Five Ways I’m Trying to Increase Sustainability in My Femme Style

My identity and presentation as a femme is tremendously important to me. Femme is not just a way of dressing, but a way of sharing who I am with the world. It’s an inherently queer identity and my femme style is a way of living in and embodying my queerness every day.

However, like many of us in recent years, I’ve also been thinking more about my impact on the planet and ways to increase sustainability in my life. So let’s talk about five ways I’m trying to express my femme joy in a more sustainable way.

Acknowledgement and disclaimer: Before I dive in, I want to acknowledge that to a certain extent many sustainability practices (including those I have listed here) require privileges that many people do not have access to, including money and time. It is also not ultimately possible for individuals to save the planet – this must come from corporations and governments. This list is not a prescription or a set of instructions, and you know best what is possible for your life. This is simply what works for me. I’m also far from perfect and frequently fail to live up to the high standards I set for myself. No ethical consumption under capitalism, etc.

Breaking Up with Fast Fashion

Fast fashion – brands that churn out massive quantities of ultra-cheap, throwaway clothing – is a huge contributor to damaging the planet. It also exploits workers and harms animals. For all these reasons, whenever I have a reasonable choice, I’m determined to no longer buy new items from fast fashion brands.

If you buy fast fashion because it is accessible to you, in terms of pricing or available sizes, please don’t feel bad even for a second. That’s not what this section is about. What I’m talking about here is the companies and culture that encourage unnecessary impulse buys, large “hauls” of things that will be worn once or twice (or never worn), and fashions that change overnight.

Buying (and Selling/Donating) Second Hand

I love getting new clothes and shoes, but I actually very rarely buy anything apart from underwear brand new any more. My town has a large number of charity and second-hand shops, and I often find nice pieces at bargain prices there. I also spend far too much time browsing the Vinted app and watch-listing things, a small fraction of which I’ll eventually buy. My favourite recent finds include a fabulous leather jacket and some Lucy & Yak rainbow dungarees.

I just had a major clear-out of clothes I no longer wear. I’m going to sell on a few bits, and the rest I’ll either pass on to friends or donate to charity. That way, they’re not either languishing in the back of my wardrobe or creating more waste, and can instead be worn and enjoyed by someone else.

Of course, second-hand clothing isn’t totally without its issues (delivery emissions when you buy or sell online being the obvious one), but it’s one way to reduce clothing waste and reduce purchases of new items.

Buying More Versatile Styles

I love clothes, shoes, and accessories I can wear multiple ways. For that reason, I’ve started looking for more versatile items when I shop. One of my favourite dresses at the moment is a simple one that I can dress down with leggings and a cardigan, make playful with fun tights and stompy boots, or dress way up with a petticoat, a waist belt and heels for a night out.

For me, part of the fun of femme style is creating different looks by mixing and matching the same items in different ways.

I also recently got this gorgeous green multiway dress from IDENTITY LINGERIE, a “slow fashion” brand that follows zero-waste practices. It’s wearable in so many different ways that it feels a bit like a new dress every time I put it on. The multiway bridesmaid dress trend has been popular for bridal parties for some time, but I think they’re a great choice for anyone looking to get more mileage out of one garment.

Buying Recycled and Upcycled Materials

Materials is a really complicated one when it comes to clothing, and there are no easy answers here. It’s also very, very hard to totally avoid unsustainable manmade fibres such as polyester, nylon, and viscose. Some natural materials, such as cotton and bamboo, also present issues. The more sustainable alternatives can be expensive and hard to find, not to mention the confusion of wading through the muddy and often conflicting information out there.

One thing I’ve started trying to do, though, is look for more recycled and upcycled materials. This is a great way to support the “rescue” of materials that would otherwise end up in landfill.

For example, I recently reviewed a range of polyurethane (PU) leather accessories. PU is, in itself, pretty terrible environmentally. However, that particular brand uses entirely from recycled materials that would otherwise have created waste. I’ve also tried some gorgeous eco-friendly lingerie pieces over the years, some of which are amongst the most worn in my collection.

Switching to Eco-Friendly Bathing & Beauty Products

Glitter is, of course, a staple of my personal femme style. But the wrong glitter products can also be hugely harmful to the environment. For that reason, you will only ever find eco-friendly biodegradable glitter in my makeup bag.

I’ve tried to switch to more eco-friendly bathing and beauty products recently, too, including shampoo bars, mineral sunscreen, and products made without palm oil. This is in addition to my policy of not buying anything that was tested on animals.

What are your favourite eco-friendly and sustainable femme essentials, friends?

One thought on “Five Ways I’m Trying to Increase Sustainability in My Femme Style

  1. This isn’t a massively helpful comment for a lot of people, but I save up and wait for https://theemperorsoldclothes.co.uk/ to have a sale, because they make dresses to measure and you can supply your own fabric. So I have two ridiculous 50s dresses in silly goth prints that I know are pretty much unique, and they were absolutely worth spending three months each not buying anything but the essentials.

    I also follow Aja Barber on Instagram and Patreon- her book, Consumed, and Patreon writing have helped me try to fix some of my attitudes towards shopping, and the pursuit of stuff.

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