In the past year, my thoughts on fashion and consumerism have changed dramatically. Where before I felt being choosy about where I shop to be something nice that you can do if you can, I also saw it as something that doesn’t really make an impact.
Eventually, I realized that the only way I can change the world is by starting with myself. It’s a cliche, but it’s definitely true. If I don’t agree with the dealings of a particular brand, I can boycott them. If I don’t agree with the labor practices in an industry, I can change my shopping habits. These decisions are inconvenient, but I’m standing up for what I believe in, and that is worth it to me. As an example to my kids, I want to do what I can to see that we are supporting a better future, and this includes clothes shopping. I hope this list of 5 alternatives to fast fashion for kids is helpful to you as you navigate the world of fashion!
What is fast fashion?
Unfortunately, we’ve all been drawn in by the bargains, the cute styles, the sales. But how many times have you bought something at a low price only to find the material falls apart later or it shrinks after the first wash? Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve experienced that countless times!
The problem with these super cheap deals is that they come at a greater price. Most of these items are created quickly and cheaply so they can get to the consumer as fast as possible, and this comes about through using low-quality material and inexpensive labor.
A higher price to pay
The dyes and chemicals used to create many mainstream brands can damage the environment by contaminating nearby water supplies, and sometimes even physically damage the workers who handle them. This doesn’t make U.S. headlines because manufacturers bypass American environmental and labor laws by building factories overseas or by purchasing items from foreign countries with lower standards.
Despite Asian countries providing over 40% of textile and clothing imports for the US, some Chinese textile employees still make only 36 percent of a living wage. Even companies that claim to have higher standards for labor practices can fall short of even their own country’s requirements.
Aside from sketchy manufacturing practices, the vast quantities of low-quality clothing put out by brands like H&M, Forever21, and even Target lead to millions of tons of clothing waste that ends up in landfills each year. Most leading brands also produce children’s clothes, which wear or are grown out of even faster than clothing for adults.
What can we do?
For starters, do away with the idea that your actions don’t mean anything. You’re the consumer, and you can decide where your money goes. The change starts with a shift in mindset – away from the belief that we need to buy fast and cheap clothing for our kids simply because they grow quickly and we want them to look nice. Here are 5 alternatives to fast fashion for kids that shouldn’t break the bank but should give you more options!
5 Alternatives to Fast Fashion for Kids
1. The power of thrifting
As a kid, I hated thrifting because it meant being in a dusty store of used clothing for hours while my mom made me try on clothes. It wasn’t until I was older – let’s be honest, it hasn’t been until about the past couple of months – that I have embraced the thrifting experience.
Buying kids’ clothing from thrift stores is ideal for a number of reasons. First, the prices are (usually) much, much lower than retail. If you find a clean location in an upscale neighborhood, you can oftentimes find clothing with the tags still on as well. Another reason this is such a great alternative to buying from the fast fashion industry is these clothes are essentially being recycled. Instead of consuming more material, more fabric to toss in a landfill, you are choosing to reuse clothing that is of no use to someone else anymore.
I love thrifting for Genny because I can find her a variety of styles for a host of occasions, AND I don’t feel bad when she stains or tears them!
2. Join hand-me-down or trading Facebook groups
This is a great way to use social media in an economical and an eco-friendly way. There are thousands of Facebook groups, and several for practically any niche you can imagine. Try to find a kids’ hand-me-down/clothing trade group that ships or meets in your area, and have fun! Every family has to do something with their old clothing, so it’s a great way to help someone else out while getting some new pieces for your little ones at the same time!
Even Facebook Marketplace can have bags of kids’ clothing available for a great price. Check and see if there’s anything available in your area!
3. Shop handmade or Fair Trade
Usually this option is less affordable for kids’ clothing, but it is much easier to find handmade and Fair Trade options for the Littles than it is for the Bigs. I follow several handmade shops on Instagram and keep track of their sales and collections that way. I also love following these accounts because you get to see the people behind the brands. Work-at-home-moms grabbing an hour at naptime to hop on their Instagram story and show some new styles or to vent about how hard it is to get orders out when their kids are having meltdowns. Handmade clothing, or slow clothing, is an art that our culture has all but forgotten. It’s so important to support these small businesses when we can!
Some tips for shopping affordable handmade: subscribe to all the email lists – they usually provide a 10-20% discount for your first purchase when you do so. Following shops who are active on social media can be great for catching sales (around the holidays is usually when you find the best ones), and if you don’t mind second-hand handmade, there are Buy, Sell, and Trade Facebook groups for slow clothing as well.
One of my favorite brands for ethical clothing is Pact. There, you can find the basics for everyone in the household. Underwear, t-shirts, and even leggings all go on sale frequently, so subscribe to their email list and stay updated.
4. Break out the sewing machine (or find someone who will)
Some people have a natural inclination for sewing, and others do not. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn! There are countless Instagram accounts, blogs, and YouTubers who are dedicated to helping beginner seamstresses start out. If you’re interested in it, then give it a shot! You could be the next trending small shop if you really get into it.
Another option if you don’t feel brave enough to jump into the world of sewing yourself, is to find a friend who already does it! Chances are good that you can strike up a deal with that talented friend who is willing to create some pieces for your kids.
Making your own clothing doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch, either. You can also repurpose your own old clothes, or your kids’ old clothes, to meet your current needs.
5. Find a friend with an older kid
In our family, there are 6 granddaughters, so we have passed around our share of clothing. That has been so helpful to save, especially with baby clothes. If there’s no one in your family who can pass on their old clothing, find a friend whose kids are a little older than your own and see if they’re interested in making a deal. Perhaps you can return the favor in some cases as well! Kids’ clothing doesn’t have to be brand new and expensive, it has to look good enough and it has to withstand the spills, spit-ups, and scrapes it will inevitably encounter.
I’m very happy to say that I haven’t purchased an article of clothing for either of my girls from the “fast fashion” industry in over 6 months. It’s become a passion of mine to find ways to take care of our Earth when it comes to the wardrobe. As a Christian and as a mama, I consider choosing recycled or slow fashion a way that we can make the world a better place for the next generation!
Where do you like to shop for your kids? Share with me by commenting below!
Love, Emily XOXO