Why is nobody talking about the sheer amount of clothes that we have in our wardrobes?
In the UK alone, the average adult has 118 items of clothing in their wardrobes (WRAP). In our last blog we explored how with just 33 items in your wardrobe you could potentially make 25,176 unique outfits. Less is more.
But this brand new report from WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) has revealed some stunning statistics about the obsession we have with fashion. Some of them do not make for good reading, however there is a ray of hope.
New WRAP Report 2022: We Need to Stop Buying So Many New Clothes
So what if we have 118 items in our wardrobe, right? We'll get round to wearing it at some point in the year. Except, 26% of these 118 items were unworn for AT LEAST a year.
Many of our wardrobes are bursting at the seams. In the UK, on average:
- Each adult owns 15 pairs of socks, and we have two pairs we barely wear
- We also have about 15 bits of underwear, again with two pairs we shun
- Most adults have 12 T-Shirts each, with three relegated to the back of the wardrobe
- We have nine shirts each, three of which do not see the light of day
In total, WRAP found that there are 1.6 billion items of unworn clothes in UK wardrobes.
The report went on to explain why exactly people chose to stop wearing certain clothes.
There were a few answers, including saving items for those special occasions.
Other items were shoved to the back of the wardrobe because they just didn't fit properly.
The final reason was that while we like an item, it's maybe not our favourite and so we just don't get around to wearing it as much.
More, More, More!
And yet, despite the fact that we have so many clothes in our wardrobes, we're buying even more.
Four in five 18-24s buy clothes at least once a month. On average, the UK's average monthly spend is £76.53 per person on clothing accounting for the whole population.
The total? The UK adult population spends an estimated £4 billion on clothing.
The Circular Ray of Hope
It's not all doom and gloom. While we do have a big problem on our hands with fashion waste, there were some signs of progress to a more circular economy.
Read More: Why is the Circular Economy Important?
We might be slowly moving away from throwaway fashion. Between 2013 and 2021, WRAP reports, "the predicted length of time people in the UK kept a range of clothes increased."
We are keeping jeans, T-Shirts and dresses for longer, even for another whole year on average when it comes to denim.
But crucially we tend to keep preloved, second hand and vintage fashion longer than brand new items. The WRAP report says that we keep these garments a year and a half longer than new off the pegs clothes on average.
This is potentially good news because it means all round we are learning to hold onto to our clothes rather than turning to trends. We are also perhaps better able to repair and alter them when necessary.
Embracing second hand and vintage clothes is also great because of how used designer or branded clothing can be more affordable. In the long term it means you can save money buying preloved because you don't have to replace your clothes as much.
But the report does make quite clear that the whole industry has work to do so that we can move towards a more circular economy. WRAP point out some of the new partnerships, marketplaces, rental services from some of the leading department stores, supermarkets and online retailers.
After all, as the numbers point out, we still have upwards of 100 items in our wardrobes on average. Which means that in total we have £4 billion worth of unworn clothing doing absolutely nothing when it could be keeping people warm at the very least, or just better loved by someone else.
What Can We Do to Save Our Wardrobes
We are already seeing more people turn to second hand and vintage fashion to fulfil their fashion fix. While it is more responsible to get your retail therapy by supporting your local second hand, charity or independent shops, we are still buying more than we need to.
It might be helpful to do a bit of a wardrobe audit and to consider what you really need versus what you saw scrolling through your Facebook timeline.
Other people might find embracing a wellbeing wardrobe or a capsule wardrobe more useful.
Either way we need to come to terms with what actually happens to our online returns and the clothes that we send off to the charity shop. The truth is that our clothes can end up across the world, in landfill sites and in second hand clothing markets choked up with poor quality clothing. They can even end up in deserts, in delicate ecosystems and on beaches with polyester clothing leaching microplastics into our seas.
When we realise that a fast fashion haul directly impacts people and planet, then we can start to dial back and instead hit back at the brands who are responsible for ensuring that the fashion industry can actually meet the reductions in greenhouse gases needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.
Catherine David, Director Collaboration and Change WRAP said “The clothing and textiles sector has the fourth largest environmental impact on the planet and that’s why WRAP is working with the UK’s biggest retailers and brands to address this through the ambitious targets of Textiles 2030. Many people are already buying and selling pre-loved clothing, but our study shows the huge financial and environmental opportunity that is unworn in all our wardrobes.
“Textiles 2030 signatories are already beginning to introduce resale and rental business models, but these alongside repair models must become widespread if the fashion industry is to begin to achieve the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.”
Here are 10 Quick Fire Tips to Help Forge a 'Fashion Revolution'
- Shop second hand and vintage where possible.
- Embrace a smaller wardrobe; try Project 333 or another capsule wardrobe challenge.
- Do a wardrobe audit and work out how make use of all your clothes to make new outfits.
- Enjoy wearing your special occasionwear more often, time's precious
- Work in the fashion industry? Join Fashion Declares.
- Don't like something or it doesn't fit? Sell it to someone who will love it. Try these alternatives to Depop, eBay and Vinted.
- Boycott greenwashing brands that are not making an effort to look after people and planet.
- Try a clothes swap.
- Learn a new skill; take up a sewing or mend/repair class.
- Buy more naturally 'eco friendly' materials, i.e non-plastic to reduce the amount of microfibres that get inevitably washed into the sea
What shocked you most about the new 2022 WRAP report? Leave a comment below.