As a child, I was obsessed with buying new clothes. I would spend all of my birthday and Christmas money at once when my mum would take us shopping in the January sales. Luckily, I grew out of that habit and have been pretty good at saving since I was about 17 or 18. However, It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve stopped buying as many clothes and only in the last year or so that I’ve thought a lot more about where my clothes came from.
I used to always want new outfits, largely to post on my blog, and as I couldn’t afford much else the clothes were always from fast fashion retailers. I always knew about sweatshops and unfair working conditions that the people who made those clothes were in but I just didn’t think there were many other options for those on a budget. There are more and more sustainable retailers out there now which is great but they inevitably come with a higher price tag, so here are some tips for buying sustainable style on a budget.
Probably the most obvious way to buy anything cheaply, but it can be a lot harder if you’re looking for something specific. But with the growing popularity of apps like Depop and everyone clearing out their wardrobes thanks to Marie Kondo, it’s a pretty good time to find some second-hand buys. I’ve always loved browsing charity shops and have found some of my favourite items there and it’s great knowing that you’re helping out a charity too.
If you want a specific branded item then you’re better off searching on eBay or Depop. You definitely need to be patient and look regularly but this is how my boyfriend does a lot of his shopping and he’s had a lot of bargains over the years (including his camera which he found listed on eBay for about £1000 less than it was worth).
Similar to second-hand shopping, clothes swapping is still about reusing other people’s clothes. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s where you take some of your old clothes that you don’t want anymore to a clothes swapping event and then you get to choose from everyone else’s clothes some items that you want to keep. So it helps to declutter your wardrobe as you’re also getting rid of some things.
You can find local events by searching on Facebook, Eventbrite or just googling it. There have been quite a few in Cardiff over the last year so I’m sure most cities will have them on a semi-regular basis. Usually there’s an entrance fee to pay but it’s not a lot and it can be a lot of fun!
You can even make your own little clothes swap event with a group of friends which can work out really well if you’ve got similar styles and are similar sizes. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!
Look at what you’re buying
This has been the main one for me. Just making more considered purchases overall. This can be simply buying less because you’re thinking about it more. If you’re an impulse shopper then try asking yourself the following: Do you already have something similar? Do you really love it and will wear it? Or will it just look pretty in your wardrobe?
It’s also a good idea to look at what your clothes are made of so you can judge how long they will last. It’s easiest to do this when shopping in person as you can usually tell from the look and feel of the fabric whether or not it’s good quality. If you’re not sure how to tell then this article has some good explanations of what to look for. I’ll be honest and say that I do this more than looking at labels for the content as I have a pretty good idea of what lasts and what doesn’t just from experience of buying many cheap clothes!
Buying online obviously makes this a lot harder. I like to make sure that the fabrics are at least mostly natural. If you’re buying second hand you can ask the seller to take a photo of the label to help you assess. It’s also worth noting that cheaper brands generally won’t ever have really good quality items. There are certain brands that I won’t buy from even second hand because I know it won’t last.
Check where you’re shopping
For me, this has been a mixture of finding new places to shop as well as refining the shops that I used to buy from. I love the app Good On You and regularly check for new brands and to see if old favourites have improved.
Have a look for local independent brands to shop with instead. You’ll probably find that their prices aren’t much more, or are sometimes less, than what you’d find in Topshop or Zara and you can pretty much guarantee that the clothes are made to a higher standard and with a lot more love. Plus, you’re helping out a small business.
I will still ‘allow’ myself to buy from shops that are fast fashion by definition, as long as they have a strong policy in place for ethical and sustainable practices through the business.
For example, H&M have been making environmentally conscious moves for a long time and have various schemes and policies in place to make sure they’re doing what they can for the world and the people that work for them. And sometimes, that’s all you can ask for. ASOS also have a range of clothes made from recycled materials which is a great step in the right direction.
I’d say that the overall aim is to buy less, and specifically less brand new items, so unsubscribe from those email newsletters that just encourage you to buy into fast fashion, don’t pop to the shops every lunch break and just browse when you actually need something.
I’d love to know about your tips or journey with buying sustainable style on a budget too!