conflicting values: fast fashion

I have two personal convictions, both virtuous, but often in direct conflict, it seems. This is what is on my mind today. Specifically two personal values that I try to uphold: frugality and avoiding fast fashion. I avoid try not to buy mass-produced (often sweat-shop produced) clothes because of the environmental and social impact this has. I believe that the many of the retailers that sell fast fashion have unethical practices, too. This is a US-centric article, but it does a good job explaining some of the reasons why I try to steer clear.

I’m usually successful in avoiding fast fashion because I’m frugal and try not to buy a lot of clothes. And I kinda suck at fashion. Read on.

My current dilemma I’ve been invited to a work event in a couple of weeks that feels like a big-enough deal that I’m a bit worried about what I’m going to wear. I readily admit that I dress for comfort and warmth in freezing cold offices and so I’m rarely seen in high heels or without a cardigan or scarf.

But for this event, I feel like I really should kick things up at least a tiny bit. The quintessential ugh, I have nothing to wear moment.

Have I mentioned that I hate shopping? I don’t even really like clothes, as I never feel completely comfortable in my skin, and don’t know how to put a great outfit together. My dislike for shopping and my lack of fashion sense has led me to have developed a bit of a work uniform. Pants, simple top, cardigan, and flat. All stretchy and warm.

So, I don’t buy clothes very often. It’s a necessary evil for me, like paying for insurance.

Here’s where the conflicting values come into play. Since I avoid shopping, I tend to do it under duress, like now, when I feel like it’s an emergency. I can either to go to a small boutique, getting the help of a doting salesperson who can invest time and energy into dressing my hopeless self, and likely spend a small fortune. Here’s where my other personal value kicks in and nags at me. My desire to be frugal.

So, to be frugal, I could go to a place like, say, H&M or Zara. A place where I’m left to my own devices, trying to cobble together a good outfit from the racks of limply hanging clothes. These stores are obviously much cheaper than the boutiques, but I’m not a fashionista, and it’s struggle. Not to mention the all the ethical reasons for avoiding fast fashion.

Frugality versus ethical shopping.

OK, I know, I know. I could be frugal and ethical by buying well-made and well-priced clothes at secondhand shops. But remember – I’m terrible at dressing myself and adding the challenge of vintage shopping seems far too daunting to me. And from what I hear, the secret to successful second-hand clothes shopping is to go early and often. Finding just what you need, just when you need it, is probably very, very unlikely.

I might have just talked myself into giving vintage shopping a serious try. Maybe I’ll try an online store? So I can torture myself about the shipping…<sigh>.

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