HOW TO CREATE YOUR OWN SUSTAINABLE, TRANSEASONAL WARDROBE
As the warmer season starts to show some signs of drawing to a close (or perhaps just failing to arrive for some) it’s natural that we start thinking about our autumn/winter wardrobes.
The fashion industry has trained us to believe that clothing is seasonal. Summer dresses, winter dresses, end of season sales, new seasons collections. New season? New colours!
Once upon a time the fashion industry was divided into two seasons - Spring/Summer (SS) and Autumn/Winter (AW). Nowadays some fashion businesses produce an astonishing 52 micro-seasons in a year! Hang on, what? Did something crazy just happen to the weather? Well, yes it did. But the fashion industry certainly isn’t responding to the change in weather patterns (it’s actually contributing to it). What really happened was the fashion industry wanted to find new ways to make more money and so on the 8th day the fashion companies declared; let there be as many seasons as we desire.
The truth is most clothing doesn’t need to be seasonal. This is especially true for those of us who live in temperate climates. For us, TRANSEASONAL WARDROBES are a viable option. There will always be some items of clothing that are reserved for the warmest and coldest of days and it’s nice to have a few items that you look forward to bringing out at different times of the year but in general the majority of our wardrobe could and should be worn year round. How is this more sustainable? It’s simple - less clothes. By having less clothes we can invest in better clothes. Clothes that are made from better materials, using better environmental and social processes. Clothes we can cherish. Clothes that are made to last.
In this blog post we are going to explore some of our favourite ways to make our wardrobes more transeasonal.
First up, probably the most obvious and what this post largely revolves around...
I can still clearly remember getting an EziBuy catalogue in the mail at the ripe age of about 13 and staring in wonder at how they were marketing the wearing of two singlets at once as a ‘look’. Two sets of straps….. whaaaat? (I’m sure EziBuy didn’t invent layering but I was a young person living in New Zealand in the 1990s so that’s when and how the idea arrived to me).
Layering is now a widely accepted practice and no longer just a fashion trend. It is better to layer 2-3 lighter weight items than fewer, bulkier layers. This is because the air trapped between each layer of clothing acts as insulation keeping you warmer. Therefore more layers = more insulation. A transeasonal wardrobe will consist mostly of light to mid weight garments that easily layer, a few base layers for cooler weather and even fewer outer layers for really cold weather. Fabric choice is important for this to work effectively, which leads me to my next point…
Choose your fibre wisely
Linen, Hemp and Tencel™
It may be a surprise to learn that linen and hemp are good winter fabric choices. Linen is heralded as one of the most comfortable fabrics in hot weather and it’s true, however it is also a great winter fabric. Linen has thermoregulating properties which means its fibres expand and retract in response to temperature changes. This means it helps to keep air flowing in the summer and trap heat closer to your body in winter. Hemp and Tencel™ have the same thermoregulating properties.
Our favourite way to wear hemp, linen and Tencel™ in winter is to layer them over a merino (or other non-cotton base layer) or under cosy woollen vests or jumpers and a quality jacket. Your summer shirt can easily be added as another layer over a long-sleeve tee or even a dress with a jumper and/or coat on top.
If you wear wool it’s an obvious choice for winter. No other fibre can really compare to the insulating ability of wool. Merino leggings and tops really are the ideal way to transform your lighter weight garments to winter wear. In addition, merino fabric is naturally stretchy making it ideal for tighter fitting base layers without the need for adding elastane or other synthetic stretch.
Knitted jumpers look super cosy and they can be but you still need to layer as handknits will let more air through due to their naturally looser weave (compared to machine knits which have a much tighter structure). Perhaps contrary to expectation, your finer knits on smaller needles will be warmer than your bigger, chunkier knits.
Look for woollen yarn and products that prioritise animal welfare, they should ideally be able to communicate to you exactly where their wool is sourced.
Cotton tends to hold moisture so it can make you feel cold and damp. You can still wear cotton in winter but it’s best suited as a mid-layer and not as a base layer. Better base layers are merino, hemp, linen, Tencel™ or silk which have superior heat regulating properties.
We don’t tend to advocate synthetic fibres as they are produced from a non-renewable resource (fossil fuels) and they continuously leech micro plastics into the environment (including the recycled ones). In addition, although some polyester fabrics may keep you toasty they can also make you smelly as they have a tendency to trap odours and they generally don’t work so well in warmer weather. Remember, more washing = more energy use.
Given we are a fabric and yarn store with a passion for sustainability it is natural that we have quite a few options when it comes to more sustainable fabrics that are ideal for transeasonal dressing. Here are some of our current favourites:
Explore a more ‘sustainable’ style
We love to see people being more free with their clothing choices and less concerned by arbitrary fashion or body ‘rules’ as this also opens up your outfit options. So what if your dress shows your bra straps, why do we feel the need to hide them anyway? Socks and sandals? Hell yes! Leggings under culottes? Rock it! Before you choose any new item of clothing to buy or make, try to imagine how you would wear it in different temperatures rather than just the one it is being marketed for.
Looser style clothing is definitely ‘trending’ but there are good reasons why this particular fashion trend is worth taking a closer look at. For one, looser styles allow for more layering options. We don’t mean you need to fully embrace the oversized look if this isn’t your thing but simply wearing your clothes with a little more ease so they can fit a layer underneath instantly means you can wear it for longer. Secondly looser or adjustable clothing (we’re looking at you elastic waists) that allows for some body size fluctuation means your clothing will be more comfortable and versatile.
Layering isn’t just for torsos. Whilst it is true that we lose the majority of our body heat through our torso, every area of our body is vulnerable to heat loss. Anyone who embraced skinny jeans (i.e. almost everyone) must be familiar with how cold those things are in winter! One layer of skin tight cotton over your legs? No thanks. Instead try looser legged trousers that you can layer something underneath and consider fabric blends other than cotton.
We love our Mara Linen Blend for trousers and skirts with its clever blend of linen and Tencel™ and its beautiful drape. Pictured above in colour Puff is one of our favourite transeasonal trouser patterns, the Zero Waste Block Pant (also includes a skirt version).
That being said tighter fitting styles can still be ‘winterised’. A slim fitting dress can be worn with a woollen vest or jumper, even a long flowing ‘summer’ maxi dress can be given the winter treatment with a cosy jumper, leggings and boots. Just remember that you ideally want the layer closest to your skin to be in a fabric other than cotton to provide maximum comfort and warmth in colder weather.
Use accessories with purpose
Whilst it is NOT actually true that you lose the majority of your body heat through your head, hats do still keep you warmer especially the woolly hand-knitted variety. As a particularly sweaty human I often find myself wearing woollen hats and lighter weight tops in winter which keeps me at a more comfortable temperature than wearing a bulky top and no hat. The added bonus is that you don’t have to wash your hair as much. The risk is that you end up stuck in an incredibly hot pub with a woollen hat on your head which you dare not remove.
Scarves, gloves, socks, ankle warmers, knee warmers (am I the only person who suffers from cold knee syndrome?) - every area of your body provides an opportunity to lose heat so the more areas you cover, the warmer you will feel. Your neck is particularly vulnerable to heat loss as hot air rises from your torso and out of your clothing so covering this area is a good idea.
The Sophie Scarf by Petite Knit is one we are loving for keeping the chills at bay and it's not too bulky so a great accessory for year round. Shown here is the Sophie Scarf knit with our Erika Knight Studio Linen in the colour pyjama. One skein was just the right amount for the longer version with minimal yarn waste. It would also be divine in our beautifully soft BC Garn Bio Balance with 55% organic wool content for that added warmth.
Shoes - having cold, wet feet is just plain miserable. Invest in quality footwear and wear weather appropriate shoes. If you are looking for more sustainable shoe options we’d recommend checking out www.goodonyou.eco who rate a range of clothing and footwear brands according to their ethics and sustainability.
Invest in vests
Possibly my favourite layering item is the not-so-humble-anymore vest. It’s having a resurgence in popularity which I suspect is largely due to its pure practicality. Warm torso, airy armpits, freely moving arms under jackets? What’s not to love?
My favourite way to make vests is to knit them. Vests are quick and satisfying to knit and perfect for novice knitters who want to dip their toes in but still create a fully functional garment.
Invest in a really good coat
Whether you make it or buy it, investing in a quality coat is definitely worth it. There are a lot of coats out there that don’t actually keep you warm - leave them on the shelves.
Wearing a coat that actually functions gives you more freedom in what you wear under it. This is a lesson I learned quickly whilst living in London. I finally invested in my first proper coat and realised that in the middle of a British winter I was warmer than I had ever been during a milder New Zealand winter.
Warm, quality winter coats are expensive, woollen winter coats even more so. This makes them a long-term investment item, definitely not something to be bought on impulse or based on current trends. The main goals of your coat should be to keep the water and wind out. This is one area where we would say that buying a coat made from a synthetic material if it was going to out-perform a natural alternative would be worth it. Provided you love it, wear it and keep it in circulation.
Wrapping It Up
Transeasonal dressing is a viable and more sustainable dressing option for many and particularly those who live in temperate climates. For us ‘seasonal fashion’ is largely a consumer marketing tool created by the fashion industry. These are some of our favourite ways to make our wardrobes more transeasonal:
- learning to layer effectively
- choosing good quality thermoregulating fibres that perform in warm and cool weather conditions- here are some of our favourites
- veering away from trends and considering styles that lend themselves to transeasonal dressing
- considering how we would wear an item of clothing in multiple weather conditions before purchasing or making
- paying attention to our accessories and using them to create added warmth
- investing in quality outer wear garments that are fit for purpose
‘Buy less. Choose well. Make it last.’ - Vivienne Westwood