The sustainable series: 5 tips for an ethical wardrobe

Liz Bryson

Issue 103 is all about making those little changes in your life to help you start saving the planet, and where better to begin than with your wardrobe? As part of our sustainable series here on the blog, we’re sharing our five tips for making your wardrobe greener. Soon you’ll be wearing head-to-toe sustainable clothing, strutting down the road feeling guilt-free and fabulous.

1. Less shopping, more mending

Visible mending tutorial

Visible mending tutorial in Mollie Makes issue 103

How often have you seen a small hole in your jeans and thought ‘right, time to buy a new pair’? In today’s throwaway society we often forget that mending clothes is a valuable skill, and can save you lots of money! Patching up jeans with spare material, readjusting skirts to make a better fit or even turning T-shirts into tote bags, there’s loads of ways you can start mending and stop binning.

In issue 103 the lovely Lana Red shows you three visible mending tutorials to turn the old into shiny new. There’s also Liz Bryson’s tutorial on refashioning charity shop dresses into fabulous skirts, meaning there’s plenty of projects for you to get started on.

2. Buying from ethical brands


Collingwood-Norris have a range of zero-waste ethically sourced accessories

While we’re totally behind mending, sometimes your clothes are just beyond repair. Buying from ethical brands can be pricey, and we understand it’s not always financially viable for everyone, but swapping quantity for quality can really help out the planet. It’s key that we all become more aware of where our clothes are made and what they’re made from and there’s a few ways to do this.

Oeko-Tex Standard 1000 label

Oeko-Tex Standard 1000 label

Firstly, do your research. The ecolabel index shows you a full list of all the green tags you’ll find on quality, ethical clothing. For example, the Oeko-Tex Standard 1000 label ensures ‘environmentally-friendly production sites throughout the textile processing chain’. And, the Global Organic Textile Standard requires brands to use certified organic fibres in order to use their label. There are lots of different labels on the site but by just learning a few, you’ll be well on your way to a more ethical wardrobe.

Secondly, shop small! Smaller brands and independent designer-makers often (but not always) have a smaller carbon footprint because their export is much smaller, and large scale factories aren’t used. Many handmade brands pride themselves on their eco packaging, zero waste and sustainable fabrics, much like issue 103’s naturally dyed cowl which uses Folkstone Harbour’s eco-friendly yarn.

We found lots of our fave eco brands through Instagram using hashtags such as #sustainablefashionbrand, #slowfashionblogger and #ethicalstyle. There are also fab brands like Collingwood-Norris, who use natural fibres and fix your item if it breaks. Visible mending, brand style.

3. Donate, donate, donate

Charity shop image from unsplash

Donate as much as possible to charity! Photo credit: Prudence Earl, Unsplash

It’s obvious that shopping vintage and buying second hand is great not only for the planet but also for the charities that many of the shops donate to. Keeping your old, unwanted clothes out of refill is a big must – you never know who could love your items next! You can find your closest charity shop using The Charity Retail Association’s nifty location finder.

Recycle Now logo

And you can still recycle most clothing, despite many charity shops having an acceptable standard of clothing they accept. Old underwear, jumpers full of holes and broken jeans are a no go for the shop. But luckily there’s still loads of charity bins (often found in supermarket carparks) which’ll accept these old items and turn them into scrap fabric. There’s a great little tool by Recycle Now which shows you the nearest donation point to you. It even tells you where you can recycle batteries and old phone parts.

4. Care and appreciation

Folded trousers

Look after every item of clothing. Photo credit: Sylvie Tittel, Unsplash

Caring for clothing is a lost art and is something we’re determined to bring back. Looking after your clothes properly can make them last much longer and even look better! StyleCaster have a huge 101 tips blog post which breaks down every fabric and its care routine which you should definitely check out. A Beautiful Mess also have a very useful blog post about caring for leather shoes throughout the snowy months.

Looking after your clothes will also encourage you to appreciate them more. Refolding, hanging or pressing your items will give you that Marie Kondo feeling and help you understand what you truly have in your wardrobe. Care and treasure those clothes which make you look and feel good. And, now that you’re buying your one-off pieces from more ethical brands, you’ll have that sense of satisfaction that only comes with being green.

5. Keep it capsule

Shirts hanging up

Keep it minimal. Photo credit: Prudence Earl, Unsplash

The first question is, what is a capsule wardrobe? Well to start, it’s a wardrobe made up of only a few, precious items which can be worn year-round. Don’t worry though, capsule wardrobes don’t have a defined amount of items. Some people have 10 items, some 21, and others 50, meaning you don’t have to chuck everything away and live in one jumper just yet.

How to build a capsule wardrobe

There are so many amazing bloggers who show you how they style their capsule wardrobes for different occasions. We love YouTuber and blogger The Anna Edit, who makes videos and has even written a book on how she’s condensed her wardrobe. We’ve also taken inspo from minimalist blogger Jessica Rose Williams who shows you her most worn pieces from her capsule wardrobe per month. And, of course, there’s always trusty Insta with #capsulewardrobe, #capsulecloset and #project33. They prove you can still be a fashionista without buying any more clothes!

We hope you start your sustainable wardrobe journey with us and start living a more ethical life. If you have any tips or advice, share them with us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. And get involved with #molliestashchallenge over on our Instagram where we’ll be sharing prompts and patterns to encourage you to use up your stash!

Remember to subscribe to Mollie Makes for more fashion and craft DIYs.