The historic purpose of clothing was to keep us warm and to cover nakedness. Today its primary purpose seems to be fashion and the conspicuous display of wealth and status. People can and do spend thousands and thousands of dollars on clothing every year. But this is totally unnecessary. Simplify.

  • Dress down: Wearing simple, humble, and functional clothing can be an outward statement of simplicity, an expression of one’s opposition to consumer culture. Don’t get sucked into high fashion.
  • Rethink your image: If you are someone who has typically dressed in new and expensive clothing, consider reinventing your image. This can be an exciting journey on the transition to a simpler life.
  • Buy secondhand clothing: Vast quantities of clothing get dropped off at secondhand clothing stores everyday. Second-hand clothing is cheap, cheap, cheap. There is absolutely no need to spend lots of money on clothing.  Furthermore, searching for treasures in secondhand stores is great fun.
  • Dressing simply doesn’t mean giving up style: There is nothing wrong with expressing yourself through what you wear. But you don’t have to spend lots of money on clothes if you dress creatively. Develop your own ‘post-consumerist’ style. Who wants to look ‘brand new’ anyway?
  • Learn how to mend: There is no need to throw out your favourite jeans or t-shirt just because it has developed a tear. Learn how to mend a tear or sew a patch on an elbow. This can give your favourite items character.
  • Make your own: If you are more ambitious, you might even spend some time learning how to sew your own clothes. This can be an exciting and creative experience, as well as one that can save money.
  • Arrange a clothing swap with some friends: Sometimes it’s nice to have a change of clothes in your wardrobe. But this doesn’t necessarily require going shopping. It can be fun to arrange a clothing swap with some friends. One person’s old clothing is another person’s treasure.
  • Beware of cheap department store clothing: It can be tempting to buy the cheapest clothing from department stores, but often it is cheap because of its exploitative manufacturing processes. When in doubt, avoid the purchase.
  • Just imagine: Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent every year in the fashion industry. Just imagine if even half of that money was redirected toward green energy or humanitarian initiatives. We would lose so little and gain so much. Again, how we spend our money is how we vote on what exists in the world.
  • Dressing simply can be liberating: Wearing expensive clothing tends to limit our actions, since we don’t want to get them dirty. When you dress simply, however, you don’t have to think twice about lying down on the grass or doing a spot of gardening. Dress simply and be free.


  1. A minimalist wardrobe purchased from second hand shops can still have you looking fantastic and not begrudge doing the right thing for the planet … Bea johnson of provides a great example to people who are more image focussed than a lot of us greenies…

  2. Why not being a nude during the Summer? It is a natural and we save the energy for making or getting only necessary winter clothes?

  3. Consider washing clothes less often. And never, never, use a dryer – always dry clothes in the open air.
    Not sure about the idea expressed here of not ironing clothes – yes, I minimise ironing and as I hang clothes out to dry I try to remove the creases – but I want to look tidy and express a sense of beauty in my appearance – for me and for those who have to look at me!!

  4. Hi Faerie,
    Also consider Howies

  5. Avoid logos on clothing. Who the hell wants to be a walking corporate advertisement! Not me…

  6. I’ve simplified my clothes by color. More than half my clothes are black and the rest are either brown or an occasional red or green shirt.

    I do sew also, but in a very functional, simple way. I have an old paisley bed-cover that I plan to sew either into a dress or a tablecloth (can’t decide). Around my house, I have a curtain made from an old bed-cover, souvenir dishtowels I buy when I travel that I use on top of dressers and end tables. I realize I’ve diverged, but thinking across categories has been my biggest way to conserve (reuse) which I also enjoy and see as creative.

  7. Shop Savers in the U.S. and Value Village in Canada for second-hand and even new marked-down clothes. It’s where I get ALL my clothes, even coats and work clothes. Several times a year they have 50% off as well.

    Use clothes you will/can no longer wear for pillowcases, patches, creating bags, quilts, chair pads, hats, doll clothes, etc. etc.

  8. Remember not to iron your clothes as well. You save a lot of totally unneccessary energy use, and hence pollution, by cultivating a love of wrinkly clothing…

  9. Clothes which have really reached the end of the line and excess to rag needs are cut into strips and made into plaited ragrugs. One shirt I bought in the early 80′s has just started another 10 years of life this way, think it was opshop to start with too! Old flannelette shirts are particularly comfy, unbelievable how much rug material you get from a single pillowcase too!

  10. I buy second hand as well as Bishopston Trading and Marks and Spencer (in England) because they have a great policy on fair trade and caring for their producers all the way along the line.

    I also make soft sculptures and any scraps or worn out clothes get used to stuff them. Of course you have to be careful with soft toys for under 3s but my daughter (4yrs) has a bunch of cuddly monkies and dolls house toys made from old fabrics. It’s also a great way to get your creative juices flowing! xx

  11. It’s amazing how many ways used clothing and other soft fabrics can be restyled, remodelled, made into something else and otherwise given a new lease of life. It’s quite possible for a piece of fabric to have four or five different uses in its lifetime and to look fresh and interesting each time.

    Anything made of cotton can end its days as a cleaning rag, after which it can simply be composted. Old woollen items are very good for insulation as an end use. Old cagoules can easily be made into good, useful camping bags. And anything that’s made of a dark, breathable material can end its days as a bag or sack for storing potatoes!

  12. I work for Oxfam and have done so for 23 years and I really do feel that when I buy clothes from there I am at least saving the world as well as clothing myself!!!

  13. I have simplified my wardrobe by reducing the number of colours I wear. Makes shopping easier and matching outfits easier. I love the idea of re-purposing clothing and now that I have dusted off my sewing machine I am looking forward to giving it a go. I also have a rule that if it needs to be ironed, I don’t need it ;)

  14. Great point Abbie. I do that too, and its terribly good fun. A creative outlet for me.

  15. I had a marvelous discussion with a co-worker this week about his granddaughter. At 17 months she loves to pick out her own clothes. Since she has a most wonderful and practical mom there is never a problem with her clothes clashing. Her wardrobe consists of pants and tops that are attractive yet practical for a babe on the homestead. How different from those children with more clothes than they can wrap their heads around whose parents are always apologizing for their mismatched outfits.

  16. Along with the theme, there is also the combo of the opp shop and sewing options – making things from what you have found at an opp shop – maybe turning a secondhand dress into a skirt, or adjusting items to fit. This can also be done with items that you may no longer want, or no longer fit into – they can be made into other items.

  17. Wear organic clothing.


  1. Sew 281 – Simpler ways with clothes | Sew it Again - [...] is affirming to yesterday discover the Simplicity Institute in 2012 wrote about a simpler way of dressing which – for simplicity’s ...

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