Five Ways to Make Your Wardrobe More Ethical

Ethical fashion seems to be all the craze at the moment, but there’s a lot more you can do than buy from ethical brands. In fact, I think clothing brands claiming to be ethical should be approached with caution. I can’t claim to be any sort of expert, but there’s a complex debate around where’s best to source your clothes. It’s something I studied in my first year at uni, and it’s a lot more complicated than you would imagine.

There’s a great article I read by Michael Hobbes on the Huffington Post Highline: The Myth of the Ethical Shopper. It’s quite a long article that delves into the depths of sweatshops, but more importantly closes with what we can really do to change such a culture.

Sweatshops are awful. They provide terrible working conditions for people and families that have no other choice for despicable pay rates. The problem is that their employees would be faced with even harsher realities if they shut down. Focus needs to be on campaigning to get workers the rights and pay that they deserve, not closing them down and leaving already poverty-stricken people unemployed.

I would really like to write my own piece about it, but at the moment I simply couldn’t do it justice.

For now, I’ll stick to my more light-hearted style of writing. As amazing as it would be to make huge, life-altering differences, I’m very much in support of more people making small changes to make a difference… Which brings me to the list! Man, I love lists. Here are the five easy things that I’ve been doing recently to make my wardrobe more eco-conscious:


In such a consumerist society it is ever easier to buy too much of something. We, in the western world, are extremely privileged to be able to load up on stuff just because we can. Just because, on one day in six months time, I might decide to wear that.

Now, I love a good haul video on Youtube. Just like most video formats, they’re harmless in small doses and satisfy the very nosey side of my personality. There’s a big however. A lot of Youtubers are rich, and a lot of them have more stuff than they need. Every time I log on someone I subscribe to has done a haul, showing off the thirty new pieces they bought that month. It’s mind-boggling, and I couldn’t ever imagine having enough money to do that, and I worry that there are younger people watching who think you need that much stuff to be satisfied with your life.

I know that’s an extreme point of view, but I really feel like consumerism can be dangerous. Joe and I have been clearing out our flat recently, and it’s amazing how I can ship off three bags worth of belongings to a charity shop and not notice that they’re gone.

It’s kinda scary, actually.

I’ve been downsizing my wardrobe massively recently, and it’s making me feel so zen. The less you have, the less of an impact you have on the world, and the less of an impact it has on your mental health, is a general rule of thumb. With less clothes, I’ll travel with less, I’ll buy less, and I’ll be more thoughtful about what I throw into the wash, which will all lead to a more eco-friendly me!

Clothes Swaps

This point was basically the inspiration for this post. Two of my friends and I are doing a clothes swap today, as you’re reading this, in fact. We’re all clearing through our wardrobes and bringing any ‘no’s or ‘maybe’s by the bagful to brunch (ikr), so we can cast votes on whether or not we should keep the ‘maybe’s and rifle through each others’ ‘no’s (That was a difficult sentence apostrophe wise). After we’re done, the plan is to make a group trip to the charity shop.

There are so many benefits to this:

  1. it gives you a great excuse to host brunch and drink mimosas before lunch
  2. it helps everyone downsize and only keep the things they really need and use
  3. it saves everyone money on buying new clothes
  4. anything that doesn’t get swapped goes to a mighty good cause

I really feel like there’s no downside to this.

Using Charity Shops

I’ve been saying this for years, but CHARITY SHOPS ARE THE BEST. Some of them do smell a bit fusty and some of them are full of tat, but more and more often I’m seeing charity shops that look like proper vintage stores. Even if you do have to rifle through a lot of ‘no’s, there are always gems.

Buying second-hand is hands down number 1 on the list of ways to be eco friendly (or… number 2, apparently). It’s also super cheap; I’ve found some amazing things in charity shops over the years. I once found a pair of M&S jeans in perfect condition for A POUND. How crazy is that?! Joe doesn’t usually have as much luck, as mens clothes are much harder to find second-hand.

Picking Worthwhile Pieces

Until recently, I bought things because I thought they’d look good with one particular pair of jeans, because they looked good on someone else, or even just because they were cheap. I found that I didn’t even wear a huge portion of my clothes on a regular basis, and dreamed of the words ‘capsule wardrobe’.

Now, fashion isn’t exactly my strong suit and I think a true capsule wardrobe is out of my reach for now, but I think I own about 1/3 of the number of clothes I used to. Whenever I decide to have a clear out I am totally ruthless, and if I haven’t worn something more than two or three times recently then I’ll just get rid. The proof really is in the pudding – it’s rare of me to miss something that I’ve chucked.

When you’re getting rid of old clothes, it’s tempting to use it as an excuse for a shopping spree. That’s definitely been a downfall of mine in the past, but it’s not the answer. You just end up in a rut – the key is to be patient, search thoroughly for clothes you really like, and perhaps spend a little more than you usually would. In the long run, you’ll wear the clothes so much that you’ll get more for your money.

Top Tips:

  • explore shops you don’t usually shop in – they can surprise you!
  • consider your other clothes & colour schemes before you pick something up
  • online, leave something in your shopping cart for a few days, and see if you still love it when you next log on
  • take pictures in the changing rooms and ask your friends for advice

Researching Brands

This loops back to #1, but there’s a lot to be said about the brands you choose to buy from new. I honestly don’t think that boycotting shops or brands that use sweatshops is the answer, but you can look into their employee welfare, eco-friendliness and other policies.

Choosing the right brand to buy jeans from is particularly important. Jeans are notoriously bad for the environment, and I cringe when I think back to the days when I bought a new £7 pair from H&M every month because they’d gone droopy and I didn’t want to splash out on a good quality pair. Thinking about it, I might write a whole ‘nother post about buying jeans otherwise this one is going to get far too long.

The best thing you can do is be mindful about where you’re shopping, and take part in promotions and petitions to improve conditions in sweatshops abroad.

If you have any new ideas, let us know in the comments!