Whenever I struggle to decide what to wear, my eye naturally goes to the same place in my wardrobe. Every single time.
And while I could just assume that this phenomenon occurs because my go-to outfit is bright red, covered in white and blue floral embellishments, it’s deeper than that.
The dress in question (a knee-length Alannah Hill special, if you’re interested) has gotten me out of countless clothing-related panics since 2008.
I love it for many reasons. I bought it on my first trip to Melbourne with my family. Whenever I wore it at university, my friends would delight me with loud choruses of Chris de Burgh’s ‘Lady In Red’. It sits perfectly on my body, regardless of how I’m feeling that day.
It’s the one item of clothing that has never failed me. Iconic and beloved – I’ve stitched it back together, sewn new buttons on it and twirled its gorgeous skirt more times than I can remember.
The same cannot be said for the rest of my clothing. Truth be told, only half of the items in my wardrobe are worn regularly. The other half is equal parts occasion wear, and the pieces of clothing I desperately wanted, but never wore.
So when I sat down to talk to author and fashion editor Lucianne Tonti, about her book Sundressed: Natural Fibres and the Future of Fashion, I couldn’t wait to hear her advice on shopping sustainably and considerately.
Here’s what she taught me.
Care is King Queen
Prioritise finding pieces and items that you love – and then cherish them.
I’ll be the first to admit that I often (read: pretty well always) throw clothes straight into the washing machine without checking the care instructions. Lucianne, understandably, tells me this is a big no-no.
Caring for your clothes also means considering use and wear. You might love that crisp white linen shirt, but you’ll kick yourself for wearing it at your local Italian joint and getting marinara sauce all over it.
Lucianne’s bonus tip: Figuring out why you love something will help inform future purchases. Don’t shy away from identifying what it is you love about an item.
Give yourself time
You know those butterflies you get in the change room when you try on a new item of clothing? It’s not to be trusted.
‘I don’t buy anything the first time I see it,’ shares Lucianne.
But don’t just walk out of the store for ten minutes and come back. Lucianne advocates giving yourself at least one sleep to mull it over.
‘If you dream about it, then it’s meant to be yours.’
The time you give yourself, she explains, allows you to consider whether the item is likely to be in your closet in a few years’ time. If not, give it a miss.
Lucianne’s bonus tip: If and when you decide to purchase a piece of clothing, don’t be afraid to size up. After all, it’s easier to tailor something that’s too big, and you may just thank yourself for the extra room once you wear it in your day-to-day.
‘Polyester stains more easily because it’s made of plastic. And so when you drop an oily stain (like food) on it, it will bond and you won’t be able to wash it out.’
Prioritise quality over quantity
I know, I know. We’ve all heard this advice before. Invest in one quality item that will last a few years, instead of purchasing multiple, lower quality versions of the same thing.
However, Lucianne challenges us to dig deeper into this particular point and consider not only the quality of the garment, but also the material used.
‘I emphasise natural fibres because they’re better in function and form. Polyester stains more easily because it’s made of plastic. And so when you drop an oily stain (like food) on it, it will bond and you won’t be able to wash it out,’ she explains.
‘It’s the same with body odour and sweat. That’s why polyester stuff starts to stink because it bonds with your body odour and you can’t wash it out.’
Got it. Polyester out, natural fibres like silk, wool, cashmere, mohair, hemp, linen and cotton, in.
Breathe new life into old clothes
Finally, Lucianne advocates for the plethora of safe and accessible ways you can buy second hand clothes like op shops, Facebook Marketplace, SWOP and Vestiaire Collective.
Shoppers looking to minimise their carbon footprint while purchasing a new outfit really can’t go wrong purchasing a pre-loved item, particularly if you’re following the three tips above.
Once we’ve covered all this, I feel slightly dizzy. With my head in my hands, Lucianne helpfully offers this final insight before signing off.
‘Fashion has been a really unregulated industry for a long time. It’s a lot to take – to shear a sheep and take that wool and spin it and weave it and turn it into a jumper.’
‘A lot of those processes happen all over the world. So if it feels like making informed choices is overwhelming, you’re not alone.’