(ENG only) A few days ago I was passing by an H&M store. I stopped to look at the window and the prices of the items displayed. T-SHIRT: 4,99€. This is considered to be the standard price nowadays for a top in the so called fast fashion stores. If we are used to these prices, of course the first thing you think about sustainable and fair fashion is “it’s freaking expensive”. And since fast fashion stores come out with new clothes every single week of the year, updating their selection and keeping up with the latest fashion trends, the next thing you can think of sustainable fair fashion is “it’s boring and not stylish”. Well my dear friends, if you have been thinking to make your wardrobes greener but are reluctant to pop into a fair fashion store because you’re afraid that you won’t like anything and just looking at a price tag in there is going to make you faint, then this post comes at the right time for you.
Yes, fair fashion can be expensive and as a consumer that decided back in 2015 to no longer support fast fashion brands, I feel you. As much as I would love to, I personally can’t afford to build (even if downsized to what I actually need) a 4 seasons wardrobe entirely made of slow fashion, sustainable fair items.
So here’s a few tips to help you create a more sustainable wardrobe on a budget:
- buy less. This is the first essential step. The reason why fast fashion stores work so well on consumers is because they convince them to keep on buying. It might be because of the incredibly affordable price they’re offering, it might be because they bring something new in stores every week, creating needs that actually people didn’t even knew they had, but that’s how it is. If you decide to shop less and to stick only to the things you need, this will automatically a) reduce the amount of money spent in clothes and accessories and b) allow you to get more use out of what you own. Think before you buy. Don’t buy something because it’s cheap or on sale, but buy it because you need it. And if you’re in doubt, give yourself time to really think about it. A week, two weeks, a month. If at the end of that said period of time you realize you still want it, then you’ve eliminated the risk of an impulse buy and you’re sure that the money spent was actually well spent.
- use what you have. Creating a better wardrobe doesn’t mean that you have to get rid of everything you own all at once and buy new things. Take a thorough look at your wardrobe, look at what pieces you love the most, feel the fabrics, look how every piece fits you and how you feel wearing it, try everything on and evaluate with an honest look what you like wearing the most. Keep only what you actually love. If something doesn’t work well with the majority of the stuff you want to keep, doesn’t fit you well, doesn’t feel comfortable for you to wear, get rid of it (please do not throw things away if they are still in good conditions!! Give them to someone who needs them and will appreciate them). When you’re left with what feels like the right amount of stuff for you, you can start enjoy more and get more use out of your wardrobe and see if there are eventually any gaps to fill in. You can also start making wardrobe challenges or capsule wardrobes: working with a smaller amount of clothes will allow you to be more creative and get even more use out what you already have on hand.
- buy well. It doesn’t matter if you shop at the charity shop or if you are willing to splurge on an expensive item, learn to shop better. Look at the tag inside the garments to check which fabrics they’re made of, look at the seams and the overall fit of the garment. Choose materials that are going to last longer, will hold better the wear and will be easier to wash and take care of. If it’s something that I like but it looks poorly made or I know already that is going to be a hassle to handle with, I’d rather not spend my money in the first place and keep it for something that is better made. This might take a while to master, but trust me, it will pay off in the long term, because better quality garments will last longer. You can start with the things you already own: study the fabrics, the seams, the details. And next time you’ll go on a shopping spree, you’ll know what to look for.
- second hand. As simple as it sounds, there’ s a huge second hand market, bigger than you actually think, in these days. The devastating current mass consumption is causing wardrobes to be fuller and fuller, so this means that whenever people are getting rid of “old” stuff to make space for the new one, a big portion of those clothes end up in second hand shops, charity shops, flea markets, online stores or apps etc. You can find plenty for any budget you might have. Of course, second hand shopping is not as easy as popping into a regular store if you’re looking for something specific, but is much more rewarding and way more fun. You never know what you’re going to find and usually prices are very wallet friendly. Recently I scored two beautiful dresses that fit me perfectly for a grand total of 16 €. Boom.
- clothing swaps. This is the cherry on top of the second hand cake. By attending a clothing swap event, not only you can get rid of what you no longer need (please make sure to bring only things that are in good conditions!!), but you can come back home with something “new”. What is something to get rid of for someone, becomes something new for someone else. And all of this for free, or a very small entry fee (I think the most I paid so far for an organized event was 2€). How cool is that? These events are becoming more and more popular, but if you can’t find some near you, why don’t you organize one yourself? Just gather a few of your friends, family members, co workers etc. and ask them to bring something they don’t like or wear anymore. And let the fun begin!
- invest in few but good quality basics that are going to last. Basics are usually the staples of someone’s wardrobe, pieces that no matter what, we keep on wearing over and over because they are essentials. These are the pieces that we need or want to wear regularly, that are versatile, that never go out of style so we don’t have to keep updating them and that can be mixed and matched to create plenty of different outfits. If by buying less you automatically save money, you can decide to invest in a few good quality, sustainably and fairly made basics that you know that are going to last and you don’t have to worry to keep on replacing because they fall apart after a couple of wears and washes. Do the proper research and look for something that suits your main requirements (fabric, production, colors, fit, price etc.). Recently I had the chance to learn about and try some products from Organic Basics, a Danish brand that produces sustainable and ethically made wardrobe basics for men and women (underwear, socks, neutral colored t-shirts), with the aim of creating good quality, long lasting garments. The brand doesn’t make seasonal collections, but sticks to simple neutral basics that can be used over and over again. I am a huge fan of second hand shopping on a budget, but when it comes to investing in something like wardrobe essentials, I gladly support a company that tries to make the world a better place. Plus, remember that you can also take advantage of sales to save some extra bucks.
(*if you are in need of some good quality, sustainably and fairly made basics, you can check out Organic Basics and get a 20% off of your order using the code SIMPLICITYXOB20)
- repair what can be fixed and take good care of your clothes. A big portion of creating a sustainable wardrobe is also how you care for your clothes. Wash them less, always use natural, delicate detergents and air dry your garments to preserve fabrics and fibers. Wash similar colors together at low temperatures. If something starts to wear out (small imperfections, holes, buttons that fall off etc.) make sure to repair them to extend their life, if possible. If you can’t repair them yourself, then find a repair shop (in these days with some online research it’s easy to find a good one near you) and invest some money to get them fixed. Extending the life of garments you already own is an easy and budget friendly way to make your wardrobe a more conscious and sustainable one. Remember that just because something is starting to show imperfections, it doesn’t mean that you can’t no longer wear it.
- DIY and/or upcycle: changing the look of something is another great way to make your wardrobe conscious and sustainable. If you’re feeling crafty, there’s a bajillion tutorials online for sewers and for non sewers too. You can refresh the look of a garment by making small changes (applications, cutting it here and there, adding buttons, shortening it, adjusting the fit etc.) or upcycling it to create something completely different. Again, if you have a project in mind but are not skilled enough or sure to make it yourself, than ask for qualified help to a friend or an alter shop.
Having a more sustainable wardrobe doesn’t have to break your wallet or feel boring. As you can see, there’s plenty of ways to transform your wardrobe into a more conscious and sustainable one. Remember that it’s not about creating a perfect wardrobe, but creating a wardrobe that has more intent and thought behind it but still feels like “you”.
Do you already do some of the things I mentioned above? In which other ways do you make your wardrobe more sustainable? Let me know below!