Oftentimes, having an eco-friendly wardrobe is equated with having an expensive wardrobe.
However, it is entirely possible to have a sustainable wardrobe that not only isn’t expensive, but actually saves you money!
Today, I’m sharing my top five high-impact ways to make your wardrobe both frugal and sustainable.
This post is the third in the Frugally Sustainable series, where I explore every area of life and home to help you be more mindful, and take control of your finances and your choices.
1. Buy Second-Hand
This is number one for a reason! If you want to build a sustainable wardrobe and save yourself some money at the same time, this is key.
While I do love the mission of the many ethically-minded clothing companies out there, sustainable fashion is often out of budget for myself and for others.
This means that I lean HARD into thrift shopping for building my wardrobe.
Thrift shopping is one of my deap-seated loves. I love the treasure hunt of searching through the racks at my local store until I find just the perfect piece. I also love the convenience of online thrift platforms that allow me to shop wherever and whenever I want.
Each method has their own pros and cons. As a mom, my size often fluctuates, so I prefer to try on my clothing in store to ensure the best fit. I also appreciate the lower prices of local thrift stores and garage sales, which are difficult–if not impossible–to find when buying secondhand online. Shopping this way can be time consuming and requires patience.
However, online platforms are particularly useful for investment pieces, like shoes. I talk all about my strategy for shoes in the second tip, but most of my online thrift purchases have been for specific, branded shoes that I have researched and determined to be the best.
Now, that doesn’t mean that I never purchase shoes at a local thrift store or never purchase clothing through online thrift platforms! But generally, I buy clothes in person and shoes online.
If you want some tips to be more successful at in-person thrifting, go head over to my most comprehensive post on the subject: The Ultimate Guide to Thrifting.
If you are more interested in the convenience of online thrifting, go check out Mercari! (Full Disclosure, this is a referral link. If you create an account through my link, you’ll get $10 off your first purchase! I’ll also receive a $10 coupon if you make a purchase.)
My standard method for buying is to search once with all the filters and parameters needed (I put in my desired size, color, length, etc.) and then save the search. It notifies me right on my phone whenever new listings are added that fit my search criteria, and I can go check them out. I love this “set it and forget it” way of thrifting!
Whichever way you choose, thrifting is an incredibly valuable resource for building a wardrobe that is both frugal and sustainable. Not buying new means you’re not adding extra demand to an already high-demand fashion industry, which is SO important.
2. Invest in Re-Soleable Shoes
Shoes are one area that I think it is important to invest. And it is frugal to do so!
I may only spend $5-$10 on a piece of clothing, but I will invest anywhere from $50-$150 in the right pair on shoes.
Seems like a big discrepancy, doesn’t it?
I spend so much money on shoes because I know they will last me for at least 20 years.
How do I know that? I always buy the best quality shoes that can be resoled or have a lifetime guarantee from the company. I invest in full-grain leather boots (always bought secondhand) that I know have the longevity to last as long as they are cared for properly.
Now, I know that real leather can be a controversial subject. But investing in timeless, high quality shoes keeps countless pairs of faux leather (read: plastic!) shoes out of the landfill. And to me, that’s well worth it!
3. Avoid Fast Fashion
Even when thrift shopping, I avoid fast fashion at all costs.
Fast fashion is poorly made, ever-revolving trends that are made cheaply, sold cheaply, and not meant to last. Brands like Forever 21, H&M, and Rue 21 are all examples of fast fashion. The quality is so low that pieces like these often end up in the garbage within months, even weeks of purchase.
Fast fashion is filling our landfills at an alarming rate, and it needs to change.
So how do you identify fast fashion pieces when you’re thrift shopping? Well, one way is by brand. Another way is by doing a quick quality check. Hold up the fabric to the light–if you can see the light through the fabric, put it back.
Check the stitching. Are the stitches crooked, uneven, or have threads hanging loose? Do any buttons or snaps seem secure, or do they seem like they might fall off easily?
These are just little things you can check that will clue you in if a garment was made for true longevity, or to simply be a cog in the fast-fashion machine.
4. Create a Capsule Wardrobe
Honestly, creating a capsule wardrobe has helped me so much!
Capsule wardrobes can come off as minimalist and very neutral or boring–I know that was my first impression of them. I swore for years that capsule wardrobes weren’t my thing.
Turns out, I just needed a more flexible capsule! I have fallen in love with Corina Holden’s Year-Round Wardrobe Plan over at Frump Fighters.
Corina makes fashion super easy. She provides a list of all the pieces you need in your wardrobe, plus all the outfit formulas are laid out for you!
She also teaches you to find the best colors that look good on you, and to use those colors as your color palette for a wardrobe that literally works together in hundreds of outfits!
Shopping for the missing pieces in my capsule wardrobe has given purpose to my shopping trips, making them far more productive. I used to settle for less at the thrift store, buying garments that didn’t fit quite right or weren’t a great color on me. After all, it was all “cheap,” right?
Truly, though, that isn’t a sustainable way to shop. I now have confidence that the pieces I have will stay with me a long while. And the few that don’t, I will send off to another home through my Mercari side-hustle. Either way, I can be confident that nothing in my closet is going into the garbage!
5. Set Up a Clothing Swap
Setting up a clothing swap can be a great way to refresh your wardrobe and spend quality time with like-minded women, all for free!
This is easiest to do with friends, but is also doable in a community. If you are orchestrating one, you’ll want to make sure that you invite plenty of different women with different body types. There is nothing worse than showing up to a clothing swap and finding out that you’re the only woman in your size.
You can easily host a clothing swap in your home, or if you have a lot of ladies coming, seek out a bigger venue, like a community center or local church. And make sure you have some system for organizing it all. But other than that, just have fun shopping each other’s clothes!
Have you tried any of these tips? Let me know in the comments!