On Responsible Shopping

When I first got in to minimalism and capsule wardrobes, I was delighted at the discovery of a system that would save me time, money, and make my closet and clothing decisions more efficient. I found bloggers with great tips for how to restyle things so that living with less clothing never got boring and bloggers who had tips for staying organized and keeping things at a minimum.

There was one thing though…even at the beginning of my journey, I noticed that almost all of my favorite bloggers opted for a wardrobe color palette of black / white/ denim. While I certainly see the virtues of this color palette – the ease of mixing and matching, the ease of shopping, since these basic colors are almost always in style, etc. – my heart did not swell and rush to embrace this color scheme. It just didn’t feel like me.

As time went on and the world began to realize the toll that fast fashion and hyper-consumption is taking on our pocketbooks, our psyche, the volume of our fabric waste that must be dealt with, and the lives of workers overseas, many of my favorite bloggers said “No thanks!” and went about researching and promoting brands who are responsibly made. While the term “responsibly made” is pretty vague, here are some possible components of a responsibly made garment:

  • Made locally, in the country in which you live
  • Made with sustainable materials
  • Made in ethical work conditions

Sounds like something you want to get behind? Yeah, me too! However, once again, something felt off for me. As more and more bloggers hopped on the responsible clothing train, I noticed that gradually, the differences in their individual styles seemed harder to distinguish, and I felt like every blog I visited was showcasing the same articles of clothing, which all have the same oversized, flowy, minimalist aesthetic…and, you guessed it. It just didn’t feel like me.

If I were to really break it down, I would say that my clothing has four main purposes:

1 | To cover my body in a way I find comfortable and appropriate
2 | To provide protection against the elements
3 | To assist me – or at very least not hinder me – in accomplishing whatever tasks I have for the day
4 | To be a visual representation of my authentic self to those around me

As I peruse the online stores at Everlane, Elizabeth Suzann, Ace & Jig, Jamie + The Jones,  Pyne & Smith, Corinne Collection, and others, that little refrain continues: it just doesn’t feel like me.

One of my primary purposes in starting this blog is that I feel that I’m not alone. I think there are probably a lot of people going “Yeah, responsible fashion is awesome!” but due to either the expense of these items or their very narrow aesthetic (or both!), we’re left with a heart for a great cause but the dissatisfaction of not fully being able to embrace it. If that’s you, I feel you.

I’m hopeful that the responsible fashion community will eventually offer a wider range of aesthetic styles. Until then, here are a few ways I try to be a responsible consumer, even if I’m not fully on board with responsible brands yet:

1 | Shop less
By being intentional about the items I own and the items I bring into my life, I have significantly reduced my overall demand for clothing. It feels like small potatoes, but every little bit helps.

2 | Make things last
Extend the life of your clothes by taking care of the things you own. Since downsizing my closet, making sure things don’t wear out too quickly is crucial. I wash almost everything on the delicate cycle and hang it up to dry. When things do start to wear out, make do and mend – I’ve managed a lot of little repairs with some basic sewing skills

3 | Shop secondhand
Eventually, you will have things wear out. Try shopping at consignment and thrift stores to further reduce demand for new items and extend the life of what’s out there. From your local Goodwill and Salvation Army to websites like thredUP and Poshmark, there are lots of options to find what you’re looking for. While this can take some time and dedication, it can also yield some fantastic finds that you might not have been able to get at regular retail stores (I’m looking at you, high-waisted trousers!) for cheap!

4 | Clothing swaps
This isn’t something I do much of, but if you’re lucky enough to have good friends nearby who have similar figures to you, have everyone gather up the clothing they’re just not feeling anymore, brew up some tea or a pot of coffee, and host a clothing swap. You might find a few things to refresh your closet, and maybe get some ideas on a new way to style an item you’ve fallen out of love with.

Whew. Lots of words today friends. Let’s do a fun outfit post next week?

In the meantime, what are your thoughts on responsible shopping? Do you do anything to be a more responsible consumer?

See you next week!

Anna Signature

11 thoughts on “On Responsible Shopping

  1. You expressed all of my thoughts exactly! I’m going to try to shop at consignment shops for any new item I need, both for the cost issue and because I think I’ll be more likely to find items that are my “style” than most of the new, responsibly made items I’ve seen.

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  2. I consider myself a responsible shopper – but in a slightly different way than I’ve seen the term used.

    Supporting local business is awesome, yes. I personally feel part of a bigger cause when I buy American. But that’s not all there is to it. It is mainly up to the government to change policies and start supporting American production over outsourcing. And once that is re-established, America needs to compete with other, well established businesses across the world. If it’s only impressed upon the consumer to make local business happen, competition will drop and quality standards with it. People will start passing up the quality made items from family companies who pour their heart into their work in favor of “local” modern art that means nothing.

    As for reusing clothes to save the planet, another good cause…but not all there is to it. The whole over-production, plastic waste piles and toxins could be solved if people would go back to basic materials and stop reinventing. It started in the 70’s; people began to mess with chemicals to create new materials that were cheaper and different. Time and again since then man-made materials have been proven to be harmful, not biodegrade,and have less qualities than the real thing. Polyester vs. Silk anyone? Synthetic materials are not only not as nice, they are bad for health and planet because the scientist that create them are only concerned with money and have big egos.

    That said, my approach to responsible shopping is to buy as natural and quality as I can get, not trust the new fads, fashion and materials that are being promoted, and never lover my standards.

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    1. Ooh, I also love natural fibers! There’s something so simple and luxurious about real cotton, wool, and silk.

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  3. The ethical fashion world can feel really small and limited compared to the fast fashion choices out there, but I love the variety and cost-effectiveness of secondhand shopping! I tend to only buy new when it’s a great versatile piece that I want to keep for a long time.

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    1. Yes, I agree! I’ll invest or buy new when I need something to fill a specific purpose in my wardrobe or I know it’ll last me for years and years. Also, I almost always buy my shoes new, because it’s rarer for me to find good quality in secondhand shoes.

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  4. I would much rather buy my clothes locally in store than buying them online. Which makes ethical shopping a challenge. There is very little offered in my (country, Australian) town and what is offered isn’t my style or size. So I’m shopping a lot less than I used to which I think is a good start. I have a lot of pieces that I’ve been wearing (on and off) for nearly 10 years now, and they are from a handful of different brands. So if I need to shop, I go to those brands I know will last me years and years.
    I will also end up shopping more and more online I think. I have found a good site that lists ethical Australian made companies, which has given me a few new options. But again, a lot of ethical/designer brands consider my AUS size 16 plus size, and they don’t have a lot of clothing that would fit me. I feel it just adds an extra barrier. I’m hoping to start making my own clothes again soon, but I have no idea where to get ethically made fabric from in my country town.
    I feel like that is why so many bloggers are turning to the same brands and style aesthetics, because it sometimes seems like the only available option to escape fast fashion.
    ps- I am really enjoying your blog and I feel like you voice my thoughts on the ethical fashion industry so perfectly!

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    1. Thanks Louise- I’m so glad you’re enjoying the blog! Your size dilemma sounds super frustrating! But yay for having a couple of trusted brands that have lasted so long.

      If you start making your own clothes, good luck! I’d love to see what you come up with!

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  5. Totally love your ideas. I agree that most responsible clothing choices out there are somewhat in the line of flowy, oversized and shapless style. I hope as more and more people are recognizing the importance of shopping responsibly, brands will venture into other styles more often!
    http://www.hintofgrey.com

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  6. Hi Anna,
    I came across your comments on Unfancy and followed you here. I think I have a mish mash of styles, part fashionable minimalism and part more retro or individual. I certainly love the less clothes of a capsule, it is so much easier, I also do (very) basic sewing or dyeing of items for extra wear or to make them more me and I have been buying second hand for years. I also scour for discounted items of better quality for more basic pieces. I would love to be able to afford some of the ethical fashion, but that’s not realistic for me right now.

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    1. Oh, your style sounds fun! I also shop sale racks when I need something new, I really do hate paying full price for something unless it’s a company I don’t mind supporting. If there’s a piece you really love, I hope you’ll be able to afford it one day!

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