Being Fashion Savvy (and Environmentally Friendly) on a Budget

With thesales in full swing, it is the perfect time to stock up on quality clothing and accessories. And by “stocking up”, I mean buying quality items that will last and buying only pieces you need.

A lot of people try and justify buying things at a discount department store because “that’s all I can afford”, but the thing is, that one piece of clothing you bought from say Kmart or Big W will need to be repurchased repeatedly. So effectively, you are spending a lot more money on multiple cheap items in the long run, than you would be by saving up and spending a bit more on something that’s going to last.

From a sustainable and environmentally friendly viewpoint, I don’t understand how people can justify buying clothing every week. You really can’t wear that many items of clothing! And to do so, just to show off on the gram (as a lot of people seem to do) blows my mind. Each to their own, but if you want to make a difference to the environment, the first thing you need to do is to stop buying fast fashion that ends up in landfill. Most cheaply made pieces can’t be donated or resold, because they end up in a nonusable state after a month or even a season (if you’re lucky). Then there is the financial cost. How many thousands of dollars are they wasting on trying to keep up with trends?

You need to think about cost per wear when purchasing items. There are so many ways to buy quality pieces that will last many years without having to spend a lot of money. Buying sale items or buying secondhand are two ways you can add long-lasting items to your wardrobe that won’t end up in landfill.

Here are my secrets about how I maintain a fashionable and stylish wardrobe on a budget while being sustainable and environmentally mindful below:

Shop smarter. Not Harder.

Buy off-season. Seriously, I don’t think someone is going to pick up if that shirt you are wearing was from last summer’s range. A lot of stores still have summer and spring items in their clearance ranges online (I know Sussan, Sportscraft, Trenery and Commonry all have summer pieces on clearance right now that are extremely cheap. In fact, Sussan had T-shirts for $4.99 recently and I’ve picked up a top on their website for $9.99.). Buying these pieces at ridiculously low prices now will set your wardrobe up for the next Spring and Summer seasons, plus you can layer these pieces under knits and jackets over autumn. You can also try outlet centres like DFO for brands like Peter Alexander, Oroton, Levi’s, Diana Ferarri, R.M. Williams and Polo Ralph Lauren that sell last season’s pieces at reasonable prices.

Wait. I don’t think I have ever paid full price for clothing or accessories. If you spot an item you absolutely can’t live without and need to have, just wait a while. I can guarantee the item you are lusting over will be on sale in a few months. Take for instance a Sportscraft knit I spotted in David Jones that I loved earlier last year. By September last year, I bought the same $199 knit for $49 on sale. I’m sure I will get many years of wear out of the knit too, especially if I take care of it ie wash it as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Looking after (and maintaining) your clothing is also an important way of making sure you have these items for many years to come.

Secondhand. There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying secondhand. I’ve been known to buy a few items from eBay and thrift shops. What is no longer wanted by one person can be loved by another and you’re saving an item from landfill. There are a lot of items that are brand new with tags too, so if you are worried about wearing something that someone else has worn, you can buy new pieces at a fraction of the cost of buying retail. It’s usually just been sitting in someone’s wardrobe for a while. Make sure you stick with brands you would usually buy from when searching for pieces and you will end up with some quality items you will love.

Stick with quality brands you know and trust. Personally, most of my wardrobe consists of pieces from Sussan, Trenery, Commonry, Sportcraft and Forever New. I know I will get 3-5 years of wear out of Trenery jeans (and that’s after being washed hundreds of times and put through the dryer). I have had a Sussan denim jacket for 20 years and it’s still going strong and a wool coat I bought 10 years ago that still looks as good as when I bought it. I also have a beige Sportscraft trench coat that is well over 10 years old (which was an eBay purchase). You should get a few years’ wear out of good quality t-shirts, dresses and skirts. Even longer for quality knits.

Buy only what you need.

Ok, this is a huge one! No one needs fifty t-shirts, twenty pairs of jeans, fifteen skirts and thirty dresses (or more!). If you are smart, you can work out a month’s worth of outfits from a handful of quality pieces. Not only will you have an organised wardrobe and know what outfit you can pull together quickly but you will be saving hundreds on clothing you hardly wear. Seriously, look at your wardrobe right now, how much of it do you honestly wear regularly? Most of us wear the same outfits on a regular basis.

And, can I point out, NOONE cares if you have worn something before. Most people forget what they wore themselves two weeks ago, let alone someone they don’t see that often. Celebrities are starting to make a point of re-wearing their outfits again and Princess Kate is well known for re-wearing her wardrobe. If those who can afford to buy whole new wardrobes every season can re-wear what’s inside their wardrobes, why can’t you? For example, you can change the whole look of a dress by simply adding a cardigan, blazer or different shoes and accessories.

Buying pieces that will last. 

Buy natural fibres. Cotton, wool and leather are three of the longest-wearing materials you can buy. Stay away from man-made fibres such as polyester, nylon and rayon, these materials usually break down quickly and go out of shape easily, they are also terrible for the environment, as they are made from plastics, petroleum, and acid and woody fibres from milling.

Classic Style never goes out of fashion

When buying new pieces, think about the longevity of them. Will they look dated in a year? Can you mix and match the item with your existing pieces? This is why you should stick with classic pieces. Straight-leg jeans, blazers, shirts, plain t-shirts, a good pair of pants (I love a straight wide-leg pair of pants. They always look stylish), a few pairs of shorts and skirts, a few dresses and classic knits are a great basis for a classic wardrobe.

Are you trying to be more sustainable with what you purchase? For more fashion tips, click on the fashion tab above.