UK wardrobes stuffed with unworn clothes, study shows

Stock photo of women looking at coats while shoppingThomas Barwick

A quarter of the clothes in our wardrobes haven’t been worn in a year, even though we’re getting better at keeping them for longer, a study finds.

A survey by environmental group WRAP estimates that the UK’s wardrobes hold 1.6 billion unworn garments.

But it found that the predicted length of time people kept their clothes rose between 2013 and 2021.

A pair of jeans is now kept for four years on average, compared with three in 2013, for example.

“We are keeping our clothes for longer, but we’ve got more of them in our wardrobes, which means we’re actually using them less,” said WRAP’s Sustainable Textiles Specialist Catherine Salvidge. “There’s a real opportunity for us to be using the clothes that we have a lot more.”

The fashion industry is responsible for up to 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN.

WRAP’s findings are based on 6,000 online interviews with UK citizens who purchase clothing for themselves at least once a year.

Non-padded coats and jackets have the longest lifespans at more than six years apiece while underwear and bras are only kept for 2.7 and 2.6 years respectively.

Even with our wardrobes stuffed with unworn clothes, our shopping habits haven’t slowed down.

Forty-five per cent of people surveyed purchased clothing at least once a month, with around one in eight shopping weekly.

Half of UK citizens say they are happy to buy second-hand clothes, however, and the survey showed that they tend to stay with us nearly a year-and-a-half longer that new items.


Gregory Willis is an American columnist, journalist, editor, and author. Gregory worked in several positions in politics and government, including freelancing for publications like Benzinga and Seeking Alpha.

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