What is Ethical Clothing?
I talk a lot about ethical clothing, wardrobes and companies on here. My entire course is dedicated to helping you build an ethical lifetime wardrobe, and I also offer one-on-one in-person sessions for styling. I only work with ethical companies. But I've never stopped to talk about what exactly that means. Here's the thing though - what that means will be different for each and every one of us.
The Bigger Picture
Deciding what an ethical wardrobe means to you does not mean just thinking about clothing; it is a small part of a much bigger picture. I believe our wardrobes should never be something that is separate or unconsidered - they should be a reflection of our lives as a whole. Having to consider what ethical clothing means to you forces you to consider your values and ethics as a whole. What is important to you? What values do you live your life by? What do you want to accomplish in your life as a human?
What Ethical Clothing Means to Me
Of course, we all have different values and goals. This means that how we will define ethical clothing will be different as well. There isn't a blanket statement saying "your closet should be done THIS way" (although I will say at the very basic, no one should ever die or be harmed while making your clothing - we should all agree on that). The whole point of building a lifetime wardrobe is that it has meaning to YOU and fits YOUR life.
For me, it means no harm came to any humans in the process of my clothing being made. The clothing must be sustainable, in regards to both the environment and cultures/communities. I am supporting people, communities and cultures, not corporations. The fabrics are as natural as possible and cause minimal damage to the environment. Pieces that I buy will last for a lifetime, not just a couple months. The companies I support have philosophies that align with my own. I will always buy handmade or small business made over something from a large company. For me, it's extremely important that anything I consider purchasing falls within these lines. Not only does it mean I am buying less, but I feel better about every single thing that I buy, and am happy wearing it for years to come.
What Does it Mean to You?
Figuring this out is definitely a process - it took me a long time to figure it out. At the beginning I wasn't sure what to ask to narrow down this definition. Now, I've got a list of questions that I go through with clients to help them figure it out... which I'm sharing here! These are some of the things it's important to consider... once you have figured out what ethical clothing means to you, write it down and reflect on it before every purchase you consider.
- What is important to you concerning the people who made your clothes?
- Does it matter if they are handmade, made by a machine, or part of an assembly line?
- How do you feel about companies that don't share information about how or where their clothing is made?
- What are your beliefs about how other people are treated?
- Is it important for you that money goes back into local communities? Global communities? Corporations?
- Are traditional cultural values and techniques important to you?
- Is giving back to disadvantaged communities important to you?
- How do you feel about the environment?
- What kinds of fabrics does your body feel best in?
- What kinds of fabrics do you prefer - does their impact on the environment matter?
- Does clothing need to be all of these, or is some ok: organic, natural, un-dyed, blends, processed from natural materials?
- Does sustainable just mean in regards to the environment, or is it cultures and communities too?
- How often do you want to replace or change your clothing?
- Do you want to buy new, or only second hand?
- Do you want to know who made your clothes, who personally is selling them, or is info about a large company enough?
- Which of these answers is most important to you? Does clothing need to fulfill all of them, or are certain ones more important to you?