Ethical Wardrobe on a Budget Dilemma

As some of you may know I’m on a recycle less, use less plastic journey. I’m also more aware of where I clothes shop from. Many of you also know I’m vegan for the past 5 years having been vegetarian for 14-13 years previously. I think that once you start on one of these journeys they all merge at some point down the same road or different lanes in the same motorway. 

My usual hot weather summer style. Hiking hence rucksack and cap (okay that’s usual as I cycle everywhere). I’m no fashion blogger but a post about fashion requires a clothes photo right?

Shopping for ethical clothes is hard on a budget. I shop on the high street while keeping in mind the fibres the clothes are made from, the environmental impact, where they were made as to the wage and conditions they were made in. I’ve had to meet half way focusing on fibres in some shops.

Being Summer at the moment, it’s easier as I don’t want to wear plastic. I’m avoiding synthetic fibres such as nylon, polyester etc. When you wash these fibres, 1000’s of microscopic plastic filaments are washed into the water system  impacting marine life by ingesting them as the oceans and seas get filled with these microscopic fibres. Not to mention it’s way too hot to wear these fibres. You sweat more. However I’m not perfect, my sportswear, bras, trainers, shoes, rucksack are plastic made so I know I’m a hypercript. The winter I’ve no idea what I’m going to do replacing my winter coat. Vegan means no animal products eaten or worn so I stick to polyester puffer coats and jackets.

Beautiful seas and oceans filled with plastic filaments.

Perfect fibres for summer which I’m seeing more of are viscose, cotton, linen, tencel, modal and rayon. These are made from plants however the production can be environmentally taxing especially with water. Cotton has it’s production enviromental impact with pesticides, water and the health of cotton farmers. Most of these fibres are perfectly cool and breezy in the heat. 

The next issue’s where I shop. It’s getting hard for a few reasons. My age is one. I don’t dress how I should for my age. I’m kinda petite and things drown me. Most places that have clothes that fit are too young or material so cheaply made or of cheap quality. I want something that’ll last several months washing. This is why I’m also moving away or shopping less at fast fashion places such as Zara.

Budget means I can’t move away from the high street where most fast fashion is. Every week or every few weeks there’s a new collection in. The unsold items clothes create their own problems. As some fibres/clothing items are so poor quality they can’t always be recycled. Countries that previous accepted them, such as Africa and come Caribbean countries no longer want them. They want to kick start their own clothing and fashion business and craftsmen which I’m 100% behind. This generates a lot of waste which can end up in land fills (a great Ted Talk about this is You Are What You Wear) or Indian recycling centres. Perfectly good clothing. 

I also try to bear in mind where they were made, the conditions they were made in. This is the hardest for me to do on a budget. I also think that the high end high street is just as guilty but charges more than low end high street. Since I made an conscious effort to note where I shop my range of shops has decreased, particularly no more Zara which was the original title of this post: No Zara. I’ve nearly always returned what ever I got from there anyway. Every week they have a new line. I’ve been been shopping less at H&M another big fast fashion supplier but that fits better. I’ve recently discovered an app that helps with ethical wardrobe shopping sources, Good On You. It not only features clothes shops that are and aren’t ethical but also focuses on accessories, shoes, underwear, discussing green washing, materials, animal welfare  both high street and designer. I should start using it to shop from based on their recommendations.

I do however shop at H&M’s sister, & Other Stories. It’s more expensive and the quality’s better, still high street however. The cut isn’t always right for me and a lot of what they sell isn’t for my lifestyle. I get a lot of T-shirts from them. Ones I got last year from them are still going strong. 

Summer tops to be altered. Most summer tops I ended up altering by taking up straps, t shirt sleeve lengths, only to alter them when summer’s nearly over.

Brandy & Meville’s another place I currently shop at. Okay, I old enough to be a mum to the average target audience shopper and doesn’t list well on Good For You. I’ll admit that. However the size fits and again their t-shirts are quite good. You have to browse and know which material will last longer. They also seem to have a new collection once month rather than every week. Collections gradually work their way to the back of the shop. I’ve Googled their ethics and nothing’s come up so I’m sure they’re not perfect. They also feature a lot of viscose and cotton (that’s a whole other ethical issue. Especially Indian cotton. A great documentary to watch is The True Cost. A massive eye opener into the fashion business and material supply chain). For now they seem to be working as it’s summer.

Fabletics were I get most of my sportswear from I know isn’t perfect. However they fit, don’t get smelly after washing as some workout clothes can and last. The past few months I’ve been good, skipping a month so I’m not buying every month. If I do it’s because I like the design or I need a top.

I know should second hand shop. As I’ve mentioned previously this doesn’t sit with me. I’m all for it, it’s just not for me. Clothes I’ve decided are too washed out to wear any more or clothes I no longer want, I donate to a local charity shop who also doubles up as a clothes recycling point. Sorting ones to sell, fibres to break down extra. 

The biggest change is just not buying as much so not contributing to the system. Some items I know straight way I’ll get use out of them. If I’m unsure I walk way as I’ll either return it or wear it once not be happy in it and never wear it again. Other times I ask myself do I really need it? What’s my current mood. Is it a quick kill? A just because? I alway say shopping in modern day hunting and foraging. Other times it’s cost per wear. Just being more aware is the biggest advantage out shopping. Of course I still love looking around the shops, trying on things. I’m just getting more savvy, not playing the shop keepers game or being swayed by adverts and influencers.

What’s your view on fast fashion? How much of your wardrobe do you actually wear? It’s filled and you stick to a few favourites. I have to sometimes make myself wear them items. I’m better in the winter as my coat covers what I wear hence my winter wardrobe’s smaller. Do you have any ethical clothing company recommendations?


  1. says:

    It is so hard for me to find clothes that I like that I wear them until they literally fall apart, haha. The average age of my t shirts must be 3-4 years… It helps that I don’t need to dress up every day as I work from home! But I do have quite a full wardrobe as I keep everything for years. A couple of winters ago I started wearing again some skirts I bought when I was 18!!

    1. says:

      I have to have a big edit twice a year. I don’t think I’ve kept much from when I was a teenager. My summer wardrobe I get through lot quicker cycling as summer clothes aren’t designed for ‘heavy use’ or cycling as transport. My winter wardrobe usually lasts a few seasons. I have a coat on when I got out anyway, so it’s not like people see what I wear. I don’t think I have any clothes from when I was a teenager! I think I recycled on their energy. Don’t want to be reminded of what I wore back then!

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