If you’ve landed on this post then chances are you want to switch up your wardrobe. You’re not a fan of the stores you’ve been purchasing from and want to support better brands.
But when your wardrobe is filled with fast fashion, how do you even begin to transition into an ethical one?
It’s taken me a while to get the courage to actually make the change myself. I’ve known about the grossness that is the fashion industry for a while but I just didn’t have the money to shop ethically and so I pushed it all down.
Related: How to shop ethically on a budget
But I couldn’t do it anymore. I figure there has to be a way to build a more conscious closet no matter what.
So that’s the goal for this post. To share how I plan on building a better wardrobe and how you can do it too!
But before we begin I just want to say I really don’t want this post to come off all “high and mighty” or “this is the only way” or judge-y or anything. This is more so about my journey, and if you’re interested, how you can do it too.
First, what is ethical fashion?
Let’s start with some definitions so we’re all on the same page going forward.
“Slow fashion is the deliberate choice to buy better-quality items less often. When purchases are made, they’re environmentally and ethically conscious rather than trend-driven.” – digiday.com
So naturally fast fashion is the opposite. Fast fashion is an industry that is constantly making new trends, paying their employees very little, (and treating them poorly, too) and not caring about the MASSIVE carbon footprint they are leaving behind.
Because the fashion industry moves so quickly, companies can push out new articles of clothing seemingly overnight at incredibly low prices. This causes people to justify the amount they buy only to toss it in a few months when it falls apart or a new trend comes along.
In comes: Slow fashion.
Trends out, quality pieces in.
The idea of slow fashion is beautiful. Buy fewer clothes and only buy quality pieces from companies you know aren’t exploiting resources or it’s employees.
Clothing that is manufactured in the most sustainable ways possible. This takes into account both environmental and socio-economic aspects. – greenstrategy.se
It is simply clothes made better to last a much longer time. Clothing is not meant to be disposable and is made with Eco-friendly materials and produced with less energy and less water to preserve the environment.
Trade-in which fair prices are paid to producers in developing countries. – dictionary.com
This basically ensures that the people who made your clothes are being paid fairly and treated justly.
It is important to take all of these factors into play when purchasing clothes if you truly want to make a difference. The environmental impact as well as the human impact
So where do we even start?
Well, before you run to your closet and start throwing things out, don’t. That will only add to the problem. Even though you now know what fast fashion is and does, don’t think of your closet as dirty.
Here are some things you can do instead and what I’m doing to begin the transition.
1. Love the clothes you already own.
The best piece of advice I’ve ever heard when transitioning to a low waste/ethical lifestyle is this “using what you have is the most sustainable option.”
Everything you already own (Including your clothes) already exists. It doesn’t need to be made again for you to purchase it. And throwing it away would only add to the ever-growing problem of textile waste.
Instead of buying a new piece of clothing every couple of months, try to make the pieces you already own last a lot longer.
That includes being more gentle with them, storing them properly and washing them less.
There are countless ways to style a single article of clothing. And when they do start to go, find creative ways to re-purpose them and give them new life.
2. Change your mindset.
We need to get out of this “fast” mentality. Everything from our food, our clothing, our service and everything in between is so fast these days.
We need to learn how to slow down our lives and the rate of consumption.
Along with this fast mentality comes a mentality of “disposability”. Often the things we get very quickly aren’t made or done as well and so oftentimes, disposable.
We need to stop looking at clothing as something that is disposable but something that is meant to be cherished and last a really long time.
3. Buy to wear.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought something because it was on ale or because it looked cute or because “I might need it one day”. Only for it to sit in the back of my closet and never be worn. Not even once.
If you don’t go places that require a cocktail dress often, don’t but the cocktail dress.
If you like in a warm climate and don’t plan on going anywhere cold, don’t buy a jacket.
Buy things with the intent to wear them. And wear them over and over and over again.
4. Start thrifting.
Although the majority of the pieces you’ll find in thrift stores will be made by fast fashion companies, by purchasing you are not directly supporting the company.
And better yet, you are, in a way recycling. Giving old clothes a new home and a second chance. And therefore keeping them out of landfills.
Other than the clothes you already own, thrifting is the most sustainable option.
5. Don’t be fooled.
Ethical fashion and sustainable living are making their way into the mainstream. So it’s more important now than ever to be aware of greenwashing.
Brands will truly go to great lengths to make you think they’re ethical when they are not. Be diligent and don’t take everything at face value.
Related: How to tell if a brand is ethical.
6. Let go of your trend-driven ways.
Fast fashion was built on the back of trends. This is actually where it gets its name from. Like I mentioned briefly above, the demand for new trends requires brands to work quickly and cut corners to produce the latest trend.
Plus as soon as a trend is in, it’s out again. Which is why clothing has become a “disposable” thing.
To combat this, we need to get out of the vicious trend circle and buy timeless, well-made pieces designed to last and be worn for years.
7. Set realistic goals for yourself.
The first year I decided to quit fast fashion I made a goal to buy no new clothing for a year, I could only thrift clothing I needed.
It might seem like a drastic goal but for me, it was realistic because I was so passionate about it and I was not in any financial situation to be able to purchase ethical fashion.
This might not be the goal for you. Maybe it’s 6 months or even 1 month of only buying used clothes.
Your goal could also be to save up and buy 1 new piece of ethical clothing a month or even quit shopping altogether and love whatever you already have!
Your goal has to be realistic for you but should also push you a little bit. Big change warrants action after all.
8. And finally, start buying ethical and sustainable clothing.
When you’re ready and able, do some research and find some ethical and sustainable brands that you love and trust. While ethical fashion is not trend-driven, different brands have different styles so find one that aligns with your style!
The price tag might be more than what you’re used to paying but this is where your mindset also comes into play.
Is it really that much more expensive if it’s made to last 10 years as opposed to 6 months?
Is it really more expensive if the hands that made it we’re paid and actual living wage and were treated fairly?
How about if the planet wasn’t sacrificed for that pair of jeans?
All of these things add up and they matter.
And that’s why shopping ethically is actually the last step on this list of ways to transition to an ethical wardrobe. There’s no rush. Support ethical brands when you can.
Related: how to shop ethically on a budget
Transitioning your wardrobe won’t happen overnight and you shouldn’t put any time limit on yourself to make the switch.
Creating an ethical wardrobe when we’re used to fast fashion is a drastic change and requires the dismantling of everything we’ve grown up knowing.
I hope you found this list helpful in your own journey to an ethical wardrobe! If you did, please share this post and don’t follow me on Instagram for daily ethical fashion and low waste living inspiration!