The rise of fast fashion over the last 20 years made clothing a disposable commodity. Most people don't keep clothes for long. They buy new ones regularly to renew their wardrobe. The latest trends are available in high-street stores faster, cheaper, and easier than ever before.
Consumers in our modern society don't keep clothes for long. They wear a high-street garment on average only 7 times. Under normal wear and tear, the average life expectancy of clothing would be more than 2 years.
I used to buy fast fashion regularly before 2015. Buy new clothes was a common event. I used to change my outfit multiple times every day. Then, I discovered the negative social and environmental impact of my shopping habits. I am now a slow fashion advocate for good.
Clothing and other textile wastes are piling up in landfills at an alarming rate. The overproduction and overconsumption of cheap disposable clothing are responsible for huge greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, and waste.
The fashion industry has a catastrophic impact on climate change. It's responsible for more than 8% of all carbon emissions globally. It's almost as much as the total for the whole of Europe.
16.9 million tons of used textile wastes are created each year in the United States. That amount has doubled over the last 20 years. The average American throws away 70 pounds of clothing every year.
Buy fewer clothes and higher quality is one the best way to be more sustainable with clothing. To reduce the environmental impact of our wardrobe, we can take better care of the clothes we already have and keep them longer.
How long do you keep clothes? I would love to know your thoughts. Let me know in the comment section below.
The number of times clothing is worn
A lot of consumers wear their clothes for a much lower number of times than in the past globally. Clothing utilization is rapidly decreasing worldwide.
Developing countries have a moderately high rate of clothing utilization. Whereas high-income countries have very low rates on average.
The number of times the average piece of clothing is worn is nearly 120 times globally. That number has been shrinking a lot over the last 15 years.
Clothes are only worn for around 4 times less than the global average in the United States.
Even if it's more environmentally friendly to invest in durable pieces of clothing and wear them longer, a lot of people don't want to be seen in the same outfit twice.
Read up my article on the small number of times the average piece of clothing is worn to understand the factors that influence the low life expectancy of clothes in our modern society.
Decluttering a large wardrobe
Getting rid of clothes is a good thing. Only keeping the essentials and making room in your closet for new and better items is a great idea. But how to decide what clothes to keep?
Buying new clothes is oftentimes a daily event for fashion consumers. As a result, having an encumbered wardrobe is very common. When you feel like you have too many clothes, even if you like them all, it's probably time to get rid of some of them.
If you are like me, you don't like to throw away anything, especially clothes. But with practice and time, I achieved a more organized closet by dividing what I need every day from what is superfluous.
Check out my list of the 20 types of clothes to get rid of right now for a few suggestions on how to begin cleaning up your closet.
How many items to keep
There is no ideal number of pieces of clothing to keep in your wardrobe. It's different for everybody. Some people get by perfectly with 20 pieces in their wardrobe. Others will need more than 100.
If you are wondering how to keep your wardrobe simple, I encourage you to follow my ultimate guide on the minimalist fashion trend.
You want to avoid feeling overwhelmed by having too many clothes. It's better to keep only your fashion style essentials that you wear all the time.
Aiming for 40 to 50 items is a good start usually, especially if you don't declutter your closet that often.
But the right amount of clothes you should keep depends on many factors. How often can you wear each item? When do you do your laundry? How much room do you have at home?
Throwing away clothes responsibly
What to do with the clothes you don't wear? People tend to throw away unwanted clothes in the trash. The large majority of textile waste ends up in landfills to decompose or be incinerated while it could be reused or recycled.
Find a positive and responsible way to get rid of the clothes you don't wear instead. Consider selling your clothing or donating. You can also swap with friends to renew your wardrobe or participate in recycling programs.
You have the option to give your clothing a second life and support charitable causes. Your clothing contributions can help many people in need and promote local businesses.
Follow my guide on how to get rid of clothes and not feel bad to make room in your closet responsibly.
Stop wearing fast fashion
To avoid having the same problems in the future, it's better to avoid fast fashion. We have been conditioned to consider clothes as commodities, to buy cheap trendy clothes that go out of style quickly and to renew them very often.
Buying fast fashion is not only fun and enjoyable but also easily available, affordable, and convenient. But it's disastrous for the planet, the people, and the animals living on it.
Conscious consumers are now turning to alternatives to fast fashion. The negative impact of the clothing industry is difficult to ignore. Luckily, there are many ways to stop wearing fast fashion.
Fast fashion promotes the throwaway culture. On the other hand, sustainable fashion supports ethical fashion brands and designers that create beautiful, eco-friendly, durable, and versatile pieces of clothing.
Quality clothing isn't necessarily a lot more expensive. Invest in garments that last and you will have an easier time keeping them for a long time.
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks four languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.