10 Simple Ways to Update Your Ethical Wardrobe

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Have you ever found yourself standing in front of your overflowing wardrobe first thing in the morning, thinking that you have absolutely nothing to wear? I know I have! Though at times like this it can be tempting to go out and buy a bunch of brand new clothes, this tends to only exacerbate the problem, adding to your stress and confusing your style. Luckily, there are a number of other ways that you can update your ethical wardrobe that are much kinder on the environment, workers and our furry friends — not to mention your bank account.

We’ve compiled a list of ten simple ways that you can update your wardrobe without having to rush to the nearest mall.

  1. Do a wardrobe cull of clothes you don’t wear:

Having way too many clothes to choose from is the number one cause of decision fatigue. Most women only wear about 40% of their wardrobe, so don’t be afraid to be ruthless. When choosing what to keep and what to let go, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Have I worn it in the last year?
  2. Does it fit my day-to-day lifestyle?
  3. Does it go with my other clothes?
  4. Do I love it?

When you have chosen which pieces you want to keep, separate your clothes into four piles: ones to keep, ones to donate, ones to sell and ones to mend. Most charities only accept clothes that are in good condition, but there are a number of places that do accept fabric scraps and damaged clothes that are then turned into textile fibres and industrial rags. As part of a recycling initiative with I:CO, you can drop off your unwanted garments of any brand and condition at any H&M store worldwide, where they will be recycled and given a new purpose.


  1. Mend or alter your old clothes

Do you have a favourite dress with a stubborn wine stain from last year’s Christmas party? What about that pair of jeans you’ve been meaning to take up for ages but just haven’t got around to? Expand your wardrobe by working with what you already ownsometimes all a piece needs is a good dry clean, a stitch or a hem job to become wearable again. If you don’t have any faith in your own mending skills, why not pay a visit your local tailor or cobbler?

  1. Take a note of what you’re missing in your wardrobe

It can be super helpful to keep a note — whether in your phone or a small notepad that you keep in your handbag —  of what you’re missing in your ethical wardrobe. Focus on pieces that are versatile, timeless and high quality, so you don’t have to replace them year after year. For example, you might need a new basic white tee, or a pair of black ankle boots. By knowing exactly what you need, not only is it much easier to avoid impulse buys, it makes shopping much less daunting and time-consuming.


  1. Upcycle your old clothes

Breathe new life into your old clothes by upcycling them! If you have a few pieces in your wardrobe that have potential but you’re just not feeling them anymore, brainstorm some ways in which you can give them a new look. Sometimes all a piece needs is some fancy new buttons, a dye job or a trim to make it wearable again. For example, you can turn your old daggy jeans into shorts by cutting off the legs, and even give them a few holes for an on-trend distressed look. You can also turn your old clothes into crop tops by giving them a trim. The possibilities are endless!


  1. Accessorise!

Sometimes all an old outfit needs is a few well-placed accessories — like a statement necklace, a scarf, a handbag or a pair of dangly earrings — to give it a bit of pizzazz. If you’re lacking in the accessories department, check out your local thrift store or charity shop, or take a look at our articles on ethical jewellery!

  1. Organise a clothes swap

A clothes swap is a fun and free way to get some new pieces for your wardrobe while getting rid of the items that you no longer want. Make a party of it — ask a few friends to bring a plate of food and a bag full of clothes and accessories. Who knows, you might just walk away with your new favourite piece!

  1. Keep a Pinterest of your style

Not only does keeping a record of outfits and pieces you love make it so much easier to identify your own personal style, websites like Pinterest can provide a wealth of inspiration for outfit ideas and combinations you never would have thought of by yourself!


  1. Download the Stylebook app

Every girl wanted Cher’s outfit creator after watching Clueless, but did you know there’s now an app that does basically the same thing? Stylebook is a fantastic resource for both men and women that programs your entire wardrobe into the app and helps you to create daily personalised outfits. Not only does the app give you a better idea of what you love and what you don’t, it even has a feature that calculates the cost-per-wear of each item, which encourages you to try and get more wear out of certain pieces.

9.  Visit your local thrift store or browse eBay or Gumtree for secondhand pieces

So you have identified a gap in your ethical wardrobe, or realised you desperately need to replace a staple piece. Before rushing out to the nearest shopping mall, why not see if you can find what you’re looking for secondhand? Check out your local thrift stores or charity shops, or browse secondhand items on eBay, Gumtree or the Facebook Marketplace to find amazing bargains for a fraction of the original price!


  1. Buy some staple pieces from a hot ethical brand

Find ethical brand ratings

If you’d prefer to buy something new, choose something that’s well-made, timeless and versatile that you can wear and love for years to come. The free Good On You app is a great resource where you can browse hundreds of ethical brands rated ‘Good’ or ‘Great’. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for exclusive offers and sales — just download the app and click on the ‘Offers’ tab.


Editor’s Note: Good On You was not compensated for mentioning any of the brands in this article.

Feature Photo by Caroline Veronez on Unsplash. Additional images via Giphy

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