8 Ways to be Ethically Fashionable (on a budget!)

The first thing I did after deciding to say goodbye to fast fashion and become a more conscious consumer was look up stores and brands I could buy from. Most recently, I went on a hunt for a new (ethically-made) sweater. Turns out that if you want to buy an ethically-made sweater, you need to be ready to dish out $70+ for it. I guess the fact that I couldn’t find anything cheaper just goes to show how many corners must’ve been cut for stores to offer sweaters for $20-30, sometimes even less. So I decided I really didn’t need a new sweater that badly, and gave up.

The point of this sad little story of mine is this: some of us just can’t afford to buy everything from a conscious brand. As much as I would love an entire wardrobe makeover, it’s simply not realistic. And when this is the case, the only solution is to come up with non-monetary ways to support ethical fashion. That’s exactly what I did.

After lots of brainstorming and researching solutions to this financial dilemma, I came up with 8 simple ways us broke folk could still make a difference:

1. Get Informed

This is as simple as taking 1.5 hours out of this weekend to watch The True Cost, either on Netflix, rent it for $3.99, or use one of the other many options presented here. You can also simply google “ethical fashion”, but a search engine doesn’t quite convey how serious this issue is. The documentary doesn’t cover everything of course, but its a pretty good starting point.

Another good one is Traceable, a Canadian MTV documentary that follows fashion designer Laura Siegel and demonstrates how she ethically designs her collection.

2. Think “resale” before “retail”

Ok I’ll admit, I didn’t come up with that clever catchy phrase myself. It came from an interview with Sharon Schneider, Co-founder and CEO of Moxie Jean. She talks about the importance of re-selling your clothes and buying used clothes from secondhand stores. It gives the items a new life, and decreases the amount of new items you have to buy – of course, it’s also a huge money-saver.

3. Get creative – DIY!

Have an old pair of flare jeans you know you won’t wear anymore? Turn them into denim shorts! Have an old t-shirt that isn’t your style? Make it a tank top to wear at the gym! Pinterest is your friend, and it has tons of information about how to DIY pretty much anything and everything. Check it out before hitting a mall.

4. Avoid buying in a rush

We’ve all done it before – you’ve procrastinated finding an outfit for a certain event, and now the clock is ticking and you need to find something, fast. At least from my experience, situations like this usually result in purchases that I didn’t quite think through all the way, and I end up with something I wore for one or two events and then have no more use for. It’s a simple tip to avoid regret, and make more mindful buys.

5. Ask before you buy

Because I feel like this is a pretty important part of being a conscious consumer, I wrote a whole separate post on this! It covers the 3 essential questions you should be asking yourself before a new purchase. You can read it here.

6. Quality over quantity

When you phrase it like that, it sounds kind of cliche and obvious, but honestly, when was the last time you thought about the quality of the clothes you wear? Do you want flats that are going to fall apart in one season? Do you want a sweater that will have balls of lint, impossible to remove, after 1 or 2 washes? I sure don’t. Plus, you deserve something made with love and care, don’t you think?

7. Keep it classy

It’s hard to wrap your head around actually doing all these tips if you’re thinking about how you’re going to keep up with all the trends that come and go. Here’s a hint: don’t. Trends, exciting as they may seem, are what keep you shopping and spending money on things you don’t need and throwing away perfectly good clothing someone else could still wear. Sticking to the timeless, classic looks that have been a part of closets for the past several decades ensures that, even with a smaller wardrobe, you will always be in style.

8.Host or attend clothing swaps

This last one is something I had been inadvertently doing anyways. As Philanthropy Chair of my sorority last year, I organized a clothing drive in the winter and a clothing swap in the fall with all the other sororities on campus. The best thing about this is that it’s so easy to organize! You can organize one within a school, organization or office, family gathering, or community. You get rid of old clothes and gain access to a whole plethora of free, gently-used clothes! What’s not to love.


How do you stay ethically fashionable on a budget? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

8 Ways To Be Ethically Fashionable | The Curious Button, an ethically conscious lifestyle blog.

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