The Guide to a more Sustainable Wardrobe for every Budget

Wearing: Outfit gifted by Bird & Kite

When I started my first capsule wardrobe in 2017 it wasn’t because I wanted to be more sustainable. It was because I wanted to curb my shopping habit and take the stress out of picking an outfit each day. Three years on and I’ve still got a capsule wardrobe but my motivations have evolved a little.

Once I’d figured out how to put together my capsule and learnt how many pieces suited my lifestyle and how often I liked to update it (you can find my three part process and free workbook here) I started to become more interested in the sustainability of the new pieces I was purchasing seasonally. Then the more I learnt about the fast fashion industry the more I knew it was time for me to be more careful which brands I spent my money with.

For almost two years I’ve been working at purchasing less frequently and with more intention and so I thought it was about time to put together some of my tips and a list of my favourite sustainable and ethical brands for 2020.

I also want to mention that the more sustainable brands are often more expensive (and often this is because it does cost more to produce ethically and sustainably), but no matter your budget there are small things everyone can do to create a more sustainable wardrobe. So here are my tips for creating a more sustainable wardrobe for every budget.

A more Sustainable Wardrobe for every Budget

Declutter and Curate

Before you even consider how you can buy better for your wardrobe I highly encourage you to declutter what you already have. Before I started my capsule wardrobe, I had way more clothes than I do now, but felt like I had way less to wear. My wardrobe was so cluttered and overwhelming that it just seemed like there were no good options. So instead of figuring it out I’d just keep buying new clothes.

As soon as I made the effort to sort my clothes and recycle or donate anything I hadn’t worn in the past six months, I was amazed at the difference. There were no longer piles to dig through and I could easily see all of my favourites. All of a sudden I felt like I had a whole lot more to wear, and because I’d only kept the pieces I loved, I felt good in every outfit I put on.

I also found it wasn’t just about decluttering, but reorganising my wardrobe in a way that made each piece visible was also important. This is the simple setup I still use for my wardrobe now.

Buy Less

Once you’ve decluttered and organised your wardrobe it’s much easier to identify the types of clothes you buy and don’t wear and the classic pieces you are missing. Or even the pieces that you wear so much it’s time to replace them.

But before you set out to start filling in the missing pieces, keep in mind my ‘buy less’ tips:

  • Buy secondhand instead of new or go to or organise clothes swaps.
  • Buy quality pieces that will last, so you’re not replacing things over and over again. Remember that price isn’t always a sign of quality – check the strength and quality of the stitching inside the garment, take note of whether the fabric will get worn out quickly or catch on things and pull threads.
  • Try to steer clear of buying things just because they are on trend now, the fast fashion industry creates new trends each week to try and get you to buy more. Instead buy pieces you love regardless of trends, this will ensure they stick around in your wardrobe for years instead of months.

Buy Better

Buying better will mean something different to everyone. Of course it depends on your budget and the accessibility you have to certain brands and stories. Having a more sustainable wardrobe isn’t about being the picture perfect eco-warrier, it’s about making any small changes you are able to. If we all make small changes, it adds up to having a big impact.

Regardless of where you are shopping for your clothes, it’s always possible to keep these things in mind before deciding on a purchase:

  • Buy linen pieces where possible – linen is made of flaxseed and flaxseed crops need less water and less pesticides than cotton crops.
  • Buy pieces made from responsibly sourced or organic cotton (these claims will be made on the tags or in the product description) – these cottons are produced more ethically and/or without pesticides that harm the environment.
  • Avoid synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon, which are by-products of petroleum are very bad for the environment. They are non-biodegradable and the production of nylon emits nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more dangerous to the ozone layer than carbon dioxide. While the production of polyester requires a lot of water, the contaminated water after usage is flushed back into the waterways.
The Guide to a more Sustainable Wardrobe for every Budget - Best Eco Brands

My Favourite Sustainable + Ethical Brands

I have a much more extensive list of sustainable and ethical brands here. However below I’ve only listed my favourite go-to brands that have proven themselves time and time again in my wardrobe.

Like I mentioned above, if choosing the most sustainable brands is outside of your budget, you can still make an effort to look for pieces that are made from natural fibres (like linen and cotton), designed to last longer than one season and that use responsibly sourced or organic cotton (look for the Better Cotton Initiative logo on garment tags). Most big brands offer an eco range now.

For Basics + Denim:

For Skirts + Dresses:

For Dressy + Fitted:

For Comfort + Fun:

For Swimwear:

  • Arnhem
  • Peony Swimwear (full disclosure – I don’t have any pieces from Peony yet, but a pair of their swimmers have been on my wish list for a long time)
  • Reformation

For Activewear:

For Pyjamas:

For Underwear:

I hope these tips for a more sustainable wardrobe for every budget gave you some little ideas you hadn’t thought of before. If there are any other ethical and sustainable brands you love please share them in the comments below!

Big love,

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