How to build an ethical and sustainable wardrobe: my journey and tips

To mark the start of the #fashionrevolution campaign, which runs from the 23rd to 29th of April, I decided to dedicate the content of my blog and social media to eco-fashion and ethical wear exclusively. I’ve slowly been incorporating more fashion posts. Although the prime focus remains green beauty and wellness, I have been for a few years transitioning towards a fully sustainable closet. It has not been simple hence why I thought I’d share my experience and some tips I learned along the way.

Step 1: The Purge

Take a deep look at your existing wardrobe and donate/recycle EVERYTHING you don’t need/want.

Before I even shopped for organic and ethical brands, I went through a massive closet cleaning. Massive is the accurate word: I spent two hours going through everything and let go of shirts/tees/jeans/shoes/bags that I don’t wear or wear sporadically. I ended up with a couple of bags ready to be donated and recycled. I cleaned 2/3rd of my closet, thus keeping it quite minimalistic.

Step 2: The Research

Take the time to educate yourself before making any new purchases. Find out what fabrics, brands, and style fit your esthetics.

After the purge, I went through a consequent time of research, looking for brands and stores that fit my style. This time also helped me reevaluate my taste in fashion and have a deeper understanding of what I really look for in a piece of clothing. During that time, I enjoyed Sustainably Chic‘s outstanding brand repertoire and lookbooks, Beautycalypse‘s highly informative articles on eco-fashion and Rainbowfeetblog‘s amazing eco pieces from her wardrobe. Instagram is also an invaluable resource. To this day, this is how I find new ethical labels. I’ve created a list of brands whose collection I like and keep it updated.

Step 3: The Slow Incorporation (think before you shop)

It will save you money and break this cycle of impulse shopping.

Once I found the brands that aligned with my style, I wrote down which pieces were lacking in my wardrobe. I wanted to incorporate high-quality items with natural/organic fabrics. I used to have rashes from certain clothes, but since switching to natural materials, I’ve seen an improvement in my skin. To avoid falling into a bulk-buying habit, start by purchasing clothes, one by one. No haul and no more “I’ll buy this in double in case it is sold out”.

TIPS

Take an hour or two just going through your entire closet and ask yourself these questions for every clothes and accessory. The point is to be utterly honest with yourself during the process otherwise you won’t be able to clear out your wardrobe.
  1. How often do I wear it? If you can only remember a few times, then it’s not something you’ll miss wearing.
  2. Am I waiting for a specific occasion to wear this? If the answer is yes, be assured that it will stay unworn in your closet. Unless you create the occasion to wear it, it is just taking more space in your closet.
  3. Does it hold a sentimental value? I kept a scarf which belonged to my late grandma, and of course, items that remind you of loved ones are out of this whole clear-out process. They are special.
  4. Does it make me feel/look good? I was guilty of buying pieces which would not properly suit me but I’d disregard it for they looked super cool. Also went through the “I need to lose a couple of pounds and it will fit like a glove” phase. NO!  Get something that fits you right now.
It is more than acceptable to wear the same outfit a multitude of times.

Say you’re invited to a couple of formal occasions, such as weddings, why not wear something on repeat? Buying a new outfit each time you’re invited to an event, especially when you know you won’t use it frequently, is less sustainable.

Relish in variety.

If you have a couple of pieces that look highly similar, keep your favorite(s) and get rid of the rest. Sometimes we like a specific pattern or style but there’s a possibility we grow out of love for it.

On a tight budget? Here are a couple solutions.

Go easy on the purge, if you know that you won’t be able to incorporate ethical pieces as quickly, there’s no need to rush clearing out your closet. You should do it progressively.
Buy second-hand  (via eBay/depop/charity/thrift shops). Second-hand fashion is sustainable fashion.
Consider the organic section of your local high-street shops. C&A and H&M offer underwear and basics in organic cotton. Whilst I do not consider these brands fitting the ethical standards, their prices for undies and basics are unbeatable as of now.
Wait for sales – it is worth it.  I was seriously impressed by the amazing sales of eco brands. When you spot a piece you love, save it or pin it and wait until you see a deal. Sometimes it can be sold out but usually, you’ll be able to purchase them on sales. 60% of my wardrobe items were bought at a discounted price. If you live in a big city, look out for the stock/warehouse sales. People Tree, for instance, has incredible offers.

Take care of your things. 

You’ll see for yourself, the quality of eco-friendly and sustainable brands is excellent. You’ll naturally be inclined to take better care of the clothes you have. Liz’s little tip: if you are prone to staining your clothes, Nellie’s all natural wow stick stain remover is a godsend.

Enjoy yourself.

Just like your green beauty journey, the transition towards a sustainable wardrobe should remain a source of excitement and not of stress. Take it as an opportunity to truly find yourself style-wise. Who you are, what you like, how you wish to show yourself to the world, instead of jumping from one trend to another.

Eco-fashion is part of leading an overall kinder and more ethical lifestyle, thus go at your own rhythm.
Last but not least: Buy less, love more. (which is also the motto of Beauty Heroes)
 It is wonderful to support ethical brands, but ultimately it is also about avoiding to fall into reckless consumerism again. Go for pieces you know you’ll wear which won’t just sit pretty in your closet. 

What do you think about Fashion Revolution? What does sustainable fashion mean to you?

Take care,

Liz

Green hunter, wellness junkie and pun maker on the website, I'm on a journey towards a kinder and healthier life. @lizthegreenspirit on Instagram.

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