Fashion stylist and ethical fashion advocate Meg Pirie has previously written about whether all vegan fashion is sustainable and what to do with your pre-vegan clothing for Vilda. This time, she offers her insider view on a different topic – prolonging the lifespan of your clothing.
We’ve all had a love affair with an item in our wardrobes. When I was a little girl it was a pair of bunny pyjamas – they were made from a flannel cotton and were pale grey with pink bunnies all over them. If I close my eyes now, I can still see them, still feel them. A few years later, it was a pair of bright red lace-up shoes. I loved them so much that I wore them out of the shop and didn’t take them off for a week, finally giving in when I needed a bath (I was six). My point here is that there is often a feeling of nostalgia or sentiment linked to clothing. I’ve seen it a hundred times, when I’ve gone to a client’s home and there are items that have seen better days but emanate a special memory and although they are no longer worn they are there to stay, becoming part of the furniture.
As I got older, my love affair with fashion didn’t stop – but as the fashion industry became faster, love turned to lust. I no longer coveted what I owned but purchased all the latest must-haves without really contemplating if I needed them. I was a slave to fast fashion and, as many impressionable teens, became a perfect example of what mass-consumerism had intended. Needless to say, these clothes left my home as fast as they arrived and quite frankly these are not the clothes that I close my eyes and remember. My love for fashion never went away, but for a while the value behind that love did fade.
There are quite a few statistics floating around, but when it comes to the sheer impact our mass-consumerism is having on Mother Earth, the baseline is this: we need to stop and listen. According to the Stockholm Resilience Centre, we only have 50 years to make any necessary changes to ensure our wellbeing on earth for the next 10,000 years. This is a terrifying fact and the sooner we grasp that we are, in fact, actually destructible and that there is no planet B, the better.
As a stylist working in the slow-fashion space, I am an advocate for pre-loved clothing – whether vintage or acquired through charity shops or clothing swaps. It’s a great way of buying what you need without using any unnecessary planetary resources. A scary fact just published by Weight Watchers, is that in the UK alone, we own £10bn worth of clothes that we don’t actually wear. This statistic got me thinking: What proportion of these clothes aren’t worn because they needed mending or tailoring? By tapping into what we already have in our wardrobes, we could massively reduce our footprint, and this is how I found the value in my wardrobe again.
Take a look at what you own
The most important first step is to take a deep breath and look at what you already own, but don’t wear. Anything that needs repairing or that’s too big can be mended or tailored. Anything that you feel is too small or perhaps would be perfect for someone else can be donated to your local charity shop or shared between family and friends. The age-old idiom of one person’s trash is another person’s treasure couldn’t be more on the money.
Find a good tailor
If you’re not wearing something because it’s too big or needs a repair – consider taking the item to your local tailor. Working with a tailor can be a fantastic way to bring a little bit of life back to your wardrobe. A good tailor will also help you upcycle anything you own. Using a tailor is a little like booking a stylist, initially it can seem like an extravagance, but in the long run it actually saves time, money and resources.
Get back to basics
It wasn’t that long ago that we darned our socks and knitted for our families, and it’s sad to realise that unless we rekindle some of these techniques, they could be lost forever. Just by learning how to darn a hole, sew a button back on or hem a pair of trousers, we would be keeping items for longer and wearing them with a little more pride. As your confidence builds, you could also start looking into the Japanese techniques of visible mending such as Boro or Shasiko, which can look amazing on denim in particular. YouTube is your best friend here or if, like me, you’re better at learning new skills by being shown then look out for a mending workshop in your area.
Launder with care
Make sure that you wash everything in a cool wash and treat all fabrics as if they’re extremely delicate. I try not to launder my clothes as much as I used to and only use an eco-liquid wash that’s meant for wool as it’s more sensitive on my cottons. I also restrict the use of my dryer (it’s amazing how many items you can lose in there) and tend to line dry. Busy households may find this the hardest tip, but I always find that the more you do something, the more likely it is to become a new habit moving forward.
Invest in some handy tools
Buying a knitwear comb is a game-changer. I find that in winter I use mine a lot – it keeps knitwear looking clean and reduces the need for laundering. A shoe brush is another must: just by polishing and brushing your shoes, you can add life to your shoes and keep them looking smarter.
Mindfulness moving forward
If you must buy something new, only buy what you need and focus on quality over quantity. Choosing classic cuts and styles that work with your existing wardrobe is a must. Items to consider are things like trench or overcoats, blazers and good-quality denim. Investing in brands you trust is also key. For example, Nudie Jeans offer organic cotton denim in a range of tailored cuts and also offer free repairs for the entire lifespan of your garment. Keeping an eye out for initiatives like this is a fantastic way of supporting the planet and building an economy that we can be proud of again.
Stay true to size
My last tip is to never, ever buy anything that’s too small in the hope that you’ll fit into it in the near future. This is damaging on body confidence, your wallet and the environment. Don’t forget that garments can always be tailored down a size, but not up. My philosophy is to buy for your body today and be proud of who you are every day.
Find out more about Meg’s work on her website.
Header photo by Artem Bali via Unsplash