Building a closet you truly love isn’t a superficial desire! How we dress is a way to daily express creativity, lean into comfort, and take care of our bodies. It’s also a way for us to explore our values! Maybe that sounds odd, but every dollar we spend (or don’t spend) on our clothes gives our support to businesses and makers all over the globe. Clothing is also a way to preserve stories from those that came before us, whether that be through garments with traditional and cultural significance, or a grandparent’s old letterman’s jacket (that we still think we look pretty rock-n-roll in).
How do we ensure that our closets are sustainable? How do we stay true to our commitment to trim our carbon footprint while filling the clothing needs of each season? We’re here today to give you the Dropps ultimate guide to building a sustainable closet. Let’s get this party started.
If it’s fast, it won’t last!
If you’re here on our page, chances are good you’re already aware of how devastating the fast fashion industry is both ethically and environmentally. If this term is new for you, “fast fashion” refers to clothing that’s made quickly in an effort to send it to store floors as fast as possible. It is intended to be worn only a few times before the customer moves on to the next cheap fad. The speed of this process means that the garment workers end up underpaid, overworked, and are often working in unsafe conditions to meet the turnaround times. The items that are being sold this way are also made cheaply, so they fall apart if you do end up holding on to them after a few wears. The demand for fast-fashion has created a global environmental injustice, with around 81 pounds of clothing thrown away yearly by the average American. The global fashion industry is also estimated to be one of the leading contributors of micro-plastic pollution impacting our oceans and marine life, according to the United Nations. (To help fight micro-plastics check out the Cora Ball!)
Listen, it’s incredibly tempting to shop from these brands, especially if you’re in a pinch for a special event outfit, or if one of your seasonal basics rips on you! (And we know how enticing that express shipping is as well). We’re here to empower you with lots of alternatives to shopping fast fashion, and we hope that they’ll spark your creative thinking and get you excited about building a dream closet that will last throughout the years.
Photo from Ace & Jig
Mend or repurpose what you have
The most sustainable option is always going to use what you have! When items start to become over worn, sewing up a hole in your garment may not be as daunting as you think! (And with the gift that is YouTube offering tons of tutorials on how to get it done, you can expand your skills in no time). When you’re faced with a wounded sweater, ask yourself “can I mend this?” before giving it the ol’ heave ho. If the damage is beyond your personal skills (we can’t all be on Project Runway), we recommend taking the item to a tailor, along with other clothes that may need alterations due to weight loss, growth spurts, or the need for a refresh on a beloved family heirloom. Never underestimate the power of a raised hem!
Old clothing can also be used in numerous DIY projects to create quilts, pillows, stuffed animals, and so much more. (We love seeing what clothing brand Ace & Jig does each year when they collaborate with independent makers to turn scraps into masterpieces!) Most fabrics can also be cut up for cleaning rags when they’re truly at the end of their life.
Organize a friendly switch-a-roo!
We’re all looking for more reasons to throw a party, right? One of the best, most exciting and sustainable ways to mix up your closet when you’re getting bored of the same few outfits is to organize a clothing swap with your friends and neighbors! Beloved pieces find a new home, your closet is infused with new energy, it’s a win-win. This guide is a fantastic resource for how to host a successful swap.
Pop some tags at the thrift store!
When you’ve got the itch to shop, lean towards thrifting instead of strolling in mall! Thrifting is fantastic for many reasons (supporting local businesses being one of them) but what really gives us butterflies is stumbling across those vintage finds! If you end up taking home one of these treasured pieces, make sure you take note of special washing instructions (like avoiding hot water.)
A few additional tips for thrifting well are to hold t shirts up to the light to make sure they aren’t too see-through, investigate every item for damage, and to be mindful not to buy things just to fill your closet, but that you will love to years to come! If you don’t have any thrift stores near you (or are hunting for sone thing specific), here are a few of our favorite online thrift shops:
Facebook Marketplace (find your community’s page!)
Buy from ethical brands
When we interviewed Erin Houston on the blog, she shared some great insight with us about how to commit to sustainable shopping: "As you look to add to your wardrobe, strive for baby steps! Transitioning to a sustainable wardrobe is a marathon, not a sprint. Pick just one part of ethical fashion to focus on. Maybe your first step is fair wages, or maybe it’s committing to upcycled materials. Once you feel like you’ve got that figured out, up the bar and add another element to your own criteria for what you choose to buy."
When you do need to buy new, ask yourself if it’s something you can commit to wearing more than 30 times (this is the number eco-conscious shoppers are using as their rule of thumb!) Is it a piece that will be versatile in your closet? Erin also shared, “It’s absolutely okay to buy something solely because you like it or it brings you joy, rather than purely for its function - just make sure you get use out of it!”
A few of our favorite ethical clothing brands that are making sustainable clothing more accessible are:
As a general guide the best materials are recycled – nylon, polyester, cotton and wool. Also top of the list are organic materials, especially linen and hemp but also cotton. New, great and increasingly popular fibres include Tencel (created from wood) and Monocel (from bamboo).
Launder like an expert
Nothing chips away at the lifespan of a garment quite like an improper wash. If certain fabrics are washed in the wrong temperature water, for example, they may shrink or fade in color. As we all know, each garment should come with its own label offering care instructions. But we’ve begun developing a resource center for you as well, so you can access step by step care tips quickly! Check it out here.
As a rule of thumb, we like to recommend our Sensitive Skin & Baby pods for all delicate fabrics (and it comes in a small loads/hand washing size too!), our Active Wash line for those specialty workout clothes, the Stain & Odor Pods for everyday washing, and our Oxi Booster Pods (a natural bleach alternative!) to help with those particularly pesky stains.
With these pillars of sustainable practices for buying and keeping clothes mapped out, we hope you will feel empowered and excited to dress with intention. Do you have other practices you enjoy employing on your closet-building journey? We’d love to hear about them and share them with the community. Drop a comment below or on our social pages.
May that sparkly dress you lost in the 80s find it’s way back to you via your local Goodwill (we know you’ve looked for it time after time.) Happy washing!