Fashion affects so many lives, from the farmers growing and picking the cotton for your favorite t-shirt, to the garment workers sewing your jeans. There are a lot of human lives that are touched, both positively and negatively, by the garment industry. By choosing to shop ethically, you can turn the tide to positively affect lives. When you get down to it, it’s an issue of human dignity. It’s an issue of solidarity. It’s an issue of stewardship of creation. Ethical fashion is truly an issue of social justice as a whole.
In his encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis reminds us that:
Purchasing is always a moral—and not simply an economic—act.
Our choices matter to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Think of every purchase as a vote. Are you voting to keep the fast fashion industry alive and running? Or are you voting for positive change? For fair wages, safe working conditions, environmental sustainability?
Making Ethical Shopping Possible
There are, of course, times when it’s not realistic to invest in a quality garment that will last your forever. Maternity pieces, for example, are meant to be temporary. This is where consignment, thrift stores, and even rentals are great ethical options.
These are also good options for postpartum months when you may be still rapidly changing sizes.
Another great option is borrowing. Call your mom, your sister, or your best friend. I bet she has something that might fit the bill for the wedding or theme party you have coming up and she’d be happy to loan it to you.
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3 Ethical Fashion Staples
First of all, one of the best ways to revamp your wardrobe is to get rid of what you never wear. Whether it is a poor fit, a color you decided isn’t for you, or a piece that no longer fits your lifestyle, consign or donate the pieces you simply don’t wear anymore to your local St. Vincent de Paul and let your closet breathe!
Once your closet is clear, you can see all the garments you love more easily. You might be inspired to create new outfits from what you already have.
But, if you feel like you need some new classic pieces, these three items are staples that virtually every woman will wear. Before you go out and purchase any of these items, be sure to take stock of your closet and make sure you don’t already have a similar piece. Wearing what you already have is the most ethical choice you can make when it comes to clothing! Finding Philothea has a great checklist to go over before making any clothing purchases.
It’s also important to take a look at your daily life, and be realistic. Do you work in an office? Maybe look for a dress with a more tailored fit and structured fabric. Are you pregnant or nursing a child? Maybe a stretchy organic cotton jersey dress that will stretch with your body and that you can pull down to nurse is the way to go.
- Breton Top – Seasalt Cornwall
- Breton Stripe Tee – Fair Indigo
- Black Dress – People Tree
- Black Lace Dress – Mata Traders
- Camel Cardigan – Lenvers Fashion
- Grey Crew Sweater – Fair Indigo
1. The Breton Top
Ah, the classic Breton stripe top. It’s suitable for everything from coffee dates to casual Fridays at the office. The Breton top in a durable fabric like organic cotton will serve you well for years to come. Pair it with your favorite jeans and ankle boots, or an A-line skirt and your favorite sweater. There are so many ways to wear and love this versatile piece.
2. The Black Dress
The staple of all staples, every woman needs a versatile black dress in her wardrobe. The two options above from Mata Traders and People Tree are a great place to start looking if you’ve determined you have a wardrobe gap and are on the hunt for your perfect black dress.
3. The Perfect Sweater
For cold fall nights out or simply to cozy up on the couch with a cup of tea, the perfect sweater will last you hundreds of wears for years to come. Be sure to take a look at what colors you already have in your closet to be sure your sweater can go with a variety of outfits. Do you have all neutrals? Perhaps a pop of your favorite color would be suitable choice for your perfect sweater. Do you already have multiple colors in your wardrobe? A classic neutral like ivory, camel, black, or grey will go with all of your current pieces.
Keep it in Perspective
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? -Matthew 6:25
Let’s remember that our clothing is just that—clothing. If you have a piece in your wardrobe that doesn’t feel absolutely perfect, that’s okay! If an ethically-made piece comes along that you feel would be a good replacement, then go ahead and replace it. But try not to spend hours agonizing over the perfect capsule wardrobe.
So do not worry and say, “What are we to eat?” or “What are we to drink?” or “What are we to wear?” All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. -Matthew 6:31-33
Have you revamped your wardrobe to be ethically-made? What are your favorite pieces?
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Carly Matthews is an Ave Maria University graduate who lives with her husband, son, and lab mix in Orlando, Florida. She works at Catholic Charities of Central Florida and enjoys weekends filled with visiting local parks, attempting to catch up on sleep, and sewing. You can find out more about her here.