Building a Sustainable Wardrobe

Sep 12

Committing to sustainable fashion can be overwhelming. You might be even be tempted to buy a new wardrobe full of clothes marketed as ethical or eco-friendly. But the first step to building a sustainable wardrobe costs no money. The core of sustainable fashion is wasting less, so it starts with pieces from your existing closet.

If you do want to jazz up your wardrobe, you can buy clothes second-hand to reduce waste or support eco-friendly brands. Here’s the most important rule for shopping: Purchase high-quality clothes that you love. They’ll stay with you for a long time instead of ending up in landfills.

Season changes are great times to curate your sustainable wardrobe since you’ll be able to think about pieces that work for different weather. With autumn around the corner, we’ve created this guide on eco-friendly fall essentials that you can easily find in your closet or shop at your favorite sustainable retailer.

Outerwear

Many coats and jackets are made from biodegradable natural materials such as cotton, linen, and wool. Cotton and linen are great for interseasonal outerwear since they provide heat but are also breathable. In terms of synthetic materials, you can also find light jackets made of recycled polyester. Our favorites include:

  • Hoodies and quarter zips – Hoodies and quarter-zips can be found almost everywhere. It’s easy to find ones that are made of organic cotton or recycled polyester. Brands that offer them include RECOVER, Pact, and Patagonia.
  • Denim jackets – A great denim jacket never goes out of style. You can find one made from upcycled or organic cotton through brands such as Reformation.

For colder weather, natural wool coats and sweaters are great. Besides keeping you warm, wool lasts a long time. If you’re concerned about animal cruelty, check for brands that have Responsible Wool Standard certification, such as REI, H&M, and Eileen Fisher.

Workwear

Work clothes likely make up most of your wardrobe. No worries if your workplace has a strict dress code. Your work closet probably houses more natural fabrics than you realize. We’re talking about pieces such as:

  • Dress shirts – Most dress shirts consist of cotton, silk, or linen, i.e. biodegradable fabrics. For stylish, eco-friendly work blouses, Klee offers a discount for ASH & ROSE.
  • Trousers – Many business and business casual trousers are made from natural fibers such as wool, linen, and cotton.
  • T-shirts, button-downs, and denim jeans – Usually made from natural fabrics such as cotton and wool, these casual pieces suit less formal workplaces. You can also shop these items at featured brands on Klee such as THOM KELLY, SUDARA, and Uni-T.

Accessories

Accessories elevate your look and protect you from the elements. Our favorites include:

  • Hats – Hats keep your head warm during the winter and your face protected from the sun during the summer. Look for headwear with materials such as organic cotton, hemp, and recycled plastics, like the ones from Conner Hats.
  • Scarves – Wool scarves, of course, best suit colder weather. But to look très chic, you can throw on a breathable silk or cotton scarf during any season.
  • Belts – Cruelty-free, recycled belts are easy to find if you don’t feel comfortable with leather. Jelt makes its belts with 100% recycled elastic.
  • Jewelry – A pop of color and interesting shapes and textures can take your outfit from great to amazing. We love the contemporary global style of the jewelry and accessories at Shilango and Wakami.

Shoes

Sustainable shoes can be tricky to find. Before throwing anything out, it’s best to make the most out of your current shoes. When you’ve worn out your kicks, look into donating or recycling them. After you do so, here are brands where you can purchase an eco-friendly pair.

  • Sneakers – Many companies have started making sneakers from recycled materials. For example, Adidas and Nike both sell shoes made from reused plastic and rubber. Reebok also recently released a shoe made from cotton and corn.
  • Dress shoes – If you’re comfortable with leather shoes, Oliberte uses leather from free-range cows and Mamahuhu refashions recycled leather. If you prefer not to buy animal products, Matt & Nat makes recycled vegan leather shoes.

Developing a sustainable wardrobe can be quite the challenge, but we hope that we’ve helped you start with good pieces that you already have. What qualities do you look for when you’re seeking closet essentials? Leave us a comment below.

Stacey Nguyen Stacey is a California-based freelance entertainment and lifestyle writer. Her work has been published by PopSugar, HelloGiggles, Reelgood, The Balance, and The Bold Italic. When she's not writing, she enjoys finding a good thrift deal and listening to pop culture podcasts.