How to Create an Ethical Wardrobe for Less Money

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Ethical fashion brands tend to be very expensive, but there are ways to make the transition without spending a pile of money.

Buying ethical clothes is a lot more expensive than buying conventional pieces. While you probably understand the implications of supporting fast fashion and want to buy ethically made clothes, it can be tough to make the switch from a lifetime of bargain hunting to forking out significantly larger amounts of money for basic items.

There are ways to make ethical shopping more affordable, as outlined by fashion bloggers Ellie and Elizabeth on their website Dress Well Do Good. They agree that “shifting an entire ideology (cheaper is better) is jarring,” but suggest a number of ways in which to make the process kinder to your wallet.

1) The good old thrift store

While the clothes you buy at a thrift store may not be from ethical brands themselves, there is something profoundly ethical about reusing other people’s discarded clothes, extending their lifespan, and keeping them out of a landfill. You can also find some really fabulous treasures. Ellie and Elizabeth also recommend an online thrift and consignment store called Thred Up.

2) Clothing swaps

Get together with your friends, do a closet purge, and trade the bounty. This is a great way to revitalize your wardrobe for no money, get a hold of that amazing outfit that your friend was wearing, and get rid of stuff you no longer want.

3) Buying ethical basics

Wardrobe basics such as underwear, socks, and T-shirts are cheaper than more fashionable pieces. Invest in those, also because they see the hardest wear and might as well be the best quality. I really like the underwear, socks, and camisoles from PACT Apparel and have bought a few things from Everlane, too. Another good place to look is Fair Indigo. Check out the Sustainable Fashion section on TreeHugger, where we profile many designers who are doing great work.

4) Keep an eye on sales

Even ethical fashion companies have sales! Keep an eye on their websites and when a deal appears, jump on it. Ellie and Elizabeth recommend signing up for your favorite brands’ social media feeds in order to keep closer track of what’s going on. There are usually good end-of-season sales when new styles come in.

Just realize that the process is gradual. Don't give up on how impossible it seems to create an all-ethical wardrobe, but make small changes whenever you can. Spread the word among your friends and family, too, in order to educate people about the importance of seeking ethically made clothes. The more people who care, the sooner garment manufacturers will pay attention and start making greater changes across the board.