Guide to a Sustainable Wardrobe

Updated: Sep 9

What goes best with gorgeous sustainable flowers? Gorgeous sustainable clothes.

This is my ultimate guide to curating a sustainable + ethical wardrobe.

The golden rule is that the most sustainable garment is the one already in your wardrobe. Have a goooood look through your closet - you’re sure to find something that you’d forgotten about. My advice? Wear those clothes you save for special occasions!! There’s no point owning things that will be worn once a year. Wear that ball gown to the office, put on that fancy blouse for your Saturday at home, let your shiny shoes get less shiny.

So you still need something after that? Your best bet is second hand. While I’m the first to admit that op shops are highly ableist with their tiny aisles, and wildly sizeist with barely anything above size 12 - I do love a good second hand shop. You find the wildest and weirdest stuff, and if you’re lucky you’ll find a sweet piece of vintage. Expressing yourself through clothes with a story is infinitely better than wearing the same Glassons dress as every other girl, made in a factory with questionable conditions.

Can’t be bothered to trawl through the op shops? My favourite place for second hand gears is Instagram! There are billions of entrepreneurial young women who love this stuff, and post their findings for sale on the gram. Take a peek at @oruoruthriftclub, @pickedbylyds, and @thelittlejungleco for starters. My personal favourite finds are a rad blue suede jacket, and the fluffiest long cardi.

While you’re looking for stuff you adore, and stuff that fits, the other important factor to think about is the clothing material. Synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon, spandex, and acrylics leak microfibres every time they are washed. These are too small to be filtered out of the wastewater system, so they end up in the ocean. Being eaten by fish, dolphins, turtles, - being eaten by us. To avoid this, there are two options: go for natural fabrics like cotton, linen or wool (organic + fairtrade is best!), or buy a Guppy Bag. This is a fine mesh bag that you can wash your synthetic clothing in, which will catch all the microfibres.

If you do desperately need something brand new, there are options here too. The best one-stop place to look (though be prepared to feel very poor) is - they have the most gorgeous range, and comprehensively show you which brands tick which ethical boxes. These include fairtrade, low waste, vegan, handcrafted, local, etcetera! If there’s something you really need (e.g., I’m pining for some well-fitting jeans, which are SO hard to find), it’s worth doing the research and saving up for something you’ll be invested in. Higher quality clothes will last much much longer than the fast fashion cheapies.

Bonus new-stuff option: Support local makers! There are some INCREDIBLE talented sewers out there. Put your dollar into small businesses and buy something lovingly handmade. My recommendations: Hello Remnants, Written In Sunlight, DanniRose Designs, and JoJo The Label. Give these humans some love.

At the same time, I know this is wildly unrealistic for so many New Zealanders. If shopping fast fashion is the best option for you, here are the tactics for you:

  • Choose clothes you LOVE. Try them on and get really excited about them, rather than buying six items you only kind of like. This will mean you look after them carefully and make them last.

  • Repair, repair, repair. Pick up a sewing needle, or find your local tailor.

  • Don’t beat yourself up. Remember that you’re not making decisions in a vacuum - it’s this messed up world that is putting you in a tricky position, not your own actions.

Oh, and one more! This is a favourite from my student days, perfect for saving those $$. Organise a clothing swap! Get all your mates to grab some more mates. The more people the better - bring your whole church, uni club, or even PTA. All of you go through your wardrobes. Bring everything you don't wear anymore to someone's house, and do some trading over a few wines. It's SO much fun, and you're guaranteed to come home with a gem or two. Anything left can go to charity.

Wearing something cute is always a good-mood catalyst, but wearing something ethical brings that extra good-human factor. Remember, there's no way to do this perfectly. Giving it a shot is the first and only step.


  • Buy second hand, or do your research. Shop local, and go for natural materials where you can. Most importantly, remember you’re an epic human for even trying and you’re doing your bloody best. Congrats on being here.

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