4 Steps to a More Sustainable Wardrobe

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Just be aware that this transformation won't happen overnight.

Transforming your conventional wardrobe to a sustainably sourced one can seem like a daunting task, but it needn't be. View it instead as a long-term project, something that will happen gradually as you shift your approach toward shopping. An excellent article in Harper's Bazaar outlines 10 simple steps to dressing more sustainably, and I'd like to share some of the less commonly known ones below, as I think they're useful.

1. Do the '30 Wears' test.

When faced with a potential new outfit, ask yourself if you'd wear it 30 times or more. If the answer is no, walk away. This will eliminate many of those special occasion outfits and shoes that have few opportunities to re-wear, and will push you toward more versatile, practical pieces. The #30Wears campaign was started by Livia Firth, who told Harper's, "You'd be surprised how many times you say no."

2. Invest in trans-seasonal clothes.

Clothes that can cross seasonal boundaries are the most useful investment. Often this means simpler pieces, like jeans, tees, blazers, and classic dresses. Consider climate when making decisions. If you live a cool, cloudy climate, don't splurge on summery dresses that will fail the 30 wears test on an average year; buy what you know you'll wear and whatever can be layered for more seasonally-appropriate dressing.

3. Have a working list of go-to brands.

This is enormously important, as I think one of the major blocks toward more sustainable shopping is people not knowing where to start. Assemble a list of go-to retailers (online or in store) where you can source key items; add to it as you discover new ones. One downside is that I tend to shop more online than in person, simply because ethical retailers and brands are hard to find in my rural area, but this also results in more deliberate purchasing.

4. Adjust how you spend your money.

Don't think of shopping as a chance to splurge on something frivolous. Instead, see it as an investment in a staple piece that's going to be worn and re-worn. From Harper's: "Stop thinking, 'I would never spend that much on a pair of jeans.' Consider that you are only going to buy one pair of jeans this year, or one item this month – and make it this."

All of this takes time. Don't feel overwhelmed or daunted. Just build it up slowly, piece by piece. Before long you'll have a wardrobe that reflects your environmental and ethical concerns, without feeling like you had to fork out extra money to do so.