In recent years, there has been an undeniable shift in consumer attitudes toward favoring an enduring, sustainable wardrobe as opposed to shopping from fast fashion. There are many reasons for this. Some of the obvious reasons are that second-hand clothing helps reduce the environmental impact of the fashion industry by reducing the number of resources used in the production of new clothing. Second-hand clothing is often much less expensive than buying new, allowing consumers to save money and still get good-quality clothing. Shopping from second-hand stores can also allow you to find more unique and interesting pieces that you can't find in regular stores. Jen Panaro, a published author and the co-founder of a sustainability blog recalls, “when I first started shopping Secondhand, I remember finding a Diane Von Pearsenberg dress for $17 that still had the tag on it and that was so exciting and so cool. I think I might still have the dress!”
However, thrifting can easily become problematic if it leads to overconsumption.
If your goal is to shy away from excessive shopping and have a more sustainable wardrobe, this guide can help you get started.
Before you start shopping:
Sort Out Your Closet
The first step in switching to a sustainable wardrobe begins in your closet. When going through your closet, be mindful of the trends you notice in your prior shopping habits. How many of the clothes you purchased do you actually wear? It is highly unlikely that we wear every single item we own. Is there a pile of white t-shirts that you have barely touched? Then perhaps it is time you stop buying new ones. Do you always wear the same pair of jeans? Then you should probably look for a new pair. Going through your closet will give you an idea about your habits in the past. With that in hand, you can now plan for the future.
Before going out of your way to buy new items, see what you already have at hand.
Identify what you like and what you don’t like
- How many white t-shirts do you own? How many of them do you wear? What do you like about the clothes you wear often? If your goal is to have a sustainable wardrobe, you must have a bit more intention about the kinds of things you will introduce to your closet. Identifying what you like and what you don't like in your closet is important because it helps you to determine what items you truly need and which items will best complement your style. This can save you money by avoiding buying items you don't need or that don't fit your style. It can also help you to find items that will match or coordinate with the items you already have in your closet.
Set your budget
- Creating a financial plan before shopping secondhand is wise since it ensures you will stay within your spending limits. Additionally, it can help avoid feeling overwhelmed when shopping since you will have an organized plan and a clear understanding of the amount of money you can spend. If you do not have the budget you think you need to purchase additional clothing, perhaps you could consider selling some of the existing items in your closet.
Sell the clothes you no longer wear
- Selling your own clothes is a great way to contribute to the environment in many ways. By selling your clothes instead of throwing them away, you can extend the life of your garments and reduce the waste associated with producing new clothes. You can also promote the idea of upcycling and sustainable fashion, and help reduce the amount of natural resources, water, and toxic chemicals used to produce new clothes. Additionally, you can help reduce carbon emissions, energy use, and the amount of packaging used in the production and distribution of new clothes. Selling your clothes instead of throwing them away can have a positive effect on the environment and make a meaningful contribution to your sustainability journey.
Do your research
- Whether it is selling second-hand clothes or buying them, it is important to know which businesses to go to. Here, you have some options. You can either shop at local, in-person second-hand stores, or shop from online stores. Both have their respective benefits and challenges. Shopping second-hand in person allows you to physically inspect the item before buying, while shopping second-hand online gives you a wider selection of items to choose from. Shopping in person offers the added benefit of being able to take the item home with you right away, while online shopping typically involves waiting for the item to be shipped to your home. “I do a mix of both,” says Jen, but she does have a preference for shopping for clothes online rather than in person. “I think it's a little bit overwhelming sometimes to go to a second-hand store and just browse. There's just too much to choose from. There are filters built into online stores which are super helpful. If I know what I'm looking for and I can filter down to just my size and just the style that I'm looking for, then I can narrow the items down pretty quickly and find some pretty good stuff.”
- Research which businesses you want to support. Most online resellers mark up items found at their local second-hand stores to turn a profit. Trendy pieces are often sold for double or triple their thrifted price with absurd markups. To shop sustainably, it is important to research where the money you’re spending goes to. For example, the retail price of a pair of second-hand Levi’s jeans is around €35-€50. If you want a pair of second-hand Levi’s Jeans, you could buy them on Depop from an individual seller, where the profits of your purchase will go directly into the pocket of the individual selling. If instead, you buy second-hand Levi’s for the same price from a company like BOAS which pledges to donate 100% of its profits, your purchase will help save lives. This is just one example of how being intentional about the places you shop from is an important step in becoming more sustainable.