After a year of most people living in loungewear, it’s a bit daunting thinking about what to wear when we can go out and about again. The pandemic has created a shift in priorities in all areas of our lives, fashion being no exception. I think most of us have had a wardrobe clear out to some extent in the last year. So what should you replace these pieces with? How do you rebuild your personal style?
Finding your personal style can be hard enough, without then adding ethics and sustainability into the mix as well. Sustainable fashion has a bit of a bad reputation when it comes to style. Do you get that image of bland colour palettes and oversized linens? If you’re not into neutrals or ‘shapeless’ styles then it might seem like you don’t have any options in the ethical fashion world. But that’s not true. You can keep wearing exactly what you want to, and still have a more ethical and sustainable wardrobe.
There are more sustainable clothing brands now than ever. If you’re used to shopping on the high street then it might mean adjusting the way you buy your clothes a bit. But if you’re an online shopping lover then it’s never been easier to switch to ethical alternatives.
I think it’s also worth noting that personal style will generally change and evolve over the years. Trends and tastes can change dramatically so it’s completely normal if you wouldn’t wear the same things now that you used to.
My personal style has changed a lot over the years. Up until I was around 22 and left university, the majority of my clothes were brightly coloured and had lots of patterns. Now, it’s pretty much the opposite. I still love colour but in a much more minimal way. I gravitate towards block colours rather than patterns and go for more ‘natural’ tones over bright colours. Having said that, there’s always the odd anomaly, such as this bright yellow polka dot dress that I love.
A key thing for me is making several outfits from the pieces in my wardrobe that I know work well for me. Then when I can’t decide what to wear, I can just pick one of these outfits and I’m good to go. The photos I’ve included here are a couple of those go-to outfits.
Personal Style Top Tips
Lets start with finding your personal style in the first place. A good starting place is if you use Instagram and/or Pinterest, you can look through the outfits that you’ve saved and spot the similarities between them. This can be fantastic inspiration, I often browse online for outfits I like and then see if I can recreate them with things I already have. It might give you a totally new perspective on a piece that you couldn’t work out how to wear. You could even create a mood board of your favourites – or a Pinterest board if you’d rather it be digital.
If you haven’t already had a wardrobe declutter then this is where you should start. I’d recommend doing this after the above step though (or hold off on actually getting rid of them, keep things aside until you look at your inspiration). When going through my wardrobe, I find it helps to try everything on – especially anything that you’re not sure about. I have an abundance of t-shirts so I tend to avoid buying new ones. Whereas my trousers section was very minimal so I recently bought a couple of new pairs from Depop (including these white jeans).
Building a sustainable wardrobe starts before you even buy anything. Reducing our consumption of clothing is the best way to start with a sustainable wardrobe. So before you rush to buy 10 new things to replace the 10 things you’ve taken out. Think about what you actually need. To determine what you need to add to your wardrobe, consider the following points:
- What kind of clothing do you have the least of?
- What colours do you think are missing? Is your favourite colour represented?
- What are your priorities in clothing? Comfort, versatility, on trend, etc?
- What silhouettes suit you the most?
- Which items do you have already that make you feel confident?
Trial and Error
You’re probably going to need to try several things before finding what works for you, especially if you don’t know the answers to the above questions. The easiest way to do this is to go into shops and try everything on (when allowed). You could also order online and return what you don’t want, but be aware that some brands don’t resell returns and they end up in landfill. This can also end up being very expensive until you make the returns if you’re buying things in multiple sizes, etc.
So how does sustainability come into all of this? If you want your wardrobe to be as sustainable as possible then you need to keep this in mind at every step – what’s the best way to give this item a new home? Do you really need to buy that? Have I stopped wearing this because of a fixable issue?
As I mentioned, the very best way to be more sustainable is to reduce the amount of things you’re buying. But of course we need to buy new clothing sometimes. If you’re buying an item that you love and will wear for years to come then don’t feel guilty about it. If you have a habit of heading into Primark and purchasing everything you fancy with the majority of it just sitting in your wardrobe never to be worn then have a rethink before you head to the till.
My favourite way to shop sustainably is by buying second hand items. It’s also a great way to save money. The first thing I do when I see something I like is search Depop for it. There’s also a local sell/swap Facebook group in my area that’s specific for clothing, so it’s worth looking for one in your area too.
There are loads of ethical and sustainable brands around. And plenty of resources to find them. My go-to places to find brands are Good On You, and Besma at Curiously Conscious who has a few different directory posts, like this Guide to 150 Sustainable Brands. Here are some online shops that stock a variety of ethical fashion brands to get you started:
- Wolf & Badger
- Project Cece
- The Green Labels
- Will’s Vegan Store (all own brand but a good variety of items)
Make do and Mend
Looking after the clothing that you do have means it will last longer and bring you back to the first point of reducing the amount that you buy. If something hasn’t worn out then you don’t need to replace it with a new version. If you can’t already sew then it’s definitely worth learning the basics. Being able to sew a button back on or repair a loose seam can give your clothes twice as much life.