I agree that fashion (even if organic), when associated with “fast fashion” or trends (i.e., ephemeral and disposable wardrobes dictated by glossy magazines, Hollywood celebrity sightings, and marketing campaigns), is wasteful. But it does not need to be. As a matter of fact, I believe that fashion actually completes my Low Waste lifestyle quite perfectly.
To downsize, take it all out, and for each item, ponder:
• Is it in working condition? Is it outdated? A few of those items that have holes, rips, and stains beyond repair/repurpose (refer to my alphabetical guide below for ideas) can be used as rags; the rest can be recycled. If you cannot flaunt past trends, donate or sell them; you’ll make a vintage enthusiast happy.
• Do I use it regularly? Maybe you hold on to that bridesmaid dress for the what-if occasion. Donating it will clear space in your closet and make everyday wear more visible and accessible. Also, let your skinny clothes go: if you lose weight, you’ll want to treat yourself to a fresh wardrobe.
• Is it a duplicate? Seasonal accessories such as duplicate scarves and bathing suits take up space all year round: pick a favorite and let go of the rest. The same goes with underwear and socks: evaluate the amount needed between washes and let go of the extras (many thrift shops gladly accept them because many people gladly buy them).
• Does it endanger the health of my family? (PBDE), perfluorochemicals and phthalates respectively found in wrinkle-resistant (no-iron), fire/flame-retardant, Gore-Tex (also labeled Scotchgard or Teflon), and vinyl clothing are detrimental to our health. Nylon, polyester, and acrylic can also cause dermatological allergies. Consider letting go of these materials to reduce your exposure to them; contact the manufacturer for disposal suggestions.
• Do I keep it out of guilt? Jewelry is commonly gifted or passed down as an heirloom. Despite good intentions, these pieces often do not meet our personal aesthetics. It’s okay to pass them on to those who will make use of them: a family member, consignment shop, or charity auction.
• Do I keep it because society tells me that I need one (“everyone has one”)? Could something else achieve the same task? Consider everything in your closet. Powerful ad campaigns show sneakers as a must-have, but if your regular exercise routine involves yoga, leisure biking, and walking, you might just as well use a nonathletic comfortable pair of shoes instead.
• Is it worth my precious time cleaning? Hat and shoe boxes not only hide their contents but also collect dust, take up room, and impair efficiency. Think out of the box: consider storing items on an open shelf instead. You will more likely use them and you will eliminate unnecessary cleaning. Let dust be your decluttering guide.
• Could I use this space for something else? If the previous questions did not convince you to donate or sell your wedding dress, consider relocating it to the attic and reclaiming the space for conveniently storing your travel carry-on in your closet.
• Is it reusable? Such items as disposable underwear (yes, they do exist and are marketed to travelers) or glue-on earrings (I wore them as a kid) clearly do not have their place in a Zero Waste closet. But when paring down, reusability is evaluated in terms of versatility and quality. Favor those items that can be paired with more than three pieces, reject those with little prospects.
Set and stick to predetermined shopping days throughout the year: For example, I choose to shop mid-April for spring/summer and mid-October for fall/winter. It discourages leisure shopping (and therefore avoids compulsive buys) and encourages extending the useful life of the contents of your wardrobe.
Keep a tight inventory: Before a seasonal shopping trip, you can highlight the items on your list that you wore out (holes, tears, or stubborn stains) or simply grew tired of wearing, and need to replace. It supports the rule “One in, one out,” by sticking to a predefined number.
A Zero Waste wardrobe should not only be minimal, but it should also support reusability through (1) buying secondhand, (2) buying versatile pieces, and(3) repurposing.
The greenest product is inarguably the one that you already own. I believe in reusing before buying into green claims, in shopping our closets (ours and that of other family members), thrift stores, vintage shops, consignment boutiques, or flea markets before buying a new garment that is organic, vegan, recycled, recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable.
Craigslist, Freecycle, and garage sales can also provide tag-free preowned apparel. Although it comes with the environmental impact of transportation, eBay can also meet very specific clothing needs; simply make sure to check the “preowned” box in your search.
In my opinion,eco-friendly products will be a good alternative only when we have exhausted and worn out those already manufactured. According to the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR), over 70percent of the world’s population use secondhand clothes—isn’t it time our society did, too?
Many shoppers cringe at the idea of buying secondhand for many reasons, but misconceptions need to be abolished. Hygiene: “It’s dirty, someone else wore it.” We tend to believe that new clothing is cleaner than its used counterparts, when in fact new clothing that has been tried or possibly returned can be dirtier (worn and never washed) than a laundered preowned garment.
Furthermore, buying new clothing does not ensure that it will be bug-free. Large retail chains have had well-publicized problems with infestations. Newly bought clothes (new or used) should be washed before wearing, regardless of their origin.
Organization: “I can’t find anything in that mess.” Just like retail stores, secondhand venues can set themselves apart through merchandising. Although secondhand markets provide cheap clothes, they are often run by volunteers, ignoring the rules and powers of marketing or simply lacking presentation skills. If you do not enjoy rummaging through themessy piles of a garage sale, then pick an organized shop (Goodwill arranges its garments by color, for example) or, better yet, a consignment shop as they tend to run smaller, well-organized boutiques. eBay also makes it easy to narrow a search down to specifics.
Smell: Thrift stores stink. Most people associate the smell of new plastics (i.e., syntheticoff-gassing) and department store perfumes (i.e., toxic phthalates) with the highs of shopping. On the other hand, resale shops sell items that have lost most of these toxic volatile compounds and therefore provide a somewhat healthier shopping experience than their retail counterparts.
Standards: “I find it demeaning to buy secondhand when I can afford to buy new.” Again, it is not what you wear that defines who you are but who you are that defines what you wear. Also, the secondhand market can cater to financial standards of all kinds. The high-end resell designer brands and vintage looks. In fact, now is associated with cool, rare, and quality pieces. Let’s embrace the hunt for unusual clothing and the carbon footprint redemption of buying used!
But first, here are the rules to follow when shopping secondhand for a Zero Waste wardrobe:
• Dress lightly. Leggings paired with a fitted tank top, for example, make it easy to try things on in the aisles.
• Bring your shopping tote. Too often we think about the reusable bag for bringing home groceries but not clothes or shoes. Reduced shopping trips inevitably decrease incidences, but“where there is a will, there is a way.” If you forget your tote, you can simply wrap small purchases into larger ones (accessories in a T-shirt, for example).
• Bring your inventory list (possibly accessible from your phone). Don’t let the minimal pricetags of secondhand shopping undermine your decluttering efforts; stick to finding and buying only those items highlighted on your list.
• Favor durability. While new purchases come with the uncertainty of how they will stand up to regular wear, used ones, on the other hand, offer pretested apparel. The large majority of the resale merchandise has undergone an undefined amount of use (wearing, washing, drying) that the shopper can exploit to buy smart. If a garment was poorly designed to shrink, twist, or pill, then by the time it hangs on a thrift store rack, it will most likely show the defect. Aim for quality materials, including leather shoes and belts, and metal accessories, which not only last longer but are more easily repaired than synthetic ones.
• Favor natural fibers. I have found it easy to eliminate plastics in the kitchen, but much harder to stay away from synthetics in the bedroom or wardrobe. Lycra is now commonly added to jeans, acrylic to socks and sweaters, and polyester to sheets. Yet pure cotton, linen, silk, hemp, bamboo, wool, and jute possess “breathing” properties, eliminate the risk of allergies caused by synthetic fibers, do not require static guards in the dryer, and are biodegradable (in theory, even compostable). However, if you want to use synthetic go for a recyclable one.
.• Expand your search. Don’t overlook costume, lingerie, party wear, or menswear racks, which can offer unusual pieces and silhouettes for everyday wear.
• Inspect thoroughly. The higher-end shops (such as consignment, designer resale, or vintage) pay particular attention to the condition of their merchandise. Thrift stores, on the other hand, are not as thorough. Test buttons and elastic bands and examine the seams. Be on the lookout for stains or holes. If your expertise can remedy a defect (i.e., postpone the garment’s trip to the landfill), ask for a discount.
• Be ruthless on fit. Not only have sizing standards changed over the years and varied across the brands but an item might also have been washed and shrunk. Don’t trust the size label. Try it on.
• Wash before wearing. Welcome it into your wardrobe and make it yours! Living sustainably requires discipline. It involves learning how to resist fast fashion; it requires protecting oneself from the marketing campaigns found in fashion magazines, on billboards, and at bus stops and intended“not to create satisfactions, but to create dissatisfactions with what people possess.
A used wardrobe undeniably takes persistence, willpower, and some getting used to. A fervent mall-goer won’t commit to the secondhand market overnight. But gradual change holds significance. A great way to ease into adjustment is to first adopt a hybrid wardrobe.
Buy new quality basics (timeless classics) and incorporate fun used pieces, such as bold items in unusual textures and colors.
Repurposing Infrequent shopping trips eventually lead to wear and tear, and a small wardrobe sometimes breeds boredom (especially as my biannual shopping trip nears). To remedy these predicaments, there is much to consider.
Here is my list to rethinking, repairing, and extending your wardrobe’s useful life:
Accessorize it: Hide a hole with a pin or a flower.
Borrow it: Use your kid’s scarf, your husband’s hat, or your mom’s jewelry to spruce up an outfit.
Color it: Use natural dyes (see color ideas) to give a white shirt a new look, a marker to cover a bleach spot or leftover house paint to cover a stain with a strategic splash of color.
Darn it: Learn our grandmothers’ handcraft to repair worn-out socks and sweater holes.
Edit it: Not liking a sewn-on design on a shirt, belt loops on a pair of pants, or pockets on a sweater? Removing them can make all the difference.
Felt it: A wool sweater can be felted down to fit a smaller size or to make another useful item.
Glue it: A dot of glue can save a pair of shoes.
Hem it: The height of a hem can completely change a garment. A dress can turn into a shirt, jeans into shorts (I use orange thread to follow the design elements of denim).
Improvise it: A chain belt can double as a necklace; a skirt with an elastic waistband as a tube top; a long top as a minidress.
Juxtapose it: Contrasts add zing to outfits and can revive an old garment. Pair worn with new, casual with formal, sporty with dressy, etc.
Knot it: Knot a shirt at the waist or wide pants at the hem to alter their fit and look.
Layer it: Layering can alter the visuals of a piece. Worn under a shirt, a strapless dress will appear to be a skirt, for example. But layering can also hide defects. When worn as a layer, a stained red shirt can add a touch of color under a sweater.
Mend it: Simply repairing a seam or sewing on a button can save a garment; but mending also encourages thinking out of the box. The elastic ankle of a worn-out sock can replace a ripped sweatshirt cuff (speaking from experience, no one will notice)!
Nip it: Adding darts to a shirt can both enhance the design of a garment and hide holes (or prevent them from getting bigger).
Organize it: Reorganizing or shuffling a wardrobe can provide a new outlook on its contents; changing the placement of a garment might simply highlight its potential.
Patch it: Stop holes from getting bigger at the knee before it’s too late. Iron on patches at the knees (inside the pants) at the first sign of wear.
Question it: Google will tell you what to do with it. YouTube has some great tutorials on how to turn old T-shirts into dresses or men’s shirts into skirts without sewing (one short video inspired me to experiment and wear a men’s dress shirt fifty different ways).
Return it: If it still has a price tag attached, don’t wait, return it to the store.
Shrink it: A clothes dryer can shrink your clothes to the perfect fit (it works especially well for those items that warn against using a dryer).
Trade it: Have a clothes-swapping party or use an online trading website.
Unravel it: Unravel old sweaters to make new ones; unravel buttons from worn-out clothing to substitute lost ones on wearable garments.
Vamp it up: Tired of your same old sandals? Vamp them up by replacing their ankle straps with ribbons and tying them into bows.
Wrap it: A skinny belt serves double duty wrapped around a wrist as a chunky bracelet; a scarf wrapped around the waist as a beach cover-up. XYZ: Examine Your Zipper; if the zipper pull is broken, use a paper clip, a chain link, or a ribbon as an alternative.
CAPSULE MINIMALIST MOBILE WARDROBE
I have found that a grab-and-go wardrobe supports:
• Efficiency: It saves time by reducing shopping, minimizing storage activities, and speeding up decision-making in the morning. It makes each piece easy to see, easy to match, easy to grab.
• Energy savings: It reduces laundry loads by encouraging wardrobe management. That is, learning to manage the number of pieces and the amount of times that they are worn (you consider wearing pieces again, instead of thoughtlessly throwing them in the laundry).
• Economic savings: A small wardrobe obviously lessens shopping and storage costs, but when packed in a carry-on for air travel, it also saves check-in fees.
• Effortless travel: It is lighter to carry and quicker to pack (no need to debate what to bring on a trip, you can bring it all). • Easy maintenance: Staying on top of repair and stains is manageable.
• Emergency readiness: In case of an emergency, it is packed in a few minutes and easy to grab.