Once September comes, I can’t wait to start switching out my vibrant colors for more muted tones, trading in my silk camis for a light knit and replacing my denim shorts with wool pants. I love dressing for all seasons, but there is something particularly lovely about fall fashion. And, what is even better is curating a selection of pieces that not only look good on you but that are also good for the planet and the workers who are involved in making your clothes.
Creating a sustainable fall wardrobe doesn’t require you to never shop again (thank goodness!), it just means knowing where your clothing is coming from and making smart decisions about where you spend your money. Here is how you can go about creating the sustainable fall wardrobe of your dreams.
PREPARE YOURSELF FOR INTENTIONAL SHOPPING
Before you start making any purchases, you first want to prepare yourself for intentional shopping. The best way to do this is to spend some time gathering inspiration and creating a mood board (either in Instagram folders, on a Pinterest board, or the old-fashioned way of cutting out magazine images). Once you are satisfied with your mini-project, take a step back, and examine your aesthetic. Not only will this get you excited for the upcoming season, but it is a fantastic way to see the recurring colors, styles, fabrics, and silhouettes that you have gravitated toward.
Use this information to prepare a shopping guide. Get specific! For example, mine currently includes a navy blue cashmere crewneck sweater, a pair of black knee-high boots, and a beige wool coat. Honing in a few definitive pieces will make shopping less overwhelming and will reduce the risk of impulse buys.
EXAMINE YOUR CURRENT CLOSET
After immersing yourself in a world of inspiration, you may find yourself looking at your current pieces with fresh new eyes. I had forgotten entirely about my midi-length faux leather skirt; but, after pinning multiple similar styles, I can’t wait to style it in different ways over the next couple of months. When sorting through your closet, pull out pieces that align with your mood board (it can be helpful to clear off a clothing rack for this) and give some serious thought to those that don’t. Unless they are a staple – those you want to hold on to and never let go.
With your eye more finely attuned to what you do (and don’t) want from your fall wardrobe, you will find it easier to decide which pieces you can do without. I decided to part with some skirts that are no longer my style, shoes that I haven’t worn for years, and thrifted items that don’t fit me quite right.
Bag these items up and take them to your local buy-sell-trade store (such as Buffalo Exchange or Beacon’s Closet) and hope that they purchase some of your pieces! You can then use the store credit to shop for items that fit your current aesthetic. Shopping at second-hand stores that allow you to exchange your clothes for store credit is a great way to dress sustainably while on a budget. You may find that you don’t have to spend a dime to get the fall items that you crave!
START THE SECONDHAND HUNT
The next step is to use your shopping guide to browse thrift stores, flea markets, and online marketplaces like eBay, Etsy, and Depop. If you are new to thrifting or find it unbearably overwhelming, check out my ultimate thrifting tips and tricks. Armed with your shopping list, you will know exactly what to look for when confronted with racks upon racks of clothing. Suddenly, the immense number of garments will feel a lot more manageable.
In general, I don’t have a lot of experience with online shopping (I love the whole “in-store experience”), but I also have never been very intentional with my thrifting. However, when it comes to searching on eBay and the like, the best strategy is to search for brands or items you want and then make saved searches. You can go back and check on the searches every day to ensure you don’t miss the perfect, affordable find.
Don’t limit yourself to one keyword, instead search for variations on the search terms until you find the appropriate one. While it does require patience and a little learning curve until you get the hang of it, it just makes it that much sweeter when you find exactly what you are looking for.
FILL IN THE GAPS WITH SUSTAINABLE BRANDS
If you can’t find what you are looking for on your secondhand hunt OR you prefer to buy new pieces OR you also want to support ethical companies (I am right there with you!), then you can check off the rest of your shopping list by shopping sustainable brands. Some of my favorite sustainable brands at the moment are Boyish Jeans (I have the ‘Kirbys’ and I love them), Everlane, Neu Nomads, Sézane, Nisolo, Veja, Amour Vert, Oh Seven Days, and Cuyana.
Moving forward, my plan for my sustainable closet is to buy timeless pieces from sustainable brands and then mix it up each season with more statement/quirky secondhand finds.
LOOK FOR CLOTHES THAT WILL LAST
The most sustainable clothes are the ones that you already have in your closet which is why you want to be conscious of the lifespan of a piece before you bring it into your wardrobe – particularly if you are buying something new. If you’re going to buy better clothing that will last you longer than crappy quality fast fashion, you need to know what to look for. This primarily involves consulting the garment’s fabric content. Fibers that are extracted from plants and animals (cotton, wool, linen, silk) are generally of higher quality than synthetics (polyester, acrylic, spandex, rayon, and other human-made fibers made from plastics and petrochemicals).
The best way to judge a fabric’s quality is to touch it. If it feels substantial, that is a good sign! The item doesn’t necessarily have to be heavy; you just want the yarns to be tightly packed. For a better look, hold the fabric up to the light. While you generally have to pay a little more for quality, the inverse isn’t always true. There are plenty of expensive items that aren’t well-made.
Speaking of poorly made clothes, there is plenty of discussion about whether or not it is “good” to buy fast fashion second-hand. While my stance could change in the future, at the moment, I am happy to purchase it because there is already so much of it out there and I would rather give it a new home than have it end up in a landfill. However, anything new that I buy (and therefore am creating a demand for) will have to be well-made so that it can last for many years to come.
I would love to know how you are approaching creating a sustainable fall wardrobe!