kondo and let some of those things go. As you go through your wardrobe, separate your clothes into three piles: yes, no, and maybe. For the ‘maybe’ pile hold the item up and ask how you feel about that item. Does it spark joy? Or is it just there, as something you like but really don’t need or might never wear? To build a sustainable wardrobe, this part is simple. Keep the ‘yes’s,’ consider giving away the ‘maybe’s’ to a friend if you can’t let go, and donate the ‘no’s.’ When you donate or give away what you don’t wear, rather than throwing them away, you’re contributing to eco-fashion.

Categorize your clothing

After you’ve decided what’s worth keeping and what you, probably reluctantly, gave away it’s a good idea to categorize your clothing. Pile your clothes into groups starting with what you wear most to what you wear least. If you’re active or live in athleisure, then it might be a good idea to have that as a separate pile (because you wear it often, but not really to go out in). Categorizing your wardrobe into sections that clearly show what you wear and what you don’t wear has the ability to open your eyes to a potentially new wardrobe you didn’t even know you had. Those least worn items can feel new again and might feel like a whole new style depending on when the last time you wore them was.

Fix what you already own

Over time, clothes naturally undergo some wear and tear. To build a sustainable wardrobe you should resist the urge to toss out what has holes or seams undone. Of course, no one likes to look messy, but there’s a simple solution: fix it! If you’re handy with a thread and needle you can fix items yourself but another way to practice sustainable fashion is to take to a tailor who can do it for you. Most of us don’t realize that fixing durable clothes saves a lot more money over time, while also reducing what ends up in the landfill. At first, this process might seem time-consuming. But the most items you fix the bigger your wardrobe will feel. And you’ll have the ability to give new life to items that you’ve long loved to begin with.

Buy with intention

It’s safe to say not all clothes can be fixed, and eventually, it will be time to bid farewell to some favorites. When this happens don’t just hurry to the nearest store and aimlessly shop around. To build a sustainable wardrobe it’s important to always buy with intention. That means don’t shop when you’re bored or emotionally distressed. Have a clear idea of what your closet needs and shop for those items only. This will fill you with a tremendous sense of pride because you’ll truly love what you buy, and you’ll get a lot of use out of the items you need versus what you purchase on impulse. 

Shop vintage or thrift stores

If you really want to build the ultimate sustainable wardrobe, avoid purchasing newly made items. Vintage shops (higher end) and thrift stores (lower end) will surprise you, as a lot of people discard what they no longer wear. And those items, when handled properly, become valuable to others. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

Support eco-friendly brands

If gently-used clothing isn’t your thing then research eco-friendly and ethical brands. You can support brands that pay their workers a fair wage, use non-toxic chemicals and sustainable fabrics. There are many companies today that aim to better the environment while also turning a profit, and identifying those brands that align with your goals can create a wardrobe you can feel proud of. 

Purchase multi-use items

As you shop, look for items that have more than one use. Like a bralette that can double as a top, or a shirt that can turn into a dress. Multi-use items give your wardrobe a bigger feel without extra items.

Use these eight tips the next time you go through your wardrobe and find yourself on the right side of fashion all year long.