Have you ever experienced déjà vu induced by mindless shopping? 

As a self-professed shopaholic, I’ve experienced it more times than I can count. 

Asking myself, haven’t I already purchased this, or didn’t I receive this package already, was all too common especially in a pandemic when days feel like they blur into weeks and then into months.

Turning to shopping for new clothes to provide excitement can be an alluring temporary fix, but when déjà vu strikes and you can’t remember why you bought green sandals in the middle of winter, you know you have a problem. 

While in this boredom induced spending spree, I was conscious to avoid fast fashion retailers; however, I can totally understand their allure at a time like this.

In the past, the first place I would turn to would be a fast fashion brand in a time like this. 

It’s so easy to fall into a pattern of endless fashion consumption, but it helps to remember that mindless fashion consumption doesn’t serve your closet, wallet or the planet.

What’s Wrong with Fast Fashion?

Fast fashion, as defined by Merriam-Webster is “an approach to design, creation and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers”. 

At the surface, fast fashion may not seem so bad. 

What’s not to like about getting to wear the latest trends while paying low prices? 

A lot of things if you consider the environmental consequences of fast fashion. 

The constant stream of new trend releases means consumers are continuously buying to keep up. 

The environmental impacts of this consistent consumption are staggering. 

Each year we globally consume about 80 billion new garments according to the documentary, The True Cost

According to Business Insider, 85% of textiles end up in a landfill each year. 

One other effect of fast fashion is the consumption culture that it promotes. 

Feeling like you have to keep buying in order to keep up with trends and feeling like what you own will never satisfy you, can take away the joy of your garment purchases.

Have you ever felt that rush of excitement when you buy a piece you love online? 

You’re constantly tracking it and can’t wait for it to arrive. 

When it does, you quickly try it on and are happy with the purchase. 

You wear it once or twice and then it goes to the back of your closet, most likely never to be worn again as you get excited over the next garment you’ve purchased. 

Sound familiar? 

I know I’ve found myself caught up in this endless cycle on numerous occasions. 

To help break this fast fashion consumption loop, consider the tips below. 

Alternatives to Buying Fast Fashion

Shop Your Closet

Instead of automatically buying something new, shop your closet first and get creative with the pieces you already have. 

Maybe try a new outfit combo or style one of your favourite pieces differently. 

For tips on how to create a beautiful closet where you can see all the pieces you have to shop from, check out the How To Shop Your Closet Master Guide.

Make Your Clothes Last

An important step in the shopping your closet process is ensuring all your garments are free from stains and mended of any rips or holes. 

Check out this post on garment care to learn how to properly care for your pieces to make them last. 

Borrow, Rent, Swap

Before buying anything, especially for an event where you know you’ll only wear the outfit once, consider borrowing or swapping with a friend. 

Renting is also a great option, particularly for formal wear which can be quite expensive. 

Check out this post which takes a deeper dive into garment rentals. 

Choose Secondhand

If you have exhausted all of the above options, take a look at thrift shops before buying brand new. 

Not only will this be a cheaper option in most cases over buying new, it is also more sustainable because no new resources are being used to create the piece you’re buying. 

Check out this post on the best online secondhand clothing retailers so you can shop from the comfort of your own home.

Buy from a Sustainable Brand

If all else fails, select a sustainable brand to buy from. 

Due to the nature of sustainable fashion and its relative newness, prices are often significantly higher than that of a fast fashion retailer, so you’ll want to ensure that the garment you’re buying is durable enough to last you a while. 

Fast Fashion Dupes

To give you an idea of the available dupes out there if you’re looking for clothing alternatives to fast fashion items, I’ve listed 7 popular fast fashion items as well as their secondhand and new sustainably-made counterparts. 

Note that pricing is in USD.

White T-Shirt

Fast Fashion option:
H&M Wide Cut Cotton T-Shirt
Image by H&M
Secondhand option:
The Wild Honey Shop 90’s Hanes White T-Shirt
Image by The While Honey Shop
New Sustainable option:
Reformation Perfect Vintage Tee
Image by Reformation

Dark Wash Skinny Jeans

Fast Fashion option:
Pretty Little Thing
Plus Indigo Skinny Jeans
Image by Pretty Little Thing
Secondhand option:
Vagabonds Vintage UK Levi 511 Jeans
Image by Vagabonds Vintage UK
New Sustainable option:
Boyish The Donny Never Say Never
Image by Boyish

Little Black Dress

Fast Fashion option:
Lulus Extra Attention Black Strapless
Bodycon Mini Dress
Image by Lulus
Secondhand option:
Depop Perfect Little Black Dress
Image by seller via Depop
New Sustainable option:
Whimsy + Row
Vivien Dress in Black Velvet
Image by Whimsy + Row

Trench Coat

Fast Fashion option:
Double Breasted Belted Trench Coat
Image by Romwer
Secondhand option:
Fashionably Yours Rudsak Trench Coat
Image by Fashionably Yours

New Sustainable option:
Reformation Holland Trench Coat
Image by Reformation

Houndstooth Blazer

Fast Fashion option:
Women’s Mini Houndstooth Blazer
Image by Topshop
Secondhand option:
MAW Supply Vintage Ralph Lauren
Wool Silk Blend Houndstooth Blazer
Image by MAW Supply

New Sustainable option:
Miik Asha Tailored Pocket Blazer
Image by Miik

Black Leggings

Fast fashion option:
Shein High Waist Solid Leggings
Image by Shein
Secondhand option:
Mottainai Nike Black Active Leggings
Image by Mottainai
New Sustainable option:
Girlfriend Collective
Black Compressive High-Rise Leggings
Image by Girlfriend Collective

Nude Heels

Fast Fashion option:
Wide Width Stiletto Heel Pumps in Nude
Image by Boohoo
Secondhand option:
Vintage Clothes LA Jimmy Choo
Patent Leather Neutral Pumps
Image by Vintage Clothes LA
New Sustainable option:
AERA Olivia Nude Patent- Effect Pumps
Image by AERA

Takeaway Points

I want to make it clear that I am in no way shaming those who can only afford to shop from fast fashion retailers. 

There is a lot of unspoken privilege that surrounds sustainable fashion, particularly in terms of cost that effectively discourage people from trying to adopt a sustainable lifestyle. 

The fact is, most cannot afford to purchase an entire wardrobe composed of new sustainable pieces, I know I certainly couldn’t 🙋‍♀️. 

I think the main thing to keep in mind is utilizing and preserving what we already own.

Not only is that the most cost- effective option (because it’s free), it’s also the most sustainable. 

Additionally, buying less and more mindfully, will help you break away from the mindless consumption culture that is the new norm in our society. 

Let me know your thoughts on fast fashion in the comments below!


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