Updated: May 6, 2020
Here's one for all the shopping queens and kings out there. Since it's Fashion Revolution Week this week, I thought I'd give you some tips on how to shop sustainable clothes without feeling too overwhelmed. Having been thriftshopping for 5 years now, I have some tips and tricks that I want to share with you. With some guidance, you can become ethical clothes shopper experts. Wanna know more? Read on.
What is sustainable fashion?
Sustainable fashion is fashion that is made to last, with no harmful chemicals, with certifications like the GOTS certificate, where all workers are treated fairly and humanely. Sustainable fashion brands are super transparent because how else do you want to know whether they are really sustainable? I will link some of them in my soon-to-come article about sustainable brands so stay tuned!
Watch documentaries like The True Cost and River Blue and research on the Fashion Revolution website (they have great resources) to understand the impact that fast fashion has on our planet and people, this will make your transition phase easier.
Sustainable fashion on the other hand is secondhand! And that's my focus for this article. I encourage you to rather purchase secondhand clothes than from ethical fashion brands because circularity is what we really need in order to be truly sustainable. Instead of buying new clothes, then recycling them and then buying new clothes again, we should reuse all the clothes that exist already instead of throwing them away. Both the production of new clothes and the recycling of clothes contributes negatively to the environment. An enormous amount of water is used and gas house emissions created and this is something we can easily avoid by learning how to go thrift shopping.
The fundamental idea of sustainable fashion is to not buy more than you need! This is something that I talk about in my Minimalism blog post if you wanna know more. Stop overbuying and accumulating too many clothes that you'll never wear anyway. Once you know this, we can move on to thrift shopping. Shopping secondhand can seem daunting at the beginning, especially if you have never done it before or attempted it but just thought 'errghh, this place is smelly, gross and there's nothing I would ever wear.' Secondhand and vintage stores are usually crammed with stuff and, of course, it's a different smell to new shops but one that I much prefer now. Fashion stores like Topshop and so on are also crammed with stuff, the difference is that they only have replicates and everything smells industrial.
1. Spend time in the thrift stores
I love my charity shops in Dundee. But I also love visiting Edinburgh and go to the vintage store Armstrongs or charity shops there, and London has a wide range too, especially in Hackney and Bricklane. Don't use the excuse that you don't have any good thrift stores close by. There are online thrift stores (Depop or Kleiderkreisel are good choices), you can organise clothes swaps with friends and family, or even with strangers, and you can always visit thrift stores if you're on a holiday or visit a new city. Another way to acquire secondhand or vintage clothes is to volunteer or work there. Some stores might even offer you free clothes if you volunteer there and if not, you are still the first person who knows about the new clothes that they get in. You simply need to take your time to look through the clothes. That's the first step. Don't be scared to look through the shop, once, twice, three times and even ten times if needed. It's totally okay, most people need to spend some time in there until they find something.
2. Forget about sizes
Sizes don't exist! Every shop has different sizes and vintage sizes are totally different again. Try on what you like instead of looking for your size. This will make your life easier. I have lots of clothes that are XL even though usually I'm an XS or S. It works, it's easy, and you can use belts if needed.
3. Reclaim your own style
If you only buy Fast Fashion then you probably don't even know exactly what your true style is, and that with a reason. Fast Fashion dictates what we should like and what we shouldn't and this leaves us with a confusion and with the need to get what everyone else is wearing. Stop right there, and reclaim your own style. Try out stuff you wouldn't usually try out, dare to be 'different' and to be whoever you want to be. It's only clothes anyway!
4. Know what you want
However, don't buy a piece if you're not convinced. You don't want it to accumulate dust in your wardrobe. That has happened to me before, with a jumper that I got from a vintage fair. I tried it on with a long-sleeved shirt and realised at home that it's super scratchy and that I look like an old man who has worn that jumper his entire life. Never again.
Ideally, write yourself a list of stuff that you need. Go in the store with a determined mind, but don't forget to be playful and spontaneous if you really like something. I had to look through 5 thrift stores within an entire year or even more until I found the perfect sitting high waste vintage jeans but it was totally worth the wait.
You can find inspiration online for what you might be looking for. Then, you can go in the store and scan the clothes. Look for the colour palette you like, where they have their jumpers, trousers, dresses or whatever it is that you're looking for.
5. Do regular visits
Go back on a regular basis because secondhand shops get new clothes constantly. You can find nothing the one day but so much the next. Don't give up.
6. Drop the prejudice
Stop having the prejudice that only people who don't have money go thrift shopping or charity shopping. That is simply not true. When you change your mindset about this, you'll have much more success with secondhand shopping. Don't ask the question 'but who wore the clothes before me?' because it simply does not matter and the clothes are washed anyway and you can wash them again. I'm guilty of asking this last question when I first came across secondhand stores 10 years ago. I was a teenager who was used to get NEW clothes or clothes from friends and family so the idea of getting something from a person I didn't even know freaked me out. But that's simply a change of mindset!
7. Bring enough bags
Be prepared with bags for your clothes. You don't want plastic bags from the store.
I hope this guide is helpful. If you have any unanswered questions, ask me on Instagram! I'm happy to help you out.
Much love, Viki
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