You don’t need to open your wallet and go shopping every time there’s an occasion. In fact, the more sustainable you make your wardrobe, the more budget-friendly it will become in the long term. Here’s how.
It’s no secret that the contemporary fashion industry has a significant impact on the environment. According to the numbers from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), fashion production is responsible for up to ten percent of all human-caused carbon emissions — which is more than the emissions caused by the international flight and maritime industries combined. The World Resources Institute (WRI) also holds the fashion industry accountable for 20 percent of industrial wastewater pollution.
Knowing how important it is to balance your everyday sartorial needs with the well-being of the planet, it’s worth asking yourself what you can do to dress more sustainably. One way to do so is to resist “fast-fashion” consumerism — or the habit of quickly populating your wardrobe with lots of clothing items that you may not end up using anyway. Rejecting the consumption-heavy approach to buying clothes will allow you to do two good things at the same time: it can save money that can be spent on other needs, and it can reduce the amount of clothing waste you introduce to the waste stream.
Budget-friendly sustainable fashion
Below are some money-saving tips for when you shop hosiery, tights, leggings, plain tees, and other clothing basics for your sustainable wardrobe. Exercise good stewardship over both the environment and your daily budget by adopting these approaches toward your clothes.
Determine what clothing suits you best
Being more sustainable about your wardrobe can start with the simple question of whether you should buy something or not. In the past, you may have taken a chance on a piece of clothing that you weren’t sure would fit you the right way, only to be dissatisfied and eventually put it in your discard pile. But the more intentional you are about clothes that you truly want to wear, as well as clothes you’re confident will look good on you, the fewer clothes you’ll end up spending needlessly on — which is good for both the environment and your wallet.
Luckily, given the tools and technologies available today, it’s much easier to evaluate your purchasing decisions for clothes before you actually make them. For example, some brands have virtual fitting room apps or website features that allow you to see whether a piece of clothing you’re interested in will suit you or look good with your body type or complexion. If you can try these before buying new clothing, do so; it may be one of the best things you’ll do for your evolving wardrobe.
Seek out affordable sustainable clothing brands
Make an effort to support clothing brands that are transparent about how they source and treat their fabrics. Take note of brands that uphold “green” or environmentally-friendly manufacturing practices, like using textiles made out of partially recycled materials. You can also join communities or register for apps that aggregate user ratings for fashion brands, based on what users know of their social and environmental impact.
Knowing which brands to support may help you whittle down your clothing purchases. You’ll likely end up spending less and spending more consciously on clothing, which is a good turnout if you want to take the more sustainable route.
Buy clothes with high re-wearing or resale value
If you must buy clothes, opt for items you know you’ll be able to wear often. Being picky about fabric type and quality may demand that you spend a little more upfront, but that beats needing to buy the same clothing item over and over because the previous item gave out after a few wears.
To ensure that your clothes don’t simply end up occupying space in your closet, get the kind that you can realistically see yourself wearing more than once. Buy clothing in classic and evergreen styles, as well as styles that resonate with your personal style preferences. And, get your money’s worth on your clothes by keeping them wearable and washing, drying, and repairing them properly.
At some point, you’ll come up with a small wardrobe that’s full of versatile, consistently wearable pieces. The longer you can depend on these, the more money you save, and the less clothing waste you generate.
Likewise, these higher-end items will retain their resale value so you can sell them down the line if your wardrobe does need a refresh.
Acquire new clothes with a minimal or zero-dollar budget
You will likely need to acquire new clothing again in the not-so-distant future, but you don’t always have to spend money to do so. Why not try zero-dollar, zero-waste methods for augmenting your wardrobe? You can do a clothing swap with your friends, trade items in a zero-waste social media community, or simply share specific clothing pieces with a family member or trusted friend.
Other methods that won’t require you to spend big bucks are shopping at secondhand stores, shopping at thrift stores, or shopping at flea markets. Instead of supporting markets that churn out lots of new clothes in a resource-heavy manner, make do with preloved clothes that can serve the same purpose.
Related on Ethos: