Budget Fashion, But Make it Ethical
Updated: Feb 11, 2021
Welcome to the “___, but make it ethical” series! Yes, you can save your money, live fabulously, and save the planet at the same time. When practicing Goddessery, one does not exploit people, animals, or the environment ~ this series delves into how to put your money where your mouth is, and do the things you love while supporting the causes you care about.
You know what’s cool? Not spending a gillion dollars on clothes. No, I’m not going to tell you to stop buying clothes every season; trust me, if I had the willpower to stop myself, I would, but I haven’t developed that kind of restraint. I love fashion; the clothes I wear are a projection of me, and they help me put my best foot forward.
You know what’s not cool? Fast fashion. Exploitative labor and endless waste, for clothes that won’t last a year? Absolutely not.
During college, brands like Forever 21 and H&M were my go-tos. More specifically, their clearance sections. $4 sweaters, $6 blouses - I always prided myself in being a “smart” shopper. I loved Nordstrom Rack, TJMAXX and Marshalls, and I would stalk the last-chance aisles at Macy’s for fancy dresses. I was building my ever-evolving wardrobe, and wearing things that made me feel confident at a great price. But what I wasn’t thinking about was how my choices were affecting the world around me. The fashion industry can boast some very serious contributions to the ever-growing pile of man-made waste that’s suffocating our planet: the fashion industry, next to oil, is the second largest polluter on Earth. For more statistics, check out this page on EDGE. If you would like to hear about the corrupt labor practices of fast fashion brands, Justine Leconte has several informational videos on her YouTube page; she also has some great advice about fashion minimalism, and purchasing pieces that will stand the tests of time.
In the end, my closet was full of cheap clothes that were falling apart because I’d worn and washed them so much, and a hoard of “trendy” pieces I’d only worn once. Once I’d educated myself on the wider impact of my clothing habits, I knew I had to start working differently, but I just didn’t have the money to buy longer-lasting clothes or support sustainable fashion brands like Reformation. And so, a thrifty goddess was born.
Can't afford sustainable, fair-trade fashion? Buy second-hand
Buying clothing second-hand is arguably the most sustainable way to amp-up your closet. When you buy something second-hand, the brand who made it won’t benefit from your investment, as the item had already been purchased from them previously, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally using your money to support unsustainable, unethical production practices. Not only that, but you’re giving a second home to a perfectly-good piece that may have found its way to the landfill had you not picked it up, so you’re reducing waste. Before I continue, I’ll take a minute to say please: small businesses are really struggling (especially where I live in the USA) during the COVID-19 pandemic; if stores are open and you feel safe enough in your area to venture out, support your local thrift and second-hand vintage stores! If you do go, please wear your mask, and wash your new clothes before putting them on.
But I need something specific. How can I find what I'm looking for?
Shopping second-hand can sometimes be a difficult process, especially if you are looking for specific items or brands. Thankfully, my friends, this is 2020, and second-hand shopping has found its stride in the digital age. You can search through all sorts of second-hand and vintage clothing businesses on websites such as Etsy and Ebay; check out these articles by The Good Trade and Sustainable Jungle for lists of online thrift stores. My personal go-to (not sponsored, just a huge fan) is Thredup.
Looking for a new-with-tags, pink high-low evening gown for your cousin’s wedding? Thredup lets you filter through their massive stock to find precisely what you’re looking for by brand name, your specific sizes, material, condition, styles, sleeve-length, you name it - Thredup gives you all the tools you need to have a successful online thrift-shopping trip. They send their subscribers discount codes all the time, so you can get even better deals. If you’re a frequent shopper, you can accumulate points and get rewards (actually, like free shipping or $10 off a purchase). The downside to Thredup is that they only carry “women’s and children’s” clothing, so if you’re looking for “menswear” I would suggest shopping at another one of the stores listed in the aforementioned articles.
I’ve found some bangin’ dresses, sweaters, boots and more on Thredup, but my favorite find has to be my Dior heels. These heels retailed around $900; I got them for $60. Normally I’m not one to care much for designer fashion (I’ve never felt the desire to own a Louis Vuitton bag or Gucci glasses), but how could I pass that up? (A note, I'll be posting an article soon on the ethics of buying vegan-leather vs. second-hand leather).
Try Rent The Runway for your formal events
If you're looking for formal, designer attire or an event-piece you're only going to wear once, save your money and avoid waste by simply renting your outfit.
Do you have a favorite second-hand shop (online or in-store) that you’d like to feature? Mention them in the comments! What are your thoughts on sustainable fashion brands? Are you struggling to say goodbye to those fast-fashion deals? Let’s give each other tips on how to stay fabulous without breaking the bank, or the planet.