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When making the decision to start to shop more ethically it can sometimes feel like a total minefield. It’s hard to know where to start and where to go to find out whether things are sustainable or not. You can get completely lost in all of the different terms and the various criteria for what makes something ‘ethical’. And with the huge array of information available it’s often easy to get overloaded. But don’t give up; it’s easier than you think to make the switch.

Behind the Scenes & Documentary Photography - ...

Behind the Scenes & Documentary Photography – Eco Fashion Week AW 2012 (Photo credit: Jason Hargrove)

Making that all important jump to ethical fashion doesn’t mean that you suddenly have to bin everything in your wardrobe and start again. In fact, that wouldn’t be that great either, as you’d be adding to the already high volume of waste we as a nation produce each year. It is simply about making small changes and informed choices.

Here’s my handy five step guide to become a more ethical shopper…

#1 Make use of your existing wardrobe

Start out by taking stock of what you already have. Chances are there are items in there that you have that you’ve forgotten about and are waiting to be re-discovered. It’s also a good idea to know what you have before you buy more. If like me, you are drawn to the same patterns and styles, you may find you already have several of the same items.

English: Aylene sewing

English: Aylene sewing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

#2 Make do and mend

When taking stock of what’s already in your wardrobe, make a pile of things that you still like but are a little worse for wear. It’s so easy to just discard items that are a little bit damaged, but a lot of pieces can be easily mended or customised to give them a new lease of life. There are plenty of sewing tutorials on the internet that can help even those with very basic sewing skills. If you are a total lost cause with a needle and thread, why not find a friend or relative who can, or find somewhere local that does repairs.

#3 Quality not quantity

Clothes can be bought so cheaply that it can be easy to fall into the habit of buying lots and lots without a second thought. But how often have you bought something cheap that doesn’t last well? Instead of buying cheaply and in bulk, save up and buy one good quality item. Learn to invest in items that cross seasons and outlive fast fix fashion trends.

#4 Think before you buy

Learn to think before you buy. Super cheap clothing means that many of us have forgotten how to do this and buy things we end up not wanting or needing. Before you buy, ask yourself a couple of questions – ‘Do I need this?’ ‘Will I wear this more than a handful of times?’ ‘Do I already have anything similar?’ Find out what your personal ethical considerations are and look at the label or the item description when shopping online – e.g. is the item made with animal products? Is it fair trade? Is it organic cotton? Learn about the item and its origins before you part with your money.

#5 Try vintage or ‘pre-loved’

Vintage and ‘pre-loved’ (or good old fashioned second hand) items are a great source for shopping for a number of reasons. They are a great way to find unique items and can often be found at purse-friendly prices. Charity shops are another great source for the thrifty shopper, and rummaging around in them can produce some hidden gems. Genuine vintage is often amazing quality and you can often find that cuts and styles from certain periods are more suited to your body shape than anything you can find on the high street.
So there you go, pain free and easy ways to begin to switch your habits to a more ethical way of shopping.

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