Fashion in a minefield at the best of times – keeping up with what’s trendy and what’s not (if you care, I don’t particularly), what clothes really look like on people that aren’t size 6 models and then figuring out how that all fits with your budget.
Having followed many beauty and fashion influencers (not because I particularly care about fashion, I just like the personalities) I’ve seen so many talks about capsule wardrobes, fast fashion, slow fashion, hauls from every fast fashion brand you’ve ever heard of, wished for pieces from more ethical brands that are way beyond my price range and watched people make and up-cycle their own clothes.
And it often gets me thinking – as a teenager, I definitely had far too many clothes and as I moved every year at uni I’ve become far more interested in minimalistic living and getting more use out of the clothes I own (and repurposing all my old t-shirts into a big nostalgic blanket). So on one side of the ‘slow fashion’ coin, I’m doing alright at making sure I get enough wear out of the clothes I own and it makes me much more thoughtful when I am purchasing new clothes.
Buying new clothes is where I start to feel hypocritical – I love following creators that were sustainable brands and learning more about ethical companies and what makes fast fashion so unethical.
But I can’t afford it.
I can’t justify spending £50+ on one item of clothing, even if the cost-per-wear is significantly lower for how long it lasts, that still doesn’t mean I have the income to buy something that price in this moment. So I do my best to shop second hand in charity shops or find new ways to style the clothes I already have, but I do still shop in fast fashion brands because that’s all I can afford.
I treated myself to a little mooch in town the other day and after buying another house plant in Wilko, I wondered round Primark, popped into H&M and picked up an order in M&S. Granted, I didn’t actually buy that much – a pair of denim shorts and a t-shirt in Primark and a dress in H&M (and some jeggings in the M&S sale but they don’t fit so I think I’ll take them back) and the whole time I couldn’t help but think about how I shouldn’t be shopping in or supporting these brands.
But I can’t afford to spend more than £10 on a pair of shorts, I’ve been looking for summer dresses all summer and when there’s a pair of jeggings in the sale for £5.50 it’s too good to leave behind.
And I shouldn’t let myself feel guilty about all this! Fast fashion is definitely still the biggest avenue of the fashion industry and whilst I’m still a full time student who can’t get a job and no income other than some family support to pay my bills, I’ve got to make compromises where I have to.
I think being mindful is the key to all this – when I do shop, I’m now much more thoughtful about what I already have, what I will actually wear and making the most of the clothes I do spend money on. I don’t own a pair of denim shorts so I could justify buying them, I’m wearing a lot more t-shirts at the moment and I loved the design so I could justify it; I’ve been looking for summer dresses in a style I like for months and the one I found in H&M was perfect (and looked really cute, might I add!). I wasn’t doubling up on things I already had for the sake of it – I’m still in the mindset of curating and developing my wardrobe to work in every season.
As I finish my masters and develop my career and have a bigger income to work with, I know I can justify spending more money on clothes knowing I won’t have to replace them as frequently and the people that made it are being fairly paid and working in good conditions. But for now, I have to make compromises where I can – fixing up clothes I own rather than replacing them, experimenting with the clothes I have in my wardrobe to give them a new lease of life; turning my long dungarees into short dungarees for he summer because I’ll get more wear out of them that way!
It’s all a balance – as we learn more about slow fashion and prioritise ethical shopping over cheap consumerism, there will surely be more options to make high quality, ethical clothes accessible for everyone, whether it’s being able to pay in instalments, normalising not buying new clothes as frequently or making the most of second hand shopping.
Being more mindful is a great first step – environmental progress doesn’t come from a few people doing it perfectly, it comes from everyone doing it imperfectly. If everyone was more mindful of how often and where they were shopping, took more public transport and ate one less meat based meal a week it would all add up to make a huge difference.
I don’t know a lot about these kinds of topics, but I’m doing my best to learn. I recommend following Ellie Stennett, Lucid Seams and Clean Kick on instagram if you want some accessible, not preachy ways of learning more about being more environmentally friendly in fashion, recycling and cruelty free beauty!
(also Simple Politics if you find the world a bit too complicated and need some nice simple graphics to make it more understandable!)
Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!