Updated: Feb 3, 2020
People feel that because there are such cheap options and because they do not have a budget big enough to buy designer, sustainable brands, brand name or high quality brands that the only option is to shop fast fashion and cheap cheap cheap.
I promise that you do not have to feel trapped by this! You can 100% shop on a small budget and in a thoughtful manner and achieve building a better quality wardrobe without going into debt.
I know it can seem like a lot to ask for you to ditch fast fashion brands like Forever 21, H&M, Zara, Urban Outfitters etc.
They are cute freaking clothes and they make it very possible to look super on trend and cute for like the cost of nothing.
I get it, but once you have a good understanding of what quality clothing feels like and even how clothing should fit you, you will start to look at clothing in a different light and won't be chained to the never ending cycle of the disposable/careless habits of fast fashion.
The issue with shopping only fast fashion is that the cuteness makes you feel good for the first or second time you wear it, but it doesn't last because it is literally made to fall apart.
Plus - they are very trend driven so you will never, ever..EVER be able to catch up to what is hot/in..It is a revolving door that never stops. The way fashion works today is very fast - sooo fast that by the time we get the new hot thing, it is already old news and something else on IG, Pinterest or where ever is tempting us with something new and shiny that we "MUST" have.
It is so tiring and overwhelming and we become slaves to it.
Clothing is so accessible for such a cheap price that it also causes us to over consume.
When we over consume we end up having way too much and loose focus of our own personal style, which creates a mess of a closet and causes it to be a hassle to get dressed every morning instead of a happy, creative outlet. As we grow and evolve in our lives our personal style can get lost in the process and we can loose ourselves in it. I truly believe that if we understand our personal style and let it evolve as we evolve that we can be happier in our daily lives and help create a more sustainable future.
People that stick to their personal style and what they truly love and feel good about buying don't feel trapped by fashion but instead feel inspired by it. It also is a tangible way to see change when you work to improve it which will help improve how you feel on the inside.
SOOOO, how do you avoid fast fashion when you are brokeeee and build a better wardrobe that also serves you?
#1 Stop spending so much on cheap crap
So, although right now your habits might currently be along the lines of: quantity over quality, so we need to switch that mindset to quality over quantity.
Right now if you are spending lots of small amounts of money on lots of cheap things that is still costing you a good amount of money because that money adds up. So you may be getting 10+ items for $150, but if you shopped smarter and with more intention you could save that $150 and purchase less items with better quality that will actually last you and serve you well.
Buying cheap crap over and over is like eating McDonald's every day. It may feel good in the moment but over time it does NOTHING for you but make you unhealthy, feel terrible and get fat.
Your hard earned money should be spent with real purpose. Stop wasting it on garbage!
Save up and spend smarter!
#2: Be choosy about where you shop
Choose nicer stores to shop!
Really pick a few stores to focus on and stick to those for a while.
Work your way up!
Example: If you are shopping only at Forever 21 and you can't get yourself to jump right to Madewell or Reformation prices, then jump up a little by little. Baby step up by shopping at places with a little bit better quality and higher prices such as Old Navy or Express.
Once you start shopping somewhere where the prices are more expensive than your latte, over time you will start to understand that it is okay for the clothing to not be so cheap.
It will also show you what quality actually is (more on that later)
Go into stores that are out of your price range such as Lululemon or Nordstroms etc etc and feel the fabrics, look at what the clothing is made of. Try on items and see how different the item feels and fits compared to places like Forever 21, H&M or Target etc etc. Get an understanding of what nice quality clothing feels like.
#3: Choose where to spend and where to save
There are places within your closet you can save and places where you should splurge in order to work towards building a better quality wardrobe that serves you better.
Always invest in shoes - yes, always..100%. Stop buying the cheap, plastic shoes that last a couple months. (Don't even look at the shoes at Zara, H&M, Target etc etc. For one it is bad for the environment, but two, it is also bad for you. Nice shoes will always elevate an outfit and can actually last years to a life time if taken care of properly.
Invest in jewelry (doesn't have to be luxury...just don't buy the stuff that turns your skin green...please. You can get gold plated, brass and sterling silver for reasonable prices on Etsy, in local boutiques or from artisans. Even places like Madewell have great quality pieces for not that much!)
Invest in bags! You can find great bags on sale or secondhand! Invest in leather when possible (and quality alternatives for vegans - don't get fooled by brands saying "vegan leather" when all they are trying to say is "This boot is made of plastic".
Invest in scarves! Scarves are a really easy way to make an outfit feel cheap or sophisicated. Be better than the 100% acrylic see-through (not on purpose or for design reasons) infinity scarves out there.
Invest in jeans, jackets & sweaters! These are all of course a case by case basis, but look for good thickness and made of 100% natural fiber or at least 55%-75% natural fibers.
Save on items like statement pieces that won't ever/rarely will need to be washed.
Examples: A sequined jacket or velvet dress.
*Please note that you still have to make sure these items are made well (even if you get them somewhere cheap like H&M) Pay attention to the thickness, softness, if there are loose threads, buttons etc etc. If there are, put it down!
#4: Shop Slower and with more intention
I say this over and over, but that is because it is so important! Make sure you are planning out your purchases before you buy! Always have a general list/ideas for what will make your wardrobe better overall.
This will help for when you do impulse shop because you will have a prepped mind for what you need and what you should buy. This can really be freeing and helpful because even when you are just browsing you can be mindful of what is needed and act on it if it pops up.
This slows down your shopping and really makes you think about your purchases.
If you are online shopping, try to put everything you are eyeing into a Google document/word doc etc and the next day go back to that document and see if the item you wanted to purchase is worth investing in. This will help you make better choices and avoid buying the items you buy on a whim and never end up wearing.
Do 'Closet Audits' often and keep your closet well organized in order to know what you have and what you need.
Keep track of what would benefit your over-all wardrobe and avoid buying floaters (a floater is an item that does nothing for the rest of your closet and just exists on its own > Usually because the rest of your wardrobe isn't versatile enough to serve it or it is so trendy it doesn't fit into your personal style effortlessly enough)
#5: Quality over quantity
No matter where you shop there are quality items! I promise! You just have to know how to look for them.
When shopping look for the best quality possible even when you are shopping somewhere that is inexpensive.
First thing to do is check the contents of what the item is made of. Shoot for 100% natural fibers or 55%-75% natural fibers and the rest polyester/nylon/elastin etc etc. I suggest to always avoid anything with acrylic as much as possible - because this cheap fiber tends to pile easily.
Understand that every material/fiber has a purpose and should be considered.
Examples: Polyester is great for athletic wear, outdoor gear, fleece etc etc.
Polyester is not great for items that should (in a perfect world) be made from silk or cotton, such as blouses. The only reason a sheer chiffon type of blouse is made from polyester is to make it cheaper to produce and not because it is better for you or the item's purpose.
Look for how well made the item is! If there are loose threads, the weave or knit is loose (and not for a design reason) do not buy! Look for the texture of the fabric and if it looks too lightweight or cheap! Pay attention to how the item feels to the touch!
Pay attention to how nicer quality fabrics made from natural fibers such as linen or cashmere feel - if you get used to the feeling of these natural materials the feeling of acrylic will make your skin crawl.
#6: Shop Secondhand
Shopping second-hand isn't gross. I know it can sometimes feel like it is, but if you love something then once you wash it and it is in your closet you wont even think about the fact that it is secondhand anymore.
You also don't have to venture into a Goodwill or somewhere that is going to mentally block you from finding the goods or give you the hibbie jibbies
Shopping secondhand can also be accomplished by shopping on apps like Thred up, The Real Real, and Poshmark etc.
Also, shopping curated local consignment shops can be a gold mine for finding great quality for inexpensive! I have found beautiful silk, cashmere, leather and wool pieces that are some of my favorite possessions.
#7: Clothing swaps with friends
We all have those friends that have a ton of beautiful clothes and are constantly shopping!
I bet they have too many clothes and could use some cleaning out too!
Make it a fun excuse to get your bff's together, grab a bottle of wine and some pizza and swap it up!
This can be so fun and a great way to give unwanted clothing some new purpose!
#8 Sell in order to buy
Bring your unwanted items to local consignment shops.
To higher your chances of items being picked to sell, make sure your clothes are in good condition, are for the proper season, lint rolled and are on hangers. (steaming items is a plus)
If you have the time and energy try selling things on Poshmark, Thredup or even Ebay.
This is a great way to create income from your unwanted clothes so you can create a savings bank for purchasing better clothing in the future. Once you get started with this keep the cycle going and make it a rule that whatever income you make from selling clothes goes right back into your closet.
Every time you upgrade items in your wardrobe reevaluate your closet and remove items that you do not need and work to sell them.
This can also be a great way to help your thinking when it comes to purchasing pieces. When you put money towards something new try to think about its resale value. Of course there are going to be some items that wont ever be great for resale such as under garments or heavily worn shoes, but for trendy items or expensive items really think about how the item can sell and survive after its time with you.
#9: Don't stress about getting it perfect every time
Today's world is a lil nuts and every time we blink it feels like someone, somewhere is telling us that something is about to give us cancer or our actions are hurting someone or something somewhere, somehow.
So, don't beat yourself up when you don't follow the "rules" perfectly.
As long as you are mindful and work hard to be more intentional that is what matters most. Of course you will mess up and buy the wrong thing or waste money here and there or give into the cheap trendy shiny new thing...and that is ok. Don't be too hard on yourself but also try to do better next time. Think about how the good items in your closet make you feel and the feeling you get from the cheap, ill-fitting items.
As always please feel free to reach out to me via social media or email with any questions or comments!
Thank you for reading and I hope you learned a lot!
xoxo Georgia Caroline // RUBA RUBA