We've got eight great tips to help you build a sustainable wardrobe that you can wear for years
It’s hard to fight the “wear once and toss” mentality that is associated with the fashion industry. I know I used to live for it. Buying a specific outfit for a night out, an event or "just because" is a thrilling feeling—for a moment.
And I know I’m not alone in that spending behaviour. On average, clothing gets worn only seven times before being tossed—and 80 billion pieces of clothing are brought annuallly.
Not only is this unnecessary consumerism bad for our environment, but it also chips away at our finances and we often don't even notice it's happening. What’s a $5 shirt 10 times over? Well, it can add up pretty quickly.
Alternatively, creating an evergreen, minimalist or capsule wardrobe can help reduce spending and waste, but it takes rethinking the way we consume clothing. Here's how.
1. Take stock of your current wardrobe
Creating an evergreen wardrobe doesn’t mean tossing everything you own and starting over. It starts with evaluating what you wear the most often, keeping a list and trying to pair new pieces with those staple items. That means wearing these pieces when you go shopping and making sure anything you buy isn’t a “stand-alone” piece.
2. Select for your lifestyle
Do you dress casually or formally for work? Do you need to split your wardrobe into work, play and lounge? It’s important to acknowledge your lifestyle and know not only what you reach for, but also which pieces are essential and consider if any of them are versatile enough to work for multiple scenarios. Cut and paste from there.
3. Purchase fewer seasonal wardrobe pieces
This is something I had to unlearn: we don’t need an entire new wardrobe for each season. We can have one static wardrobe and wear winter pieces over our summer ones. I love wearing shorts with tights, dresses over turtlenecks and pretty much anything that has an '80 or '90s vibe. Not only is it in style, but it’ll limit your spending on those extra wardrobe pieces. It’s perfectly OK to have two staple sweaters that you rotate with existing pieces.
4. Repeat outfits are acceptable
Another thing I had to unlearn: let’s get it out of our heads that we can’t repeat outfits. You can absolutely rock the same look all week with a twist. The beauty is we don’t need to be washing our clothes as often as we do. Most polyester and synthetic fibres have to be washed often because they retain smell, but almost every natural fabric can go a while without being washed. I wash my linen pieces once a year and spot wash if they get stains. Maybe add a lavender sachet or spray to freshen your clothes, and then go ahead and throw that garment on again the next day over a different outfit.
5. Layer, layer, layer
There are some really fun layering ideas out there. TikTok is amazing for outfit inspiration and I’ve discovered a lot of great looks on this video-sharing social network. T-shirts over dresses (tucked into belts), sweaters under looser-fitting dresses—you name it, you can layer it!
6. Buy quality pieces
I find that the more I spend on one item, the less I spend in the long run. Understandably, this can be challenging depending on your financial situation. It’s easy to purchase lower-priced pieces, but it’s hard to maintain inexpensive pieces for a long time. There are some awesome options for those who want to shop sustainably on a budget, like Afterpay, which allows you to buy the piece over the course of a few months with a payment plan. You can also keep inexpensive pieces alive longer by washing them gently and hanging them to dry to maintain their life (which we should do for most of our clothes anyway).
7. Mend your pieces
We tend to buy new when we outgrow things, but what about mending our pieces? Take a sewing class or bring the garment to your local seamstress and get that favourite shirt or dress taken it or let out for your current size. Bodies change and it’s OK to alter a piece to ebb and flow with those changes through the years.
8. Sharing is caring
When all else fails, borrow. We don’t all have gala dresses and Halloween costumes at the back of our closets, but our friends might. Message them and see if you can borrow something before making a purchase. Maybe you love it and invest in your own later on—or you don’t, and you’ve saved some money in the meantime. Sometimes we get the itch to wear a “one and done” piece, and borrowing is a great way to experience the thrill of a new outfit without compromising our evergreen wardrobe.