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  • Writer's pictureRachel Butler

My steps towards sustainable fashion...

Updated: Aug 11, 2020

Gone are the days of being out with your nan and she insists on going in the charity shop while you skulk around behind the racks with a face on, praying that no one you know sees you through the window. These days digging through the rails at your local cancer research has gained a new lease of life and all of the cool kids are buying second hand.

Fast fashion has been a girls best friend for so long while we weren’t so aware of the consequences for our planet but nowadays it's bad press is kind of hard to ignore. It is in the top five of the most polluting industries in the world, responsible for around 4% of the global CO2 emissions, uses huge amounts of water compared to other industries and that’s all before the vast majority of these clothes end up in landfill. If you're trying to cut down your own carbon footprint, looking at the clothes you buy and what you do with them is a good place to start.

Not going to lie, I’m a girl that loves a trip to Primark. My Asos saved list is as long as my arm and the Hermes delivery man knows me by name but lately I’ve started to think more about the impact of my clothes addiction. Growing up I had a lot of negative body image issues and never felt happy with my appearance, I used clothes to hide and blend in, lived in baggy jumpers and had a massive list of things I'd never dream of wearing. All of that changed when I started to accept my body as it is and in the past couple of years I’ve really found confidence, empowerment and self-expression in fashion. It’s only been fairly recently that I’ve realised that I deserve to wear whatever I want as much as anyone else. Access to plus size fashion has only really improved in the past couple of years and its not something I particularly want to give up.

The reality of sustainable fashion is not always the simple solution it sounds. There are quite a few small brands popping up that make their clothes out of recycled materials or use plastic free sustainable fabrics. Tala have taken instagram by storm with their recycled gymwear and plus size women are constantly in the comment section asking for just a couple of plus size lines. They are not the only sustainable brand that are ignoring the demand for size inclusivity, I'm actually yet to find one that sells anything that will actually fit me. If you bare in mind I'm a size 18 in most shops you can see how really not size inclusive that is.

I love vintage shopping because I love getting something unique that no one else has got. In Birmingham there are loads of amazing vintage shops which can be more pricey than your fast fashion fix. Kilo sale events are usually more budget friendly. Vintage clothes usually last longer as things were just made better back in the day and you can find some amazing stuff, weigh it in and pay way less than a trip to river island. Sounds perfect… If you’re a size 10... Be aware a lot of the clothes are smaller sizes, it can be really disheartening to go clothes shopping and literally nothing fits so if thats going to ruin your day or make you feel bad its probably best to rethink going. Access to plus size fashion has only improved quite recently and the problem with that is that if people have only just been able to get clothes they haven’t yet started donating clothes. Don’t get me wrong its always worth checking out vintage and charity shops because there are some good finds out there, but they can be a bit few and far between depending on your size. If you go to a kilo sale don't forget to check the mens section, I've had some T-shirts that I've been able to wear tucked in, oversized or customise. Even if you don’t manage to get anything though its always worth having a rummage for a cute vintage bag.

Charity shops are way cheaper than on the high street and you get the warm and fuzzy of knowing your money has gone to a good cause. They are hit and miss but depending on your town theres loads of them and always worth popping in. The thing with charity shops is if we all started donating our clothes religiously there would be loads more available so as more people start thinking about sustainability in theory they should improve.

I love my Primark bargains as much as the next girl but I would love to cut down the amount of clothes I buy and throw away by paying the extra and having one good quality, designer item rather than ten cheaper items that don’t last. Financially that's not an option for everybody and on a limited budget its understandable to want to make that go as far as possible. Also most high end cater up to a 14-16 so realistically the access just isn’t there. I find a few things I can get in and wear them to death when I do but the reality most the time is my options are fast fashion or nudity.

I have been thinking about things I can do to cut down on my clothes shopping habit though. I'm not going to be giving up my love of fashion but I am going to start being more mindful of the impact of my personal shopping habits. Going forward, I always donate my clothes anyway but I’m going to start listing things that I find myself not really wearing on depop rather than leave them in the wardrobe doing nothing until they are out of fashion but hardly worn so someone else can get some use out of them. I’ve also decided that I’m no longer shopping from the sale section. If it didn’t make the cut at full price its because if I’m being truthful with myself, I didn’t really want it and I’m only buying it because its cheap. Now I do love a £2 Primani special slogan T-shirt but lets face it, they get worn maybe twice so I’ve decided they’ve got to go too.

I’m basically trying to reduce my own consumption and the needless amount of clothes I buy. I’m going to stop boredom shopping and remember if I’m feeling down or fed up that another top from boohoo won’t ultimately make me happy.

The fact is that brands need to do more. I know there’s so many women out there that would love to buy sustainably made clothes but you can’t buy what they don’t make at the end of the day. Hopefully brands will catch up with the times, go greener and make sustainable clothes that are accessible to EVERYBODY…

Vintage dress, second hand shopping
Sustainable fashion


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