How to Make More Sustainable Purchasing Decisions

We’ve discussed the longstanding effects of fast fashion on this blog before. In 2015, the United States generated about 75 pounds of textile waste per person; this is more than a 750% increase since 1996. When we’re constantly bombarded with statistics showing us what an awful job we’ve been doing, it can be a bit difficult to shop without feeling immensely guilty.

So what’s the solution?

We believe it begins with being more mindful. Buying clothes that are built to last will help you add to your wardrobe without contributing to all that textile waste. We’ve summarized some tips from this awesome article to help you make smarter, more long-lasting clothing purchase decisions.

First, ask yourself 1) if you really like it, 2) if it’s versatile, and 3) does it fit well?

According to a survey done by Barclay, 9% of British shoppers admitted to buying clothes specifically for Instagram; after taking the photos of themselves wearing the item, they return it.

Make sure when you buy clothes, you assess how comfortable they are first. This applies significantly to undergarments, but of course it’s something to consider for all clothing items. If you don’t find it comfortable, chances are you’ll find excuses to avoid wearing it and will end up disposing it more quickly.

Ensure the clothes you’re buying are made of long-lasting fabrics.

Thicker clothes last longer than thin ones. The ideal weight is around six ounces per square yard. Now, most of us don’t bring a scale with them when they go to the mall, so use the hand rule! This is simply when you put a hand between the shirt; if you can see your hand through it, it’s too thin. When shopping for jeans, this applies as well, though most jeans are made of thick fabric. Generally, the heavier the denim, the better the jeans.

Another great measure is the stitching. Ensure that the stitches are even and avoid clothing that seem to have stitching that’s already falling apart. Try tugging gently on stitches and buttons – not too hard, of course, but enough that’ll show you if the article of clothing is less durable.

Check if the pockets are square.

Here’s an interesting tidbit: if the patterns on the pocket of a garment don’t match up with those on the body, chances are the manufacturer prioritized volume over quality when producing it. Also look for excess fabric outside of the stitching; this will give you some wiggle room in the future if you gain some weight or need to fix a hem. This will bring longevity to your clothing while saving you money as well.

What’s it made from?

When trying to choose clothing that last, look at its lining as a primary indicator of its durability. For example, look for lined wool when purchasing dress slacks. For everyday use slacks, Tencel fabric provides great strength and comfort. When it comes to choosing sweaters, search for fabrics that prevent pilling – that annoying thing where little balls of fluff appear and cling to the material. This happens more to synthetic fibres and blends, so look for natural fabrics like cotton or wool. It’s difficult to avoid pilling for t-shirts since most cotton shirts are made up of cotton with shorter strands, which are more susceptible to pilling. Purchasing clothes made up of long fibre cotton tends to be more expensive, so opt for shirts that combine the short strand cotton fibres and polyester to increase their strength.

Can it be maintained?

Once you invest money in new pieces for your wardrobe, the next step is maintaining them so they last as long as possible. When it comes to fabrics like silk, a lot more attention is required. Items like bras should be hand washed and always air dried (heat from dryers destroys elastic). This should be applied to other elastic items, like workout gear, and even some T-Shirts.

Don’t be afraid to give your clothing some extra care!

Learn to care for your items! Pick up a needle and some thread and sew back buttons or seams. The life of shoes can also be extended by spraying them with water and stain repellent sprays, creating a shield for the elements.

Though it must be acknowledged that the global waste problem will not be solved without significant systemic change on the part of clothing manufacturers, consumers can save money and reduce their impact. After all, as Orsola de Castro says, the most sustainable garment is the one already in your closet!

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