It’s okay to re-wear your clothes

Kelly Hueckman, Staff Writer

If you’ve noticed that the life-span of the clothing in your closet is continuously shrinking, you’re not alone.

While the consumption of fast fashion has been increasing for years, the number of times we actually wear the pieces of clothing we purchase has decreased.

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, clothing sales doubled from 2000 to 2015 while the number of times an item was worn decreased by 36%. With trending retailers such as Shein, Forever 21 and H&M, these statistics are bound to become more drastic.

Such retailers are known for their extensive styles and low-cost products, otherwise known as fast fashion.

These clothing stores might be keeping us up to date with the latest fashion trends, but the cold hard truth is that they are destroying the planet.

According to the Carbon Literacy Project, the fashion industry contributes 10% of all carbon dioxide emissions, which is double the emissions coming from air travel.

The fashion industry continues to drive new pieces into the market in an effort to chase every microtrend, and if we don’t slow the rate at which we purchase and discard clothing items, we can expect harsh consequences for our environment.

As consumers adopt the mindset that clothing is disposable and no longer wearable after only a few uses, forgotten fashion fads like chunky rings and patchwork pants are piling up in landfills despite being popular only a couple of seasons ago.

Admittedly, it’s difficult to avoid the vicious cycle of updating our closet with trendy yet low-quality pieces of clothing. Continuing to buy fast fashion pieces after the clothes either melt in the dryer or are no longer in style is one component of this cycle.

Fast fashion retailers appeal to customers, especially young, low-income students, with tempting prices and styles.

Shein advertises thousands of styles that are constantly being updated. Shein also offers free shipping for every order placed on Tuesdays. What this company fails to tell customers is how long it will take for each garment’s bag to break down in nature.

Yes, the instant gratification of making a purchase is nearly unbeatable, a feat I often label with the euphemism “retail therapy.”

For most of us, however, it’s just a shopping addiction, and it’s unsustainable.

I’m not saying that it’s always unethical to purchase items from fast fashion retailers. For some low-income people, these are the only affordable and accessible options for clothing styles they need in their day-to-day lives.

The issue comes from the $500 Shein hauls made only for TikTok views before throwing out bins of clothing.

People that can afford higher quality clothing should invest in pieces that reflect sustainable values rather than purchasing a new outfit each week.

Instead of buying into the tempting marketing of fast fashion retailers, we should first consider more ethical alternatives. Surprisingly, there is more than the obvious suggestion of thrifting second-hand clothing.

Getting into sustainable fashion can simply look like investing in pieces that can be worn many times in multiple ways that reflect personal style rather than fleeting fads.

For times when people only want to wear something once or twice, it’s smart to consider renting or borrowing items from a friend.

Websites like Rent the Runway allow people to rent fashionable items for a lower price than purchasing them. This decreases the amount of items thrown away after one wear.

Clothing swaps with people of a similar size and style are also a great way to encourage sustainable fashion while also getting pieces of clothing you’ve never worn before.

Although we don’t have to own every piece of clothing we wear, we can extend the life of the pieces we do wear so we don’t have to continue to replenish them.

Washing your clothes with the proper temperature and settings for the material and allowing clothes to air-dry can minimize our carbon footprint and allow us to get more use out of our clothing.

Although making these environmentally-conscious decisions may not be the most glamorous or instantly gratifying, changing how we purchase clothing is crucial for the future of our planet.

It’s easy to be lured by the latest styles and low prices of fast fashion, but it’s time for us to start reflecting our environmental values in our shopping habits and our clothes.