My closet is about 85% thrifted and 10% sustainable clothing. If you’re checking my math, you’ll notice that there’s a portion that’s missing. The last 5% is my unsustainable clothing. I know, I know. It’s shocking to think that I still have fast fashion items hiding in my sustainable closet. But shopping is only one part of going sustainable. The biggest mistake people make when building a sustainable closet is throwing away everything that they already own. Because you don’t have to start from scratch to make a difference in the world.
Every person behind a minimalist Instagram account or sustainable fashion blog had to start somewhere. I personally spent my middle school years in the mall and my high school years in TJ Maxx. That’s a long way from where I am now. Just like my shopping habits, building my sustainable closet had to start somewhere, too.
Going sustainable can be overwhelming. Especially when you’re looking at other people who have already been years into their journeys. People forget the first step of going sustainable, which is to use what you have. That’s actually more important than switching your buying habits. Because the better you take care of your clothing, the less you have to buy — whether it’s sustainable or not.
I didn’t throw away all of my fast fashion items when I started building my sustainable closet.
In fact, there are still fast fashion items in my closet — even two years into my journey. When I started going sustainable, I focused on using what I had. That meant, and still means, taking care of the items that I already had in my closet. Can you guess which item in my outfit below is from a fast fashion company?
My sweater and boots came from Goodwill and my leggings are sustainable, Fair Trade, and organic cotton. It’s the vest that came from a fast fashion brand. Yep, I am wearing an Old Navy vest. While I’m not proud of knowing that I invested my money into a fast fashion brand, I am proud knowing that I’ve kept it in such good shape.
I got this black vest from Old Navy five years ago.
I can remember heading to the store with my mom on Black Friday to snag it for $12. It was the last time I had ever been Black Friday shopping and before I started thinking about the actions of my shopping. In that time period, I have mended the pocket, hand washed it instead of constantly throwing it in the washer, and have kept it in really great shape.
It might not be a sustainable item, but it’s one less items that I have to buy. Whether the item is sustainable or not, it is way better for the environment to not buy. People often think that they have to go out and replace the items that they already have, but that’s not true. It’s arguably the most important part of having a sustainable closet.
You can call yourself a sustainable fashion advocate even if you just focus on taking care of what you own.
There are other items in my closet, like my vest, too. A few of my fall sweaters are from before I went sustainable. My winter jacket is another item that I’ve been mending and hand-washing every year. I’m not saying that I’ll have these items forever. But it does make life a lot easier to take care of them instead of running out and spending money on something that I don’t necessarily need.
Bottom line: there is no point in throwing everything that you have away. You know, because that would create more waste, which is the exact opposite goal of building a sustainable closet. If you’re looking to start building a sustainable closet, start at the very beginning. Take care of what you already own while looking into sustainable brands that you’d someday like to support.