ethical fashion on a budget

Ethical fashion on a Budget

I can’t afford ethical fashion. Oh I daydream and drool over beautiful clothes, but in reality I barely buy these enviable items. I have a baby, live in one of the most expensive cities in the US and owe a mountain of student loans. Spending $300 on a dress is not my reality.

However, I firmly believe in the detriment of fast fashion, from the treatment of workers to the depletion of natural resources. I know the facts and ignoring them is not an option. And yet sometimes I have to buy new clothes. So over the years I’ve developed a few simple tips on how to shop ethically on a (very) small budget.

Tip 1 // Schedule Shopping 

These days shopping is a past time, an almost mindless activity like eating popcorn in front of the TV. But if you’re really on a budget, than shopping ethically requires planning, like months and months planning. Think about your closet and what items you will need next season and the season after that and the season after that. For example, if you know that next summer you’ll need a new swimsuit, don’t wait till next summer to buy it. Instead, buy it at the end of the current summer when it’s likely to be on sale. Maybe you can’t afford ethical fashion at full price, but you might be able to afford it on sale, especially if you plan ahead. Find some shops you love and then sign up for their newsletters and follow them on IG so you’re the first to know when sales hit.

Tip 2 // Think Thrifty

Before heading to the mall, check out your local thrift or consignment stores first. Or if you’re more into online shopping, search ThredUp for second-hand deals, or Etsy for vintage finds. Chances are they’ve have what you need, potentially at a better quality and lower price. If you’re new to thrift shopping and want some tips, check out this blog.

Psst:: You can also get $10 of  your first ThredUp order with this code:

Tip 3 // Wear Well 

You can’t afford the ethically-made piece, you tried to buy second-hand with no luck and you need something, now. We’ve all been there. My advice? Buy the highest quality thing you can afford and then wear it again and again and again. Have you heard of the 30 wears challenge? The idea is that before you buy something new, ask yourself, “Will I wear this 30 times?” If you wore that piece once a week it would take 7 months to reach 30. So another way to ask is, “Will I still want to wear this in a year from now?” If everyone committed to wearing clothes 30 plus times before buying new, it would dramatically alter the fast-fashion industry. Instead of buying throwaway pieces, buy pieces that you love and that will become closet staples.

Tip 4 // Mend your Mindset 

We’re surrounded by a culture of consumerism and maybe like me you live in a city that is obsessed with fashion. It’s easy to feel insecure when everyone from the downtown party to the local park seems to be dressed effortlessly cool. I’ve had countless moments of insecurity about what I’m wearing. It takes time to alter your mindset when fast fashion is so ubiquitous. I constantly have to remind myself why I believe in slow and ethical fashion. We’re so disconnected from the process of creating clothes that it’s easy to forgot that real people are involved in every step. But a real person’s hands had to plant the cotton seeds and sew the seams, so in my moments of insecurity I remind myself of those people’s hands.

How about you? Do you have any tips on shopping ethically on a budget?






    1. Kait McGuire

      Hi! Pact Organics is great for basics (t-shirts, underwear, socks). Everlane has transparent pricing & factories – they have a lot of nice quality capsule wardrobe pieces. Make sure to check out their “Choose What You Pay” section. And I love People Tree. The only downside is they’re based in the UK, but if you hit a sale, the prices can be worth the shipping. A lot of their clothes are fair-trade certified. Also, check out my pinterest boards at I’m always adding new ethical finds there! Hope this helps! xx

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