Dress For The Planet

Zoë Gameau | 18 Jun 2020

Minimalism is becoming an increasingly popular trend, spearheaded by the likes of the divine ‘joy sparking’ Marie Kondo – whose ideas about creating spaciousness and care for what we own are positively insightful. People are decluttering at record speed, discarding and throwing away inessential items or ones that simply no longer represent the image they wish to cultivate, while also creating neat and tidy ‘homes’ for their beloved and newly respected items.

This certainly helps shift energy and clear people’s physical and psychological space, but the problem is that technically, there is no ‘away’. Everything we have ever owned is still somewhere on our earth or in our oceans today, although biodegradable and recyclable items do not end up as contaminants. This is the end result of a broader problem based on our habits of consumption in the first place, stemming from social and economic structures that really need an overhaul. 

While it might seem trivial at first glance, fashion can be a meaningful entry point for helping us ‘do our bit’ for the planet and its people in a grassroots way. This is because, not counting those in the local nudist community where I live in Byron Bay, most of us get dressed in the morning – therefore, every day, we are declaring our values in subtle or overt ways via what we choose to wear. 

What are these values? Firstly, that we should seek to know the quality of the lives of those involved in the production chain of our clothing, namely the garment and factory workers. Secondly, that we respect our Earth’s resources, not just mitigating the effects of climate change, but also enhancing the wellbeing of our planet through the manufacturing of our clothing. 

Is this possible? Yes, the solutions are there – we just have to start demanding them as consumers, and companies need to start implementing them on a larger scale. 

Until fashion and our supply chains are more ethical in a universally widespread way, here are five top tips to consider if you want to be stylish in the most earth-loving way possible.

1. Love what you have and refresh your closet

Find the things in your wardrobe that really speak to you. Hold them up, reflect on them: do they bring a wry smile to your face and a twinkle to your eye or do they make you feel like you need to change in some way to accommodate them? 

Focus on what you want to keep, treasure and love, and less on what you have to ‘let go of’ or give away. Some items that make us smile may have holes in them or stains on them. If you love them, make the most of them and celebrate their well-worn wonder. Let go of what no longer serves you, but when you do, remember it is crucial to do this in a sustainable way.

2. Hold a clothes-swap event

Send a group text to a bunch of friends and plan your closet refresh around the same time so that prior to sending your bags off to a charity shop (or landfill), you can share your resources and shop each other’s wardrobes. Choose a house where you will host the event, spread your treasures all over the floors, couches and tables, and then all have a rummage! 

3. Repeat-wear those rarer items

Lessen your impact on the environment and stem the flow of purchasing by committing to repeat-wear items of clothing you already own. A good starting point is to try to wear the same item 30 times or more. 

Many people have heard of this idea and may think they’ve worn something this many times simply because it’s hanging in their wardrobe. However, simply owning an item is very different to actually putting it to good use. This is especially true of occasional and hobby wear, such as formal dresses, ski gear, maternity wear and so on. Which leads us to our next point!

4. Borrow before you buy

Need a warm jacket for your holiday to the snow? See if you can borrow it from a friend or family member prior to hitting the shops. You can also hire many specialised garments at the location where you’ll be going. 

If you have a one-off event to attend which really requires you to step outside your normal wardrobe – such as a costume party or a formal occasion – similarly, ask around before you rent or buy. Shift the focus from how you look to how you feel: have confidence in yourself and make the experience and the memory more important than your outfit. 

5. Shop at thrift or consignment stores

If you really need or want to buy something new, contribute to the circular economy by buying second-hand. You’d be amazed what people sell or donate (often without ever having worn). When shopping second-hand, remember that natural fibres such as wool, hemp, cotton, linen and silk wash and wear better, whereas synthetics can release micro-particles of plastics into our waterways and oceans.

About Zoë Gameau

Zoë Gameau is the founder of One Green Dress, a social project in which participants repeat-wear a garment 30 times, and #onegreendress to encourage circular fashion and promote awareness around the broader issue of climate change and caring for our planet. Instragram @onegreendress

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