How to Shop for Ethical Fashion on a Budget


By Zoe Dobson

Ethical clothing refers to fashion garments that are made under good working conditions and advocate for good wages. The downside to ethical fashion and why more people haven’t embraced it is that the clothes manufactured can sometimes be very expensive, owing to the fact that brands have to ensure the workers are well compensated, and the working conditions are highly maintained.

However, several high-end brands have come up with a way to produce their clothes at a cheaper price those that haven’t are generally available at luxury consignment shops. Ideally, the most effective way of doing so is by setting up manufacturing factories in developing countries where labor is more affordable.

The less money spent on wages and production makes it way easier to sell the garments at a lower price than you’d normally expect. While this may sound good, the reality results in the same thing; underpaid workers considering the work they’re doing and barely passable working conditions.

Most shoppers today don’t mind the idea of stocking up their closets with cheap clothes but it’s important to remember where those clothes came from and at what price to people’s livelihoods. If you’re looking to start shopping more ethically, we’ve included some tips on how to do so without breaking the bank.

Go for handmade local products

Surprisingly, handmade garments in most cases are quite affordable compared to high-end fashion. The main reason for this is that local designers don’t have the same brand recognition. Therefore, they can’t charge high prices despite the high quality of their clothing. Local vendors can often be found in your community’s markets, small plazas, and in artistic or boutique areas in your city.

Do research on your favorite brands

It may shock you that some of the brands that sell cheap and affordable garments don’t offer their labor with adequate wages and good working conditions. This could mean that you’ve probably been shopping at a brand that abuses and misuses their workers in order to make a profit off of buyers like you. Sadly, one of the most recent examples of this took place in Bangladesh where a factory collapsed, killing 1,129 workers and injuring over 2,500.

Unfortunately, this was one of the very few companies that had refused to sign the pledge agreeing to better working conditions for their workers. Tragedies like this one means that as a consumer, it’s our responsibility to shop ethically in order to protest against companies that don’t pay fairly or create safe working environments.

One of the ways to go about this is shopping for items made in your country or other developed countries where the minimum wage is reasonable and the laws surrounding workplace safety and more severe.

Try thrift and consignment stores

Via Housing Works

Thrift stores are back on trend, so it shouldn’t be an issue finding a few in your city. Thrifting is a great way to turn one person’s garbage into another’s gold. No matter your style, whether it’s streetwear or high-end fashion, you can find exactly what you’re looking for.

The best part about buying used clothing is the process of recycling rather than buying new, which not only benefits your bank account, but also the environment, and takes a stand against fast fashion.

If you’re on a budget and looking to pick-up some new items, re-selling clothes in your wardrobe is a great way to make a little money and re-distribute it to new things.

Shop during sales

Via Engelbert Strauss

Buying things on sale is a tip that we’re all aware of, but when it comes to changing your wardrobe over to an ethical one, this can be a huge benefit. Smaller stores are likely to have frequent sales, but if you ask the vendors, many will let you know about their annual or semi-annual sale.

Shop out of season

The good thing about doing your warm clothes shopping during summer or your swimsuits during winter is that you’ll be able to get your favorite ethical clothing at a fair price. This is mainly because of the reduced demand for particular items, which leaves you with the ability to get more bang for your buck.

Maintain a simple closet

In a world of fast fashion and ever-changing trends, it’s hard to choose a style and stick to it without constantly feeling like you need something new. If you’re on a budget however, this is exactly what you need to master.

Get those must-have statement pieces in your closet that are high quality and can be dressed up or dressed down for any occasion. Everything else simply complements that core style and is easily interchangeable.

WE SAID THIS: Ethical fashion is not just all about shopping for quality clothing, but also making a statement against poor working conditions. There’s no doubt it’s easier to shop at any big box store but you’ll likely feel better and stand out more with your one of a kind ethical clothes.