Sustainable Wardrobing 101

I am in the third year of a self-defined shopping ban. At the beginning of the year, I published an Instagram Story about my personal shopping ban to share my knowledge and tips on how to be successful at creating & maintaining a sustainable wardrobe. Since then, many people have asked how I stay true to my wardrobe goals. Friends often ask how they can embark on dressing more sustainably and/or ethically.

To be clear: My shopping ban is not an act of virtue signalling. I initially participated because I wanted to curb my spending, minimize my wardrobe, and put focus & money towards other pursuits.

Now, ask yourself: How often do you shop? Once a week? Several times a month? Only for special occasions? When something breaks or gets a hole? And when you do shop, where do you go? Wal-Mart? A thrift store? Neiman Marcus? Do you wear items out, or get rid of them once they’ve made it on the ‘gram?

These are questions you should ask yourself when considering your closet’s sustainability. “Sustainability” is, more or less, the ability to be maintained at a certain level or rate. It’s quite the buzzword these days: sustainable clothing is the solution to the fashion industry’s dirty little secret.

The fashion industry, mostly due to fast fashion, produces 10% of human carbon emissions, is the 2nd-largest consumer of the world’s water supply, and pollutes our water with microplastics (Business Insider, 2019). In terms of the ethics related to garment manufacturing, major brands continue to use illegal sweatshops to manufacture their garments (Human Rights Watch, 2018). Many factory workers are illegally paid low wages, even in the United States (The New York Times, 2020).

I am not a saint, and have most definitely purchased clothing from manufacturers of fast fashion. However, it’s never too late to make a change. I believe I have adapted & adjusted my consumer behavior to better my life and surroundings.

Now that you know more about the quandary of fast fashion, you may be wondering how to move forward. In my case, I decided to continue my shopping ban in order to minimize my carbon footprint.

ThatChelseaGirl's Guide to Sustainable Wardrobing
In my element at Austin Public Library:
My Liz Claiborne blouse was $5 at Goodwill,
my cardigan is from my days slingin’ style at Nordstrom, circa 2013.

Before I break down the rules of my shopping ban, the following should be noted: I learned how to sew as a child. While I am not the greatest, I recommend that you learn to sew on a button & hem your pants. On a personal note, I stopped growing taller in the 5th grade, and became obsessed with taking care of my favorite garments…the good mall was 4 hours away.

I never loved shopping growing up, nor do I love it now. I do enjoy finding what works for me. I also find joy in helping others find what works for them. I have a fashion marketing degree, and someday I’d like to become a fashion historian.

In the 7th grade, wearing an outfit purchased in the 5th grade,
with my gorgeous sister, Alyssa, in Borrego Springs, CA.

So…what are the rules to my shopping ban? Don’t buy anything you don’t need! Sounds simple, right? If you want to succeed at a shopping ban, you must define what you need vs. what you want. How did I define my clothing needs? I determined that I would need to buy fitted undergarments, shoes, and special occasion items during my ban. Undergarments & shoes are purchased brand new as the original item wears out.

For special occasion items, if I’ve grown tired or bored with an item, I will donate or sell it. When I sell an item, I allow myself to buy an item, either at a consignment shop or thrift store (I also participate in clothing swaps). I rarely dress for special occasions: weddings, Austin City Limits Music Festival, and South By Southwest Festival all qualify (RIP SXSW 2020).

My shopping ban applies to friends & family during birthdays and holidays. I’ll either gift them something I’ve created or an experience both of us can enjoy, like the time I bought my friend Ashlee a bucket of champagne at the Alamo Drafthouse for her birthday.

Ash and I on one of our many adventures at Barton Springs.

While I understand a shopping ban doesn’t work for every person or household, I’m grateful I took up the challenge. It has helped me maintain a healthy balance in a world that is inundated with fast fashion. I spent less than $100 on shopping last year. I wonder how little I’ll spend in 2020.

Do you participate in a shopping ban? What are the rules? Eventually, I’ll share more of what my closet looks like now that I’ve been in a shopping drought for over two years. In the meantime, please share your tips & tricks for adopting a sustainable wardrobe in the comments.

Published by That Chelsea Girl

That Chelsea Girl, aka Chelsea Hands, lives, works, and plays deep in the heart of Texas. A 30-something that loves fashion, food, and music, when Chelsea isn't working, she can be found outside, hiking or swimming. In 2017, Chelsea founded Girls Who Hike ATX, an empowering collective for girls & women who hike public lands in and around Austin.

4 thoughts on “Sustainable Wardrobing 101

  1. This post rocks! I’m always looking to improve my wardrobe choices and be more sustainable. Would love to see a follow up post with even more of your tips!


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