Ah Monday. We meet again. I had such a fabulous weekend catching up with friends, dancing lots, and drinking delightful cocktails that tasted like apple pie. I went to Stockbridge Market and bought raspberries for fruit gin. I listened to 90s music. I wore sequins. I snuggled with my dog, we ate comfort food, and we watched a lot of trashy telly. It was perfect.
Last week was Zero Waste Week, and after pledging to take part I realised quite how much stuff we actually throw out in our daily lives. It’s a bit embarrassing really. I’d say I’m fairly environmentally conscious; I try to source food from community greengrocers rather than faceless supermarket chains, and I didn’t *think* I contributed too much to the total amount of rubbish accumulated in landfills. I didn’t take into account all the “accidental” packaging that comes with some convenience foods. Even apples and bananas come wrapped in plastic for some inexplicable reason! I started to notice just how much unnecessary packaging is used for things that really don’t need it.
We talk about sustainability and ethical shopping when it comes to food, but what about fashion? Is it possible to shop ethically without looking like a hippie or someone’s boring middle-aged relative? I mean, surely it’s all shapeless beige hemp or t-shirts emblazoned with ganja leaves?
People talk about “Ethical Fashion” so much it’s become a bit of a buzzword. Choosing not to buy from companies that make their money off the back of sweatshops and exploitation can only be a good thing, and we should all try to support ethical businesses as much as we can. But this can get expensive. I think some folk talk about ethical fashion and lose sight of the fact that a lot of people can’t afford to shell out £50 for a dress, no matter how much they care about sustainability and workers rights. We should be looking to other ways to shop sustainably.
I love charity shops. and I’m lucky I live in an area where there are so many. My tip? Get yourself over to an neighbourhood where rich people live, because the stuff they give away is unreal. I once bought a Diane von Furstenburg dress from a charity shop for £8! Some charity organisations have a central sorting warehouse for donations, but even then the labels sent to “posh” areas are usually more on the high-end side of the spectrum. Everybody loves a bargain, and just think how chuffed you’d be if you found a designer jacket for the price of lunch! The fact that proceeds go to a good cause is a bonus, and if you’re then donating unwanted clothes back to the charity, someone else can enjoy that top, or coat, or pair of shoes that you no longer have space for in your wardrobe. Win-win.
I’ve fallen back in love with vintage recently, and have been experimenting with ways to style some of the vintage pieces in my wardrobe. There’s a myth that you need to be petite and a size 8 to be able to wear vintage, and that needs to be dispelled right now. Sure, a lot of what you find in vintage shops might look impossibly tiny, but it’s all down to finding what fits you, makes you comfortable, and suits your style.
I adore the 20s flapper look, but having massive boobs means that the straight up-and-down silhouette doesn’t really work for me; I did discover that most dresses from the 70s look and feel great on me though, and the fact the colours tend to be vibrant and the patterns bold works well with my “look”. I managed to pick up a Vionnet-style bias floor length satin dress in Paris for the equivalent of about £30, when something of a similar style would cost upwards of £100 new. My favourite shamrock green 70s maxi dress cost me a whopping £30 from Say Paloma at Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair. Emily from Frankly Ms Shankly modelled a floral maxi dress at the Grassmarket Vintage Weekend that she couldn’t bear to part with, and for £20 it was pretty hard to say no. Oh and let’s not forget the black wiggle dress that she found at a Bring and Buy at Zara-Leonis’ Vintage Salon…for a FIVER.
Check out sites for pop-up vintage fairs or events at universities, as there’s so much more choice from various vendors. Many of them travel the country with their stock, so you might find something that you wouldn’t usually in your own town or city. The thing about vintage clothing shops is that there is a huge price range, with some separates costing charity shop prices, to hand-beaded wedding dresses that cost more than rent. Most of it is pretty affordable though, and the thrill of finding the perfect piece that fits like a glove is WAY better than buying off the rack in some high street shop. You can pick up everything from embellished denim jackets to prom dresses, and chances are no one will have the same outfit as you. What’s not to love?
Last year, the Misty Mountain Swop came to Edinburgh, and it was just incredible. This was an organised clothing exchange pop up, where shoppers could come in with a bag of their unwanted clothing and trade it for store credit or cash. They would check your items were up to scratch, and you’d leave with a bag of “new” pieces to refresh your wardrobe. These two dresses I picked up are now favourites of mine, and I managed to get rid of a whole bunch of stuff I no longer wear. There are online sites such as SwapStyle where you can clothes swap from the comfort of your own couch, or if you prefer to swap in person you could arrange something with friends.
Our style changes and evolves, from our favourite colours to the shapes we reach for when we open the wardrobe. There’s something to be said for having a few key pieces, but there’s no need to be boring right?
Depop and eBay
I have a whole suitcase full of clothes that I no longer wear, ready to be photographed and listed on these sites; I’m not talking about crappy cast-offs, but designer dresses that no longer fit me, and beautiful pieces that just don’t suit my current aesthetic.
I bought my favourite hot pink Zara slippers off eBay for £5 and my cute AF Vans watermelon trainers for £35 off Depop, and I get compliments every single time I wear them. It’s almost a rite of passage to find that awesome pair of shoes or that incredible sequinned bomber jacket for next to nothing, and to brag about it. “Oh this old thing? I got it for pennies off eBay!”
I love Independent designers. As someone who owns my own business, I’m really all for supporting small companies. There are SO MANY shops on Etsy with some of the most beautiful vintage or handmade clothing imaginable. You can literally search for anything that pops into your head, and someone will have made one. I looked up “watermelon dress”, and found a dress that looked EXACTLY LIKE A WATERMELON. Pips and everything. I’ve bought handmade sparkly mermaid leggings for under £20, a fox print 50s-style dress for £40, and things emblazoned with cats so cute you’d squeal.
I’m not someone who enjoys walking into a room to find another person (or two, or three) wearing the same outfit as me; now my fashion sense is pretty eclectic, so the chances of that are slim. Who else pairs Tetris leggings with a mint green skirt and mismatched velvet brogues?
For the same price as a piece from a high street, you can usually pick up a one-of-a-kind piece from a local designer. Which is cool as fuck. Just remember the name of the awesome individual who created that perfect item when all your friends ask where you got it. Promote the hell out of local and indie designers, because without your support, they’ll lose out to big companies.
Now go out and do some guilt free shopping!