How to build a sustainable wardrobe is on our minds and it’s easy to see why. According to a report by the EPA, the volume of textile waste in the U.S. alone has increased to 17 million tons. Clothing and shoe waste accounts for 5.8% of this staggering number, and continues to rise. Want to know how to do your part to decrease this waste? Keep reading to learn more about building a more sustainable wardrobe.
What is a sustainable wardrobe?
You may be thinking, I want to reduce my fashion footprint, but what even is a sustainable wardrobe? Sustainability in the fashion world can take on many forms, but broadly, a sustainable wardrobe ultimately has less of a negative impact on our planet. As an example, organic cotton has the lowest environmental impact of all cotton types. Utilizing recycled polyester instead of virgin polyester is another way to make sure you dress for sustainable success. In addition to recycled clothing and buying eco-friendly pieces, there are many ways to create a closet that Mother Nature would love. Let’s dive right in with our 10 tips on how to build a more sustainable wardrobe.
10 steps to building a sustainable wardrobe
1. Start with organization
When building a sustainable wardrobe, the first step is to start with organization. You may already have the sustainable wardrobe that you have been dreaming of—you just have to see it. What may seem like a daunting task will reveal what you need, don’t need and what’s missing.
To start, lay out all of your clothing in categories. For example, group all of your pants together, then tees, skirts, dresses and so on. Got your piles? Now, organize each stack into wanted and unwanted items. Take an audit of everything you have to see if your sustainable wardrobe is already complete. Don’t forget to recycle the pieces that no longer spark joy. Reuse is an important step in building a more sustainable wardrobe.
2. Do your research
Now that you have organized what you already have, it’s time to do your research. To fill gaps in your wardrobe, pinpoint brands that source, make and use ethical materials to produce clothing sustainably. Identify companies that are transparent about where their products are made. Additionally, identify the businesses that hold suppliers accountable to high environmental standards and take demonstrated efforts to protect workers and the planet. Explore a brand’s values to see if they use environmentally friendly materials, like organic or recycled fabrics. This is also the perfect time to evaluate if you need new clothing, or if gently used pieces are options. Adding some pieces of vintage or thrifted clothing is a great solution to how to build a more sustainable wardrobe.
3. Edit your shopping habits
You have done your research, but before shopping, it’s time to edit your shopping habits. Shifting your lens to need instead of want, is an essential step in how to build a more sustainable wardrobe. Gathering excessive pieces just in case will lead to a wardrobe that takes up space and ultimately creates waste. Shopping with this mindset is also a time-waster as it crafts a closet you have to sift through every morning. Save time, money and the planet by buying quality pieces that you need and will consistently use.
4. Assess wearability
With our sustainable focus shopping point of view, it’s time to assess wearability. No matter how the garment is made, if you are not going to wear it, it’s not truly sustainable. A large part of sustainability is the wearability of the piece. Ask yourself, how many times will I actually wear this? According to Livia Firth, founder of Eco Age, if you aren’t going to wear it at least 30 times, put it back. With this mindset, you are one step closer to selecting the perfect pieces to create a more sustainable wardrobe.
5. Shop for versatility
A key to sustainable shopping is to shop for versatility. Look for pieces that you can rock in many ways and in multiple seasons. The epitome of shopping for versatility is creating a capsule wardrobe. Creating a capsule wardrobe involves editing your closet down to a small base that mixes and matches to create many different looks. In general, most capsule wardrobes are composed of under 30 pieces, including shoes. Now that’s versatility at its finest. Not quite ready for a capsule wardrobe? No fear. You are not alone on this sustainable road. Your stylist can help find pieces that are mighty in powers of sustainability and versatility.
6. Check the care label
Now, let’s put the research you did to good use and check the care label. Make sure you check the sustainability claims on any garment before purchasing it. There are buzzwords companies use to greenwash their consumers into thinking that a garment is eco-friendly. Misleading words that aren’t regulated by the fashion industry like natural are used to mask products that aren’t necessarily more sustainable.
Another deceptive tactic is focusing on the good parts of a garment to overshadow its toxic traits. Continually compare and contrast the outward promises of a piece with its actual composition on the care label. Still not sure if a garment is sustainable? Gain clarity with a quick online search of the brand before making your purchase. With this information, you are on your way to figuring out how to build a more sustainable wardrobe.
7. Quality check
We have all heard the phrase quality over quantity and this is especially true with tip #7: quality check. If the quality is low, sustainability may be lacking due to the absence of wearability. Start your quality check by gently pulling at the seams of a clothing item to make sure it’s tightly sewn together. This can be a good indicator of durability. Additionally, check that all of the functional pieces such as its buttons and zippers are in working order.
While most people associate high quality with high price, it can actually result in quite the contrary. There are many vintage and thrifted pieces that were made of the utmost quality with considerably low price points. Don’t forget to do the same quality check here as well. No matter what the cost, when it comes to sustainability, make sure that the quality is high before you buy.
8. Invest wisely
A cousin to quality check is to invest wisely. Spending more on long-lasting pieces can cost less in the long run than repeatedly buying bargain replacements. Another key move is to invest more in pieces you wear every day rather than special occasion pieces. A garment purchased for a one-time event will likely sit in your closet after you wear it. While a high-quality piece, like a classic denim jacket, will remain in constant rotation. Investing wisely in your daily wear is an imperative step when building a more sustainable wardrobe.
9. Take care
What good is quality when you don’t take care of your investment? Garments need proper care to maintain sustainability. Make sure that you check the tag for care instructions that will maintain the longevity of your sustainable pieces. Properly wash, wear and store your garments. Fold knits and sweaters instead of hanging them to avoid stretching. Wash clothes only when they need to be washed and hang drying versus machine. The better you treat them, the better they will treat you.
Stylist Tip: Did you know that washing your jeans inside out can decrease fading and increase the duration of wear? This trick protects the fibers on the outside of your denim from friction and the harsh effects of some detergents. Now that you know, pass it on to someone who doesn’t. Style sharing is caring.
10. Repair, Revive and Recycle
Last, but certainly not least, remember to repair, revive and recycle when creating a more sustainable wardrobe. Instead of discarding broken items in your closet, learn how to mend them by watching how-to videos. If repair isn’t your thing, find a trusted tailor. Developing instead of discarding is a gold star practice in sustainability.
Revive your clothing by repurposing them into something else, or donate them to someone who can welcome them to their wardrobe. Cut a faded pair of jeans into a vintage pair of shorts. Create a cropped tank from a well-worn tee. Make an ultra-romantic midi by hemming a ruffled maxi for a throwback piece reminiscent of this year’s cottagecore trend. You can even create pillows and blankets with your worn clothes. Get your friends together for a safe swap party to give a gently worn item a new home. Donate your clothes to a great cause. The possibilities for sustainable reviving are truly endless.
When all else fails, do not ruin the power of your sustainable wardrobe by throwing it in the garbage. No matter how long you have worn them, waste is waste. Search for the textile recycling centers in your area to dispose of your well-worn pieces the right way. Can’t find a center in your area? Ask your local thrift stores how they dispose of the clothes they can’t sell. If recycling is the answer, you are good-to-go.
Brands to help you build a more sustainable wardrobe
Have you been drooling over all the stylish pieces in this article? Good news. All of them are from sustainable clothing brands at Stitch Fix. At Stitch Fix, we are a force for sustainability. We hold ourselves and our vendors accountable by establishing an ethical supply chain and taking measurable action toward sustaining a healthier planet. We carry socially-conscious products from more than 50+ sustainably-minded brands, aligning with our ideals to move industry standards forward.
Want to start building a more sustainable wardrobe, or find pieces to finish the one you already have? Ask your stylist to keep an eye out for sustainable pieces for your future Fixes.