A Guide To Sustainable Fashion For Australian Plus-Size Shoppers

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As shoppers, we’re told to put our money toward the things that matter to us. If you’re
concerned about the environmental impact of your fashion choices and you have a solid
budget for clothing, you shop sustainable brands. Easy-peasy, right? Kind of, unless you’re a plus-size shopper. If that’s the case, then you’ve likely experienced some trouble finding clothes at all, let alone clothes that reflect your greater values
As plus-size people, many of us have spent years just taking what we can get when it comes to fashion. The scarce availability of clothes in our size has meant we’re often thrilled when fast fashion brands extend their size ranges — and frustrated when those extended sizes aren’t available in-store, are extremely limited, or quietly get discontinued within months.  But we’re here to remind you that plus-size people deserve better. We deserve access to all kinds of fashion, to be able to buy clothing in our sizes at all budgets and to shop sustainably and put our money where our values are.
So for those of us who do want to shop more sustainably, where can we start? Sustainable fashion is where conscious consumption and environmental activism meet your wardrobe. This means putting the environment first, giving a hoot about how workers are treated, and not creating garments designed to be bought very cheaply and thrown away after a few wears. 
Shopping sustainably requires a bit of a mindset shift when we’re all so used to fast fashion: let go of the bargain, relinquish the constant churn of new items, and embrace the slow fashion way. 
If you’re in a position to buy sustainable clothes that are priced in line with the labour, materials, and best practices that produced the piece, we salute you. We know that when you’re plus-size, every fashion decision requires way more research, so we’re here for you with a few ideas to get you started on your sustainable fashion journey.
Ahead are our tips and tricks for creating a more sustainable wardrobe as a plus-size shopper.

Consider where your clothes are coming from

If we’re talking about how fashion affects the environment, it’s important to think about the materials that go into your clothes. Is it made of natural fibres? How long does it take to grow the plants the material is made of? Does it take a lot of land or water? It can be hard to suss out all this info when you’re just trying to find a cute dress or some new work outfits, but we recommend doing a little digging on the websites of brands — usually, those who are doing it well are gonna let you know.
We’re big fans of linen — it’s designed to last, it’s a low-waste production process, and its base materials are grown using less water and pesticides than others. Sustainability aside, linen keeps you cool in summer, it drapes over your body like you’re some kind of classical deity, and the brands we’re about to introduce are making it cute as hell.
Golden the Label (sizes 6–28) has an impressive range of linen tops, dresses and jumpsuits designed to fit a range of bodies. Their colours pop way beyond what you might expect from natural fibres, and their clothes are made to last. Ranging up to a size 28, we love the extra length this label goes to for inclusive sizing.
If you’re looking for something more high-end, ‘values-led’ brand Sanct (sizes 8–22) has you covered for linen and other certified sustainable materials. The styles are easy to dress up or down, and the brand's sustainable materials policy covers every piece of the garment; even the sewing thread and buttons. Now that’s commitment.
A repeat offender for synthetic materials is underwear, and Underwear for Humanity (sizes 6–26) is the answer you’ve been looking for. The brand focuses on waste, working conditions, materials, and social justice. It even has a system for recycling undies when they’re at the end of their useful life. When you buy undies from Underwear for Humanity, they donate a pair to someone in need. All this and, most importantly, they’re ridiculously comfy.

Create a capsule wardrobe

You’ve heard of the capsule wardrobe — it’s a simplified collection of key pieces that can be mixed, matched, and styled in a bunch of different ways. Instead of your wardrobe overflowing with clothes, you have just a few, and they’re really versatile. This minimalist approach to style goes hand-in-hand with sustainable fashion.
To build a capsule wardrobe, local small designer Joolz (sizes 4–36) is a fun place to start. We particularly love her block-coloured smock and sack dresses — and they have pockets! Everything from Joolz is made in limited quantities and uses deeply considered patterns designed with curvy bods in mind. 
Capsule wardrobes rely on high-quality basics. Sydney’s Citizen Wolf (literally every size) makes carbon-negative t-shirts to order using its ‘magic fit’ system that uses your height, weight, age (and bra size, if you wear one). There’s not a measuring tape or a hellish sizing chart in sight. All this effort to get the sizing right cuts down on shipping unnecessary returns, and Citizen Wolf makes every piece to order. By hand. How’s that for intentional?

Keep the good stuff in circulation

Okay, so you’ve spent some hard-earned cash on high-quality pieces, but you’re just done with wearing something and it's time to change it up. Or, maybe you don’t quite have the budget for high-end stuff (let’s be real, lots of us don’t!), but are keen to put your dollars towards preloved sustainable fashion. Never fear! The resale market for high-quality pieces is strong. There are buy and sell groups on Facebook to hit up, as well as Depop and Etsy. 
There are also a few IRL options, depending on your city. For plus size babes in Victoria, allow us to cheekily recommend A Plus Market (we created it!) We’re all about sustainability, and we’re coming at it from both directions. We showcase local designers and hire out stalls to people who want to resell their preloved clothes over a size 16. Keeping the good stuff in circulation also helps makes it accessible to those who can’t quite afford it brand-new. It’s a trickle-down wardrobe!

Make your own

If you’re handy with a needle and thread (or sewing machine, more likely), you can make your own clothes for the ultimate sustainable option. Source some gorgeous fabric from a retailer like Nerida Hansen, who works with artists to create some of the most exciting prints we’ve laid eyes on. Making clothes in your own home means there's no shipping miles to offset, and you know exactly what goes into the production of the piece.
If you’re searching for inspiration, Alusha (@full.fat.milk on Instagram) will get you there. She shares her many gorgeous ‘makes’, all using fabric with incredible prints. Her collaboration with Nerida Hansen means you can even make some of her own designs (sizes 16–26). The patterns are clearly labelled with the required skill level, and ones that are well-suited to beginners.
Muna & Broad (all sizes, every single one) sells expertly drafted sewing patterns that include many of the styles you’ll find on the sustainable brand sites. Their base range is made for a 40–64” bust and 41.5–71.5” hip, but this is just the starting point. M&B will grade up its patterns to any size for free. 
And if you make it yourself, you’ll get to feel smug when people compliment you on the perfect fit, as you smile and intone, ‘Oh this? I whipped it up myself.’
Sam and Chloe are co-organisers of the A Plus Market in Melbourne, Victoria.
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