If you’ve been searching the internet for the perfect ethically made clothing, you may have noticed that having a budget friendly ethical wardrobe seems unattainable. There is a huge range in prices for ethically made clothing, and the reality is – it will cost more than big box store fashion. The major hallmark of ethically made clothing is that the workers who are involved in the supply chain should be making a fair living wage, and doing this increases the cost of producing goods. The materials are also often (but not always) made from higher quality fabrics and less polyester.
I think it is important that we as consumers start adjusting to the ACTUAL cost of the goods we are used to buying, so we can start thinking about how to make sustainable changes in the way we shop.
So how exactly are we to buy clothing when it seems like everything is so expensive? Here are 6 simple steps to help you build a budget friendly ethical wardrobe.
(1) Rediscover What you Already Own
Find the items you really love and wear them! Maybe this means you need to find some specific bottoms to match your favourite floral top. Bring these items front and centre and figure out what you need to do to wear them more often.
Take good care of your favourite clothes by washing them gently, and only when necessary. Check out my laundry tips here for ways to keep your clothes looking new. Hang up your clothing nicely on beautiful hangers or learn to fold them up Kon-Mari style, and you’ll soon feel like you have the wardrobe of your dreams!
Do you have items that you love, but they just need a little mending to get them back in circulation? Check out my Mending Channel on YouTube for tips and tricks to get fixing.
(2) Make a Plan
Shopping with a plan is my number one tip to save yourself money. You could purchase a $10 top off the sale rack every time you go to the mall, or you could find your dream piece, and save up for it. Which one makes the most sense long term? If your dream clothing item is made from high quality material and you will love and take care of it, it will serve you much better than 10 cheap tops ever will.
On your plan, it is also helpful to note what fabrics, fits and shapes you like best. If you find a great top, but it is not in a fabric that you like wearing, don’t buy it! Watch for high quality fabrics, strong seams, and shapes that will not loose their stretch over time.
Need a paper copy of a wardrobe planner? Download my favourite one here!
(3) Change your Mindset
Decide to adopt a new attitude about clothing. Read about fast fashion and stay informed about brands and companies that violate worker rights in their supply chains. Embrace a “less is more” mindset about your own wardrobe, and do things to encourage your own intentional consumption. Don’t hang out at malls or clothing stores if the temptation to impulse buy is too strong. Unsubscribe from that fast fashion company’s emails so you don’t get sucked in to their next sale. Follow ethical brands on social media, learn to mend and sew your own clothing, and read books that encourage a simpler more intentional lifestyle.
(4) Shop Second Hand
Make a date with a friend to go thrift shopping! Try on all the clothes that you can and breathe new life into some discarded items. Look for consignment stores and vintage shops. Try online marketplaces and buy/sell/trade groups.
You may also be able to find textiles second hand that work well for up cycling. Tee shirts can be up cycled in a variety of ways, as can sheets, curtains, duvet covers or dresses.
(5) Make Your Own
Do you have a sewing machine? There are many basic free patterns online to use to create some simple garments of your own. Try tee shirts and skirts for a simple first time project. Look for sewing kits, and video tutorials to help you figure things out. It can be fun and rewarding to make some of your own clothing. If there are items you know you will not be able to find easily or affordably, set a goal to learn to make them.
There are even a ton of DIY hacks you can do to an existing piece of clothing to make it work for you. Pinterest is a great resource for finding those genius ideas.
But beware, making is not always more budget friendly than buying! Before jumping into a big project, take a minute to calculate how much you will be spending on materials and tools. If you feel comfortable with the amount, or are confident that you will want to continue working on your skills, then it will be a worthwhile investment.
(6) Shop Ethical Brands
Since starting an ethical clothing brand of my own, my eyes have been opened to an incredible world of amazing shops. You can find just about any item of clothing and accessory in a small shop, and many makers are becoming more size inclusive with their options too.
There are many price ranges within the ethical clothing world, but here are a few tips to getting the most out of your dollar.
- Join email lists – brands will often send welcome discount codes for new subscribers, as well as ongoing notifications for sales or deals.
- Shop off season – some brands will do end of season clearance sales to make room for new inventory, so shopping for next years wardrobe at the end of a season will often save you money. Hint – this is where it comes in handy to have a plan! You may have to be patient, but it is possible to build your wardrobe on a budget.
- Follow on social media – follow your favourite ethical brands on social media to stay in the loop with flash sales or deals.
- Check online marketplaces – once you know the brand name of the items you are looking for, try to find them used on online marketplaces.
- Shop local – look for local retailers that carry your small shop brands. That way you can try on clothing right there, and you’ll be supporting not just one, but 2 locally owned businesses.
I hope these tips have given you some encouragement on how to build a budget friendly ethical wardrobe. Remember, it does not have to happen quickly, but with a little bit of intentional planning you’ll soon be working towards a sustainable wardrobe of your own!