We’ve all heard by now that fast fashion hurts the Earth, but the question remains: how can we buy clothes that meet our needs and support the needs of the planet? Over the past 20 years in the U.S., the average number of garments purchased per year has more than doubled, with Pandemic boredom spurring this on even further.
This consumerism culture is not only bad for our bank accounts but also for the planet. In 2020, an estimated 18.6 million tonnes of clothing ended up in landfills in the U.S. which will be burnt or sit there, in either case releasing harmful gasses.
To make your clothing habits more sustainable and to get more bang for your buck, there are a few questions you can ask yourself before splashing out.
Will I wear it again?
Wearing something once for fashion isn’t a good investment, so consider the wearability of the piece. If you can’t imagine at least five occasions where you would wear it, then put it back on the rack. For those times you need an outfit for a one-off special occasion, why not consider renting or borrowing it instead of buying.
Is it well-made?
Assessing the quality of the garment in-store can give you insight into its lifespan. Can you see your hand through it? Are the seams unraveling? Are the stitches strong? Does it seem durable? Another great way to check an item’s quality is by assessing the pockets. Mismatched pockets suggest quantity over quality during manufacturing. Considering these points can help you stop and think before making an impulse buy you may regret.
Does it feel good to the touch?
Will you want to wear the fabric over and over? Itchy and uncomfortable clothes are no fun for anyone, no matter how nice they may look. Natural fabrics – such as cotton – tend to last longer and not create as many micro-pollutants.
Can I maintain it?
Check the care label in the store to see exactly how the garment needs to be treated to keep it happy. Does it need hand washing, dry cleaning, or ironing? And importantly, are you willing to complete these care steps? If not, it’s likely your garment will sit at the bottom of your hamper for months on end, invoking guilt in you every time you put on a wash.
Why am I buying this?
Not to get all physiological while you’re trying to relax with some retail therapy, but it’s helpful to consider what’s going on in your brain driving you to buy a garment. Are you feeling down and want to cheer yourself up? Are you seeking external validation? Are you buying out of scarcity? Are you buying for your fantasy self or to express your inner self? Have sale marketing strategies swayed you over? Considering all these options allows for a clearer mind not driven by negative feelings, societal pressures, or advertising when we buy and helps build a healthier relationship with spending.