I’m 26, and some of my most-loved clothing are running shorts from middle school and high school T-shirts. When I shared my 14-year-old running shorts on TikTok—a pair of orange, synthetic drawstring shorts from Aerie—I asked others to share their most loved clothing with me as well.
Dozens of people stitched my video to share their own childhood athletic shorts, a fringe jacket passed down through their family, or a tie-dye shirt from decades ago. It was really meaningful to see the countless pieces that had been loved for years and years, and attached to so many memories. Fast fashion pushes us to buy more and regularly replace our clothing—so it was encouraging to see that long-term relationships with clothing still existed.
Slow fashion involves wearing your clothes for as long as you can. But sometimes, it’s not always possible to keep wearing the pieces you have. On that same video, I also had dozens of people comment that their bodies had changed, and that they were forced to update their wardrobe. Some lamented that they wished they could still wear their old clothing, while others were indignant that I’d even asked folks to share old clothing—because, DUH, bodies change and there was the whole pandemic and everything!
My heart sank as I read those comments, as I never wanted to suggest that our bodies should stay the same for years. It’s absolutely normal for our bodies to change. My body certainly has, but because I never developed any “curves” and do endurance sports, I can still fit in my looser-fitting old clothes. And I know I’m not the only one to seemingly skip puberty haha!
Still, I’m certainly no stranger to weight fluctuations, and I don’t want to minimize that experience. If your body has changed, you should absolutely get clothes that fit and make you feel good! You don’t need to feel bad about getting the clothing you need. And you don’t need to feel excluded from slow fashion—it’s still possible to participate. Here’s how to update your wardrobe as mindfully as possible.
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Alter Your Clothing (DIY or See a Tailor)
If you’re going down sizes, you can alter some existing clothing to fit, and you can even do so reversibly (to let it out later if needed). One trick I often use is to fold in the waistband of a skirt or pants, and sew it down in the back. You can also add a button or elastic to the waistband to make it smaller.
It’s also possible to make clothing fit larger sizes by adding fabric, letting out seams, or adding elastic. Unfortunately, it is usually less reversible to make clothing larger than smaller. For pants, button extenders or the hair tie trick are an option for a more temporary fix.
If you don’t know how to sew, there are lots of tutorials on YouTube, and you can also consider supporting a local tailor. While many people only think of tailors for formal clothing, they can help you adjust all kinds of clothing. As a bonus, you’ll be supporting a local, often immigrant-owned, business.
Source New Clothing Mindfully
Altering your clothing might not get you where you need, so if you need to buy new clothes, consider:
1. Thrifting/secondhand apps
While the cost of thrifting has gone up in many cities, it is still possible to find some affordable gems, especially if you go on discount days. If you’re worried about the gentrification of thrifting, remember that many thrift shops are charities, and they need customers to fund their social programs. There is also generally no shortage of clothing given the popularity of fast fashion. But, it’s good to still be mindful and avoid buying high-need items in bulk if you’re not low-income, such as professional clothing, plus size pieces, and kid’s clothing.
For more options, consider thrifting online! Here are my favorite sites/apps:
- Etsy (often small creators, but beware of dropshippers)
- Poshmark (get $10 off your first purchase with my referral link)
- ThredUP (get 40% off your first purchase + free shipping with my referral link)
If you have friends in your size, swapping is a great way to refresh your wardrobe without spending a dime. It’s also a great way to meet others in your community, as there are sometimes local events.
If you can’t find any swaps near you, I recommend joining your local Buy Nothing group and asking if anyone would want to participate in one. These groups are hyper local and were created to allow members to give and receive items for free, reducing waste and building community.
3. Ethical brands
Sometimes you won’t be able to find what you need by thrifting or swapping. In these cases, consider looking into ethical brands. Some of my favorite brands include:
- For Days—more affordable organic cotton clothes with a closed loop model; you can send old clothes of their brand and any brand back for recycling. (masculine and feminine options)
- Kotn—Canadian company with modern basics; certified B Corp that invests in the Egyptian cotton farming community where they source their cotton. (masculine and feminine options)
- Tradlands (up to 5X)—Cozy knits and flowy dresses made by workers who are paid a living wage. For first-time customers, use code IMPERFECTIDEALIST15 for 15% off.
- Boody—Bamboo viscose and organic cotton undies & loungewear made in a closed-loop system and in WRAP-certified factories (super comfy, I really like their full brief undies). Sizes 2XL-4XL in some styles. Masculine and feminine options.
Get more recs in my ethical + sustainable brand directory. While these brands are more expensive, they are higher-quality and likely to last longer, so you may save money in the long run. But, if you can’t afford them and need clothing more immediately, don’t feel bad if you have to buy fast fashion. Buying fast fashion can still be sustainable if you get what you need and make it last as long as possible!
As you’re shopping, it may also save you money to buy styles that will fit as your body changes. These include:
- Elastic waistbands (I love my linen pants with an elastic waistband)
- Wrap dresses/skirts
- Smocked bodices
- Flowier silhouettes
Give Away Old Clothes Responsibly
Only 20% of clothing donated to thrift stores is resold, and the rest is trashed or dumped abroad. Companies are simply producing too much clothing, and we’re consuming too much of it as well.
So, when possible, try to give clothes away directly through Buy Nothing groups, Freecycle.org, or swaps. If you do need to donate to thrift stores, donate clothing in good condition unless they explicitly have a recycling program. Otherwise, the shop will need to spend resources getting rid of the ratty clothing, and that ultimately harms them.
If there isn’t a recycling program near you, sustainable brand For Days has $20 take back bags that you can fill with old clothing and mail in to be recycled. Some local artists, mechanics, EMTs, and people with pets may also want ratty clothing; you can always try posting in local groups or Facebook Marketplace to see if there are any takers.