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The 10-Step Guide to Creating A Sustainable Wardrobe (on a budget)

How to refash & stay on trend eco & budget consciously

How to make the most out of the garments you already have? And what are the foundations behind a sustainable wardrobe? This is literally the go-to-guide if you want to stay trendy & sustainable on a budget!

Reducing consumption of all types is an essential component of sustainability. As people become more aware of the impact of their purchases on the planet, they are turning toward sustainable fashion. There are some very simple steps you can take to re-create a sustainable wardrobe, by simply reassessing what you already have (pssst… if you didn’t read these secret tips for a sustainable closet makeover, definitely recommended to get some extra out-of-the-box ideas).

From office outfits to casualwear, you can revamp your closet to be more eco-friendly without resorting to wearing potato sacks — unless that’s your bag (pun intended). A greener lifestyle is within your reach and it does not have to cost a fortune. 

Read on and discover 10 easy steps to creating a sustainable wardrobe.

Eco Capsule Wardrobe: downsize your life & build a sustainable closet

1. Know Thyself

Before you buy one more thing, have an honest talk with yourself. Think about the items you wear all the time — and about all the ones you don’t. The Pareto Principle, aka the 80% rule, tells us that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. So as much as you might love the idea of strapless dresses, maybe they stress you out because you’re worried about them falling down, or maybe you don’t have much occasion to wear fancy gowns. 

If your true style is jeans and white tee shirts, own it. There’s no shame in being a Casual Gal or Guy. The next time you go shopping, do not buy anything brand new that you don’t plan to wear at least thirty times. This single step will greatly decrease waste. Special occasion dressing is different and will be addressed below.

2. Shop at Home

Let’s face it: most of us have way too much stuff. So much, we don’t even remember we own it. But we all love new things. Next time you’re feeling the itch to shop, have a hard look at the contents of your closet. 

It is almost certain that you will find something that you forgot about and will do the trick of feeling new without adding to your pile (or depleting your bank balance). Also consider swapping with friends and family. Clothing exchanges are an all-around win as you all get to enjoy the novelty of new-to-you items while keeping the net sum the same.

6 Secret tips to give your closet a sustainable makeover (without spending money)

3. Invest in Classics

If you determine that you really will wear a particular item that you don’t already have, or the one you currently own is showing its age, it’s okay to go shopping. But when you do buy new, select pieces that are timeless and can be worn for years to come. Think of a classic button-down shirt, dress trousers, a silk scarf, a little black dress, and pumps. 

Once you own a solid basic wardrobe, it is much easier to get dressed in the morning. Trimming down your belongings also saves precious closet space. Because you want these pieces to last, you should invest in quality. Well-made pieces can actually save you money over the long term as a pair of wool pants might easily last a decade or longer, whereas the cheap polyester version could start to fall apart after just a few wears.

Story of a T-Shirt: the environmental & social impact of a tee

4. Take Care of Your Garments

Making pieces last also means caring for them. Read the instructions on the label — preferably before buying them. Standard dry cleaning uses toxic chemicals that are bad for the environment and for you. 

Eco-friendly dry cleaners exist, but washable clothes are best. Follow the instructions on the label (cold temp wash, etc.) and run a full load to save water. To save on electricity, hang up your clothes to dry.

10 Tips to care for your clothes and extend their lifecycle

5. Get Informed

Shopping sustainably means understanding where your clothes come from and what they’re made of. 

Eco-friendly textiles include certified organic cotton, linen, hemp, and ethically-obtained animal fibers like cashmere and down. Polyester and other synthetics aren’t great for the environment, but if you find apparel made from recycled polyester fiber, that is much better, as you’re contributing to reducing waste and landfill.

Microplastic pollution in fashion: synthetic vs plant-based textiles

6. Skip the Seasonal Show

Another way to shrink your fashion footprint is by only buying clothing that works for multiple seasons or, depending on your climate, even all year round. A classic A-line skirt can be paired with tights in winter and bare legs in summer. A white tee always looks great. 

Keeping the total number of items you own to a minimum is good for the planet, as well as for your closet and your brain space. The less you have to store, care for, and keep track of, the better.

7. Make It Wearable

Your personal style and the type of work you do will help determine your wardrobe staples, but above all, everything you buy should be wearable. While it can be fun to stand out and make a statement, owning a lot of clothes that are difficult to style or uncomfortable to wear is just a waste of time and energy. 

High-maintenance clothes get old fast. If you’re going to buy white clothes, make sure they’re not see-through. Anything that makes your life easier is going to be the stuff you gravitate towards. Make every piece pull its own weight.

How to recycle your clothes & make an impact

8. Shop Secondhand

Eco-conscious shoppers hit the consignment stores first. This is especially important when it comes to special occasion items. There is no good reason to buy a brand new dress that you’re only going to wear once or twice. This can even be true for a wedding gown. Think of it as sharing sisterly love.

The benefits of the Sharing Economy in our Wardrobes: thrifting & second-hand clothes renting!

9. Rent It

Renting is another great alternative to buying. Besides single-use rentals, longer-term options are also available. This can be a great choice for people who need to look fashionable but don’t want to have to declutter their closet every season.

10. Share the Love (for Fashion)

Another important step in curating a sustainable wardrobe involves what you do with the clothes you no longer wear. As mentioned above, holding a swap meet can be a great way to unload gently worn items, but don’t stop there.

Donate unwanted items to a charity. For the more entrepreneurial out there, you can also resell your clothes online or in person. The longer your stuff gets used before winding up in the landfill, the healthier the planet will be.

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Susan Cotter

Sue enjoys reading, writing, dark chocolate and her kids, although not always in that order. For some reason, she lives near Baltimore, where she divides her time between her desk and the kitchen.

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