Autumn Fashion: The Sustainable Way

It’s hard to know what to wear in early autumn. Here in the UK we get the whole range of weather. Sometimes in the space of a day. Cold misty mornings; hot sunny afternoons; and dreary rainy days. One day jeans can be unbearably hot; the next just right with an extra layer, boots and coat. It’s easy to feel like you need a whole new wardrobe to make it through this fickle season. But where would you start and where would it end?

For me, the key to autumn is layering. If you’re a fan of a capsule like me, extra layers are the best way to get as much wear out of the clothes you already own. I’ve put together a micro-capsule from my existing wardrobe this year. I’ve added in some new tights and leggings; I’ve also ordered a light sweater and jumper. Together with the clothes I already own, these 4 new items mean that I’ve got plenty to keep me warm.

de95e411-565c-4dbc-90d8-0fb0814f4d50The base of my autumn capsule this year. 90s denim dress from Beyond Retro, my usual Skinny Hazen Mud jeans, an old high neck tee from Monki, my trusty People Tree Breton and a black organic cotton rollneck. 

AB9D5E88-6FA7-4421-8818-49A45D285711.JPEGNew ethical tights from Swedish Stockings and organic cotton leggings from People Tree. Bought from The Fair Shop. To be worn with dresses and skirts. 

Summer’s Gone

By the end of September, summer is over, back-to-school is weeks old and we’re well on our way to digging out hygge accessories. I enjoy mixing things up to reflect the change of season. I find it helps to shift gear. I don’t know what it is about autumn fashion: cosy jumpers, jewel colours and gorgeous prints. But it’s just the best. I’m glad to say that I’ve fallen back in love with old stuff put away in summer. I’m quite happy with what I’ve got. But there have been some very tempting things popping up in my inbox from sustainable brands too. Some might say too tempting. Someone, lock up my credit card, please.

Clockwise from the top: Block cardigan from Lowie; hemp rayon printed shirt dress from Thought; organic cotton straight-leg jeans from People Tree; pink wool jumper from People Tree; organic cotton charity sweater from the bonnie mob

AW18

I thought I’d stopped spending so much time window shopping and buying new clothes, because I don’t really go shopping anymore. But here I am lusting after a whole new AW18 wardrobe, whiling away time, browsing online. Internet shopping is much too convenient. It’s there 24/7. If you use social media or you’re signed up to mailing lists you may be window shopping a lot more than you think. I know I have been lately.

Of course, I don’t need these new things. I just want them. That’s fashion for you. It creates the feeling that your clothes (and you) aren’t good enough. When, actually, they’re probably fine. And you’re more than fine. Most things come and go and come back again. Good quality basics will always stand the test of time. You can be sustainable and stylish. You don’t have to buy the latest look every week. You don’t even need to shop season to season.

If you’ve decided to stop buying on a whim or hauling and you’re trying to be more mindful, it’s easy to feel guilty when something tempting arrives in your inbox or Instagram feed. That’s certainly how I feel. And it’s not a bad thing. Questioning what you’re buying, whether or not it’s ethically produced, good quality, value for money together with your motivation for buying it are great ways of saving money, sanity and the planet.

Curbing The Urge

I favour buying less and saying no to hauls (it doesn’t matter if it’s fast fashion or ethical. A haul is a haul). I try to save up for fewer expensive items rather than lots of budget fast fashion things. I keep an eye out for discount codes and end of season sales for picking up basics like vests and wrap dresses or jumpsuits in neutral colours from more expensive sustainable brands.

Over the past two years I’ve spent more on clothes that fit well and that I love wearing. It doesn’t matter what the season or weather is, if you love wearing something and it can be layered, it will be worn. If you choose something that you’re going to wear all year long, it makes sense to choose well. Make sure that you really love the fit and that it’s made from good quality fabric. These rules apply whether you’re buying new, buying vintage, buying from a charity shop or swapping an old garment at a clothes swap. If you get into the habit of choosing well, you’ll soon build up an enduring collection. And in no time at all, you’ll have a sustainable wardrobe. Bingo.

Falling Into Autumn

You don’t need to chuck out (or store) your summer clothes and start afresh. You don’t need to spend over a grand to look seasonal and stay sustainable (even if it’s very tempting). Keeping warm and dry is the name of the game and as I’ve said, you can do this with layers. If your credit card is still burning a hole in your pocket, why not try shopping your own wardrobe?

How to shop your wardrobe

  • Lay everything out on your bed or floor. Empty all drawers, wardrobe and any storage boxes of “seasonal clothes”. You may need to go through your laundry bin to grab anything that hasn’t made it through the washing machine yet. Get it all out.

  • Use this opportunity to hoover out your wardrobe and wipe down doors and rails.

  • Start by making a pile of clothes that no-longer fit or that you really don’t like any more. You can put these in a bag and deal with them later. After going through my stuff, I have one small bag of clothes ready for swapping, selling, donating, altering, fixing or recycling. I haven’t sorted this out yet but aim to do it over another weekend. Spoons and mountains.

  • Next, put away anything that’s unsuitable for this time of year. I put summer dresses, beach wraps etc into my “seasonal drawer”.

  • Take stock of old favourites and things you’d forgotten about by going through everything that’s left. Once you’ve had a look, hang your favourite clothes back in your wardrobe.

  • Make a note of anything that’s missing. I noticed that I don’t have a decent warm cardigan at the moment. I’m on the look out for the perfect chunky knit cardigan that will slot into my wardrobe nicely.

  • You might find that you have more to wear than you thought. This can feel exciting, or daunting if you haven’t had a good clear out for a while. If you feel like you’ve still got too much or that there are clothes you won’t wear, you could repeat the above steps in a couple of weeks’ time or have another stab in winter.

  • The important part now is to create your core micro capsule. It can be as few or as many items as you feel comfortable with. Some people say that you only need 30 items in your entire wardrobe, others choose less for their seasonal wardrobe but have more overall. I don’t work to a prescribed number. It’s much too restrictive for me. I like a capsule but I also like some freedom.

  • My only rule? All items in the micro capsule must work together.

  • I recommend 6 to 10 items. Whether for work or leisure, you should love (and I mean really love) all of these clothes. They should make you feel fabulous. They may be clothes you’d usually keep for best. Don’t keep clothes for best. Wear them. Wear them till they wear out. My only caveat? If they’re heirloom or extraordinarily precious, wrap them in acid free tissue paper and put them away safely.

  • Lay the items out together. Take a photo. And trust me, you’re going to love rocking a micro capsule. It will sit in amongst the rest of your wardrobe, it will probably compliment most of it. I promise it will make your life so much easier.

Before

Emptying everything out. 

Don’t forget your underwear drawer too. 

After

EF0C9AE6-A7BA-49F9-9D6A-EE54CA439AC7.JPEGEverything in it’s right place. And a small bag to sort out for another day.

Seasonal clothes packed away until next year.

T-shirts and tops folded neatly. Winter woolies remain wrapped in acid-free tissue until the temperature really drops.

Making life easier

Building a small capsule doesn’t have to mean boring, painstakingly curated or monochrome. I’ve found that having a few key things makes more space for spontaneity. It empowers you to choose stuff that you really love. You’ll soon get into the habit of choosing less and only having clothes that you wear in your wardrobe. This makes life so much easier. Less stuff to organise means less stress and loads more time to spend doing what you love.

The best thing about a micro capsule is the freedom of easy dressing in the morning and getting rid of that “I have nothing to wear” dilemma when faced with drawers and rails of unorganised clothes. During the 6 Items Challenge, I always had something to wear. I always had a neat wardrobe. I never felt that I didn’t have enough. I developed a new confidence. I haven’t kept up with wearing or owning just 6 pieces but I do have a lot less now, and I swear by a micro capsule at the core of my wardrobe these days.

Knowing what you own and seeing what you like wearing gives you the best chance of maximising the life of each garment in your existing wardrobe. There are stats to show that extending the life of a garment in your wardrobe from one year to two will hugely reduce your CO2 emissions. We owe it to our purses, sanity and planet to be more resourceful and less wasteful. It’s the best and easiest way to be sustainable.

Autumn Refresh

Despite my splurge urge, making time to go through everything has reassured me that I’ve got plenty of things to wear; and things that I enjoy wearing too. The Autumn proofing with new extra layers has helped. I’m also on the look out for a chunky cardigan. Nothing apart from the reassuringly expensive Lowie cardi has caught my eye yet. And there’s no way that I’m spending over £300 on a cardigan! I may never break my habit of browsing or having my eye caught or liking expensive things but I’ve certainly found a way of curbing my old hauling and fast fashion habits. Long live the core micro capsule!

Do you run a capsule wardrobe? Have you considered how sustainable your wardrobe or shopping habits are? What are your Autumn best buys? Any Autumn shoe tips? What is the most versatile item in your wardrobe for this time of year? I’d love to hear from you!


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