Transitioning to Sustainable Fashion


A seemingly frivolous topic but we all wear clothes and we all have a mixture of emotions connected to them.

Some of us have too many and have nowhere to store them.

Some of us have gained weight and feel self-conscious and uncomfortable in them.

Some of us are struggling with money and our clothes are starting to look worn and old but we can’t afford to replace them.

Some of us buy clothes to make us feel better.

Some of us express our personalities through our clothes.

Some of us are ashamed of the amount of clothes we buy.

Some of us are getting into debt to buy clothes to look like we are richer than we are.

Some of us feel too self-conscious to wear the clothes we want.

I am or have been in a lot of those scenarios and I know I am not alone.

By reflecting on this element of your life and your behaviour as a consumer and making a few positives changes, you can make a very real difference. Cultivating more sustainable fashion habits will benefit your pocket and the planet.

Reducing the clutter in your wardrobe can also help to reduce your overall stress levels.

Triple win!

First, take stock.

As with any changes, it’s always a good idea to look at the current situation before taking any huge action.

You want a clear picture of where you’re at and that will help you identify areas to work on.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the number of clothes you have, spring is the perfect time to cull your wardrobe!

Get everything out and pile it all in one place, Marie Kondo style, and sort it into categories:

  1. Keep – pretty self-explanatory! These are the clothes you love to wear often.
  2. Repair – many items in your wardrobe can be revived by fixing a zipper, letting a seam out or having the hem taken up. About once a year, I go through my wardrobe and see if there is anything that needs repairing.
  3. Sell – make some extra money by selling things with tags that you are never going to wear or some of your more high-end items that will get a good resale price on eBay, Schpock or Facebook Marketplace.
  4. Donate – for clothes that are in great condition, consider donating them to a charity shop where they can be resold. For things like winter coats and warm clothes, you might want to donate those to your local homeless centre. For torn or unwearable clothes, you may be able to donate them to animal shelters where they can be used as bedding for the animals. When in doubt, give the charity a call to see what they can accept.
  5. Recycle – for anything you can’t donate, find a local organisation that can properly recycle them like Terracycle.

Get rid of anything that doesn’t fit and/or doesn’t make you feel great. You deserve to feel amazing in your clothes!

Find a uniform

A lot of highly successful people have a ‘uniform’ that they wear every day. Mark Zuckerberg wears a grey t-shirt and jeans. Steve Jobs always wore black turtleneck and jeans. Arianna Huffington is a huge advocate for work uniforms and ‘repeating’ outfits.

If you find deciding what to wear in the morning causes you stress or you just can’t be bothered with the extra steps, a work uniform is a great option. (And if you’re lazy like me, you might also have a non-work uniform!).

There is a lot to say for creating a capsule wardrobe of good quality basics that last a long time and fit well.

You have one less decision to make in the morning – during his presidency, Obama said that he would only wear blue or grey suits because “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinise yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

You are wearing something that is comfortable, smart and fits you well – there is nothing more distracting during the workday than a piece of clothing that is too tight or just doesn’t hang right!

Think about your favourite outfit to wear to an important meeting and work from there. Incorporate the colours you love, the silhouette that makes you feel the most kick-ass and you can’t go wrong.

For more on creating a capsule wardrobe, check out Project 333.

Add your personal style

Simple, basic and capsule might sound kinda boring but they really don’t have to be!

You can make any outfit more interesting with your choice of accessory(ies). Lipstick, jewellery, sunglasses, glasses, hair accessories, nail polish.

I LOVE using Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration.

Slow fashion

Last year, I started seriously thinking about the impact our fashion habits have on our mental health, our finances and the planet. After watching The True Cost on Netflix, I couldn’t be willfully ignorant any more and I knew that I needed much more sustainable habits, both for my bank balance and for the environment. And as a proud (loud!) feminist, I also knew that the primarily female garment industry was exploiting women in low-income countries. 1 in 6 of the world’s workers are employed in the fashion industry and around 80% of those workers are female.

In January 2019, I finally made the choice not to buy any more fast fashion.

If I want or need a new item of clothing, I first look in charity shops. There are so many in the UK! As well as tons of great charity shops on the high streets, Oxfam and Amnesty International have also online second-hand shops which are great. I got a pair of vintage Levis for around £25 on the Oxfam website last year and I live in them!

When buying new clothes, have a list of questions you ask yourself:

  • Is this an ethical brand?
    • I use an app, Good On You, which rates brands on their Labour, Environmental and Animal policies.
  • Is this item going to last a long time?
  • What fabric is this item made from and can it be recycled?
  • Can I come up with at least three outfits for it?
  • How can I make some extra money to pay for it?
  • When I feel the impulse to buy something, I wait 30 days to see if I still want it. Instagram makes EVERYTHING look good and half the time, I totally forget.

Consider the carbon footprint

Until I gave it more thought, I exclusively shopped online. I’ve always hated going into shops. The changing rooms suck and I usually feel gross trying stuff on.

But, the delivery has a big carbon footprint so I hereby declare that I will no longer order anything online that I can buy in a physical shop! Feel free to call me out if you see me slip up.

Be aware of “greenwashing”

Companies are aware of the emerging demand for more environmentally friendly and ethically sourced goods.

Many will throw in terms like ‘sustainable’, ‘ethical’ and ‘vegan’ into their marketing without any transparency.

I’ve found Good on You to be such a great resource for sorting through the bullshit.

To sum up, the wise words of Vivienne Westwood;

Buy less, choose well, make it last.

Read: Project 333

Listen: Living Prana Vida “How to Shop Sustainable and Ethical Fashion with Aditi Mayer”

Download: Good On You app

Follow: @bemorewithless @fash_rev

Published by leannemcnulty

Currently in London, working as a corporate fundraising manager at a literacy charity. I have always been interested in volunteering, the charity sector and development work. I have taken part in projects in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Australia and the UK. I am also interested in travel, photography, yoga, reading, music, dancing, cooking (and eating!).

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