Sustainable fashion needs to work for everyone

Carla Johnson, Senior Circular Economy Officer, ECC 18th May 2022

Over 60% of people in the UK are currently classed as overweight or obese (Houses of Commons Library), and many of us want to access good quality clothing that help make the world a better place. However, many “sustainable” brands based in the UK still regularly only cater up to a size 16 or 18. For people with larger bodies, who want to support sustainable clothing companies that work to circular principles, even the simple act of buying outfits can feel like a minefield.

Colourful patterned clothes on a rail
Buying inclusive sustainable fashion can be challenging!

Here are some ideas for how to love your body and love sustainable fashion too:

1. Buy pre-loved items from brands that you know and like

This is far more eco-friendly than buying new items, even if they are from “sustainable” brand. Buying a new item, regardless of its green credentials, requires a great deal of natural resources. For example, it takes 2,720 litres of water to make just one new cotton T-shirt (Vogue)!

Red haired woman browsing clothing rail
Browsing pre-loved clothing sites and shops is a great way to find sustainable fashion.

Buying pre-loved clothing is a great way to find clothes that fit without the resource intensity of buying new. Apps like eBay, Vinted and Facebook are great for finding brands that fit you, as well as selling groups that focus on inclusive themes. Personally, I love keeping an eye out for Boden tall jeans on pre-loved sites because I know they fit me well and I’ll be getting great quality garments for a fraction of the original cost.

2. Support size-inclusive sustainable businesses

If you find a business that you feel takes a sustainable approach to fashion, support them! Buy from them if you can afford to (because we all know the costs of sustainable clothing are prohibitive for some). If nothing else, engage with them on social media — a like or share takes a matter of seconds but can help a good business reach more customers.

Woman browsing clothing rail in bright, white boutique.
Found an inclusive sustainable brand you love? Support them however you can!
 

3. Challenge companies that don’t support size inclusivity

The waste and climate crises aren’t going to be solved by average height people wearing sizes 8-16 alone. If a brand or company is making bold claims about their approach to environmental issues but are missing out a large section of clothing sizes, ask them why!

Enquire about when we can expect to see their full range of sizes. Include a link to this blog post if you like. Comment on their social media accounts or email their customer service department (or both!). Again, anyone can do this — you don’t have to have a larger body to challenge the status quo.

View of hand with pink fingernails browsing ASOS shopping site.
Challenge brands that don't offer inclusive options.
 

4. If all else fails…just buy the darn clothes.

It is genuinely incredibly difficult to find clothes outside of straight sizes, especially if you need clothes that fit into more than one niche (plus size/petite, plus size/maternity etc). I still get a twitchy eye when I think about trying to find a sustainably sourced tall, plus size, maternity occasion dress for a friend’s wedding – it was just one niche too many. I also find it almost impossible to find tailored trousers that fit.

If you’ve tried other sustainable options and aren’t having any luck, you still deserve to wear clothes that fit you. So buy what fits. But wear it as much as you can, repair it, take care of it, lend it to others, sell it, or give it away. The longer any item of clothing stays out of the bin, the better.

Box of donated clothes.
Donate, sell or pass on clothes to extend their lifespan.

Note: I have focussed this blog around experiences of buying plus size, tall clothing as this is something I regularly experience. I am aware that there is much more to be said around accessing sustainable/eco fashion for people of other sizes outside of mainstream size ranges, adaptive clothing for disabled people, and extended sizes of menswear as well as many other groups of people. If you would like to add a blog on this please contact: [email protected]