As I stare into my wardrobe just days away from winter, I’m feeling uninspired. And a little cold.
Like many of us, I’m trying to reduce spending as the cost of living continues to creep up, but I really want to add some cosy items to my closet.
I spoke to slow fashion stylist Jenna Flood from Melbourne, and fashion and textiles lecturer from RMIT Rebecca Van Amber, for their tips on adding to our winter wardrobes for less.
Second-hand shops, swaps and small but mighty items
If your knee-jerk reaction is to jump online whenever you need something new, Ms Flood says there are more affordable and sustainable ways to secure clothing.
She found her favourite winter coat, a long black trench with removable lining, at an op shop.
“I always get compliments on it and it only cost $20! I have seen similar coats for $500 plus.”
If you are hunting a specific brand, you can use sites like eBay, Depop or Facebook Marketplace, or shops that specialise in high-quality, second-hand gear, recommends Ms Flood.
When buying a jacket, she suggests:
- Making sure the shoulders sit square on your shoulders (unless it’s a drop arm style).
- Making sure the lining doesn’t sag inside and that the sleeves hit the start of your wrist.
- Opting for a classic style that you will wear for years to come.
- Always making sure the stitching is strong with no missed stitches when looking for quality.
Renting is another sustainable option, and something Ms Flood does personally when her wardrobe is feeling a bit stale.
Swapping or borrowing is also a budget-wise way to refresh.
Focus on thickness and layers, not just fabric
Last winter we learnt from Dr Van Amber that it’s the thickness of material that keeps us warm, not so much the type of fabric.
It’s good news, because some winter fabrics like wool can be expensive.
And in some cases, it means we can shop more ethically when it comes to items like puffer jackets, Ms Van Amber says.
“There are ones that are filled with down; they can have ethical issues around how it’s produced — the animals are not always treated fairly.”
She says puffer jackets filled with a polyester fibre are equally as warm if the thickness is the same, and generally cheaper. They may just be a little less lightweight.
Fluffy fabrics are good for keeping the cold out and the warmth in, Ms Flood says.
“Try finding padded items or jackets with a fleecy lining to help keep you warm.
“Make sure your coat has a lining as it helps keep the wind out.”
What to look for when layering
Layering items are worn close to the skin, so if you find wool or polyester itchy, Ms Flood recommends cotton, bamboo or Tencel fabrics.
“Then a polyester or woollen coat can be worn over without itching.”
While thermals don’t sound like a stylish investment, Ms Van Amber says they are comfortable and usually hidden by items layered over the top.
But Ms Van Amber’s favourite layering item is a scarf.
“A scarf is one of the most versatile layering pieces and something you can pick up very inexpensively, even new.
“They look great with jackets, or jumpers, and for working from home or the office.”
Mistakes we make when buying winter clothes
To help with that budget, Ms Flood says to make sure we are buying things we need, not just because they’re on trend.
“We must also remember that we are constantly bombarded with marketing messages that encourage us to buy more.
“Take a step outside this narrative and see what you already have.”
Dr Van Amber says if sourcing something like a winter coat, try it on with jumpers and other items worn underneath.
“A mistake I often make is that I often buy my jacket without thinking about layering things underneath.
“Then it is too small to wear over other bulky items.”
Most importantly, take care of the clothes you buy to make sure they last, says Ms Flood.
“If it’s feeling a bit musty, try hanging outside or giving it a quick steam.”
Washing less means your winter staples will last for years to come — and it’s good for the environment, too.
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