A little while ago, I read blog posts written by my friend Saskia at The Ups and Downs blog about fast fashion and sustainable brands, you can read them here and here. This, in turn, lit a match that led to some self-reflection and conversations. Little fires started burning. And cast off from these, the simplest spark: “Is sustainable fashion only for the financially privileged?“
“What is ‘fast fashion’?” you ask.
Fast fashion is inexpensive, cheaply made clothing that is rapidly produced by mass-market retailers in response to the latest and most popular trends. Fast fashion is literally designed to fall apart and is a huge contributor to a throwaway culture of overconsumption.
In an attempt to support a sustainable brand on a dull day during the lockdown, I decided to browse on Reformation. And while I could consider myself in the category for the financially privileged, I cringed at the amount of my basket. I wondered: “is this the price I am willing to pay to reduce my carbon footprint?” and I doubt I am the only one who has questioned this.
We have been so conditioned to the cost of fast fashion that the thought of spending the extra £££ on a single item of clothing seems, …. ridiculous. But perhaps it’s just what we need, just what I need. I baulked at the subtotal at the checkout and asked myself a simple question: “Do I really need this dress for £180?”
And it wasn’t the biggest hardship to click close on the tab and rest with ease, knowing that the £180 was still in my bank.
Since then, I have been deliberating on how I can practise sustainable fashion in a manner that doesn’t seem self-punishing. Nipping in those impulse buys like a tight bud is easy enough with due consideration and appreciation of my existing wardrobe.
So, let’s address the elephant in the room.
I’ve decided to want to build a sustainable wardrobe and transition away from fast fashion but where do I start? Should I get rid of everything in my closet and start over? What should I do with all the fast fashion currently hanging in my closet?
A huge part of creating a sustainable wardrobe is having items that I love and wear all the time, even if they’re fast fashion. Taking care of my clothes, no matter the brand is one of the first steps to building a sustainable wardrobe and is arguably the best thing to do with the fast-fashion already in my closet. The better care I take of my clothes the less they’ll need to be replaced — allowing me to buy fewer items overall, lower my consumption and thereby reducing my contribution to the environmental and social costs of fashion in the long-term
Here are small changes that I have made and become more aware of, since reading Saskia’s blog posts, to enhance the life of my closet. And they are tips that I now share with you:
Wash & Dry Your Clothes Properly.
- There’s a reason why your clothes have care/wash instructions. Carefully reading the wash instructions on clothes and washing accordingly makes a huge difference to their longevity.
- Go easy on the detergent. Am I the only one that would pour in a little ‘extra’ detergent thinking I was getting my clothes extra clean, and smelling extra fresh? Turns out that’s actually counterproductive. Excess soap can hold in dirt and make it harder for garments to get clean, leading to more washing, more water use, and more wear & tear on clothes. Too much soap also reduces a washer’s efficiency and dumps more pollutants back into local ecosystems. Who knew?
- Wash dark clothing inside-out. Darker fabrics can become faded in the wash, particularly as it rubs up against other garments. Always wash dark clothes inside-out to help them hold their colour.
- The 3/4 Rule. Even the most energy-efficient washer machines use 40 gallons of water. Reduce the number of loads you wash each week by only washing full loads. Another way to significantly save water is by not overloading the machine. Always fill your washing machine with 3/4 full clothes. Overloading doesn’t allow the items inside to get properly cleaned/rinsed and also leads to ripped clothes.
- Add vinegar. Adding a half cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle works to kill germs, whiten whites, and helps get rid of odours. White vinegar also naturally makes your clothes soft and fluffy and is an excellent alternative for dryer sheets that contain synthetic fragrances and other chemicals.
Repair damaged items.
How many items are hanging in your closet right now that you would wear but it’s missing a button, the spaghetti strap has broken, has a hole or the zipper broke? I can certainly think of a few. Learning how to do basic repairs on your clothing will not only make your clothes last longer but it’ll also save you a ton of money. Here is a beginner’s basic sewing course.
Store clothes properly.
- Fold heavy sweaters on a shelf. Heavy garments like wool sweaters can stretch out and lose their shape when you hang them in your closet. Your best bet is to actually stack them folded on a shelf and save your precious hanger space. (I learnt this the hard way.)
- Zip zippers. Sharp zipper teeth can easily catch on clothes and cause snags, rips, and tears. Make sure your zippers are zipped before you wash and put items away.
- Don’t overcrowd your closet. Cramming clothes together, not only wrinkles but wears down sensitive fabrics. This is also a great reason to go through your wardrobe and resell/donate to charity the clothes that you no longer use.
- Fold clothes along the seems. Folding your clothes is almost always better for clothing longevity. Make sure to fold along the seams to avoid unwanted creases and help your clothes maintain their shape.
Check your fast fashion at the door.
- Avoid making impulse or emotional purchases. (guilty.)
- Don’t buy things you don’t need just because it is cheap. (guilty again.)
- Only buy things that you can see yourself wearing multiple times with multiple outfits.
- The next time you are convinced you need to make a purchase, take inventory of what you already have in your closet under that category.
- Don’t throw away garments you no longer wear, resell on websites like Depop & eBay or donate to charity so that it finds a new wardrobe to live in.
And on that note, I am currently selling items that I no longer wear and currently collecting dust in my wardrobe. Check out my Depop shop here.
Do you have any tips for extending the life of your clothes? Join the conversation and share your tips in the comments below!