I recently wrote a post reflecting on my first year of cultivating ethical shopping habits, and being on a budget, I learned a lot about how to put my principles into practice in spite of my financial obstacles. Over the past few months, I’ve been sharing my tips and tricks for being budget-savvy while sticking to your principles and supporting an important and worthwhile cause: workers rights around the world. So without further ado, here’s Part 3 of my Ethical Shopping on a Budget Series.
- Take it in steps. Replace your clothes on an as-needed basis. When I first switched to buying only ethical clothing, it was months before I made my first clothing purchase. In the meantime, I was a little discouraged because I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything. I couldn’t afford a complete wardrobe overall, which was what I needed to rid my closet of fast fashion brands, and I felt like maybe this lifestyle change I felt so passionately about was nothing but good intentions. When I thought about it logically, however, I recognized that for the fast fashion pieces I owned prior to making the switch, the damage had already been done and that getting rid of all of it was not only financially impractical but wasteful. What I decided to do, and what I think is the most viable option for most people, is to incorporate ethical pieces into my wardrobe on an as-needed basis. Whenever my basic white t-shirt from Target wore out, I replaced it with an ethical one from Les Sublimes. When I needed some business casual clothes for my new job, I picked up a few skirts from a consignment shop. This was not only more financially feasible but also more suited to the slow fashion mantra that less is more.
- Instagram is your friend. When I began to write blog posts about ethical fashion, I would try to promote those posts on Instagram using hashtags that were geared toward conscious consumerism, slow fashion, and sustainability. In using hashtags such as #haulternative or #fashionrevolution, I was able to discover so many small ethical clothing companies. In fact, the majority of brands listed on my Fair Trade Clothing Companies 1 and 2 posts were ones that I discovered through Instagram. As someone who is passionate about learning more about slow fashion and supporting small businesses, this was a win-win.
- Shop off-season. Though shopping secondhand is a really great way to shop ethically, there are times when you just want to treat yourself to something new, and I understand that that’s not always possible when that Reformation dress you’re eying is $200. For me, the key to shopping from ethical brands, which are understandably more expensive than fast fashion brands, is to wait until the end of the season sales. So I’ll buy winter pieces in the spring and summer and vice versa. My reasoning behind this is that seasonal pieces go on sale when the season is over, but also that brands tend to tack on an additional discount for the end of the season. For example, in Reformation’s end of the year sale, they gave a discount worth 40% off of all items, even sale items. I found a pair of pants in the sale section that were originally $150, but between the original markdown and the extra 40% off, I snagged them for about $40. What I’m getting at here is wait until the end of the season and shoot for the double sale. You’ll some really great deals on high-quality pieces that will last you a while if you do.
For this outfit, I mixed some of my old fast-fashion stuff from years ago with some new-to-me pieces from my latest Etsy purchase. My striped top has been in my closet for years and will remain there until it’s coming apart at the seams. These jeans are my new favorite clothing item. I picked them up from a vintage shop on Etsy, and I’ve been wearing them non-stop. There’s a possibility that I’ll be moving to Paris in September, and if I do, I think this outfit might become my uniform of sorts. It’s very stereotypically Parisian, don’t you think?
How do you shop ethically on a budget?
Check out Parts 1 and 2!
Over the past month or so, American Apparel has become one of my favorite places to shop. Previously, I had thought it too expensive for my student budget and never really gave it a fair chance. But that was before I discovered their amazing sales, particularly the factory store section of the website. One day, I had gotten it into my mind that I really needed a vinyl skirt, so I scoured the internet for fair trade, vintage, or secondhand options. The only thing I found that matched my vision perfectly was this light pink, a-line skirt from the American Apparel factory store, and I was shocked that it was only $20 (now $15). I ordered it immediately, and it’s quickly become one of my favorite pieces of clothing I own. The structured a-line is incredibly flattering, and it’s a style that looks good on everyone, because it cinches at the smallest part of your waist and creates an hourglass shape. The flattering shape combined with the vintage feel of the vinyl is exactly the unique sort of piece I aim for with my personal style and was impossible for me to pass up.
After finding this skirt for such a good price, I skimmed the American Apparel website and discovered that everything is incredibly well priced for a fair-trade, sweatshop-free company, and their sales are really good as well. I picked up a few more items during their end of the year sale, so look out for those in future posts.
What’s your favorite fair trade clothing company?
Fall in Alabama is a very nebulous thing, which is very frustrating to someone like me who loves cool weather. The temperature highs are in the 90s until about November, and all I want to do is put a sweater on my body and not sweat. Regardless of the disappointing weather we’ve been having, I’ve been doing lots of fall activities, such as baking pumpkin pie, making squash soup, and taking lots of photos with pumpkins. And I don’t even care that I’m being cliche. Fall makes me happy.
I’ve been wanting an overall dress like this one for a while but couldn’t find an ethically-made one anywhere. But as always, my favorite local thrift store came through for me. I stumbled upon this one while looking for some flannels before the weather cools off and the thrift store sells out. And the best part is that it was only $3.
Although I love thrift shopping all year, fall is my favorite season for it. From flannels to old man sweaters, you really can’t go wrong. I’ve also been really into the vintage shops on Etsy lately. They’re a really great way to get some cool fall clothes without supporting fast fashion or spending tons of money. Some of my favorites are Cosmic Nature Vintage and Project Object Vintage.
What’s your favorite fall thing?
*Photos by @teah.shaw. Check her out on Instagram!
I’ve lived in Alabama my entire life, which is something I used to complain about a lot when I was growing up. I was bored of small towns and couldn’t wait to leave, and it wasn’t until the past few years that I really started to appreciate the place where I live, its history, and the interesting and worthwhile things it has to offer. Like this furnace built after the Civil War for the production of pig iron that’s been made into a historic landmark and is perfect for an afternoon adventure. It’s hard to explain this change of heart. Maybe it has to do with the traveling I’ve done lately. The more I’ve travelled, the more I’ve realized that every place I go has something to teach and offer me. Or maybe it’s that, after high school, I figured myself out a little more and found meaningful friendships that have tied me here, emotionally if not physically.
My best guess, though, is that I’ve come to understand better the beauty in collecting small moments, the unassuming afternoons in small-town Alabama, that time my best friend and I decided to climb trees on campus and got reprimanded by campus police, taking the cat to get donuts at 1 am. I’m constructing my narrative out of bits and pieces I collect along the way and are small enough to fit in my pocket.
Now, I keep a running list of places in my state that I want to see and day trips I want to take, and one of my favorite things to do these days is check places off of my list with lovely and creative friends, find the best places to get coffee, and write it all down in my journal.
I like the idea of museums, that they are essentially the constructed narratives of human experience, but that they are perpetually incomplete. No matter how many objects are collected, they will never encompass the vastness and breadth of human experience, but curators continue to curate and buyers continue to buy. I think life is like that too. We go along collecting these bite-sized memories, these objects of beauty that construct the narratives of our lives and we discard others. We snap photos and write poems and tell stories and decide how to remember them. I guess what I’m saying is that lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my role as curator in a narrative that has the potential to be worthwhile regardless of place. I think the whole idea is pretty perfect.
Like my last post, my entire outfit sans shoes was stolen from my roommate who stole the flannel from her brother and the dress from her cousin. It’s like a nesting doll of ethical fashion. I like it.