Affordable Sustainable Fashion – How To Be Eco-Friendly On A Budget

Is affordable sustainable fashion even possible?

There is a belief that sustainable fashion is not affordable. It is true that eco-friendly fashion brands can be more expensive to buy from. However, you don’t need to invest in brand new items to build a sustainable wardrobe.

In fact, buying new clothes is not necessarily the best way forward, if your focus is on building a sustainable wardrobe We would recommend you follow these 4 steps before you go out and purchase new. Not only will your wardrobe be more affordable, you’ll also be helping reduce textile waste by getting more use out of what you have, and making better choices when do make a purchase.

Step 1: Understand your body shape, best colours and style.

We all have clothes in our wardrobe that we don’t wear. Why is that? We buy them because we liked the look of them in the shop, or because they are in fashion, but when it comes time to wear them, they leave us feeling ‘meh’. 

This happens when you haven’t shopped well for your body shape or to suit your colouring.

For every body shape there are certain cuts that flatter our beautiful bodies, that give us confidence and make us happy to wear those clothes.  There are also colours, that highlight our natural beauty and give us a lift, depending on our eye, hair and skin colour.

Our friends over at Science of Style understand this well. They have studied colour and body shape in depth and provide wardrobe suggestions based around what works best for you.

Understanding what suits your body and colouring helps ensure you only invest in clothing that fits well, makes you look and feel great, and stays looking good over many years of wear. Knowing your body and colouring will ensure you don’t buy clothing that is seldom worn. In the long run, that makes for a far more affordable and sustainable fashion wardrobe.

We highly recommend you take the time to learn more about body shapes and colour theory. Start with these top tips:

  • Don’t dress to cover your problem areas! Dress to highlight your assets.
  • Don’t get sucked into the lasted style or colour trend UNLESS it suits you.
  • Understand balance and proportions.
  • If several people tell you a colour or style looks good on you, you’re doing something right. Very few people will tell you if something you’re wearing looks terrible.
  • Colour should be worn to lift your natural colouring, not overshadow you or blend in so much you are no longer visible (otherwise known as washing you out).

Step 2: Clear out the wardrobe

Now that you know what styles and colours suit you, it’s time to declutter your wardrobe.

Items that don’t suit you really need to find a new home. Think carefully how you can pass garments on so that they will be used. You might like to try selling your pre-loved clothes online in a second-hand store such as Populace Threads.

If you have an item that is a great colour for you, but is the wrong style or fit, consider whether it can be altered to suit your body type.

Don’t hold on to garments because you think you might wear them. A sustainable wardrobe means that every garment in your wardrobe has a purpose and will be worn. If in doubt, think about passing it on.

Women holding folded shirts after decluttering wardrobe

Step 3: Buy from the affordable resale market

Buying second-hand is not only going to save you money but will also mean the clothing is given a longer life.

Extending the life of clothing by 9 months reduces carbon waste and the water footprint by 20-30%. Now, that is truly making things both affordable and sustainable!

Once upon a time shopping second-hand was associated with being poor. However, that stigma is no longer as it used to be. In fact, buying second-hand is now considered on-trend in many circles.

There are now many websites, platforms, apps and stores you can use to sell second-hand clothes, making the process so much easier. It is predicted that the resale market will grow faster than the traditional retail market by 15% annually. As the market grows, transacting will become easier and more efficient, and good quality items will hold their value longer. And the environment will thank you!

If you have mastered step 1 and know what styles and colours best flatter you, it will make shopping second-hand much easier, especially when you find second-hand stores that sort by colour, size & garment type.

Women buying second hand clothing

Step 4:  Repair, repurpose or remake sustainable fashion

…Or as we like to call it –  ReFashion!

It’s a sad fact that for many years businesses have been designing products to be replaced. Here’s a story I remember from my childhood that illustrates these harmful business practices.

I remember my mother buying a new blade for a lawn mower. The sales assistant helpfully told her to take it home and fill in a small chip that existed in the blade to extend its life. Why? Because the business had recently changed their blade design in order to cause the blades to break. Prior to that, the blades had been so sturdy that they didn’t need replacing. This small design adaption increased their replacement sales – great for the business but not for the customers’ hip pocket or for the environment.  

From a purely monetary perspective, cheap overseas mass production of goods, coupled with high labour costs to fix things locally, make fixing products unviable for many businesses. However, this does not take into account the cost of end-of-life disposal, in either a financial or environmental sense.

We are starting to see some businesses adopt take-back systems for the disposal or reuse of their old goods. However, many businesses do not yet see enough value in providing this service, so the number of such schemes remains small.

We need to take matters into our own hands. We need to be buying products that can be upgraded, repaired and repurposed, to ensure we are getting full use of them for a long time – perhaps even a lifetime. 

Sewing button on shirt

We believe that everyone can master basic sewing skills needed to extend the life of their clothes. This can be as simple as sewing on a missing button, re-hemming or mending a hole. Knowing how to sew is really helpful when building a sustainable wardrobe, and we encourage you to think about learning, if this is not yet a skill-set you have. 

Even if you are not handy with a needle and thread, there are other options. Around the world Repair Cafes are popping up everywhere, and some are dedicated to mending clothes. Most of these are volunteer run and operate one day a month.

Another option is to seek out a local tailor. This gives you scope to not only repair, but also transform your garments. Our advice is to test a few with basic repairs or adjustments, before asking for bold alterations. Once you develop a good relationship, they might be able to give you a few pointers, and you may be able to do some of the work at home to same them time and you money. Trust us, every seamstress would be willing to give you a job unpicking seams!

Before you know it, you will have turned a too-small or stained dress into a skirt, or a man’s shirt into a cute pair of shorts!

If you are in Melbourne, Australia, our seamstress in Emerald and our founder in Greensborough are more than happy to help you out. And don’t forget to check out the many refashioned items we have available for sale at A Fitting Connection. 

Enjoy your sustainable journey!

Katrina, & team XX