3 Ways to Shop Ethical Fashion on a Budget
This season, we invited six of our world-changing Ambassadors to become contributors to Flourish. We are excited to give you a sneak peek into the life of a Noonday Ambassador! These women not only act as stylists storytellers, and social entrepreneurs in their communities — they are also mothers, wives, friends and professionals with a knack for the written word.
Today our first Ambassador contributor, Elizabeth Bricknell from Longview, WA, shares her top tips for shopping ethically without breaking the bank.
I like to think I was thrifting before thrifting was cool.
As a little girl in the 90s, my family would scour resale shops to outfit our next cross-country ski trip, to find an unexpected gem that ended up as a favorite, or even a gift that would find its way under the Christmas tree. Unsure of myself and too concerned with what others thought of me at the time, I was admittedly a little embarrassed to be combing the racks of previously worn clothing. I would have much rather been at the mall where my friends (and the cute boys) were flocking.
When I started shopping on my own dime in college, I warmed up to the idea of secondhand stores. However, I still underestimated their coolness factor and limited myself to costume hunting for campus events. I stuck to the mall for my day-to-day outfit needs.
Now that I’m an adult, I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve developed a crush on thrifting. And not just for wild, themed outfits for summer camp or Halloween, either. Its become an enjoyable, responsible, satisfying habit – and dare I say stylish?
Since falling in love with Noonday Collection three years ago, I’ve revolutionized my shopping habits by utilizing my purchasing power at second-hand stores, clothing swaps and online fair trade retailers. Because I pay more attention to labor conditions and production standards, I’m much more cautious about where I spend my money.
Today I’m excited to share a few tips for not only shopping ethically, but shopping ethically on a budget!
1. Get Thrifty
What I didn’t realize or care about as a kid is that shopping secondhand is not only budget-friendly, it’s also ethical! Many fashion companies today rely on cheap labor in countries like China and Bangladesh, where working conditions can be dangerous and wages are often extremely low. Buying second-hand keeps me from supporting unethical labor practices when I can’t be sure how something was made. When we give something pre-loved another chance, we are reducing the demand for fast fashion while simultaneously reducing waste. After all, getting thrifty also means going green!
Sifting through racks and racks of one-of-a-kind items can be time consuming, so it’s important to give yourself plenty of time to shop. To make this process even easier, pay attention to what kind of donations the store accepts. My favorite shops are selective with their donation process, which yields higher quality, less worn items, appropriate for the current season. Some stores also offer trade-ins, where you can donate your own clothes in return for store credit. I love this option because I can keep trading up without spending anything or over-crowding my closet. Out with the old, in with the new-to-me!
Just like we need our best gal pals to give us a confidence boost when we try on a bold Noonday statement piece at a Trunk Show, we need our friends/sisters to help us step out of our style comfort zones. We are more apt to trying new things when we have the encouragement and affirmation from those who know us best. My sister and I hit the jackpot on a recent trip to my favorite thrift store in town. Although it was difficult to lure her away from her twin baby nieces for an afternoon, we snuck away during their nap for a quick and rare shopping trip together.
I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for a chambray top and when I spotted this J.Crew button down for $3.80, I snatched it up! Have we mentioned how well Noonday pairs with Chambray? It also goes well this classic cotton skirt I thrifted a few years ago.
For less than five dollars, this blousy top is a great way to try out the floral trend this summer and, since it’s roomy up top, compliments something slimmer on the bottom such as skinny jeans or cutoffs. Plus, it’s the ideal backdrop for the Pambil Necklace, one of the perfect neutrals from the latest Noonday season!
With a little patience, persistence and attention to detail, it can be a rewarding experience and you just might find a diamond in the rough, like the $5 already worn-in jeans that retail for over $90, or a tags-still-on name brand dress!
2. Swap Till You Drop
As a mom to increasingly mobile twin baby girls, time is a luxury I don’t have much of these days. So when I don’t have time or simply can’t leave the house, I shop online. Isn’t that what naptimes are for, anyway?
Online clothing swap pages are an easy way to buy and sell. These are like virtual, pop-up garage sales, but with less work and no early-bird shoppers! It can also be a wonderful avenue to support ministries and adoptive families who need the extra cash.
You can find local groups by searching Facebook, or join a group from around the country and just tack on a few dollars to cover shipping costs. Asking questions of the seller like “how tall are you” and “where does this hit you” can give you a pretty true picture of how a piece will fit you since you can’t try it on yourself.
I’ve also enjoyed organizing clothing swaps with friends. This was an idea born out of the book 7 by our beloved Jen Hatmaker! About once a year, my Bible study friends and I bring our castaways to our small group, replace them with one or two new-to-us favorites and donate the rest to a local clothing ministry. We love the opportunity to simplify, shop, give and socialize.
3. Shop Fair Trade Online
There are 27 million people working as slaves today, meaning there are more slaves today than at any other point in history. I knew from a brief stint in El Alto, Boliva, that modern-day slavery existed in the form of human trafficking and forced prostitution, but it wasn’t until the garment factory collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2013 that I really started owning my response.
Horrified by the thought that slaves were making the very clothes I had heaped on my bed, I was jolted into action and knew I had to change my shopping habits. So, I did what any girl would do when she wants to change the world: stayed up late with a bowl of ice cream and created a Pinterest board of ethical places to shop. Check out my boards for inspiration of where to shop for her, for him, for kids and even babies.
As a youth pastor’s wife on a single income, I used to think I couldn’t afford to buy fair trade. Then I started following a myriad of ethical brands on Facebook and Instagram and signing up for their email newsletters, because hello, who doesn’t love a sale? We all know where to go for amazing fair trade jewelry – Noonday of course! But there are so many great ethical clothing brands out there too.
This amazing fair trade, striped Liz Alig dress (with pockets!) and my new favorite Raven and Lily giraffe tank top were both half price through a recent flash sale. The best part? They help women out of poverty and exploitive situations by providing sustainable forms of income. My versatile sandals by Sseko Designs are even fair trade, providing scholarships for Ugandan women to attend college!
The benefits of fair trade shopping are endless! These pieces are unique because they are handmade. Additionally, each thing I’ve purchased comes packaged with a story about where the item comes from, who made it, and the redemption story it represents. Gift giving is more fun and meaningful. It also gives me an opportunity to teach my baby girls about the world and the global impact of their choices. I want them to thirst after righteousness and generosity and mercy. I want them to crave justice and love the world more than they long for the Frozen soundtrack.
We are connected! What I buy and where my money goes absolutely matters – to the people around the world and to the environment. Where we spend our money communicates our values in the marketplace. Every product we buy represents a story and we get to choose what that story represents: opportunity and freedom, or the opposite.
Hopefully by utilizing these shopping tips, you realize you can shop responsibly, save money and be on trend! Whether it’s been worn before or is brand new, it is possible to look good and feel good without breaking the bank. Now, with the money you saved, the hard work you spent shopping, and the warm fuzzies you have for your ethical buying practices, treat yourself (and your thrifty friend) to some Noonday on sale and an iced coffee (fair trade, of course)!