How to Build a Sustainable Wardrobe

Fast fashion. A phrase which seems to be making the rounds lately and is playing on a lot of people’s minds. If you’re reading this post, then you probably already know what fast fashion is and you want to make a change. However, if you don’t know what the heck fast fashion is all about, then let me give you a quick overview.

Once upon a time, fashion brands would bring out a collection for Spring/Summer and another for Autumn/Winter. Now, we are being bombarded with weekly, sometimes daily changes in trends and with it a new line of clothes to choose from.

So? What’s the big deal?

The problem with this, is that if trends are changing so rapidly, retailers need to keep up. Garments need to be made quickly and cheaply in order to keep up with demand. The reality is, clothes on the high street are the cheapest than they have ever been before, but what is the true cost?

In order to make clothes that can be sold at low prices, factories need to find ways to cut back on production costs. This usually means cheap materials that aren’t designed to last, low wage workers in terrible conditions and a shocking impact on the environment.

As a result, we no longer buy clothes that we have an invested emotional connection with. Instead of buying something that we love, we buy clothes that are cheap and that we know we will probably dispose of after a few wears. In fact, clothes on the high street are only worn on average 7 times before being chucked away.

It’s a never-ending cycle. We buy cheap clothes, wear them a few times, throw them out or give them to charity and then replace them with the next “big trend”.

But what can you do about it?

This is where sustainable fashion comes in. Sustainable fashion (or ethical fashion as it’s sometimes called) is all about picking quality over quantity. It’s about choosing pieces that you know you’ll want to wear again and again.

Now a lot of people will be thinking at this point that they won’t be able to afford sustainable clothing or that they’ll have to sacrifice their personal style.

I beg to differ.

Here are some super-simple-easy-peasy ways of building a sustainable wardrobe that won’t drain you of personal style OR your bank account.


Take a look at what you already own

 Take everything out of your wardrobe and re-evaluate what you’ve already got. By emptying your wardrobe, you’re giving yourself a ‘blank canvas’ to work with. Sort your clothes out into three piles:


  1. I absolutely LOVE this and want it back in my wardrobe
  2. I’m not sure about this…
  3. I don’t like this / I no longer wear this anymore


With that sorted, go ahead and put all of the clothes in pile one back into your wardrobe. This should leave you with a space full of clothes you adore and will allow you to clearly see what you already have and what you’re lacking.

Next, pack all of the clothes in pile two away into a storage box or bag, and put it somewhere other from your wardrobe. By doing this, you’ll be able to see whether you’ll actually miss these items because you like wearing them or whether you just want to keep them for emotional reasons.

If over the next 6 months you miss something packed away and want to wear it, then great! Dig it out of storage and put it back in your wardrobe. If, however there are clothes in there that you forget about/don’t wear within 6 months, then it’s safe to say that you won’t miss them in the future.

Finally, you can donate or sell all of the clothes in pile three. Easy.


Buy second-hand clothing

 Most people don’t realise that buying second-hand clothes is a sustainable way of buying fashion. Charity shops, vintage stores; heck even eBay and Depop, are all great sources for getting the style you want second-hand.

Buying second-hand means that not only are you getting the style you want at a great price, but you’re buying clothes already in circulation, limiting the need to always buy brand new pieces. You’re also extending the life that a piece of clothing has by getting it second-hand. Shockingly, nearly three-fifths of all clothing produced ends up in incinerators or landfills within a year of being made.

A lot of people come to the conclusion that if you buy clothes second-hand or from a charity shop, then you’re going to have to sacrifice style. This is simply not the case; you just have to know where to look!


Buy from ethical brands

Being someone who was addicted to shopping on the high street, buying clothes from somewhere other than my five top big chain stores felt a bit alien. But it’s true; there are loads of ethical and sustainable clothing brands out there.

These brands make it their mission to make clothes that don’t come at a ‘hidden’ cost. Often, they use good fabrics, pay their workers a decent living wage and are kind to the environment.

Now if you’re scratching your head and wondering how you’re supposed to know which brands are ethical and which aren’t, then there are loads of great places that will help you out.

Websites such as give alphabetical ratings to a truck-load of different brands, as well as some of the high-street favourites which makes for an interesting read. Brands are given a rank based on a number of different criteria’s, such as damage to the environment and workers’ conditions.

Another favourite of mine is an app called Good On You which you can download. This app lets you search for ethical brands and helps you to discover some that you might not have heard of before. They also get ranked on different areas such as labour and environment, advising you as to whether they’re a great brand to shop with, or whether you should stay away!


Choose quality over quantity

 One of the biggest problems that fast fashion has created, is that as consumers we now feel like we NEED to have a wardrobe packed full of clothes to be stylish. We have so much choice and at such cheap prices, that we buy multiple versions of stuff we already have. Let’s face it, how many different variations of ripped jeans do you actually need?

When building your sustainable wardrobe, you need to re-train your mind-set in a way. Before each purchase, ask yourself a few questions:


  1. Do I actually need this?
  2. Do I already own something similar to this?
  3. Will I still want to wear this in a few years?


The thing is, if you buy less clothes that are of better quality and that are timeless, then you’re going to end up building a collection of clothes that you love. This will mean that you’re less likely to open your wardrobe in the morning and get that dreaded “I have nothing to wear.” feeling. I talked about the idea of buying less and how it can help you define your style in a previous post, which you can read here.

Building a sustainable wardrobe is a fantastic and rewarding journey. Are you thinking about building a sustainable wardrobe? Do you already have a sustainable wardrobe and have some more tips to share? I’d love to hear your thoughts!



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