My Ethical Fashion Journey: A Year in Review

IMG_3298It’s hard to believe that I started my ethical fashion journey a little over a year ago. Last December when I was on break from college, I watched The True Cost documentary, and it completely changed my outlook on how I shop. Before, though it seems silly, I had never considered that my clothes were made by actual people, and after watching the documentary, doing some additional reading, and learning about the conditions under which my clothes were made, I couldn’t continue to give my money to companies that exploited their workers and denied them living wages. It became very clear to me that by giving these companies my money, I was directly contributing to a system that treats real life people as though they don’t matter so that a few people at the top can profit. And that’s not to mention the havoc the fast fashion industry wreaks on the environment. So I swore off fast fashion brands, which I soon learned comprised essentially all major fashion retailers, and made the switch to ethical, fair trade brands and shopping secondhand. My experience so far has been extremely educational, sometimes trial and error, but overall positive. I’ve learned a lot over the past year, and I want to share my experience partly in the hopes that it will help anyone who’s undertaking a similar lifestyle change and partly to get any advice, feedback, or encouraging words you have for me as I continue to make changes to my consumption habits.

Here are some of my thoughts after one year of conscious consumerism. Buckle up, because this is going to be a long one.

  • The first thing I did after deciding to become a more conscious consumer was begin researching the ethics of various clothing brands and compiling a list of the ones whose ethics I agreed with. In my experience, the clothing companies that are truly invested in the well-being of their workers are forthright about it. They make it a very obvious part of their branding, and you don’t have to go searching on obscure sections of their websites to find information regarding their factories.


  • One major change I made was shopping less. I was never someone who was constantly shopping and buying clothes, but I did tend to treat myself to a clothing purchase from time to time. I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with occasionally treating yourself, but over the past year, instead of treating myself with clothes or material goods, I decided to treat myself with experiences and forego unnecessary clothing purchases. Instead, I tried to wear what I already owned in new and interesting ways, and I borrowed from friends. The result was that I consumed a great deal less and actually saved money despite the fact that fair trade clothing is more expensive than fast fashion brands. I think the monetary aspect of shopping ethically is what inhibits many people from making the switch from fast fashion (it was a concern of mine, too), but over the past year, I’ve realized that it is absolutely possible for many people to maintain these ideals while on a rather small budget. (Shameless plug: check out my Ethical Shopping on a Budget Parts 1 and 2).


  • I’ve learned to think of the clothing I buy in terms of long-term investment. Whereas before, I would have scoffed at paying $40 for a basic white t-shirt, now I welcome paying a bit more if it means that the shirt was produced ethically, was sustainably sourced, and is of a higher quality that will last me for years. And by buying less, it becomes more feasible to make these investment purchases from ethical brands.


  • For the most part, I’ve managed to abstain from buying anything made in a sweatshop, but I have had a few slip ups. Two of which were unanticipated purchases of necessity, where I was in pinch while traveling and didn’t have the time to order something online. The other time was a mistake. I was under the impression that the item I was purchasing was produced ethically, only to realize when it arrived that that was not the case. Those slip ups taught me to be prepared for all weather scenarios when traveling and to be more selective when choosing my sources for determining whether or not a company is fair trade.


  • I’ve had a hard time with shoes. Shopping for clothes has been pretty easy. Fair trade clothing companies are a good deal more expensive than fast fashion brands, but I’ve always been good at waiting for things to go on sale and finding a deal. I’m also really into shopping vintage and secondhand clothing. What I haven’t been so good at is finding fair trade shoes that I can afford.


  • Most of the shopping I’ve done in the past year has been secondhand. Like I said earlier, I enjoy finding ways to incorporate vintage pieces into my wardrobe. But shopping secondhand is often hit or miss and requires some vision. I’ve really enjoyed the creative challenge that shopping secondhand presents. Aside from some end of the year sales (which are a great time to stock up on clothing from ethical brands), all of the shopping I did this year was secondhand. I love that shopping at thrift stores, vintage shops, or online markets like Etsy or Poshmark allows me to cultivate a unique wardrobe that isn’t full of mass-produced items. It allows my personal style to shine through in a way that fast fashion doesn’t.


Overall, this first year of conscious consumerism has been incredibly informative. When I first undertook this lifestyle change, I was worried that I would feel in some way deprived by my decision to swear off fast fashion and that sticking to these principles would require much discipline even though I believed it was the right thing to do. But that hasn’t been the case for me. Sure, this change required that I redefine what I consider to be a need and make more informed decisions on how to satisfy that need, but I never once felt the urge to revert to my old shopping habits.  Even in the moments when I felt discouraged by the apathy practiced by the fashion industry towards actual human lives or by a system that encourages the ignorance of the consumer in order to make sales, I felt more strongly the need for change and the importance of sticking to my ideals.

I’ve grown to feel more strongly that the world does not exist to accommodate my harmful and wasteful habits and that mindfulness regarding my consumption is essential. This past year has inspired me to make similar changes to the amount of plastic I use and throw away, the ingredients in my bath and cleaning products, and the contents of the food that I eat. Essentially, our stewardship of the earth and compassion towards the people in it has the power to bring about social and environmental justice, and I want to be a part of that.

Leave a comment telling me your tips and tricks for cultivating an ethical lifestyle.

– Lauren


75 thoughts on “My Ethical Fashion Journey: A Year in Review

    1. Thanks! I actually just made my first Reformation purchase about a week ago, and I’m waiting for it to arrive. I love how they incorporate sustainability into all areas of their business, and the clothes seem really nice as well.

      1. Thanks for answering my question, it was nice to have another individual’s thoughts on the company. I love their unique designs in addition to their sustainability efforts. I think you’ll be really happy with your purchase once it comes in!

  1. That second-to-last sentence was powerful! I have to say, I’ve been really inspired by your switch to ethical fashion. I do enjoy thrift shopping, but I also have an (unhealthy) attachment to the simplicity of H&M’s clothing – even though I know that anything I buy will basically be ruined if I accidentally dry it. Anyway, my point is to say that I resonate with your focus on social and environmental justice, and one of my goals for this year will be to improve how and where I shop. Thanks lady!

    1. Thanks, Andrea! Sometimes I worry that I’m coming across as one of those annoying people who’re always trying push their new cause on everyone they meet, so it means a lot that you said that.

  2. I really enjoyed this summary. I stopped shopping fast fashion 4 years ago, but it can still be difficult to totally abstain for basics like denim and underwear. I’m so glad there are more resources available to people now!

    For shoes, I recommend shopping sales at Oliberte, Sseko Designs, and Garmentory. Po-zu is great, but also pricey.

  3. I’ve been on my own ethical and ecofriendly fashion journey for over a year and I really appreciated your post. I’ve struggled with the shoe shopping portion of it too! I’m excited to check out the list of companies you’ve found and expand my own set of bookmarks (if you’re at all interested in my current list:

    It’s really wonderful and refreshing to find more and more people embarking on this cause, sometimes the process can feel lonely when much of the fashion blogging world is still fixated with fast fashion!

    1. I totally agree that it’s so nice to find other people who are passionate about conscious consumerism. It’s so discouraging to me to see how swept up people can be with fast fashion without even realizing the effect it has on the world. And I’ll definitely check out your list! I’m always on the lookout for ethical brands.

  4. I really enjoy your blog!!! I think its so important for people to realize the background of where there clothes are coming from. I really like your style! I just started my blog and would love it if you checked it out and gave me some feedback! Thank you xox

  5. Oh my Goodness, Lauren I loved this post. Your pictures are so cute and I definitely admire what you stand for. If there any way you could give me a list of the ethical brands that you found? I would like to try out this for myself. On my blog I wrote about ethical beauty products that don’t use animals cruelly if you wanna give it a read.

    1. Thank you! I would love to check out your ethical beauty products post. I’m always looking for ethical options when it comes to skin care. I’ve written two blog posts with lists of ethical brands that you can find here and here. I hope it helps!

  6. Your post reminded me of my workout clothes actually lol! I just went through 2 pairs of Target workout legging due to the amount of hours I put in( they began to become thread bare and my ass was starting to show) and am beginning to get frustrated. I’m thinking of switching to Lululemon, even though their clothes a super expensive, just because I want my clothes to last! Just like you, I will pay more for them to last longer.
    XX Corinne

  7. Love your style. I shop second hand for both financial and ethical reasons. There is just so much to be found and love.

  8. I just finished The True Cost today! And I have 100% committed to ethical fashion products! VERY good documentary. I am excited to read you lists and idea of good places to shop. I am wondering, with buying second hand, what are your thoughts on buying fast fashion clothing second hand?

    1. Personally, I don’t have a problem with buying fast fashion brands secondhand, because none of my money from that purchase goes to the fast fashion company or contributes to the system of exploiting workers. It’s also much more sustainable than buying something new!

  9. I love this post I’m so glad I found your blog, have you read To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? by Lucy Siegle? I came across it when writing my dissertation on ethical fashion last year, its a definite eye opener to the way the fast fashion industry works – worth a read if you get a chance. Lizzie

    1. I’ll definitely have to check that out! I’m always looking for more sources and points and view on the topic. Also, I think it’s so cool that you wrote a whole dissertation on ethical fashion.

  10. Thank you for doing more than you’re fair share! Every effort counts. Truly love & appreciate your post & spreading awareness through your choices. Cheers! X

  11. Great post…… I loved the idea abt second hand clothing,i am also going to start the same.. Thnks for ths idea

  12. I recently saw the True Cost documentary for the first time, and what you’re saying her describes me really well. I, also, never thought about where/how my clothes were made (which seems so strange to say, but so true!). Watching the documentary revolutionized my perspective. I want to try to make major changes in how and where I buy my clothes, but it can be scary when you see the high price or walk through the mall and just want to buy the cute fast fashion clothes you see. Thank you so much for this post, as it was very encouraging to me, a newbie in this area!!

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