I use to love to shop and buy new clothes. Matter of fact, I did it every week for years. It was the perfect way to hang out with my girlfriends so we enjoyed it. Maybe too much. I can’t even tell you how much money I spent on frivolous purchases (well, maybe I could if I had all my cash flow plans). Then life happened; we had Little Mister, changed careers, bought a house, moved, and made little more than what we could live off of. We decided to cut our monthly envelopes for all the “non-essentials” (clothing, work clothes, family activities, etc.). Prior to the big move, we stocked our envelopes a bit. (read more about that here). As of the time of this writing, it has been one year since I have purchased new clothes. Full transparency though, I did ask for and receive 2 pairs of jeans for Christmas. I didn’t have but one pair that fit. It was time for a new pair!
Three things I have learned
So what have I learned in this time off from shopping? I have learned that I can be even more frugal than I was before, you can get a ton of stuff used if you just look, and the social (not to mention environmental) impact of clothing is way bigger than we know.
Frugality and shopping
I have been pretty frugal for a while now. There is the occasional item that I do not mind spending money on, but other than that, I will try to find ways to save or cut back when possible. We watch our expenses pretty closely. For those of you that have read my past posts, you know that I follow Dave Ramsey by doing a cash flow plan, that here, and the snowball system for debt. It is really an amazing tool. Even with using the system, I was still spending too much for certain categories. I now know that I do not NEED $100 worth of clothing every month…not even $50.
Yard sales, Craigslist, clothing swaps, second hand clothing stores, and thrift shops are all pretty awesome for buying used! And now, Facebook swap or For Sale sites are so flooded with items that you can get for super cheap that there are not many things you absolutely need to buy new. Baby items and clothes, wood furniture (especially for a DIYer), lighting, clothing, and tools, it is all out there. Of course, if you need it now and you cannot find it now, it may be necessary to go out and buy it (i.e. you busted a pipe during reno and you need to fix it, yeah, just go buy that tool). We have done so many home projects with up cycled and thrift shop finds that it is crazy! Oh, and don’t forget that you can totally not be a DIYer to fix up something that just needs to be made pretty again. Spray paint is my best friend! From lighting to chairs to house numbers, it can all be spray painted.
So the thing that I have learned that I want to share with you the most is the social impact of clothing buying. The term “fast fashion” is relatively new and relates to the longevity of our clothing styles and therefore our wardrobes. Everything is changing at such lightning fast speed that we have to be constantly changing in order to keep up with the trends. Fashion is no different. We demand that we have lower costs on clothing because we think we need so many clothes and that (of course) we have to change them out frequently. This demand for low cost clothing is hurting one group and I will give you a hint that it is not the CEO of the clothing company. The companies are short changing the seamstresses and other people on the production line. They get paid (sometimes), but not enough for living decently. They work longer hours than we would ever imagine on a day to day basis and work in conditions that we cannot imagine. Do you remember that clothing factory collapse in India just a short time ago? Rana Plaza was just one of the many instances of the horrible work conditions that these workers face.
Modern day slavery, child labor, lack of fair wages, abuse, and horrible working conditions is just the tip of the iceberg. We cannot begin to fathom what these workers go through. (To learn more about modern day slavery visit www.IJM.org. I personally love this company and I hope you will too!)
A look at the environmental aspect of fast fashion shows us that clothing is made with a slew of chemicals, dyes, and pollutants that are just wasted into our precious earth. Did you know that it takes approximately 1800 gallons of water to produce the cotton for one pair of jeans? That is a huge detriment to the environment. When you pay little for your clothing, know that the companies are paying little to no amount towards environmental costs. They dump a lot of the waste into local rivers and large bodies of water. These bodies of water are typically where people bathe or even get their drinking/cooking water. Dumping is such an irresponsible act, but yet factories can get away with it in certain places due to the lack of regulations.
What if you want NEW clothes? There’s a list for that!
So what’s a girl (or guy) to do when she (he) wants NEW threads? Seek out companies that are completely transparent in the way that they produce clothing, who they hire, the wages they offer their employees, and other benefits they offer their employees. I hope to compile a longer list of companies that I love one day, but for now here is one from another passionate blogger that I love, Molly over at Still Being Molly.
Clothing should be way more expensive than what we pay. A $5 tee does nothing for the workers that produce it after taxes, shipping, distributors costs, and company executives all take their part. Realize that you will be buying less and paying about the same. That is okay! You are helping someone in the process of looking fashionable. And you will probably be exposing yourself to less chemicals as many companies use natural methods of dying and processing.
I hope you find some encouragement and enlightenment from this. What are your responsible shopping practices?
P.S. just a few brands that you will see me wear that I love…
Noonday collection (some of my jewelry)- Check out my Noonday gals page here.
Sseko Designs (bags, shoes, jewelry, apparel)- This is the company that I work with. I am always looking for more people to help me share the Sseko story. Let’s chat:)
Elegantees– Ethical and fashionable clothing.