by Charlotte Hall
Dear Sustainability Sista Charlotte,
Like many people, I’ve been clearing out my wardrobe over lockdown as I have physically outgrown many of my old clothes (a side effect of my meds is weight gain) and am trying to sell or donate things before getting new clothes to fit my (increasingly healthier) body. I noticed that many of the clothes that I had are actually from fast fashion brands. This was not a nice realisation - I have read the environmental impacts of such clothes is terrible and the garment makers are often poorly treated. Obviously, I do not want to support this industry anymore. However, unfortunately I do not have much money at all and as charity shops are closed for the foreseeable, I am unable to afford most things that are provably ‘sustainable’ and better quality that actually will fit my body than just more fast fashion on Depop, eBay etc. What should I do? I need to get some new cheap clothes to fit my body and don’t want to adversely impact the environment, but I am a bit stuck as to what to do.
The struggle between our values and our wallets is one of those sticky, recurrent ones, often accompanied by unnecessary levels of self-reproach. Let me start by reassuring you: if you’ve had your clothes long enough to forget where they came from, you’re already going against the grain of seasonal fast-fashion turn-overs. So, don’t beat yourself up about your current wardrobe!
Replacing your wardrobe while avoiding fast-fashion is definitely more complicated during a pandemic. For a start, our favourite sustainable shopping solution, charity shops, are sadly (but necessarily) required to stay closed for the next few weeks at least. But here’s a little-known fact: some charities actually have online marketplaces where you can shop and order second-hand clothe. Oxfam even has their own online shop (note the £3.95 delivery cost, though!), whilst other charities use platforms like eBay and Asos Marketplace. Sadly, Asos has been accused of some unethical practices and wasteful behaviours where their own products are concerned, though their website does claim that in the context of their Marketplace “100% of proceeds go directly back to the charities.” Luckily, there are loads of different marketplace platforms for charities to use, and your best bet is just to check out your favourite charity shop’s website.
If you’re really strapped at the moment, there are also some nifty ways to replace your wardrobe without spending any Ps at all. If you live with your family or friends, try having a big wardrobe-clearing session together on the weekend. It’s likely everyone will find some pieces they haven’t worn for ages, and then you can basically open a private little jumble-sale in the living room (optional currency: offering to do the dishes or take the bins out). If you live on your own, you could organise something similar with friends who live nearby, using photos to browse clothes you’re interested in, and then exchanging them on your doorstep (with masks!). Before you wear your new finds, make sure to quarantine the clothes and/or wash them at as high a heat as you can without damaging them, as it’s estimated the Covid-19 virus can survive for up to 2 days on textiles. Even if the pieces don’t fit you perfectly (and this goes for your current wardrobe too!), there are upcycling projects for every skill level on the web. Our founder Kezia turned a maxi dress into a pair of dungarees, though there are lots of no-sew projects out there too.
With sustainable sympathies,
Charlotte is an English and German undergrad currently exploring the urban jungle of Berlin for her year abroad. A ferocious dreamer, writer and secret romantic, she loves exploring themes of nature and identity. She‘s not above a good verbal spat, however, and most of the time can be found debating feminist and environmental issues with her friends and family. Read her previous article about COVID and climate change here!