Fashion has been made so widely available and cheap, it’s become really easy for us as individuals to consume whenever and however we please. I mean just look at how popular Amazon Prime has become — with the click of a mouse we can have something new within a matter of days. To make matters worse, fast fashion not only takes a toll on our planet but on the people along every step of the supply chain as well. So, how do you create a conscious wardrobe? How do you avoid fast fashion? Let’s explore.
7 Ways To Avoid Fast Fashion
At the beginning of my holistic and conscious living journey I struggled with understanding how to avoid fast fashion. I knew I didn’t want to support unethical brands anymore but I didn’t know how to create a wardrobe that would reflect my values. What “steps” did I need to take to create create a more sustainable and conscious wardrobe?
Here’s what I learned: implementing my values into my wardrobe didn’t happen overnight. In fact, becoming a conscious consumer doesn’t happen overnight for anyone. It takes time to figure out how to change old thought patterns and develop new habits. Slow fashion, mindful consumption, however you want to call it, is a mindset shift that for many takes a bit of getting used to.
A few tips to help you avoid fast fashion:
Don’t throw away perfectly good items just because you got them from a fast fashion brand. Just because they’re not “sustainably and ethically created,” doesn’t mean they’re worthless. Wear your clothes as long as they’ll last. (Click here for tips on how to responsibly dispose of your used clothes).
2. Buy less.
This may seem obvious, but one easy way to create a more sustainable wardrobe is simply to buy less. Really consider your clothing purchases and the larger waste trail behind the textiles we buy. Donating clothing is better than sending them to the landfill, but it does not erase the impacts of the clothes we buy and discard.
- Before you buy new, ask yourself: Do I already own it? Chances are you do. Our taste in clothes remains pretty consistent throughout our adulthood so often you find yourself buying the same styles and colors over and over again. If you have an item that’s maybe feeling a little tired for you, try styling it differently. The goal is to figure out how to get creative and style it differently. For me, this is the fun part of dressing up!
- Before you buy new, ask yourself: Do I really need it? Buying only what you need is easier said than done. It requires changing the way you think about what you already have– there’s that mindfulness again! If you stop and think about what you’re shopping for, you’re giving yourself more time to consider the necessity of your purchases. It’s a challenge if you tend to treat yourself to new clothes and accessories. For many, the act of shopping — with our moms, our friends, or even alone — can be soothing or rewarding. It’s fun but we end up going home with things we didn’t really need and things that will eventually end up in the landfill.
The challenge with shopping is that often it makes us feel good. For some people, according to Scott Rick, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Michigan, “if they’re feeling sad, shopping will make them happier because it restores some control in their lives.” I know I’ve definitely shopped to make myself feel “better” in the past. But what I found was that it was fleeting. For example: The new shirt I bought after my break-up did not make the break-up less painful, no matter how much I willed it to.
3. Secondhand first.
If you need to buy something consider second-hand items first. You can find gently used clothing for sale in local thrift stores or online. There are so many benefits to this! You can get a lot of great deals and designer items, if that’s your thing, for less which is great for your budget! Plus, you’re giving these clothes a second life.
- Some of my favorite online thrift stores:
- Check out Bunz. Trade your stuff locally and sustainably on the Bunz app/website.Personal note: One of the more challenging aspects with secondhand shopping is time. You could spend hours and hours looking for something that you like and something that fits. The key is to mindfully plan your wardrobe ahead of time. Know what items you’re most likely to need (jeans, shirts, etc.). We will talk about how to shop secondhand efficiently in this week’s fashion workshop.
>> Looking for tips on how to responsibly dispose of used clothes? Check out Where and How To Donate Used Clothes <<
4. Explore your style with a capsule challenge.
Participate in a capsule wardrobe challenge such as Project 333, by Be More With Less blogger Courtney Carver, which challenges you to wear just 33 items for 3 months. Another great challenge to check out is the 10×10 challenge by Lee Vosburgh that challenges you to wear 10 items over 10 days. I found these challenges really gave me insight as to how I wore my clothes, which ones I actually wore and how I really don’t wear most of the items in my wardrobe. Someone once told me we wear only about 10% of our wardrobe on a regular basis. That definitely felt true.
6. Mend it.
Mend clothes that need tending to (if it’s more than fixing a button I bring mine to the local tailor!) For all you DIYer’s out there, Eco-Age recently shared a great post on The Most Common Ways to Mend Your Clothes.
7. Support an ethical/sustainable brand.
If your budget permits — consider supporting an ethical/sustainable fashion brand. If it’s not in your budget, then friend, you gotta do what you gotta do! You tried your best! Just buy something you know you’ll love and will wear a lot.
In short to avoid fast fashion…
- Buy less, wear often.
- Invest in clothes you love and don’t buy more than you need.
- When you do buy, buy quality over quantity.
- Embrace the clothes you already own. Take a look at your closet and enjoy what you already have.
Beyond these individual habits, we can advocate for less waste throughout the fashion system. Use social media and email to contact clothing companies and express the importance of designing for a loop instead of a landfill (Fashion Revolution has some great tools to help you if you’re interested). Ask your local government to explore better collection systems for used textiles to ensure they are repurposed or recycled. Spread the word about the harm and waste perpetrated by the unsustainable fast fashion industry. For all of us who wear clothes, there are many ways we can make a difference for people and the planet.
If you’re a fashionista and you think you can’t stop shopping altogether, maybe start with small changes. Start by editing that shopping cart before you make a purchase. Then think about the fabrics you’re wearing #whomademyfabrics . Consider buying and selling your clothes at a local consignment store. Use your trendsetting powers to encourage others to make eco-friendly changes and to avoid fast fashion as well!
This post was written in collaboration with Susan Farley.