How to sustainably reinvent your wardrobe for Spring (without buying a whole new one)

After a year spent in sweats, just how do you emerge from lockdown looking stylish, without splurging on a whole new wardrobe? We've drafted in the experts for some all-important intel


After a year spent in sweats, just how do you emerge from lockdown looking stylish, without splurging on a whole new wardrobe? We've drafted in the experts for some all-important intel

 In partnership with Vanish

With Spring officially here and the end of lockdown in sight, you’re probably leafing through your wardrobe in panic and wondering what on earth you’re going to wear for your first day of post-lockdown socialising. (If you’re not, then we’re highly jealous.)

But before you start filling your online shopping basket with wear-once fast fashion buys, we’ve got a challenge for you: rather than rushing to buy brand new, consider how you can reinvent the clothes already in your wardrobe for the season ahead.

Sounds nearly impossible? Rest assured, it's not – because we've heard from two stylish women who've done it successfully, and not only has a more conscious approach to clothes shopping helped both the planet and their purse-strings, it's helped them fall back in love with wardrobe heroes they've had for years.

(If you haven't already caught up on the festival – and really, what's keeping you?! – all sessions are available to watch on demand here, while you can read some of the key takeaways from the incredible panel discussions throughout the day here.)

Speaking during our panel on How to Shop Sustainably and Up-Cycle your Wardrobe in partnership with Vanish, Hannah was joined by author, maker and fellow slow fashion advocate Christine Leech to discuss how buying less and buying better, as well as properly caring for your clothes using high-quality products from Vanish, can help you hone your personal style while helping the planet.

How to sustainably reinvent your Spring wardrobe

and care for your clothes so they last a lifetime...

Buy better and more sustainably 

"I find that Instagram is a brilliant place to find new sustainable brands to shop at," says Hannah, who no longer shops for clothes on the high-street. "You can make Instagram work for you. If you stop following the fast fashion brands, and you start following the more sustainable ones, you will then get suggestions in your feed, and the algorithm will work in your favour."

She adds, "For me, it's all about either vintage, or really small brands that make small batches of things or make things to order, or have a really great track record when it comes to their traceability."

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So you definitely don't need to buy a whole new wardrobe with every passing season. Funnelling the money you would use to buy ten cheap, throwaway items from fast fashion brands into buying one or two sustainable and ethically made pieces that will give your wardrobe a refresh – pieces that you know you'll wear and love for many years to come – is a brilliant way to make your wardrobe feel like new again.

Shop second-hand successfully 

"I'm a charity shop girl, really," says Christine. "There are so many tailors or seamstresses out there who are up for converting your closet." So even if you spy a second-hand gem while out shopping that isn't your size, it couldn't be easier to get it tailored specifically to you.

"I do quite a lot of looking at fabric, rather than style," she says. "Or I buy extra large menswear and womenswear because then I've got more fabric in that piece, and there's more that I can do with it."

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Just give your second-hand buys a refresh with a great product like Vanish's Gold Oxi Advanced Laundry Booster Powder, and you'll be fooled into thinking they're good as new.

Make small changes to reinvent old clothes 

When it comes to upcycling, "It's not like you have to hunt down bespoke haberdashers," says Christine. Small embellishments that will refresh items in need of some TLC can be found just about anywhere.

Plus, learning to sew small bits and reimagine your clothes can make for a really interesting new hobby. As Hannah points out, "You get a lovely new outfit, but you also get to relax your mind."

Not so keen on sewing? Not to worry, as there are many patches, embellishments and small flourishes that can be added to clothes available in iron-on or stick-on form.

Wash less to make your clothes last longer 

So you've invested in a new sustainable wardrobe hero, or that vintage piece you've long been dying to get your hands on. But how do you properly care for your clothes, to ensure they last a lifetime? It all comes down to washing.

"One of the things that I've started doing less is washing my clothes," says Hannah. "The fewer wash cycles that you put them through, the longer they'll last. It's all wear and tear – whenever you put your clothes in the washing machine, that's a stressful experience for that item of clothing." And, she adds crucially, "I never use a tumble dryer."

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Instead of throwing clothes in the washing machine every time they need a slight refresh, try airing clothes outside, using a refreshing fabric spray, or giving them a gentle brush with a steamer.

Give your clothes the care they deserve

With that in mind, never underestimate the power of a wash coupled with quality products when it comes to breathing new life back into clothes. Recent research conducted by Vanish found that many of us are guilty of getting rid of our clothes for the most minor and fixable of reasons.

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Out of 1,000 consumers surveyed by OnePoll on behalf of Vanish, almost a third (31 percent) said they disposed of items at a clothing bank or by throwing them in the bin (16 per cent), rather than seeking a more sustainable alternative like sharing them with friends and family.

But it's the reasons we cite for getting rid of our clothes that are most surprising. The research found that 22 percent of us have thrown out clothes because of faded colours, 20 percent have got rid of clothes because of stains, and 19 percent of us have thrown away clothes because of minor damage.

Which is why we love Vanish almost as much as the clothes it cares for.

One of our go-to products for revitalising clothes is the Vanish Gold Oxi Advanced Laundry Booster Powder and its gel counterpart – a multitasking stain remover, colour brightener and odour zapper, that makes for an all-round brilliant wash.

Capable of lifting tough stains even in a cold 30°C wash, this versatile laundry booster boasts a colour safe concentrated formula, while still being safe to use on everyday fabrics like cotton and polyester. (So is perfect for revitalising last year's floral midi dress for Spring.) What's more is that it can be used in your machine's drawer, in a soak, or as a pre-treatment to lift away stains.

If it's your once-bright whites that you're looking to revive (if you can't wear crisp, white cotton in spring/summer, then when can you?) opt for Vanish's incredible Gold Crystal White Fabric Whitener + Stain Remover powder – also available in an equally-effective gel formulation.

Like its colour-friendly counterpart, the brand's Gold Crystal White Fabric Whitener + Stain Remover can be used in your wash, as a pre-treatment, or as a soak for more delicate garments. We like to put a dose in every wash to keep our whites looking brilliantly bright all year round. (And it's even effective in lower temperatures.)

As we emerge from lockdown and head into warmer weather, you won't find us sitting at our computers with online shopping bags fit to burst, but leafing through our wardrobes to rediscover the pieces we've loved for years. Because consciously sourced and well cared for clothes make for stylish people.

Kate McCusker

Kate McCusker is a freelance writer at Marie Claire UK, having joined the team in 2019. She studied fashion journalism at Central Saint Martins, and her byline has also appeared in Dezeen, British Vogue, The Times and woman&home. In no particular order, her big loves are: design, good fiction, bad reality shows and the risible interiors of celebrity houses.