Sustainable Fabrics Are Good for Your Closet and the Planet—Here Are 3 To Know About

Photo: Getty Images/Melissa Ross
It's great to see brands make grand sustainability pledges that extend to the textiles they manufacture and certain sellers make eco-friendly fashion practices central to their mission. But it’s likewise important for consumers to understand how sustainable fabrics fit into an environmentally conscious wardrobe rather than just take brands' word for it.

Why? Well, put simply, our clothes effect the environment, and often, negatively so. According to the United Nations, the fashion industry is responsible for an estimated 10 percent of global carbon emissions, a type of greenhouse gas emission (GHG), which, in excess, contributes to effects of global warming. And, keep in mind that it's not just fabrics for new clothes that are worth your concern. Ashlee Piper, sustainability expert and author of Give a Sh*t: Do Good. Live Better. Save the Planet, points that many of clothes and accessories end up in a landfill.

To that end, buying secondhand, and using what you already have are the most sustainable fashion practices, but if you do want to refresh your wardrobe, there are options for doing so while still doing right by the planet. For instance, by investing your shopping dollars in brands and products that value environmental concerns, you're sending a message for all other companies to get on board.

Experts In This Article

"Companies are only pushed to make changes when consumer demands shift," says Piper. "Using our purchasing power toward more sustainable options steers companies to create more sustainable options, and while there's plenty of greenwashing that abounds, moving toward a more sustainable, fair, circular fashion industry is good for everyone. We have the power to push and promote that, which is pretty cool." In order to do that, you do know to know what the most sustainable fabrics actually are.

3 of the most sustainable fabrics

Since "eco-friendly," and "sustainable" are unregulated buzzwords, the onus to make sense of them is on the consumer. For Piper, the heart of what constitutes effective sustainability is, again, striving to use what you have and to acquire all else secondhand. But, she does provide guidelines for what to look for in new wares.

"If we're talking about materials specifically, look for anything that's devoid of microplastics and is regenerative in agricultural—meaning the process of growing and harvesting is actually good for the soil and replenishes ecosystems—like certain sustainably and fairly harvested hemps, bamboos, and cottons." she says.

And of course, beyond sticking with sustainable fabrics like the three Piper mentions, it's important to also remember to clearly read product labels. This way, you'll have a better sense of what makes up a particular garment—and also how to wash it once you have it so it stays in tip-top condition for as long as possible. Because, again, longevity of a garment is also a sustainability win.

5 chic buys that'll fill your closet with sustainable fabrics.

1. Ettitude Signature Sateen Short Sleeve PJ Shirt, $56

Ettitude is best known for its smooth, cooling bamboo sheets. The brand has taken its signature CleanBamboo textile and made it into gorgeous, satin-like sleepwear. The crisp, white piping on this shirt is elegant, and it comes in a variety of colorways. I recommend navy for a charmingly nautical vibe.

Shop now: Ettitude Signature Sateen Short Sleeve PJ Shirt, $56

2. Toad&Co Women’s Taj Hemp Sleeveless Jumpsuit, $110

Toad&Co cares about sustainability down to its reusable packaging. And wouldn't it be a delight to open up a parcel and find this hemp-blend jumpsuit? I'm crushing on how the button-up-and-bow bodice flares into a casual loose leg—so easy-breezy.

Shop now: Toad&Co Women’s Taj Hemp Sleeveless Jumpsuit, $110

3. Eileen Fisher Organic Cotton French Terry Cloth Jogger Pant, $178

Looking for some baby-soft WFH sweats? Consider these powder-pink pastel joggers made out of Peruvian organic cotton. Eileen Fisher is top-to-bottom thoughtful with how it creates its garments, going so far as to have a "repair and care" advice section on-site so you can keep your favorite outfits forever.

Shop now: Eileen Fisher Organic Cotton French Terry Cloth Jogger Pant, $178

4. Patagonia Garden Island Short - Women’s, $65

Patagonia is on a mission to normalize hemp clothing; the company went so far as to make a whole short film about the history of the cannabis-originated textile. Currently Patagonia has incorporated hemp into 68 of its product styles, including these airy striped shorts. [SIGH] Is it summer yet?

Shop now: Patagonia Garden Island Short - Women’s, $65

5. Veronika Guardi Olive Matching Set, $86

If you're among the legions of women who ghosted underwire bras this year, we salute you. And if you're looking to swap in some cute bralette sets, consider this charming option from Veronika Guardi. You'll feel so good in your lounge lingerie (loungerie?), and not just because it'll mold to your body. The label creates clothes in an in-house flexible-hour factory and ensure its textiles are made in safe environments or from recycled materials.

Shop now: Veronika Guardi Olive Matching Set, $86

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