In my on-going quest for a sustainable ethical wardrobe I am very mindful about the items I bring into it. We all know that most conscious fashion choices aren’t as cheap as fast fashion. For that higher price point, the clothes we bring into our wardrobes need to be classic, represent our true selves, and they need to last. As a result of living like this, I’ve developed a bit what you might call a ‘capsule wardrobe’ – a refined wardrobe of less but well made clothes. If you’re new to an eco-fashion lifestyle, like I still am, it might take a bit to adjust your attitude towards your clothing. The objects we surround ourselves with, and particularly dress ourselves in, deserve care and respect. They deserve not to be tossed aside at the creation of a small tear or thrown in the dryer with little thought to how doing so will stretch the fabric in ways it isn’t designed to move.
With some consideration, love and attention, you can drastically improve the lifespan of your clothes. Below I’m sharing my tips for getting the most out of your lovely eco-fashion pieces so that you can enjoy them for years to come.
Start with Quality
Only quality clothes have any hope of lasting long-term. When making your carefully chosen purchases, it’s so important to look at the craftsmanship that has gone into the construction. I’m far from an expert on this as I’ve never done a fashion degree, but luckily there are some great resources out there, that will inform you of the marks of a well-made garment.
Fold where possible
This principle follows the Marie Kondo method (which I love). In very Japanese style, she discusses how most clothing should be folded in order to let it rest. Hanging clothing that isn’t designed to hang stretches points in the fabric and increases wear. Folding is also much more space effective.
Give them a home
Allocate your clothing certain places in your wardrobe, and put them back in the same place. It’s their home; let them return to it after a long day. If you follow the Marie Kondo method, she stands (appropriate) folded clothing upright so that everything is visible, easy to access and gently balances against each other. When I first did this with my clothes, I had a major whoamoment as I saw so clearly my clothes in relation to each other. Items that aredesigned to be hung, however, need appropriate space between the hangers for airflow and circulation.
Store properly between seasons
If your climate doesn’t vary between Sahara and snow, you might leave all or most of your clothes accessible in your wardrobe year round, like I do. For those in more extreme climates, when putting away seasonal items such as jackets and coats, do so with some extra care and attention. Clean properly, allow to air dry and then store protected in a coat bag. This prevents dust from damaging your items.
Often you don’t need to clean your whole garment. If a mark or stain appears, just spot clean rather than putting the whole thing in the washing machine. Washing your clothes in water less often will increase their longevity.
I love using Soapberries to clean my clothing. You can find out about them here, but no matter which clothes cleaner you use, make sure it is natural and preferably organic. This prevents harmful, powerful chemicals from leaking into the fibers and eventually being emitted on to your skin.
Cold water is so much gentler on fabric than hot water. While it’s a good idea to follow care instructions, cold washing when possible while help your clothes last and last and last.
Wash like-fabrics together
I’m not sure if your parents taught you this when growing up, but it’s not a good idea to wash your dark denim jeans and white silk blouse together. While they no doubt look amazing paired on you, they’re not designed to spin around at high speeds in a machine together. Group similar fabrics together when you do need to use the washing machine. This will allow you to choose the most appropriate machine setting for your knits, delicates or more heavy-duty fabrics.
Often our clothes just need a bit of a re-fresh. If they smell fine but perhaps a bit tired, lay them out in the fresh air for a while. Whites love the sun, but darker colours should enjoy the soft breeze in the shade in order to prevent colour-fade. This is particularly useful with knits, which often just need some fresh air.
Learn to mend
I’ll admit it- this is one I’m still working on! My sister is a whiz on the sewing machine while it takes me ten minutes to work out which end of the machine is which. So, if my garment is damaged in some way I’ll often pass it off to her to fix up with an angelic smile. We’ve become conditioned as a society to expect so little from our clothing- we don’t expect it to wash well, to show any endurance or last more than a year. But chances are you’ve really invested in many of your ethical wardrobe items so you (and no doubt their creator) want them to last. Stitching up that small rip or seam pull will have them looking as good as new.
Value your Wardrobe
In Marie Kondo’s books she mentions a little quirk that I love! She shares with her readers her practice of thanking her accessories and clothing after using them. E.g. ‘jumper, thank you for keeping me warm against the cool breeze today.’ She then carefully folds and returns the garment to its’ place. I love this! Yes, at first it might seem a little odd to talk to your clothes but so what! Gratitude is key to living a fulfilling life. With that one jumper we’ve worn on a chilly winter day, we have so much to be thankful for. We can be grateful for the earth that created the fibers that comprise the jumper. The clean water that was used in manufacturing. The mind of the intelligent designer who first dreamt this beautiful object. The skilled hands of the (fairly paid and treated) worker who wove the jumper together. Our ability to feel the soft fabric against our skin. This level of appreciation will cause you to respect and fall in love with your clothing. And this will make carrying out the above steps acts of appreciation, not mundane chores.