Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Ethical Shopping

This post was inspired by the always thoughtful and creative Sary Walrus and her post Sustainable Goth Fashion Haul. She also posts well-produced lookbooks that are always inspiring.

I'm defining "ethical shopping" as clothing and accessories that is environmentally and worker friendly, and this post isn't meant to make anyone feel bad or guilty or shame anyone who buys cheap clothing out of necessity. The free market isn't going to end slavery or the environmental problems associated with fashion--the responsibility to change begins with governments and the producers themselves. It's important to remember who the bad guys are, and it isn't the person who maybe honestly can't make the lifestyle change to be a more conscientious consumer.

Don't buy anything: This is the only way to shop ethically--by not buying anything. Think critically of anything you want--do you actually need this? Love and cherish the things you own, or alter them. At the turn of the last century, people altered clothing they own to match current styles. From collars to sleeves to waistlines, people kept what they owned for years and years--not just one season. Not everyone is as gifted with thread and needle these days, but we have YouTube now, and there are plenty of "hacks" to update your regular Ts into cold-shoulder tops and almost anything you can think of. If you loved the embroidery trend, why not watch a few videos and learn how to do it on your own? This used to be what gothic fashion was about. Altering what you already owned reflected your journey of self in a way--plus it looked a whole lot cooler.

When I stopped dressing cybergoth, I added some patches to this neon pink vest for a more wearable punk look. Also, obviously I've worn these shoes for ...almost 20 years now lol.

Buy from ethical companies who manufacture where you live: Environmentally friendly companies who give living wages to their workers are next best. I rate this above buying used, because the majority of the clothing sold at used clothing stores comes from unethical companies, because that's what the majority of what people buy. If a person who shops the hottest trends at a fast-fashion store drops off a garbage bag of last-season's clothes at a goodwill shop, it's still a toxic model. If you must buy something, I think it's better to support ethical brands who deserve to exist.
All old American Apparel (except the bracelet)...I miss the old American Apparel so hard...
Buy or barter used, local: Used clothing has already left its environmental and worker footprint ages ago. The dyes have already polluted the water system, the child worker is all grown up, etc. The resources used to keep the used-clothing store open are offset by your contribution to keep the local economy going. If you must buy something, buying used and local is the most ethical way you can shop.
Thrifted, from Beacon's Closet in NYC

Buy or barter used, online: Same as buying local, but shipping and shipping materials are not green. Plus you may be buying from a place like Amazon, which does not treat its workers well.
Bought these Black Milk leggings second hand on Poshmark--much cheaper too

Shop local: If need to buy something and either can't afford or don't have access to the previous options, try to buy local. Walk on over to your local department store or wherever you shop. It's good for your local economy and, depending on where that store gets its clothing, it might be greener than buying online. Plus you get to try it on before you buy!
Trying on a Nanette Lepore dress at my favorite department store, Century 21
If you can do none of these, be conscious of the materials the item is made of. Buy items that will biodegrade or can be recycled. This is especially difficult for vegans looking for leather items. Most pleather is made of plastic, which doesn't break down and poisons generations of fish for hundreds of years (not very vegan imo). This kind of plastic is not a hard plastic either, so most places can't recycle it (NYC can't). But there are plant-based leather alternatives from mushrooms, wood, etc that do biodegrade. Don't buy anything with glitter or microplastics. If you aren't vegan, plant-based fabrics are greener than animal leather.
A cotton jacket with metal embellishments that I ordered online from Lip Service
An acrylic necklace that I still love and wear!

If you can't resist and need to get that suspiciously low-cost pleather thing online shipped from overseas, make sure you really want it and will enjoy it. To cycle back to the first point of not buying anything, at the very least, make sure it is THE item that will work with every outfit and will prevent you from consuming more.

Thanks for reading!


  1. That is a VERY good point about second hand shops. Companies like Goodwill and Value Village/Savers give very little of the accumulated revenue to their charities, and claim huge overheads to justify it.
    I try not to buy from them if I can really help it... but then, their prices are often so exorbitant for their used goods I don't need to try all that hard to avoid them lol. Locally owned thrift shops (especially those run by animal shelters --my preference), and antique/flea malls and markets are my favorite choices. I know that not every town or city has one, though. I was lucky enough at one point to shop at the thrift store where the shelter I adopted one of my babes benefited from.
    Struggling to find choices in and around this new town though... so I just don't buy much fashion anymore--as per your first suggestion lol.

    Also just as an aside; you rock every one of your looks in every one of your photos, but that one where you're wearing that pink lip service jacket-- daaaaNG! Lol.

    1. haha thanks! That used to be my go-to going-out outfit. The nearest thrift store to me is unfortunately a Salvation Army, and I can't get behind their hardcore fundie mission. Shelter-run thrift stores sound awesome, and I'm kind of shocked there aren't any in NYC (though the rents here are so insane, I'm not surprised).

  2. Thanks for the mention! :)

    I'm glad someone else has recognized how far mainstream goth culture has changed from it's roots in terms of sustainability. I wonder how it feels to be a young person just getting involved in the scene these days and thinking that they need a million dollar wardrobe.

    1. I wonder myself! When I was growing up there was a class divide between those who can afford to shop at hot topic and the like and those who had to make do with what we had. Then, as now, money can't buy taste and style