How to Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle for a Greener Wardrobe
It’s an open secret: The fashion industry has been unkind to our world in a really big way. From exploiting textile workers across the globe, to using toxic chemicals as dyes, to prioritizing the use of cheap, synthetic fabrics (looking at you, polyester) that release hundreds of thousands of microplastic fibers into our water supplies when washed, many of our go-to clothing companies have built their legacies sans consideration for the environment or basic ethics.
In a culture that values massive wardrobes, ever-shifting trends, and — let’s face it — stuff in general, it can be tempting to ignore what’s happening behind the scenes in favor of fitting in with the status quo. But for those who see the fashion industry’s, erm, dirty laundry and seek to disconnect from the fast-fashion cycle, never fear: you can shop green, consume responsibly, and look great while you do it. Here are a few tips to help you quit fast fashion for good and learn to reduce, reuse, and recycle your clothing like a pro.
1. Take stock of what you already own.
The first step in achieving a greener wardrobe is realizing how much great clothing you already have to work with. If you’re like most people, there’s a pretty good chance your closet is overstuffed right now. But do you actually know what’s in there? Reminding yourself of what you already have to work with is a great way to start your journey as a conscientious consumer. Getting familiar with your current belongings keeps you from double-buying or overstocking on similar styles. Plus, taking inventory offers a prime opportunity to embrace your inner Marie Kondo and donate any clothing that doesn’t work with your current lifestyle.
2. Repair before you replace.
Have you ever cast aside a well-loved sweater over a few snags? Or tossed your favorite jeans because they were torn? More often than not, flaws like these can be repaired with relative ease. In fact, patching and mending are simple fixes that your mom (or Youtube) could probably teach you in 20 minutes or less. Taking a few moments to repair a garment keeps it in your rotation — and out of the landfill. Extending the life of your clothing is crucial if you want to quit fast fashion for good.
3. Learn to tailor your clothes (or find someone who can).
Any fashionista worth their salt can tell you that the best looks start with a great fit. If your closet is fully stocked with pieces you almost love, ask yourself: what could you change to make them better? Many common fit issues can be resolved in just a few minutes if you have a sewing machine and a basic understanding of tailoring. If you’re looking for a new hobby, there are tons of online courses and tutorials that can teach you to alter your own clothing. If you’re pressed for time or just not that interested in sewing, connect with a local tailor who can help transform and update your current wardrobe.
4. Give your threads a second life.
Refashioning is a great way to extend the life of a garment. This can be as basic or as fun as you want it to be. Hem frayed jeans into capris or cuffs. Slice a crew neckline into a scoop or deep V. Stitch felted polka dots onto basic tops to cover holes and add a fun, decorative pop of color. Turn an old maxi dress into a new, shorter skirt. Whatever makes sense for your style! (Psst… For some redesign inspiration, check out Episode 113 of the Love to Sew podcast.)
5. Be intentional with your purchases.
One of the biggest moves you can make as you quit fast fashion? Just. Buy. Less. Avoid impulse purchases in favor of shopping when you truly need (or at the very least, truly love) a particular piece of clothing. Steer clear of malls and major retailers in favor of thrift stores or consignment shops. Try to choose timeless pieces that aren’t likely to go out of fashion in a matter of weeks, and opt for natural fabrics that won’t contain microplastics/will break down over time.
6. Remember the fourth R of sustainability: Rot.
As hard as it can be to admit, even our favorite garments can only be repaired, upcycled, and refashioned so many times. When your clothes have seen better days, remember that natural fabrics can be composted. Cut your cotton, hemp, linen, ramie, or silk fabrics into small pieces, and toss them into your compost pile. As they say: ashes to ashes, dust to dust.