Sustainable Fashion Glossary

By Claire Martindale


Luckily for the planet, sustainability has become the next big thing in fashion, with retailers everywhere making the leap towards ethical and eco-friendly production and distribution practices. There are so many factors in what defines an item as “sustainable,” and picking out pieces may seem like a daunting task for the everyday fashion consumer. With that being said, here are some terms to familiarize to ensure your new pieces fit the title:


Sustainable: In today’s fashion industry we have been hearing this word a whole lot, but do we genuinely know what it means? By definition, sustainability refers to something's ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level. However, in terms of clothing, this word entails a consumer's desire for items to last the test of time, while supporting environmentalism and ethical production.


Ethically Made: Sustainability involves not just environmentalism, but human rights and ethics.

Purchasing clothing items that are deemed “ethically made,” means the brand you are buying from supports third world countries, while providing fairer wages and working conditions for employees.


Greenwashing: Sustainable buyer beware! The term “greenwashing” refers to the practice of brands using specific phrases and practices to trick consumers into thinking their products are sustainable when they are not. Watch out for brands that overuse words like "natural" and "conscious" without proof or discussion of their practices. Additionally, make sure to question the overuse of nature images and the color green in advertising campaigns.


Recycled Cotton: Purchasing garments composed of recycled cotton and other reused materials requires fewer resources to produce, resulting in fewer carbon emissions being released into the air during production.


Upcycling: A standard sustainable practice in the fashion world. “Upcycling” involves taking old pieces and reworking them into a new trendy piece. For example, brands often upcycle by taking excess material from dresses that would otherwise be discarded and using it to create headbands and tube tops.


Thrifting: Thrifting involves sourcing and buying garments second-hand to give them a new life instead of having them end up in landfills.


Bamboo: When looking to buy a new addition for your wardrobe, consider purchasing one composed of bamboo instead of traditional cotton. Unlike cotton, bamboo is fast-growing, plentiful, requires no fertilizer, and uses minimal amounts of water to grow and process.


No-wash: Over-washing garments wastes millions of tons of the world's water supply every year. A great way to stay sustainable is to buy garments composed of high-quality fabrics that require little to no washing post-wear. Levis is a brand famous for its no-wash jeans, instead of throwing your favorite denim in for a fourth cycle, the brand suggests putting them in the freezer to get rid of smells.


Claire Martindale is an editorial intern who is knowledgeable in all things fashion, sustainability, and social media.

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