Even though winter never really happened in Alabama this year, there’s still something magical about the transition into spring. Warmer weather and longer days yield outdoor adventures (my favorite) and reacquainting myself with my hometown after four years away at school. It’s amazing to see all the new places that have popped up since I’ve been gone, and with only a few months left before the big move, I’m trying to experience all the worthwhile and unique things this place has to offer. Lately, I’ve been really enjoying seeing movies at the independent movie theater and walking across the street to one of the two non-Starbucks coffee shops in town afterwards. The last two movies I saw there were I Am Not Your Negro and Paterson, and I highly recommend both. Now, they’re playing a documentary on Russian avant garde art, and I’m itching to go see it.
I picked up this bodysuit in the American Apparel sale, and since it doesn’t quite fit my office’s business casual dress code, I haven’t had a chance to wear it until now. Paired with an old pair of jeans, my comfiest shoes, and a backpack, it was perfect for walking around downtown, drinking coffee, and snapping photos.
What’s your favorite thing about your hometown?
I recently wrote a post reflecting on my first year of cultivating ethical shopping habits, and being on a budget, I learned a lot about how to put my principles into practice in spite of my financial obstacles. Over the past few months, I’ve been sharing my tips and tricks for being budget-savvy while sticking to your principles and supporting an important and worthwhile cause: workers rights around the world. So without further ado, here’s Part 3 of my Ethical Shopping on a Budget Series.
- Take it in steps. Replace your clothes on an as-needed basis. When I first switched to buying only ethical clothing, it was months before I made my first clothing purchase. In the meantime, I was a little discouraged because I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything. I couldn’t afford a complete wardrobe overall, which was what I needed to rid my closet of fast fashion brands, and I felt like maybe this lifestyle change I felt so passionately about was nothing but good intentions. When I thought about it logically, however, I recognized that for the fast fashion pieces I owned prior to making the switch, the damage had already been done and that getting rid of all of it was not only financially impractical but wasteful. What I decided to do, and what I think is the most viable option for most people, is to incorporate ethical pieces into my wardrobe on an as-needed basis. Whenever my basic white t-shirt from Target wore out, I replaced it with an ethical one from Les Sublimes. When I needed some business casual clothes for my new job, I picked up a few skirts from a consignment shop. This was not only more financially feasible but also more suited to the slow fashion mantra that less is more.
- Instagram is your friend. When I began to write blog posts about ethical fashion, I would try to promote those posts on Instagram using hashtags that were geared toward conscious consumerism, slow fashion, and sustainability. In using hashtags such as #haulternative or #fashionrevolution, I was able to discover so many small ethical clothing companies. In fact, the majority of brands listed on my Fair Trade Clothing Companies 1 and 2 posts were ones that I discovered through Instagram. As someone who is passionate about learning more about slow fashion and supporting small businesses, this was a win-win.
- Shop off-season. Though shopping secondhand is a really great way to shop ethically, there are times when you just want to treat yourself to something new, and I understand that that’s not always possible when that Reformation dress you’re eying is $200. For me, the key to shopping from ethical brands, which are understandably more expensive than fast fashion brands, is to wait until the end of the season sales. So I’ll buy winter pieces in the spring and summer and vice versa. My reasoning behind this is that seasonal pieces go on sale when the season is over, but also that brands tend to tack on an additional discount for the end of the season. For example, in Reformation’s end of the year sale, they gave a discount worth 40% off of all items, even sale items. I found a pair of pants in the sale section that were originally $150, but between the original markdown and the extra 40% off, I snagged them for about $40. What I’m getting at here is wait until the end of the season and shoot for the double sale. You’ll some really great deals on high-quality pieces that will last you a while if you do.
For this outfit, I mixed some of my old fast-fashion stuff from years ago with some new-to-me pieces from my latest Etsy purchase. My striped top has been in my closet for years and will remain there until it’s coming apart at the seams. These jeans are my new favorite clothing item. I picked them up from a vintage shop on Etsy, and I’ve been wearing them non-stop. There’s a possibility that I’ll be moving to Paris in September, and if I do, I think this outfit might become my uniform of sorts. It’s very stereotypically Parisian, don’t you think?
How do you shop ethically on a budget?
Check out Parts 1 and 2!
Although most of the shopping I do is secondhand, I’m always on the lookout for ethical clothing brands. As someone who made the switch to ethical fashion fairly recently, I know how intimidating it can be to scour the internet for clothing brands who hold themselves accountable for the wellbeing of their workers and the planet. I’ve accumulated quite a list of ethical clothing brands since I made the switch, and I’ve decided to publish it in the hopes that my doing so can make your ethical fashion journey just a little bit easier.
One thing I’ve discovered about ethical shopping over the past year is that it’s a great way to support small businesses. The conscious consumerism movement is gaining more and more momentum, and the market for fairly sourced and ethically produced goods is growing. The result is that many ethical clothing brands, including many of the ones listed below, are startups and small businesses. Supporting small businesses matters because if we give our money to small businesses rather than large fast fashion brands, those fast fashion brands lose a bit of their autonomy in the global fashion market. So shop small!
All the shops are hyperlinked, so all you have to do is click the shop name to go straight to their website. Also, every shop with an asterisk beside the name has options for anyone who’s looking for some male attire. And be sure to check out Part 1!
Arcana New York
Bead and Reel
Fifth Dimension Clothing
Jann n June
The Keep Boutique*
Shwe | The Wearable Library
Synergy Organic Clothing
Vintage Style Me
Bead and Reel
Renegades of Chic
Synergy Organic Clothing
The Keep Boutique
Alice + Whittles
Bead and Reel
Alicia San Marcos
Bead and Reel
Hipsters for Sisters
The Keep Boutique*
Renegades of Chic
The Tote Project
Bead and Reel
The Keep Boutique*
Miss Green Fashion
Renegades of Chic
Synergy Organic Clothing
Odessa and Sons
Renegades of Chic
Bead and Reel
Odessa and Sons*
Disclaimer: I haven’t partnered with any of these shops to write this post. I’m just passionate about promoting brands that do good things and treat their workers and our planet well.
For those of you who are on a budget (like me), check out my Ethical Shopping on a Budget Parts 1 and 2 to see my tips for buying cheap clothes without supporting fast fashion.
What’s your favorite fair trade company?
Over the past month or so, American Apparel has become one of my favorite places to shop. Previously, I had thought it too expensive for my student budget and never really gave it a fair chance. But that was before I discovered their amazing sales, particularly the factory store section of the website. One day, I had gotten it into my mind that I really needed a vinyl skirt, so I scoured the internet for fair trade, vintage, or secondhand options. The only thing I found that matched my vision perfectly was this light pink, a-line skirt from the American Apparel factory store, and I was shocked that it was only $20 (now $15). I ordered it immediately, and it’s quickly become one of my favorite pieces of clothing I own. The structured a-line is incredibly flattering, and it’s a style that looks good on everyone, because it cinches at the smallest part of your waist and creates an hourglass shape. The flattering shape combined with the vintage feel of the vinyl is exactly the unique sort of piece I aim for with my personal style and was impossible for me to pass up.
After finding this skirt for such a good price, I skimmed the American Apparel website and discovered that everything is incredibly well priced for a fair-trade, sweatshop-free company, and their sales are really good as well. I picked up a few more items during their end of the year sale, so look out for those in future posts.
What’s your favorite fair trade clothing company?
It’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.
My favorite time to go to the beach is during non-peak seasons when the weather is cooler and the beaches are empty. No need for a swimsuit and no fighting against a crowd of people. When I was in Savannah a few weeks ago, I took a day trip with my best friend to Tybee Island, one of my favorite beaches, and spent the afternoon walking along the water as the tide receded. There was something magical about having the place to ourselves. I’ve said for a while that after I finish school and work for a while, I want to move to a small coastal town and open a bookstore/cafe in a seafront cottage. Those daydreams are easy to picture on a day like that one, when the beach is empty and a cold wind is coming off of the waves.
But for the time being, I took in the calming solitude and crashing waves and guarded myself against the chill with my new bomber-sweater combo that I picked up at Civvies, the same vintage shop from my last post, and it served me well as we danced around, snapped some photos, and lounged in the sand.
One of my favorite things about my university experience was meeting people from all over the United States who made traveling on a student budget with my friends possible. Throughout my three years as a college student, I’ve travelled across the United States and the United Kingdom, and the vast majority of those travels were made possible by friends opening up their homes to us and saving us hotel expenses.
As I mentioned in my last post, I did some traveling along the east coast in between my graduation and Christmas, and one of the places I ended up was Savannah, Georgia. I’ve been to Savannah several times, and it’s one of my favorite cities because of its moss-covered oak trees, historic buildings, and proximity to the beach. And the best part is that because my roommate’s family is from the area, we had a free place to stay.
Downtown Savannah has tons of cool, independent shops, and one of my favorites is Civvies, a secondhand clothing store that I visit every time I’m in town. I love to visit vintage clothing stores when I visit new cities, not only to supplement the conscious wardrobe I’m trying to build, but also because vintage shops curate their merchandise differently depending on what’s popular in the area and the particular style and aesthetic they are trying to achieve with the store. This time around, I picked up this loose-fitting, greenish-grey, velvet turtleneck that’s perfect for the winter months.
What’s your favorite vintage shop?
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Fall in Alabama is a very nebulous thing, which is very frustrating to someone like me who loves cool weather. The temperature highs are in the 90s until about November, and all I want to do is put a sweater on my body and not sweat. Regardless of the disappointing weather we’ve been having, I’ve been doing lots of fall activities, such as baking pumpkin pie, making squash soup, and taking lots of photos with pumpkins. And I don’t even care that I’m being cliche. Fall makes me happy.
I’ve been wanting an overall dress like this one for a while but couldn’t find an ethically-made one anywhere. But as always, my favorite local thrift store came through for me. I stumbled upon this one while looking for some flannels before the weather cools off and the thrift store sells out. And the best part is that it was only $3.
Although I love thrift shopping all year, fall is my favorite season for it. From flannels to old man sweaters, you really can’t go wrong. I’ve also been really into the vintage shops on Etsy lately. They’re a really great way to get some cool fall clothes without supporting fast fashion or spending tons of money. Some of my favorites are Cosmic Nature Vintage and Project Object Vintage.
What’s your favorite fall thing?
*Photos by @teah.shaw. Check her out on Instagram!
I’ve lived in Alabama my entire life, which is something I used to complain about a lot when I was growing up. I was bored of small towns and couldn’t wait to leave, and it wasn’t until the past few years that I really started to appreciate the place where I live, its history, and the interesting and worthwhile things it has to offer. Like this furnace built after the Civil War for the production of pig iron that’s been made into a historic landmark and is perfect for an afternoon adventure. It’s hard to explain this change of heart. Maybe it has to do with the traveling I’ve done lately. The more I’ve travelled, the more I’ve realized that every place I go has something to teach and offer me. Or maybe it’s that, after high school, I figured myself out a little more and found meaningful friendships that have tied me here, emotionally if not physically.
My best guess, though, is that I’ve come to understand better the beauty in collecting small moments, the unassuming afternoons in small-town Alabama, that time my best friend and I decided to climb trees on campus and got reprimanded by campus police, taking the cat to get donuts at 1 am. I’m constructing my narrative out of bits and pieces I collect along the way and are small enough to fit in my pocket.
Now, I keep a running list of places in my state that I want to see and day trips I want to take, and one of my favorite things to do these days is check places off of my list with lovely and creative friends, find the best places to get coffee, and write it all down in my journal.
I like the idea of museums, that they are essentially the constructed narratives of human experience, but that they are perpetually incomplete. No matter how many objects are collected, they will never encompass the vastness and breadth of human experience, but curators continue to curate and buyers continue to buy. I think life is like that too. We go along collecting these bite-sized memories, these objects of beauty that construct the narratives of our lives and we discard others. We snap photos and write poems and tell stories and decide how to remember them. I guess what I’m saying is that lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my role as curator in a narrative that has the potential to be worthwhile regardless of place. I think the whole idea is pretty perfect.
Like my last post, my entire outfit sans shoes was stolen from my roommate who stole the flannel from her brother and the dress from her cousin. It’s like a nesting doll of ethical fashion. I like it.