Building an ethical wardrobe through charity shopping and rummaging in second-hand shops has become my focus after volunteering at a charity shop in Aberdeen for almost a year. Seeing how much clothing ends up in the landfill and, at the same time, the incredible pieces I could buy at a much lower price has been an eye-opening experience.
One evening after my shift, I sat in front of my laptop and researched the devastating effects of the fashion industry on the environment, and I was absolutely terrified! The decision to build an ethical wardrobe and focus on buying sustainable-only pieces came naturally to me and since then I never looked back.
In case you need a bit of convincing, here’s what I gathered:
- The fashion industry is the second-largest polluter in the world, after the oil industry.
- 200 tons of freshwater is needed to dye 1 ton of fabric.
- 750 million people in the world do not have access to drinking water.
- 90% of wastewaters in developing countries is discharged into rivers without treatment.
- 190,000 tons of textile microplastic fibres end up in the oceans every year.
- 70 million trees are cut down each year to make our clothes.
Put it simply, buying clothes produced in countries with no environmental regulations in place, pollutes the environment and degrades things that we all take for granted – who wants some fish with plastic microfibres or a glass of water full of chemicals? Our consumerism habits damage the environment to a degree no one would have ever imagined 100 years ago and if we don’t do our own bit the planet will not be this beautiful pandesia of green and blue colours as we know it.
My personal goal is to follow Jane Fonda’s example, reduce my consumerism and cut back on my shopping habits. Looking at my wardrobe I have so many clothes there’s really no need to buy anything new unless my clothes start being discoloured and they don’t fit me anymore. And like Jane Fonda said:
We don’t really need to keep shopping. We shouldn’t look to shopping for our identity. We don’t need more stuff. So, I’m not buying any more clothes.Jane Fonda
So here is to shopping more from my own wardrobe, here’s to building a sustainable and ethical wardrobe with pieces that are produced with fair regulations, pieces that will last for a long time and that I can wear all year round!
I’ve been quite vocal about my decision on my social media and I was extremely happy to see that many of you are on board too and would like to know more about charity shopping in Aberdeen and how to build an ethical wardrobe.
On Charity Shopping!
Before I take you through the process I follow and share my tips with you, I would like to acknowledge that going charity shopping is an option for me and not something I am forced to do. And for this I am lucky! I understand that charity shopping is not for everyone as you can’t always find what you are looking for. However, if you want to make a positive impact on this planet there are many other ways to do so; consuming less meat (even better going vegan/vegetarian), using public transportation, recycling every little thing and using reusable sanitary pads, are just a few steps to a better direction.
Buying from the high street is cheaper than buying from ethical brands that produce clothing with the environment in consideration and pay their employees the salaries they deserve. Converting into slow fashion is hard and I totally get it as I used to buy from high street brands too. When I was a student at Newcastle University (at the very early days of this blog), I would go to Primark once every month and buy something from the £1 rail just because it felt good having something new in my wardrobe. Reality is, the majority of these clothes were later on donated to the local charity shop and, naïve me, thought that this was my environmental conscious part done.
Working in a charity shop, I now know that the majority of the donated clothes coming from the high street are thrown away and THIS is what really made me re-think the way I shop for my wardrobe.
Since then, a quick rule of thumb I follow is always asking myself – do I REALLY need this? Does this fit with the rest of my wardrobe? Do I feel good in this? Could I wait a few days before buying it? Can I wear it all year round? It helps put my thoughts in order and makes the decision easier. But more to the point, it makes the purchase more valuable and mindful.
On Building a sustainable wardrobe
STEP 1: Have a look at what you own – rediscover old pieces, repurpose pieces that don’t fit you anymore, donate things that you don’t wear and look at what you tend to wear the most.
STEP 2: Find your style! What do you like wearing the most: dresses, jeans and sweaters, or trousers and shirts? And what are the colours and shapes you tend to wear the most? Is there, perhaps a colour that makes you look more vibrant or a colour that you are naturally drawn to? Observe your unconscious decisions of getting dressed every morning and make a list of all the feel-good clothes that you own. I love dresses but I find myself getting dressed in jeans and striped tops when in a rush so I invest a lot on the latter.
STEP 3: What are the pieces of clothing you wish you had? A white silk shirt or an all-time classic trench coat? See what is missing from your wardrobe and make a list. Insert charity shopping!
STEP 4: Now that you know what you NEED the fun begins! Go to your local charity shops and have a look in online vintage stores and e-bay. Don’t side-track yourself or make an impulse buy. Be focused on what you need only. Before you make the purchase check for any defaults and ask yourself: Do I feel comfortable wearing this? Does this colour, and shape look good on me? Does it match with the rest of my wardrobe pieces? If the answer is YES then go for it! If you still have some doubts then wait a day before you decide.
STEP 5: Make the most of your wardrobe, layer your summer dresses with chunky knits, wear a pair of tights under your shorts and wear them during the colder months. There are no rules in this game, have fun and make the most of what you have!
STEP 6: Be considerate with your purchases and buy, if possible, long-lasting pieces produced in Britain or Europe. Think of what it takes to ship things from somewhere outside Europe!
STEP 7: And if you need to buy something, please have a look at a charity or second-hand shop first. You’ll be amazed with what you can find! Another good thing about building a sustainable wardrobe through charity and second-hand shopping is that you will use more the items that you already own and get more wear out of the same pieces. It’s creative, adventurous and fun!
Here’s a list of my favourite charity shops in Aberdeen
PDSA on Holburn Street – they have the best designer rail for men and women (this is where I shop the majority of my clothes these days!) but unfortunately, they don’t sell children’ clothes- sorry mamma’s. They also have fantastic book deals starting from as little as 50p!
Salvation Army Charity Shop on 22 John St – this is my top place when it comes to vintage porcelain dishes and tea sets shopping. Do not be deceived by how small it looks from the outside, walk past the till and you will be led to the back of the store which is HUGE! I bought my most favourite tea set from here and a beautiful Fatface jacket for £1!
Somebody Cares next to Hazlehead Park – think of a big charity mall, that is this place! Vintage velvet armchairs, porcelain teasers and clothes in excellent condition are just some of the things you’ll find here. Perfect for seasonal decoration too, their Christmas decorations display was fantastic this year.
CLAN Cancer Support on 117 Rosemount Place – I love the ladies in this shop, they are always so smiley and welcoming. They have great £1 rails and they are dog-friendly too.
Sue Ryder on George Street – here you will find the best £1 bargains! One day I scored a Ralph Lauren sweater for £1 and I still cannot believe it.
Barnardo’s Shop on St Andrew’s Street – they sell everything and anything, from furniture to jewellery, clothes and books and at excellent prices too. Checkout their knitted sweaters rail and you will not regret it.
Sailors’ Society Charity Shop on 79 Rosemount Viaduct – I got some beautiful blue ginger jars from here so it’s somewhere I always make a point to visit and have a look around.
What are your favourite charity shops to shop? Let me know in the comments below!