How to find cheap and ethical clothes but real cheap?

When we think cheap clothes we rarely, not to say never, think of ethical, sustainable, eco-friendly, organic fabric clothes. And it is understandable as when we think cheap we think H&M, Target or Primark and they are part of fast fashion industry so “logically” everything which is not fast fashion is expensive…

But are ethical clothes truly more expensive than clothes coming from fast fashion? Yes, it is generally true, but you can still shop ethically on a budget. Yes, you can dude!

Buying ethical and eco-friendly is inaccessible? This is a fallacy. In one way it is correct and especially if you want to shop the same way than you always did and go to same habitual places – but when you were a child you use to purchase your clothes in different places than when you were a teen, so you can change your shopping habits now and in a couple of months it will be your norm.




But a bit of something I want to say before… Everyone has her/his own definition of “ethical fashion” but generally speaking we can say that ethical clothes are clothes made in an environmentally/friendly way, and clothes which are made in the respect of the workers who have decent working conditions and fair wages.

Let’s be honest, if we consider the definition above, the $5 tees or the $15 pants you are going to find will not be made ethically; they cannot be! Simply because there is no way the company will be able to pay the workers, to make a reasonable marge and offer a wow deal. So when you find such kind of deal in a shop it means that somewhere someone had to compromise and it is usually the person who sew those garments, who probably works in poor conditions or receives real low salary.


So if we consider the labour, the price of fabrics and materials around, the transportation, actually ethical fashion is not unrealistically expensive or let’s say it has a fair price. But the communication and marketing satelliting around the fashion industry made us believe that it is normal to have a garment at this crazy cheap price, and it made us forget that if this garment is that cheap it means that the person who made it does not have a “normal” salary to live comfortably, it made us think that it is standard to buy kilos of clothes and accessories per year even though we will use only 2/3 of them.

Is not it normal for a person who spend hours sewing to make a living from it? Is not it her/his job? So why would not she/he deserve to have a “representative” salary of this work like a banker, a seller, or a builder would have?


So what can you do to change that with a tight purse?

1.Dig on your favourite brands. Sustainable and ethical fashion does not totally mean you have to stop entering in main retailers, but it is time to look for information about your favourite brands, to understand what their manufacturing concerns are, how they treat the labour, if they try to reduce their impact on environment, etc. Personally, when I find out something unacceptable for me I simply stop going to this specific shop. And alright, you might tell me that this behaviour will not make a huge difference worldwide speaking but I always believed that it is a good start and the more people will do that, the bigger difference it will make!

Some apps do help quite a lot to understand which major brands are better than others and they save a lot of time because I totally understand that you do not want to spend hours to read “boring” information written with a super small police; everyone is the same. (I will do another article about which applications are great to find your fav brands)

So to be clear, you can still shop at your pretty un-expensive beloved store and feel that you do something for the fashion industry.

2. Simply buy ethical AND qualitative (because unfortunately it does not go all the time hand in hand with each other). If you buy ethical and qualitative, at first it might appear more expensive but by doing that you will not need to buy a new wardrobe ever year as it will last you several years. So at last it will be cheaper than buying bad quality clothes which you will have to renew constantly even if you wanted to keep them. But it brings up something, you need to accept not to have new garments every week, that’s true. So, if you cannot contain yourself and you are shopaholic you have other options which follow…

3. Shop second-hand. It works more or less, depending in which country you live as well as in which city but it is a great way to find great bargains! Alrighty, in most of the times you need to love digging into piles of clothes and you might like only 2% of the garments but it is worth it. In some places it is the weight which fixes the price of the garments and accessories, so you will end up buying several tees, a skirt, a couple of shorts and a belt for few bucks.

Remember the styles come back all the time and you can also find some stuff quite new – the thing is not to dress up entirely from a thrift store.

When it comes to second-hand shops you have several options:

  • Charity shops or op-stores
  • Consignment stores – I love this concept and for the latest trends, you might be better off with consignment
  • Wardrobe swaps
  • Vintage shops

4. Go in your mother’s closet or even grandmother. All the styles come back at some point and I’m sure your grandma would be happy to give you a cardigan or a dress.

And then you have 2 options: you are ease with the retro style and you wear it as it is, or you will need a bit of alteration as there are always some small differences from a decade to another (ok, small differences in the style but several hours of sewing, mending etc. to transform it into a modern fashion piece but it is worth it for the health of your wallet and because you will have a unique fashion piece)

5. Shop on sales from ethical, environmentally-friendly brands. Probably the most obvious choice but it needs to be mentioned, right? However, more and more brands which label themselves as slow fashion might not do sales and promotions as it is somehow against slow fashion but many ethical brands do not see it that way still.

6. Shop out of season. Just like any retail store, many sustainable clothing companies try to rotate their inventory. So, by shopping out of season you get the best deals on ethically sourced attires.



Hopefully this article and these different ideas gave you some directions to follow. As I came by this process and I am still in it, I understand how tiring it can be and how much it felt easier when you did not care about all of that. But that is why I like the option number 1 because you need a bit of research but you do not need to change your habits and you do not even need to talk about your thoughts and questions about today’s fashion to your entourage if you do not feel like it.

To conclude, I think that there is still this belief in the mind of some people that purchasing ethical or second-hand clothes mean you are some type of hippie or bohemian. Of course, you can still be a hippie goddess but shopping responsible does not mean that you must. Today you can find chic, trendy, classy clothes which will still be sustainable in some ways, and you will not look like a person from another era, I promise.

And after all, if you still cannot afford sustainable/ethical labels then try to focus on quality and buying less 😉


3 Replies to “How to find cheap and ethical clothes but real cheap?”

    1. Thanks a lot for your nice words. It definitely takes time and dedication to create articles so it’s always lovely to receive some support like yours, thank you 🙂

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