Ethical fashion is a veritable quagmire of ideals. It’s one I’m yet to wade through successfully what with conflicting viewpoints, inaccessibility to facts and downright dishonesty leading me up the garden path. Ignorant and false claims of fair trade origins lurk in dark corners and ridiculously cheap and disposable clothing lures anyone with little cash to spare. But to clothe myself and my family ethically and with an environmental conscience is a philosophy that has seeped into my everyday.
Thankfully, timeless and beautiful handcrafted pieces that live up to our ideals are fast becoming more available. Often the price point deters me though, not because these garments aren’t worth every cent with their ethics, environmental philosophies and simple beauty but simply the constraints of a one wage budget. Such timeless pieces are chosen for their durability and ability to transcend seasons. They are then mindfully saved for and finally splurged on.
But a second-hand mentality will always win hands down regardless of a garment’s gleaming credentials. With over 500 000 tonnes of discarded clothing making its way to landfill in Australia alone, we need to critically re-examine the way we consume clothing. And thrifting clothing for children is a simple way to start. Trawling through racks of second-hand clothes has become second nature to me and these are some tips I’ve picked up along the way:
- Firstly, let go of your prejudices and embrace a new way of recycling. Most op shops/thirft stores offer exceptional quality in a clean and friendly environment. Hunt out a few favourites and make a point of visiting regularly.
- Choose natural fibres. Linen and cotton breathe well, keep their shape wash after wash and don’t pollute our waterways as acrylic clothes and their microfibres do. Wool is also antibacterial so often just gentle spot washing is all that is needed to keep garments looking their best.
- Think a season or two ahead especially with things like childrens’ tracksuits and long-sleeved t-shirts. These can easily be rolled up if they are too big when needed. Adjustable waists are always a winner too. Most thrift shops have sales on their end of season items and it can be a great time to stock up on basics for next year.
- Don’t purchase things that have deeply ingrained sweat stains or smells – they are near impossible to remove.The same goes for black mould spots.
- Light coloured fabrics with small stains can often be revived with a soak in washing soda* and then hung directly on the line without rinsing. When dry, wash as normal.
- Inspect items carefully for missing buttons, stiff zippers, tears etc. Some things might just need a bit of mending.
- Have a list of items you’re searching for so you don’t double up. I like to think of what might be needed for the next season and keep my eyes out for these things.
- Check out your local flea market from time to time. Parents on a simplifying mission turn up in droves to pass on clothing that has been outgrown.
- Ebay can also yield some fabulous finds. I do a regular search for pure wool Winter coats, merino thermals and leather boots and have always been pleasantly surprised at the options and the cost. Sellers who list bulk lots of items are great so as to minimise postage.
- Be wary you don’t over consume just because things are cheap. The “fill a bag” rack might cost next to nothing but you can often end up with a cupboard full of clothing that nobody needs or will wear. Take only what you need and know will work with what your children already own and leave the rest for fellow frugal and eco minded shoppers. Hoarding a bargain for bargain’s sake is just bad karma.
* washing soda is an eco-friendly solvent that we use as a soaker and as an ingredient in our homemade washing liquid. We purchase ours in the laundry aisle of the supermarket.