As a mother to two young children, I have been thinking a lot about the type of world in which they will grow up. What sort of changes will they see over the next century and what will that mean for their quality of life? What sort of things are we adults doing now that may have huge impacts in the future?
It’s clear that we live in a society driven by consumerism. We buy things we didn’t even know we needed just to throw them away in a year to make room for more and more. This is true in all aspects of our lives – plastic water bottles, cardboard Amazon boxes, continuously replaced electronics, cars, home decor and clothing. Because we are constantly replacing our belongings, we want them to be cheap, cheap, cheap!
Within the fashion industry, many retailers have figured out how to give us a staggering amount of astoundingly inexpensive garments. Think about the last time you were at H&M or Zara – racks jam-packed with any type of clothing you might want, prices that made your heart soar. And if you went back a few weeks later, you would most likely see plenty of new inventory, all with the aim of enticing you to buy more.
But the sad truth is that these retailers give us these shopping smorgasbords on the backs of exploited workers and at heavy expense to the environment. It is so easy not to ask about how it is possible to purchase a shirt for $5, but maybe we should.
There is a lot of great information out there about factory worker exploitation and the environmental impact of so-called fast fashion. If you’re interested, check out THIS, THIS and THIS for starters.
Since I’ve been focused on my closet in the past few weeks after deciding to try out a CAPSULE WARDROBE, I’ve been considering how to rebuild my wardrobe with an eye toward sustainability. I want to be able to feel stylish and have clothes for all occasions, but I don’t want to feel like I’m contributing to an environmental problem that will be pushed to the next generation.
HOW TO BUILD A SUSTAINABLE CLOSET
1. Assess your closet and make a list of what you need.
Ask yourself what you are truly missing from your closet, not just what you wish you had. Try and choose items that are multifunctional and can be worn with a combination of different things that are already in your closet. Here’s what was missing from my closet:
//Jeans// I have been looking for high waisted jeans to wear to work so I can wear shirts tucked in or untucked to create a feeling of more variety with fewer items. I work in a research laboratory and for safety my legs must be completely covered. That means no skirts or shorts so I need to have jean options.
//Neutral cardigan// The temperature can vary quite a bit during the day in San Diego and it’s often hot outside and freezing in the lab, so I need to dress in layers to be comfortable. I have several super old cardigans that shrunk in the wash and don’t fit me so well anymore. I’m looking for a good quality neutral cardigan that will work with most things in my closet.
//Long sleeved button down shirts// Again, lots of layering options are a must for my closet. Historically, I have only ever layered with cardigans. In fact, I love me some cardigans so much that my husband calls me Cardigan Cassi because I wear one almost every single day. I need some different options! I have been loving the look of an open button down over a tucked in t-shirt and want to give it a try.
//Ankle boots// I’d like a pair of comfortable, stylish boots that I can wear for when I feel like being a little dressier at work. Laboratory attire is very casual (jeans/t-shirts are totally acceptable) but sometimes I like to step it up a bit.
//Sneakers// I often need to walk around quite a bit at work depending on the day, so comfortable sneakers are a must. Currently, I only have clunky running shoes and a pair of neon orange sneakers. Neither are fashionable to say the least. In fact, I once wore my orange sneakers to work and my boss spent about 5 minutes at the beginning of a meeting talking about how bright they were. Embarrassing!
I will be working on filling in these gaps over the next few months and I’m planning to document what I get and how it works out for me. Stay tuned!
2. Support brands that employ sustainable manufacturing practices.
Environmentally-friendly brands are starting to pop up everywhere, so you can find a wide variety of sustainable clothing options. Many of these brands are also committed to using ethical practices to combat factory worker mistreatment that prevails in the industry. Check out this list for a few retailers and designers to check out.
At this point, it needs to be said that ethical and sustainable fashion costs more than fast fashion. This is a result of the companies abiding by fair labor practices and using higher quality materials that are sourced in more eco-friendly ways. However, consider these items as investment pieces that will be worn for years instead of only once or twice before going in the donation pile. And also consider that these prices reflect the true cost of making a quality garment – our price expectations have been distorted by years of fast fashion driving prices down with low quality, disposable garments.
3. Go Thrifting.
Buying used clothing is by far the most sustainable way to add to your closet. By purchasing discarded items, consumer demand is not increased and there is less incentive for retailers to manufacture new items. Additionally, an estimated 2.5 billion pounds of clothing/textiles are donated to resale shops that would otherwise enter the waste stream. The more used items we buy, the fewer end up in landfills.
With that said, thrifting is so hard for me. I get overwhelmed by the volume of crap to browse through and often end up coming home with things I don’t really like because I feel like I have to buy something. Thrifting is definitely a skill that needs to be practiced. This is something I plan on challenging myself with in the future. Can I find pieces that I truly need that will fit in with what’s already in my closet?
What do you think? Do you like thrifting? Give me tips!