What Is A Sustainable Wardrobe?

I started to talk about the ‘Sustainable Wardrobe’ back in 2016.   It’s interesting becuase back then, the concept of a sustainable wardrobe sounded alien to people, although the fundamental building blocks made perfect sense, once I pointed out that we’ve forgotten how to shop for the long-term.

Nowadays the term a sustainable wardrobe is starting to be used more widely,  but it still doesn’t explain what it really means and how to build one.  So, in this blog I am going to share my views on what a Sustainable Wardrobe is – and how you can get started.

Why should we care about a Sustainable Wardrobe?

Here are a few fashion consiption facts that I think we can all relate to:

  • Did you know the average British women spends more than half a million pounds on clothes, shoes and accessories in her lifetime?
  • The UK as a collective is guilty of having around £30 billion of any un-used clothing hanging in our wardrobes.
  • Every morning it is estimated that 49% of the nation suffer from ‘wardrobe rage’ and it is responsible for 1 in 10 regularly arriving late for work.
  • According an M&S study 14% of Brits have refused to go out as a result of not being able to find anything to wear.
  • With 57 items unworn per person in the nations wardrobe – it’s clear that the nation struggles to make the most of what they already have.
  • In the UK 430,000 tonnes of clothing is thrown away every year.

*Sources: Oxfam.org / M&S reports / WRAP reports 2016
I believe that these facts alone, speak volumes and highlight that we just shop without thinking and have more stuff than we actually need.

What is Sustainable Wardrobe?

A sustainable wardrobe is a collection of clothes that have been cuarted to last beyond a season,  an interchangable collection of garments that are to be worn many times and to create many outfits.

I have a saying “building a sustainable wardribe is a jouney not a final destination” and I use this a lot, becuase many clients I work with want me to create a sustainable wardrobe overnight, one shop and done.  I have to explain, that it doesn’t work that way.   A truly sustainable wardrobe makes the most of the items you already own.  The most sustainable fashion is already hanging in your wardrobe.


How do I build Sustainable Wardrobe?

I get asked this a lot.  Here are my tips for getting started:

  1.  Get clear on what type of wardrobe you want and why
  2. Organise your exsiting clothes – editing out styles, shapes and colours that do not flatter you
  3. Look at items that you can repair, have tailored or upcycled into something new
  4. Find the ‘gaps’ in your wardrobe (what’s missing?)
  5. Take some time to create a style & values based moodboard
  6. Do a life and style audit – make sure you have clothes that are practical for your lifestyle
  7. Invest in colour analysis and ‘create colour harmony’ in your style
  8. Do your research, start looking through #preloved apps and online auctions to see if you can find the pieces your ‘need’
  9. Sign up to online swaps and try to find your style twin (this is a great way to build a sustainable wardrobe that you wont get bored of)
  10. List out the key investement items that you’re willing to spend money on.  Look at key resources like my Ethical Brand Directory to find brands that are aligned with your values


A Fast Fashion Problem

I’m the first to admit I was a slave to fashion and shopped on mass without a conscience for many years – it is because of this excessive behaviour I felt compelled to make amends and become the change I wanted to see.

I started my journey in 2015 and have become more fashion conscious every year and have not looked back since. I do not have the ‘perfect sustainable wardrobe’ and probbaly never will.  It takes time – and if you want to do it sustainably,  the first thing you need to get your head around is slowing down.  The second is that you don’t need to ‘own’ everything and clothing rental is a very sustainable and viable option for those who need a constant steam of new outfits.  And the third is that we’ve become accustomed to ‘cheap’ and we need to remember the true cost of clothing is more expensive than we are used to. We need to prepare to ‘invest’ in pieces that we’ll use at #100wears and consider the cost per wear, not just the upfront ticket price.

You can find out more about my styling services and courses here: www.robertastylelee.co.uk

*This blog was written in 2016 and updated in April 2020