More doesn’t equal better. Check your old shopping habits at the door and build an ethical wardrobe that doesn’t break the bank.

It’s January, so if you’re anything like us, you just spent a bunch of money on Christmas gifts and your new gym membership, so you’re trying to really stick to the budget this month. Less grabbing coffee on the way to work, and more making coffee at home, amiright?

Most people think that building an ethical wardrobe has to start from scratch. Throw away all your fast fashion pieces and start over! It sounds nice if money grows on trees, but for most people out there, that can feel pretty overwhelming.

But we’re here to tell you that it is so much easier than you might think to build an ethical wardrobe on a budget. Here are 5 key places to begin:

#1 Start with What You Have

Needing to start over is the biggest myth to bust. If you already have it, then you’re not helping the planet or people by throwing it away. If anything, that just creates more waste. So those fast fashion pieces you might be feeling guilty about? Keep them. Wear them. Use them to build new outfits.

#2 Take Care of What You Have

Thankfully this strategy is pretty easy and inexpensive. Caring for your clothes will help them last longer, which means you won’t have to buy new things as often or create as much waste.

According to a new survey conducted by Trunk Club, on average people throw out “at least 10 items each year due to shrinkage, color issues and damage.” Whether that be a result of failing to read care instructions on labels, or lack of knowledge about caring for different kinds of fabrics, when we don’t care for our clothes, it ends up creating unnecessary waste and harm to the environment.

#3 Quality Over Quantity

More ≠ better. How much you spend is not about quantity, but about the quality of what you buy. Next time you’re tempted to buy the cheap item that’s lower quality, think about this: when you purchase fewer, quality items, you will end up spending far less money in the long run. Your pieces last longer, and you don’t have to replace them as quickly. It might feel like a blow to the budget in the short term, but in the long term, it saves you money. Plus, we all hate when something starts to pill the first time you wear it. No thanks.

It also is a gut-check on if you really want it. If you’re willing to spend a bit more money on a quality piece, it means you’re a lot more likely to wear it. So next time you’re dying for that new item, take a minute, walk away, and if you’re still thinking about it, save up and come back. If you’re willing to come back, chances are it’s going to be worth it.

#4 Resist the Rat Race

It’s easy to pick up Vogue Magazine and drool over all the latest trends, or watch reruns of Sex and the City and wish you had that Carrie Bradshaw closet space full of the latest, trendiest clothes.


Trends go in and out of style faster than anyone can keep up, and competing in that game can add up really quick. Instead of entering the rat race, buy classic pieces that will stand the test of time. If you don’t think you’ll wear it next season, don’t buy it. Buy items that are versatile and classic instead of overly trendy.

#5 Buy in the Off Season

Patience might be a virtue but it can be totally frustrating at the same time. We get it, but it really can be worth the wait. Especially for bigger ticket items—like outerwear or boots—that can often come at a higher price tag, do your research about ethical brands and wait for the off season when most of these items are discounted. That can be an easy way to get the items you want at a lower price.

These are just a few tips on how to build an ethical wardrobe on a budget that hopefully will give you a good place to start. Stay tuned for more in the coming months!

January 31, 2019 — Jordan Soderholm

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