In many a sustainable conversation I’ve had, the cost of changing to a sustainable lifestyle usually comes up. Generally the basis of thought is the term “quality” being associated with a high price tag, however there are so many more ways to be sustainable than up-ending your current lifestyle and revamping your wardrobe with an all new closet from Everlane.
Before we get into this post we’re going to define sustainability. Sustainability involves actions that allow the earth to regenerate its resources ecologically and also on a societal standpoint. It involves providing fair wage to workers, ethics in trade and business as well as using natural and renewable resources that benefit the planet.
Because sustainability can sometimes take more work in terms of production and quality, one of the biggest misconceptions of a sustainable lifestyle is that it is expensive. Fast fashion and high production companies have contributed to this way of thinking by providing a way to spend less on buying more, especially in terms of clothing. Clearance sales and mark downs give off a guise to the consumer, making them imagine they are getting a bargain on a quality item when really these items are made for the clearance rack in price and quality from the beginning. Thus begins the cycle where people buy low quality products in bulk due to the cheaper price, making fast fashion companies more money. Created to tear, thin, shrink or become easily damaged, these items will wear over a shorter period of time leading to the customer to need more of said clothing and then to become part of a system of low quality, unethical practice, and to repeat the buying process.
So what are some affordable ways you can manifest a sustainable wardrobe? Below are the most common methods people use to create an affordable and sustainable wardrobe and buy quality items. As this is a sewing and making blog, I’ve included tips that help those who do and do not sew to benefit everyone trying to work towards a sustainable lifestyle or slow- making practice.
BUDGET FRIENDLY SUSTAINABLE HABITS YOU CAN START NOW
Shop Your Closet First
The most affordable way to be sustainable is to shop from what you already have. Over the years you’ve likely accumulated a lot of clothing but may not wear half of your closet. Doing a purge of your closet can help you rediscover things you may not have known you bought. Voila brand new clothing right in your closet! I find it helps to make very practical piles for your closet when doing a purge, one pile being things you LOVE and feel good in and the other pile being things you don’t feel good in or that you never wear and have no intention of wearing. Donate the bad pile, keep the rest.
FOR THE SEWIST/MAKER
Shop things in your stash first before purchasing, such as fabrics you already own and notions you have. Use us things like scraps and patches to the best of your ability
Commercialism teaches society to buy the next thing NOW. It says to buy more of what you may not need at a convenient cost that makes you believe you do need it. Ads and media show items in sets, various colorways and quantities to make you believe you need every color every type and every brand of whatever it is they’re selling you. Because of the commercialized mindset, getting into a sustainable state of mind becomes harder, as we are hard wired to naturally want MORE and CHEAPER.
The best way to save money is to stop spending it. Weigh purchases carefully. Get to know fabrics you love and that interact well with your body and avoid impulse buying things you know do not fit into these preferences.
FOR THE SEWIST/MAKER
Turn off social media notifications or mute posts from fabric stores and pattern shops, especially during sale times. This does not mean you don’t support small business when you need something, but impulse buying will usually leave you with more than you expected, needed or bargained for so removing the temptation altogether (unless you’re a great window shopper or looking for inspiration) is a great route to go to get your spending under control
Remember that the idea behind sustainability is to benefit the earth and the humans on it physically and mentally. Buying less for more reduces waste of resources tremendously and the very act alone can reduce stress and anxiety as it is less to worry about. A great example is a pair of handmade leather shoes VS manufactured man made material shoes. You will pay more for the handcrafted leather but it will last you much longer than 5 cheaper man made material shoes. Because it’ll last longer that also means you can buy less in terms of quantity of footwear.
FOR THE SEWIST/ MAKER
Focus on quality sustainable fabrics when buying and save your money to purchase them instead of bulk buying lesser quality materials.
Shop Thrifted or Vintage Clothing or Mend/Upcycle
One of the BEST ways to reduce waste and stop consuming fast fashion while still getting amazing quality is to thrift. The best thing about thrifting is there is no right or wrong way to do it but here are some tips if you’re choosing to go used with your clothing
- Have in mind any specific items you’re looking for when you go thrift shopping. It’s easy to be overwhelmed or to buy multiple things at thrift shops, but needlessly consuming more is what we’re trying to avoid here. Intentionality is key
- Bring a measuring tape with you on thrifting excursions. Trying on thrifted clothes in the store may not be your forte which is totally understandable. Knowing your body measurements beforehand and measuring clothing you’re interested in can make things easier when choosing the right fit, that way you’re not disappointed when you get home
- Look for name brands and new items with the tag on them. Some stigma behind thrift shopping is that the clothing is old, low quality or dirty. Every thrift store and experience is different but I’ve found that most thrift stores take very good care to watch the quality of clothing they bring in. Some may even have brand new items on the rack benefitting you in terms of quality garments. Keep an open mind when thrift shopping, it’s definitely worth it!
FOR THE SEWIST/ MAKER
Thrifted or re-purposed fabrics are amazing and you can find some pretty awesome and unconventional gems in piles at the thrift store or at online fabric thrift shops. A Thrifty Notion is one of my favorite fabric thrift stores to frequent. Don’t be afraid to use bed sheets, quilts, or other textiles to create clothing as well.
Capsule Wardrobe Building
Capsule Wardrobe building is a great way to focus on using less and recycling loved items in your wardrobe. The concept focuses on building a collection of garments that harmonize making them able to be mixed and matched easier. Capsule wardrobes generally have coordinating colors or designs and set numbers of shirts, pants, dresses, skirts etc (though you don’t HAVE to have a set number). The idea behind capsule wardrobes is that you wear more of your clothing by allowing more options to be available in terms of outfits.
FOR THE SEWIST/ MAKER
Steer towards sewing patterns that mix and match with each other and that you can build a full wardrobe off of. Patterns that have multiple views and options in them lend towards a more functional wardrobe and give you a bang for your buck as well
Minimalism is the idea of being intentional and simple with our purchases and lifestyle. By having the mindset of having less or not accumulating more we’re able to focus on the things we do have and properly care for them. Clothing is in no way excluded from this mentality as having a small supply of high quality clothing can be a wonderful way of being sustainable and creating a stress free wardrobe. Short term you may spend twice as much as you would on a lower quality garment, however long term you save money with this practice by not overspending and having a product that will last far longer than a lower quality version (this is especially true when it comes to genuine leather shoes or anything hand crafted). If you want to get an idea of what minimalism looks like, check out this guy (and make sure to watch most if not all of the video before assuming the beginning part is what it is lol)…
The key to affordable sustainability? Purchasing less, choosing higher quality and being intentional with purchases. Thrifting, wardrobe building practices and lifestyle changes can all contribute to the goal of being sustainable as well as paying attention to materials and quality type of fabrics and garments.
Thanks for reading!