My 3 wardrobe rules (for sustainable closets)

October 15, 2019

Slowing down and getting really picky on your wardrobe choices will save you money, energy and time. I've been practicing this for years now, since my mind as a slow fashion start up founder often wonders around clothing and how nice it is, and how weird and off the system is. Here’s my take on how to make life more simple and enjoy the beautiful wardrobe with clear conscious. Sometimes rules are boring, and sometimes they help us learn something new. I hope this can give you some new ideas to make your gorgeous closet even better!

Rule1. Take care of your clothes. 

I believe in favorite clothes, and I'll tell you about two of them. One is a zippered hoodie that I made in a pattern making class in the craft teacher school in Helsinki, about 2009. It fits me perfectly, and I’ve worn it so much that it’s gotten some wear and tear especially in the elbows. I’ve patched it and continued using it, for about 10 years now.

I also have a black jacket that I got from some fast fashion chain store’s holiday sale around the same time. It is the right size, I love the silhouette (sharp with a twist of old time-y pirate style) and it goes with everything. The lining broke at some point, so I took it to be fixed, and probably will do it again soon.

I wish these pieces of clothing would never wear out, and that I could just use them forever. So, I take care of them like I mean it. I don’t throw them in the wash too often, but let them air. I definitely don’t put them in the dryer. I store them in a neat, clean place. I mend and patch and fix them so they would still keep me feeling and looking nice.

Now, a quick question for you. What do you think our closet (and life) would look like, if we had this kind of appreciation for most, or maybe even all, of our clothing? Yes, you’re right. Very lovely and so much more elegant and valuable. And somehow more, peaceful?

I do need to point out that a part of this rule is, that organize my closet in a way that is neat and really easy to manage. I have everything folded in clean-ish piles or boxes, and I get happy just by looking at that! Pro tip - read or listen a little book called The life changing magic of tidying up.

Organized happy socks

Rule2. Buy second hand, and make it as glamorous as you want.

I’ve heard that some people still think that buying second hand is somehow… weird, or dirty? I’m sorry if you feel that way! But it’s not your fault. It’s the fault of a society that constantly sells us the idea of a new thing always being better, and that everything has to be disinfected constantly. It’s true though, some thrift stores are nasty - and we don’t need to go there. But most of them are very nice and we can always wash the clothes before using (we also wash the clothes bought ‘new’ for chemicals, yeah?). For me, going to a thrift store is like traveling. You never know what you’re going to find, or who you’re going to meet. It’s colorful, fun and interesting.

Then there are also very fancy second hand boutiques. Like antique, but for clothing. Like treasures, but for wearing. Even a small town usually has a couple of options, and often one is a more ‘elevated’ option. Some specialize in certain styles or decades, some have collections of designer clothing from around the world. Look them up, explore and fall in love.

Thrifty or classy? Both.

And that’s not all, my friend. You can find second hand clothing online as easy as 1-2-3. Check out Thredup and Goodwill online (at least if you live in the US). 

Sharing or renting clothes is also easier than ever. You can obviously share with a friend or a family member or, you can go online and have stuff sent to you. Check out Rent the Runway (again, at least in the US), or google ‘clothing rental’ in your language.

Also, clothing swaps are the most fun, and you can make them as glamorous as you want by serving your guests some fancy swag like artisan chocolate, organic wine and good music. Tell me when!

Rule3. Be proud of your decisions. 

You know when people compliment us on our clothes, we often say something like ‘oh, this old thing?’, and act all awkward? Well, I’ve noticed that if I’m wearing something that’s very dear to me, and I’ve loved and taken care of it, it’s so much easier to respond in a fun, thankful and non-awkward way. I can tell the story of that piece of clothing and make it a sweet conversation. A conversation about a killer thrift store, or how I patched the elbows, or what that cool clothing brand does to make the fashion business fair and clients (me) happy. 

In those rare cases when I buy a piece of clothing that’s straight from the shelf and totally new, I really want to know a whole lot about it before making the decision. And then, I can be proud of it and wear it with good conscience. Here are some things that are smart and easy to find out before the purchase. 

What’s the material? I prefer natural fibers over synthetic, meaning I like cotton, linen, bamboo and hemp, and some regenerated cellulose fibers like tencel, modal, rayon or viscose. This topic would need a whole PHD full of info on sustainable fibers, but I’ll just say that it makes me feel better that my clothes will at some point decompose, and not end up choking those sea animals in the bottom of the ocean. Plus, natural fibers don’t stink as much, when in contact with sweat. Think undies.

Who made it? Now, I’ll just put this out there. It’s safe to say that our dear fashion industry is not only polluting our planet, but it also runs on modern slavery. Yes, there’s some improvements happening with the big companies having been caught of having inhumane working conditions, but it’s still very messy and very nasty. So we have two options, according to yours truly. The first option is making sure we support the kinds of companies that are open and transparent about their supply chain and promise to act nice. Think fair trade, local productions and small companies with their own manufacturing. The other option is to still choose that big brand, because you love their look, but (and this is a big but) - make them answer a few questions first. Send a message to their customer support, asking about their supply chain (where is this made, who made it, do they get paid a living wage, are they OK?). The more people do this, the more pressure it puts on the company. If they don’t reply, or sound iffy, then just leave it. Yep, you deserve better!

Now, this all might be a lot. But you know what, I’ve learned to embrace being very picky, and it makes me feel SO GOOD. I don’t need to fill my time shopping, I have better things to do anyway. I don’t have a closet full of clothes that don’t fit me or that I don’t really like. I can see everything I have at one glance and it doesn’t overwhelm me a single bit. I love my clothes and I’m proud to call them mine.

Aino wearing Black Balance pants, Passion sweater and the favorite jacket.