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If you know me, you know I love fashion. Ever since I was young I would love going to the store with my mom to pick out new clothes. Even in college, with little to spend, I would always find a way for a new pair of shoes, a new dress…something. I was always getting new packages in the mail and my closet was constantly bursting with the latest this or that.
I realized the fast fashion I was buying never lasted long or just didn’t quite fit right (resulting in it sitting in my closet unworn). I started purging last summer when I decided I wanted to create a capsule wardrobe, where I would have 30 or so pieces that mixed and matched easily. But, even then, I was still buying fast fashion pieces that “fit” into my new aesthetic.
One day a friend suggested a Netflix documentary called “The True Cost” which showed the ugliness of what goes on in the supply chains of fast fashion manufacturers and the amount of clothing that ends up in landfills every year. This lead me to think of the human rights and environmental impact my spending had on the world, not just my wallet. Over the course of the last year I have been slowly dipping my toes into ethical fashion and trying really hard not to buy clothing from brands where I am unsure of how the labor and materials were sourced to make the product. My goal is to simply be a more responsible consumer in addition reducing my overall clothing spend.
Step 1. Un-enroll From the Sales Emails
Out of sight, out of mind. No more alerts when Zara came out with a new collection. No more Forever 21 sales emails. No more. This includes your fashion blog alerts too. This was a big help for me since I was always tempted to click around and just see what was available or see what so and so was wearing. Now that I don’t get notifications anymore I don’t get the desire to just browse stores out of the blue.
Step 2. Assess What You Already Have
I know this can be overwhelming, but it is truly the most important step. What are the pieces that you wear daily? What are the pieces that you want to wear, but don’t for some reason? What is that reason?
- It doesn’t me fit right? – Get it tailored, sell it, or donate it.
- It’s stained/damaged. – Can you clean/fix it? If not, get rid of it.
- I don’t like the style. – Sell it or donate it.
- I don’t have anywhere to wear it to. – Dress for the life you live, not the life you want. Sell it or donate it.
- It’s for a special occasion. – Be honest with yourself here. Will you actually wear it again? If yes, keep it. If no, sell it or donate it.
- It has sentimental value. – Keep it.
If you’re not willing to take any of these steps within the next week (tailoring, cleaning, or fixing)- you’re probably better off getting rid of it. Search “clothing flowchart” on Pinterest for some cool wardrobe Q&A to help you in this process.
Step 3. The Purge
No, not like the movie. Take your get rid of pile and see what’s worth selling. I have made over $1,000 selling my old clothing on a phone app called Poshmark. You just snap a picture of the item, describe it, and list it. Poshmark takes a 20% commission of the purchase price. It’s super easy and the buyer pays for priority shipping, so you can use the free packaging materials from the post office. (Use code HLVND to sign up and get $5 in free credit). You can also try Tradesy or eBay.
If this isn’t your thing, simply box/bag it up and donate it to a shelter or the Goodwill.
Step 4. Do Some Research
Find brands that are ethical and fit your style. Do a google search or read the “About Us” page on your favorite brand’s website.
Some people think buying fair trade or ethical clothing means wearing unfashionable clothes. That is simply not true! Here are some of my favorite ethical brands, some you may have heard of:
- American Apparel (made in USA)
- Amour Vert (made in USA)
- Carhartt (made responsibly & a Detroit classic)
- Current/Elliot (many pieces made in USA; check the product description)
- Dogeared (Jewelry made in USA)
- Everlane (made responsibly)
- Matt & Nat (made responsibly)
- Nisolo (made responsibly )
- Paige Denim (Made in USA)
Even Nordstrom has the option to search for items made in the USA. Just type it in the search bar!
I’m also an advocate of buying used clothing, which is the ultimate ethical shopping. I know some people get weirded out by it, but not me. I’ve been a thrifter all my life and love finding gems. Though thrifting can be an addiction in itself, so be careful there. If you’re not keen on shopping at the Goodwill or Salvation Army, try consignment shops or resell stores like Plato’s Closet, which often have more up-to-date fashions. And sites/apps like Poshmark and Tradesy are also good sources of fashionable used clothing.
Step 5. Slowly Fill the Gaps
Keyword: slowly. Don’t go on an ethical shopping spree. It’s about buying less as much as it is about understanding where it’s coming from. Take the time to make sure you really have a need for a new pair of shoes, sweater, or whatever so it doesn’t end up in a landfill. Make sure you’re buying clothes that fit your body AND your lifestyle. If that top looked cute online, but doesn’t quite work on you, return it promptly so you don’t miss the deadline. Make sure what you’re buying matches with things you already own. Try not to buy clothes for a specific occasion; if you do, make sure it’s versatile enough to be worn in other settings.
This has been my process, though I still make mistakes. My closet is a lot less messy and getting dressed in the morning is much easier.
What methods have you used to cut back on shopping? What are some of your favorite ethical brands?