I live in small town. We have Walmart, Target, a JCPenny, TJ Maxx and Ross. We aren’t fancy and my budget isn’t very fancy either.
So what could I possibly have to do with sustainable fashion? Why would I want to build a better wardrobe with ethical and sustainable fashion pieces?
Is there even such a thing as affordable sustainable clothing? Could I create a sustainable capsule wardrobe I would actually like?
I Didn’t Know
I’ve always been a tree hugger and I care deeply about people around the world.
I have friends in India and brothers and sisters in faith in Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
Because I like to sew, I know how much work goes into making a garment and I often think about that when I see the tag on my clothes that reads “Made in Bangladesh”.
I hadn’t thought about that tag enough though. I never knew exactly what the true cost of making my clothing was, and I certainly didn’t think I could make a difference in the way clothing production affects the earth and the people who live on it.
What I did know was that there was a high price tag on ethical and sustainable fashion. I knew none of the stores in my area were offering ethical or sustainable fashion. And honestly, I didn’t think it could be that bad. We are just talking about clothes after all.
But I learned a lot from the documentary, The True Cost, and I started to do my research. It turns out, I can make a difference and so can you!
So let’s build a sustainable capsule wardrobe for winter! I’ll even help you find affordable sustainable clothing you will love!
This post contains affiliate links which means if you buy thru them I get a commission at no extra cost to you!
Why Do I Need A Sustainable Capsule Wardrobe?
It may be hard to see how the clothing you wear affects the world. It doesn’t seem like something that should be a big deal.
But we are buying a lot more clothes than we used to. And I mean a lot!
Did you know that in 1980 the average American bought 12 articles of clothing a year? Compare that to today. The statistics now show that the average American buys 68 new clothing pieces a year.
That means that we buy nearly 6 times the number of clothes we bought in 1980. That is a huge difference!
The Human Impact
To keep up with increased demand and to keep prices low production has to be faster and cheaper than ever. That sounds simple because machines make all our clothes right? Wrong!
Did you know that 1 in 5 people in the entire world work in some part of the fashion industry? Most of those people are garment workers who work long hours, in poor conditions, at unlivable wages.
And a lot of those people are women like you and me that have children, and families, and dreams.
While the garment workers may be happy to have a job they fear for their lives working in run-down factories that are unsafe.
In 2013 over 1,000 people died in the Rana Plaza collapse of a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Women often send their children to live with relatives in the country while they work in factories with toxic chemicals. When they ask for better conditions or pay they are often fired or even met with violence.
The Environmental Impact
It’s not just the people we should be worried about. We also need to be very concerned about the earth and how mass clothing production is affecting it.
The processes that are involved in farming and producing fabrics use lots of chemicals that are most often not disposed of properly.
From farmers in Texas to children in India these chemicals are causing cancers and liver disease while they simultaneously destroy the land and water we need to drink from and grow food with.
On top of all that, our “disposable fashion” mentality leads to 11,000,000 tonnes of textile waste each year in the USA alone.
A lot of those textiles are not biodegradable and they actually release toxic waste into the air as they sit in landfills, not rotting, for over 20 years. In fact, there are “dunes” of discarded, never purchased clothing piling up in Chile.
There is a lot more to this story. To truly understand it, I highly recommend watching The True Cost on YouTube.
I Want to Help But Can I Really Make a Difference?
You may feel as heartbroken and emboldened as I do at this point. But you may also feel, as I did, that you can’t make a difference.
While it is true that these problems are ultimately not going to stop unless there are major systemic changes, you can still make a difference with small actions. Let me explain.
Wear Your Clothes Longer
One huge step you can make is the easiest one of all! If you wear your clothes for 9 months longer you reduce your carbon footprint for that item by 30%. That alone makes a huge difference.
Not only are you wearing that clothing item longer but you aren’t buying something else instead of it.
This means that you need to be a more careful consumer and avoid trends that will quickly go out of date or things you know you won’t love to wear.
You can also make some small changes to make your clothes last longer. If you love something you don’t want it to wear out fast!
Another way you can help is to stop buying clothes new and shop thrift stores once in a while. This is the most sustainable and ethical way that you can buy clothing because you are reusing something that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
If everyone bought 1 used item this year it could save more than 6 pounds of CO2 emissions which is equivalent to taking half a million cars off the road for a year!
I love this suggestion because it means that affordable sustainable clothing is everywhere!
And don’t think small. Thrift shops could include things like consignment stores and online markets that sell gently used items like Poshmark, Thredup, eBay, and even some individual shops on Instagram.
Of course, as a person who promotes the minimalist lifestyle, I have to say that the easiest and cheapest solution to this problem is to buy a lot less. Most of us could easily stop buying clothes for an entire year.
We have too many clothing items and we do not constantly need more. Learn how to shop your own closet to create a colorful capsule wardrobe out of your favorite items before heading to the mall.
Is There Any Affordable Sustainable Clothing?
If you do need to buy new clothes what can you do? How can you enjoy fashion without contributing to the parts of the fashion industry that oppress people and ruin the earth?
We can buy from better companies. That is the only way that we can truly affect the systemic change that is needed.
“But I can’t afford it!”
I know how you feel because that was my first response as well. Then I did a little research and I found that there actually are some relatively affordable sustainable clothing brands.
There are a lot of non-fast fashion brands that are working hard to create sustainble clothing in dignified working conditions and not all of them are going to break the bank.
To prove that to you I created a deep winter capsule wardrobe from just two stores.
I will share that with you below but first, let’s talk about cost and what you can afford because I am a cleaning lady on a budget.
What I AM Willing to Pay For
Since you are on this blog about minimalism I am going to assume that you are not one of the average Americans that buys 68 new items of clothing a year but I’m pretty minimalist and I can honestly say that I have probably bought around 10 new items in a year.
The thing is, I still have too many clothes and I look at the three versions of the same shirt I bought in different colors wondering why I did that.
What if I had just bought one shirt with the same money? I would be happier with my closet. What if I knew that one shirt was actually ethical and sustainable? I would feel a lot better about myself.
I have actually wrestled a lot with the question of whether or not I could afford ethical sustainable clothing and I can’t say I will be perfect going forward.
But what I can say is that I would happily buy one less shirt and pay $10 more for the shirt I do buy to pay the maker of it decent wages and give her safe working conditions. I would gladly pay $10 more for her dignity and health. And I would gladly pay $10 more for the continued health of the planet!
If I can’t afford sustainable clothing, I can buy clothes at a thrift store or wear the clothes I already have. There are plenty of them!
Create a Sustainable Capsule Wardrobe This Winter!
Now you are wondering if you will like any of the affordable sustainable clothing that is available.
I’ve done my research and I am happy to say I was able to find some ethical and affordable clothing brands that make really nice clothes I could totally see slowly incorporating into my wardrobe!
For this post, I used just two ethical and sustainable brands. It was so easy to create a beautiful deep winter capsule wardrobe with their great selection!
The first one I chose is Pact. Pact has tons of organic cotton clothing options that are classy, comfy, and eco-friendly.
They work with Fair-Trade certified factories that ensure safe working conditions, empower their employees and protect the environment.
And they are located right next door to me in Colorado! They even have a great program where you can send your old clothes to them for responsible textile recycling!
The other ethical and affordable clothing brand I chose to feature is Able. They are centered in Nashville. They invest in, educate, and empower their female employees to help them break the cycle of poverty. Their products are very high quality and super stylish at a totally doable price range.
Ok! Are you ready to build a sustainable capsule wardrobe for winter? Check out my top picks from Able and Pact below!
- Ribbed Knit Ballet Shirt (Pact)
- Black and Camel Striped Tee (Able)
- Smocked Wrap Blouse (Able)
- Puff Sleeve Top (Able)
- Easy Turtle Neck (Pact)
- Tracy Wrap Sweatshirt (Able)
- Marlowe V-Neck Sweater (Able)
- Polo Pullover Sweater (Able)
- Airplane Cardigan (Pact)
Skirts and Dresses
- Twill Field Jacket (Pact)
- Honeycomb Knit Scarf (Pact)
- Crossbody Leather Bag (Able)
- Marisol Wallet (Able)
Aren’t these pieces great! They will make a gorgeous deep winter capsule wardrobe that will last! This affordable sustainable clothing easily lives up to the price point.
More Ethical and Affordable Clothing!
There are actually tons of non-fast fashion brands showing up. Depending on your price range, style, and needs you may be interested in some of the brands in this article.
You might also be surprised that Levi and Adidas are already passing the test and a lot of other companies are working hard to improve.
It is going to become easier and easier to find ethical and affordable clothing!
If you are looking for a more boho feel (I’m totally a hippy) you might also want to check out Fair Trade Winds and the People Tree which was mentioned in The True Cost. The clothes at both of those shops are gorgeous!
When We Have Each Others Back Everyone Wins
It’s amazing how much we can affect the earth and the people we share the planet with. I am so proud of you for reading this article and giving the idea of a sustainable capsule wardrobe a fair shake.
It can be hard to feel that you can make a change or that it really matters. But you can! I can! We all can!
Don’t throw away all your non-sustainably made clothing because of this post. Use it! Someone worked very hard to make it for you. The most affordable sustainable clothing out there is the stuff you already own.
When you NEED clothing look in thrift shops or buy from a more sustainable brand.
If you can’t buy even the more affordable sustainable clothing just buy less clothing and take good care of it!
Don’t fall for fads but instead build a classic and versatile closet full of things that will work hard for you for a long time.
When we care about each other and we really support all people and the earth we all win so build a sustainable capsule wardrobe for every season. Shop your closet and with clothes you already own, clothes that are used, or clothes that are ethically and sustainably made you can create a better capsule wardrobe!
Are you interested in ethical and sustainable fashion? Where do you buy your clothes? Please share in the comments below!
Do You Want To Declutter Your Closet?
If you need to get rid of clothes that you never wear or that don’t fit you I can help! You may find that you make a lot of excuses to keep clothes you don’t ever wear. I can help you bust through them with one little e-book! It’s called Closet Simplicity and it will help you create your dream closet with the clothes you already own!