Ethical Fashion Basics: How to Create a Sustainable Wardrobe

I’ve been on what I call a “Journey to a Sustainable Lifestyle” for about a year now.  I still have soo much to learn about sustainability, especially outside the scope of fashion, but this article is about ethical fashion because that’s what initially compelled me to start paying more attention to my lifestyle, and I love sharing what I’ve learned this year!

Sustainable fashion is a top priority for me since the fashion industry is the #2 pollutant in the world, second only to only the oil industry.  This is one of my favorite fast fashion facts to share with people who don’t understand how problematic the fashion industry really is.  All of our decisions as consumers have major consequences, and if even half of us decided to adopt a sustainable lifestyle regarding our clothing, the impact worldwide would be drastic and wonderful.

Anyways, to the point of my article.  I am assuming that you came here today because you want to know how to begin to create a sustainable wardrobe for yourself, your partner or children.  Obviously if you want to maintain a sustainable, ethical and environmentally-friendly wardrobe, you will need to know where to shop.  A few very important items to remember…

  1. There is no point in getting rid of fast fashion purchases, or anything in your current wardrobe that you already have and enjoy wearing.  This just creates more waste.  Use all of your current clothing items for as long as you can, and simply purchase “slow fashion” or pre-owned items going forward.  It does not help the environment to completely clean out your closet and replace everything with new clothing.
  2. I often hear concern about purchasing pre-owned or pre-worn clothing.  One thing to keep in mind is that second hand stores or consignment stores that I recommend to you do not accept everyone’s clothing.  They take time to review each item for damage, asses its current condition, and some even reject clothing items depending on how old the items are.  Many of these stores see the original owner face-to-face, and all of these things factor in to whether or not the clothing is accepted or rejected.  They are making a concerned effort to not accept gross clothing.  They simply save gems that people dismiss from their closets for reasons such as the item not fitting properly, being gifted an item that really isn’t your style, wearing it once or twice and then just not loving it and never wearing it again.  I equate this with trading clothes with my girlfriends.  Give it a good wash and it’s good to go.  The second-hand stores that I recommend are reputable and have no negative accounts regarding pre-owned clothing, ever.  If I ever recommend a store where you need to keep an eye on the quality of clothing purchased, I will let you know.
  3. The Best Fashion Practices are as follows, in order:Take great care of the clothing that you already own.
    • Shop less frequently, make better decisions. Choose well-made items that will last you years, items that you can wear frequently and will love.
    • Buy vintage or second-hand items.
    • Support ethical, fair-trade, sustainable brands who care about their impact.
  4. Don’t feel bad about not being perfect.  You can’t change your lifestyle, your wardrobe, or all of your shopping habits in one day.  Be patient, keep learning, and make small, intentional changes to your lifestyle regularly.  The main goal is to stay conscious and aware of your impact, and to raise awareness with others. If you are doing that, you are doing great!

Alright, now that you have the basics, here are my lists of places to go to begin your sustainable wardrobe!

Second Hand/Pre-loved Fashion:

Plato’s Closet – This is my go-to spot to find incredible second hand items.  My general routine is to go through my closet, select any items that I don’t like, don’t fit, or don’t wear for any other reason.  I bag these items up and take them to Plato’s to sell.  While the employees figure out what they can offer me for those items, I shop other gently-used items and try them on.  Plato’s also stocks shoes, jewelry, handbags, belts, sunglasses, etc. I go to the check out, receive cash for the items that I sold, and purchase whatever new items I desire.  As you can see, selling and buying regularly essentially turns this into a massive, low-cost clothing swap with other people in your area.

Buffalo Exchange – Extremely similar to Plato’s closet, but conducts business in different regions.  You should be able to find either a Buffalo Exchange or Plato’s closet near most major cities.

Ebay – This is a great spot to find vintage leather or brand-name items that are classic and timeless.

Poshmark – I use Poshmark frequently and I absolutely love it.  I share a lot of my sustainable outfits on my Instagram account (HERE), and Poshmark gets tagged in my photos frequently!  If you would like to start shopping on Poshmark, take a moment to view some great tips in a special article that I created HERE.

Local Thrift Shores – It does not matter where you live, I am positive that there are some really interesting thrift stores in your area!  Take time to find these locations and frequent them, that way you won’t miss out on any new items for your sustainable wardrobe.

Slow and Sustainable Fashion:

The following is a short list of stores that I use to shop (online) for items that I generally will not purchase second-hand.  Some of these items include bras, underwear, leggings, undershirts, shoes, and other things of that nature.  I call these “Basics”.




Alternative Apparel


If you want a longer list of sustainable brands, check out two articles HERE and HERE where I compiled some of my favorites!

What other questions do you have about beginning a sustainable wardrobe?  What problems or solutions have you run into along your journey? Share with me in the comments, or feel free to send an email.  I love hearing from you!




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