Sustainability is a buzz word that’s popping up everywhere these days, from what you eat to what you wear. And while it can vary meaning from one product category to another, for sustainable fashion, it’s all about minimizing the impact the process makes on the environment (whether in manufacturing or treatment of the workers). Bring your 2017 style resolution to fruition and give your wardrobe an eco-conscious makeover with the following six tips to craft a sustainable chic closet that you can feel proud to wear.

Rein in that shopping habit

Cheerful woman is shopping in the city. She is holding a coffee to go and using her smart phone.

1. Rethink your shopping strategy. The first guideline for sustainable living is simply consuming less. New threads are great, and we’re not going to scold you for wanting to test drive a new trend each season. What we will say, however, is that shopping as a pastime has got to go. Just like snacking out of boredom isn’t exactly awesome for your health, shopping *just because* isn’t doing any favors for your wallet or the planet.

2. Start a shopping fast. Unsubscribe from retailer emails (you know you just end up deleting them anyway), skip that upcoming sale and take a break from your fave fashion mags. When you do find yourself coveting something, write it down or add it to a Pinterest board. This allows you to put the item out of your mind, while providing assurance that you won’t forget about it or lose it, and ultimately preventing you from making an impulse buy. Clever, right? When you come back to your list later, you may find that you don’t even want it anymore.

3. Go to wardrobe rehab. Your little shopping vacay is also a great time to learn to make the most out of your wardrobe and pinpoint which pieces you do and don’t wear. Every time you wear something, put it back in the right side of your closet (or back — depending on how your closet is laid out). Eventually, all the pieces you haven’t worn yet will gravitate toward the left. This will challenge you to find new ways to wear the pieces you already own and help you identify items that just don’t jibe with your style sensibilities — put those in a peace-out pile. Apply the same method to your dresser, putting pieces you’ve worn at the bottom of each pile. This strategy allows you to clean out your closet little by little — no pressure — instead of in one big intimidating go. (Photo via Eva-Katalin/Getty)

Identify what’s important

Cotton crop in full bloom with sun

4. Get to know you. An important part of being sustainable is knowing yourself, tuning into your wants, needs and style. Start by reading up on the issues (Overdressed by Elizabeth Cline and Magnifico by Kate Black are a great place to start, but there are plenty of online resources out there too), then rank your values and decide which ones are most important to you. Do you want to buy fashion that is:

  • Made with natural materials?
  • Made with recycled fibers?
  • Made by an emerging designer or small brand?
  • Secondhand?
  • Made to last and timeless?

Don’t feel that you can only to commit to one area — doing so might actually mean you’re cutting out a lot of really great pieces and designers that are doing great things for people and the planet. For example, if you want to wear items only made from natural materials, you can’t wear clothing made from, say, recycled plastic (like those rad Girlfriend Collective leggings).

5. Stay true to your style. It’s important to know too that you can still fall victim to many of the same shopping traps with “eco-friendly” products as you would with conventional. Before each purchase, ask yourself if you’d buy the product if it wasn’t eco-conscious or ethical. If the answer is yes, then go for it, girl. If not, then you don’t need it, so take a hard pass. And don’t totally beat yourself up if you find yourself lusting after convention pieces. If you’ve done your research, haven’t found an alternative and know you’re going to love and use it for years and years to come, then that’s conscious consumerism as well. (Photo via BCFC/Getty)

Refine and update your style

Cropped view of woman sketching fashion design

6. Define your style. Understanding your style is so key when it comes to creating a sustainable closet, because you end up only buying and owning items that you love and that just *get* you. Start by creating a Pinterest board and filling it up with outfits that you dig. After a while, you might start to notice a pattern: oversized silhouettes, vibrant color, neutrals, tailored coats, etc. You’ll also start to identify things that feel out of place.

7. Visualize. Whip out a notepad and start jotting down the core components of your fave ensembles, then cross check it with the clothes hanging in your closet. Add anything you don’t already have to your shopping list, but stay mindful and cut out anything that you know you won’t actually wear. (Photo via Emely/Getty)


Colorful women's dresses on hangers in a retail shop. Fashion and shopping concept

8. Shed the excess. Now that you’ve taken stock of your style and identified the values that are most important to you, it’s time to take the plunge and part ways with anything that doesn’t fit or make you feel fab. Take one final comb through your closet and separate anything you no longer want or need into a donate or consignment pile. It’s hard — we know. But you’ve got this girl, and what you’ll be left with are pieces that perfectly reflect your personal style. (Photo via gregory_lee/Getty)

Fill in the gaps

Smiling woman checking smartphone while shopping in boutique shop

9. Shop with a clear mind. Once you’ve cleaned out your closet and are ready to snag a few pieces on your newly revamped must-have list, it’s time to start shopping — consciously. This is where all that research and value prioritization will really pay off, because this time around, hitting the mall just isn’t going to cut it. Of course, finding sustainable and ethical duds will require a little more footwork than conventional clothing, but below you’ll find a few good places to start.

Looking for more ideas? EcoCult has curated a comprehensive shopping guide to help you find conscious clothing and accessories fast. (Photo via Thomas Barwick/Getty)

Take care of your clothes


10. Value what you have. In a culture where fast fashion is king, we don’t often consider how many wears we’ll get out of one piece and a considerable amount of clothing ends up in landfills. Making the switch over to a more eco-conscious lifestyle requires viewing your clothing as indispensable and taking care of the pieces you already own. That means repairing your shoes when the heels start to wear down, mending holes, taking clothing to a tailor to ensure proper fit and revamping items when they start to lose their luster.

Take note of the care for instructions on labels and take preventative measures to keep your clothes looking fab, like treating leather and suede items with waterproof products or treating stains right away.

If your clothes have reached an irreparable state, try giving them new life by repurposing them into rags for cleaning or even creating shopping bags. (Photo via Emely/Getty)

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