It is not true that you can only shop ethically if you have a lot of money. It is also not true that you need a lot of money for your clothes to look good. These simple steps will help you build your ethical wardrobe while honoring your budget.
1. Keep good care of your existing clothing. Wash, iron, steam, hang, lay flat.... according to the care directions for your garment. If it says you can put it in the dryer, consider air drying it flat or hanging to maintain the integrity of the fibers even more! That lint in your dryer if clothing fibers, so every time we dry something it looses a little more of its shape and integrity.
2. Stick with simple designs and solids over prints. If there are too many details on a garment, then it is more likely to go out of fashion sooner, giving you less opportunity to wear it. A solid color in a classic style will give you lots of life. Spending more on your basic pieces may be a hit initially, but the value is a longer lifetime with a better looking product.
3. Choose pieces that you can combine with others in your wardrobe. Layering and mixing & matching are great ways to extend the life of garments. If you look at a product in a store and can't think of something you already have that you can wear with it, you should probably put it back. Otherwise, you'll have to buy an entire wardrobe around that one item.
4. Looser fits are better than skin tight fits. A looser fit offers a more effortless presentation and will allow you to feel more comfortable in what you're wearing. Who really wants to suck it in all night or skip dinner because your top is so tight? You'll wear it once and be so annoyed with it that you'll just stare at it in your closet for the next 5 years.
5. Keep with your color palatte and style. If you're on a budget, venturing too far out of your style usually ends up adding more cost, as you have to add other pieces to work with that new style. If you're bored with what you have and you're trying to add life to it, try adding different textures in the color tones you already have, rather than a crazy new style or color.
You can do this! Before there was fast fashion, there were less clothes in all of our closets. It's okay to go back to that!