Inspiration & Designs for a Beautiful Life and a Brighter World

What Are Your Rules To Dress By?

Amisha Ghadiali Rules to dress by

UPDATE: you can now download a poster and wardrobe shopping checklist of my Rules To Dress By.

At the end of last year, I published ‘A Year in my Wardrobe: Ethical Fashion in Practise” In this post I walked you through all of my fashion related purchases of the year and finished with 12 New Year’s Resolutions that you could take on to make your wardrobe sustainable too. These 12 rules were recently published by Oxfam Fashion. Just in case you missed them or needed a reminder, here they are again followed by tips from other industry experts:

1. Ask yourself if you really need something new, or if you can wear something in a different way to make it seem fresh. If you are buying it, think about what you have that you can wear it with so you don’t need any new accessories.

2. Try and set a limit for how many things you can buy a year. Make it the right number for you, think of how many things you usually buy every month or year and then take off at least a quarter. Or even half it – you don’t need as much as you think you need.

3. Research new ethical designers (by the way Ethical, Eco, Sustainable are generally interchangeable words) and there are so many new designers popping up with exciting collections. Read online magazines and eco-fashion blogs to keep up to date with the latest. I recommend Ecouterre, Ecco Eco, Greta Guide, Guardian Ethical Fashion DirectoryEco Fashion World, Six Magazine and Treehugger Fashion to get you started (but there are many new magazines and blogs out there)

4. Support small local designers – In a world that is increasingly global, it’s hard for the local artists to compete with the high street, but the things that they create are special, original and come with a low carbon footprint.

5. Buy something organic, or made from a new fabric such as from Soy Bean, Nettle or Milk. These fabrics are not harmful to the earth and the farmers in the way that non organic cotton is due to the heavy use of pesticides (chemicals).

6. Have a wardrobe clear-out and give your unloved pieces to your local charity shop or hold a swishing party. I would recommend donating to TRAID or Oxfam rather than throwing them in any old clothing bank. TRAID will take anything even if it is not sellable, as they shred all unusable clothing to make stuffing for their pillows.

7. When buying something new, ask the shop/designer where it was made and who by. This way you learn about the story of your clothes and if the designer or brand hasn’t thought about it, you are helping change the industry by reminding them to do so.

8. Get out your sewing machine and customise something old (maybe two or three things) into something new. Sewing machines are not as hard to use as you think they are, and if you don’t think you can do it yourself, there are lots of sewing workshops popping up all over the place. You could also try DIY Couture, books that guide you through making something new.

9. When buying something new, think of how long you will like it for. Is it a keeper or something you will wear once. Try and buy something that you can get a lot of wear out, even if it is special, might as well wear it whilst you can.

10. Buy something that is fair trade. The Fairtrade certification guarantees that producers have been paid a fair price for the material. For example you can get fairtrade cotton and fairtrade gold. Note that if they have written fair-trade as two words that they don’t have the official certification (although they might be implementing fair trade practises)

11. Rent or borrow something instead of buying something new. It’s a great feeling when you wear something of your mum’s, or a friends, and it makes them happy to see you enjoying it too (that is if you asked permission!) If they don’t have your taste then you could try something like Girl Meets Dress where you can rent a designer dress.

12. Have fun with it. Ethical fashion is all about discovering the stories behind the fashion and changing lives not to mention helping our planet. So explore, experiment and enjoy yourself.

Visualisation by Mindful Maps

Of course there are more many more rules out there, so when I designed the Good Fashion Perspectives event for A Good Week, I asked all our industry speakers to share their tips so that the audience members would have some bits to take away. And here is what they said:

Nin Castle

Nin Castle – Founder of Goodone

1. Buy half the amount for double the amount. Nobody wants to hear this but I promise if you do you will love your wardrobe and the clothes you wear a great deal more.

2. Don’t throw Clothes away always take them to charity shops and or textile recycling banks.

3. Support designers you like, up and coming labels need your support to keep growing, for every 1 garment you buy on the high street try and buy one garment from an independent label.

Lyla Patel

Lyla Patel – Head of Education at TRAID

1. Clear out your wardrobe and donate it all to TRAID.  Once you have got rid of the clothes you never wear, don’t really fit and don’t really like you’ll be able to assess and value of the good clothes you have.

2. Shop at TRAID. Refill your wardrobe, but with handpicked second hand fashion. Try out more than one store, they are all different and constantly changing. Keep your eyes peeled for the legendary TRAID sales!

3. Skill yourself. Come to one of TRAID’s Sew Good workshops and mend, remake or upcycle a garment with us. Improving your skills will insure your clothes last longer, get a new lease of life and allow you to buy more great second hand stuff! If you like, you can join the mailing list: sewgood@traid.org.uk

Jocelyn Whipple


Jocelyn Whipple – Founder of Element 23

1. Always ask questions about the things you are buying including clothing – even if they cannot be answered or the answers are startling! By informing ourselves about supply chains we become better equipped to make wardrobe choices that reflect our own sense of value whatever that may be.

2. Slow down your personal style – take time to really get to grips with what does and doesn’t work for you –including colour, shape, texture, family traditions, and of course ethics. With a clear criteria we can become more discerning and focused and avoid impulse buys or wasteful spending that doesn’t serve us or the planet.

3. Read the new book just out by Lucy Siegle called ‘To Die For’ – Is fashion wearing out the world? Available at Waterstones or the Guardian online shop.

Ilaria Pasquinelli

Ilaria Pasquinelli – Ethical fashion Forum Consultant

1. Search online, where finding ethical fashion is easier. Two top online retailers are ASOS with their GreenRoom or ASOS Africa initiatives and Yoox.com and their ethical section Yooxigen.

2. Keep an eye on the High Street: they are increasing their conscious collections (mainly eco) and co-operate with small ethical brands, such as Made with Topshop.

3. Buy good quality items which are meant to last: take good care of then by washing delicately and, if you no longer want it, take it to the closest charity shop and donate it. Your piece of clothing will have a story to tell.

El Lasker

El Lasker – Founder of Ethichic

1. Charity Shops. Visit charity shops regularly but don’t buy every time you go in. The idea is to understand your body shape, the right cut of a garment for you and finally your colours and style. Knowing yourself is the first step to shopping well. Charity shops change the selection on the shop floor daily. Only buy when you see something that is just right for you.

2. Share your clothes. We all have issues with sharing our best dress or jacket. Break the conditioning and lend your clothes to friends (only if they look after them of course!)

3. Engage in ethical fashion with ease. It’s hard to go cold turkey with the way you shop and buy all-things-ethical.  How about for every two items of good durable clothing you buy that are not ethical, buy one that is?  Then slowly start to build a seasonless, ethical fashion wardrobe —  a season-less wardrobe is the way forward. Remember you can change your look with styling.

Christian Smith

Christian Smith – CSR Manager at ASOS

1. Don’t follow trends: you know who you are, you know what suits you. Buy your fashion to fit you.

2. Think three times before making a purchase: if you are still longing for that piece after a week or two, then go ahead and buy it. If you aren’t bothered or can’t even remember what it was, then it was never meant to be yours.

3. It’s not always about cost, but if something is too cheap, there’s a reason for that.

And if that is not enough, I asked the audience to share their tips and here is what they came up with:

Cath Carver - Colder Shoulder

Share your knowledge, excitement and joy about sustainable fashion with others!
There are a lot of inspirational and exciting ways in which fashion is being used for good. Sharing these stories and insights with your networks, can help lead to a reassessment of people’s relationships with clothing, and a greater understanding of fashion’s global impact and value. This can ultimately lead to more meaningful and considerate relationships with fashion.
My tip is to have a go at making a piece of clothing yourself. This is good because:
1. You know the garment has not been constructed using sweatshop labour – you are the production line!
2. You can make something that fits your body, from the fabric of your choice, so you will make something you love, wear again and again and never throw away.My advice is (of course!) to get yourself a DIYcouture book! Suitable for absolute beginners! Or if you want to be sociable and have hands-on advice, go to one of the many sewing schools in London. These include:
- Oh Sew Brixton
- The Thrifty Stitcher
- The Papered Parlour
- The Make Lounge
- Our Patterned Hand
- Fabrications
1. Draw up a list of what you want or need. Stick to it.
2.  Make it work for you - does it really flatter you? Be comfortable with who you are and what suits you.
If it’s on your list-   can you create a week of outfits using what you already have with the thing you are looking to buy? If not is really adding value to your wardrobe?
3. Make outfits unique, Be Inspired with things which really mean something to you not just thing from from magazines. Match vintage, 2nd hand and sustainable.
Victoria Covington
My tip is to take inspiration from the likes of Goodone and From Somewhere, and think that if they can do it you can! – If you have a dress you love thats a little too long, go to a sewing class and take it up.. if you see something you would love to wear, see how its made and try it out! Charity shops are great for finding things that you can play with and turn into new things (skirt – shorts or shorts- skirt for example). When you wear your new thing, you feel so proud that its 1) individual, 2) an achievement and 3) looks great and fits well, as you made it for your body! You can be proud of what you wear.
If you have any rules that we can dress by please leave them in the comments section.
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