Are we costing the earth with our love of clothes?  Because 235 million items of unwanted items of clothing will, apparently, end up in a UK landfill this Spring (says a study commissioned by Sainsbury’s).

Wow! That seems an awful lot.  Ever the researcher I wonder how they extrapolated those figures?  But even so, if this is true, this is shocking!

I mean, I’ve got rid of a humungeous amount of clothing – all to charity shops.  And I did think of it as a bit of a spring clean, but then again, for me it’s also the need to have fewer things in the smaller space that I’ll be living in. But, supposedly, consumers will get rid of 680 million pieces of clothing as they spring-clean their closets and wardrobes and the majority, astonishingly, don’t recycle, as ¾ of consumers admit to just binning their clothes rather than recycling them or giving them to charity.

Oh please, people, I hope that’s not true.  It doesn’t take a lot of effort to simply pop your unwanted clothes into a bag and take them to the local charity shop. Because, personally, I see charity shop shopping as an ethical endeavour – and although they’re there to raise money, you, the shopper, are giving and then re-using clothes that would have gone to landfill, so why wouldn’t you do this?

Actually, I still meet or hear of people who say that charity shop shopping isn’t for them.  ‘I can never find anything’, they say.   But do they look?   Or, ‘I can’t find anything my size.’ Meaning a larger size.  But, increasingly, these shops do have large sizes.  And then, I think, there’s still some reservation, some diffidence about charity shops, that they are still seen as rather unpleasant places, that only have grubby, scruffy, out-of-date and very worn clothes.  On the contrary, in the UK, that is so not the case. Charity shops here are mostly delightful, boutique-like shops with plenty of stylish (and often unworn) clothes.

I’ve just started posting photographs on Instagram.  Do you? If you do, do go have a look at my account (the Instagram icon and link is on the side-bar).  In my profile I say that I love fashion but intend to do more street photography, which if you’re a fashion blogger means taking pics of people wearing great clothes. But so far (only been on Instagram a couple of weeks) I appear to have taken this literally as there are lots of photos of streets!!  Including these, where I show you a typical walk I take, in a typical English country town, with a typical English High Street, with a typical English charity shop.

And then this.

And here’s the High Street – note the bikes.

And this, below, is a typical English charity shop.

Who wouldn’t want to go into that shop? What’s not to like!

Did you know it’s Fashion Revolution Week?  Alyson Walsh writes more about this here. It’s all about, whenever you buy an item of clothing asking yourself the question, ‘who made my clothes?’ And the answer to that will always be a factory worker in, probably, not a particularly brilliant situation. If you watch the DVD, The True Cost, you see factory owners (who want their workers to work in good conditions) so pressurised by the High Street labels to produce the goods faster and faster for less and less, that they cannot be anything other than slave drivers.  I’m not excusing these factory owners but, be aware that nearly all labels make demands that impact negatively on the conditions of garment workers. There is, of course, a movement to produce sustainable clothing by garment workers working in better conditions, and I totally endorse that.  Do, for instance, have a look at the People Tree website. But, the prices.  I cannot afford these.  So, for me, we’re back to charity shops.

But wherever we buy our clothes we should be more discerning.  Because, really, perhaps we could buy fewer clothes?  We could also think how often we are likely to wear these clothes.  Once, twice, three times?  Or 30? And, if at all possible, we ought to remember the worker who made these clothes.

It is important, I think, to be aware, and be considerate, conscientious fashion shoppers.

With love

Penny, the frugalfashionshopper

P.S. And sharing with Catherine of Not Dressed as Lamb and her #SaturdayShareLinkup when it goes live 🙂



30 thoughts on “Ethical clothes shopping – is it possible?

  • 28th April 2017 at 8:25 am

    Enjoyed seeing your photos Jenny of typical English town, we live up here in Scotland and when my son went off to Cambridge University around 23 years ago now, I usd to visit him there, I just loved the charity shops there and ALWAYS found plenty of clothes to purchase!! I used to look forward to my visits, my husband and son used to tease me saying they thought I looked forward to rummaging in the charity shops, more than visiting my son!! Not true!! The Charity shops were an added bonus and always comforted me when I had to leave my son in Cambridge again!!!

    • 1st May 2017 at 7:41 am

      Yes, there are some towns that have brilliant charity shops – they just have to be found. Thanks so much for your comment!

  • 28th April 2017 at 8:32 am

    Tricky one because obviously somebody has to buy new clothes before we can buy them second hand. Wouldn’t want to go back to the days when the lady of the manor passed on her unwanted garments to members of the lower orders – and I suspect it’s considerations of status which keep many people away from charity shops. Very rarely buy anything new myself, though even the things I do buy aren’t cheap – I have a penchant for classy vintage items which will at least cover my thighs! Clothes are my weakness! However, I do believe that cheap, polluting, exploitative clothes, much as they give a blip of happiness to those on lower incomes, should be controlled by international agreement. We need few, better quality garments!

    • 1st May 2017 at 7:50 am

      I agree, no one would like to go back to charitable hand-me-downs from the lady of the manor. However, there’ll always be those who buy new and then change their minds or get bored (because I find a lot items that are hardly worn) and for me there’s nothing like a good hunt in a good charity shop! Also agree there needs to be legislation on quality sustainable clothes made in decent conditions. But vintage? I’m never too sure about vintage as there are a lot of so-called vintage shops that charge huge prices for items of clothing that I could find you-know-where! Classic vintage, I think, is 50s and older and I do like these but even though I’m a (today’s) size 12 – they’re often too small. So I don’t look all that often for vintage. I’ll try again once I move.

  • 28th April 2017 at 8:37 am

    I remember the days as a teenager when my clothes were kept in one drawer of a chest of drawers and there was space somewhere to hang my coat. This was by no means ideal but I never lost anything amongst piles of unworn ‘stuff’. I made the decision a few months ago to rid myself of what was unworn and unloved and only to buy things that coordinate with what I have, even if sometimes that means paying more than I would like. It’s a slow journey but it makes getting dressed so much easier.

    • 1st May 2017 at 7:53 am

      Do you remember the outfit that was to be worn only on a Sunday and for ‘best’? Yes, looking back at my youth we had far fewer clothes then. I’m trying my best to go someway towards having fewer outfits. It’s hard! But I’m getting there!

      • 2nd May 2017 at 11:57 am

        Oh Penny, your comment about Sunday best brought back some memories! I still remember an oatmeal-tweedy suit I treated myself to one year for Easter. It had a fitted jacket – I had a waist then! – and two skirts, would you believe! You don’t see that offered now! One skirt was sunray pleated and t’other was straight and rather sexy; that one got the most wear. I remember how chilly that Easter was (no surprise, eh?), but I wore that suit to church on Easter morning, without an overcoat, because I’d jolly well bought it for Easter Sunday and was determined to show it off come hell or high water. Needless to say, I froze!

        And another ‘best”: we couldn’t always afford to do anything special on Bank Holidays so my Dad took the opportunity to do a few jobs around the house and mend Mum’s and my shoes – wearing a new, bright-white string vest, his nod to the Bank Holiday!

        Oh, those wete the days!

  • 28th April 2017 at 8:57 am

    My policy on clothing is simple ….. If I buy items of clothing (be they new or used) then an equal (or higher!) number of items needs to be donated to charity. Many clothing items end up in landfill because we consider that they are “not good enough” to give to charity. Just because something has a e.g., small mark on it, or a missing button to two, doesn’t mean that there isn’t someone out there who is in need of this clothing. We have thousands of homeless people in this country who are in dire need, every day, of clean clothing. There are many organisations out there who will happily relieve you of your “not good enough” items, e.g., soup kitchens, churches, and the Salvation Army, and see that they get to those in need. So before throwing away the items ……. Thanks so much ❤️

    • 1st May 2017 at 7:57 am

      At the moment, I’m doing ‘one in, two out’ and succeeding. But really, I still have too many outfits. At the very least, we should all recycle our clothing far more than we do, especially as charities post plastic bags through everyone’s letter-box these days. Thanks so much for your comment x

  • 28th April 2017 at 10:55 am

    People Tree also have astonishing sale prices (get onto their regular email list. I have picked up one or two incredible bargains over the years) … and, as a (teeny tiny) investor (as in, amount of money invested rather than a comment on my size, just ought to declare my interest) I have also bought a couple of full price PT tops (because, if we only buy at the sale price, they will – guaranteed – go under) and they are amazing items, very well made from ‘proper’ fabrics (as in, the difference in the feel between the organic cotton they use and anything else I’ve got that claims it is cotton is remarkable); and much of this is made in orgs run by women as well as in those employing women. So, for me, if you’re going to buy new at all, buy from somewhere like PT 🙂 x

    • 1st May 2017 at 8:00 am

      Actually, thanks, I will get on their email list as I only see their (PT) clothing sold in a very beautiful but incredibly pricy shop in Lewes. Stuff always looks lovely but way beyond what I can afford but yes, sale prices would be good. Thanks so much for the prompt x

  • 28th April 2017 at 12:52 pm

    I donate clothing I no longer want to either Goodwill or the Salvation army. It they don’t feel it is worthy, then they can dispose of it. Lingerie items and the like, I throw away.

    • 1st May 2017 at 8:00 am

      That’s great Eugenia – good to hear x

  • 28th April 2017 at 1:03 pm

    Thank you Penny for giving us food for thought! If and when I get rid of clothing, it always goes to goodwill!
    Thanks for a thoughtful post!!!❤️️❤️️❤️️❤️️

    • 1st May 2017 at 8:05 am

      And thank you Catherine! I’m trying my absolute best to get rid of clothes by donating. It’s hard! But so important to think of these poor garment workers – while we know more about them these days – things still aren’t good. I hope and trust more firms and labels (like H&M) go the sustainable route x

  • 28th April 2017 at 2:08 pm

    I couldn’t agree more, Penny. I find the fact that most people throw their unwanted clothes away, tragic. Lots of charities also collect from the doorstep or street so there is really no excuse at all.
    I try to buy everything I possibly can in charity and 2nd hand shops and will only turn to retail as a last resort.

    I loved the walk to the charity in your photos – how lovely to see the sea in the distance!

    Have a great weekend – I’m off walking in London for the second Saturday in a row.

    • 1st May 2017 at 8:10 am

      Yes, donating clothes couldn’t be easier now items of clothing can be put in bags and collected. Actually, re: the photo, what you can see in the distance is the South Downs not the sea! The photos were taken in Lewes, which is the county town of East Sussex and it’s full of lovely small shops. Hope you had a great walk. Most of our time is spent sorting before the big pack, but we did have a bracing walk yesterday along the quayside and on to the beach – which is predominantly stony. There’s a long story about our sandy beach which I won’t go into 🙁

  • 28th April 2017 at 4:36 pm

    Hi Penny. It’s so interesting to read your blog. I’ve always shopped in charity shops but since I was directed to you, I seem to be making much better purchases: nicer, prettier things. So thank you. I hope your move goes well when the time comes. And yes, lovely pictures of the sun and the sea. See you on Instagram.

    • 1st May 2017 at 8:15 am

      Great to hear about your success with your searches in charity shops – good quality clothing is there to be found. Thanks for the support re: our move which is moving (slowly) towards a date – it has been a long wait for that. We’ll be living in chaos for some time after that, but it’s the right decision and I so look forward to being in a city again.

  • 28th April 2017 at 6:46 pm

    First of all love your style and your writing. Since retirement I have cut down on the amount of clothes required. When I buy new (occasionally) I try to buy from places that have a reasonable provenance. I make most of my own clothes so do know who made them and try to source reasonable fabric. When clothes get worn out they usually end up in the rag bin!!! If they still have wear left in them then they go to a charity shop where the cycle begins over again!

    • 1st May 2017 at 8:16 am

      Thanks so much, Christine, it’s great to get your feedback! And also, it’s so good to hear how you buy and recycle clothes – we need more like you!

  • 29th April 2017 at 4:31 am

    Now you are making me homesick Penny with those lovely photos.
    Yes, I recently read an article that had some staggering statistics about how much more clothing people buy these days and how a lot of it doesn’t last very long.
    I am a great fan of charity shops, but here in Oz they get so many donations that I think they have a hard time sorting it all into any kind of order. They have got a lot more expensive of late as well.

    • 1st May 2017 at 8:23 am

      So sorry, Maddy! Actually have you written about your move to Oz? When did you do it? Would be interesting to read.

      I think the thing is about the charity shops here, is that they’ve evolved from being quite scruffy places with a lot of unsorted clothes that you just had to rummage through, and where prices were really cheap. Nowadays, these shops are nothing less than boutiques with sometimes quite pricey clothes, albeit, still well below new clothes. I believe the shops raise huge sums, but their evolution includes no longer being run totally by volunteers. I think charities spend a lot on managing these shops and must consequently think it’s worth that spend.

  • 29th April 2017 at 6:33 am

    I get it absolutely. Here in New Zealand charity and other second hand clothing shops have been transformed. Frequent rapid raids are a good strategy. My most glamorous friend goes daily to her favourite place.

    • 1st May 2017 at 8:26 am

      Hi Rachel and great to get your comment! I’m trying not to go daily! And actually trying to donate more than I buy and succeeding – mostly!

  • 1st May 2017 at 2:39 pm

    Enjoying your photos on Instagram! I always give our clothes to charity shops. I do have concerns about ethical treatment of workers abroad and for that reason I wouldn’t ever buy clothes from Primark and other shops where new clothes are suspiciously cheap.

    There are still a few charity shops that have that awful fusty smell (I’ve been in a couple recently) but you’re right that the experience has transformed —- the shops are often delightful.

    • 15th May 2017 at 8:29 am

      Funnily enough Primark is not bad, and is actually at the forefront of trying to make the plight of the garment worker better. The thing is, unless the label says Made in Britain, all of them get their clothes manufactured in circumstances that are less than ideal. So sad.

  • 14th May 2017 at 10:49 am

    It’s not only good clothes that end in landfill – the two worst shipments into the site I worked at were furniture van full of new carpet that had been ordered by a hotel, but the hotel had been sold and the new carpets (still in rolls) with the logo of the ‘old’ hotel were unwanted…why was it not offered for re-use? The other appalling shipment into landfill was a furniture van of 3 piece suites. The sale had ended and the shop wanted floor space for new furniture – so dumped all the unsold furniture into landfill.
    Then there is all the unwanted furniture – although during a recession this reduced alot.
    Then there is the food waste…please do not get me going on food waste.

    If people in the ‘west’ (that’s you and me) did not have people working in appalling conditions producing cheap food, cheap clothes, clear felling forests for cheap timber – there would not be so much waste as all these products would be more expensive and we’d think more carefully about buying and then throwing them away.

    • 15th May 2017 at 8:25 am

      I totally agree with you. Where I live now food waste is collected by the Local Authority but I believe it’s not collected in the same way in Brighton. Because there are so many flats. But apparently there are community composting sites. It would feel positively heathen to mix food waste with general waste – just yuk. So I will seek out the site nearest to our flat.

      I mean furniture in a landfill? First there’s the dump and then there are charities that run furniture warehouses who will collect from you. It just takes a little thought.

      • 15th May 2017 at 9:45 am

        It is shocking what goes to landfill. It is a misconception that ‘waste’ is made up of what comes out of our homes. About 90% of the waste generated does not come from household dustbins. (Demolition and construction waste, quarrying, agricultural waste, manufacturing and retail waste, packaging waste and recyclables, electronic waste, vehicle and oily waste, healthcare wastes and hazardous waste).
        There is now ‘recycling credits’ given for materials not sent to landfill (avoidable landfill costs) – so that means that there is the possiblity of good materials being reused.
        Have you ever thought of ‘hotel waste’? Think of the thousands of hotel beds – it is not unusual to replace beds every 3 years. Where do all the mattresses go?????Landfill! Where does all the old and worn out furniture go? NOT to workshops where it can be refurbished.
        Recycling of household waste is,in my opinion, one of the biggest ‘cons’ going.
        Recycling has achieved a ‘new’ waste stream – it has not reduced the overall consumption of ‘products’ – just makes the purchaser feel better by putting their waste in a different coloured bin.

        Had my grumble for the day……

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