“I can’t afford sustainable fashion.”
This is a statement I’ve heard many times, and my response depends on which of the following categories you fall into:
1. You don’t have the money, but you do have time.
Sustainable fashion doesn’t have to mean expensive handmade dresses straight from the source.
Try thrifting. Host a clothing swap with your friends. Take time to organize and care for the clothes you have. Challenge yourself to wear the items that have been sitting in your closet. Learn a new DIY skill to make something already in your closet more lovable.
2. You don’t have time or money.
You work multiple jobs and barely make ends meet. Maybe there’s a different dress code for each job. If you can truly only afford fast fashion and don’t have the time to sift through thrift stores for appropriate clothing, there are other steps you can take to participate in sustainable fashion.
Chief among them is choosing timeless pieces, reducing how much you wash your pieces, and caring for your pieces so that they last as long as possible. Whatever you do, don’t let anyone shame you into feeling like you’re not worthy of being part of the sustainability conversation.
The environmental and social problems of fashion are deeply rooted in the industry and are fueled by consumers buying in mass quantities, not consumers buying only what they need to get by.
3. You can afford it, just not in the quantity you’re used to.
Ironically, the overwhelming majority of people who complain about the cost of sustainable fashion fall into this category. If you simply can’t afford the same quantity you’re used to, then it’s time to reevaluate your relationship with clothing.
Try repeating an outfit. If you want something fresh, try wearing pieces you own in a new way instead of buying new pieces. You probably already have plenty of clothes. You don’t need to buy from pricey sustainable brands; you just need to stop buying more altogether, and save the money you would typically spend on fast fashion hauls for when you’re ready to invest in a new piece.
When you’re ready, find a nice piece that you love and won’t grow tired of after one wear, and stop making unfounded excuses for your complacency. Yes, this is an industry problem but the industry is fueled by your overconsumption. Don’t be manipulated by an industry capitalizing on your insecurities; you’re better than that.
Slow Fashion and Steady Progress
Making new sustainable products is expensive, and for those of you that can support the development of the slow fashion industry, please do so (responsibly).
However, participating in sustainable fashion doesn’t have to be expensive. Everyone’s situation is different, and a variety of solutions are necessary to resolve the fashion crisis. Pick the ones that work for you, commit to them, and as always have open and honest conversations with those around you.