1. Make well-thought-out purchases.
The most sustainable option for your wardrobe is what you already own and use. So when it's time to make a new purchase, it is a good idea to understand your closet, your style, and what you are most likely to wear. A few things to have in mind are:
What is my style? Which items do I use frequently, and how to match them?
Which colors do I feel comfortable in? Warm or cold tones? Are there any specific colors that I wear a lot, or are there any that I don't like to wear?
Items that fit well and make you feel good are more likely to be used more frequently. Do I like my t-shirts long or short? How do I want my jeans to fit?
Is this piece of clothing something I can return to year after year, or a trendy item that I will grow tired of in a couple of months?
We all have those items that might not get a lot of use, but we're hesitant to get rid of – for a good reason. A suit or dress that only sees the daylight at weddings or funerals. Workwear for that one project a year. Hiking boots for vacation. And so on. Do we necessarily need to own all these items? Maybe you have a friend or a family member of a similar size that you can borrow from! Suddenly, you and your friends have many more options for parties without buying new things that mainly take up space in your closet.
3. Buy second hand
A classic! Something missing from your closet? There is a high probability that the thing you're looking for is hanging in a second-hand store. You can find winter coats, fleeces, skirts, corduroy pants, linen shirts, etc. Nowadays, second-hand shopping is available for everyone and comes in many forms: yardsales, websites, apps, Facebook marketplace, Instagram, and many others. However, you might have to do a little digging to find exactly what you're looking for, but that's also part of the fun! When you find the item, it holds so much more value. You managed to find just the thing you were looking for! A little bit of luck, but mostly skill – right?
4. Choose durable and natural fibers
Choosing natural materials for your clothes has many benefits. Natural fibers are often superior in durability, and breathability, and some materials, such as wool, even have antibacterial properties that combat unwanted odors. Another bonus is that the natural fabrics do not release any microplastics and whatever fibers they do release are biodegradable.
5. Don't wash as often
If you're honest with yourself, how dirty is a shirt after a day's use? Just as we use our senses to decide whether or not food has gone wrong, we can use the same principles when it comes to our laundry. Are there stains? Does it smell? Have I been sweating a lot? If the answer to these questions is" no", you probably don't have to wash it just because you have been wearing it. If it smells like something that has been worn but not sweaty, it's probably enough just to let it air. Then, let it hang outside over the night or maybe even a day or two, and your clothes will most likely smell fresh again!
6. Repair and mend
Nothing lasts forever, but with the proper care, you can extend the lifetime of a lot of clothes. Even if it finally breaks or tears, that does not necessarily mean the end. You can repair most things with knowledge, a needle, thread, and a patch. If you lack the knowledge, there are most likely people in your vicinity that can teach you. If not, the internet is always there to help! If the repair requires work beyond your capacity or skill level, a tailor or cobbler is probably available close to you.
Most of us have at least one or two clothing items that do not get as much love as the rest. And your friends are probably just like you. So invite them over for a clothing swap event! It can be a fun way to hang out. Everyone brings a couple of things from their closet that they do not use anymore, and hopefully, you all leave with new favorites, and your forgotten clothes get a new home and a new life.
Sometimes when a piece of clothing has been worn and loved for years, the wear and tear are finally too much. It's beyond rescue. But this does not mean that it has to end up in the garbage. Think outside the box. How can you use the materials in new ways? A torn wool jumper can be made into wool felt in the washing machine and turned into potholders. A t-shirt can get new life as cleaning rags or cotton rounds. Jeans can become a quilt.
9. Use what you have
Last but not least – the most sustainable is to use what you already have. Do your clothes feel boring? Challenge yourself to try new combinations and pair items you would never otherwise wear together. Or try the challenge to wear everything in your closet before doing laundry again. How would you style a party dress to work? Use your imagination!