5 tips for ethical fashion on a budget

April 14, 2017


If you're transitioning to ethical fashion you'll have noticed that it's definitely on the pricey side. Unfortunately, high street brands are built on cheap labour and hazardous factory working conditions, which is why they can charge so little. As Lucy Siegle succinctly put it:
Fast fashion isn't free. Someone, somewhere is paying
The real problem isn’t that ethical fashion brands overcharge, it’s that fast fashion brands undercharge. However, knowing that doesn’t change the fact that many of us don’t have a bottomless pot of money to fund our fashion habits.

Building a more ethical wardrobe isn't about chucking out everything we already own and buying an entire new selection in organic cotton, it's a process, and it's ok to take your time. Here are my top tips for shopping ethically on a small budget.

Change your shopping habits
Have a look at how much you’re already spending on fashion. I had a complete shock when I sat down with all my bank statements and added up all the money I had spent on clothes in one year. A little here and there really adds up, and seeing it as one big, ugly sum really brings the message home. Instead of splitting that sum on so many fast fashion pieces, you could probably afford fewer, higher quality pieces. To really break the habit, I suggest a spending ban (one/two months should do it) and every time you think you have nothing to wear, pop a fiver in a jar and see how much you have to spend at the end of it.

Find the affordable brands
Sustainable fashion is occasionally featured in fashion magazines but it’s usually the luxury brands, and normal people don't have the cash for that. Without physical shops on the high street it can be difficult to figure out where to start looking. Luckily there are plenty of ethical fashion directories, like mine, to get you started.

Shop the sales
Sales are brilliant for a bargain (as we all know), the trouble is keeping your eye on the prize and not be distracted by that one cute top. To combat this, I keep a track of the pieces I’m lusting after during a season (I split them into summer and winter), then if I still want them by the time the sales roll around and they’re not too trend-focused, I’ll try and nab them. With season sales now happening earlier and earlier, you'll probably still be able to wear them straight away. Similarly – check to see if brands host sample sales, these are really great for budget pieces but are a total lucky dip for availability.

Shop smart
I never check-out without checking for a discount code first. Some brands run regular discounts so I’ll pop the things I want on my wish list and wait for the next one. Often signing up to a newsletter gets you a discount for your first purchase, these are all little things that add up. There are websites out there that compile coupons and deals, such as Ethos Deal which specialises in coupons for ethical brands.

Second-hand and vintage
To me, second-hand is the best source of clothing. It doesn’t require new resources, it's cheap, and it saves a piece of clothing from landfill. However, second-hand isn’t going to change the face of the fashion industry and it currently thrives on the back of our over-consumption of new clothing. For now though, it’s a fantastic option to get quality clothing for very little. If there aren’t any good charity shops in your area, try Depop, eBay, or online vintage boutiques.

Take care of your clothes
When clothes are cheap it can mean that we don’t treat them with as much care and respect as our more expensive clothes. Imagine if we all treated our clothes are well as people treat their designer handbags! Washing clothes less often and with more care will mean they stay nicer for longer. Sewing on buttons that fall off or making other small repairs will also extend the lifespan of your clothing, check out this guide from Love Your Clothes for tutorials.

Transitioning to an ethical wardrobe takes time, don't worry about all those high street purchases you made in the past, but focus on the future and what you can do now.

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2 comments

  1. I support sustainable fashion, however I struggle with this all the time. Being in graduate school has made my budget even tighter. Right now I resort to shopping used because it's the best option for me and I keep track of how much I wear everything to make sure all of it is worn at least 30 times. Being in school has also made me realize how little I need. After I graduate and have a job, I'm hoping this will be less of an issue.

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    1. There's definitely an element of ethical fashion that really prices out lower earners. Most ethical brands would be completely out of my budget if they didn't have sales, so I also rely on second hand for most of my wardrobe. Although I can't support them by buying their clothes yet, I'm hoping that through my blog I can do a little good in supporting ethical fashion as a whole!

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