How to build a sustainable wardrobe

If there’s one place where I feel like I’m nailing sustainability and minimalism, it must be in my wardrobe. I’ve long said adios to impulsive shopping sprees at fast fashion brands and in line with my 2019 resolutions, I have barely bought any clothes this year. Embracing a sustainable wardrobe (in my interpretation of sustainable) is not only good for the environment, it’s also a good path to follow for your wallet, mental health and of course to save some space in your wardrobe. That’s why I wanted to share with you my top tips to make your wardrobe more sustainable – without having to throw out all of your Zara buys. 

What sustainability means to me

I could write another lengthy blogpost about what sustainability means to me, but basically it’s about making conscious choices with an eye on the future. For me, that’s shopping for items that will last – in material, but also in style. Knowing that whatever I add to my wardrobe will still be there in three years time, instead of letting me be guided by hasty trends and cheap buys. 

Indirectly, that means buying less. Minimalism and sustainability are very intertwined in my life. Because when you pick out the right items that you’ll really be wearing, you’ll build up a capsule wardrobe of qualitative items that last you through the seasons. Less is definitely more.

The practical guide to a more sustainable wardrobe

So what are the changes you can make in order to welcome sustainability and minimalism into your wardrobe? Here are my top tips.

Timeless, durable basics

The foundation of a sustainable wardrobe is building a collection of basics that last. Items that don’t go out of style, don’t wear off too easily and can be effortlessly mixed and matched with other garments. Take a good pair of jeans for instance, one that fits you perfectly and looks good for both casual and more formal occasions. But also white shirts that suit your style, a blazer that you can throw on over anything and a chunky knit that you can top off with jewellery if your outfit needs more chique

Examine your wardrobe and take a look at how many good quality basics you actually own. Maybe you always think you need more clothes because your current items are not versatile enough? Or maybe you’re buying too many things of poor quality, instead of investing in things that become long-lasting staples in your closet? 

Second hand top-offs

It’s not so easy to shop your basics in second hand stores, because the chance that you find what you’re looking for (in your size, the perfect fit and a timeless fabric) is quite small. However, I always turn to second hand for my ‘top-offs’: bolder items like an oversized trench coat, a party dress or a leopard print skirt.

Why? Buying second hand items is sustainable because you’re giving pre-loved items another life, instead of them ending up in the bin. I’ve talked about this idea of circular economy before in my blog post on conscious shopping choices. But buying second hand top-offs is also good for you personally: they’re often a lot cheaper than brand new trend items. And because they’re at least a few years old, there’s little chance that anyone else will be wearing the same thing. More unique pieces tend to last longer in our wardrobes, which instantly makes it a matter of sustainability.

Also: building a wardrobe of timeless basics and topping that off with second-hand items will unconsciously make you buy less ‘trendy’ items. Think of the ones that are nice for one season and then end up in the back of your wardrobe because they’re not cool anymore. And we want to avoid those, don’t we?

Seasonal purchases

One thing I love about the concept of capsule wardrobes is that you examine your wardrobe at the beginning of every season and make a list of what’s missing before going on a shopping spree. It doesn’t only force you to list up what you really need or want instead of blindly filling your basket, but it also prevents mid-season impulse buys that weren’t very thought out. 

I find it very inspiring to watch The Anna Edit’s videos at the beginning of every season to see how she switches up her closet and adds in a few new thing here and there. She’s the person you want to look at for capsule wardrobe inspiration! 

Where to shop for a sustainable wardrobe?

I always have a bit of a dilemma when it comes to shopping sustainably for clothes. Because my main focus is on finding things that are timeless and that will last, ecological brands are not really my first choice as the quality of their garments often isn’t great. Take the Veja sneakers I bought last year for instance: I love the story behind them and that they’re sustainably manufactured, but they fell apart in pieces after only wearing them for seven months. 

I’d take a long-lasting, qualitative piece over an ecologically manufactured one without hesitation. Of course I still research the conditions something was made in and the ethics of a brand are very valuable to me, but quality goes up front

Next to that, I also try to shop more locally and choose European brands more and more. 

Here’s a list of brands that you can turn to for sustainable additions to your wardrobe.

  • Filippa K, Samsoe & Samsoe, Closed and Selected – qualitative garments that last you for years, in timeless designs you’ll never get bored of. 
  • Woron – sustainable lingerie that is the most comfortable thing my skin has even been in.
  • Dr Martens – yes, leather. But they last you about a lifetime and if you choose classy ones, they look good with every outfit. 
  • Kings of Indigo – sustainable denim that is a little more stiff than your usual high street pair, but won’t wear off like those ones do.

What are your tips for a sustainable wardrobe, and what brands do you turn to?