Sustainable Fashion

What can I do to create change?

Image: Venus of the Rags at Tate Liverpool. Image taken by author. 

As part of Glasgow Museums’ Climate Stories, Hayley, a current member of the GoMA Youth Group, shares tips on how to lead a more sustainable lifestyle through our fashion choices. Inspired by our Drink in the Beauty exhibition currently on show in Gallery 3, Hayley discusses the devastating impact human choices have on our planet, and the steps we can take to combat it. 

We all hear the term “sustainable fashion” thrown around and that we have to reduce the amount we are buying, but what does this practically mean for each one of us? How can we use our power to demand more from the clothes we cherish and the companies that we buy them from?

With climate scientists across the globe revealing that there are just 7 years left to achieve zero emissions to save the planet before the damage becomes irreversible (Boyle, 2020), it is more important than ever to ask ourselves if we are holding ourselves accountable for the actions that have led us to this point. If as a society we “prolonged the life of all UK clothing by just 9 months, it would decrease the UK’s carbon footprint by 8%, water footprint by 10% and textile waste footprint by 4%, per tonne of clothing” (Redress, 2019).
What can we do to help?

Top Four Tips

1. Make a wardrobe inventory!

  • This might sound super complicated/laborious, but once you have organised yourself it’ll make it so much easier for you to ask yourself whether you actually need something that you’re going to buy or if you already have 5 other things in your wardrobe that are basically the same thing!
  • Sitting down to pull the things out of your wardrobe and document them gives you a great chance to have a clear out and ask yourself questions about your clothes? Why do you love an item? Is it the fit, the colour, the fabric? This goes vice versa for reasons you’d be getting rid of a garment. This means you can analyse what’s important to you and maybe why you don’t rush to pull some of the items out to wear on a day to day basis. 
  • Some columns that you could include would be:
    – How often you wear the item
    – How much it cost
    – Where you would wear it
    – The fabric composition
    – Where you bought it from
    – A great blog to use for free spreadsheet templates is m gets dressed, which you can access here
    Fashion Revolution also has a great webinar that you can watch with Vivienne Low that gives you tips on how to actually go about the process, access that here

2. Alter & repair your clothing, or get someone else to do it for you!
–  This obviously can have its limitations in regards to your budget, available free time or skill set, but how many items do we have that just sit unloved because a button has popped off, the seam has split or the fabric has generally worn through? The most sustainable garment is the one that is already in your wardrobe. When your clothes fit you well you’re more likely to love them, therefore you’re going to keep them in circulation for longer.
– There are lots of great resources for learning how to repair and alter your clothes, you could attend a workshop at Decent Projects (free, but donations welcome) or Sew Confident (paid), learn online at Repair What You Wear, or watch some Youtube tutorials, such as this beautiful sashiko visible denim repair workshop that was part of Fashion Revolution week.
– If you have the financial resources to, you can always google your local tailor and help to support your local economy too!

3. Educate yourself!
– Knowledge is power as they say and it is so much easier to be sustainable when you’re aware of the impact your purchases are making.
– Even simple things such as learning what the fabric composition means on your label will change the way you shop. Learn what all the fabric is, for example, polyester is made from plastic, so it does not biodegrade when it goes to landfill. This video gives you the 101 on Fabrics.
– Here is some media to help you started on your learning journey:
Why we need a Fashion Revolution? | Orsola De Castro | TEDxUAL
The High Cost of Our Cheap Fashion | Maxine Bédat | TEDxPiscataquaRiver
Why Recycling Our Clothes Won’t Save The World | Leslie Johnston | TEDxINSEAD

4. Shop second-hand
– As with the other tips, this has it’s limitations if you’re looking for something specific and can be extremely difficult if you are plus size, but the second hand market stands to be twice the size of fast fashion by 2030 (De Klerk, 2021).
– Second hand shopping can be difficult to find what you want, but discovering a gem can be so rewarding. This can be made easier once you’ve established your own personal style. Knowing your likes and dislikes can help you to eliminate and identify garments you would love more easily amongst all of the rails of fabric! When you are shopping in person, what colours and textures call out to you most?
– Shopping on resale website such as Ebay, Depop or Vinted can be overwhelming, but if you know specifically the type of garment you are looking for, after you’ve searched for style inspo, it can make it much easier. Learn the names of the different types of collars or sleeves, such as dagger collars or bishop sleeves, or identify the era of garment you are looking for.
– The top tip I heard for searching online and finding a bargain is think about what phrasing your mum would use if she was listing a garment! Instead of “maxi dress” try typing “long dress” etc, as these tend to be the biggest bargains!

The GoMA Youth Group is funded by the Scottish Government’s Youth Arts Fund through Creative Scotland with the support from Youth Music Initiative and Time to Shine.

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