The fashion industry is the 2nd largest pollutant of water on the planet. It produces highly toxic waste and consumes vast amounts of fossil fuel both in the process of creating the raw materials and during the production phases.
Our wardrobes are full of clothes that we rarely wear. Many of the fast fashion items sent to charity shops cannot be resold as are in such poor condition after only a handful of washes and wears. Charities export excess poor quality clothes to underprivileged countries but many are now refusing to accept donations as it is ruining their own local textile industry and craft. The dirty side of fashion doesn’t end there. When we dispose of clothes they inevitably end up in landfill somewhere around the world with synthetic fabrics and components such as zips taking centuries to biodegrade.
We often purchase clothes because we love the colour, how it looks in a picture, or on someone else. But unless we know what truly makes us feel joyful when we wear it, it is often a short-lived satisfaction. A few wears and you find yourself thinking I’m not sure why I bought this? Or as often happens, we buy something because we really like it at the time but it matches very little in our existing wardrobe and it is too hard to pair and put into an outfit. I see both of these things happen all the time in my one to one consultations.
How do we stop this cycle of buying thinking it’s right for us, only to fall out of love with it long before it has expired its usefulness? How can we resist purchasing more? It’s not just the influence of the fashion marketing machines coaxing us to ‘buy, buy, buy’. If we don’t truly love our purchases, once the initial retail therapy high has worn off, we’ll find ourselves searching for and buying yet more of those feel-good items, uttering the classic line, "I have a wardrobe full of clothes yet still have nothing to wear…" It’s like eating stacks of unhealthy snack foods when what you should do, is take the time and effort to eat a proper balanced, nutritious meal.
Fashion and style are meant to be about personal expression and having fun, not being a slave to making more purchases. Instead of shopping on a whim why not invest in your long-term wardrobe to create several capsule collections that accurately reflects who you are. Clothes and accessories that make you feel good on the inside and look amazing on the outside.
Here are five tips on reducing what you consume and building a wardrobe you love:
1. Before you buy ask yourself how many ways can I already think of wearing it?
If you can’t pair it up in your mind’s eye chances are you won’t be able to do it later either. You need to be able to think of at least two ways of combining it with items you already have. Otherwise, you are in danger of buying something else just to wear with that piece and the cycle continues.
2. Where will you wear it?
We often make a purchase believing we will be in that situation/environment in the future. If we go on ‘that’ trip, if I lose some weight, if I tone up my arms, if I go on a date with, if I get asked to go out to…so not events or scenarios that are already actually happening in our lives. I’m not saying we can only have purchases that are for immediate use, it’s a balance check. If you are buying clothes for a lifestyle that isn’t your reality then there is a strong chance those clothes are going to go unworn. If they tick the box form Number 1 above then you will work them into your existing lifestyle.
3. A bargain is only a bargain if you actually need it.
Impulse purchases and sale buys, unless you have identified a gap in your wardrobe can become expensive mistakes. If you resist the temptation to buy those discounted or special deal offers with price point being the only driver in the decision-making process, you can save the money instead. Many small ‘cheap’ purchases over a year can add up and enable you to purchase something that is possibly of higher value than you would normally. Now that’s something worth aspiring to! I’ve seen so many things that are hanging in wardrobes waiting to be worn because they haven’t been taken for an essential alteration. Can you afford to alter the bargain purchase, time wise or financially? If the answer is no, it’s no longer a bargain, it’s wasteful.
4. Get to know your own style.
Take the time to work out which styles work best for you. Make your Pinterest style board, at the start of the season, for work, a wedding guest outfit etc. Once you know what you want your overall look to be, then take the time to learn which shapes, styles and colours of garments within that theme are actually best for your unique body and personality. When we know which clothes and accessories work best for us, deciding what to wear becomes much simpler and simply joyful.
5. Plan your purchases ahead of time.
Finally, knowing what is missing from your wardrobe before you go shopping as opposed to shopping hoping to find something to wear. Listing out what you actually need keeps you focused whilst shopping and you are well on your way to reducing the number of clothes you consume. I call it purposeful shopping!
When we make better buying decisions we can all play our part in making fashion more sustainable. Buy right first time, wear with love often.