While we’re all becoming more and more conscious of the negative affects our obsessive shopping habits are having on not only our physical environment but the world’s ethical landscape too (you only have to Google ‘sweatshop’ to shudder at the reality behind some ‘fast fashion’), the reality is that we *still* buy more clothes. We’ll always buy more clothes. And no matter how much we read – or write – about fashion sustainability, chances are we will never entirely refrain from purchasing new pieces.
What we can hope, though, is that the world’s no-holds-barred attitude towards shopping will soon become a conscious one, with well-informed decisions being made about not only where to shop, but also *what* to shop.
So if we agree that we will likely never stop buying new pieces to fill our wardrobes with, what do we do with the older pieces we own? Whether it’s an old pair of jeans you once loved so much that you wore down the crotch entirely, or a coat whose buttons are on their last legs so you daren’t risk it… having been usurped by newer versions, these pieces can often find themselves squashed in the darkest depths of your wardrobe for years on end.
This stagnant period of your clothing’s life-cycle puts a stop to ‘circular fashion’ – the industry’s latest buzz term. In general, it refers to never putting an end to the things that you use, extending its lifespan in any way. Aka, not bunging it at the back of said closet.
So how do we extend the lifespan of our poor ripped jeans, or sad band t-shirt that we’d no longer be seen dead in?
Here are 7 ways to breathe new life into your old clothes and shoes that are taking up *vital* space in your wardrobe…
The recycling bins can be a daunting place, but thanks to our collective ever-growing commitment to sustainability, the textile recycling industry is only getting more transparent with labels explaining what can – and what can’t – be disposed of in each bin. Admittedly these bins aren’t as easy to get to as the ones in your back yard, but here’s hoping that the more demand there is for them, the more supply there’ll be.
This is an obvious but often overlooked option for unwanted clothes, which is bizarre as it’s one of the easiest avenues to take – never mind sustainable *and* ethical. Just google the nearest charity shop to you – e.g. the BHF, Oxfam, Goodwill and the Salvation Army – and call up beforehand to double check that they’re happy to take your clothes (they usually are, but sometimes they’re overrun with a recent influx and you’ll need to find another). Anything they don’t use will be recycled.
Another easy option, but one that’ll perhaps warm your cockles slightly less, is to offload all your old pieces on your friends. ‘One person’s trash’, and all that… Just be prepared for that pang of envy when you see your pal killing that dress you *forgot* how much you loved.
There are a number of places that will upcycle your clothes for you. In 2014, Levi Strauss & Co. launched a clothing recycling initiative with that not only allows consumers to recycle clothing and shoes in store but also offers free length alterations on any Levi’s® products as well as repair and tapering. More general tailors will edit your clothes in just about any way you request, so it’s worth getting creative and thinking about how new cuts/necklines/lengths can transform your tired clothes.
If you’re feeling *super* creative, why not take on the upcycling role yourself? Start small, and maybe chop your long-forgotten jeans into a pair of cropped denim shorts for summer? Or how about raising the hemline of your old favourite midi skirt that’s started feeling a bit dowdy? Once you’ve mastered the basics, consider turning round-necks into deep Vs, or blouses into button-up shirts with via some mismatched spare buttons? There are no rules, especially in today’s sartorial climate, so don’t be afraid to step outside the box.
Admittedly less glamorous than a lot of situations you no-doubt find yourself in, do some (brief) reading into fabrics and find out whether or not any of your clothes can be slung on the compost heap. Clothing made from cotton and other natural fibres can be composted, providing is hasn’t been fused with synthetic fibres such as acrylic yarn, polyester or nylon.
Sometimes our clothes are just beyond repair (jeans that have been busted at the crotch once again after five repairs, we’re looking at you), but that’s no excuse to chuck them. Reinvent them into a cleaning rag, or use the material to serve a purpose around the house (my mother sewed up the bottom of one of my baby dresses and turned it into a clothes peg bag). If nothing else, wiping the surfaces with a reinvented old favourite t-shirt will make you smile mid-spring clean. Not much else can do that…