Following on from our recent Guide to Choosing Sustainable Fabric, we wanted to take this one step further and explore what that means for our makes and how we can choose more sustainable fabrics for the patterns we love. Later on, we will also talk about the ideal capsule wardrobe pieces with some recommended patterns and fabrics you can use for garments to wear time and time again. But before we start on how we can do better, it’s important to think why we have to do better. Here are some scary stats about the clothing industry.
Why Do We Need Sustainability in Textiles?
- At the moment 80 billion garments are made every year.
- On average, each of these garments will only be worn 7 times.
- We buy FIVE times more clothing than our Grandparents did.
- The average life span of clothing is just 2.2 years.
- In the UK alone, we create 206.456 TONNES of textile waste a year.
So how can we do better? Well, as makers of clothes, there is an argument that we are going to keep them longer and wear the garments more often, because having spent a long time making them, we are more invested in them from the outset. And we know from all the lovely makes you post on social that this is true. However, there is definitely more we can do from the type of fabrics we choose, to the type of garment we make and last but not least, the way we look after the finished garment.
How Can We Wash our Clothes More Sustainably?
- Wash clothes less frequently: just a few more facts for you; the average household does 400 loads of washing a year, which uses 13,500 gallons of water. So, if we simply wore our clothing for longer before washing, it would have a positive impact on the environment. Let’s face it, we’re not talking about undies here, yet if we are working from home more, that should surely mean less dirt on your clothes?
Reduce the temperature: just reducing the temperature of the washes would have an impact as most of the energy used by washing machines is heating the water. According to the Energy Saving Trust washing clothes at 30 degrees uses around 40% less electricity over a year than washing at higher temperatures. Oh, and it will also save you money so a win for your pocket and the environment.
- Avoid dry cleaning and tumble dryers: It goes without saying that we should to avoid dry cleaners which use harsh chemicals and the tumble dryer which uses a lot of energy - as many mothers have said, line drying clothing will change our lives, reduces creasing and gives them a lovely fresh smell.Invest in a clothes horse if you don’t have outdoor space.
How to Prolong the Life of your Clothes
We also need to look at how to care about our clothes to keep them looking lovely.
- Denim care: wash all your denim inside out to minimise fading
- Invest in a De-Bobbler or lint remover to keep your wool jumpers looking perky.
- Keep moths away with cedar wood hangers and lavender draw liners.
- Sunshine: Don’t store your clothing near a window, the sun will bleach them just like it bleaches curtains and blinds.
- Perfume and hairspray: put it on before getting dressed, the alcohol in them can stain fabric.
- Buttons and Zips: before throwing clothes in the washing machine do the buttons up on shirts and the same for zips so they won’t catch on anything else.
- Hangers: don’t hang t-shirts on a hanger as it will stretch both the shoulders and the body.
- Stains: seems obvious but spot clean stains quickly.
Make Do and Mend
Now this is the horrible truth that we aren’t ready for either but needs to be said: the most sustainable thing we as dressmakers can do is to mend and alter clothes that could be great with just a bit more time on finishing and tweaking. By mending something you could expand its life by 9 months, which could reduce the impact on the environment by 20 - 30%. Time to spend an evening darning, altering and mending everyone. (We are with you on this, we don’t want to either.)
What Fabrics to Look For
As we have mentioned in our previous blog, choosing a fabric that is entirely sustainable and good for the environment is an absolute minefield with conflicting advice and so much to bear in mind. Here are a few fact-checked tips to choose more sustainable fabrics.
- GOTS textile standard: Look out for fabric with the GOTS label (GLOBAL ORGANIC TEXTILE STANDARD); not only does that certify that the fibre is organic but also that it meets certain ecological and social criteria going through the process from raw material all the way to processing and manufacture.
- Polyester alternatives: although the pattern may suggest polyester, as it’s not biodegradable could you use an alternative? What about using Lyocell which has a similar drape to polyester and is soft but is made from wood pulp. To make sure it is the most sustainable option look for the Tencel trade mark as this company has guaranteed to recycle the chemicals used in the process and to make sure the wood pulp comes from sustainable sources.
- Cotton gets a fairly bad write up on our pros and cons list but one thing is for sure it can withstand being washed and worn a lot so along with linen, cotton is a sensible option if you are going to wear it more than 7 times….try organic cotton or bamboo as an alternative.
- Recycle and Re-Use: but the simplest and most sustainable option is to change something you already have, could an old top become a lining of your next project maybe?
How to Build a Sustainable Capsule Wardrobe
Now we know this sounds like no fun at all, but the most sustainable way to dress is by shopping in your own wardrobe, BUT before that even starts you need to have timeless and multi-purpose items in your wardrobe. To help we have come up with some handy hints to make sure you don’t waste your time on sewing projects that aren’t gonna last…
Before embarking on your next dressmaking project, ask yourself these questions:
- How Often Will I Wear it? ask yourself - WILL I WEAR THIS THIRTY TIMES OR MORE……..
- Will it Be a Timeless Garment? If you are planning on making yourself a super trendy of the moment outfit for a special occasion think, could I instead make a timeless classic - something that I can wear in numerous different ways to various different events?
- Is it Trans-Seasonal? Look at the pattern and task yourself is this piece going to be “trans-seasonal”, because let’s break it down. We live in Great Britain and realistically how many summer dresses do we need? Unless of course you can also wear it with jumper and tights in Autumn.
- Easy to Care for? Finally, is this going to be easy to look after? If so you are more likely to wear it the 30 times. (But also, if it can be worn 30 times but you only wear it 15 times can you pass it on to someone else?)
Your Capsule Wardrobe Patterns
With all that in mind, we thought we would take a look at some patterns and fabrics for those items of clothing we could wear 30 times or more to create a capsule wardrobe…
- The Sweatshirt
What about this classic Linden sweatshirt pattern from The Foldline?
In recent years the sweatshirt has become a staple of all our wardrobes, perfect for layering so it can be used just as much in the winter as in the summer; it’s perfect trans- seasonal dressing. And there is nothing more classic than a navy sweatshirt.
- A Basic Tee
Again, thinking of layering, you can’t go wrong with a t-shirt, perfect under the sweatshirt but also great for dressing down a special skirt to get those wears up. For us, a leopard print is a neutral so the perfect thing for a basic t-shirt, a bamboo black t-shirt is a sustainable gold star.
- A Skirt
We were thinking maybe separates are the way to go for ranking up the wears because they allow for more combinations, and a great skirt is perfect for that. Especially this Tilly and the Buttons number it could so easily be dressed up or down. Perfect and smart in our dressmaking washed linen in French Navy.
- The Summer Dress
We know we said there was no need for lots of summer clothes when you live in the UK (look at this summer), but we do get some nice days, and a wrap dress can be dressed up or down. Look at the Elodie Wrap Dress pattern and Myosotosis dress pattern from The Foldline.
The wrap dress would look fabulous in our dressmaking drapey linen viscose mix dancing paisley in green.
- A Great Coat
Back to what we actually need the most here, a cosy coat and this one from Papercut looks perfect for wrapping up warm during the colder months. Try our 100% boiled wool below or although a cream bouclé coat may not be that practical, it would be super cosy and we do have other colour options….
The Perfect Trouser
Check out the Lander Pant pattern from The Foldline or the ultimate trousers pattern from Sew Over It
This might be the hardest to find, but the right pair of trousers could be the most hard-working part of your new 30 wear wardrobe. What about this gorgeous wool twill posh boy stripe in maroon and yellow?
Sustainability at Fabrics Galore
We as fabric suppliers also need to do our bit and we are actively seeking out more sustainable fabrics which meet both GOTS and OEKO-TEX textile standards. In honour of Great Big Green Week we are also running a competition to find your most loved and worn makes. Email them to us or post them on social using the hashtag #WeWearFG.