How to build your ethical wardrobe

In an age of online shopping and ever-changing trends, “fast fashion” companies have quickly risen to new heights.

Fast fashion, or inexpensive, trendy clothing, may be convenient and cheap for the consumer, but the hidden costs for these clothes come at the expense of those making the clothes.

As Catholics, everything we do, including making a purchase, must stem from the belief that every human person is made in the image and likeness of God and is worthy of respect. We cannot separate our creed and our actions, even when shopping.

If we buy clothing from a company that sources their materials through harming the environment, we give our consent for our common home to be injured. If we buy clothing from a company in which people work in a dangerous environment or are given unjust pay for their labor, we ignore the needs of our sisters and brothers.

So how can you build your wardrobe without compromising your morals or sacrificing the dignity of others to fast fashion companies? Let’s dive in.

Support ethical brands

With the rise of information about the harmful effects of fast fashion, there has also been a rise in clothing brands that create their products using ethical and sustainable methods.

From professional wear to everyday clothes (even in niche clothing areas like medical scrubs), you can find several companies producing clothing for the ethically-conscious consumer.

Many people (myself included) find the price tag on ethical-brand clothing intimidating or a little discouraging. However, keep in mind that these prices make it possible for brands to pay their workers fairly and use materials and practices that keep in mind the environment and the people within them.

Plus, because these pieces are made with higher quality materials, they are made to last! Make your wardrobe a long-term investment by building it over time and budgeting appropriately.

Buy secondhand

Buying secondhand clothing is a great option for building your ethical wardrobe without having a huge impact on your wallet.

Purchasing from a consignment shop in-store and online reduces the harmful production of new material and prevents you from buying a cheaply made piece that will only end up in the trash after a few wears.

And the best part about shopping secondhand? You can find unique and often brand-name clothes that will last for years at a fraction of the original price.

Swap and share

A fun (and free) way to build an ethical wardrobe is through swapping or sharing clothes with your friends or other women in your local community.

Consider hosting a clothing swap if you can’t find one planned in your area. Invite friends or women from your parish to clean out their closets, putting aside new and gently used clothing they no longer want, and trade away!

You can share the love by taking the clothes left over from the swap to a local women’s shelter or charity. Hosting a clothing swap fosters community, helps you simplify your closet and your home, and helps you save money on new pieces. Best of all, a clothing swap allows you to support those in need.

Shop your closet

While this idea doesn’t technically add more clothes to your wardrobe, it may still give you some new options without supporting fast fashion companies.

The average American only wears 18% of the clothes that they own. That means over 80% of your clothes remain in your closet or dresser untouched (perhaps even with the tag still on).

So before you head out to the store to buy a new outfit, commit to going through the pieces you already own and opt for something you haven’t worn in a while.

Instead of reaching for the same articles of clothing time and time again, switch it up! Wear those pieces hiding in the back of your closet and suddenly it’s like you have a whole new wardrobe without spending a cent.

You can fill your closet with unique and lovely articles of clothing without spending a ton of money and while having fun in the process. At times it may require sacrificing convenience, but your sacrifice can make a difference in both a person’s life and in the world.

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