Lessons from 6 Months of Sustainable Shopping- Cheap Ethical Clothes, Ethical Lingerie, and Sustainability Fails

At the beginning of this year, I made the New Year’s Resolution to stop buying so much stuff — and more importantly, to buy things that were made ethically. I wanted to find thrifted clothes I loved, cheap ethical clothes, ethical lingerie, and ethical homewares.

I’m doing a run-down here of some of the items I’ve bought over the last six months of sustainable shopping, and discussing where I succeeded in being more sustainable, where I failed, and what I want to change to improve my overall sustainability.

I’ve tried to link the items I can link here, and haven’t posted any of my thrift-store finds since I’m not sure that would be helpful. If y’all are interested in seeing what I’ve found thrifting this year with gems such as, no joke, an Armani cashmere tank top I found for $4.99, let me know!

What I Bought (and loved!)

Cheap Ethical Clothes

Cheap might not be the best word here, but I am going back to school pretty soon, and don’t really have the disposable income to drop hundreds of dollars on ethical clothes. This tends to be why I prioritize shopping second-hand on ThredUp, Poshmark, or Mercari over buying things new.

I found this AMAZING dress from Never Fully Dressed for $35 on ThredUp… not only a steal, but also a great way to add some more color to my wardrobe!

I’m always going to sing the praises of Athleta for good-quality workout clothes, and this skirt (which I actually bought on Poshmark) is no exception! I’m loving the skort trend in athleisure, but still want to incorporate this into my wardrobe in a sustainable way.

I also bought some awesome items from Simple Switch, like this belt by Nisolo and these great casual pants.

Lastly, I’m putting these sneakers from Lane Eight in the “cheap” category since I bought them for 25% off on Memorial Day, and also because my faves, the Adidas Boost, retail for $180.

More Pricey Ethical Clothes

Really, this category is mostly just swimsuits from Watercolors Swim. It’s a brand owned by my partner’s brother and sister-in-law, and they put so much love into these designs. Having never bought a swimsuit from anywhere other than Target, ~$70 a piece seemed steep, but it’s because the quality is amazing, and they spend months each year in the factory in Colombia with the team who makes these suits.

The underwire suits fit me SO well, and I love the patterns and colors available. My fave is the Waikiki underwire with high-waist tie bottom.

My FAVORITE sandals this summer are from RoHo, and while they’re usually a little more expensive at $127, they’re on sale for $41.99. Tons of sizes and other similar beaded sandals are still available!

Ethical Lingerie

Cosabella Curvy Bralettes

I have both of these styles of bralette, and I LOVE them. They’re truly the only bigger bust/smaller band bralette that has worked for me, and I want them in every single color. Cosabella’s ethical lingerie is made in Italy, in the same city that their family has worked in since the brand was founded. Their fabric dyes are natural and don’t contain any chemicals that harm the environment in the process.

Sustainability Fails and Regrets

I’m calling this section “sustainability fails” since these are items I bought and didn’t use, items I bought and hated, or items I bought that weren’t sustainable. I’m of the mindset that something is better than nothing, and that even just starting to think about how you can be more sustainable in your daily life is a good start.

I’m putting this out there because I think it’s important to recognize that the reason some of these things are more challenging is that there just aren’t enough ethical and sustainable options. By increasing the demand, I hope we can push companies to make change (and not just release green-washed versions of whatever they were already making).

Beauty Products

Gonna give myself an F in this category, honestly. I have tried bar shampoos and soaps in an attempt to reduce my consumption, but I have hated the few I’ve tried and don’t think it’s necessarily sustainable to continue trying new products only to chuck them in the trash once I realize I don’t like them. My main goals right now are mainly to avoid Amazon, and to ship multiple items at once to avoid so much packaging.

I have thick and wavy hair, and I finally started embracing this about a year and a half ago. While this has made a huge difference in my hair texture and health, I went from using essentially no product on my hair to using a variety of different products.

My skin is also quite sensitive, and I find that a lot of ethical/sustainable beauty products are filled with essential oils and other “natural” scents that irritate my skin. I was massively bummed out earlier this year when The Ordinary’s Rose Hip Oil broke me out immediately after using it, but I did find that I was able to use it on my legs so that it wouldn’t be a complete waste.

The main products in my beauty and hair arsenal right now are:

La Roche Posay Cicaplast Baume B5

This stuff is amazing for eczema flares but I use it on my entire face at night in Colorado, since my skin gets so dry there.

The Ordinary 7% Glycolic Acid Toning Solution

I really only use this on my nose after working out to stop blackheads, but where I LOVE it is as an alternative to Tend-Skin for post-shave/post-waxing breakouts.

EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF46

This is a LIFESAVER for me, and the zinc oxide is really, truly transparent. It’s also on sale right now for under $30 which is unheard of for this brand!

Pacifica Pineapple Swirl Curl Defining Cream

Occasion Dresses

I’m sort of there with this one. I had two weddings to go to this year, and didn’t really have the option of shopping my closet due to a nearly 20 lb weight loss since any of my college “dress up” days.

For one of them, I found this amazing custom-sized dress from Etsy store Perrin and Co.

I picked the pink/tan color that the girl second-from-the-left is wearing, and had it shortened a bit so it was tea-length. I’m absolutely obsessed and will definitely be wearing this a lot for nice dinners or other events.

For the other wedding, I picked a decidedly not-ethical dress after weeks of ordering things that did not fit and many failed thrift store trips. It was gorgeous and served its purpose. I hope to get more wear out of it as a great vacation dress.

Final Thoughts

It’s been great to give myself this challenge and has saved me SO much time that I would have otherwise spent shopping online for $20 shirts I’ll wear once. I feel so much more invested in curating a wardrobe that represents me rather than current trends, and I hope that my desire to shop more sustainably and ethically will help me develop a better sense of personal style in the long run. I can’t wait for what the next 6 months will bring!

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