Looking Good in Green: 5 Steps to an Eco-Wardrobe

If you are like me — and I think you probably are — you swing those closet doors open, only to be greeted by an eco catastrophe: pesticide-laden cotton tees, noxious vinyl boots, chemically-tanned leather, synthetic indigo jeans, imported unmentionables that have crisscrossed the globe, and a whole lot of garments produced under unfair labor practices. What is a conscious convert to do?

Though your first impulse may be to throw all those toxic threads out in favor of their more earthwise counterparts, sending all that retail therapy of yore to the landfill is the opposite of green. In fact, the greenest closet in all the world is the one you already have — and applying the tried-and-true three Rs to it will save in more ways than one. To get that wardrobe up to eco speed, consider some of the following tips. And when you do need something new, follow our carbon-crunching footsteps to some of the best eco-outfitters around. Eventually you’ll weed out all those dirty duds.

The Internal Dig

Despite what Bravo producers would have you think, “makeover” does not equal “shopping spree.” What it does require is imagination. Take a good look at what you’ve got, decide where you’d like to be, and find the right creative touches or talented seamstress to breathe new life into things you haven’t worn in years. With the aid of magazine clippings of your coveted styles, a tailor can turn boot cuts into skinny jeans and frumps into fitted, sexy styles. And those favorite heels from times long past aren’t just for reminiscing. Have a cobbler resole and polish them, and the journey continues.

Vintage, Vintage, Everywhere You Go

Sure, after a day of secondhand shops, you may need a shower —who knows where those clothes have been? — but vintage shopping is a goldmine not to be forgone. Even at Goodwill and Salvation Army you are likely to strike gold. For the dedicated vintage forager, you can find out where Mr. and Mrs. Labels Galore are dropping off last season’s Diane Von Furstenberg, Betsey Johnson and Paul Smith fits. Use Consignment Shops to find a list of consignment, resale, thrift and antique shops in your area. If you’d rather do without the aforementioned shower, keep things on the web with a visit to The Vintage List, an online directory of e-vintage shops.

Don’t go vintage merely to buy: Go to sell. Finding your clothes a second home can be quite lucrative. Can we say eBay?

Give a Hand for Hand-Me-Downs

However you can extend the useful life of what you’ve already got, the better off our planet. No doubt, things you’ll never wear again still hang in your closet, and you can’t be bothered to sell them. Weed through and create a pile for pillage. Invite relatives and friends to rummage through — perhaps they will be more imaginative with something you’ve written off. The idea is: don’t leave things to collect dust either in the back of your closet or in a garbage bag in the garage. And whatever’s left can find a happy home on Freecycle. Ensure your clothes are leading the second life they deserve.

The Naked Exchange

Another way to do that is to swap. Take those oldies but goodies and get the gals (or guys) together for a “Naked Lady” party. Try on the clothes your friends no longer want. By the end of it, hopefully everyone will leave fully clothed in a new outfit. Not much of a hostess? Find a pre-arranged clothing swap near you on the growing list at Swap-o-rama-rama. Or you can swap online at sites like Swap Style.

Itching For Something New

So you want something brand new — who can blame you? Every so often you may need to scratch that NWT (eBay slang for “New With Tags”) itch. Luckily, tons of designers are using green fabrics, and large companies are introducing green lines. Check out Gaiam's natural clothing, including casual wear, yoga clothing and fitness apparel.  

And remember, shop for you, not for the latest passing fad. Certain colors and shapes flatter your body, and once you figure those out, you can find pieces that will be timeless and fabulous… and won’t be thrown out with last week’s whim. Changing the way you think about fashion is the first step in greening that wardrobe.


Featured image: Gaiam’s Shawl Cardigan

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