6 Tips For Women On Ethical Fashion
Fashion: You can’t go anywhere without it. No matter what your culture is – or location on this planet – fashion is something that impacts people’s’ lives on a daily basis.
However, many people are not aware of what goes into the manufacturing of the clothing on their back. The ethics of the fashion industry can be a tough labyrinth to navigate.
Whether you are a budding fashionista cringing at the idea of wearing a glorified burlap sack in order to dress ethically, or just someone trying to get functional pieces you can feel as good buying as you do wearing, this handy guide will help you approach the wide and complex world of ethical clothing, and hopefully simplify it.
Prepare to look and feel amazing!
Tip #1: Bargain Stores: More Than You Bargain For
Fast fashion has its upsides and its downsides. One benefit is the proliferation of synthetic materials at affordable prices.
Major stores like Payless, Target, and Marshalls, for example, will always have a majority selection of shoes, clothes, belts and more, made from synthetic materials, some you may already have and didn’t even realize were vegan!
Tip #2: What’s in a Label
Sorting out the real animal materials from the faux ones is probably the most common obstacle you will face. It’s important to check clothing labels, but learning to read a garment label is a bit like reading assembled furniture instructions.
Look for “Man-Made Materials”, the word “Synthetics” or synthetic material names like “Polyester” “Rayon” and “Nylon” and of course Cotton, Linen, Hemp, Bamboo and other plant fibers. The cotton industry makes up exotic and luxurious new names for cotton all the time, but also makes it easy to find this out.
Quick tip: Many animal materials need to be dry cleaned and don’t do well wet, or in the dryer, whereas modern synthetics and most plant materials are created for machine washing and drying.
Tip #3: Go Thrifting
Not only can you find some really great clothing at affordable prices, but the sorting structure of pricing at thrift and vintage stores can help simplify your shopping.
Specialty items are often kept separate from other items within these stores, and will usually include items made from real silk, leather, and fur, and displayed in addition to the expensive designer clothing. This leaves you free to browse the floor for natural fibers and synthetics, like last year’s H&M styles.
Bonus: Thrifting is like recycling, and you can feel good that you are participating in reducing the demand for new production, and thus playing a role in reducing waste.
Double bonus: Many thrift stores donate profits to causes and charities.
Tip #4: Try a New Style
Instead of searching for the vegan versions of the clothing you already have, why not look around at what clothing you do find, and let your creativity and sense of adventure expand.
Experiment with new colors, textures, or combinations. Just like with food, you may find that your approach to your sense of style evolves with your other lifestyle changes.
Vegan clothing, whether intentional or accidental, can come in every style. No need to suddenly convert to an all organic hemp wardrobe!
Tip #5: Add Slowly, Remove Slowly
There’s no need to throw away your coat in the middle of winter. Look for the pieces you need, and gather the pieces you want, in ways that make sense for your job, comfort, and wallet!
As you acquire new pieces, don’t forget to donate your unneeded clothing to homeless shelters or animal sanctuaries!
Tip #6: Buy Local, Buy Trusted: Ethics Beyond Non-Human Animals
One important factor to remember is that the ethics of consumer goods goes far beyond avoiding animal products, or animal testing. We have a responsibility to our planet, to each other, and to non-human animals that is roughly equivalent.
Taking steps to buy from second-hand shops, or direct from makers, reduces the environmental impact of your fashion choices, and reduces the likelihood that you are contributing to human and non-human exploitation. Additionally, labels such as “fair-trade” or “worker owned” or “employee owned” may also signal that a company is more ethically conscientious.
Have any questions? Feel free to leave a comment down below. If you enjoyed reading this article, please share it on social media.
About the Author
Suzannah Gerber ran the vegan fashion shop, Costume Shock, in Brooklyn, NYC from 2010-2015. She is a writer for KeepItVegan.com, and is currently living in Boston, MA teaching classes on plant-based nutrition and working as a Vegan Executive Chef.