10 Tips For Avoiding Fast Fashion Without Breaking the Bank on Clothes

1. Find Alternative Mid Range Brands 

There’s a LOT of clothing brands out there. Just take a quick look on Etsy, or take a stroll down a trendy city street every few months and you’ll see something that looks like a revolving door of new stores and brands. That’s not to say that they’re all good or worth buying from. Not. At. All. Many of those brands are just stock pieces bought out from large factories in the east where working conditions are no better than those of “Fast Fashion” Brands. Often they are made in the same factories and sold under different labels.

The world is getting flatter every day, and we can find great clothing brands from all over the world. If you’re looking for specifics, think Everlane, Reformation, Fat Face, Cuyana, Zady, Nau, Monsoon etc. Try to find brands local to you if you can.

Just remember, Mid-Range is not Cheap. It just gives you the opportunity to commit to some good quality pieces that, with care, will hopefully last you a very long time.

2. Buy From Companies and Brands You Trust

See above. After you find a few good brands to match your style and budget, stick to them. This makes sizing and shopping in general easier. Unlike shopping at say… Forever 21, you won’t need to try on every single thing you ever buy due to inconsistent cutting and sewing practices. Shopping from brands you trust should technically mean having consistent style and sizing, allowing you to save time and shop with confidence in-store and online.

3. Buy Only During Seasonal Sales

This one takes some planning and a little experience.

You need to buy OFF SEASON for this. Meaning; plan on shopping for things 6 months before you really need them.

Here’s the general run down from years of working retail:

  • The Spring season goes February to June, so shop in July.
  • Next, Summer merchandise hits stores in April, and will be on sale by August with sales lasting until after “back to school” or Labour Day.
  • Fall runs from August to December, so look for huge sales in January post holidays.
  • Although Winter merchandise delivery tends to start in October, it overlaps with holiday shopping so these items also go on sale in January until about February.

This can all be a little difficult to figure out: Since fashion seasons keep splitting there are often lots of small sales that pop-up throughout the year.

There’s a few different reasons for this trend I won’t get into. Anyway- unless you absolutely must own a piece and have had an eye on it since day one, don’t even bother venturing in. It’s just another way to get you into the store.

The less you shop, the longer you can wait for a good deal. Once you have something in mind you really want, take your time looking for it. Don’t forget online retailers. If you have a few favourites, sign-up for their e-mail list to receive special deals and discount coupons.

4. Try Discount Outlets/Department Stores like TJ Maxx/Winners, Marshalls, Overstock-dot-com etc.

This one can be a little tricky. In aggregate stores like those I listed above you have to pay more attention to the individual brands you choose to purchase that in boutiques. Choose carefully. Don’t fall into the “clearance trap” like I use to all the time as a teenager (“WHAT?! FIVE DOLLARS!? I NEED IT!”).

Buy the good stuff- but don’t go out of your budget just because you’re getting a deal.

A lot of these stores do have amazing deals though. Also; I often find items that are great but have a small flaw, damage or missing piece. Don’t be afraid to ask for a further discount. Usually you’ll get an extra 10% off as long as the item is not marked “As-Is”. It might take some digging, but y’know. Make a day of it. Or drop in every few weeks if you have one near you…just plan for it.

5. Attend or Host a Clothing Swap 

Clothing Swaps are awesome! You’re helping each other avoid wasting perfectly good clothes, and ideally everyone walks out of the situation with a couple of awesome new pieces to love.

Take care of your stuff and you can do this ALL THE TIME! It’s like shopping your friends closets but you get to keep the stuff you like (so basically exactly the same).

Make sure the stuff you plan to trade is in good condition, and inspect the items you want before taking them home.

Here are a few sites that help you with planning or attending clothing swaps:

The Chalkboard Mag

Swap Party Guide

One Project Closer

Hey Let’s Make Stuff

6. Buy Second Hand/ Go Thrifting

This isn’t for everyone, but I’m addicted to the thrill of the find. I will never say no to going thrifting. NEVER. It feels like going though your grandma’s attic. Sometimes you just find a bunch of stuff your relatives dumped and forgot about, but sometimes you find magic and treasures not previously known to man kind. Second hand shopping takes some getting use to I admit. I’ve had a decade and a half of practice, so I’m very comfortable and can generally spot the good the bad and the ugly before even touching anything.

You’ll have to recognize stains that can’t be cleaned, get past some questionable smells, or see past a very ugly detail or two before you really start to see the beauty in the mess.

But if you can do that, you can end up with unique, fantastic pieces that will last you a lifetime, and maybe even continue to live on past that.

7. Buy Quality Clothing That Can be Mended, Repaired or Altered

I will definitely make a post on Clothing Care + Repair soon ( It’s on my list- I SWEAR!). Expensive clothes often have extra large seam allowances. This is one of the ways that you can “let out” a dress or a suit for example. High-end clothing is meant to be altered- and often, luxury retailers do the alterations for free after purchase. There’s a lesson in that: even a $2000 luxury piece probably won’t be a perfect fit off the rack. Carefully selecting well-made pieces made with quality fabrics will allow you to tailor the piece to your body, and then take it in for repairs as needed. Learn a few basic sewing skills and you’re good to go. You can pretty much find a tutorial for anything these days.

Check out these sites for some basics and ideas:

Life Hacker

8. Turn Something Old Into Something New

Just like tip number 7, this one relies on the idea of good fabrics. This tip was actually borne out of my childhood experiences with some of my favourite clothes. I had a dress when I was about 4 or 5 that I grew out of. The bodice was too short and tight- but I still wanted to wear it and couldn’t bear to part with the big pouffy dress. We had a seamstress we always went to, so my mom took me and my dress to her. She cut off the bodice and extended the waistband a little et voila! I had a new favourite skirt I wore for another 3 or 4 years.

You can do the same. Turn pants into shorts, dresses into skirts or tops, add extra fabric, take off some decorative elements (or add some). It’s totally up to your creativity, skill level and budget. No Fear!

9. Skip out on the whole idea of a Fashion Calendar.

Don’t feed into the idea that you need to shop every season, or get caught up in the whole Winter, Spring, Cruise-Wear, Summer, Pre-Fall, Pre-this, Post-that mentality. It’s not real. It’s really just there for retailers to have an inventory calendar and to sell more stuff.

Buy only what you love and need. If you shop according to your own style, you should be able to wear most of your clothes year round. Sure, put the shorts away, but you can always layer, add tights and coats, and you should make your closet work year round.

10. Don’t Buy More Than You Need.

Let me tell you something very important: This tip is the ultimate secret of the sustainable closet. Don’t buy more than what you need. It might take a little (or a lot) of time to figure out how much is too much, or what you actually need, but once that happens, you’re golden. You will only need to shop to replace something, rather than to own more. Chances are you will be much less likely to go to a fast fashion retailer when you have a limited closet full of cherished, well-worn and cared-for pieces that really speak to who you are and how you live your life.



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