In my pursuit to be a more ethical fashion consumer I’m working on a few baby steps to make the switch seem more manageable. I am buying less, shopping secondhand, and getting the most out of what I already own. But sometimes an item needs to be replaced or there’s a gap that needs to be filled. Or sometimes I might just want to add something to freshen up my wardrobe. When I do need to shop I am going to do my best to buy well.
And by that I mean I’m going to start prioritizing finding items from ethical retailers first. With that, if I can’t find something I love, I won’t buy ethical just to say I’m buying ethical. Instead, I will invest in a high quality item from a non-ethical shop that will last me forever and a day.
This will be the most challenging step for me because I’ve always been a bargain hunter and higher quality and ethical items usually come with a heftier price tag. I was a believer in quantity over quality. I thought of my clothing as disposable rather than investments. If the price was right I bought it, regardless of how it fit into my wardrobe or how I felt in it. Sometimes I just bought something because it was so darn cheap, how could I not?!
I feel confident now that I can be content with a smaller wardrobe, but I need to work on the mental shift of buying high quality items. I need to adjust how I feel about those bigger price tags.
Here are a few things I’m going to remind myself of when I’m hesitant to spend more:
- Pace myself. I do not need to buy an entire ethical, high quality wardrobe all at once. I should only be adding a few items per season, so the cost will be spread out over years to come. Buying fewer, but better items in the end will likely save money because I won’t need to replace them as often and I won’t tire of the pieces as quickly.
- Consider cost per wear. I previously had a closet full of $5-15 items that I would wear only once or twice (or sometimes never), so those cheap-y, trendy items were costing me on average $10/wear. Instead, let’s say I spend $100-120 on a well-made cashmere sweater in a cut and color that goes with everything and I’m obsessed with. If I wear that sweater weekly for at least one (maybe even two or three) capsules I can easily get the 10 wears out of it to meet that same average. Even better, if it’s a classic piece that I can wear for years to come, that cost per wear is going to continue dropping.
- Identify my closet workhorse items. Through my capsule wardrobes I have been able to identify the pieces I wear the most. These are great pieces to start investing in quality replacements, as needed. If I already know I’m going to get a lot of wear from a piece it will be easier to make that big purchase and not feeling like it’s a risk.
- Don’t rush the purchase. Buying more expensive items slows down my fashion cycle. The higher price tags remind me that these are investments. If I’m spending more on an item I’m more likely to evaluate how it fits into my current wardrobe, think about if it’s a need versus a want, and to be sure the fit/color/feel is absolutely perfect for me. And really that’s the point of not just ethical fashion, but capsule wardrobes, which is why you’ll often find the two hand-in-hand.
Another part of ethical fashion that I am finding overwhelming is not knowing the best places to shop, but I have a great friend, Andrea of Season and Salt, who is a wealth of ethical fashion knowledge I plan to tap in to (and you should too). And hey, having to do more research and shopping around before buying is a way to slow down the fashion cycle, so it’s not so bad!