Clothes are practical: We need clothes to stay warm and protect us from the weather. Clothes are also cultural: We expect people to cover up certain body parts, and most workplaces have some kind of dress code. Why a lot of dress codes promote uncomfortable and expensive clothes is totally beyond me. And, clothes are fashionable: We must look good. In fact, a lot of companies work with 52 fashion seasons – that’s a new collection each week. Each week! In spite of all these more or less reasonable expectations in terms of clothes, I still argue that sustainable and affordable clothes are within everyone’s reach.
As a teenager, I looved clothes. Or rather, I probably loved buying new clothes more than I actually loved having them. I did not consider whether I needed them (although I probably convinced myself that I needed all of them). I did not consider the sustainability of the materials they were made from, nor who made them. And I did not care that I spent all my money on them.
Today, I still like clothes, but I don’t love them. I certainly don’t like buying them, ugh. Why did I ever enjoy all the hustle and bustle of shopping? I do love browsing through second hand stores, though. Especially in the smaller city where I’m from, because it is much cheaper than in Copenhagen – and I don’t like wasting money on clothes (although this still happens – I am NOT perfect). I also care a lot more about how my clothes are manufactured.
To do’s of sustainable and affordable clothes
In my own personal journey towards becoming a more mindful consumer of clothes, the following are the best pieces of advice that I have assembled along the way.
1. Plan for sustainable and affordable clothes shopping
Plan your purchases and curb spontaneous spending. If you know now that you are going to need a new winter jacket, write it down somewhere. Then you will have the coming months to look for and find a jacket that best suits your needs. Planning really helps you make good purchases. This summer, I needed a new pair of sandals (I did not have any left), but did not plan in advance. This lead to me buying a pair last minute, not spending time considering my options. The sandals broke within a few weeks – not a very sustainable or practical choice. Planning is key!
2. Only buy what you actually need
This should be pretty self-explanatory, but clearly it isn’t (just look at my example from when I was a teenager). I see people buying clothes they don’t need all the time. Expensive clothes too. And I get it: It’s nice to have options. But it’s even better to have fewer, but better options. If you only (or primarily) buy items you actually need and reeeally like (again: planning), your wardrobe will be golden. Everything will be favourites. I’m not quite there yet myself, but this is definitely my goal.
Only buying what you actually need also reduces demand for clothes. By the ‘demand and supply’ rule, this should lower production and as such reduce the huge environmental impact of the fashion industry.
3. Buy sustainable and affordable clothes in second hand stores
Buying clothes in second hand stores is an awesome way to get sustainable and affordable clothes. You can find unique, beautiful items at good prices, often of great quality too. And by buying second hand instead of buying new, you reduce your impact on the planet like this *fingers snap*.
4. Buy good quality materials
Good quality materials are more expensive, but they also last longer. I recently bought a pair of high heeled boots for almost €400. Ouch! Mind you, I did consider this purchase for several months before taking action. I decided to buy because the brand makes high quality heels that are beautiful and comfortable at the same time (I know, right?). It is also a brand that does not do fast fashion, but produces mindfully. So to me, these boots are the more sustainable and – in the long term – more affordable choice.
5. Take care of your clothes so they last
Sustainability and affordability really go hand in hand when it comes to taking care of your clothes. Make sure to wash at low temperatures, not too often (some sweaters might just need to be aired out) and air dry rather than tumble dry. This is cheaper and more gentle on your clothes, which will make them last longer and save you from having to buy new ones.
6. Donate clothes you don’t want
A lot of people have a bunch of clothes at home that they rarely or never use. I have cleaned out my closet several times, but I know I still have clothes that I don’t use a lot. It’s a process, but I’m closer to only having favourite items that I use a lot. Those items of clothes that I don’t want to wear anymore, but that are in good condition, I donate to charity/second hand stores. The clothes that are not good enough to be worn, I donate to charities that repurpose the fabric. Although this doesn’t save me any money, it’s way more sustainable than throwing away the clothes, as it can bring joy to others.
What are your best tips?
I am sure all of you out there have your own awesome tips on how to make conscious choices when it comes to your wardrobe. Please share them in a comment – I would love to be inspired. If you have any other comments or questions, let me know and I’ll get back to you!
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