How to be sustainable, even when it may seem like you can’t afford it

How many times have you told yourself you want to do good and support sustainability as an idea, clicked on a website that sells ethically made fashion products, only to realize this is way out of your budget?

After all, there’s a reason why fast fashion is as popular as it is. It doesn’t cost much money, and it’s easily available.

So, you decided you want to make this change in your life but can’t afford to spend Rs. 6000 on a shirt. What can you do?

We got ya!

  • Reduce buying: It seems a bit self-defeating but the truth is when you want to shop for sustainability, the best thing to do is to consider if you really need to buy at all. #ShopYourWardrobe is a hashtag that promotes looking through all your clothes and finding something you’ve never worn, for whatever reason, and thinking of ways of incorporating that in your daily wardrobe.

    Did you know that the average person only wears about 20% of their clothes? There is great merit in just shopping less often, because not only is it good for your savings, it also feels great to do because it’s all for a cause!

  • Repair damaged clothes: I once had a lace dress I loved but threw away because it got ripped on the side and the beautiful lace was torn. I really wish I could’ve considered if it could’ve been salvaged. If you’ve ever been in a similar position, visit your local tailor the next time you have that situation on your hands, you’d be surprised at how easy it is to fix tears and rips. Same for loose buttons, or faded spots. Extending the life of clothes that you actually love is not difficult, we only need to create a culture of care where we look after them and preserve them better.
  • Repurpose clothes that you can’t wear anymore: This is so common in India already, our grandmoms all repurposed pretty much every item of clothing. Making curtains and pillow covers out of sarees, making shorts out of pants and the most common – repurposing old t-shirts into washcloths and wash rags. Of course, we’ve all tried to make kurtas and dresses out of old sarees, but the possibilities are endless. Bags and scrunchies, gift-wrapping or other decoration, old pieces of cloth can be repurposed into so many things, you just need some imagination and a willingness to try new things. And of course, there’s a YouTube tutorial for everything.

  • Recycle old clothes: We don’t need to tell you this, but it’s worth repeating – donate your old clothes! Whether it’s to a local NGO or a shelter, whether it’s to your domestic help or to friends and family, whether it’s to people who need clothes or just people who want it – let’s try and de-stigmatize wearing pre-loved clothes.

    There are so many clothes that my friends have, that I’d love to wear. Doing a clothes swap is a great way to get into your friends’ wardrobe and change things up!

    Another way of supporting the recycling agenda is to shop from online thrift shops. Indian Instagram is seeing an explosion of online stores that are selling curated vintage and pre-loved clothes – a lot of them work in fashion so the clothes are well-sourced and often stand out. Eye-catching pieces which will add that extra something to your wardrobe. As opposed to walking into a party and being told – ‘oh I saw this at so-and-so store and I almost bought it too!’

  • Rent clothes occasionally: For occasions like weddings and birthday parties, we often go above and beyond to find that perfect outfit, and we doubtless take many pictures in the outfit.

    But then the lehenga or the sequin dress or the saree lies in our cupboards, taking up space and bleeding colors into other outfits or shedding its gorgeous embellishments. So you spent a lot of money, and spent so much time taking care of the outfit, that you only wore once, and with any luck, maybe 3-4 times in your whole life.

    It’s an unpopular opinion, and I truly understand why it’s difficult to even think of renting an outfit, but not only does it cost a fraction of the actual amount, it unburdens you of having to figure out when to wear the outfit next, without being photographed in the same outfit again and again! And all the maintenance that goes into it.

    And did you know the celebrities, and I mean, ALL the celebrities only ever rent outfits? The red carpet gowns and the statement dresses, it’s all on rent and goes back to the designers the next day. The reason they don’t repeat outfits (something that’s changing slowly) is simply because they don’t own them! So if they can do the same, why can we not even consider the options? There are many options like Fly Robe and The Clothing Rental for literally all kinds of special occasions.

  • Research about sustainable fashion: There’s a lot we don’t know about the specific ways the fashion industry is hurting our future, but what we do know is that we are overproducing clothes, to a never-seen-before scale. But if you really care about the movement, read up and educate yourself, there’s a lot of information out there about how you can do small things to support the movement and help save the world! Start with Fashion Revolution, Eco Warrior Princess and Eco-Age and soon you’ll be on your way to leading a more sustainable lifestyle.

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