How to Give Your Wardrobe an Eco-Friendly Makeover

When I moved out to the Wet Coast 12 years ago, I figured eco-fashion was the equivalent of hemp yoga pants. My first pair of hemp pants were great – for pilates or hiking. But they weren’t fashion.

Today I live a reasonably eco-friendly life and I blog about fashion. But I hadn’t given eco-fashion much consideration, until I attended Eco Fashion Week in Vancouver and my eyes were opened for me. They were opened to an array of beautiful and wearable eco-friendly designs. And they were opened to the complexity of eco-fashion. To say my head nearly re-enacted that moment from The Exorcist would be an understatement.

The only thing clear about Eco fashion is it is complex and confusing. Consider all the pieces that go into a simple t-shirt – thread, fabric, dye, manufacturing, shipping, labour, water, etc. It is complex for those working in the field every day. Let alone for a busy mom.

The organizers of Eco Fashion Week say it is not about being perfect, but taking steps in the right direction.

So here are the small non-expert steps I’m taking in eco-fashion:

 How I Care For My Clothes

I wash my clothes in cold water. I wash them less often. And I use a laundry line in the summer. These small changes can make a huge impact, Levi’s did a lifecycle assessment in 2007 and found that ONE pair of 501 jeans used 919 gallons (3480.5 litres) of water in its life or equivalent of running a garden hose for 106 minute. 45% of that water and 58% of the energy used are at the consumer stage.

How I Shop

To keep my brain from exploding I think of it like I do my groceries. Local is generally better, because it didnt have to travel as far, you know the local labour laws, and the designer is likely in the manufacturing facility regularly. Organic uses fewer chemicals in its process, therefore causing less harm to the land, water and people living in the area. I also look for pieces that can serve more than one purpose. For example, a wrap that can also be worn as a tunic or a dress that is also a great layering piece.

I buy more used or vintage. Shopping vintage, thrift or consignment does take a bit more time. But you can find some treasures that will be in your closet for years. And it isn’t likely you’ll run into anyone else wearing the same thing. Swapping is also making a come-back. And I don’t mean putting your keys into a bowl and going home with a new partner at the end of the night. I mean swapping clothes with friends. It makes a great excuse to get together with some girlfriends for a few drinks and head home with some new “to you” clothes.

How Much I Buy

I used to find an inexpensive shirt I liked and buy it in three colours. Now I try to buy less. I look for better quality items that will last longer in my closet. Is it really a great deal if you have to buy a new one again next year? I did a full closet review last year and found half a dozen items that were not being worn, and all they needed was a bit of tailoring to make them awesome again.

I bet there are some great treasures hiding at the back of your closet. Now I admit that the favourite piece in my closet is made from hemp. But it isn’t yoga pants. It is a gorgeous long black cardigan, that also works as a wrap dress in a pinch. Just the thing this busy mom needs to take her from the play gym to lunch with some girlfriends.

Tracey Rossignol is a former 1980s fashionista trying to re-discover her personal style in her 40s. Thankfully the big hair, matching scrunchy socks and hip belts are gone. But where do we go from here? Tracey’s personal style blog Fashion Forward 40 documents her mis-adventures in fashion after 40. She hopes one day she will have the answer on how to balance her love of fashion with motherhood, real life, respect for the environment and gravity.