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Living life with good intention, loving with soul, and consuming with a conscience

Sustainable Sundays: Sustainable Fashion on a Budget

There's been a fair few fashion-related Sustainable Sunday posts on the blog over the last year or so and back in March 2018, I shared some brands and schemes on the high street to get more into sustainable fashion if you're on a budget and therefore can't contend with the price tag that is usually connected to sustainable, eco-friendly, ethical etc. brands. Since then though, it's come to my attention that actually? There's a lot of other ways you can get more sustainable with your wardrobe when you're on a budget because I've been there and done that.

So let's go through some easy transition tips and reminders that can serve you well throughout a sustainable wardrobe change and can help you stay on track whether you have 1p or £1000 to spend:

Use what you already own
It might sound obvious but, when we think of creating a sustainable wardrobe, we unfortunately go straight into consumer mode and start to think about all the new things we need to buy but *the* easiest way to get more sustainable is starting with what you already own. Of course having a good clear-out and Marie Kondo sort out can work wonders but you can also switch up items that you own so that you actually use them more. Dying items, changing buttons on a shirt to make it more on-trend, DIYing a pair of jeans into shorts... there's so many possibilities! Changing your own items so they get a second chance means they can be changed to suit your style or a new purpose and of course, its the cheapest way to get some "new" items in that wardrobe.

Take care of what you own
If you want your clothes to last, particularly if you're heading into a more slow fashion/sustainable lifestyle, it is paramount that you take care of your items. It's embarrassing to say but until fairly recently, I used to just toss all of my clothes in the wash and pay zero attention to the laundry instructions on their tags. Since gaining more and more sustainability within my wardrobe, I've learned to care for my clothing more and it has made the world of difference to keeping my wardrobe in good condition and helping me get the most out of my clothes. Some top tips I swear by are:
- re-wear items as much as you can before washing them
- try using refresher sprays between washes if you need to!
- always make sure to wear a top underneath a jumper (for example) to stop sweat contacting the jumper - you'll get some extra wears out of it that way!
- I said it before but: read the labels! They're there for a reason
- store clothes kindly too (don't hang up heavy knitwear as it will lose it's shape overtime, clean and polish leather goods - especially winter boots)
- put your clothes away. We are all guilty of throwing clothes around our rooms when getting dressed or never tidying away the clean laundry pile for ages, but your clothes all have a home. Use it and keep them in a suitable cool environment that is out of direct sunlight to really help them last

Create a capsule or seasonal wardrobe
As someone who has tried a capsule wardrobe numerous times, these either work for you or they simply don't. But when I first transitioned into slow fashion over 2 years ago, creating a capsule wardrobe in my head and in real life really helped me get the most out of the pieces I loved and already owned and helped me become a more conscious consumer from the start of this new lifestyle choice. It helped me gain some focus on what my personal style truly entails and thus helped me save money by avoiding out of character purchases and spur of the moment spending. I'll be honest and say that I've struggled to maintain a capsule wardrobe and loosely have a seasonal one instead, but it has still helped me to think twice about my investments and what new items I want to bring into my wardrobe.

Another great reason to try a capsule or seasonal wardrobe is it helps you truly appreciate what you own and shop your wardrobe! I actually really enjoy putting my thick winter knitwear away in storage in spring to revisit in autumn/winter as I forget which items I've stored and get a chance to fall back in love with them all over again. It also helps create a constant learning curve as I can analyse which items I didn't really wear or what I've grown out of wearing and enjoying when next winter rolls around.

Get capsule with your colours and silhouettes
If a capsule wardrobe sounds too restrictive, you can still use some of its philosophy to positively influence your spending and choices when buying new items. Looking beyond fast fashion trends and instead turn in on yourself and really get to grips with your personal style. For me, I've realised that blue denim, grey/white/tan knitwear, midi and maxi flowy dresses and 3/4 sleeve tops are my go-to's so if I'm debating buying a bright pink short dress, chances are I'm going to look at it in my wardrobe, 6 months later, and it will still be sat there unworn. Knowing that silhouettes, fits, and colours I gravitate towards helps me make positive decisions when getting something new but also helps making a switch to a sustainable wardrobe much more effective, readily used, and most importantly - loved!

Buy Secondhand
Another potentially obvious point, but sourcing items secondhand is an easy way to get more sustainable when budget is tight. Not only is it kinder on the purse or pocket, but there's so many items of clothing already out there that providing clothing with a second home can be kinder on our planet too. 26 billion pounds of clothing are sent to landfills each year and 95% of them could be reused or recycled. Those are some staggering statistics that have helped me fight off the fast fashion consumer demon temptation at times. The average person wears an item only 3 times before getting rid of it too which is a hard stat to get your head around when clothing is meant to be an investment; not disposable items.

Not only are there benefits in preventing clothing from going to landfill by buying secondhand, but it can also help lower carbon emissions and the waste caused in the creation of many items. For example, to make one single t-shirt, it takes 2720 litres of water - that's equivalent to what a person drinks over a 3-year period. Don't even get me started on denim because it's even worse! A fascinating statistic I saw not too long ago was that if every person in America bought one single secondhand clothing item in 2019 instead of it's new clothing alternative, it would save 6 billions pounds of carbon emissions. When you realise the impact fashion has on the planet, that new dress just really isn't worth it.

Invest when it's needed
Although we can all agree that sustainable fashion is often quite pricey, there are obvious good reasons for the price tags and also good reasons when the price tag shouldn't put you off. I used to very much be *that person* who was quantity over quality when it came to clothing but now I've realised that items I know I will wear for a long time should be investments so they can truly stand the test of time. I always recommend creating a small list of the sort of items you know you wear almost daily or will wear year in year out that are your timeless "staples" and investing in these items (things like black winter boots, a leather jacket, or a good fitting pair of jeans) by saving up for them. It might seem steep to pay out for these items at first, but because you're investing in quality items that are made well and from good materials, the cost-per-wear will become so low because they will stay in great condition for years to come.

Natural vs. synthetic fibres
Speaking of "good materials", researching and learning what fibres and materials are good to look for in your clothing can really help when you're on a budget. Knowing what to look for can be good for when you're buying secondhand and when you're investing so it's a win win situation no matter what. A lot of fast fashion items can be made with synthetic fibres such as polyester which can take anywhere between 20 to 200 years to decompose or nylon which takes 40-50 years to decompose in landfill. Natural fibres however - such as cotton, linen, bamboo etc. - have a much shorter decomposition cycle and therefore if they do unfortunately end up in landfill, they won't take as long to erode away. Natural fibre decomposition cycles look a little like this:
- linen: 2 weeks
- hemp: 2-4 weeks
- cotton: 5 months
- bamboo: 1 year

As you can see, these natural fibres break down much quicker and not only that, they are much easier to replace and grow in an agricultural sense. A lot of sustainable and ethical brands focus on using these natural fibres because of this and it makes the whole consumer cycle much more friendly for the environment. For instance, tencel has become a very popular material to use recently because not only is it quickly biodegradable as it is plant-derived, but it also requires less water and energy during it's manufacturing process than cotton does. Even if you're buying fast fashion secondhand, checking the labels and buying items that are 100% cotton, for example, is a small but smart move for a more sustainable wardrobe.

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1 comment

Maisie said...

I loveee this post!! I've not tried a capsule wardrobe as such, but I do have a very small wardrobe that I've been fine tuning for the past year or so now. Deffo going to give this post a share on my socials! x

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