With words like ‘outdoor dining’ floating in front of us like carrots on sticks, it’s hard not to picture ourselves, sun shining down, sitting outside somewhere in a fabulous new outfit.
But with over 225,000 tonnes of clothing being dumped in landfills every year in Ireland, it might be better to close those Boohoo tabs for now.
According to Oxfam, it would take someone 13 years to drink the amount of water needed to make one t-shirt and one pair of jeans. As for the time it takes for those old leggings you threw out last week to decompose? Around 20 to 200 years, according to Fashion Revolution.
If you really are sick of your current clothes, there are plenty of ways to ethically update your wardrobe in time for summer. You can take some inspiration from TikTok and upcycle your old outfits, maybe adding patches to a boring denim jacket or cutting an old dress into a new top.
If your WFH-fatigued pockets really are burning, you can also shop second-hand.
“Second-hand items are half the price and you can get something, like a designer handbag, that you’ve always dreamed of without the guilt,” says Louise Kavanagh of Sass and the City online vintage shop.
“Sometimes they can be a little depleted or have some wear and tear, but they’re usually really high quality. You can buy an item for nothing and mend it, and end up with an amazing piece.”
Louise is a huge fan of the online Irish charity shop collective Thriftify, recently purchasing a dress from the site and upcycling it into three different outfits.
Many of my friends have also found amazing pieces in charity shops around Ireland over the years; many that didn’t need any mending at all — Burberry trench coats with €50 price tags and €3 Ralph Lauren button-ups.
Inspired, and no good with a sewing needle, I took to Thriftify to see if I could find anything similar.
Thriftify is an Irish start-up that was founded in 2018 by Rónán Ó Dálaigh, Rahil Nazir, Timur Negru and Emily Beere. The retailer works with more than 90% of Ireland’s charity shops, such as St Vincent De Paul, Madra and the Jack & Jill Foundation, helping them to facilitate more than 2m donations so far.
The site sells everything from books and games to gorgeous clothing pieces, which are usually in excellent condition.
As I began to sift through the fashion section, I kept some of Louise’s advice for charity shopping in mind.
“Shop with a vision. Know what you’re looking for — for example, a warm jumper — and keep your style in mind to make it easier to sieve through everything,” she says.
“It can be overwhelming otherwise and you might end up buying things you don’t like or need, like some crazy patterned blouse that will probably end up in your own charity bag in three months’ time. Give every purchase some thought.”
I wanted to look for two different outfits — one that I could wear during a day trip to the sea in some far-off land, where you can have a pint sitting in front of you ready to sip on every time someone utters the words ‘wet pub’; and another in case we ever learn how to socialise again and can sit around a table reading menus from actual books. Laminated even! Imagine!
It’s quite easy to filter the clothing section on Thriftify. I was able to put in my size, then the more realistic size I probably am a year into a pandemic, as well as the type of item I wanted. I looked through dozens of dresses, skirts and tops of all different styles and materials, which had been donated to charity shops all around Ireland.
From the photos, everything looked to be in perfect condition and many items even had tags on them. It’s a little difficult to gauge the fit of the pieces as they aren’t modelled. However, almost every piece has the brand included in the title, so you can look up the item online if needs be.
Louise also advised me to buy plain pieces to start off, so I looked for solid colours for at least one of the items in each outfit. As I didn’t trust my sizing to successfully order a pair of jeans or trousers, I went with a trusty midi skirt and a short sleeve, high-neck, black top from Asos for the evening outfit.
The skirt I originally had in my basket sold out, as there is only one of everything on the site, but soon after I found another silk, unbranded one for just €8. I was shocked to see that the top, which still had the tags on it, was also just €8.
I was more daring with the daytime outfit, going for a €5 denim skirt that I just knew wouldn’t fit properly, especially when I saw it was from Primark. It seemed like the perfect base for a summer outfit if the odds did work in my favour, however. I paired it with a burnt orange, roll-neck, long-sleeved top from Nasty Gal. A steal at just €6.
When it came to shoes, the options weren’t as generous, but this is the usual expectation for a size six. I ended up going for a pair of Primark boots I had seen before on a friend, which definitely cost her more than the €8 they put me down, as well as a pair of yellow suede, slingback, chunky heels from Dunnes Stores for just a tenner.
With a €50 budget, I used up my last few euro to add a purple wool scarf to my basket.
If I had money to spare, I easily could have spent it on the dozens of accessories on offer on the site.
The checkout process was simple. Even though the items were coming from four different places, everything was in one order, just like any other shopping site. There was even an option to make a donation to the charities, 100% of which goes straight to them.
Just two days later, I confusingly opened the door to two green packages sitting outside. Seeing as it takes so long to get anything delivered these days, I presumed it would take weeks for the outfits to turn up. But there they were, in all their taped-up glory.
Shockingly, everything fit perfectly, apart from the second pair of shoes. The top was a lot nicer than it looked online, with a zipper detail at the back, and the skirt was surprisingly flattering.
Even the denim skirt fit and the boots looked like they hadn’t even been worn. The only item, bar the shoes, without tags was the midi skirt, but it was still in perfect condition.
While I might be bringing the orange top to get the wide sleeves taken off soon, everything else is sitting pretty in my wardrobe, patiently waiting for that outdoor pint. This sustainability month, consider me a charity shop conversion.
Shop for your own eco-friendly looks at www.thriftify.ie