Progress Over Perfection: 3 Small Ways to Live More Sustainably, Part 3
Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash
Continuing from part two of my mini blog series on how to live more sustainably, part of buying less stuff and living more sustainably is to shop your own closet. Fast fashion and our western need to constantly have new clothes is having dire consequences on our planet, even if we can’t see the impact directly. The global south is being bombarded by discarded garments and textiles. Countries like Chile and Ghana are just two examples of places that are being negatively impacted by western waste. One way that we as consumers can help is to continue using and properly caring for the items we already have.
Create new outfits from pieces you already have.
Many of us already have closets overflowing with barely worn items. I myself am guilty of having multiple pieces that I have never worn, that have been in my closet for years, some even with the tags still on. But recently, I have been challenging myself to pull things that I don’t normally wear, so I can make new looks without buying more clothing. For one month, try each week to incorporate one or two under worn items into your rotation. If you struggle with styling yourself, ask a fashionable friend or family member to help you pick out some outfits. There are also stylists who specialize in this type of service, like The Considerary.*
Learn proper care methods
An important part of shopping your own closet is taking care of those items in your closet. To properly care for your clothing, start with reading the fiber content and care labels. The care instructions are a good guide and should at a minimum, be followed. When in doubt, or when I have something I want to keep in peak condition, I wash that item separately or 2 to 3 similar items, in cold water on the delicate cycle and then I allow the garment to air dry on a drying rack.
Another trick I use to extend the life of my clothing is to steam clean garments that have had minimal wear and aren’t super dirty, like a skirt that I only wore out to dinner or a sweater I wore when sitting inside all day, not sweating. Using a handheld garment steamer, I will steam the entire garment for a minimum of 5 minutes, heavily focusing on the areas with the most skin to skin contact. On tops and dresses this is the neckline, the underarms, and the sleeve hems. On skirts or pants, this is the waistband and the back, where you sit. Not only does the steam help refresh your lightly worn garments by killing bacteria, but it also removes wrinkles. I highly recommend investing in a handheld steam cleaner to anyone who is interested in extending the life of their clothes.
A great resource to learn more about laundering and caring for your clothes, is The Clotheshorse Podcast’s two part series on laundry and stain removal. You can listen to part one here and part two here.
Mending, Altering and Upcycling Your Garments
While the concepts of mending, altering and upcycling garments may be new to you, these practices used to be the societal norm. For the majority of human history, clothing was a valuable commodity that could not always be easily replaced. When clothing was torn or worn out, it was mended and repaired. When an item no longer fit, it was altered or passed on to another person who could use it. When someone wanted a new garment, a person would modify an existing one into something different. With the rise and convenience of fast fashion, these practices that were once widespread 50 years ago, have fallen out of use. One way that we can all live more sustainably is to start using these techniques again to extend the lives of our clothing.
Mending your clothing can seem like a daunting task, but most basic mends can be done by hand with a needle and thread. If you don’t know how to sew, there is a wealth of information on the internet to learn how to DIY your garment repairs. You can learn the basics from youtube videos or find creative mending inspiration on pinterest. If you aren’t keen on learning how to make the repairs yourself, there are also mending service providers who can help fix your items. You can always check with your local tailor to see if they offer mending services in addition to alterations.
Altering your clothing and utilizing a tailor is another great way to extend the life cycle of your wardrobe. Whether your clothing is too small or too big, too short or too long, a skilled tailor can help alter your clothing so that it fits you just the way you want it. While paying for alterations may be an added expense, it is a more sustainable way to keep your garments in circulation. If you are experienced at sewing, you can also make simple alterations yourself with some help from a friend to pin the alterations.
Upcycling your clothing is another great way to give your under utilized garments new life. This is a great option for those who are crafty and love a good DIY project. Have a dress that you haven’t worn in a while? Transform it into a cute blouse. Want a new casual and comfortable dress? Sew a skirt to an old t-shirt. If your sewing skills are more limited, you can also spruce up old pieces by adding decorations and embellishments. A great new sew option is to add an iron on patch to a denim jacket. You could also use fabric glue to add trims or appliques to an old top. Upcycling is gaining in popularity and there are a lot of great tutorials out there to watch for inspiration.
Do you have your own tips and tricks for shopping your own closet? Or do you have a cool upcycling project you recently finished? Let me know, I’d love to hear all about what you are doing to give your existing wardrobe a refresh!
*I am not affiliated with The Considerary or The Clotheshorse Podcast. I think they are valuable resources and want to share them with you.