Most women shop on the high street – and (especially at the moment) are looking for bargains.
But as Boohoo launches an investigation following sweatshop allegations, many will be wondering whether – ethically – you should still buy fast fashion.
With some stores producing up to 24 new fashion ranges per year, there’s a huge environmental footprint and impact to produce this amount of fabric.
Then, when clothing can be purchased so cheaply, it can be seen as disposable – with the equivalent of a rubbish truck full of clothes being dumped or burned every second.
It’s both the responsibility of the retailer and the shopper to change this.
Here stylist Susie Hasler, of Styled By Susie, reveals how you can shop on the high street – but wisely.
Susie Hasler, of Styled By Susie , has revealed how to shop on the high street responsibly. Stock image
Wear what you buy
The most important thing about buying new clothes is that it doesn’t matter how much you pay for something, it’s whether you wear it.
The mindset of buying and buying just because items are cheap means more and more items stay in our wardrobe, because there are only so many pieces we can wear in a day.
That’s a huge waste of the world’s resources.
To offset the environmental cost of making your garment, you need to wear it 30 times!
I have cheap, synthetic items from budget shops that I have worn to death.
The tips include being mindful of which fabrics you buy and making multiple outfits. Stock image
They have lasted and lasted – because I have made sure that I look after them just as carefully as I would more expensive items.
Just because something is cheap, it doesn’t mean there isn’t an environmental price to pay.
It’s all about shopping wisely – and treating each item we buy as though it cost the earth.
Making multiple outfits
One of the ways we can ensure we get enough wear from each cheap item we buy is to ask before getting to the checkout ‘can I wear this three ways?’
If you’ve already got a list of, say, dresses, jeans and skirts a jacket can go with, or blouses, T-shirts and jumpers a maxi skirt will look good with – go for it.
If not, put down the goods and walk away.
When I do wardrobe detoxes, I often find multiple unworn items, still with the label.
These are the eye-catchers, the pieces you fall in love with in the store but when you get them home, you realise you don’t know how to wear them – and you have ‘nothing’ to go with them.
These are the items you should leave in the shop.
I encourage my clients to stock up on items that are stylish and not trend led, such as basic tees and denim, but they give you many more outfits and looks.
Fast fashion is mass produced, so there are lots of one item. So don’t be afraid to make adjustments to the clothing after you’ve bought it if it means you’ll wear it more.
You can have better quality buttons sewn on, poppers added to necklines that are too gapey and waistlines tailored.
Susie Hasler, who runs Styled By Susie, revealed how to bag a bargain responsibly
A client of mine bought a beautiful dress for the races years ago.
It was perfect in every way, apart from the fact it was backless, meaning she couldn’t wear a bra with it.
We took it to a tailor who added a beautiful lace panel to the back – it looked like the dress had been made that way all along.
Having something tailored to fit, altered to your taste is likely to give you longevity in the long run.
It doesn’t cost much to have something altered and it’s great to support local tailors.
Choose the right fabric
Many manmade fabrics such as polyester do not break down like cotton.
The more you wash your clothes and the more you wash these artificial fabrics, the more tiny fibres of plastic wash into the ocean.
Unfortunately, it is quite hard to find clothes that have been made with natural fibres and fabrics.
When you do find them, they are usually more costly.
If you are buying cheaper fabrics, Tencel is a great one to go for.
It has a denim feel to it and is classic enough that it won’t date.
Tencel is a naturally occurring fabric made from the pulp of trees that are then replaced on tree farms.
It’s silky when mixed with cotton and is very forgiving in summer if you are prone to sweating or if you don’t like clothing that clings too much, such as jersey.
Don’t wash your clothes (unless you really have to)
Unless something has a stain, a sweat mark or smells, try to avoid washing it.
I know so many people who wash every item of clothing after each wear, and there’s really no need.
The less we wash our clothing, the less we are contributing to those plastic fibres entering the ocean.
When it is time for a wash, put the machine on a cool wash when you can. As well as helping the environment, your garment will be less likely to shrink and fade.
I also find that steaming an item of clothing is kinder to the garment than ironing it.
Ironing and pressing a garment can be harsh on the fabric, so unless it’s a stiff shirt collar, try a steamer. It’s quicker and kinder to the fabric, therefore, keeping it healthy for longer.
Think very, very carefully before you throw away your clothes – can you still wear it?
When something hasn’t cost that much to buy, it’s easy to discard it instead of spending time and maybe more money to fix it.
If something has a stain that can’t be removed, why not get inventive and cover it up?
Try adding a brooch or iron on a colourful or designed patch.
You can turn a T-shirt into a vest by cutting off the sleeves, dye faded denim, or turn a faded white tee into a cool tie dye piece.
Other tips include trying not to wash your clothes to often and shopping for comfort. Stock image
There are plenty of ways to improve the duration of clothing – they may take time but it’s worth it for the payoff.
Shop for comfort
Choose clothing that fits your body shape well and feels comfortable. Think about keeping items long term rather than buying them just for a few wears.
Try sitting down in a new skirt or trousers to see if they gape or pull or feel tight. You’ll know instantly whether something really fits you well.
If you are convincing yourself to buy that gorgeous skirt or ‘must-have’ dress, you’re less likely to wear it.
And don’t buy items that feel slightly too small with the goal of eventually fitting into them – as they will sit in your wardrobe.
Most of us don’t change shapes that drastically. Even if you lose a bit of weight, your dress size is unlikely to change that much.
Buy the size you are now so you can wear it now and enjoy it, rather than for a time in the future that may or may not come.
Avoid the sales
Don’t be tempted by sales.
Sales are often filled with clothing that has never previously seen the light of day and has been brought in purely to be sold cheaply.
If it is a genuine item that has been discounted from full price, there’s usually a reason why it hasn’t sold. In my experience, this is because it doesn’t fit well, or doesn’t really suit any body shape.
Don’t just buy something for the thrill of it being cheap because that is mindless shopping and irresponsible – and it’s more likely to hang in your wardrobe and eventually be discarded.
For more advice visit www.styledbysusie.co.uk