This post was originally published on the Zero Waste Box™ blog. Visit us there for more expert advice on recycling, zero waste lifestyle tips, and more!

Have you picked out your post-quarantine outfits yet? You aren’t alone. Changing seasons often prompt a refresh for the wardrobe—sweaters swap out for shorts, warm wools for cool cottons, and beanies for sunnies—and with the onset of new weather upon us, an uncertain summer 2020 is no different. 

Nowhere to go just yet? Don’t fret. Now is the time to invest in your expression without spending money, or buying new! You have your own private boutique hidden in your closet, and whether you realize it or not, your closet is a curated collection of quality items, handpicked by you. 

Here are some things to think about when daydreaming about your after-distancing ensembles, and tips and tricks for keeping them fierce and waste-free:

First, the basics

Did you know up to 80% of an average American’s wardrobe never sees the light of day? That’s right—the gifts, purchases kept past the return window, the “make it work” shirt, the slightly ill-fitted item, a sale rack steal, those special occasion shoes. So many clothing purchases are never worn, yet malls, online stores, and boutique shops keep us buying. Why?

Today, fast fashion motivates us to buy as many garments as possible, as quickly as possible, on a 52-season trend cycle, one for every week of the year. A lot of this ends up thrown away annually—about 21 billion pounds in the US alone—but with creativity and planning, you can work your closet to reduce these impacts and maximize the value of items you already have.

Where the fun begins

Okay, fashionista, let’s create a pile for items that are hugging its price tag like a badge of honor and another pile for clothes that have not been loved in a while. 

Pick five items in your closet that you cannot live without. It could be a show-stopping trench coat, shoes that walked adventures, or your go-to white tee. These pieces are significant because they have the most value, memories, and influence your everyday style choices. Look at fit, function, and style to get a better understanding of what you feel comfortable in. 

Here comes the challenge: Pick one item you have not worn and pair it with an item you wear often. Repeat until you have sorted through your personal boutique. Don’t be alarmed if you have items you truly do not see yourself wearing again. We have all been there, and the process of pairing will allow you to see your clothes in new ways, and find the items that work.

Let’s say you once listened to the Mama Mia soundtrack on repeat and purchased a blue sequined jumpsuit. In this case, asking “What Would Abba do” may not help, but as a zero waste warrior, we know you have tricks up that sequined sleeve! 

One person’s trend of the moment is another person’s treasure. If the pile of clothes you see fail to meet your chicness, but are still of high quality, then try swapping clothes with friends or relatives or donating them to a thrift store.* Experienced swapper? Resell sites and online consignment shops may get you a buck.

Upcycling for minimalists

Our clothing is an important part of looking and feeling our best, and style and fashion aside, their condition and quality are a factor of wearability. Sometimes clothes have impurities and imperfections, and while it feels wrong to get rid of them, it’s a reason we don’t wear them. A tiny tear, a stubborn wine stain, frayed seams, or discoloration and damage from the wash cycle. 

If you find yourself in this pickle, feel the fabric, try it on, and get a sense of what can be done with the garment. If damaged beyond wear, cut it into squares and use as kitchen or bathroom rags or towels to cut down on paper use. Or, save the beading, design, or applique bits for DIY craft projects that need a bit of pizzazz. 

Down to keep the form and function of your piece? Depending on your style, you can add paint to your garments, dye them, make patches with a personal twist, cut off the sleeves or hem, or use your sewing skills to give them new life. You can also take excess fabric and make scrunchies for pieces with lots of memories to grow with. 

Need more ideas? Here are other upcycling projects to transform your closet for the summer at home!

Everything has a place

The most important part of refreshing your wardrobe isn’t adding items or even upcycling them into newness. It’s all about creating a closet containing items you will actually wear, and arranging them in a way that keeps the rotation intuitive and fresh. 

Remember our pairing exercise? Hang these items together, lesser-worn at the front, so they don’t get lost in the back. If you do incorporate additional items, strive to buy secondhand, and durable, high-quality items designed to last. 

Parting ways with a carefully curated pile of “not for me” items helps to give your closet a reset by eliminating confusion when planning your #OOTD, or the get-together fit for months away. NWT (New With Tags) items are an easy sell for swaps and consignment sites, but again, make sure the clothes you are parting ways with are free from damage. 

If there are any unintentional holes, stains, or the items are completely frayed, retire those fibers with a Fabrics and Clothing Zero Waste Box™. With the endless combinations of fabrics, blends, synthetics, and multi-compositional styles, this all-in-one recycling solution ensures your tired threads don’t add to landfills!


How are you preparing for a stylishly sustainable summer of outfits? Tag us on Instagram and comment on your refresh tips below!

* Please do not host clothing swaps or otherwise violate recommended CDC guidelines for social distancing measures during the quarantine.

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