Sustainable fashion can go unnoticed in the zero waste community. And, though many of us explain how to shop sustainably (thrifting, second-hand, clothing swaps, sustainable brands etc.) we don't always explain what needs to change in your approach to clothing/shopping. There's no denying that when you go from being someone who regularly consumes fast fashion with an overflowing wardrobe to someone who is trying to be sustainable and ethical in their clothing purchases there is a difference in the way you shop. So, I thought I'd share what has helped me in my journey to having a sustainable closet:
Know your style
Something in Bea Johnson's book struck a chord with me once; she explained the difference between fashion and style, something I hadn't ever thought about. Fashion is what is trending, whereas style is your own distinctive appearance. Understanding your own style is therefore paramount to having a sustainable wardrobe because you don't purchase items according to what is currently in or fashionable, instead you choose items based on what you enjoy wearing. This, in turn, simplifies your wardrobe as you don't fall victim to wanting to keep up with the times. I am a big believer in experimenting with fashion, but you don't need to constantly buy new clothes to do so. Knowing what you feel comfortable in, what suits you, and what you enjoy wearing minimises what you look for in a store and immediately simplifies your wardrobe. Simplicity and sustainability are highly linked when it comes to clothing.
Personally my style is high-waisted, high neckline, and off the shoulder. I have a few things in my wardrobe that stray from this because it's always fun to play around, but all of my pants/bottoms are high-waisted, and most of my tops either have high necklines or are off the shoulder. (for example, in winter I wear almost exclusively turtle necks). This goes for colours and patterns as well. Liveplanted talks a lot about having a uniform which follows this kind of idea
Don't shop for specifics
This applies to buying items specific to occasions or seasons. Instead you should try and find items which are versatile. For example I recently thrifted a couple of pants which are perfect for rehearsals as they are loose and easy to move around in, but also perfect for formal wear due to their style. Focusing on items which are versatile makes your wardrobe more simplistic and sustainable.
In relation to seasons it's better to focus on having items which can be layered in the winter months and worn alone in the summer months. For example one light jacket in summer can be layered with a denim jacket in winter instead of having a ton of massive coats (I think one long coat is perfect). If you have thinner rather than super thick jeans they can be worn during other seasons of the year, and then under a pair of tights in winter to make them slightly warmer. Of course this all depends on where you live and what you do in life, but generally focus on items that are versatile instead of specific.
Quality over quantity
This is the same for every aspect of zero waste, but especially with clothing. Our world has had a huge change in its production of clothing; the main focus for some of the current largest brands of clothing is to make as many clothes as possible with the lowest cost. The way these brands cut costs is by paying workers less and using cheap fabrics, amongst others. These clothes fall apart super easily, and pull you into a cycle of always needing to buy more. Choosing quality pieces that can last you a lifetime is super important to a sustainable wardrobe as you will need to replace clothing less. Less clothing = less waste, and therefore also equals sustainability.
The world is having an ethical and sustainable crisis in relation to clothing. We throw out insane amounts of clothing annually, the US alone throws out an estimate of 11 million tons of textile waste a year. We consume clothing more so than ever before and don't value the materials or work behind it, leaving other beings and the environment to suffer. To support human rights and our planet we need to be conscious of our relationship to our clothing, and change our approach.