How to shop less and make the most out of what you already have!
Do you remember the times when people didn’t have tons of clothes barely finding space in their closets? The times when it was normal for clothes to be passed down from the elder sibling/cousin to the younger one? The times when all we knew was- clothes for summer and clothes for winters. The simpler times of 1980s, 1990s, and even till 2000s when there was nothing called “fast fashion” (which simply means that the “trends” and styles change multiple times in different seasons every year)
But now, we have Fall collection, Winter collection, Summer Collection, New summer collection, Spring Collection, Autumn collection, Run-way trends, and whatnot. There are distinct trends coming in stores every now and then. And clothes are definitely not passed from one sibling to another because they become out of style even before the first child outgrows them. Or the quality wears out because it was cheaply made.
This is what FAST FASHION is!
Made to be discarded FAST. Either by making that article out of “trend” or simply by making it low quality so it doesn’t last long.
So you keep shopping for more and more.
So what is the problem (other than wastage of money)? Many-
- It promotes the “overconsumption” mindset.
- It promotes the “use and throw” attitude
- It deteriorates the Environment
- It overexploits the natural resources
- It is causing Climate Change
How the fashion industry contributes to pollution and climate change
- The fashion industry is the second-largest consumer of water worldwide.
- It takes about 700 gallons of water to produce one cotton shirt. That’s enough water for one person to drink at least eight cups per day for three-and-a-half years.
- It takes about 2,000 gallons of water to produce a pair of jeans. That’s more than enough for one person to drink eight cups per day for 10 years.
- The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions.
- Polyester fiber (a plastic found in an estimated 60% of garments) produced releases two to three times more carbon emissions than cotton. And polyester does not break down in the ocean- becoming microplastics.
- 85% of all textiles go to the dump each year. The equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill every second. You can check more such facts and figures here
Now imagine the amount of natural resources that go behind making each piece of clothing. With the population consistently rising and businesses constantly pushing consumers to buy more and more, we are consuming more than we need, and wasting natural resources more than the planet can sustain.
Slow Fashion to the rescue
What’s the opposite of fast fashion? It’s slow fashion! duh!
Here “slow” signifies the pace at which you are likely to abandon your clothing/footwear due to reasons like changing trends or quality degradation or simply boredom.
Note that this is NOT yet another trend of clothing to look out for or something sold by special slow fashion stores. It’s simply a (better) way of looking at your clothes, shopping for your wardrobe, and embracing it for a longer period of time!
How to change the way you shop? and follow slow fashion ideology?
1. Shop Smartly! and consciously!
Let’s tackle the first obstacle (or rather the distraction) first. How to stop buying everything that fancies your eye mindlessly?
The answer lies in asking yourself the following VERY IMPORTANT questions, every time you wish to buy a new article-
- Do I really need it? e.g. A bright red t-shirt
- Is it filling an important void in my wardrobe that I desperately want to fill? e.g Was I looking for a red t-shirt for any occasion or to pair up with some other clothing?
- Do I already have something similar to it? Do I already have a red t-shirt or top?
- How many times would I actually wear it? I have office 5 days a week or stay at home mostly, would I be actually able to wear it somewhere?
- Would it suit my body type? Would this fit look good on my body type?
- Would it be suitable for the weather I live in? Synthetic or thick fabrics are definitely not a good choice for hot and humid places
- What would be the ROI? Return on Investment is the cost divided by the number of times I would wear it
- Would it compliment other items in my wardrobe and help create complete outfits? Do I have the pants/ shoes/ accessories that would go with that t-shirt? Or this t-shirt will keep lying around in my closet for months before I actually find complementing items to go with it?
- How long would it last before looking shabby or old? Some fabric becomes loose or gets lint very fast. Or some colors start looking dull too fast after normal washing
- Is the material/ fabric easy to maintain? e.g. if it is dry clean/ hand-wash only, would I be able to find the time and effort to get it cleaned that way every time?
- Is it something that would go out of fashion soon, making me abandon it? Is the style of the t-shirt or its print or the text on it make it go out of style in a year or so? Would I outgrow this style soon?
Those were a hell lot of questions, I know! But each one so relevant and make so much sense! Now imagine- had you asked these questions before, you would have avoided purchasing so many (nearly half) items in your wardrobe that you don’t wear much or couldn’t wear much. That’s how powerful these questions are, and they will definitely keep you from shopping mindlessly and recklessly! I urge you to follow this approach going forward.
2. Choose Classics
Now that you have learned how to shop, one of the ways to actually elongate the time period of your clothing in your wardrobe is to make it timeless! Shop for things that don’t go out of style. Those classic and versatile pieces of clothing that you can wear anytime, anywhere without having to look “outdated”.
This can include nice fitted pairs of jeans- blue and black, classic white shirt, solid t-shirts and shirts, black trousers, or anything that fits YOUR style. Another helpful tip here is to buy more neutral colors that can be mixed and matched with everything. For example, you can wear anything with neutral-colored pants/ trousers, unlike having to think so much about styling other colors.
To learn more about how to make your wardrobe more functional and create more outfits with all your clothing without making it look boring, watch some YouTube videos on Capsule Wardrobe, Versatile Wardrobe style, and choosing a color palette for your wardrobe that suits you. Here’s a playlist that I have created (for both men and women) that will help you immensely. Trust me!
3. Quality over Quantity
Even if you shopped the right thing and it won’t go out of style, it can surely deteriorate fast if we do not pay attention to the quality of our clothes. Now, this can be a major mindset change for most of the people (who do not have millions of bucks) because we have been conditioned by the fashion industry, the marketing, and the social media that we need tons of clothes, and we can simply buy cheap, throw fast, buy cheap again. This often forces people to buy clothes that are cheap, simply because they can buy more items with a certain amount of money than purchasing one high-quality item.
This is where we need to teach ourselves to choose quality over quantity. It’s a myth that cheap clothes are cheap. They are actually expensive because you need to buy them again and again. You actually save more money on buying one quality item rather than several cheaply made items. If you love wearing a white shirt, then buying a good quality white shirt will last you years, whereas you’ll keep spending money replacing your cheap white shirt because it simply faded out, wore out, or turned yellow after a few months.
Also, pay attention to how you take care of your clothes by following proper wash and dry, and storage instructions to elongate their life.
4. Make it work or donate!
The most sustainable clothing is the one that you did not purchase!
Admit it- you already have a lot of clothes. Make the most out of that first. Take out a day and explore your wardrobe. Bring out everything and categories the clothes into 3 piles-
Pile #1 – “Wear a lot“- These are the clothes that are your essentials and that define your style. Now you know what type of clothes you wear most often and you should shop for this type mostly.
Pile #2 – “Wear sometimes“- These items may be too trendy, have bit different colors, designs, or fits than your regular wear and you have to make an effort to style them. Pick each item and figure out ways you can wear it more often, mix and match it with other items more (take inspiration from Pinterest if you want). If you can’t, toss them in Pile #3.
Pile 3 – “Hardly worn“- These would be either mindlessly bought outfits that you thought you will someday wear and never did OR those outfits for rare occasions like weddings or parties. OR that don’t fit anymore. Now pick and choose the items that you definitely want to wear again. Toss the rest in the donation box or give it to a friend or family member who will actually wear it.
Now you have successfully de-cluttered your wardrobe and also got insights into what you actually wear and what not to buy next time. Surplus clothes have got new owners and maximum value can be drawn out of them now. It’s a win-win!
5. It’s OK to repeat outfits
Why are we scared of repeating outfits on dressy or grand occasions? Why do we HAVE to spend tons of money on a trendy outfit that would be worn just once or twice? Are we scared of being judged by society as a “miser” or “not following the latest fashion”?
Well, guess what is the most important thing that you need to wear everyday? It is the confidence to slay and do whatever is right! And not what society dictates you to do. For that, you first need to educate yourself on how bad the fast fashion industry is and how you can do more with less. And educate others as well and make them a part of your gang! Tell them how cool it is to get maximum ROI out of your beautiful, expensive dress that is not just a piece of fabric but an amalgamation of all the natural resources that went behind making it.
Better said than done, right? Here’s my little story about an instance when I repeated outfits for a family wedding-
So, It was my cousin's wedding recently and I didn't want to purchase something luxuriant and expensive just to be worn once. So, I decided to wear my mom's dress that she wore 4 years ago on a family function. I had worn it earlier too on a random occasion. It was expensive, and my mom doesn't like it and wants to wear it anymore (yes, yes, I give this gyaan to my mom as well and she is a more conscious and responsible shopper now!). But I didn't want to give up on it and make the most out of the money spent (as well as the resources spent). I wore it like a boss! Even my sister wore a saree that I had worn at a wedding earlier. There were a few relatives who asked if we were wearing the same dress again? And what did I answer? Well, I told them that just because I have money, I don't necessarily need to waste it on a one-day occasion. Plus I taught them that we must value our hard-earned money and should make the most out of our purchases. Most importantly I told them the dirty fashion industry facts that I mentioned earlier. And they were shocked too!
So, these were the 5 ways that personally helped me and my family walk out of the vicious cycle of fast fashion. I hope you learned something new today and will definitely apply these fool-proof tips.
The world of “over-” everything is leading us all to an unsustainable and unstable future. Let’s change it, by stopping the over-consumption of ‘fashion’ today!
Choose mindfully. Shop less. Make the most out of what you have. Repeat your outfits like a boss