It's easy to appear perfect, but does my wardrobe actually measure up?
Welcome to my putrid pine wardrobe, the flimsy student housing special. While it's not always (ever) this tidy, these are genuinely the clothes that were hung up in there at the time I took the picture. However, I am a laundry cycle behind, so there are some missing bits and bobs in the washing basket.
The Sustainable Side
Here are the clothes I consider sustainable, or "slow fashion". Some jeans, tops, jumpers and jackets. Nearly all of these are from charity shops, but a couple are from vintage stores or Depop.
Oldest item: Black Levi's mom jeans, which I bought from H-Town Rags in Hitchin around 2017, back when it used to be this tiny hole-in-the-wall shop up an alley.
Newest item: Floral slip dress, which I mentioned in A Guide To The Charity Shops In Lancaster. This gorgeous piece was debuted on Valentines Day 2022, and will always have a special place in my heart thanks to that.
Favourite item: Red turtleneck. Without a doubt. I bought this at the beginning of my second year of university while shopping with my friend Katie, and it's been a solid staple since.
The Other Side
Here are the clothes I consider less sustainable, or "fast fashion". These were all purchased new, some a few years ago and most recently last Summer - that blue jumper in the middle was bought at Reading Festival.
Oldest item: Pink knit jumper. One of my oldest friends, Sophie, bought this for me as a Christmas gift back in 2019. It has a very special place in my heart, and I used to wear it with this amazing black mock-croc mini skirt to 6th Form and, of course, get dress-coded (if you know you know). When pubs first opened after the original 2020 lockdown I wore it and got my first and only ever bullseye!
Newest item: Blue Reading Festival jumper. In the midst of the pandemic Reading went ahead and it was freezing! That jumper kept me warm while camping, and when I got home with festival flu.
Favourite item: That pink jumper, which I need to wear more often.
If you compare the two pictures above you can see the difference in number easily. I am glad to say that I have more sustainably sourced clothes than not. Also, there's so much more variety in colour. Since I started my sustainability journey I've felt confident enough to lean into colours and patterns I had been avoiding. Perhaps this is because when you're trawling through the charity shops the brightest items stand out and draw your attention.
Back in 6th Form I used to dress pretty boldly - although my head of year preferred the term prostitute. Over the pandemic, like many others, I lost my sense of confidence with fashion as I spent every day in joggers and jumpers. However, I'm happy to say my confidence is back up to where it was.
What Makes Clothes Sustainable?
Clothes are pretty resource heavy to make and many companies rely on less-than fair wages. Sustainable clothing ranges from buying from businesses which manufacture in the UK, to second hand pieces, to mending your old stuff. I mostly stick to mending/buying second hand, as small businesses can have large un-student-friendly price tags - but more on than another time.
Here's a quick fire list of easy student-friendly ways to shop sustainably:
Borrow from family/friends
Depop, Ebay & Vinted
If you're going on a night out and need a different dress to last week for your Instagram pics nab one from your housemate if they're the same size. Lend them some pesto later in the week to make up for it. Need some random colour for a social that you'll wear once then toss? Hit the charity shops with your pals and grab lunch while your at it! Beg borrow and steal (from your friends) for the planet - I dare you.
How Sustainable Is My Wardrobe?
Back to the matter at hand, and the question at the top of the page. Well, from this sample I have over twice the amount of slow fashion to fast. That might not seem that great, but considering that I have a bunch of other stuff (like miniskirts and sports-bras) that don't hang in my wardrobe along with a brimming laundry basket which hasn't been counted, I'm happy with where I'm at. I'd say nobody is going to be at 100% sustainability, but I'd rate myself at a solid 99.9 recurring. Just kidding. I've got a way to go, especially with shoes, but I'm happy with where I am now. My last fast fashion purchase was half a year ago, and then before that I don't even recall.
Do I feel bad about the clothes in my wardrobe that are "unsustainable"? Absolutely not. On average clothes get worn 7-10 times before being tossed. I'm beating that statistic by a mile - the most sustainable thing you can do with your old clothes is to keep re-wearing them! When I really am done with a piece after a few years I sell it on or give it to a friend. Plus, I hardly ever buy new, and when I do it's for an important reason and not frivolous - such as my Reading jumper, which I purchased for memories' sake.
A tip for you is to think when was the last time you bought something fast fashion. Ask yourself:
Did really need this? If yes-
Could I have found this or something similar in a more sustainable way?
You can also use these question when out shopping too.