My best tips for shopping ethically on a budget
I recently read a great article on ethical fashion over at Ecocult, and as usual, I also got sucked into reading the comments section. Most commenters were praising the article and sharing their own stories of starting to shop more ethically. But there were more than a few people who felt personally attacked by the the very idea of shopping more consciously. “Not everyone can afford to shop ethically. I have to focus on my family,” one commenter wrote. Another commenter found it “laughable” that she should be expected to pay more for ethical clothing when she’s trying to save up for her wedding.
Its funny, because the article was about exactly this attitude--how people automatically assume ethical fashion is too expensive and only for elitist snobs. But, I mean, I definitely used to be one of those people.
I used to assume (without really knowing) that all eco-friendly clothing was expensive and therefore completely out of my stratosphere. Why even bother to seek out something more eco when I couldn’t afford it anyway, and something cheap and easy was right in front of me? But as I learned more, I realized that there are some brands out there that are not using sweatshops, using organic cotton or recycled fabrics, that are smaller start-ups on a mission etc, that are actually very affordable. I also got good at searching for and finding things secondhand, which I shared in a recent post. But most of all, I realized that once I got out of my comfort zone a bit, it actually wasn't that difficult or expensive to shop more ethically.
So I wanted to share with you my 4 BEST TIPS for shopping more ethically when you are on a budget and not quite sure where to start:
ETHICAL BASICS ARE A GOOD PLACE TO START. Next time you need to purchase some basic shirts, grab a few organic, ethically made tops in various colors (can’t go wrong with black and white v-necks!). Some of my favorite basics brands include: Amour Vert, Alternative Apparel, and American Apparel. You might spend a few more dollars than you would at, say, Target, but higher-quality tees will last longer anyway.
GET GOOD AT SHOPPING SECONDHAND. With just a little bit of time invested, you can find the most amazing high-quality pieces for literally a few dollars. I'm an Ebay fanatic and I've found expensive booties, vintage Japanese kimonos, and jackets for 1/8th or less of what I would be spending on new items (not that I don't also love to support designers and brands I love). Vintage Levi 501′s are the hot thing right now, and the good news is you can find some at almost every thrift store in America. Which is why I’ve somehow accumulated about 10 pairs that I like to roll up or cut off to ankle-length. (Pro tip--shop for these in the mens’ aisle!)
ADD AN INVESTMENT PIECE. With these basics, now you can add a nice jacket, booties or flats, a bag, sunglasses, or other higher price-point accessories, pairing high and low. You don’t need many of these in your closet to make an impact and make your outfit look expensive. Plus a good quality item will last years before needing to be replaced. Again, look on Ebay for a better price!
ELEVATE THE LOOK. Elevate the whole look with a great haircut and a bold lip. Done.
Honestly, I've noticed that since I've started putting these for guidelines into practice, I actually spend a lot less money than I used to. I shop less (but better), and I make every dollar count. I hope these simple tips help you see that you can easily start to build an ethical wardrobe on a budget!