We can’t all afford the designer styles we see on celebrities and runway models. So, we often settle for cheap alternatives. Unfortunately, there’s a price to pay for affordable clothing – and we’re not talking money-wise.
Much like fast food, fast fashion was made to cater to those on a budget as a quick and easy solution. Fast fashion clothing is characteristically cheap, trendy, and mass-produced. There are a number of global fast fashion brands, most of which we’ve likely frequented without knowing any better. Some you may have heard of include:
- Charlotte Russe
- Fashion Nova
- Forever 21
- Urban Outfitters
Not only are the practices of some of these brands morally and ethically irresponsible, but they’re also environmentally wasteful.
Unfortunately, we’re easily disillusioned by their reasonable prices and up-to-date styles.
Aside from the fact that they promote sweatshop culture, they often lack in quality as well. Fortunately, if you frequent these brands, there are a number of ways to turn your shopping practices around.
1. Buy boutique and avoid shopping fast fashion
If you love to shop in-person, you may want to check out some of your local boutiques. Chances are, you’ve avoided them because they can be a little bit on the pricey side. The reason for this is that small, privately owned boutiques usually have personal shoppers.
These personal shoppers locate local designers and distributors and personally select the clothes from that store.
As such, there’s no mass-production, and your profits directly benefit the owner, workers, and distributors of that store – as opposed to some bigwig at corporate headquarters.
Since boutiques can be pricey and niche, you’ll likely want to save your boutique shopping for more elegant or upscale purchases. If you’re looking for a nice blouse, cocktail dress, or fancy shoes, the boutique is an option. It also allows you to assess quality up close and ask questions about the source of the pieces.
Since boutique workers are often closely involved in the selection of the pieces, and there are often only a few duplicates of each piece, they can typically tell you the source of it.
2. Visit secondhand stores instead of shopping from fast fashion brands
Secondhand and thrift stores still get a bad rap after all these years, even though they’re perhaps the most sustainable way to shop and most effective way to avoid fast fashion.
We can’t do anything about the fast fashion pieces that are already in the world, so why not recycle them and use them to their maximum value?
Related reading: 7 Eco-friendly practices Every Small Fashion Business Can
Thrift stores also often feature lots of unique designer pieces you can’t find elsewhere. If you’re willing to scour the racks, you can find unusual items that beautifully pair together.
Next time you’re in the mood for a shopping spree, hit your local Goodwill or Salvation Army (or privately-owned thrift store). Maybe they won’t be filled with the most up-to-date styles, but this allows you to be original. It also allows you to get creative updating the styles you do buy, and thinking in terms of outfits as opposed to singular items of clothing.
3. Restore your existing clothes instead of divulging in fast fashion clothes
You don’t even need to spend more money if you have an already extensive wardrobe and are crafty. Simply breathe some life back into your existing clothes when you’re tired of them instead of throwing them away or opting for new ones.
There are a number of ways you can restore and refresh your existing shoes:
- Cut & reshape: Snip away at your clothes, especially when it comes to prepping them for a new season. Turn your jeans into denim shorts, your long sleeves into short sleeves, your crew necks into V-necks. If you know how to sew a new hem, even better. Otherwise, just make sure to carefully outline the edge before cutting so the new cut doesn’t look sloppy.
- Dye: You can purchase leather dye kits for a reasonable amount of money, and re-dye some of your leather handbags, jackets, or shoes – whether they’re fading or you just want a new hue.
The process is uncomplicated and allows you to maintain your otherwise expensive leather products. You can also dye other fabrics like cotton, wool, or silk (alternative textiles and their usage). Take it a step further by using natural resources (like beets, berries, etc.) for the dyeing process.
- Add lace: You can sew lace onto any article of clothing to make it more elegant and posh. Consider adding lace sleeves to sleeveless tanks or lace trim to otherwise bland skirts.
- Accessorise: Spice up plain tops or dresses with decorative belts or brooches. You can also bedazzle plainer pieces of clothing with sequins or jewels. If you have a button-up top, consider swapping out ordinary plastic buttons for pearl buttons, or ones with a little more shimmer.
Giving your old clothes a little TLC could turn into a rewarding hobby. Even if you take them to a professional tailor to be reworked, you’ll still be saving more money than if you were to buy new clothes. Work with what you’ve already got and you’ll develop a deeper appreciation for new clothes.
Bonus: 4. Research better brands
If you have little money to spend on a new wardrobe, it may be time to research some sustainable and socially responsible brands. These are brands that carefully handpick and curate their clothing selection, paying their designers and manufacturers an ample share.
The best part about buying from better brands is ‘improved quality’. Where fast fashion clothing is usually made with polyester, rayon, spandex, and similarly cheap and uncomfortable fabrics, sustainable clothing is more likely to comprise of 100% cotton.
Cotton is softer on your skin, lasts longer, doesn’t retain body odour as much, and washes more easily. So really, you’re doing yourself a major favour.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a “fashionista”, there’s no reason you shouldn’t try to revitalize your wardrobe. Clothing is a big part of our self-confidence, and knowing that our pieces are caringly, responsibly, ethically made can only boost that confidence even more.
Avoiding fast fashion encourages you to become more mindful of your utilization and lifestyle. By avoiding fast fashion brands and putting more care into your existing clothes, you’ll think twice before throwing pieces out.
Furthermore, you’ll take greater care in washing your existing clothes so that they can last longer. Always pay attention to care instructions, and separate your laundry based on those instructions – it will help you get the most out of your clothes.
Make this new feat fun by planning clothing exchanges with your friends, where you swap items you’re tired of. What may be old and boring to you is likely new and exciting to a friend. This new pursuit allows you to be stylish and smart: two trademarks of someone who’s out to rule the day.
This is a guest post by Ellie Batchiyska, who works for Leather World Tech, a leather dye distributor that specializes in the upkeep of leather, suede, and nubuck materials. She helps people revitalize their wardrobes and furniture with just a few artful, handy tips.