How many items in your wardrobe have you worn at least thirty times? This is what the 30 wears challenge prompts you to ask before purchasing a new item. And, if you’re looking for one simple thing you can do, today, to make your wardrobe more sustainable, this might be a great place to start.
Sustainable fashion can be complex - have you ever asked yourself these questions?
See, when you first start considering where your clothes come from and their environmental and social impacts, it can feel like a bit of a minefield. I know, because I’ve been there myself.
- How do you define sustainable clothing? (by the way, this is a good introductory article about sustainable fashion terminology)
- Where do I shop and what if I’m not perfect? Is it ok to still buy from brands I love but who are not “sustainable”? Can I dress in a way that feels like me, while still prioritising my ethics? How do I tell the difference between brands who are making a difference and those who are just green-washing? What if a brand has made a start addressing these issues, but still has a way to go?
- Where are the best resources to educate myself on this topic? Will it impact my budget?
- What standard should I hold myself to?
These are just a few questions I asked myself (and still ask myself) when I started to delve into the realm of sustainable fashion (you can read more about that here). It can feel overwhelming. While I’m all for asking these questions, continuing the conversation and supporting brands doing the right thing, part of the answer might already be hanging in our wardrobes.
What is the 30 wears challenge?
The concept of #30wears was coined by Olivia Firth (the creative director of Eco Age, an environmental consulting agency and yes, Colin Firth’s wife) and Lucy Siegle who suggested that every time you consider buying an item of clothing you should ask yourself whether you would wear it at least 30 times – if not, don’t buy it. As Olivia says on a podcast here (which is well worth a listen) “it’s not as much as what to buy, but more a question of how frequently to buy and how long you keep the things you buy for”.
Why I love this challenge and concept
I love the simplicity of this approach. If you’ve ever found yourself in a rabbit hole asking yourself any of the questions above you’ll know that sometimes building a sustainable wardrobe can involve trade offs, value judgments and imperfect solutions. If you’re new to building a sustainable wardrobe it can help reduce some of the confusion you might be feeling. The reality is that sustainability and social impact issues involved in a supply chain are complex and multifaceted. They often involve many variables that we, despite our good intentions, might not be able to control (although, that’s not to say we shouldn’t be educating ourselves on these issues and asking brands to make those changes). I believe one of the best ways to counteract the overwhelm that some of these big and complex issues can make us feel is to start focusing on the small, practical and meaningful changes we can make in our lives today – like wearing what you have and intentionally buying pieces to last.
What are the sustainability benefits of applying the 30 wears challenge to your wardrobe?
Overconsumption is a major sustainability issues within the fashion industry which can cause large quantities of clothes, which haven’t had their full lifecycle of wear, to end up in landfill. I love the how that implementing this simple concept of asking yourself whether you’ll wear an item more than 30 times prior to purchasing it (or trying to wear existing items in your wardrobe more often so that they meet their quota of 30 wears) can help you to become more mindful about your purchases and make sure the clothes that you do buy get loved and worn over and over again. That is a sustainable wardrobe in action.
Shop the Edit
In the interests of transparency these jeans and shoes are both new but I selected them carefully and, based on how many times I’ve worn jeans and ballet flats in the past, both will get far more than 30 wears. I estimate that I’ve worn the top and watch and have used the clutch at least thirty times. As you know, I’m all for classic, simple styles and this outfit fits the bill nicely. You could also dress it up by swapping the flats for heels.
I’d love to know what you think? Do you love investing in timeless pieces you will have for a long time?