Guide to Ethical Thrifting

Fast fashion, which refers to the low cost mass production of poor quality clothing for high profits, is an undoubtedly unsustainable industry. However, while the negative effects of fast fashion are easy to see, finding an ethical solution is less simple. In the past decade, as people have become more aware of the dangers of fast fashion, thrifting has become a common alternative. But this increasing popularity is not without its consequences. 

Historically, low income families have depended on thrift stores for a source of affordable clothing. But as thrifting has become trendy for moral and fashionable reasons, people from higher income brackets have started contributing to a sort of thrifting gentrification. Irresponsible thrifting has started to make good quality second hand clothing less common and more expensive.

For people who can afford to buy new clothes, but who want to shop second hand, below are four ways to thrift ethically.

Don’t shop in lower income neighborhoods

When thrifting, stick to stores in your neighborhood or to those with similar income levels. If you thrift in low income neighborhoods, you risk raising the prices for local residents. You might also take away the supply of pieces they need.

Don’t buy clothes in a larger size than you need

Plus-size clothing is difficult enough to find in stores carrying new clothing. If you’re not actually plus-size, leave those sizes for people who actually need them, and who may not be able to afford another way of buying them.

Don’t buy from online resellers

Don’t support online sellers who thrift high quality pieces to resell them for a profit. By culling the best second hand clothes and then raising their prices, these sellers are preventing people in lower income brackets from buying stylish or professional clothes. Not having access to good clothes can make it hard for people to find jobs or to feel like they fit in. 

Avoid buying staples

Try not to thrift staple pieces such as jeans or winter jackets. These pieces have a fairly limited stock and are absolutely essential for everybody to own. Instead, try to buy them from slow fashion brands. While they tend to be more expensive, they’re good quality so you can keep them for a long time and mend them as you need. And if you’re patient, stores like Madewell can have large sales

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