We all need clothes! The question of how many is another issue, but we all agree that we need them. And things get even better when you have kids. Because those cute little monsters need them more than us, they need new ones almost every season and they need MORE of them. Unlike us, children cannot go through the week with 1 or 2 pairs of jeans and 5 shirts. I won’t go into the messy details of why, you have all seen them. So, in order to satisfy that need for clothes, a lot of people turn to fast fashion.
I have to say that up until a year ago, I had not heard the term “fast fashion”. That’s why when a friend mentioned it to me, in connection to our journey towards a more sustainable way of life, I made that weird look I do saying “Say what now?” I was shocked when I learned what it actually was. Basically, fast fashion is evil; with a simple google search you can find out all that is wrong with it. To put it simply, it is bad for the environment and bad for human rights. So, how do you go around it? How do you eliminate or at least minimize the damage?
One of my favorite things is a good clothing swap. I have gotten a lot of nice clothes, including my favorite pair of jeans from the last one I and my friends organized. There are so many great things about a swap: it’s a great excuse(as if you need one) to get together and see your friends; you provide new home to old, unwanted or unfitting clothes; what is left you donate to charity and they are totally free.
Another option is buying second hand. I know people who manage to find the cutest things in second hand or charity shops. Unfortunately, I was never one of those people, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying.
Of course, there are times when you need to buy clothes in a hurry. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens. It has happened to me once so far. If a situation like that arises, at least try to stay away from poor quality brands, try to avoid polyester, and choose a natural material. The quality between fast fashion brands varies, but they are still bad for the environment and human rights. And, speaking of fast fashion, if you have clothes that you like and can still be worn, don’t throw them away just because they are fast fashion – wear them, until you can.
And last but not least come the sustainable and local shops. They are usually more expensive and that can be a deterrent for many of us. I say “us”, because I am definitely in that category. But this is how I found a way to go around it. It’s really simple, actually – SALE. I buy on sale and/or clearance, usually at the end of the season or I buy summer clothes in the winter and winter clothes in the summer. I personally don’t care if this summer I will wear something from last summer’s collection. When I love a piece of clothing, I want to wear it all the time! It’s also easier for grown-ups, since our sizes don’t really change from season to season. Ok, there’s that period around Christmas, but you know what I mean.
Here’s when it gets complicated, because you have to balance the need for new clothes almost every season with your budget. However, as an Eastern European who is used to living on a budget, I have found my way around that as well. And you may have also noticed that when you have kids, most of the money goes for their clothes... and not only because they need it more. One thing that’s a must for me is buying natural materials, mostly cotton. I have tried to skip the polyester and other plastic-y materials even before I learned about micro plastics (and if you haven’t heard of it, I suggest you do a quick google search right about now) and my reasoning for that, was skin sensitivity. Then, the more information I gathered, the more my consumer choices evolved towards either GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) or ÖKO-TEX clothes.
As mentioned before, clothing swaps and buying second hand are the cheapest options. If you don’t like the idea of buying second hand clothes for your child, you can always buy them from friends with bigger kids. I have to say that this is my favourite option.
A thing that a lot of people tell you to do, and they are totally on point, is to buy bigger clothes. I don’t mean to the point where it looks that the kid is wearing a bag, but just a couple of sizes bigger. Of course, it depends on the type of clothing. For example, when my daughter was still in cloth diapers, I’d buy bigger jeans, from those whose waist could be regulated with an elastic band. At first, they were longer, so I would fold them at the bottom, then they fit, the next year they can be worn as mid-calf jeans... The same thing can be done with shorts and leggings. Another thing I discovered was dresses! They are by far my favorite piece of clothing and they can be worn all year round, especially if they are cotton. Yes, you read that correctly. First you buy the dress a little bit bigger, so it’s, let’s say, mid-calf. Then the kid grows and the dress is knee high, then above the knee and finally it becomes a tunic and it can be worn with leggings or jeans... or shorts. In terms of weather and seasons, during the winter it can be worn with warm tights or leggings and a vest underneath; if it’s a short sleeved dress, you can put a long sleeve shirt underneath or a cardigan on top. And in summer it can be worn by itself. And there you have it – one dress for 4+ seasons!
You can also buy on sale or clearance from a sustainable brand. The idea is the same – you buy summer clothes in winter and winter clothes in summer or at the end of the season. You just get them a little bit bigger. So, last winter I bought 5 dresses from a sustainable brand with GOTS certified clothes. My daughter still wears them and hasn’t stopped. They are perfectly affordable when they are on sale or clearance and there are a lot of brands nowadays that make sustainable children’s clothing. And all their prints are awesome, too. There’s also something deep inside you that makes you feel good, knowing that you are supporting a small sustainable business (with fair working conditions).
There is, however, a situation that deserves to be mentioned – what do you do with clothes that cannot be worn any more, those with huge stains or holes. I have two words for you - RAGS and CRAFTS! Almost all can be used for rags; if you’re into gardening, an old t shirt can be cut and used as tomato ties and old jeans make a great bag. I should know, I’ve done both of those. Or you can cut them into tiny pieces and turn them into pillow filling, which is going to be my next project by the way.
Now you see that you can still go shopping and not make Mother Nature cry. You, as a consumer, decide and your vote counts. Wear the clothes you have, go for quality and not quantity and if you need to buy new ones, be careful with your choice. If you have clothes that don’t bring you joy anymore, organize a clothing swap with friends or just donate them. In any case, do not throw away your clothes unless there is no other option.
About the Author:
My name is Denitsa, I have been on my zero waste journey for three years now. It all started when my daughter was born and I’ve decided to try and leave a better world for her. The first step towards sustainability was switching to cloth diapers, followed by exchanging all the plastic bottles with reusable stainless steel ones. Later I created a zero waste Facebook Group with a friend of mine and a year ago I made an Instagram account where I’ve been documenting my journey towards a more sustainable way of life.