Ethical Fashion and Why We're Slowly Converting

This post isn't intended to shame anyone for their clothing purchases, but to simply share how I got to the point that I'm at today. 


Growing up my dad complained to me numerous times that the clothes I was paying astronomical rates for at the mall were made by children in sweat shops in the Phillipeans. (Know how Grandmas talk about the starving children in Africa when you don't eat your food? That's my dad with sweat shops). I don't think his early introductions to child labor were based off of a moral stance, but rather trying to get me to stop overpaying for designer clothes. What he didn't know though was that the imagery of child labor was something that had stuck with me since. 

Fast forward to last year when my friend Molly was talking about ethical clothing on her instagram stories (which is a large part of her blog at this point), and was sharing an old news article from 2015 where a nine story building in Bangladesh that manufactured clothing for The Children's Place had collapsed, killing over 1,100 people. 

The imagery of the rubble and human suffering struck another cord with me, and it was this moment where I was finally able to make the connection, "This is what my dad was talking about." My mind was finally able to make a shift where I'd realized that my clothing wasn't some grand noble cause that was worth someone dying over. World peace? Cure to cancer? Sure, those are great causes, but making a shirt, or various pieces of clothing for my family doesn't seem like something that's worth dying over. 

I started looking into what it meant to purchase "ethical clothing" and found that it really meant purchasing clothing that isn't a byproduct of worker exploitation, sweat shops, and that boasts fair trade, sustainable production, the environment, and animal welfare. Basically, if no human, animal, or ecosystem were damaged in the making of the clothing, it is categorized as "sustainable", or "ethical" clothing. 

Know that moment though where you realize that eating organic food is better for you, but then you see how expensive organic food is so you go back to eating how you were before? That was me with ethical clothing. 

The thing is, to meet all these standards for our clothing, you have to pay a cost. We've been so accustomed to getting clothes for $5 a piece at Walmart or Target, that when you start to see what it actually costs to make clothing sans human suffering, it seems like such a huge jump. 

My first step into this world was through thrifted clothing. Buying second hand is amazing because you save a piece of clothing that would have otherwise gone to a landfill, and by purchasing from a thrift store rather than an unethical clothing company, you didn't add to any human suffering. It's not a perfect system since you're still likely purchasing used pieces of clothing from unethical businesses, but it's a step in the right direction, and a huge win for mother nature. 

My favorite place to purchase goods second hand is through ThredUp. I feel like I always have really good luck on there when I have a very specific piece of clothing in mind that I need. For instance, I only own one pair of jeans. I ripped the jeans I had, needed new ones, bought two new pair for less than $20 that fit me perfectly. Kinsley needed new long sleeve dresses for winter, found two awesome ones in great condition from brands I wouldn't otherwise be able to afford (purchased in the wrong size though so have to return #fail). 

Whenever we have a real need for something, our first try lately has always been logging onto ThredUp to see what they have. If we can't find what we need through them, then I've slowly been familiarizing myself with Molly's Ethical Clothing Directory. And shopping those brands when possible to fill the gaps in our wardrobes with pieces that are higher quality, can be passed down between kids (when possible), and didn't involve any amount of human suffering. 

I'm a firm believer that we have the power to vote with our dollars. When we purchase more and more organic foods at the grocery store, it makes more and more brands farm and produce organic goods, which lowers the prices for consumers because of the increased competition. I believe that we can see this same strategy play out to an extent with our clothing. If we turn away from the big name brands and vote with our dollars for more sustainable and ethical purchases, these big brands will start to notice, listen, and make the changes they need to earn consumers trust and business. 

2 comments

  1. I like Swap.com even better than ThredUp. The friend who introduced me them recommended buying only 'new with tags' or 'like new'.

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  2. I really want to buy more second hand, but I feel like I never find anything good. I need to give thredup another try.

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