How to dress well while not screwing up the environment

How to dress well while not screwing up the environment

With the glut of cheap, disposable fashion at our fingertips it’s easy to get sucked into thinking there is nothing we can do to halt the tide of fast fashion from claiming our wardrobes, our op shops and ultimately our landfill. The problem feels so overwhelming and that there’s nothing we can do but I disagree. Here is my list of practical actions that will help you to dress well while still making a difference to the planet, as well as your wallet.

Wear natural fibres.

This is my top rule – and for good reason! I almost always wear natural fibres because synthetic fibres are deeply uncomfortable to wear. They are hot and sticky in a Yeppoon summer and freezing cold in what passes as winter here. Synthetic fabric also sheds minute plastic fibres during every wash, which can enter waterways and the food chain. Yes, I know that cotton production uses a lot of water and pesticides, but it’s a lot less damaging than mining for petroleum-based products to use in synthetic textile production. Besides, you can always buy organic cotton instead (and you can’t buy organic synthetic products now, can you? 😉 )

Make your own clothes.

If you make your own clothing, you know exactly who made it and under what conditions. You will also know just how much effort went into the garment’s creation and you will never look at mass-produced sweatshop clothes the same way again.

Buy well-made clothing.

If the garment is well-made it will last a lot longer than a cheaply made one, which means it won’t need replacing because the seams came apart at the first wash. It’s a false economy to buy cheap fashion. It falls out of fashion quickly and it’s often poorly made with cheap-shit fabric, which means it won’t be wearable for very long and will need replacing (even if it IS still fashionable). Buy a well-made item out of good quality fabric and you won’t need to replace it as often.

Buy good quality items from op shops.

Even if it is an op shop find, I still follow rule number 1 (wear natural fibres). Unfortunately, fast fashion is filling up our op shops more rapidly than they can sell it and their racks are often filled with cheaply produced synthetic clothes. I keep an eye out for good quality secondhand and vintage items made from cotton, rayon or leather because I know they are likely to last.

Limit buying new clothes to neutral basics.

Although my wardrobe is predominantly handmade, I believe it’s still ok to buy some mass produced fast fashion. It’s ok — I really mean this. When you do buy from a major chain store, still follow rule number 1 (wear natural fibres) and limit your purchases to items such as tops and skirts in neutral basics. Why? Because there’s always a place for neutral basics in your wardrobe, they don’t fall out of fashion and you’re guaranteed to get plenty of wear out of each item. It kills me when I see garments that have barely been worn ending up in landfill.

Re-use buttons, zips and hardware from worn-out clothing.

If you’re following rule 2 (make your own clothes) you will most likely realise that buying zips, buttons and other clothing hardware gets expensive pretty quickly. So don’t throw them out when your garment is past is wear-by date. If you’ve worn the life out of the garment, remove all the buttons, zips, buckles etc. and keep them for the next garment you make.

Compost old clothes made from 100% natural fibres.

Another reason to only wear natural fibres is that they are 100% compostable. I like to throw old clothes and towels into my worm farm, where the worms happily feast on the fibres and make the best compost for my vegie patch. And it’s heaps better than sending them to landfill!

Learn the difference between ‘fashionable’ and ‘stylish’.

To me, fashionable means following new trends, and with the trend-cycle getting faster and faster, it’s harder and more expensive than ever to keep up-to-date with them. Finding your own style, on the other hand, is timeless. I prefer vintage and retro styles as they flatter my curves and I can always find garments and sewing patterns that fit the bill. So I encourage you to find your style and make sure you dress stylishly, not fashionably.

Don’t wash clothes every time you wear them.

Natural fibres are at their weakest when wet, and being swished around in a washing machine weakens them incrementally over time. If you’re using a front loader washing machine, your clothes can have an even shorter life because the action of the machine uses the physical impact of cloth on cloth to remove the dirt, rather than the water. (That’s why they use less water than top loaders). So, if your clothes don’t have spills or stains on them, and don’t smell too funky, air them out and re-wear them before washing them. You’ll get the added bonus of not using as much washing detergent and less housework at the same time. There’s even been a study that recommends washing clothing less frequently.

Wash clothes in cold water, and line dry.

Hot water damages fibres too. It can make dyes run, ruining both the garment that contributed the dye and everything else in the wash. It can also shrink natural fibres such as cotton. Hot water reduces the life of your clothes, so wash in cold water to extend their life. And if hot water reduces the life of clothes, hot air can have a similar effect – so always dry your clothes on the line (and out of the sun if you don’t want colours to be sun-bleached).

Learn how to mend and alter clothes.

It almost goes without saying to learn to mend and alter clothes, but so few of us do. Knowing how to make basic alterations and mending our torn clothing will help give our clothes longevity. And if you don’t want to learn how to mend or alter clothing, that’s ok too. You can support your local economy and pay your local dressmaker or seamstress to do it for you!



These are 11 simple actions that help me dress well while not screwing over the environment, but it's certainly not an exhaustive list. Do you have any suggestions to add? Leave them in the comments below!

Review: Butterick pattern B5747 – A 1960s dress

Review: Butterick pattern B5747 – A 1960s dress

Don't you just love dressing up, and feeling all pretty and glamorous? I don't get the opportunity to dress up too often but I feel fantastic when I do. Way back in September 2013 I attended a wedding in Canberra. Being a Central Queensland lass, let's just say there was a paucity of suitably warm and semi-formal options available locally. I was also still breastfeeding my daughter at the time, and although I'm not one for modesty the thought of wearing a dress that bared an acre of boob while feeding her throughout a cold Canberra spring day didn't thrill me. What to do, what to do?

Rather than drag myself through our local shops looking for something mildly suitable, I decided to sew my own dress. I chose Butterick pattern B5747 as it has a button-up front with removable modesty piece (known as a dicky—don't laugh—that IS what it's called!) It has a full skirt and oversized collar. And the moment I saw the bright yellow sample featured in the pattern book I was smitten.

Butterick pattern B5747

I always feel so lovely when I wear this dress – I think it accentuates my curves in all the right ways. It’s such a fun dress to wear! Photo by David Scott.

It is without a doubt the most challenging and rewarding piece I've ever sewn.

I'm not saying this is a difficult dress to sew, it's not. But it tested my technical expertise and really developed my skills in a way that makes me totally proud. There are some tricky bits—I definitely struggled easing that huge full skirt into the bodice, but a bit of cursing helped with that. Same with the hand-stitching on the dress's interior—not technically difficult, just irritating because I really hate hand-stitching. The bodice was quite easy to put together and I used a tailor's ham and some steam to get it rolling correctly.

I didn't make any alterations to the pattern, apart from taking off about 5 centimetres from the bottom of the skirt to accommodate my lack of height. I used a cotton stretch sateen as it allows a decent amount of give for a woven fabric.

Butterick pattern B5747

Just look at that pattern alignment! Yup – that’s a centre front seam running right to the hem! But you can’t tell because I matched those polka dots up beautifully! Photo by David Scott.

I'm particularly proud of carefully matching up the centre front seams and the fabric's polka dots. I'm also proud that I received a lot of compliments that night, and nothing gives my ego a bigger boost than responding, ‘thank you, I made it myself'. Such a warm feeling!

And finally, I particularly loved that I could quietly feed my daughter AND keep my boobies warm all day and night long. Hooray!

Butterick pattern B5747 - back view

The back view of Butterick pattern B5747. I adore the oversized collar and I’m rather pleased with the alignment of those large white polka dots! Photo by David Scott.

Final Verdict for Butterick pattern B5747

This pattern is not for beginners. If you've got a reasonable amount of experience with sewing clothes and want to lift your skill level, then this is a great piece to start with.

  • Take care and go slowly with easing that full skirt into the bodice. The skirt also has pleats, and pleats over a seam, so try to be as accurate as you possibly can to ensure the pleats fall properly.
  • Use a tailor's ham and plenty of steam to ensure your collar rolls correctly.
  • Leave plenty of time to finish your dress because this is not a quick make.
  • Use a petticoat to give you a full silhouette, particularly if you're using soft, drapey fabric.
    Butterick pattern B5747
5 Faves Friday: Retro sewing patterns that inspire me

5 Faves Friday: Retro sewing patterns that inspire me

*Just so you know, the links marked with asterisks are affiliate links. Please read my affiliate policy for further details.

Do you love flipping through sewing pattern books at your local fabric store? I do! Today I'm sharing my Five Fave Retro Sewing Patterns to help you create your own one-of-a-kind retro piece. I haven't made any of these yet, but they are on my list (or already in my stash).

Butterick 5209

Oh gosh, how I adore the silhouette on this dress! I've got some gorgeous cotton satin in olive with brown polka dots waiting in my stash just for this dress. As it has a full skirt, it will need a petticoat underneath to help give it structure and to fill out the intended shape. Because I plan to use cotton satin then a petticoat will be an absolute must. Thankfully I found a petticoat tutorial in a Craftsy class  – The Flirty Day Dress* (which, incidentally, is another wonderful vintage-style sewing pattern that lives in my stash).

You can find Butterick 5209 here.

Butterick 6049

A very vintage-inspired little number that I hope to sew very soon. I think it will be perfect to wear teamed with a wide-brimmed hat, large retro sunglasses while looking gorgeous sipping Pimms by the pool on a hot Queensland day!

You can find Butterick 6049 here.

Colette Patterns – Ceylon

Not strictly vintage, or even retro, but there's something about this dress that seems to scream “Cuba” at me — I have no idea why! I adore this dress's shape, style and all its little details. I think this dress might be a little challenging – especially to get a good, professional finish, but Colette Patterns give great instructions and there's nothing quite like trying new techniques and extending your repertoire.

You can find Colette's Ceylon here.

Simplicity 1590

As I've previously mentioned, I love nipped-in, structured waists that accentuate my curves without making me look cheap. This blouse pattern really appeals to me, and I think it would be perfect for the office teamed with a sweet Erst Wilder brooch. Cute!

You can find Simplicity 1590 here.

Christine Haynes – Sassy Librarian Blouse*

Another vintage-style blouse, Christine Haynes's blouse has gorgeous release pleats, not darts, which feature strongly in fashion from the 1940s. Her Craftsy class is easy to follow and her pattern offers variations that you can use to customise your piece.

You can find Christine Hayne's Craftsy class here.

So there you have it – my 5 Fave Retro Sewing Patterns currently in my stash or on my wishlist. What are yours? Have you sewed any of these patterns and want to share your experiences (or reviews) – go right ahead and share it with us below. If you've written a review on your blog, feel free to link to the post too!


Celebrating Vintage all month long!

Celebrating Vintage all month long!

This month on Make + Do I'm focussing on all things vintage and retro. Truthfully, I wasn't really into vintage until fairly recently. For me, shopping at op-shops and charity stores was more out of necessity than style. In fact, I rather hated being dragged along by mum to buy ‘new' clothes in stinky old secondhand stores.

But something changed. I realised that vintage silhouettes suit my short, curvy figure far more than the current trends of simple, straight shifts and androgynous fashion. I've always like structural pieces, such as jackets, nipped in waists and v-necklines. I took up sewing for a number of reasons, but first and foremost was a desire to wear unusual, exciting pieces that flattered my body. I live in regional Queensland, so most fashions are geared towards younger, skinnier, perkier women than I. They make me look like a $2 hooker with my boobs hanging out. Not a good look, really.

I think retro and vintage style is fun. It's exciting, and flattering and feminine, and it celebrates my curves in all the right ways!

I'm also at the age where my childhood toys and tableware are considered vintage and retro, so the nostalgia that comes with discoveries at my local Vinnies always brings a smile to my face.

So this month I'm talking to the gorgeous Evelyn Wood from Evelyn Wood Vintage Fashion House about her stunning and authentic reproduction vintage pieces. I'm also chatting with Rachel Pilcher-Wilson about Ruby Caravan – a retro vintage caravan pop-up coffee shop that I simply adore. I'll be sharing some of my favourite vintage sources, bloggers, Instagrammers and inspirations.

And to top it all off, I'm running my first ever giveaway – I'll release details shortly!

To get you in the mood for all things vintage I've started some Vintage Inspiration Boards on Pinterest. You can follow my Vintage Fashion Pinterest board board or my Vintage Tableware Pinterest board to get some retro inspiration. I'll also be instagramming my way through the month so I'd love to see you there!


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