Maximising your outfit choices whilst minimising your wardrobe

During the sales more than ever it’s important to focus on sustainable shopping practices. There may be many ‘bargains’ on offer, but more unnecessary clutter not only fills your home with things you don’t need, but your mind too. It takes women an average of 17 minutes every day to decide what they’re going to wear – that is 4 whole days a year! And 1 in 10 of us are late for work because of morning outfit stress. Plus, studies have found that having less stuff generally makes us happier. Not to mention the fact that we only wear 44% of the items sitting in our wardrobe regularly (Oxfam), leaving 3.6 million clothes unworn in Britain alone.
So what can you do to avoid buying things you won’t wear very often that ultimately make you more stressed? Think about how you can style items to create numerous different outfits. This will ensure you get the most out of your wardrobe and will encourage you to pick pieces that you know will work with what you’ve got. The 1 item 5 ways challenge is a great way to get you to style one of your favourite items to create a number of looks.

In November I challenged my work colleagues to wear just 15 items over the 20 working days (coats and shoes included). I suggested they use the 1 item 5 ways model to determine what items they could wear for the working month. It definitely encouraged us all to think a lot more about our shopping habits and how few items we actually need. The outfits below are a few of mine from the sustainable style challenge and looks I continue to wear both in and out of work. Hopefully they will provide you with some inspiration for creating your own more sustainable capsule wardrobe!

M&S Chambray Shirt

I absolutely love this chambray shirt from M&S. It can be dressed up for a night out, smartened for work, or dressed down with denim and trainers. Marks & Spencer is a great place to go for simple items you can style in many ways. Plus, their sustainability strategy, Plan A, sets a number of environmental and social goals across different business units. Plan A was launched in 2007 with a 5 year plan. Having achieved their major aim of making their UK business carbon neutral, they’ve now introduced Plan A 2020. This consists of 100 new, revised and existing commitments, with the ultimate goal of becoming the world’s most sustainable major retailer. By sourcing responsibly, reducing waste, and helping communities, M&S believe they can do their bit to help protect the planet.

The shirt is 100% linen and items made of just one material are much easier to recycle and re-make into something else. Linen is also considered to be a relatively sustainable material. All of the flax plant can be used, meaning there is no waste, and as it is a natural fabric it is biodegradable. It is very durable, able to endure 20 years of wear, whilst being flexible and comfortable. Linen also requires less water than popular materials like cotton and very little energy is needed to process the flax. Find out more about linen here.

So how have I styled it? Here is the low-down on my looks:

1 – M&S black skirt bought on eBay, Beyond Skin vegan Kate loafers, black tote bag

2 – Second hand jeans from a charity shop, Nike trainers, black tote bag

3 – Stella McCartney grey skirt bought on eBay, M&S black heels bought on eBay, Matt & Nat clutch

4- Second hand pleather skirt from a charity shop, M&S black heels bought on eBay, Matt & Nat shoulder bag

5 – M&S black trousers bought on eBay, M&S black heels bought on eBay, Matt & Nat clutch

M&S Black Trousers

I honestly think these trousers are one of my best ever buys. I got them on eBay, I can’t remember if they had been used on not, and I now wear them at least once a week. The slightly tailored fit means I can dress them up with heels for a meeting or evening out, but they also look good (and feel great as they’re super comfy) with pumps and a plain t-shirt.

I am a big advocate of buying things second-hand. There are so many platforms now: eBay, Depop, charity shops, that you’re bound to find what you’re looking for. Extending the life of a piece of clothing by just nine extra months could also reduce carbon, water and waste footprints by around 20-30% (WRAP, 2015). And if someone else has been using it and it’s still in great condition, you know it’s good quality. Plus, second hand items tend to be much cheaper so they’re a winner in terms of the environment and your bank balance!

Here’s how I styled my trousers:

1 – M&S chambray shirt, M&S black heels from eBay, Matt & Nat clutch

2 – H&M Conscious striped top, Nike trainers, Sandqvist Hege rucksack

3 – M&S black boat neck top,  M&S black heels from eBay, Matt & Nat shoulder bag

4 – People Tree wool jumper, Beyond Skin vegan Kate loafers

5 – Second hand blouse, M&S black heels from eBay, Matt & Nat clutch

Stella McCartney Skirt

I also got this Stella McCartney grey midi skirt on eBay. It’s 100% wool so it’s perfect for Autumn through to Spring. I love grey as it’s a little less boring than black, but also a classic colour that is so easy to style. As it’s a midi length and quite a formal fit, I’ve dressed the skirt with heels for all five looks, but it would also work with some flat ballerinas too.

Stella McCartney are a proudly vegetarian company committed to operating in a responsible manner. They are constantly searching for materials that will reduce their environmental impact, like organic cotton, as well as establishing more sustainable practices throughout the entire business. For example, all Stella stores and offices in the UK are powered by wind energy provided by Ecotricity. Outside the UK they use renewables wherever possible too. All new stores have LED lighting systems, which use roughly 75% energy and last 25 times longer than traditional light bulbs.

Stella McCartney are also a member of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) which strives to improve working conditions across the world. All of the ready-to-wear, shoes and bags are made in Europe, with Italy as the largest sourcing country for materials and manufacturing. But they also work on specific projects, like an initiative in Kenya where bags are produced through the United Nation’s International Trade Center Ethical Fashion Initiative. This initiative connects some of the world’s most marginalised people with the top of fashion’s value chain; inspiring creativity, enhancing female employment and empowerment, and reducing poverty. Read more about Stella’s sustainability strategy here.

So whether you’re shopping in a renewable-powered Stella store or searching for second hand, Stella McCartney is a brand committed to operating in a more sustainable manner. Here’s how I styled my skirt:

1 – M&S grey polo neck top, Wills vegan heels in wine

2 – Reformation black v-neck, M&S black heels bought on eBay

3 – M&S chambray shirt, M&S black heels from eBay, Matt & Nat clutch

4 – Second hand grey t-shirt, Wills vegan heels in wine, Matt & Nat clutch

5 – M&S black boat neck top, M&S black heels bought on eBay

I hope this has inspired you to think more about the many ways you can style your clothes. Please take up the 1 item 5 ways challenge and let me know how it goes! And remember: less is always more!

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