Buying a new bathing suit is a chore. Let’s begin with the obvious reasons–the difficulty of finding a swimsuit that gives you confidence, plus is comfortable AND functional. Then add sustainably / ethically made at a price you can actually afford. It’s almost impossible, which is why I’m getting creative with my swimwear this summer.
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: http://www.thredup.com/r/RH97X5
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?
Raise your hand if you hate shopping for underwear. I’m raising two. Shopping for underwear is one of those activities that sounds fun, but inevitably ends up frustrating.
I grew up in a tiny Tennessee town where there was only one thrift store–a Goodwill, that despite the number of residents, always promised a surprising find–perfectly worn overalls, designer scarfs, linen dresses. It was here that my love of thrift store shopping began, scourging the aisles every Saturday for a good deal.
Over ten years later, I still love thrift store shopping, yet my motives for second-hand shopping have expanded. In addition to the thrill of a good deal, I’m also trying to help break the detrimental cycle of fast fashion by embracing slow fashion. Better for the planet. Better for the people. And better for your wallet–that is if you know how to thrift shop well.
Thrift shopping is just another waste of money if the clothes you buy simply hang in your closet before eventually being ditched back in the donation pile. I know because I’ve done that countless of time, but over the years I’ve also slowly discovered some tips and tricks to making sure that my thrift store goods become wardrobe staples. Here’s how.
First, the DONT’S.
Don’t buy things simply because they’re cheap.
When I first started thrift store shopping, I would buy anything if it was cute and cheap. The price always justified the purchase. Example: I have no idea where I’m going to wear this sequin top, but it’s only ten dollars. That ten dollars was a wasted ten dollars because I never once wore that sequin top.
Before I also never cared about brands, but now there are brands that I shy away from buying. These are the brands that I know won’t hold up new, so they are definitely not going to hold up used. (Forever 21, H&M–I’m looking at you.)
My goal is to not buy cheap clothes cheaper, but to give new life to well made clothes.
Don’t buy clothes you aren’t going to fix.
Second, I simply don’t buy clothes that need any sort of fix, even if it’s an easy fix, because I will not fix it. Oh the money I’ve wasted on dresses that just need a shorter hem or shirts that just needed one button replaced. This is definitely a more personal tip. Some people might actually do those quick fixes but not me. My friend won’t buy anything that needs dry-cleaned because over the years she’s realized she will never get that 100% silk dress dry-cleaned. Know thyself.
Now, the DO’S.
Have a game plan.
With a child and work and general life, I rarely have time to meander when thrift store shopping. So I try to enter with a game plan. Plus I often feel overwhelmed by the semi-organized chaos that characterizes most thrift stores, so I find it helpful to have a plan. Mine looks like this:
I always look through the dress section. Dresses are typically more forgiving with sizes so if there’s not a fitting room in the thrift store, or you don’t have time to try something on, you’ll probably have better luck with a dress than most clothing items.
I also always look through the children’s section, especially the overalls, because overalls on babies are the best. And buying kid’s clothes brand new is kind of waste of money.
Pay attention to fabric & details.
If I’m in a hurry, my strategy is to go through the rows and pull out items based on fabric and color / pattern.You can learn so much about the quality of the piece just by touching. I’m personally attracted to wool and silk, because I know these fabrics will hold their quality for years.
Avoid certain sections.
It’s tempting to want to look through every section of the store, but it’s impossible and also a time-waster. Focus on the sections that work for you and avoid the sections that don’t. For example, I rarely find jeans or shoes that fit. However I’m tall with huge feet so this is just something I’ve learned about me. So I tend to avoid these sections so I don’t waste a bunch of time and end up frustrated.
I also try to avoid the sweater section. Why? Because I LOVE sweaters and already have way to many considering I live in Southern California. Again this is personal to me, but I think it’s helpful to focus on the articles that you really need and will wear consistently.
While I’m shopping I pull anything that initially grabs my attention. And then once I’m done shopping, I analyze what I have in my hands and ask myself a series of questions.
Will I actually wear this?
Do I already own something very similar to this?
Do I own something to wear this with?
Will this look good on me?
Is it in good condition? (No stains or holes. No missing buttons. Good stitching.)
After this whole process I normally eliminate about 75% – 100% of the pieces in my hand. I try to only buy pieces that I will wear and that will last.
How about you? Do you have any thrift store shopping tips? Or, if you’re not into thrifting, what’s your favorite way to practice slow fashion?