Wardrobe Methods webinar opens up the field

On 17th April 2024, UCRF (Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion) hosted a Wardrobe Methods Event in conjunction with the CHANGE research project to explore a way of researching the contents and dynamics of wardrobes.

78 had registered for the event, and 41 attended the webinar on Wardrobe Methods, which is about the use phase in the lives of clothing and the practices that go on there. This has long been seen as a way to break apart the monolithic understanding of ‘use’ and ‘consumption’ that industry and sustainability initiatives often promote. In the attendees at the live meeting, at least 15 different mother tongues spoken: Spanish, Ukrainian, Russian, Dutch, Hungarian, English, Portuguese, Swiss German, Danish, Turkish, Hindi, Italian, German, Polish, Norwegian.

The event hosted by Professor Kate Fletcher and Karishma Kelsey from the UCRF Board was facilitated by a talk from Professor Ingun Grimstad Klepp which gave a round-up of the history of the set of methods, along with current uses, also in policy-work. Here Klepp briefly touched on the new method developed by Consumption Research Norway SIFO called Waste Audit Interviews. This is part of SIFO’s ongoing work on addressing the short-comings of EU’s Textile Strategy, where ‘durability’ and ‘repairability’ are seen as the beacons of a long life for apparel.

The event’s goal was to explore ways to extend wardrobe methods further, including in more diverse ways. The talk was followed by a lively discussion and breakout-sessions. See the whole webinar by clicking here.

The discussions raised many intriguing propositions and development for Wardrobe Methods, a selection from the break-out rooms is summarized here:

  • Using wardrobe methods to help show the variety of understandings about key terminology related to textile qualities and descriptions, e.g. ‘quality’.
  • Potential ethnographic study of indigenous Mayan textile artisans in Guatemala, who traditionally weave their own capsule wardrobe but now supplement it with western clothing items.
  • Using wardrobe studies to investigate ageing and clothing. Look at how the studies can be a guide and pathway to other ways of being. 
  • Taking a lifecycle perspective: look at the wardrobe as history. 
  • Deploying wardrobe methods to investigate identity and identity change: for example, gender, sexuality, everyday life, menopause, pregnancy, biopolitics and non-conforming men.
  • Investigating how digital apps can go beyond quantification of wardrobe – learn about user preferences, emotional durability, reasons for why clothes fall out of use.
  • Exploring the assumption that fit translates into longevity of use.
  • Using wardrobe methods as a way to create behaviour change – increasing engagement and awareness among people for example in power positions and politics.
  • Qualitative and quantitative data are important. Using hybrid wardrobe methods to investigate items sent for repair or taken to clothing swaps at work places, are good ways to follow their story and give valuable data for the use phase. 
  • Awareness raising power of wardrobe studies, how can we use wardrobe studies in developing new business methods that are not growth oriented? 
  • Comparing with post-Soviet countries, specifically in smaller villages in the country-side to open up bigger cultural context.

The participants were encouraged to contribute with their own related research, and we are looking forward to seeing these and adding them to the Wardrobe Studies Library.

New consultation on PEF: Feedback delivered

We have submitted feedback for the Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules. A total of 355 responses have been submitted with a total of 5125 comments. You had to fill in an Excel form, which was a bit challenging to navigate. We have therefore extracted the answers from the Excel sheet and created a document that is easier to read, click here.

PEF is intended to be used for all products, but this consultation concerns clothing and footwear. The aim has been a label for everything put on the European market, but the plan has been scaled down to a tool that will “only” be used to document green claims. The calculation tool itself, however, is the same. Products put on the market can be compared with a “normal” product in the same category. 13 categories have been created to cover all types of clothing and shoes.

The only of these categories where fiber or material is mentioned are under sweaters, where wool is mentioned (but not alpaca) and jackets/coats, which include leather jackets. For each of these “phantom garments” what is measured and weighted is very different, and this makes it hard to understand what you are actually comparing against. For example, “land use” (how many kilograms of fiber you get per square meter) is the most important factor for sweaters and “midlayers”, not for any of the other product groups. What the logic is for this, is impossible to find out in the many and long background documents.

Stumbling blocks

The consultation process itself has been anything but democratic, with stumbling blocks on all levels. Just getting into the EU database to deliver a response has been difficult without a black belt in passwords and apps, and as mentioned, you had to read hundreds of pages of background material and refer to exactly which document, which chapter and which line was being addressed. But perhaps the worst thing is that the documents don’t really say what the result of all the various data-inputs will actually be. Before we submitted the response, everyone could participate in a webinar where we were told that, for example, complaining about microplastics not being included would fall on deaf ears because the very tool underpinning PEF (LCAs) do not allow any new parameters to be added.

So even though the EU Commission had instructed the working group working with PEF for clothing and shoes to include the problems surrounding microplastics, we were told that there was no point in pointing out the obvious weakness that this has not been done. The fact that one can voluntarily say something in the product information about microfibres (not microplasics specifically) does not solve this major problem.

Understanding the functional unit

Another problem is the weak understanding of the functional unity. This is the very foundation of LCAs, for them to provide meaningful information. This means that the thick, warm Devold sweater that you wear all winter in Norwegian wool will be a true environmental disaster (Norwegian sheep take up an incredible amount of space when they graze) compared to the thin acrylic sweater that you bought on sale and are considering throwing away having discovered that you get an electric shock every time you pull it over your head. How long and how much clothing is worn is important for the environmental impacts in an LCA, but here too PEF falls short. This is particularly where we at SIFO have contributed to bring out knowledge and methods that can be used to correct this. Read more here.

Biodiversity does not count either, which the sheep contribute to in the grazed rangelands. Nor that they contribute to carbon storage in the soil. All that counts are the negatives, even when in the case of land use, the wide space is actually a positive! In connection with the consultation, there are many small producers of wool and other natural fibers who have responded, because they are scared that their livelihood will be evaluated as “red”, not “green”. The question then is whether the EU will listen, or whether they plan to override common sense and the need to reduce actual environmental impacts, and still introduce PEF for clothing and footwear to show action and justify all the time and resources that have been spent to develop the system.

SIFO has delivered a response. Let’s hope it helps.

New method to capture relationship between properties and use

Waste audit interviews: A method for understanding the link between intrinsic quality and apparel lifespans, is the latest publication from Consumption Research Norway SIFO at Oslo Metropolitan University, co-authored by Kirsi Laitala and Ingun Grimstad Klepp.

New proposed regulation of clothing and textiles in the EU necessitate a deeper understanding of the products, encompassing their usage patterns, duration of use, and strategies for prolonging their lifespan and enhancing utilization rates. SIFO has therefore developed a new method for this purpose, and are simultaneously asking for funding to do studies based on the method, in order to guide the regulation processes for clothing and textiles.

The method is based on the many years of research in this sector, pioneered through wardrobe studies, and lately enhanced by waste audits of different waste streams. The former method is extremely rich in data-collection, but very costly; the latter captures data by casting the net wider, but with less detail about how long the service life has been. Further, the method connects the real use of clothing with results measured in a laboratory related to physical durability. This approach shows that it is feasible to measure the use phase objectively, something policy makers, the industry and research organizations advising policy have so far deemed to be “difficult” or “impossible”.

This note gives an overview of the method and the project proposal, with a rough budget estimate.

The note can be accessed and downloaded here.

A day worth marking for clothing research

April 8th, 2024, Iryna Kucher defended her PhD “Designing Engagements with Mending. An Exploration of Amateur Clothing Repair: Practices in Western and Post-Soviet contexts”.

Iryna was a guest lecturer at Consumption Research Norway SIFO a period as research fellow, she has used wardrobe studies as a method and Ingun was her first opponent. This was therefore not just an important day for Iryna, but also for the clothing researchers at SIFO – and clothing research in general.

Alongside Ingun in the assessment committee, was Senior Researcher Olga Gurova, Laurea University of Applied Sciences, Helsinki, Finland and Design School Kolding’s own emerita Vibeke Riisberg. The main supervisor had been Ulla Ræbild, and also Amy Twigger Holroyd, who followed online.

The thesis is a broad and deep dive into the culture of mending.  By looking at the history of
clothing consumption in post-Soviet and in the Western world, it describes how different histories have formed ideologies of consumption and clothing repair practices in people’s everyday life. Iryna contributes with lifting the description on repair out of a mainly Western-centred perspective. She has used a variety of literature and sources in Russian, Italian and Nordic languages, so not only English, being so often the case. The thesis has surprisingly no research question, but instead does a deep dive into:

1) Understand how mending practices are conceptualised in Western and post-Soviet contexts.

 2) Understand what kind of infrastructures, devices, and materials facilitate the enactment of mending practices.

 3) Understand what competences are employed when mending practices are enacted and what contributes to successful clothing repair.

Skål for Iryna! Surrounded by Ingun, Vibeke and Olga in the assessment committee.

The methodology is original and rich, and brings design research, the social sciences and wardrobe studies together.  Her wardrobe study has focused on what has been repaired – and what hasn’t been repaired – as much other research. An original contribution here is that this is not only done by the candidate’s main informants, but that together with their mothers or other older relatives, they did a similar exercise with the older generation. This gives the opportunity to look at the informants’ background and training and thus the relationship to repair over time. It is ambitious to draw in both comparisons in time and space. Iryna received a lot of praise for this during the defense, but also critical questions as she has gone to great lengths to summarize and simplify differences. After all, the history of repair is both invisible and full of holes, and it is easy to assert what are, strictly speaking, assumptions.

Contributions from the work that will probably be cited and develop further understanding are the concepts seamless, discreet and expressive approaches to clothing repair, instead of visible and invisible, which are more commonly used. Iryna’s point is that both invisible and expressive (what is often discussed under visible mending) require special expertise, while discreet is what most people try to achieve in private repairs – which is the vast majority.

It is also interesting how different groups do the same thing, e.g. repair for different reasons. «Post-Soviet ‘mothers’, who used to live in the Soviet repair society, which was characterised by scarcity, still associate mending with necessity. In contrast, Western ‘daughters’, who live in a time of eco-anxiety, associate mending with sustainability”.  The quote shows how comparing across generations and consumer cultures (post-Soviet and Western) makes sense. Also interesting from a SIFO perspective is Iryna’s discussion of the importance of home economics – i.e. training in needlework and repair at school. This is an important part of her description of how the infrastructure around repair disappeared in both the Western and post-Soviet context. In order to rebuild repair, a build-up of this infrastructure is needed, which is not only a willingness to teach, but also workshops in schools, sewing machines, textbooks, etc.

Many had found their way to the design school’s premises – and others followed the event online. Iryna’s work is nuanced, particularly well-presented visually and exciting, as already stated, a big day for clothing research.

TPR gets some serious airplay

Volumes, policy measures and Targeted Producer Responsibility all fitted into discussions the week before Easter, where some of us jumped back and forth between Webex, Zoom and Teams, recordings and live webinars. The take-aways are that several policy tools are mired in antiquated ideas that seriously need updating from research, and that the conversations around volumes and sufficiency are what actually can drive change.

STICA’s Climate Action Week coincided with intense webinars from EU’s Joint Research Center on ESPR’s stakeholder review and also PEFCR for apparel and footwear’s open hearing, presented by the Technical Secretariate’s lead. Yes, it was dizzying, but most importantly, Targeted Producer Responsibility and questions surrounding how EU actually plans to address the issue of volumes and degrowing the sector did got airplay.

Kerli Kant Hvass, who is one of our Wasted Textiles partners, presented Targeted Producer Responsibility during the session on the obstacles facing new circular business models during STICA’s Climate Action Week, hosted by Michael Schragger from Sustainable Fashion Academy and lead for Scandinavian Textile Initiative for Climate Action (STICA). In the session Circular Business Models Are Critical for Climate Action – So What Is Preventing Them from Becoming Mainstream? she explained the concept, and continued her argument during the panel discussion towards the end:

“Focusing on the product and assuming this will result in sustainability has serious limitations. Instead, collecting data in the waste streams, and establishing if a product has been used for half a year or for ten years, actually establishing its duration of service (DoS), can give the database for modulating fees.”

TPR got nods

We noticed that Maria Rincon-Lievana, from the EU Commission and DG ENV nodded a lot when Kerli repeated this. Sarah Gray from UK’s WRAP, who is wrapping up a PhD on to what degree circular business models actually have climate and environmental impact, wholeheartedly backed Kerli’s call for dating products in order to gain data on the actual DoS of products for comprehensive LCAs.  

Sadly Paola Migliorini, also from DG ENV, did not hear when Luca Boniolo from Environmental Coalition on Standards (ECOS) said the following in the session on The Legislative Race Is On: Legislation & Regulation in the European Union (we can only hope she reheard the entire session later):

“Labelling regulation presents an opportunity (…) for instance introducing the production date on the label (…) we can know how long the product has been circulated at the end of life. If we do waste audits, we can estimate the DoS to understand was it used to 10 years or was it used for two weeks and then it was discarded and it can also support consumers in knowing that they have the right of a legal guarantee from the purchase date of two years during which if the product fails under normal circumstances, they have the right of it being repaired for free.”

He said much of the same during the session on Sufficiency, To Green-growth, Overconsumption & Degrowth: Can Sufficient Emissions Reductions Be Achieved in the Current Paradigm?

“EPR can for instance be based on how long the product was on the market based on waste audits and the date of production, and thus we can modulate who will have to pay a higher fee. We need to incentivize the reduction of the volumes placed on the market.”

This is the whole idea behind TPR, and even if Luca did not specifically mention TPR, he was voicing the principles behind it.

Old-fashioned or not fit for purpose, or both?

So, what is old-fashioned about the approach the policy-makers are taking? What are the tools that are not fit for purpose?

As it was ESPR and PEFCR we were lectured on the same week, the following thoughts arise.

ESPR (Ecodesign for Sustainable Product Regulation) clearly is based on the faulty assumption that 80% of a product’s environmental impact is decided in the design phase. So, it is intertwined with predicting for example durability, repairability, recyclability and thereby assuming DoS. The problem is, as SIFO research shows, only one-third of textile products or apparel go out of use because they are used up, so if ESPR is going to eco-modulate EPR fees (which seems to be the idea) this will be based on pure guess-work, or what could be more diplomatically called predictions.

TPR suggests the opposite, building the eco-modulation on what becomes waste prematurely and modulated ‘against’ what captures value in the new business models, as Kerli so well described in her presentation.

The hen or the egg?

For PEFCR (Product Environmental Category Rules) the problem is that they are meant to underpin ESPR, but JRC have actually not decided if they are fit for purpose, they said as much in their presentation. So, currently PEF seems to be in limbo, perhaps only fit for Green Claims (Baptiste Carriere-Pradal said as much in his presentation, but also hinting that ESPR would have to use PEF).

PEF is not aiming to be a consumer-facing label, only a set of 16 “frankenproducts” (12 for apparel, four for footwear) which you as a company can compare your product to, and say if your product is “greener” than the “frankenproduct” based on very strict LCA parameters. The data-base that these parameters are resting on, have serious data issue, and may be why France when presenting their “amost-PEF-compatible” label, have taken out one of them (physical durability), In addition, France also is not making GHG emissions the most important parameter – counting for 1/4th of the ‘score’, which PEF currently does.

The main problem, though, is understanding. Consumers understanding what and why.

Simply: In ESPR there is a demand for recycled content, and this is heavily stressed. During the sessions, I asked simply “why?” and presented the latest IVL report with a 1.3% climate reduction for large-scale recycling in the EU. What also surfaced during the week was that only 11% of EU’s population want recycled content. So, win-win or lose-lose to demand recycled content?

Apparel for real life or for bureaucratic purposes?

The issue then feeds into PEF, and how the scores of the “frankenproducts” actually have meaning when talking about real life. Why are stockings, socks and leggings the same “frankenproduct”? What are sweaters actually – when we all know they differ enormously and also their function. It seems, in the end, that everything is a desktop solution for real life actualities.

Having good clothes that are fit for purpose, not apparel that fit policy purposes, should be the goal. They will be used the longest and deliver on DoS. Using ESPR, with PEF as the underpinning logic, will not at all help either the environment, climate change or Europe’s consumers.

So, all in all, listening to the STICA webinar, so well organized by Michael Schragger, gives better insight on where we need to go, than both the JRC organized webinar (which sadly is not publicly available even if it was recorded) and the PEFCR webinar (which can actually be accessed), put together. EU still needs to get their heads around that it’s not at the product level, but at the systems level, that change needs to happen. Let’s hope STICA gave them food for thought.

Wardrobe methods event

April 17th at 10:00-11:00 CET. Online.

Join us for an exciting discussion about Wardrobe Methods in research with a talk by Professor Ingun Grimstad Klepp and then a sharing of experiences from across UCRF of doing research about the use and disposal of clothing. It will be facilitated by UCRF board members Kate Fletcher and Karishma Kelsey.

The aim is to:

  • deepen understanding about wardrobe methods; and 
  • extend use of wardrobe methods and build greater diversity in their ideas and applications. 

You can register here. The event will take place over Zoom. 

Join us on 17th April!

Participation is free, but booking is essential to help us organise the event.

Please note: the event will be recorded and made available on the UCRF YouTube channel for later viewing.  Also note: an edited book of 50 wardrobe methods, ‘Opening Up the Wardrobe: A Methods Book’ (2017) co-edited by Kate Fletcher and Ingun Grimstad Klepp is now available as a free e-book, find it here. And a link to a library of new Wardrobe Studies is here.

Wardrobe Hack as an Educational Prompt

Author: Ana Neto, Lisbon, CIAUD, Research Centre for Architecture, Urbanism and Design, Lisbon School of Architecture, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal

Aim of study

The use of wardrobe studies came up during my PhD project, which aimed to understand the relationships between wearers and their clothes, and how these can last for longer. Previous stages of the project pointed to the need of fashion designers to expand their design practice space to the territory of clothes in use, and therefore the goal of this study was to explore how fashion design students responded to the challenge of mediating wearer-clothing relationships, as an alternative role to the development of new products.

While the main aim of this exploratory study was educational, it prompted practical potential for behaviour-change, and qualitative insights that add to scientific knowledge on clothing use.

Photo of student work

Design as for long been pulled into the industrial machine of massification, losing sight of the particularities of each person’s needs. This study was developed as a way for students to understand how wearer-clothing relationships are idiosyncratic, raising their awareness to the importance of being attentive to the issues wearers are facing and which require tailored approaches. This counters the usual process where designers get a sense of generic design situations (or problems) and devise a one-size-fits-many solution, which in practice is often not that fitting (becoming, therefore, wasteful).

Influence on approach and use of the method

The main method is an adaptation of Whitty and McQuillan’s (2017) original Wardrobe Hack, here used as an assignment for students in their 1st year of the Fashion Design Master’s Degree at the Lisbon School of Architecture. Before launching the assignment, other methods were used as small in-class exercises to prompt discussions on wearer-clothing relationships and to raise students’ awareness on aspects that undermine or nurture these relationships.

Firstly, drawing from Martin and Hanington (2012) Love Letter/Breakup Letter method, students were asked to write a love letter to the last garment they acquired, and a break-up letter to the last garment they discarded from their wardrobe. Letters were then passed around so that everyone could get to know others’ experiences. Secondly, students answered a small questionnaire on their oldest garment still in use (adapted from Neto and Ferreira, 2021), and answers were discussed in class. By using these exercises to introduce my previous research, students’ tacit knowledge on being in a relationship with clothes was brought to the foreground and, collectively, the group increased their theoretical sensitivity on the topic.

Photo of student work

Finally, students were challenged to recruit a participant and conduct a wardrobe study (based on the original Wardrobe Hack), in order to identify issues their participant could be facing with any item or items in the wardrobe, and to develop an intervention (the hack) that could potentially improve one or more relationships between the participant and their clothes.

Data collected included notes from observations in class, project follow-up conversations with students, their presentations and the assignment outcomes handed in (a presentation poster + a report). Through thematic analysis, it was possible to distinguish the students’ findings on their participant’s issues, the kinds of hacks they came up with and the difficulties they faced, both in understanding their participant’s relationship with clothes, and implementing the hack.

Use of the results

Results were presented at a symposium on Fashion Design Education and will be published as a book chapter, and included in my PhD thesis. They can be useful for other educators seeking to introduce their students to wardrobe studies and a fashion design practice beyond product development. Even though the findings were written from an educational perspective, the examples it shares can also be useful for students just to increase their sensitivity to wearer-clothing relationships.

Insights generated by the method

Because this is a study that involves to levels of participation (students and their project participants), it generates different levels of insights, both theoretical and practical.

Photo of student work

Theoretically, the data generated relating to students (their journeys, struggles and achievements) is relevant to help educators devise future strategies to support and nurture the skills needed for this kind of design activity. Additionally, there is data related to participants (their relationship with clothes) as reported by the students. Through project presentations, each student contributes to the “pool” of empirical knowledge the class shares on the topic, and through other dissemination channels it can reach the wider research community.

From a more practical perspective, the exercise provides a different, hands-on experience for students as they learn to design for relationships (attentive to wearer, garments, their relationship and context), and an often positive experience for their participants who are challenged to think and articulate their relationship with their clothes, and who become aware of their power to improve their well-being as it relates to clothing.


Martin, B. and Hanington, B.M. (2012) Universal Methods of Design: 100 Ways to Research Complex problems, Develop Innovative ideas, and Design Effective Solutions. Beverly, Ma: Rockport Publishers.

Neto, A. and Ferreira, J. (2021) ‘“I Still Love Them and Wear Them”—Conflict Occurrence and Management in Wearer-Clothing Relationships’, Sustainability, 13(23), p. 13054. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/su132313054

Neto, A. and Ferreira, J. (2023) ‘Lasting Bonds: Understanding Wearer-Clothing Relationships through Interpersonal Love-Theory’, Fashion Theory, 27(5), pp. 677–707. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/1362704x.2023.2170706

Whitty, J. and McQuillan, H. (2017) ‘Wardrobe Hack’, in K. Fletcher and I.G. Klepp (eds) Opening up the Wardrobe: A Methods Book. Oslo: Novus Press, pp.128-130. Available at: https://omp.novus.no/index.php/novus/catalog/book/26

Link to work demonstrating the method:

Neto, A. and Forman, G. (forthcoming) ‘Mediating wearer-clothing relationships: a case study in Fashion Design Education’, in K. Scott, B. Curtis and C. Pajaczkowska (eds) The Future of Fashion Education: Speculation, Experiences and Collaboration, Routledge.

Wardrobe Size (Volume of Clothing) and Shopping Practices in India  

Author: Richa Jha, India, Ambassador @RemakeOurWorld, Member @UCRF

Aim of the study

It was a fact-finding study to create awareness and behavioural change.

The objective of the study

The objective of the study was to find the shopping preferences and volume of clothes owned by an average Indian woman and a man.

What has influenced or inspired your approach?

I was influenced by the Wardrobe studies on this blog and particularly influenced by The Plastic Elephant Report, which said that poor fit and quality leads to wardrobe surplus and in-turn to over-consumption and over-production. Hence, I was curious to find similar statistics for India.


  • An online questionnaire was circulated to individuals from different cities and professions. The questionnaire was sent to over 400 individuals out of which 105 chose to answer voluntarily.
  • There were questions such as – How many clothing items they buy? How many times a year? How many clothing items they own by category such as t-shirts, trousers, sarees, etc.? How many items they discard? Do they opt for repair, why not?
  • The income class of the respondents was middle class and above, i.e. Rs 500,000 per year
  • 70% of the respondents were women and balance were men.
  • More than 56% were Gen X, another 31% millennials, and 12% Gen Z. More than 56% were from Metros, 36% from Non-metros and the balance 9% were living outside of India.
  • Calculation of average wardrobe size – In the questionnaire, respondents were asked to tick mark the count for each clothing type such as Trousers, Shirts, T-shirts, Coats, Indian Wears, among others. The ranges were 0-5, 6-10, and so on till more than 30. The wardrobe volume is calculated by adding the average numbers for each clothing type for each individual.

Link to questionnaire here.

Key findings of study

The majority of the respondents shop up to 10 items annually and the average discard rate is also 10 items per person per year.

The volume of clothing owned (by this group) ranges from 30 to 308 in case of women and 27 to 162 in case of men. The mean is 120 for women and 80 for men.  For millennial women, average is 110, on the other hand for Gen X it is 130.  This suggests that women’s collection grow as they age, over time, they tend to accumulate Indian traditional wear such as sarees.

1 in 4 respondents do not use more than 40% of their wardrobe. The reasons for not utilising the wardrobe fully were occasional wears, woollens, fit issues, out of fashion and lifestyle changes in that order.

Only 20% of the respondents do not opt for repairing their clothes, on the contrary only 13% opt for upcycling. Among those who do not repair or do not opt for professional repair, majority do not see any value in repair or feel that new clothes are available at affordable rates.

The utilisation of the garment is optimum as most people said that they wear the garment till it fades or is worn out. Only for occasional wear or in some cases for formal wears, the number of wears is less. Some respondents mention they prefer to give to charity rather than repairing or upcycling.

But 80% of the respondents are willing to get their clothes repaired through a professional service and are willing to pay 15-20% of the original cost of the dress.

What happened after the study/exercise? What did you do with the results? Did you meet your objectives? How? How were the data used?

The report was shared with all the respondents. It gives them an idea as to where they are as compared to the average and hence may lead to self-induced behavioural change. Link to the report here.

A discussion was held with Sustainable Fashion Advocates from RemakeOurWorld. It further brought out the “whys” from the data such as cultural reasons.

The findings are also used to create awareness campaign through social media.

How could this specific method be used by others (or is it used already)? What are other insights/results that this method can generate?

Quantitative surveys are the most commonly used data collection method in Market Research.

How could the results of your study/experience be used by others (or are they used already)? What is the most important experience you want to share with those who are new to wardrobe studies?

  • Need for bigger and scientifically chosen sample if conducting a quantitative study
  • In the count, have zero/none separately from lower counts, i.e. instead of having 0-5, have none, and 1-5

What insights does this method generate?

It gives quantitative data on the total volume of clothes owned and clothing type. Filling this survey itself was an eye-opener for many and for them to realise their ownership, usage and surplus. The questions on repair and upcycling will also lead to plausible solutions, such as repair, alter, resale, lend or rent to increase wardrobe utilisation.


The Plastic Elephant – access here.
How clothing affects climate change? – access here.
Nielsen Woolmark Study  – access here.

Appendix: Definitions of some terms

Metro – Metropolitan areas – Such as National Capital Region of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Pune and Jaipur

Non – Metro – All other Tier-2 and 3 Towns such as Indore, Dehradun, Rajkot, Bharuch, Coimbatore, Trivandrum, Ludhiana etc.

Saree – a garment consisting of a length of cotton or silk elaborately draped around the body, traditionally worn by women from South Asia.

Lehenga – Lehenga is a three-piece ensemble consists of the actual lehenga, a long ankle-length skirt, a well-fitted blouse top known as the choli, and a scarf to drape around the outfit, known as the dupatta.

Gen X – 43 to 58 Years I Millennials – 27 to 42 Years I Gen Z – 18 to 26 Years

Fashion and the City

Panel discussion on the role of municipalities in promoting circularity and more sustainable consumption patterns in the fashion sector.

Sustainable fashion is often regarded as an issue of international trade and global issues, disregarding the role of local municipalities in the phenomena of overproduction and overconsumption and their trickle-down effects. Yet many cities around the world have started to think of this challenge and develop innovative mechanisms to reduce the volume of production and overconsumption and support their city’s fashion sector’s transition to sustainability. How can municipalities reduce waste, induce sustainable consumption behaviours in their citizens and promote sustainable choices, and circular business services? Do municipalities that are at the receiving end of fast fashion initiate policies and initiatives to re-address the phenomenon? Can cities impact the fashion industry by changing consumption patterns of their citizens?

UN ALLIANCE WEBINAR February 5th, 2024 14:00 – 17:00 CET

Here in the link to register to the event.

Programme and speakers

Opening remarks Simone Cipriani, Chairperson, UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion & Chief Technical Advisor, Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI/ITC)

Introduction Katia Dayan Vladimirova, PhD, Senior lecturer and researcher, University of Geneva

City Cases (10 min each) AMSTERDAM: Dieuwertje de Wagenaar, Senior Policy Officer Circular Textiles, City of Amsterdam. Fashion and textiles in the “Amsterdam Doughnut”: How policy can boost local circular ecosystems. OSLO: Kirsi Laitala, Senior researcher, Oslo Metropolitan University. Key challenges of textile waste and city-level solutions: Case of Oslo. ACCRA: Elizabeth Rickett, Co-founder, The Or Foundation. Textile overwhelm: How Accra City is managing the growing volumes of imported second hand garments and the resulting textile waste through circular practices. GENEVA: Katia Dayan Vladimirova, PhD, Senior lecturer and researcher, University of Geneva. Opportunities to support responsible local fashion consumption: Case of the City of Geneva. CAPE TOWN: Alison Evans, Head: Waste Markets, City of Cape Town. Moving towards circular textiles through Cape Town partnerships. The case of the city of NEW YORK will also be featured.

Discussants (5 min each) Felicity Lammas, Sustainability Manager, Global Fashion Agenda Mohammad Awale, Founder, Rummage Josephine Philips, Founder and CEO, Sojo Matt Dwyer, Product Impact and Innovation Leader, Patagonia Enrica Arena, CEO, Orange Fiber Åsa Degerman, Manager, Once More Q&A

Conclusions ● Gulnara Roll, Head of the Cities Unit, UNEP
Moderation ● Paola Deda, Director, Forests, Land and Housing Division, UNECE

This is an event of the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion; organized by ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative, UNECE, UNEP, ICLEI and the University of Geneva.

An Arts Practice Approach to Wardrobe Audits

Author: Wendy Ward, PhD Candidate, Sheffield Hallam University, UK.

Aim & Research Questions

My practice-based PhD titled “Enduring Fashion: Building Sustainable Clothing Practices Through Wearer-Garment Relationships”, uses art and design practice to explore people’s relationships with their clothes. The aim of the study is to investigate how these wearer-garment relationships might be leveraged to reduce the mass over-consumption and under-use that are currently prevalent in fashion.

The work is being guided by the following research questions:

  1. How often do people acquire and discard clothes, how many clothes do they own and how frequently are they used?
  2. What existing relationships do people have with their clothes?
  3. Can people be encouraged to develop an enduring relationship with their clothes?
  4. How do wearer-garment relationships impact clothing longevity and consumption?


Fashion’s impact on people and planet has been known for the last three decades, but we seem to have become immune to the scale of our actions even when presented with the evidence and if anything things are getting worse, not better (Coscieme et al., 2022). It is clear that a change in approach is needed towards something more hopeful, relatable and empowering (UNEP, 2023).

Sustainability in fashion is reliant on individual behaviour and there is little point in designing a low impact, durable, recyclable garment if nobody wants to wear, keep and love it. This connection and relationship between people and clothes, which motivates the want to wear, keep and love is at the core of my work and I believe could be key to driving sustainable clothing practices.

I am inspired by the work of Richardson et al. (2015) on Nature Connectedness to inform my ideas about interactions with, and connections to, clothing and am using data visualization techniques to incorporate this into my creative practice.  My work is grounded in a grass-roots approach to sustainability in fashion described by Alice Payne as “rewilding” (Payne, 2019), and a particular influence on my approach is Amy Twigger Holroyd’s Fashion Fictions research project that offered participants the chance to speculate on new social and cultural norms in clothing practices through deep material engagements with clothes.


I am at the start of my research: one third into a part-time programme of study so the ‘method-in-progress’ I will describe has so far only been practiced on myself.

The Wardrobe Audit has been used successfully in academic research and described in detail in the original Opening Up the Wardrobe book. This practice is beginning to be adopted by the wider public, perhaps thanks to recent developments in AI and the growing use of self-tracking in all aspects of our lives leading to a growing interest in wardrobe logging and tracking apps. In my work I explore the possibilities of using a more analogue and creative approach to the Wardrobe Audit.

Wardrobe Audit Visualisation. Photo: Wendy Ward

I began by auditing my own wardrobe and recording the results on a spreadsheet.

I found that the Information on a spreadsheet was too easy to ignore (especially when involved in daily clothing rituals of getting dressed and acquiring/disposing of clothes).  I decided to represent the data in my spreadsheet in a more visual, but abstract way using needle and thread directly onto a garment. The resulting data visualization is a surface decoration which appears abstract to viewers and whose true meaning is known only to me.

I update my original audit at the end of each season and create a fresh visualization of the data.  This led me to develop a similar method for logging and tracking my ongoing daily wearing habits. This method involves adding a stitch to garments from my wardrobe on each day that they are worn. Over time stitches gather on well-worn garments and are absent or minimal on less or never worn garments, resulting in a very visible and tangible way for me to confront my daily wearing habits over time.

Analogue Wear Tracking – Stitched direct onto garment. Photo: Wendy Ward

My study has been ethically approved and I am currently recruiting participants for the collaborative phase.  Informed by recent reports from WRAP and the Hot or Cool Institute identifying which demographic has the biggest impact on the planet in terms of fashion consumption, I am targeting the top 20% of earners in the UK who shop for clothes more than once a month.

As my study is practice-based and qualitative in nature, all data produced will be analysed using reflexive thematic analysis.

Early Insights

A strong sense of ritual and mindfulness is emerging from these tracking and auditing practices that I have now incorporated into my daily life. I am more aware of the extent of my wardrobe and how I use it (or not) and I am much more mindful of acquiring new clothes and how to discard those I no longer want to keep.

Analogue Wear Tracking – Stitched onto separate label. Photo: Wendy Ward

In early experimental workshops with volunteers while developing my method it emerged that experiential/sensory ways of researching clothing can expose gaps in existing knowledge.  One such example is knowing what to do with clothing considered unfit for donation to charity; some of the volunteers I worked with had resorted to putting these clothes into the general waste bin (which in the UK is destined only for either landfill or incineration).

I hope that the results from my PhD can contribute towards improving the communication of the need for behaviour change around fashion consumption and clothing use, and ultimately provide some new tools for citizens to reassess the value of their clothing. 


Coscieme, L., Akenji, L., Latva-Hakuni, E., Vladimirova, K., Niinimäki, K., Henninger, C., Joyner-Martinez, C., Nielsen, K., Iran, S. and D ́Itria, E. (2022). Unfit, Unfair, Unfashionable: Resizing Fashion for a Fair Consumption Space. Hot or Cool Institute, Berlin.

Payne, A. (2019). Fashion Futuring in the Anthropocene: Sustainable Fashion as “Taming” and “Rewilding”. Fashion Theory, 23:1. 5-23.

Richardson, M., Hallam, J. & Lumber, R. (2015). One Thousand Good Things in Nature: Aspects of Nearby Nature Associated with Improved Connection to Nature. Environmental Values, 24(5), 603–619.

Twigger Holroyd, A. (n.d.). About. Retrieved January 10, 2024, from https://fashionfictions.org/about/

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), & United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (2023). The Sustainable Fashion Communication Playbook – Shifting the narrative: A Guide to Aligning Fashion Communication to the 1.5-Degree Climate Target and Wider Sustainability Goals. https://wedocs.unep.org/20.500.11822/42819.