Before I started working at DoneGood, I had no idea how much the fashion industry impacts our planet. I didn’t know much about fashion or trends (I still don't know much about them), but I was definitely someone who “needed” a new outfit for her birthday, vacation, and other special events.
The fashion industry is one of the biggest contributors to the world’s pollution. Fast fashion companies like Shein and Zara crank out millions of apparel items a year. Their clothing is mass produced so quickly, which means they’re more than likely made with low-quality materials and toxic chemicals, and that the person who made them is being exploited. 21 billion tons of wasted textiles are sent to landfills every year. That’s from all the clothes that are thrown away because they’re no longer in style, damaged or never even made it from warehouses to be sold.
What is a sustainable wardrobe?
Sustainability is all about keeping the world around long enough so all of our future generations can get to live their lives like we did…hopefully with not as many questionable decisions. So a sustainable wardrobe is buying items that don’t negatively affect our environment and any of the people who live in it and not buying items we don’t really need. Not saying we can enjoy some luxuries or extras, but at least if we are going to indulge a little that we don’t sacrifice people the planet in the process
And when we talk about people, you’re definitely included in that line up. Not only are people working in unhealthy work environments to produce the things we wear and use everyday - those same things are also made with toxic chemicals and synthetic fabrics that can be harmful to the people wearing them too…aka YOU.
How do you build a simple sustainable wardrobe on a budget?
For the record, I’m going to mention one more time that I’m no fashionista. But I’ve definitely learned a thing or two about sustainability, so I came up with 6 ways to help you build a sustainable wardrobe on a budget.
Do the best you can with what ya got: Like I mentioned before, I’m a little new to the idea of not buying something new for special occasions. My latest “aha” moment came when I was stressing over feeling like I didn’t have the right kind of clothes for my first vacation of the year. I realized I’d much rather spend my money on food and experiences, especially since I had totally wearable clothes in my closet. And for the pieces I didn’t have for some things on the itinerary, I strolled into my girlfriend’s closet and borrowed some of her things. So grateful we can wear each other’s clothes!
Recently I went to a wedding that included traveling and a hotel stay. Not too long ago, I would’ve bought something new to wear to celebrate the nuptials. This time I recycled a bridesmaids dress from a few years ago. My wallet was happy I didn’t have to spend anything extra, and my brain was relieved it didn’t have to make any fashion decisions. And shoutout to the original bride that picked out options I could actually wear again…she’s the real MVP.
Give your current wardrobe a makeover when you can. It’s a lot easier to throw something away when there’s a hole in it or missing a button.
- Sew or patch your clothes when they rip. You might even be able to rock an outfit with a few tears in it these days. If you’re feeling good about it, why not? If you’re really up for a challenge, try tearing and tying them into a new style all together.
- Dye them (with natural dyes). Stains are attracted to my shirts. Instead of throwing stained clothing away, or using them as cleaning rags, dye them (preferably with natural, non-toxic dyes). If you can’t beat em’, join em? Obviously, a stain remover also works, but an arts and crafts project is always fun!
Thrift / Buy secondhand clothing: While we’re big fans of buying sustainable clothing from ethical brands, we fully support buying secondhand clothing. Even if it was made by a brand that doesn’t have the best sustainable practices, at least you’re preventing it from going to a landfill. You can also do this with clothing swaps! You can search “clothing swaps near me” to meet up with folks in your neighborhood, or host your own event online (or in-person). It’s a sustainable way to add new things to your closet, switch up your style and get rid of clothes you don’t need anymore.
Buy things when you need them. Big corporate players and fashion influencers are good at getting in our heads and making us think we need stuff when we really don’t, like my mocking things that are no longer “in style”.
Take advantage of sales from ethical and sustainable brands like the ones on DoneGood.com. When you pay employees a living wage and for them to work in safe environments and use materials that will last forever, it’s very hard to have super low price points. Businesses are able to sell clothing and accessories for $5.99, because the people working hard to create them are making a fraction of that per hour.
Sustainable shopping should be affordable and accessible, and we’re grateful for our partner brands who have reduced prices year round. Our Sales Page automatically pulls in sales, so you can save some dollars while supporting businesses that do good.
Invest in High Quality Staple Pieces: Regardless of the thousands of different styles created by fast fashion companies, there are some pieces of clothing you can’t go wrong with having in your closet. And you don’t have to worry about them becoming less wearable after every wash. Let’s bring back the days of saving and passing our clothes down from one generation to another.
If you're looking for a few pieces to start with, I've listed some below for you!
- This cozy hoodie from Seek Dry Goods is made with organic fabrics and recycled materials, and gives back to environmental causes.
- This dress shirt from Dulo is made with 100% biodegradable fabrics, and no dry cleaning is required - adulting goals!
- Everyday boots from Nisolo are made to last for years to come by workers who make above fair trade wages, and are offered resources to help reach their personal goals.
- This Little Black Dress from Encircled is ethically made with upcycled and organic materials.
I enjoy being able to afford my livelihood just as much as the next person, but cheap clothes will cost us all more in the long run. Aside from them constantly needing to be replaced, they’re releasing more toxins and pollution into the air and water.
It’s definitely possible to build a sustainable wardrobe on a budget. It may not happen overnight, but it’s worth the wait. What a feeling to be able to look good and feel good, while also supporting someone’s dreams and goals and while making sure our planet is still around and thriving.
Are you practicing anything to help make your wardrobe more sustainable? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!
Ace Alexander, DoneGood Community Engagement Director