No, it doesn't require you Marie Kondo your life and buy a bunch of new stuff. Read Part 2 of How to Build Your Sustainable Wardrobe.

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Build Your Sustainable Wardrobe Part 2
Courtney Holm

If you want to learn about the foundational work we did for this guide, do check out Part 1 of the Build Your Sustainable Wardrobe series.

Let's dive into Part 2... Six Steps to Building Your Sustainable Wardrobe:

1. Define Your Values

Start by stopping a moment and considering what your values are as an individual. This is the very first and most important step in framing how your own personal wardrobe will be sustainable - for you. Do you care most for human rights? Locally made? Animals? Lowering carbon emissions? Never buying new? You might have a whole bunch of values (I don't doubt it!) but I'd recommend focusing on your top one or two. This will make it easier to shape your own criteria for what you want and what you don't.

Now you know your values, use them as a vetting device and your buying-less-superpower; brands, products and ideals that don't align, don't buy. Spend your valuable time seeking out the ones that DO align, and if you're feeling generous, let the brands that don't align know why. 

2. Make it a Capsule

Keeping stuff simplified and organised in your wardrobe in the best way to build outfits and always have something to wear. I recommend no more than 30 high rotation, key pieces in a capsule, supported by a few select statement and seasonal pieces. In saying that, if you think 30 just isn't gonna happen, then find a number that works for you. There are certain items, supposedly, we all should have in a capsule wardrobe, like a black dress, crisp white shirt, a perfect t-shirt, jeans, a trench... and the ultimate tracksuit set. But I say just do what works for you. Find your wardrobe workhorses and build your own uniform/s. Writing it down or sketching is helpful here.

Do an audit. Pull everything out of your closet and group them into things you've worn over 30 times, things you wear rarely for seasonality reasons, and things you don't really wear anymore. Take the things you do wear and try creating several looks out of them. Make a pinterest board for inspiration, finding looks that make you feel great when you wear them. Take selfies in your looks or snap a quick flat lay. Start compiling the images in a folder in your phone. Is anything missing from what you wrote down? If so, check back with  your piles of low wear or seasonal wear. Shop your own wardrobe before making note of "missing items" that would help you keep all your other pieces in use for longer - a group effort of the capsule wardrobe. Refer back to your folder of looks next time you feel like you have nothing to wear!

Try not to immediately write off items you don't wear anymore because they don't fit or the style isn't working. Alterations are a great way to bring some love back to a quality piece that's fallen out of style or no longer works with a changing body. Garments of quality where you still love the fabric that need repair or alteration should be kept for a second chance. Anything else is dead weight and should be given thoughtfully to a friend or family member, quality items can also be donated to a charity shop or sold on Penny Lane Selling, designer goods on Vestiare Collective or The RealReal. Anything that's nasty, totally done for or super low quality may need to go straight to the bin - no one wants that. But reflect on the feeling of throwing that thing away because from now on, we'll avoid ever needing to do it again. 

3. Keep it in Use

Keeping your pieces in use (rather than buying new) is legitimate environmental activism. Keeping our clothes in use just 9 months longer than we do currently (again, instead of buying new) would reduce carbon, water and waste footprints by 20-30% (WRAP UK 2020).

If you're getting bored with your own wares, consider temporarily swapping pieces with a friend or consider alterations. Other helpful tips include taking care of your clothes, washing them as per care instructions, hanging or folding them right away, and keeping things organised so you can see what you have. We have a whole bunch of fab tips on repair and care in our Keeping it in Use post should you wish to dive deeper.

4. Re-Invent the Wheel

I've already alluded to this, but I love reinventing my pieces! Whether it's a TikTok hack (ahem, ripping a t-shirt to crop it), a proper bit of tailoring, or even a home-sew job, simple changes might make the world of difference to falling in love with your pieces again. Maybe you were a long shirt person once, but now you find crops suit you better. Perhaps you used to love a high-waisted jean, but these days a mid-rise is way more comfortable. Whatever it might be, take those garments you aren't feeling jazzed about. Put them on your body and start manipulating it (if you can) or imagining what needs changing. Refer back to your pinterest board - maybe it's a simple hemming job? For things like stains and rips, mending is a soul-fulfilling activity that I recommend trying. But if that's just not for you, look into repair /alteration centres near you. If you're lucky to know a tailor or dress maker or even be one yourself, use those skills or find some no-sew-style tips on TikTok or YouTube.

5. (Quality) Local Matters

OK. Let's say you've been shopping your wardrobe for a while now and there really is something missing, or something is well and truly thread-bare and ready for replacing. Shopping with your local thrift stores might be a thing to try (refer back to them values). If you need a new thing, resist the high street, fast fashion stores and super fast fashion e-tailers – instead look to quality local labels and businesses that make their products right here in Australia. Not only does this support local makers and designers and keep our industry thriving, it also reduces transportation carbon emissions.

While only 5% of clothing purchased in Australia made here too, it's not as niche as it sounds and there are plenty of brands making here still. If you're unsure where to look, start with Ethical Clothing Australia for a list of brands making locally under their ethical accreditation. The other beautiful thing about shopping locally is the easier access to repairs and customisations as well as easier access to information, feedback, transparency and connection.

Quality is key here, saving up for something (aka not impulse buying) and working on a cost per wear basis for a higher quality wardrobe staple will often save you cash, time and buyers remorse in the long run. 

6. Learn to Love Labels

Whether thrifting or shopping new, check out the label on a garment. Find out, not just where it's made, but what it's made OF. This is a massive clue to understanding whether something is of quality or not. Fully comprehending materials and fibres is a whole other thing and we're happy to shed light via Materials we Love and Materials we don't Love. The basic idea is buying quality, non-blended fibres. Look out for 100% natural fibres like organic cotton, linen or hemp. Steer clear of anything that blends a natural fibre like cotton with a synthetic fibre like polyester or nylon. These items are only blended to make them cheaper, yet the quality will deteriorate faster and the item will be next to impossible to recycle or degrade. Even on the shop floor, it's heading to landfill. 

If you need a synthetic thing, like say a ski jacket or some new swimmers, try to find a second hand or recycled version. ie. recycled nylon swimsuits, recycled PET windbreakers. These too, should not be blended, look for 100% of whatever the fibre is. If you see elastane or spandex (even 5%) in the mix, abandon ship! Elastane is the WORST thing for garment end of life. If you truly need an elasticated garment, consider purchasing it second hand.

When buying in person, check the make of the garment, are the seams strong when you pull at them? Are buttons and button holes tight and secure? Are there loose threads? Is the workmanship neat? Or a little shoddy? Look INSIDE the garment. These are each small clues that can help you determine the overall quality of a garment.

Finally, ask questions. If you want to know what working conditions a garment was made under, ask! If the answer is unknown, it's probably because there is something to hide. Use your values to vet, and don't hesitate to put it back and walk away. 

That's it for us for another day, but as always, we love to know your thoughts. Did you try out the steps? What worked? What didn't? TLDR?

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Until next time, Courtney + Team x

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