How To Make Your Fall 2019 Wardrobe Sustainable

Maggie Marilyn

The fall shopping season is here and though that might mean anything from a complete closet refresh to easy seasonal swaps, elevating your fashion game for cooler times can be done in a thoughtful way. The fashion industry has been slowly, but steadily shedding light on easy-to-incorporate sustainable fashion tips and practices, making room for brands and shoppers that equally prioritize being environmentally friendly and fashion forward.

As mass fashion consumption and disposable wardrobes grow out of favor, consumers are adopting changes both small and large to shift the dynamic around sustainably produced clothing. For many, making the proper moves to bring eco-friendly practices to their closets seems like a massive undertaking, but in reality, there are myriad ways to refresh your wardrobe for fall ethically without sacrificing style or — just as importantly — your budget. “Our culture of constantly wanting more new stuff creates a system of low-quality, disposable clothing,” explains Carmen Lopez, president and CEO of consignment shopping destination Current Boutique. “But what if there was a way to constantly buy and update your wardrobe … without killing your closet, your budget, or the environment?”

If you’re in the market to update your everyday looks for fall and want to keep sustainability top of mind, read on for five simple ways to make your closet more sustainable for fall 2019.

Shop Sustainable Brands

It may seem obvious, but the most effective way to bring new items into your fashion rotation is to shop labels that already have eco-friendly sourcing, manufacturing, and supply chain built into their business model. Fashion has come a long way from so-called "granola" collections crafted from hemp. In fact, summer 2019 saw a huge uptick in sustainable labels — including a sharp rise in environmentally sound swimwear, lingerie, and workwear options. Companies like Maggie Marilyn have aimed to have up to 30 percent of their materials in new collections made from recycled pieces from previous seasons and are proving that luxury, function, and earth-friendly design can all come together in one covetable package. Hot jewelry (and now ready-to-wear) label SVNR is crafted using natural materials and repurposed items that imbue each buy with a sense of nostalgia and whimsy that still, somehow, feels completely contemporary.

And if perusing for the new season from larger retailers is more your style, Nordstrom has announced a new category to help you shop more responsibly. As part of its commitment to the G7 Fashion Pact, Nordstrom will now make sustainable fashion more accessible by devoting an online section to discovering products made with high social and environmental standards. With over 2,000 items and 90 brands, Nordstrom is hoping that their offering will appeal to consumer values and trends. Net-a-Porter’s NET SUSTAIN initiative is a similar platform that focuses on brands that create locally, use fair trade principles to invest in communities, cultivate materials ethically, and actively reduce waste. With such resources at your fingertips, there’s very little excuse to not make better choices.

Buy Vintage, Pre-Owned, or Consignment

What’s old is new again and that’s what makes the circular economy so essential to fall shopping. “Buying second hand is the best way to get involved in sustainable fashion,” says Lopez. “You’re getting quality pieces and saving them from landfills, while upgrading your wardrobe. Plus, it costs a fraction of what you’d pay full price.” Loyal fashion lovers have long known that buying from consignment, second-hand, and vintage stores is the secret to scoring runway items at mere pennies on the dollar, but it is also an easy way to add on-trend, yet unique items to your fall wardrobe without feeling like you’re simply following the fashion flock.

Luxury consignment and designer resale sites like The RealReal, Vestiaire Collective, Luxury Garage Sale, and Rebag have ushered in a new era of environmentally conscious shopping that is just as much about nabbing the latest “it bag” on a budget as it is about expanding the life cycle of a garment or accessory. “People keep buying, which is quickly ramping up the waste produced by the fashion industry. As consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious, they see the value in wearing and re-wearing ‘secondhand’ clothing that has lived a previous life. If you’re looking to be more sustainable, shopping on consignment is the simplest and most effective way to get started,” Lopez continues.

Upcycle Old Clothes

Before you cast away your 2015 fast fashion buys, consider breathing new life into them by reimagining their design. Upcycling, or recycling — only slightly elevated — is the practice for kicking an item up a notch via clever repurposing. Take inspiration from reworked clothing brands like Frankie Collective, a '90s-inspired label that refashions classic athletic windbreakers into of-the-moment petite carry-alls. Each one-of-a-kind buy saves a forgotten fashion piece from the landfill while also bringing a little model-off-duty charm to your fall ensembles.

For those who are looking to flex their DIY muscles, use simple sewing skills to create entirely new wardrobe staples without breaking the bank. SEWSQUAD, a line of easy-to-use, fun-to-make sewing patterns are designed to be used with new fabric or previously loved items so you can quickly flip a tired maxi dress or boring button down into a soft tee or cozy wrap dress.

Invest in Your Wardrobe

Consider this permission to lean into your more luxurious cravings, because investing wisely in your wardrobe for fall is actually an impactful way to think more sustainably about what you buy. Well-made (and ethically sourced) purchases crafted from sturdy, high-end materials last longer, which means you keep them longer, wear them more, and are less likely to throw them in a landfill. By simply shopping for quality over quantity, you are making a difference. “When you purchase high-quality and ageless clothing, it will persist through the seasons and numerous wears,” explains Lopez. “You’re not wasting money and materials on a trend that lasts only a season. You’re investing in timeless pieces that will continue to make your wardrobe look and feel high-value.”

Not only does this maximize your cost-per-wear ratio, but it also sets you up for success if and when you decide to consign as quality materials and luxury names have a higher resale value. “This reduces waste and textile turnover, while upgrading your wardrobe and maintaining your budget. These pieces also tend to have fewer chemicals, so they’re safer and healthier for your body,” Lopez states. In the end, be sure to look out for fabrication that is both durable and sustainable such as cotton, linen, wool, rayon or modal, and silk.

Take Care of Your Clothes

“A lot of clothing is wasted because it’s thrown out when there’s a small rip or pull,” warns Lopez. “Damage is especially common in lower-quality clothing, like fast fashion. But when you invest in high-quality, timeless pieces, repairing your items can extend their lifespan, reduce waste, and keep your wardrobe flawless. Learn how to sew a button, stitch a seam. You would be surprised how many people do not know the basics of sewing and discard items that have a lot of life in them left.”

Arm yourself with stylist essentials like a travel steamer, sewing kit, spot stain removers and fabric depiller, advises Lopez because these items will help you sustain the clothes you have invested in. You would be surprised to see what a difference daily maintenance on your most worn-in fashion finds can do to reverse wear and tear and help your style stay fresh for fall.