How To Build A Sustainable Wardrobe

Americans send millions of tons of textiles to landfills every year. Unfortunately, this doesn’t surprise me. We’ve long established ourselves as a throw-away culture that relies on fast fashion, but it doesn’t have to be this way. You can shop smart, buy the things you love and repurpose the things you don’t into something new. Below are the most important ways to eliminate clothing waste and make your wardrobe sustainable (and high quality).


Caitlin Ricketts in a Prada coat from The Real Real and vintage Longchamp bag

I discovered Goodwill in the 9th grade and never looked back. I loved finding unique pieces that no one else had for dirt cheap. There are beautiful and affordable thrift, secondhand, vintage, and consignment shops in nearly every city across the country just waiting for you to sift through. Consignment shops are especially great for quality, long-lasting designer items like handbags because they only accept goods that are in excellent condition. Some of the best options include online retailer The Real Real and The Vintage Riot. My favorite thrift stores of all time are Beacons Closet and Awoke Vintage in Brooklyn and Fantastic Thrift in Richmond, Virginia. Buying clothes that others have already worn cuts down on the waste generated to produce new clothes and saves old clothes from the landfill.

Buy Quality.

When you shop high-end, you’re buying pieces that are made to last. An investment in expensive designer and sustainably made clothing means an investment in superior design, materials, and the planet. Why? Because better clothes simply last longer, especially if you take good care of them. High-quality clothes come with a heftier price tag, but they can save you money in the long run if you shop smart and classic. Buying $300 boots every 10 years is far better than a $90 pair that falls apart after a year.

*If buying expensive clothes isn’t within your budget, have no fear. It’s most important to care of your clothes and get a lot of wear out of them. Take clothes to the seamstress instead of throwing them out over minor tears and follow the rest of the tips for creating a sustainable cycle with your wardrobe.

Buy Only What You Love.

Awoke Vintage in Brooklyn

This tip has taken practice, but I never just buy to buy anymore. Every item I purchase is either an item I ‘need’ or a garment that I love in every way; from its perfect fit to all of the outfits I am certain I can wear with it. Try this test next time you shop: put the item down and walk the store, maybe even leave the store. Is it still on your mind? If you realize that you have to have it, great, go back and buy it. If not, let it go and thank yourself later. Today, my wardrobe is streamlined and I wear every single garment I own.


Instead of buying something new, try borrowing from a friend first. Sharing clothes not only keeps you from constantly buying new clothes, but it makes your outfits feel like new. You can rent your clothes, too. Sites like Rent The Runway are amazing for borrowing clothes and cutting down on waste. They even offer packages for rotating out new and beautiful clothes all of the time.

Don’t Like It Anymore?

Swap it.

Are you over that peplum top? Well, your friend might love it! Set up a clothing swap and ask your friends to bring clothes they don’t want anymore. Your too-small jean shorts can be another pal’s treasure. Donate any clothes that don’t get picked up in the swap.

Sell it.

Remember all of those thrift stores you’re going to check out? Those clothes come from somewhere- and that could be your closet! Take your good stuff to consignment and the rest to thrift stores. I love the thrift app Poshmark. Once you’ve sold something to a buyer, print out the shipping label and pop it in the mail. Some clothes take a long time to sell but eventually, everything goes.

Recycle it.

Sometimes clothes are so worn that no one would want them. Terracycle will take them once you collect old clothes in their Fabrics and Clothing Zero Waste Box. Simply fill and ship back to Terracycle where they’ll be upcycled into something new. Take your old shoes to a Nike location through their Reuse-A-Shoe Program. They turn old footwear into fields, tracks, and playgrounds.

When it comes to your wardrobe, reducing waste is actually achievable. You may have to put in a little extra time and effort, but we all have to do our part. Will you be trying any of these tips?

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