There are many ways to make your approach to fashion, and your own closet, more sustainable. You can move towards more secondhand purchases such as thrifting or finding ethical vintage fashion. You can move away from buying with the trends and find longer-lasting, non-boring personal style instead, or try working towards changing your perspective on spending vs investment, looking at long term money saving (even if it’s more expensive up front) rather than just finding bargains. There really are a hundred different ways to get started, depending on the kind of person you are and what works for you.
All of these things are great, otherwise I wouldn’t have written about them, but they also require a little bit of time. Both to implement, and to fully form into new habits and skill that come as second nature, not a conscious decision you have to think about each time (I’d consider myself a real pro thrifter nowadays, but I definitely didn’t used to be, and I have more than one dumb purchase in my past to prove it). However I believer there is one small trick that anyone can apply immediately. One which can make your wardrobe more sustainable and more durable overnight.
Rotating your clothes
It sounds simple because, well, it is. But hear me out.
Rotating your clothes simply refers to how your organise the wardrobe you already have. No need to buy anything or throw anything away. Instead, whenever you wash something put it to the back (or bottom if you’re piling folded clothes) of your wardrobe, and make a conscious choice to pull clothes from the front next time you’re choosing an outfit. When those clothes then get washed, put them to the back. Over time, as you keep taking from the front, you’ll eventually end up back where you started, and you’ll have successfully rotated!
Whether you have a walk in closet or one small chest of drawers, this hack will still help for two reasons.
Keeping things interesting
In a similar way to how hiding winter/summer clothes away when it’s off season makes it more exciting when you get them out again the next year (because let’s be real, you always forget exactly just what you have), rotating through your clothes can make your whole wardrobe just feel a little more fresh. It’s a mini version of recreating that ‘new’ feeling that can come with seasonal clothes: providing chances to rediscover those forgotten, underloved pieces that may have gotten lost behind the regulars you’ve been over wearing, and making the favourites more exciting when you get to them after having time off from constant use. It helps democratise the love and appreciation for all the clothes you own, in different ways.
In terms of sustainability it also means that instead of constantly bouncing between three t-shirts you love to death you actually get full wear out of your pieces, which is better for the longevity of your wardrobe and your attitude to your clothes, whilst also getting the most value for money out of your purchases. Sometimes it might be a challenge to style what’s nearer the front, but it also opens you up to more creativity and exploration, with less chance of feeling your clothes are getting stale, when really it’s how you’re organising them that has been the problem.
Over washing is a real problem when it comes to how we’re treating our wardrobes, and it’s something most of us are doing. A significant amount of your clothing’s carbon footprint comes from how it’s cared for: overwashing wastes resources, heat, and energy, plus the money you spend on laundry products, electricity and water. But, beyond that, it also will make your clothes deteriorate faster, leaving items more susceptible to fading, shrinking, losing their shape or lowering their quality. If you’re wearing the same favourites again and again and leaving some pieces to be forgotten, you’re over washing the pieces you probably love most and want to last the longest. By rotating through your clothes not only do you have more space between wears, you also have more space between washes. By evening out how you’re wearing, washing and caring for you items everything gets equal treatment, and everything is going to last longer. We often say that sustainable fashion is about getting good wear out of your pieces and not throwing them away after one use, but how you’re washing them is often half the battle.
“Care labels are only suggestions, and it is established within the fashion industry to understate a fabric’s durability to avoid upsetting customers who accidentally ruin their clothing due to the care label’s suggestions.” (source)
If we’re buying clothes that are generally good quality and good materials, it’s possible to make them last longer than we might think. Spacing out washes, air drying, and hanging clothes when they have been worn but aren’t ready for the laundry pile (which lets air circulate through the fibres and keeps them fresh for more wears before washing) all help us avoid over washing, but rotating clothes is definitely one of the easiest options to implement immediately, whilst also helping us enjoy our wardrobes.
If you’ve ever experienced moving house, where you take all your clothes out of your wardrobe and suddenly get excited about all the bits at the back that you forgot you had and suddenly want to wear, it’s a way to experience that feeling all the time. You get to fall more in love with your clothes, make them last longer, and get creative with the outfits you create. And, most importantly, you can make your wardrobe more sustainable almost instantly.