I’ve been writing about ethical fashion and less wasteful living for a while now, but I’ve not really considered how the two overlap – until now! With the seasons set to change very soon I have been doing some second-hand shopping and have consequently been connecting all the loose threads – geddit – which entangle the clothes we wear with the impact we have on the environment.
When it comes to buying clothes, shopping ethically has become very important to me over the last year. The fashion industry is exploitative and wasteful for so many reasons: from the underpaid workers (85% of whom are women – consider that whilst you don your “feminist” t-shirt from Topshop) and slavelike conditions, to the harmful chemicals used to make the clothes and the momentous amount of water wasted, too. I’m by no means perfect when it comes to my wardrobe, nor do I claim to be, but I have found that there are ways to reduce my impact without compromising my style, which I thought I’d pass along to you today.
While it is great to support ethical brands, it’s not always a feasible option. Ethical clothing tends to be quite expensive compared to what most people are used to paying, and not everyone has the disposable income to part with upwards of £20 for a single t-shirt. Second-hand shopping offers an affordable alternative, where donated items of clothing are being reused, adhering to one of the main tenets of zero waste living. Extending the life cycle of a piece of clothing is a great way to reduce the amount of perfectly good material going into landfill, at the same time as nabbing yourself a new outfit at an attainable price.
| there’s no guaranteed quick fix, but it’s worth it
I’ve not always had the best success with thrifting. I’ve often found myself sifting unenthusiastically through frumpy blouses and bobbly jumpers, struggling to find anything which fits my personal style. However, after months of perseverance, I feel as though I’ve finally reached a point where I’m comfortable browsing the charity shops and knowing what to look out for on the rails. It’s certainly been a labour of love, which has been a valuable lesson in itself; with thrifting, that “quick fix” you often get from fast fashion is never guaranteed. You can spend hours rifling through charity shops and find nothing, but you mustn’t let that discourage you. Trust me – the payoff when you lay hands on the perfect thrifted find is so worth the effort you put in.
| keep an open mind
That pretty much sums up how I felt when I tried this sports-luxe style black dress on for size in a local charity shop. I’d initially been drawn to the meshing around the shoulders – I’m a sucker for details like that – not to mention the price tag of £4.95. I’d set out with a loose idea to find a dress for an event I had coming up, but I’d kept an open mind, which I think is very important when thrifting. As long as you’re willing to compromise a little, you will soon find the gems. Initially I hadn’t been sure about the V-neck line as it’s not a style I normally wear, but once I tried the dress on and envisioned it as part of this final outfit, it grew on me rather a lot.
The great thing about charity shops is that every town centre has at least one. Often there are several within close proximity to one another, making it easier to hit them all in one trip. I’ve often been told to travel to more affluent areas to sniff out the higher end cast-offs of the rich residents, but I say just check out the second-hand shops closest to you to begin with – you never know what people will donate, so it’s worth regularly checking in. For near-guaranteed success, I recommend checking out your closest Traid, but don’t pass up your other local charity shops, regardless of where you live.
| look for quality and think long-term
When we go thrifting, we can forget that we’re often purchasing clothing produced for fast fashion, which has been worn and donated on. Because of this, it’s important to look for quality when shopping second-hand. Clothing produced for the mainstream fashion industry is purposefully poorer in quality so that it can be cheaply made and to get you buying more sooner. Bear this in mind when you find fast fashion pieces in your local charity shop – buying something that was already starting to fall apart will only amount to more waste in the long run.
This dress is just one of several fabulous pre-loved pieces I’ve picked up whilst thrifting recently. Just this weekend, I found a perfect pair of black dungarees, and a dreamy denim jacket – both of which I hope to show you in closer detail soon. It’s time for us to banish the negative preconceptions associated with thrifting and champion it as an affordable and stylish way of combating the wastefulness of the fast fashion industry.