Seven Steps To Make Your Wardrobe More Sustainable Without A Single Purchase

As Black Friday approaches, it’s apparent that our constant need for newness is driving overconsumption in fashion and beyond. In partnership with The Junior Network, Bex Boffey shares her tips on how to nurture a more sustainable approach to your existing wardrobe, making change without making a single purchase. 

My name is Rebecca, and I’m a recovering shopaholic.

I’ve loved clothes from young age and consequently spent much of my life sucked into the fast-fashion cycle, searching for the latest ‘it’ item. When my mother would drag me round charity shops when I was growing up, I often saw trash, not treasure-troves. Although I did have a brief obsession with hunting down bargains on eBay later in life, this was fueled by the desire for something new, meaning it was fickle and didn’t last long enough to embed some serious lifestyle habits in me. Starting a career in fashion made me forget about my thrifting ways faster than you can say ‘Oxfam.’

Fast forward to 2020 and I’ve certainly changed. While I’ll never be perfect, my outlook on mass consumption and fast fashion is notably different. It began with social media, followed by a couple of hard-hitting documentaries and friends becoming more conscious to finally, a global pandemic cementing what we truly need in life to make us happy. Spoiler alert: it’s not *that* spotty Zara dress.

I have also learnt that shopping sustainably means overcoming the constant quest for newness, even when shopping second hand or from an ethical brand. You can have a planet-friendly wardrobe without buying a single thing, just by recycling, forming new practices, or simply organising your closet with a fresh mindset. If you’re looking to make the change without making any purchases, I’ve rounded up my top pieces of advice to start seeing your existing wardrobe as the most sustainable one there is.

Credit: Bex Boffey
Credit: Bex Boffey

Rewear, Reuse, Recycle

Ensuring that the clothes we already own are well taken care of is essential in fighting the good fight. Learn to rewear that show-stopping dress more than once by changing up the styling. You can create myriad looks from one little piece. Additionally, reuse your items more than once or twice before washing. A pair of jeans don’t need to be washed every time you wear them. Even Levi’s recommend washing them once a month, so try airing out your clothes to reduce unnecessary washing. Your clothes will suffer less wear and tear too. Finally, recycle! Whether you’re donating them to charity or upcycling, never throw them away. Learn how to repair (or ask a friend or your mum) and tailor your closet so that it lasts for a long time, not just a good time. Alternatively, if things are beyond repair, ask your local council where your nearest clothing bank is.

Take A Challenge

Every year, Oxfam hosts the #SecondHandSeptember challenge that encourages consumers to not buy anything new for an entire month. Similarly, a new year’s resolution is a good place to start in beginning to change your shopping lifestyle or even vowing no high-street fashion for a year. You don’t have to wait for a new year to make a sustainable pledge; Extinction Rebellion have set up the #BoycottFashion campaign which asks shoppers to cut consumption and change cultures.

Educate Yourself

Shopping second hand or from ‘eco’ brands is a great start, but understanding fabrics and even assessing a company’s delivery methods and packaging go a long way in ditching fast-fashion. Identifying greenwashing is integral to shopping. A lot of brands claim to be a lot more eco-friendly than they are so check out these tips to educate yourself. Additionally, when purchasing from eco collections or businesses, distinguishing what materials are actually good for the planet is imperative to your purchase. The Good On You app is a great place to start in checking out how ‘good’ a brand is. You’ll be very surprised…

Question Your Shopping Habits

On average, an item of clothing in the UK is only worn seven times, which begs the question of how much a new purchase is necessary. When it comes to the latest fashion trend, question whether you really need it. Once you begin to recognise that just because something is sought after by everyone, doesn’t mean it’s a requirement to you. If it is an item that you absolutely can’t resist, head to reuse websites like eBay and Depop to try and find an alternative.

Fill Your Feed

Go through your followers and remove any brands, influencers or companies that promote ethics you’re trying to avoid or that could encourage you to shop with them. Eliminating the temptation is a small, easy step to take in changing your mindset around the fast-fashion industry. Take some time to follow positive eco-influencers and businesses. Some of my favourites are Omnes, Retold Vintage, Swopped and The Conscious Shopper.

Sometimes culling our social accounts isn’t enough if your friends aren’t as conscious as you. However, you can still resist the temptation by borrowing clothes from peers; embrace the concept of a shared wardrobe. Combining closets with your nearest and dearest not only reduces the amount of new clothes being purchased but also increases the amount of clothes in your own closet. What’s not to love?

Form New Habits

Remind yourself that impulse buying is detrimental to your bank account and the environment. Imagine the realistic longevity of trend-led pieces in your wardrobe and personal style. Buying cheaply also reduces the quality of the product therefore it will won’t last you as long as a more sustainable but buy-now-wear-forever staple. As Vivienne Westwood said ‘Buy less, choose well, make it last’. Our mindset about fashion need to change. We need to view and accept fashion adverts and an instagram post for what it is; simply an image.

That being said, the culture of outfit repeating being a taboo is something to be abolished in your way of thinking. Elizabeth Bennett’s article around repeat-wearing is a good place to start to break the stigma. If you do find yourself lusting after *that* dress for a special occasion, consider renting. The option is considerably cheaper and ensures your purchase won’t be unethical.

Organise Your Wardrobe

Dedicate a day to re-organising your wardrobe and see exactly what you’re wearing the most. Recognise your wardrobe staples and build multiple outfits to maximise their longevity. Download the Whering app to digitally create outfits. Knowing precisely what you are lacking is key to reducing overconsumption and impulse buying. Make a list of the items you’re missing and need to ensure you stay on track.

Sure, nobody likes a break-up, but when the relationship is toxic, it’s necessary to get out. End the love affair with fast fashion and look forward to your new life of sustainable style, positive ethics and a very happy wardrobe!