Last summer, I attended a big conference and noticed a woman in a pretty dress during the lunch break. I was hesitant for a bit, but went up to her and said in an embarrassed voice: ‘Excuse me, please, I know we don‘t know each other, but I really like your dress. Could I please put dibs on it for when you are finished with it?‘
I know this must sound strange, after all, I am a Personal Stylist and surely I could find the same dress online or maybe even in the shops if it was a recent purchase.
Why would I ask a complete stranger to wear her dress when she no longer wanted it? Here is something you don‘t know about me: I don‘t like shopping the high street for myself (very different to shopping for clients, by the way)!
For one, it‘s super frustrating when you can‘t find what you are looking for. You get overwhelmed by the choice, the people, the lights, taking clothes off, trying clothes on… it‘s all too much for me! But more importantly I‘m super aware of the environmental impact that our fast fashion addiction has on people and the planet. So how do I find new clothes?
What can you do to refresh your wardrobe without hurting the planet?
Whilst the most sustainable option is to run around naked – the second most sustainable option is to wear the clothes you already own!
Our default should be to shop our existing wardrobe first. If we can extend the useful lifetime of a garment from one year to two years, then we reduce emissions in that year by 24%. But doesn’t that get dull and boring, wearing the same stuff over and over again?
Here is my suggestion: be sure to split your wardrobe into summer and winter seasons and store the pieces you don‘t use right now away, out of sight. It‘s important that you can‘t take a glimpse of your summer clothes over the eight months of winter we have in this country, because the chances are that you‘ll forget what you’ve got. When I opened my summer box at the end of April this year, I got excited about the clothes I had curated over the previous years and fell right back in love with them.
Another way to keep your clothes relevant is by looking after them really, really, REALLY well!
Think of them as injured football players that are currently sitting on the sideline, watching the rest of your wardrobe having fun, just because a button is missing, the hem needs stitching or a stain needs professional attention. The reason these pieces are ‘injured’ is because they’ve worked hard for you at some point.
The fact that something needs mending means it‘s a valuable piece of your collection. But without a little attention, they will keep sitting on the bench and can‘t support your wardrobe game. So get them fixed and let them play again.
I tend to reserve a Sunday afternoon for a little handy work – not that I‘m an expert, but I simply watch YouTube tutorials on how to sew a seam. Once you’ve put a bit of time and effort into a garment, you‘ll love it even more and appreciate the sweat blood and tears that went into making your clothes in the first place.
Filling in the gaps in your wardrobe environmentally and ethically
But what if there are core pieces missing or you genuinely need some variety? That‘s when we come to ‘Thrift, Swap, and Borrow’. In my case I‘ll add putting dibs on clothes to the list of sourcing second hand pieces. In fact, the dress I asked for at the conference last summer was no longer available – someone else had already put dibs on it before me.
If you‘re not quite ready to put dibs on your friend‘s clothes, then the options are still endless: you can organise swap parties yourself with family and friends or attend events like my WALK IN WARDROBE™ events, for example.
You can check charity shops, consignment stores, and good old eBay. There are now platforms where you can rent clothes on a subscription basis, so the options are truly endless.
But of course we have to be realistic: Not everything can be bought second hand. And that‘s when we come to the very top of the pyramid, the smallest percentage, the very last resort when it comes to updating our wardrobe. If you do buy new, I encourage you to look for small independent brands that offer what you need with sustainable credentials before you hit the high street.
There are so many of them out there, and the market is growing and growing. Get to know them, listen to their stories and learn about their values. I hope this small insight will help you refresh your wardrobe this summer without hurting the planet.
Please feel free to reach out to me to see how I can help you build a more sustainable wardrobe. And don‘t worry, I won‘t be putting any dibs on your clothes!