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6 Tips for Breaking Up With Fast Fashion on a Budget

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by Kattoo King

The internet is overcrowded with articles about the effects of fast fashion on both the fashion industry and the environment. 

We’ve all heard the story: cheap clothes, which are made of plastic and designed to be disposable, are overcrowding closets and landfills across the world; and none of it “sparks joy.” 


Despite knowing how bad fast fashion is, cutting it out of our lives can feel like a daunting task, especially when you’re on a tight budget. Here are 6 tips for cutting back on unhealthy fashion habits:

Shop smarter, not harder

Building a wardrobe of sustainable clothing requires more planning than you may be used to.  Try to identify gaps in your wardrobe. Maybe you’re starting a new job and need to adhere to a new office dress code; or maybe you’re trying to work out more.  

It’s also important to plan your wardrobe based on your actual lifestyle instead of your ideal lifestyle.  You don’t need a tenth pair of running shorts if you only run once a week. I personally am guilty of buying fabulous cocktail dresses for fabulous cocktail parties that I’ll never go to because I’m much more likely to spend my Saturday night at the kind of bar where they still let you smoke inside.  

Spend some time thinking about what’s lacking in your wardrobe before you shop, and go shopping with a purpose.  I like to make a list of things I’d like to have for the upcoming season a month or two in advance so I don’t have to rush when I’m shopping. 

Do your research

The next step after planning what you need in your wardrobe is deciding where to buy that shit.  Good on you is a website that evaluates many popular fashion brands and retailers for environmental impact, labor conditions, and animal welfare – so you can spend your money at companies that you feel comfortable supporting. If you have a lot of different thrift stores in your area, do some research on the organizations behind them, especially if they’re non-profits.


I realize this is cliche advice, but thrift stores are often the best option for sustainable bitches on a budget.  If you’re looking into sustainable fashion, you probably already go to thrift stores for fun, but it’s time to get get serious about it.   Trying to find good clothes at a thrift store can take more effort than buying clothes brand new, but with patience and a positive attitude you can find some real gems.  Thrifting is also a lot like Halloween: sometimes it’s worth commuting to a wealthy neighborhood to get better stuff.

Trend isn’t a four letter word

Trends can be really fun, but there’s no need to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe every season.  There are much more sustainable ways to participate in a trend. If you love this season’s trendy color, like the neon greens and yellows that were everywhere in the summer of 2019, try getting a manicure that color instead of buying cheap and often systemically problematic clothing that will quickly go out of style.  Also keep an eye out for trends that you can recreate by modifying your own clothes, which brings me to my next bullet point:

Pick up a needle and thread

Learning some simple repairs and alterations can bring a whole new life to your wardrobe.  If you find yourself bored of your clothes, change them! Even something as simple as swapping out the buttons on a sweater or jacket can transform it into a completely different piece.  Learning how to make simple alterations also expands your options at the thrift store. Not to mention that you can make your clothes last a lot longer if you learn a few simple repairs. Lastly, I find that learning a little bit about sewing gives you a new appreciation for the people who make your clothes, and you’ll find yourself less tempted to go back to your old fast fashion habits.

Relax! It will be easier than you think!

This is the last item on this list, but it’s usually the first thing I say to people who tell me they are thinking about cutting out fast fashion in real life.  I realize that when you’re on a tight budget it can feel like living in the fashion equivalent of a food desert, and that there’s nothing around but fast fashion.  But I promise you, it will be easier than you think it’s going to be. After all, not buying stuff is always less work than buying stuff.

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