You’re not alone if you struggle to dress sustainably: These 8 Tips Can Help

It all comes down to reducing purchases and extending the lifespan of the items you do buy.

Dressing more sustainably is a noble aim. But it can be super costly, as many sustainable products come at a pricing premium. If you struggle to always make the right choice, you’re not alone. 

Living costs make sustainable shopping tough

According to a study by Untold Insights, the majority of Gen Z and Millennial consumers find it hard to shop sustainably due to high living costs.

Surveying 1,000 UK individuals aged 16-40, 96% reported difficulty making eco-conscious purchases. 53% prioritized affordable items over sustainable alternatives, which are often more expensive.

Millennials have higher spending power than Gen Z, but both generations express concerns over greenwashing. The research calls for governments to impose taxes on companies producing low-quality, unsustainable products to incentivize affordable, sustainable alternatives.

There is undoubtedly a lot that governments could do to incentivize sustainable clothing. But that doesn’t necessarily help with the here and now. With that in mind, here are some things you can do to start shopping more affordably now.

8 Steps I’m Taking to Dress More Sustainably

Dressing sustainably means reducing the new items you buy, extending the life of the pieces you already own, and shopping for sustainable choices when you do make purchases.

Here are 8 ways to dress more sustainably; they are things I’m trying to focus on as I look to reduce the impact of my clothing choices.

1. Adjust Sizes

I’m sure I’m not the only person with plenty of good-condition items in my wardrobe that I don’t wear due to sizes that aren’t quite right. Instead of replacing these items with new pieces, consider going to a tailor and getting them adjusted so they fit.

I recently breathed new life into two old pairs of jeans and a pair of slacks by getting the waists adjusted. And all three fixes cost less than a single new pair of jeans.

2. Fix Items Whenever Possible

While you’re looking for clothes to tailer, consider if there are any pieces in your wardrobe that you could fix instead of throwing away. Of course, some items get to a stage beyond repair, but superficial tears on otherwise good-condition items can often be fixed.

3. Plan Your Purchases

I find that spur-of-the-moment purchases are far more likely to find their way to the back of my closet almost unworn than purchases I think carefully about beforehand (turns out that I didn’t really need those animal print chinos 🤔).

4. Know Your Sense of Style

This kind of fits into the above, but having a clear sense of style and knowing what looks good on you helps you buy items you will wear long-term and that fit in with the other clothes you own.

Of course, it’s good to experiment from time to time, but that’s when planning your purchases as per the above point can be a big help.

5. Buy Used Clothing

I’ve recently started buying used clothes instead of new ones wherever possible. Buying used saves clothes from landfill and ensures you aren’t adding any extra waste to the environment. What’s more, buying used clothes is easier than ever thanks to the many vintage and second-hand sellers that have popped up online.

The surprising benefits of buying used👇

The emphasis that vintage sellers put on exact measurements over arbitrary sizes means every used item I’ve bought so far has fitted me perfectly. This is unfortunately not the case with my regular online shopping.

What’s more, I’m more likely to buy interesting pieces that stand out when shopping used. And, of course, you can save money when compared to buying equivalent items new.

6. Don’t Rely on Online Returns

The struggles that online retailers have processing online returns have been well documented. The basics are that often pieces you return won’t actually make it back into circulation, especially those on the cheaper end of the spectrum.

And pieces that do make it back into stock will often go through an energy-intensive restocking and cleaning process. With this in mind, try to avoid relying on online returns when buying products.

Look for exact measurements rather than sizes where possible, and consider researching brands to see if other customers have information about how they fit. Also, remember the above points and think carefully about how a piece will fit into your wardrobe before clicking buy.

7. Don’t Rely on Donations

Here’s a shocking statistic: 13 million tons of American clothing is incinerated or ends up in landfill: including items that are donated. I’m absolutely not saying that you shouldn’t donate clothes—quite the opposite.

What I’m saying is that you shouldn’t buy new clothes with the thought that you can donate it after a few wears. Instead, buy clothes with the plan to wear them as much as possible, and then use donating as a backup plan for the items that you can’t wear.

8. Buy Sustainable Brands and Items

I include this point last because while sustainable brands should be applauded, buying these items works best when you also focus on the other points in this article: it’s no use buying sustainable clothing if the items end up in a landfill after a few wears or you have to return them.

Of course, when it comes time to buy a new item that you know will fit in with your existing wardrobe, you can then look for options that make the type of piece you want in the most sustainable way.

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Duncan Elder

Duncan is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Boardwalk. He's a menswear writer who has spent the last 15 years developing his own sense of style, which lies at the cross-section of mid-noughties indie and Uniqlo-inspired minimalism.

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