Ethical and sustainable living, Life

Three ways to begin clothes shopping more ethically on a budget

July 5, 2017

hanging clothing rail

Priscilla Du Preez

When I first began researching ethical clothing I was very daunted by the price of ethical clothing. While I wish I could solely buy from and support ethical clothing companies, it would cost me a small fortune – and I don’t even have a miniature fortune. Thankfully, there are other ways to begin shopping more ethically and consciously for less.

The initial surprise we have at the price of ethical clothing is a huge indication of the problem we have with understanding how our clothes are made. The reason we consider ethical clothes to be “expensive” is because ethical clothing companies pay their workers a fair wage. Whereas, that is not the case for cheap clothing we see in supermarkets or high street stores.

I used to primarily shop in Primarni or H&M because I’ve always been able to find something I like there and I’ve never actually had a problem with their clothing being poorly made. I’ve got Primark and H&M clothes in my wardrobe that I’ve had years.

Earlier this year, I began to learn about the impact fast fashion has on the people who make our clothes and the environment, and I was not happy about it at all. I began researching ethical clothing companies and was surprised when I began comparing the prices of things made ethically with things that aren’t. When you see a t-shirt being sold for £6 on the high street and a similar one going for £40, that indicates a serious problem with the fast-fashion system. If you want to learn more about fast-fashion, I highly recommend watching The True Cost. It really opened my eyes and demands we pay attention to the horrible truths we try to ignore.

 

Charity shops

Charity shops are a great place to begin shopping “ethically”. The chances that you will come across something from an ethical brand are incredibly slim but you are preventing a piece of clothing from going to landfill and sitting there for years. Your wallet will thank you kindly, and you’re giving your money to a worthy cause rather than supporting an immoral company. So it’s win-win-win all round.

I do feel like UK charity shops are not quite as awesome as Americans make their thrift stores out to be. I have ventured in all the charity shops in my town many times and the truth is that there is very rarely anything I like (I am particularly fussy, mind). This is always pretty disappointing because you read American bloggers who say “I went to the thrift store and got something I’d been looking for for aaaages”, and I’m thinking “well unless it’s the Twilight Saga (why are they in all charity shops?!) and an ill-fitting sequined dress, our charity shops are not as awesome as yours”. Americans, are your charity shops also filled with the Twilight saga and dresses that resemble 1920s lampshades?

Maybe it’s just my town. I don’t know. However, we do have a “charity superstore” which receives donations from high street retailers / supermarkets of clothes that might be missing a button, are slightly damaged, or are end of season. The place is amazing and it is always packed; you go in that place on a Saturday morning and it’s like Black Friday all over again.

It actually reminds me of the scene on Friends where Monica, Phoebe and Rachel go wedding dress shopping. Despite the terror of going in there when it’s busy, you can often find exactly what you’re looking for there.

 

eBay / other resale sites are available

It took me a while to dip my toes in eBay and it turned out to be some kind of quicksand because if I need something, my first port of call is now eBay. I am also trying to sell anything I don’t want or need anymore on eBay as well. I think I’m addicted, someone help.

It’s much easier to find exactly what you want, you might even be able to find ethical clothing on here too, it’s cheaper, and you can do it in your dressing gown while eating a pizza (which is probably frowned upon in charity stores).

There are of course other websites, such as Shpock (that advert annoys me a lot), DePop, GumTree, etc.

 

Clothing swaps

This is something my sister has been doing for years. That girl buys a lot of clothes, but guess who gets to inherit that stuff? Me. Whenever she has a clearout she offers her family and friends first pick before sending things to the charity shop. (I suspect this might be the reason charity shops in my town are full of things I don’t want.)

I have, over the years, gained some brilliant things from her; Adidas trainers that were in perfect nick and a barely worn comfy a-f gilet are my favourites.

If you’re due a clearout, why not encourage family or friends to do the same and then you can sift through each others stuff, have a swap and then donate what’s left over.

 

This list is definitely not exhaustive but for me it was about changing habit, because I’ve grown up with fast-fashion, and these three things were the easiest ways for me to change. As well as shopping more consciously, saving money, and supporting good causes, it can be a nice way to find unique items of clothing. It’s also worth shopping your own wardrobe from to time to time because you might find something you forgot you had.

 

I want to talk about your shopping habits; do you shop consciously? Do you have anything to add to my list?

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