11 Steps to Transitioning to Sustainable Fashion (Responsibly)

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Written By Lucy Spencer

Leading by example, Lucy fuses eco-conscious fashion and decor to encourage a sustainable lifestyle.

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Are you curious about how to transition to a sustainable wardrobe but overwhelmed by where to start?

You’re not alone.

The journey towards sustainable fashion can seem daunting, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul overnight.

In fact, the most responsible transition doesn’t involve discarding your current wardrobe in favor of a brand new, eco-friendly one.

In this article, I’ll guide you through a list of thoughtful steps designed to make your move towards sustainable fashion both effective and ethical.

Read on to find out how!

But First, a Quick Word of Advice: Don’t Rush to Dispose!

Before diving into the steps for a sustainable wardrobe transition, it’s important to note that sustainability is not about immediately discarding your current clothes.

The goal is longevity and mindful ownership.

Instead of quickly getting rid of non-sustainable items, consider how to extend their life or phase them out responsibly.

The argument for switching to slow fashion is compelling, but being thoughtful and deliberate about it is key.

How to Responsibly Transition to a Sustainable Wardrobe

1. Equip Yourself with Sustainable Fashion IQ

Equip Yourself with Sustainable Fashion IQ

Before diving into the world of sustainable fashion, it’s crucial to equip yourself with the right knowledge.

Ever wondered about the real cost of that fast-fashion t-shirt or what ‘organic cotton’ really means?

This is the stage where you arm yourself with vital information. Learn about the environmental footprint of textiles, discover the importance of ethical labor practices, and delve into low-waste production methods.

This isn’t just a preliminary step; consider it the backbone of your sustainable fashion journey.

Trust me, a little knowledge goes a long way in making your transition not only smoother but also more responsible.

2. Take the Closet Reality Check

Take the Closet Reality Check 1

Now that you’re equipped with the fundamentals of sustainable fashion, it’s time for some hands-on application.

Open your closet and assess what’s inside.

How many items align with your newfound sustainable criteria?

Start categorizing your wardrobe into ‘sustainable,’ ‘transitional,’ and ‘non-sustainable’ pieces. Don’t worry, the aim here isn’t to purge but to understand.

Recognize the gaps and redundancies, and identify what you genuinely need versus what you bought on impulse.

This audit acts as your roadmap, guiding your future choices in building a more responsible and sustainable wardrobe.

3. Craft Your Wardrobe Blueprint

Craft Your Sustainable Wardrobe Blueprint

The importance of strategic planning cannot be overstated when aiming for a sustainable wardrobe.

Think of it as creating a blueprint for your fashion needs.

Instead of haphazardly buying pieces that catch your eye, consider what your wardrobe requires across different seasons and functions—be it work, casual outings, or special occasions.

This preemptive approach encourages you to make thoughtful purchases that not only adhere to sustainable principles but are also genuinely useful.

This way, each new addition to your closet is a conscious choice, setting the stage for a lower Cost-Per-Wear (more about this later) and a more ethical, sustainable lifestyle.

4. Master the Art of Sustainable Shopping

Master the Art of Sustainable Shopping

With your closet reality check complete and a list of what you actually need in hand, you’re now poised to make impactful changes.

But how do you navigate the jungle of ‘sustainable’ tags, certifications, and buzzwords?

This is the moment where your newly-acquired Sustainable Fashion IQ truly shines, guiding your choices as you navigate the shopping landscape and helping you to avoid falling for greenwashing.

Learn to recognize authentic certifications like Fair Trade, GOTS, and OEKO-TEX.

Discover the differences (and similarities) between sustainable, slow, eco and ethical fashion brands.

Consider second-hand shopping or clothing swaps as valuable alternatives.

Remember, sustainable fashion isn’t just a label; it’s a set of values. Apply yours rigorously every time you’re tempted to hit that ‘checkout’ button.

5. Implement the ‘Cost-Per-Wear’ Principle

Implement the Cost-Per-Wear Principle

Building on the ethos of quality over quantity, it’s time to introduce a savvy financial metric into your sustainable fashion journey: the Cost-Per-Wear (CPW) principle.

Think of each purchase as a long-term investment and calculate its CPW by dividing the total cost of the item by the number of times you anticipate wearing it.

This simple yet powerful formula encourages you to opt for versatile, enduring pieces that will become staples in your wardrobe.

Cost-Per-Wear Formula 2

In essence, a lower CPW translates to a wiser investment, not only economically but also ethically.

By adopting the CPW principle, you’re taking a holistic approach that marries financial wisdom with sustainability.

Example: Let’s say you are considering buying a high-quality winter coat for $200, and you expect to wear it at least 100 times over several winter seasons. Using the CPW formula: CPW = $200/100 = $2. In this case, the CPW for the winter coat would be $2. This tells you that each time you wear the coat, it effectively “costs” you $2.

A lower CPW generally indicates a better investment from a sustainability standpoint, as it implies you’ll get more use out of the item for the money spent.

6. Opt for Quality over Quantity

Opt for Quality over Quantity

Armed with the art of sustainable shopping, your next mission is to focus on long-lasting quality.

Say goodbye to disposable fashion and hello to investment pieces.

Look for timeless designs and durable materials that promise longevity.

Remember, a high-quality item not only elevates your style but also reduces waste, making each purchase a long-term commitment to sustainability.

Consider adopting a ‘capsule wardrobe’ approach, built on a foundation of versatile, enduring pieces.

This is where your commitment to sustainability transforms into a lifestyle.

7. Discover the Charm of Pre-Loved Fashion

Discover the Charm of Pre-Loved Fashion

Here’s where your fashion journey takes an exciting detour.

Embracing second-hand shopping isn’t just a win for your wallet; it’s a significant stride toward a more sustainable lifestyle.

This step naturally follows your commitment to quality and the Cost-Per-Wear principle, offering an alternative route to enrich your wardrobe without contributing to fast fashion.

Whether it’s scouring local thrift shops, attending vintage fairs, or exploring online resale platforms, second-hand shopping grants you access to unique, high-quality items that come with a lower environmental footprint.

By opting for pre-loved fashion, you’re not just a consumer; you become a conscious curator of your own sustainable style.

8. Repurpose, Repair & Upcycle

Extend the Life of Your Wardrobe 1

Now that you’ve curated a quality, sustainable wardrobe, the next goal is to extend the lifespan of these valuable pieces.

Step away from the throwaway culture by embracing the principles of repurposing, repairing, and upcycling.

A small tear or a missing button is not the end of the road for your garment; it’s an opportunity for a DIY project that adds character and story to your clothes.

There are countless online tutorials to help you get started on your upcycling journey.

Remember, sustainability is as much about preserving what you have as it is about making new ethical choices!

9. Be the Change, Share the Change

Be the Change, Share the Change.1

As you perfect your sustainable fashion practices, it’s time to amplify your impact by engaging with a broader community.

Sustainable fashion isn’t a solo endeavor; it’s a collective movement that thrives on shared knowledge, support, and advocacy.

This step goes beyond your personal choices and wardrobe adjustments, urging you to take on the role of a sustainability ambassador.

Whether it’s spreading awareness through social media, participating in fashion swaps, or attending eco-conscious events, your advocacy can inspire others to embark on their own sustainable fashion journey.

By becoming an active part of this community, you’re not just improving your life—you’re contributing to a global shift toward responsible fashion!

10. Fine-Tune Your Sustainable Wardrobe Strategy

Fine-Tune Your Sustainable Wardrobe Strategy

Now that you’ve diligently implemented various facets of sustainable fashion, it’s essential to pause and assess.

Tracking and re-evaluation act as the control center of your sustainable journey, allowing you to measure your progress, analyze the effectiveness of your choices, and make informed adjustments.

Whether you use a dedicated fashion journal, an app, or periodic closet audits, establish a system to monitor your fashion footprint.

Are you staying true to the Cost-Per-Wear principle?

Is your seasonal and functional planning working out?

Take stock of these aspects and more.

By regularly fine-tuning your approach, you ensure that your commitment to sustainable fashion remains dynamic, evolving, and ever-improving.

11. Conscious Disposal & Recycling

Conscious Disposal & Recycling

The final step in your journey toward a sustainable wardrobe focuses on the often-overlooked aspect of responsible disposal.

When the time comes to part ways with pieces from your closet, how you do so matters immensely.

Instead of resorting to the convenience of tossing unwanted items into the trash, take a moment to explore ethical alternatives.

Whether it’s donating to a charity, selling to a second-hand shop, or recycling the material for textile waste management, each option has its merits.

Research community initiatives and local resources that can help you make these decisions consciously.

By thoughtfully closing the loop on your fashion lifecycle, you’re making a lasting commitment to a more ethical and sustainable world.

Embark on Your Sustainable Fashion Journey Today

Transitioning to a sustainable wardrobe is not just a trend—it’s a commitment to ethical responsibility and environmental stewardship.

By following these carefully curated steps, you’re not only revamping your closet but also contributing to a larger movement of responsible fashion and consumption.

Remember, the journey to sustainability is a marathon, not a sprint.

(Read about my own circuitous journey back to sustainable fashion here).

It calls for continuous learning, adaptation, and conscious decision-making.

But rest assured, every small step you take resonates in a much larger context, influencing not just your lifestyle but potentially inspiring others to follow suit.

So, equip yourself with knowledge, plan thoughtfully, and act consciously.

Your journey towards a more sustainable and ethical wardrobe starts now!

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