Living ethically as it relates to fashion has always been seen as elitist and rightly so to an extent since ethical clothing tends to be very expensive. Despite it being the socially conscious thing to invest in, the reality is that it is a lifestyle mostly accessible to those with high levels of disposable income.
In comparison to fast fashion, ethically-made clothing is seen as a waste of money by some, since as naturally frugal beings we tend to quantify value for money against the number of pieces we can possibly acquire.
Being fully ethically conscious is also probably one of the most difficult lifestyles to achieve. I feel that now, more than ever before, there is a heightened desire to consume. Last week I read an article on Quartzy which concluded that with the rise of social media, everyone feels a stronger craving to maintain and create their own individual personal brands. Social media as an outlet which allows people to document their life, additionally sets one up for judgment by peers, therefore the need to look different and appear to have the most desirous life is central for most. The article also went onto state that because of this psychological impact/factor consumers are more likely to return worn clothing after they are photographed in it for social media. Even as I reflect on my own life, I would admit some of my posts are purposeful and with intention to only show the best sides of me. It’s natural to want to feel well but as we have come to recognize and learn social media also equally affects our mental health.
With additional pressure to consume and further pressure ourselves and the environment, because, let’s face it, cheap clothes aren’t really that cheap environmentally wise, we need to examine ways to live more ethically without breaking the bank.
Acquiring new clothing for every event can be burdensome and loaning out clothing can sometimes be daunting since people like to play forgetful when it comes to returning. Clothing swaps are a great way to receive, without feeling like you lost.
Bend down boutiques
In Europe, these are referred to as charity shops and do not attract classism. The last time I was home, 3 years ago, I sold my gently-used clothing, and everyone was concerned about privacy. I recently saw a friend post her gently-used clothing to Instagram and to my surprise people seemed to be more comfortable with the idea. Perhaps this is a concept we could solidify in some brick and mortar sense.
Anti-social media cleanse
I’m not really a fan of a social media cleanse. It either works for you or not. If you find pressuring feelings to consume, actively challenge yourself to restyle old pieces and unfollow pages that make you question your consumption habits. Social media is everywhere yes but you can choose what you expose yourself to.
Polyester is one of the most popular materials used in fashion. According to the Independent, “When polyester garments are washed in domestic washing machines, they shed microfibres that add to the increasing levels of plastic in our oceans. These microfibres are minute and can easily pass through sewage and wastewater treatment plants into our waterways, but because they do not biodegrade, they represent a serious threat to aquatic life.” Reading labels is also a good way to know what clothing you should potentially stay away from because of their environmental backlash.
Living ethically doesn’t mean you have to stop consuming and buy from the most social conscious brands but taking small steps will help you get there without it seeming and feeling so undesirable and unattainable. Being cognizant of how our choices affect us and the environment is the first step.