Welcome to post #3 in my Sustainable Style series! Shopping sustainable and ethical fashion can feel super intimidating, both financially and emotionally. My goal is to help everyone realize some basic but extremely impactful ways they can reduce their fashion carbon footprint while enjoying the style journey.
There are ways that you can try out new styles or clothing pieces without purchasing actual clothing. But first, you may not realize how you can actually use clothing rental subscriptions or organizing something like a clothing swap. Both of these are perfect for:
Pieces that you might only want to wear once before trying another style like wedding guest attire or super formal business wear that doesn’t fit in with the rest of your wardrobe.
The Not-So-Temporary “Temporary” Physical Changes
Expanding your options while you’re in between sizes temporarily or need a drastically different fit to be comfortable. When this happens, it can feel like it sneaks up on you and you have ZERO options. Examples of this include the physical transitions between maternity clothing and your regular wardrobe after giving birth, dressing to accommodate an injury or surgery (like needing a super loose waistband or only wearing cropped pants), and temporary extreme weight fluctuations that can happen during treatments like chemotherapy or while adjusting to a medication.
And I speak from experience: you don’t need to buy new clothes, but don’t make yourself wear the same pair of oversized leggings for days/weeks. You’re already preparing for a challenging time, and you need all the little pieces of happiness that you can get, including wardrobe options that can help your mental health while your entire being needs to focus on healing.
Trying Out New Looks & Exploring Gender Presentation
Feel the freedom to generally experiment with your style. Whether you want to add more edge or softness to your style or you’re thinking about a complete wardrobe overhaul, finding alternatives to buying reduces the stress of investing in a long-term decision that you’re not even sure about!! I’ve worked with so many people who are looking for the right style that accurately reflects their gender identity while they’re in the process of self-discovery. Not every piece of clothing needs to be a long-term investment for you and where you are in your style, but you should use all the tools available to make smarter buying decisions for both your wallet and your environmental impact.
Remember Tom Haverford’s formal clothing rental service for “teens, tweens, and everyone inbetweens?” on Parks and Rec?? This is actually genius. Kids both grow so fast and seem to change their preferences on a total whim – one day they love a certain t-shirt and can never let it go (or… be… washed??), and the next day they’re totally done with it. (We’re currently going through this in our house with Honey Bunny, and it’s ROUGH.) Reduce the stress and your spending while making each piece of clothing last longer by exploring alternatives to buying clothes for your kids too.
So if you’ve been on the fence about renting clothes or finding other ways to get “new to you” pieces without having to make purchases, there are a lot of different ways where this info can come in handy. So here are three methods and resources to add to your closet sustainably, and without actually buying anything.
Option 1: Renting
Rental subscriptions and services have EXPLODED in the last few years, but you really want to look for “true” rental programs that don’t incentivize keeping the clothes as much. Here are a few I love and for different purposes:
Nuuly: This is my personal favorite. I have been a subscriber for over a year now, and have purchased several pieces that I rented through Nuuly. You’ll love this if you want to rent trendier styles. For $88 a month, you get to pick six pieces from a variety of brands you would see in a department store or at the mall, styles, and price points. I would definitely use this for going on vacation or planning outfits for a series of work events where you’d be happy to wear that outfit or piece once and then return. Some brands you’ll see include Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, and The Ragged Priest.
Gwynnie Bee: You’ll love this if you want to rent a lot of polished classical looks along with some more edgy trend pieces. This is a WAY more size-inclusive rental subscription with sizes ranging from XS-5X. Pick 8 pieces for $69 per month and don’t worry about maintenance– all the pieces are dry cleaned for you as part of the service. Featured brands include Eloquii, Unique Vintage, and Vince Camuto.
Rent the Runway: These days, I look to Rent the Runway for renting occasion pieces. They have a gorgeous variety from brands you know and love, and it’s easy to schedule your rental pretty far in advance. They do also have subscription programs, but I think you’ll get more quality and value from Gwynnie Bee and Nuuly, depending on the types of looks you want to rent.
The most important point here is PICK THE CLOTHES YOURSELF!! I would avoid subscription services like Stitch Fix that mainly try to sell styling services that are NOT personalized, and are often designed to help get rid of overstock.
Option 2: Clothing Swaps / Exchanges
One fashion lover’s “Meh” is another fashion lover’s “WOW”!!
Have you ever wanted to raid your fabulous coworker’s closet or your friend’s stash of formal wear? Don’t be afraid to suggest hosting a clothing swap. Everyone (and yes, I do mean everyone) has pieces in their closet that they’re iffy about keeping, but don’t feel comfortable completely letting go. Gifting to a friend and seeing a beloved piece get a happy home can be a nice compromise.
Ways to host a clothing swap:
-At your office during a post-work happy hour or long lunch
-Get kids together for a playdate and the parents can go through the treasure pile
-Make it a community event at a rec center, park, or church
Make sure you have plans to donate or pass on anything that gets left behind, whether that’s on you or asking someone else to take responsibility. You never know what gems you’ll find and how your old clothes can help someone else. (Also, yes, you can do all of these things for kids’ clothes too!)
I hope you got some ideas on how to get some “new to you” clothing pieces without needing to invest in new clothes. Looking for other ways to have a more sustainable closet? Catch up on my other blog posts in this series!