Money & Style

What is Sustainable Style?

Is it Sustainable Fashion?

Happy day, reader dearest!

One of the odd things about writing a blog…

You write.

Life happens.

And sometimes the two tangle.

Lots of life is like that. Bits and pieces. Crossing over. Getting tangled. Sometimes connecting. Sometimes missing.

Like when you are putting together a puzzle and the piece you try doesn’t quite fit…

Sustainable Style and Sustainable Fashion are a bit like that. They are two concepts that overlap in places and not in others. What is Sustainable Style? and What is Sustainable Fashion? are two different questions.

Each with more than one answer!

Sustainable Fashion can be a part of Sustainable Style, but Sustainable Style encompasses so much more!

Why Care?

By 2017, one garbage truck of clothes (5,787 pounds) was burned or sent to landfills every second.

Sofi Thanhauser, Worn: A People’s History of Clothing


Sustainable Fashion

I’m not going to get too into the weeds on Sustainable Fashion. There are more articles than you can read in a lifetime about the damage the fashion industry does to the environment daily, not to mention documentaries and other media. They evangelize more effectively than I ever can.

Ideally, Sustainable Fashion has a lower impact on the environment. (Lower is a squishy word.) Sustainable Fashion can mean using organic fibers to prevent pesticide pollution or changing dyeing processes to use less water. Sustainable can mean vegan leathers made from mushrooms or pineapple. Yes, those are coming and they’re super cool!

Beware greenwashing… Even fast fashion brands are getting on the sustainable wagon.

I will get into the distinction between Style and Fashion.

Fashion is your clothing. The stuff you wear. Style is HOW you do that.

Sustainable Style

So if Fashion is the stuff we put on our bodies and style is how you do it, Sustainable Style takes more than Sustainable Fashion into account. You get to decide what Sustainable Style means for you.

Sustainable Fashion is one piece of Sustainable Style.


Budget is the unsexy element of Sustainable Style! If you spend more on your clothing than you can comfortably afford, that’s NOT sustainable. Although budgeting and money are not topics people want to talk about, everywhere you look you’ll see articles: New Wardrobe for $249! OR Look how cheap this was! AND What a great deal I got! These articles make me cringe. I understand that being able to choose quality and pricepoint is a privilege, but you can be discerning at any price point.

Buying Less

Buying Less is an often overlooked piece of Sustainable Style. You may have seen the #buynothingnewin2022 hashtag floating about. A shopping fast is one way to do it. Creating boundaries for your shopping is another. (Like the French 5?) Unsubcribing from retailers who tempt you helps. (Believe you me…) Buying Less is the reason I encourage you to #shopyourwardrobe #shopyourcloset AND why I don’t liketoknowit…

Buying Preloved

Preloved Buying is a great way to smallerize your wardrobe spending AND makes for less clothing waste. Double win. If you find buying preloved creepy but want to give it a try, start with accessories. Shopping preloved online may be less creepy, too. If that feels hard, here’s are 5 Strategies for Success. Related to Buying Preloved is…

Remaking or Upcycling

These two are growing (again) in popularity. YAY! I say again, because Remaking is the way humans did wardrobing for millenia. In the latter half of the previous century, we shifted into disposal mode and are paying the price. If you aren’t a talented stitcher, a seamstress can be your best friend when it comes to updating and restyling garments you already own.

I’m all about extending mindfulness to include our shopping and dressing habits! Including making a Wardrobe Plan and sticking (with some flexibility) to it.

Plays Well with Others

We think of plays-well-with-others as a tick box on your Kindergarten progress report, but it’s also a BIG part of Sustainable Style and a Sustainable Wardrobe. Think of it as versatility. You need a wardrobe with Balance, made up of pieces you can play with to create different combinations over multiple seasons. That’s far more sustainable than a closet full of disparate outfits that only work for one or two seasons. Do you think in Outfits or Separates?

How About You?

Is Sustainability something you consider when you make decisions for your home? Your wardrobe? Other parts of your lifestyle? Has it always been? Or is Sustainability nudging you to pay it some mind? Which pieces of Sustainable Style can you see trying? Or which do you do already? Do tell! I love to hear from you…

Stylishly yours,


  • Kathleen McDermott

    Far less clothing would be burned if people took the time to donate to the wide number of charities (not to mention friends and family) who want these clothes for many purposes. That said, I find women who preach “Sustainability!!”, Green!!”, “The Sky Is Falling!!” beyond annoying. Love fashion, love style – will buy what I want, when I want, where I want. Others can regulate their purchases however they choose.

    • Liz K

      Yes, Kathleen! It is up to each of us to make our choices. As for donation, unfortunately much of the clothing donated is not sellable and ends up in dumpsters or incinerators. It would be lovely if textile recycling were more widely avaiable!

  • Sally in St Paul

    Glad to see you writing about the differences between sustainable fashion and sustainable style! This is an under-discussed topic. While buying new from sustainable brands is good, shopping secondhand, wearing what you already own, and upcycling are better, I think…and these are options that are accessible for a broader range of society than the “get rid of everything and start over with a perfect 30 sustainable pieces minimalistic wardrobe, available in sizes 0-8 at $200 per item” idea that’s pushed so hard. (Well of course it is, that’s where the money’s at.) Fashion is no substitute for style, and that’s as true in the realm of sustainability as it is in every other aspect of getting dressed. I’ve gotten serious about the 30 wears concept this year, and I’m excited to see where it’s going to take me.

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