Slow Fashion

Three Obstacles That Are Probably Keeping You From Purchasing ‘Ethically-Made’ Clothing

August 2, 2016

1. Your mindset about clothing.

Did you know that a handful of decades ago people spent a much bigger percentage of their incomes on clothing? Folks saved and then invested in quality clothing. Items were tailored, people were well-groomed, and they did it with fewer, yet nicer sets of clothing. Think Mad Men-esque. Items were made in the USA, and were probably much higher quality. Fast forward to today, and proportionally we spend way less on our clothing, yet own infinite amounts more. Do you know why? Because it’s cheap. We can snatch up shirts for $20 and jeans for $30. There is no longer sacrifice and investment required of us to add to our wardrobe.

I know for a lot of people – myself included – one of the biggest obstacles to purchasing ethically-made clothing (‘ethically’ meaning: the garment workers have been treated fairly, are paid fairly, work in safe conditions, and often the environmental impact is taken into consideration) is the price. Most of the time, taking care of the aforementioned needs, drives the price up, justifiably so.

So what if we changed our mindset about clothing? Instead of wanting to add as much as possible all the time, what if we channeled the ideas of a generation or two before us, who saved and invested in fewer and better items. Maybe for fall, instead of getting as much as possible from the big, major, discount retailers, invest in that alpaca sweater from Zady or those loafers from Everlane. You might be surprised how investing in quality elevates your style.

2. You think you’ll look like a hippie and possibly smell like patchouli.

As a girl who comes from the land of hippies and rainbows (Eugene, Oregon, represent!) the smell of patchouli brings back memories of patchwork clothing, hemp accessories and Birkenstocks, not the cute ones we love now, but the ones that have seen so many years you almost don’t recognize them. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. ;) ) I’m just here to tell you: name your style and pick your poison – you can almost always find it ethically made. The world of responsible fashion is mainstream now. You can be an aficionado of modern, bohemian, preppy, tomboy, even hippie, and purchase responsibly. The internet has made the shopping world a whole lot smaller. Sometimes you just have to be more patient. If you can’t find it in your price point than you need to wait and save up. If you can’t find it new, buy it used. There’s a whole world of ‘pre-loved’ clothing out there and the possibilities are endless. Some of my favorite places to go are Crossroads or Poshmark.

3. You have no clue where to start.

I think this is where a lot of people get hung up. They watch The True Cost, get very passionate about making better clothing choices, and then they hit a roadblock. How do they ever move their passion into action? It can be overwhelming, that’s why I wrote a series on using baby steps to get started. Another great resource is ProjectJUST, where you can research your favorite brands. And finally, if you want to know where to shop, start here, with my list of my favorite brands and companies.

I hope you’ll be encouraged, shopping for ethically-made items is not as hard as you might think!

I’ll be back tomorrow to share my last two 10×10 outfits – see you then!


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  • Stacy August 2, 2016 at 10:49 am

    Andrea, this is SO so good. I’ll be revisiting this post anytime I feel discouraged in this journey. (Also, can you believe I still haven’t watched The True Cost? It’s on this week’s to do list.)

    • Andrea August 2, 2016 at 11:58 pm

      I’m so glad I could encourage you! This stuff has become so automatic for (crazy, I know!) that sometimes I take a step back and remember how daunting it seems! Let me know what you think of the doc!

  • Sarah August 2, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    I still haven’t watched True Cost either! I’m kind of afraid to. I’ve all but stopped buying fast fashion BUT still. This post is a great reminder that not every IG’er and fashion blogger has lots of money or donated items. And it’s okay to take it a piece at a time and save up for things. I am super super picky on my purchases now, and it is sometimes really hard to find even an ethical brand that offers what I am looking for. So, I wait! Good reminders and tips!

    • Andrea August 2, 2016 at 11:59 pm

      Sarah, I felt the same way, I was almost afraid to watch it at first! I knew once I saw it, I couldn’t ‘unsee it’, you know?

      Yes, it’s a good reminder that it’s called ‘slow’ fashion for a reason. I love hearing about your changes, sounds like you’re doing amazing!

  • Tawny August 2, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    This is really good. I know cost is a big mental hurdle for me. Especially after a few experiences of buy ‘investment pieces’ that didn’t really work out. I need to keep reminding myself that more often the things I’ve carefully picked and spent more on are the ones I wear all the time.

    I’d also add that the having to buy most ethical options online can be difficult. It requires a lot more trial and error and for those of us who have a hard time going through the annoyance of returning something it’s a real hurdle as well. I’ve occasionally found made in the USA pieces at places like marshalls and being able to try them is just fantastic.

    • Andrea August 2, 2016 at 6:03 pm

      Yes, shopping online can be such a pain. I feel like I have a love-hate relationship with it, I love the fact that I can research, research, research without having to go to endless boutiques only to be shocked by prices, but I hate the fact that I can’t try things on, it is tough. I have sent so many things back over time! :/

  • Andrea August 3, 2016 at 1:36 am

    Thank you for posting the ProjectJUST link, I had never seen the site before. I like the way they break down the information, and I was a bit surprised by what I thought was a great ethical upfront brand, turns out to not be all that forthcoming in reality. Definitely made me think twice about buying from Everlane.

    • Andrea August 3, 2016 at 9:08 am

      Yes, ProjectJUST is great, I am curious what made you think twice about Everlane?

  • Rebecca N August 3, 2016 at 8:19 am

    My biggest obstacle, similarly to what Tawny says above, has been having to do most of my ethical shopping online. I love online shopping for some things, but not especially for clothing. I am hoping as ethical shopping becomes more mainstream, brick and mortar stores will pop up giving us the options to try things on. I also feel that a lot of ethical sizes are inconstant as well or cap off at a size large, which doesn’t give more full figured ladies options to buy ethical.

    • Andrea August 6, 2016 at 12:39 am

      Great points Rebecca! Sometimes, when I find a designer I like online, I search out their stockists, to see if any boutiques in my area carry their stuff. Maybe do something like that before your next big city trip?

  • Carissa Buckley August 3, 2016 at 9:10 am

    I haven’t watched True Cost but I thoroughly enjoyed Traceable. Probably a similar style documentary exposing the supply chain of fast fashion and its impact at every point.

    I live in Ottawa, Canada and while I’m starting to get over the price factor, availability and finding stylish pieces worth investing in are tough. I find lots of casual attire but not as many business casual or dressier items; even dresses tend to be on the more casual side on sites like Zady (love this site still). Tougher still? Children’s clothing. I gravitate toward West Coast brands like Whistle & Flute and Thrive Lifestyle Salt Spring Island (my daughter has one of their pieces and believe me, it has held up to hot water, laundry detergent and so, so many washes). It breaks my heart to see the proliferation of Joe Fresh, Carter’s (both manufactured in Bangladesh and Phillipines under dangerous conditions). Unsurprisingly, the cheaper brands break down after so many washes, more subject to wear and tear, even H&M (who is trying to make an effort for both sustainability and recycling). Our approach is to buy the core pieces of a toddler’s clothing from ethical source brands and/or to buy second hand from places like Boomerang Kids Ottawa. Here we buy more fun styles.

    • Andrea August 6, 2016 at 12:46 am

      I haven’t checked out Traceable yet, but I totally will now, thanks for the tip!

      Have you had any luck with dressier items from Everlane? Awhile back Vetta Capsule launched and I LOVED their stuff, but it was too dressy for my lifestyle. But yes, it does seem harder to find dressier ethically made stuff. Do you ever shop online at places like the Real Real? You can find second-hand designer items. I know Ariana of Paris to Go dresses very dressy, and she’s sourced some beauties from that site.

      Kids. Man, I feel like I could dedicate a whole blog post to this topic and then some. So tough. I’ve changed my mentality toward their clothes, and I buy them less, but try to invest in brands that will last longer, though not necessarily ethically made to my knowledge. But it’s hard. We do A LOT of second hand items, especially for the two that induce the most wear and tear. Have you heard of Wildly.Co? We have some cute items from that shop.

  • Alicia August 3, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    I think one thing that holds me back is the lack of plus size options. I would love any links to places with plus size options. :)

  • Jessica Rose August 4, 2016 at 2:26 am

    I do think the price is a consideration for a lot of people. Also for lots of people buying cheaper clothes does not mean they have more. For some there is no choice. Charity/thrift shopping is a good alternative.

    • Andrea August 6, 2016 at 12:52 am

      That is a great point Jessica, so very true, one I should have considered! Thanks for bringing it up.

  • Stephanie Hartley August 4, 2016 at 3:01 am

    I love this post, and I really think everyone should read it! I totally buy into the whole getting cheap clothes that are easy to throw away game, and I do want to change. This has really made me think about my own wardrobe and I’ll definitely be saving more money to buy higher quality clothes from now on.

    Steph –

    • Andrea August 6, 2016 at 12:52 am

      Yay, so glad to hear this Stephanie! I am excited to hear how it goes! :)

  • Ana August 4, 2016 at 4:19 am

    For me it is definitely the last point – I do not know what to do when I want to shop :o
    I think I will look through your posts and maybe find a way to start my ethical shopping journey:)

    xx Ana |

    • Andrea August 6, 2016 at 12:56 am

      I have thought and read so much about why we get that feeling to want to shop – and sometimes it stems from a disconnect somewhere else in our life. We’re sad, lonely, upset, or there is just something going on. Shopping is like a temporary high. But that’s just the problem, it’s temporary. Better to deal with the root of the issue, or simply find something else to do – go for a walk with a friend, read a compelling novel, drink tea, I dunno… Maybe make a list of what suits your fancy and go-to that instead of shopping. :) Best of luck on your journey – stay in touch!

  • Linda August 8, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    I want very much to shop ethically. My only problem is sizing. Many brands stop at a size 12. Other than Eileen Fisher what do yo recommend?