Many people ask me how they can afford sustainable fashion on a small budget? Well, there are different options for getting into sustainable fashion without spending a fortune, but you have to think differently to simply buying better or new. I am a sustainable fashion advocate and shopper and have always been on a fixed low income, so it is possible. Here are my top tips on how to do budget sustainable fashion.
There is nothing more sustainable than what you already have, so dig deep into your wardrobes and look at what is hiding in there. A few years ago I did a wardrobe audit (which you can read about here) that really helps you to see what you have too much of, what you might really need (rather than just want) and what you could adapt. You probably have lots of pieces that need some adjustment or could be dyed, embellished or adapted in some other way to make you want to wear it again.
All those items that you find in your wardrobe that you no longer want or fit into could be loved by someone else. So, get some friends together and organise a clothes swap (when we are allowed to do so safely of course). It’s a good excuse to have a few glasses of wine and talk about sustainable fashion. I held a children’s clothes one a few years ago which was great fun and of course it’s free! My friend Zoe of the Big Swap talks about it here. You can also swap using sites or apps like Nuw, The Dress Change, Big Sister Swap and Rehash.
Make Your Own
If you are handy with a sewing machine try making your own clothes, even better if they are made from recycled old clothes or deadstock fabrics. That way you can make them fit perfectly and they will be completely unique.
You could also share clothes with similar sized friends or buy more expensive pieces between you (depends how comfortable you are with each other!) Some people already do this but there needs to be more of cultural shift towards this being a normal thing. Australia’s The Volte started out as a wardrobe sharing marketplace but now rents clothes but I have no doubt others will spring up in it’s place soon.
Resale is the next big thing in fashion. This is where brands take back their used products from customers, often with a discount incentive, and re-sell them as pre-loved. Some brands have been doing it for a while and others are starting to test it out. Big brands like Stella McCartney, Gucci and Burberry have teamed up with luxury consignment site The Real Real and others like Levis, Patagonia & North Face have set up their own sites to resell their garments. You can also look at Vestaire Collective, Poshmark and Zalando, We are setting up our own recommerce section on the website in the summer so sign up to our newsletter to keep in the know.
Some companies such as Mud Jeans have leasing options on their clothes similar to what you would on a car. You lease them and wear them for a certain amount of time and then either buy them outright or send them back to get a new pair. Leasing in this way breaks the cost down into monthly payments making it easier to get those sustainable pieces.
If you have a big occasion coming up then renting an outfit is a good sustainable option. How often are you likely to wear that posh dress again? Probably not often, which give formal wear a higher environmental impact. I wrote about renting previously here, but there are more companies opening up in this sector now giving you far more options. There are also a few baby clothes rental systems that challenge that constant churn of clothes you need when children are so small. Here is a post about it that I did a while back.
If there are particular designers or sustainable brands you covet but can’t afford it is worth signing up to their newsletters and keeping an eye out for sample sales. These will be significantly cheaper than the standard retail price and will also be completely unique. We will be holding a sample sale in the autumn so don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter for news on that.
This might seem to be the opposite of budget, but hear me out. Investing in a classic, high quality piece will save you money in the long run. Fast fashion and mass production does not lend itself to high quality and durability generally. For instance our grandparents generation would buy the best coats and shoes they could afford and they would wear them forever. Or, if you think of it in terms of whether could you wear it 30 times or more then cost per wear makes it a more affordable and sustainable purchase.