When I first started my slow fashion journey a little over three years ago, I was completely overwhelmed. Words such as fast fashion and fiber contents had never even crossed my mind, and now I couldn’t get them out of my head! If you recently learned about slow fashion and want to change the way you think about clothing—whether it is because of the ethics, health benefits, sustainability factors, or a combination of these—it can be difficult to know where to start, especially if you have a tight budget. If I were to go back and talk to myself a few years ago at the beginning of my slow fashion journey, here is what I would say about getting started with slow fashion on a budget!
This post may contain affiliate links, and I may earn a small commission when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products that I would use myself. I hope that these resources are beneficial to you on your journey.
Find your WHY for Slow Fashion on a Budget
If you aren’t familiar with what slow fashion is, I recommend starting with this post. If you’re going to change the way you think about clothing and actually stick with it, you need to have a why that keeps you going as trends come and go.
Here are a few reasons you might be motivated to get started with slow fashion:
Working Conditions and Ethics
Many fast fashion companies do not pay their garment workers fair wages or provide safe working conditions. Child labor is also a major concern. One of the first things that drew me into learning more about slow fashion was when I learned about the impact that the fast fashion industry has on garment workers, an industry which is primarily women.
Sustainability and Health Benefits
Slow fashion encourages buying less that is made to last. This often means opting for natural fibers like cotton, linen, silk, and wool that hold up well over time. These materials are more sustainable and don’t pollute the earth, and they are also healthier for our bodies than clothing made out of synthetic plastics like polyester.
Quality and Longevity
As mentioned above, slow fashion pieces are made to last. They are made of materials that stand the test of time and don’t pill, unlike a lot of fast fashion pieces.
If you want to learn more about what slow fashion is and why it matters, check out this post!
Go Through Your Current Wardrobe
This is going to require a few hours, so I’d save it for an evening or weekend. Lay out all of your clothes. I mean ALL of them. You’re going to try them on and decide what you want to keep and what you’ll be saying goodbye to.
Make 5 Piles: Keep, Donate, Sell, Trash, Maybe
Use laundry baskets, boxes, piles on the floor. Whatever works for you! Make 5 piles: Keep, Donate, Sell, Trash, Maybe.
Keep: For this pile, put in pieces that you absolutely love! Whether it is the fit, color, style—these are the pieces that you wear often and genuinely feel confident in.
Maybe: This is for pieces that you haven’t worn in a few months. Maybe a shirt needs a new button, maybe the pants don’t fit quite right, maybe you don’t have anything to wear that dress with. Hold on to these pieces for another 6 months, and if you still don’t wear them in that time—pass them on.
Sell: This pile is for those high-quality pieces that you spent some good money on but rarely if ever wear for some reason or another! When I first got started with slow fashion, I sold a lot of items on Poshmark and used that to buy some of my first, high-quality capsule wardrobe pieces.
Donate: This is for things that aren’t really worth selling or that you don’t have the time to sell. I’m thinking t-shirts, athletic shorts, old sneakers. You get the idea!
Trash: This is for things like socks with holes, underwear with stretched-out elastic, clothing that is stained and beyond repair. You can look for places to recycle it or toss it if it is really poor condition. My friend Faith has a business out of up-cycled clothing which you can read about on this post. Faith accepts donations, so if you have possible donations, reach out via the email in this post.
Take Note of What You Love
For the pieces you absolutely love and look forward to wearing, write down why! Do you love the fabric, the cut, the feel? Do you like how simple it is? It’s ability to pair with items you already own? Do you like how the color looks on you? Whatever it is… write it down. You’ll come back to that list when you start shopping for new items!
Write Down What You are Starting With
When I used to shop, I’d end up with multiples of certain items because I loved them so much! But I have found that I don’t really need 8 long-sleeved, cream colored tops when thinking about building a wearable wardrobe. Having a list of what you have on hand—even if you don’t want to build a capsule wardrobe—will be helpful when shopping for new items.
Planning Your Next Steps for Slow Fashion on a Budget
Make a List of Gaps
If you realized that you have 13 dresses, 6 pants, and only 2 tops for fall… you might need to focus on some tops that will mix and match! Do you have a skirt you love but nothing to pair it with? Take note of that and write it down.
Determine Your Best Colors
If you are wanting to do a capsule wardrobe (read about capsule wardrobes here), it can be helpful to work within a color palette. Even if you don’t want to have a smaller capsule wardrobe, it can be helpful to know your best colors! A lot of people love and recommend the seasonal color analysis to help you find colors to wear that work well with your skintone, undertones, hair, and eye color.
I believe that I am a soft summer, so I look best in soft, muted colors. However, I don’t follow this perfectly. Black is technically not in my recommended color palette, but it is one of my favorite colors to wear! Ultimately, use these tools as guidelines but wear what you genuinely love and feel good in!
Make a Wish List for Slow Fashion on a Budget
Once you have a list of gaps in your wardrobe and a color palette, begin making a wish list of pieces from brands that you love! Even if you can’t afford those exact pieces, you might be able to find them secondhand. And note, I didn’t say go out and buy everything on your wish list! Just start by creating the wish list to refer back to.
When Adding to Your Slow Fashion on a Budget Wardrobe, Shop Slowly and with Intention
Once you are ready to start shopping, here are some tips for staying within your budget and finding pieces that you will genuinely love and wear often!
Shop Secondhand First
This is more sustainable and also more budget friendly. Some of my favorite places to shop secondhand are ThredUp, Poshmark, and local thrift stores. Read this post to learn more about mastering the art of secondhand shopping.
Intentionally Wait for Sales
If you are on a tight budget and want to shop from slow fashion brands, I recommend waiting for sales or looking for discount codes online or from bloggers who represent those brands. Keep reading for some discount codes to some of my favorite slow fashion brands!
Most businesses run sales around major holidays. You can find bloggers and influencers with discount codes by looking at the tagged page of those brands’ social media accounts.
Don’t Love It? Don’t Buy It!
I’ve learned this the hard way. If you don’t love it in the store, you probably won’t love it later! If you don’t like how something fits or if the color doesn’t suit you, pass and keep looking!
Timeless Over Trendy
Look for classic, timeless pieces. Shop for a few trendy pieces if you want, but work on finding your personal style… not just a trendy one.
I absolutely love Dearly Bethany and Audrey Coyne’s YouTube channels because of this very topic. Trying to keep up with trends is exhausting, and expensive. I think opting for timeless, classy pieces is a better option both for your budget and sanity.
While I sometimes opt for a few trendy pieces, I prefer to wear pieces that I genuinely love and look forward to wearing! I am uncomfortable in many trends, so I’d much rather wear pieces that I feel confident and like myself in!
Give Yourself Grace for Slow Fashion on a Budget
Don’t Get Rid of Everything!
If you’re just starting your slow fashion journey, you probably have a lot of fast-fashion items. You probably also have a closet full of clothing that is not made of natural fibers. Don’t throw everything out! The most sustainable thing you can do is wear what you already own. And if you can’t afford to shop from slow fashion brands or if you can’t find something secondhand, give yourself grace. I don’t shop 100% slow fashion, but I believe making small changes–especially if we work together–can have a big impact on the fashion industry as a whole.
Building a Wardrobe You Love Takes Time
Learning how to shop for slow fashion doesn’t happen overnight. Building a wardrobe you love doesn’t happen immediately. Start small, start with what you have, and the rest will come in time!
My Favorite Places to Shop for Slow Fashion on a Budget
ThredUp: for secondhand pieces from my favorite brands (save 45% with this link)
Nisolo: for sustainable leather shoes and accessories. Nisolo is an investment, but the shoes last years! I shop during sales and secondhand to save! (save with my code THEMILLERACRES)