How to Build an Ethical Wardrobe in 5 Small Steps

How to Build an Ethical Wardrobe in 5 Small Steps

So you’ve read through information on the fast fashion industry and the harmful effects it can have on our environment and developing countries, and you feel empowered to make a change! Now what? Here are five simple steps you can work into your lifestyle without having to throw out your entire closet or drop $500 on brand new clothes. 

1. Closet clean-out!

Trust me, I know this doesn’t sound like fun. But as a college student turned full time professional, I’ve found the key to being able to enjoy your closet; quality over quantity! Once I started working full time I realized I wasn’t wearing nearly half of the clothes I used to, and that I needed professional clothing I was excited to wear. You look good you feel good, am I right ladies?

2. Take clothing to a resale/consignment shop.

Shopping consignment/vintage is the best way to be a sustainable shopper! If you can find a quality local resale shop, then cleaning out your closet should be a breeze! Trust me, earning money or new clothes in exchange for giving away old clothes makes it SO much easier to get rid of them. Take a Saturday morning with a few bags of clothes, grab a friend, and drive around to local resale shops and see what kind of new treasures you can find! The right shop will take more clothing than you think, and give you store credit back! New clothes without paying any money? Yes please!

A few consignment shops I love:

Poor Little Rich Girl

  • Located in Phoenix, Arizona

Essentially my kryptonite. I have yet to actually spend money there because I keep trading in old clothes that I no longer wear. Because they have such a large online following, they turn over inventory fast. Which means 1. More variety to look through, and 2. They take higher volumes of used clothes way more than other consignment shops (*ahem- Buffalo Exchange) ever will. 

I just can't rave about this place enough, if you're in Phoenix GO!

For my non-Phoenician readers, I have good news! You can purchase from them off of their Instagram as well! Follow their Instagram for fashion-finds that can’t be beat.



  • Located in Portland, Oregon

For those who don't know, I'm from Portland, OR, where shopping vintage and consignment was pretty much invented. Some of the shops in Portland, while fun to peruse through, are a bit too alternative for my taste.

My favorite shop to go to in Portland is Crossroads, and I just found out they have locations across the country! Check out their Instagram and website for more. You can even ship your clothes to them to sell if you can't find a local consignment shop you love!



3. Find brands you love with causes you can support.

This is a lot easier than you think it might be. Within two hours I had a list of 15 brands that had beautiful clothing, jewelry, and accessories. Each brand has a mission of making quality clothing ethically. Some even take it a step further by providing jobs for those who really need it, or donating to charities. See my blog post on "My Top 10: A Guide to the Best Ethical Clothing Companies” to get you started!

4. Avoid buying mindlessly from fast fashion brands.

I understand no one is perfect, and I doubt I will be. However, knowing the main “fast fashion” brands to avoid can be helpful for some! A good rule of thumb is this; think about what goes into making a clothing item. From growing the cotton, to spinning it onto a loom, to creating, dyeing, cutting, and sewing the piece of fabric, shipping the garment to its destination, and finally, the store receiving profit margin. With each of these steps to consider, should a brand new dress cost $10? Should a T-shirt cost $5? Just remember that fast fashion retailers are cutting corners somewhere, and it certainly is not with their profit.

Not sure about a store? Ask someone who works there if they know where their materials are sourced from or where the clothing is sewn. If the employee has no idea, that’s generally not a great sign. I’ve found that this often sparks an interesting conversation as well. 

Just remember the number one rule; give yourself grace in this area! If you find a piece that you absolutely love and will wear it for years, you may decide to purchase it. However, consider forming your personal standards when it comes to these fast fashion brands, and retrain yourself to think before an impulse buy. 

5. Spread the word!

Many are completely unaware of the harsh repercussions fast fashion is having on our environment and the people who sew our clothing.

In my experience, I’ve found that sharing the following facts is the best way to spark interest and spread awareness:

1.     The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world next to oil.

2.     Fast fashion retailers have one goal: To create cheap clothing that is meant to go out of style and fall apart as quickly as possible. The consumer is then fed the lie that their closet is falling out of trend, and that they have “nothing to wear”. Thus starting the cycle all over again.

3.     The cotton crop accounts for “a quarter of all the pesticides used in the United States, the largest exporter of cotton in the world, according to the USDA.” Pesticides are harmful to us, the environment, and animals.

If someone has more questions after hearing these few facts, you can direct them to the documentary these facts came from; “The True Cost.” This documentary is well made, comprehensive, and really sheds light on the crisis that is fast fashion. Available on Netflix!