Many of us are trying to simplify our wardrobes. It’s so frustrating to have a lot of clothes, but nothing to wear: for years, my own wardrobe has been packed with clothing that no longer fits, never suited me, or just doesn’t feel comfortable to wear.

So the question is, how can we simplify our wardrobes? How can we buy less, and love our clothes more? Whether you’re watching your wallet or you want to help the environment (or both!), here are a few tips for building a better, more streamlined wardrobe, with high-quality pieces that will stand the test of time.

Kondo-ing your clothing

The first step in terms of simplifying is to throw away those items that you don’t wear anymore.

I find the Kondo method works well here. Take everything out, and assess each piece individually: does it fit well? Is it comfortable to wear? Do you feel like yourself when you wear it? Does it need mending or altering?

Once you’ve had a clear-out, you can find gaps in your wardrobe and shop for pieces that you truly love.

The most environmentally friendly thing to do with your used clothing is to either pass items onto your loved ones, or donate them. If your clothing is torn, stained, or tatty, you can either recycle each piece, or cut them into rags for cleaning.

How to find items that last

When you’re shopping – whether for brand-new items, or second-hand – you’ll need to look for a few things:

Maintenance

Your clothes will need to wash well if you want them to last for years to come. The difficulty is finding fabrics that are easy to wash but won’t stretch, fade, or become threadbare.

Fabrics that tend to last well include:

  • Linen
  • Hemp
  • Wool
  • Silk
  • Mohair
  • Cotton

As a general rule, try to stay away from polyester (this is difficult when you’re on a tight budget, admittedly). Check out the tags: the lower the percentage of polyester, the better! Polyester jumpers, in particular, tend to go bobbly after one or two washes, which means they probably won’t last more than one season.

The see-through test

There’s nothing more annoying than buying a beautiful dress or top, only to realise it’s completely see-through! Not only will it potentially lead to some embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions, it also means you may have to spend more money on items to wear underneath them.

This isn’t necessarily a big problem: sometimes a simple nude-coloured slip is all you need. However, if you’re buying a dress, for example, it may be a sign that the material is so thin that it won’t last long. Super thin fabrics may be more likely to wear away after several washes, so you may want to steer clear.

The tug test

A very simple way to test the quality of the fabric is to give it a quick tug. Good-quality fabric should spring back into shape, whereas poorer-quality fabric may look limp and misshapen.

This is crucial because even a beautiful, structured dress may become shapeless and almost ‘lumpy’ if the fibres aren’t strong enough to spring back after washing.

Thrifting

Charity shops may be your best friend. In terms of sustainability, it’s far better to go for second-hand items than to buy brand-new clothing; you could save items from going to landfill.

Plus, shopping second-hand may help to stretch your budget a little further. A gorgeous woollen coat, for example, may be out of reach straight from the store but far more affordable on Vinted.

The key principle is to stay strong in the face of a bargain: you may find yourself picking something up because it’s so cheap, but not necessarily because it suits you!

As well as the aforementioned Vinted; Depop, and eBay are great places for high-quality second-hand items. You can even set up email alerts for eBay. For example, if you’re looking for a plum-coloured leather skirt, you can have an email sent to you whenever a new item matching that description is uploaded.

Eco-friendly fabrics

Some fabrics are better for the planet than others, and it may be useful to keep this in mind when you’re shopping for new items. Eco-friendly fabrics include:

  • Organic or recycled cotton
  • Hemp
  • Linen
  • Recycled polyester
  • Wool
  • Cashmere
  • Silk

Outfit planning

Working out what suits you can take a long time; at 35, I’m only just figuring this out myself! Once you’ve found a few basic styles that suit you, you can start outfit planning, which is really helpful. Planning your outfits can free up precious brain space in the mornings, and it can also prevent you from buying items that just don’t work with the rest of your wardrobe.

I like using apps for this, and Smart Closet is a great one. You can upload items and mix-and-match them to create different outfits. You can even categorize them by season or occasion, making it super quick to find an outfit for a night out.

Planning outfits has helped me to stop buying unnecessary items of clothing. This is partly because it reminds me that I already own a lot of clothes that could work for different occasions.

Crucially, it has helped me to stick to my key rule when it comes to clothes shopping: a new item must work with at least three different outfits. For example, a dress must work with sandals and a hat for a hot day, trainers and a cross-body bag for a low-key day out, and heels and jewellery for a night out. I try to steer clear of items that only work with one outfit; in terms of cost-per-wear, it’s just not worth it, unless it’s for a specific occasion.

Wardrobe rotation

If you live in the UK, you’ll have quite a lot of clothing for different weather conditions! Packing away your winter clothing in the spring is a joyful moment, and unpacking your cozy jumpers in the autumn feels like a treat.

Rotating your wardrobe can give you a fresh appreciation of your clothes. It can also help to identify gaps. I tend to find that transition pieces are missing from my wardrobe: a coat that is warm enough for spring but not too bulky, for example.

Finding these missing items from your seasonal wardrobe can help you shop more efficiently, so it’s definitely worth thinking about those tricky ‘transitions’ between seasons.

Repairs and alterations

Lastly, you may want to think more about repairing items rather than immediately replacing them. Sometimes this isn’t possible, but with some creative thinking, you can bring a new lease of life to your old clothing.

One of my favourite things to browse on Pinterest is upcycled embroidery projects. Old jeans are given a new lease of life with some thread and a bit of patience, and I love seeing ripped jeans creatively mended with fabric patches.

Learning a few basic mending skills can help your clothes go much further. There are tons of free tutorials on YouTube, and your newly acquired skills may come in handy time and time again.

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