Is ethical fashion reserved for the privileged?

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The number one thing I hear against ethical fashion is that it's too expensive. 

I have found that the average cost for a basic wardrobe when shopping ethically will run you anywhere between $65 and $400 a peice; the lowest being a plain white t-shirt.

So yes, ethical fashion is costly, but that doesn’t mean that being an ethical consumer is reserved for the privileged.

Here are my thoughts on conscious fashion: Conscious fashion is more than just a transaction exchange, a swap of H&M for Reformation, it’s a shift in mindset and lifestyle. Conscious fashion is about being just that — conscious of your choices and how you can help make a difference with what you have. 

No matter what your budget is, here are a few simple ways we can all be conscious in our approach to fashion.

1. Wear what you already have

Who else is guilty of looking in their closet (full) of clothes and thought to themselves, "I have nothing to wear!"? I am definitely guilty of this. Getting rid of this mentality, wearing and appreciating what you have is the first and easiest step towards change. 

You can always try to reinvent your clothes by styling them differently or repurposing them for something new.

2. Take care of your clothes

An equivalent of one garbage truck of clothes is dumped into a landfill each second. In the U.S. alone, more than 15 million tons of textiles are discardedmost of them being cheap synthetic clothes that fell apart, weren't taken care of, or were simply seen as disposable. Not only do synthetic fibers take hundreds of years to biodegrade, they contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. 

Here's a few tips on how to take better care of your clothes so that they last longer:

  • Properly wash them
  • Sew those buttons back on and repair holes etc. (even if you are planning to get rid of them, your clothes will have a better chance at being adopted if they were taken care of)
  • Take your clothes to a tailor if they don't fit properly or need a little face lift
  • Check out this product as go-to for quick fixes

3. Create shopping rules

We are extremely susceptible to spending money when we find a good deal. In fact, we literally get high with endorphins when we snag a deal. This is why fast fashion is so addicting. In order to maintain self control and buy with intention, set rules for yourself before you get to the store. A few good questions to ask while shopping are:

When you pick up an item of clothing, imagine yourself wearing it at least 30 times, then it is probably worth purchasing.
— Lucy Siegle
  • Do I really need this?
  • Do I need this right now?
  • Can I find this second hand?
  • Will I wear this at least 30 times?

Revered ethical fashion journalist, Lucy Siegle once said, “when you pick up an item of clothing, imagine yourself wearing it at least 30 times, then it is probably worth purchasing.” This is a great rule to live by. 30 times doesn't seem like that much, but if you were to wear a new top 30 times in one season, that would equate to nearly 3 times a week or even if you just wore it once a week, it would last you 7 months! So when you buy an article of clothing, make a pact to love it, to keep it and to wear it for as long as possible.

If you decide that you won't wear something 30 times, or that you don't need it, set aside the money you were about to spend. It's amazing how quickly your almost $12 purchases becomes $200. This money can now be used for one really nice pair of ethically made slacks or maybe there is something else you've been wanting that you finally have the money for. 

4. Discover your style so that you can buy with intention

Look in your closet and assess what you have. How many of your clothes were purchased the way you might purchase a car? In other words, how many of your clothes were purchased with a lot of thought, research on how it was made, what material it's made out of, and with thorough inspection of the stitching and the quality of the garment? Probably not much. Most of us buy clothes spur of the moment.

This may be a bit extreme, but one way to be a conscious consumer is to start approaching your clothing the way you would a larger more expensive purchase. Figure out exactly what you need, what you want, and start saving.

  • Create a fashion wish list (like this)
  • Be specific and curate it as best you can so that you can get an idea of what your style is
  • Once your goals are set, prioritize and start saving

Not only will you take better care of something that you have saved for, but you will be happier with your purchase than the nonchalant splurge at Target. I LOVE this article by The Minimalists on the science behind happiness and spending.

    5. Freshen up your wardrobe for FREE by trading

    Clothing swaps are a great way to get rid of clothes you no longer wear while also getting something new! Plus, it's a really fun activity to do with friends. 

    Another option is to bring your clothes to a store that will give you store credit like Buffalo Exchange. 

    6. Find a good home for the clothes you don’t want anymore

    No matter where you shop and no matter what your budget is, purchasing with more intention and dedication to love and care for your clothes makes a big difference.

    This is why our tag line says, it's time to live conscious, live Tapered. It's about an exchange in our thinking and our lifestyle, not just an exchange in where we buy.