How to Build a More Sustainable Wardrobe

Sustainability is Hot

Lily Eckenrode is wearing a patterned sweater with jean shorts she bought thrifting.
An outfit created out of second-hand garments.

If you’re anything like me, retail therapy is the go-to coping mechanism whenever something slightly inconvenient happens. However, as the negative effects of the “fast fashion” industry come to light and anxiety about climate change increases exponentially everyday, finding more sustainable fashion alternatives has been a personal goal of 2022. 

When I constructed this goal, I decided to focus on three main categories to make sure I spent my money in a more conscious manner: research, second-hand clothing and creating a “capsule wardrobe”. 

Research, Research, Research

Google has become my best friend when it comes to shopping more ethically. With a few simple clicks I can find clothing companies that specialize in using more sustainable practices. The Good Trade, a media brand dedicated to ethical fashion and lifestyle, has a great article that promotes sustainable clothing brands that are combating fast fashion companies. Many of the brands listed have carbon-offset shipping, use organic cotton and fair labor standards. Bigger brands have also begun to take steps towards more sustainable options. For example, H&M has their “Conscious Choice” fashion line which features garments made from materials such as organic cotton or recycled polyester.

The rise of Thrifting

Another sustainable fashion option is buying second-hand. Stores like Goodwill or The Salvation Army have been around since the 1900s but in the past few years the popularity of “thrifting” has increased astronomically. In recent years, online platforms and apps have been created that allow people to sell clothing they don’t want or need anymore. Poshmark, Depop and Facebook Marketplace are a few of my personal favorite online platforms to shop second-hand. Buying second-hand not only eliminates resources that would have gone into a new garment and prevents clothing from entering landfills or incinerators but shopping second-hand is an extremely affordable option with prices usually being lower than buying new.  

Create a Capsule Wardrobe

Lastly, a “capsule wardrobe” includes buying a handful of timeless clothing pieces that all complement each other. By doing this, you can create unlimited outfit options without overspending or buying clothes that will become dated. Although there is debate on how many pieces of clothing make up a capsule wardrobe, a good basis includes five shirts, three pairs of pants, three pairs of shorts, two jackets and two pairs of shoes. In order for the clothes to all be cohesive, people typically stick to neutral colors with one accent color to spice things up. 

Although I have been down the fast fashion rabbit hole many times, by researching, buying second-hand and building a capsule wardrobe, I have noticed my impulsive shopping lifestyle have died down. Shopping sustainably 100% of the time is extremely difficult but these small changes are the stepping stones needed to create a more ethical fashion industry. At the end of the day, the consumer can only do so much and the fashion industry needs to make sustainability a priority.

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