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Q & A : Materials to look for when buying clothes & fabrics

I love it when people write to me with their questions about sustainable fashion. Here’s one I recently received from a follower on Instagram:

Q: Hi Kristina! I would like to know what material / fabric type you would recommend to look for on clothing labels. It would greatly help me make better decisions when buying clothes and also when buying fabrics to sew summer clothes.

A: Ah, this is always a tough one. There’s no such thing as a “perfect” fabric. There’s always a trade-off somewhere – either environmentally or in terms of the properties or aesthetic. That being said, there are things you can do to minimize your environmental footprint when shopping for clothes or fabric.

Here are my best tips for making a decision that has the least harmful impact on the planet:

  • Buy the best quality you can afford so that the clothes last longer.
  • Buy clothes that you’ll wear at least 30 times.
  • Opt for second-hand, vintage, swapping, or using what you already have over buying new.
  • Choose hemp, linen, and certified organic cotton as much as possible.
  • Avoid polyester and other non-recycled synthetics (nylon, acrylic, spandex) as much as possible. These materials are a derivative of petrolium (oil) so they’re basically plastic. Plastic is polluting but cheap to produce, so it’s very common to find clothes that are made out of it or with it.
  • Try to stay away from non-organic (“regular”) cotton as much as possible. Making cotton requires incredibly large amounts of water and pesticides, making it quite unfriendly to the environment even if it is a natural fabric.

In the end, do your best and don’t beat yourself up if you slip and buy a polyester dress that you love. It’s ultimately the responsability of corporations to make the shift towards sustainability. The best a consumer can do is to vote with their dollar and work on buying and using their clothes in the most conscious way possible.

Hope that helps!


Have a question about sustainable fashion? Email thestoryofclothes@hotmail.com or ask in the comments below.

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