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Clothing with a Conscience: Ethical Clothes Shopping

I want to tell you a little bit about Toad&Co, an ethical women’s clothing company I love. But first, let me tell you a little bit about how I have changed the way I buy clothes over the last decade.

First, I love clothes and fashion. However, in the last decade or so, I have become increasingly aware how the clothes sold in the United States are made, and it’s not all good.

If you look at the labels on a lot of your clothing, you will see that they are made in China or Bangladesh or some other such country, usually not the United States.

While there is nothing wrong per se with U.S. clothing companies outsourcing their work to other countries, sometimes such companies disrupt indigenous, community-based businesses and put local business-owners out of a job. Workers then have no place to work but these U.S.-based companies which sometimes force workers to work long hours, in dangerous conditions, for very low wages (because these countries often do not have minimum wage or safe business laws.)

As a result these U.S. clothing companies become very wealthy, and people in the U.S. buy fairly cheap clothes. But this is often at the expense of people in other countries who suffer very poor working conditions. (You can read more about these problems here in this article from Forbes: The Not-So-Hidden Ethical Costs of Fast Fashion.)

In addition, many clothing companies do not have any clear commitment to the environment. Because of this, their clothing production often contributes to pollution or resource depletion. Our well-being is tied to the planet’s well-being. Destroying the earth to make ourselves cheap clothes is dumb and ultimately self-destructive.

When I first became aware of such issues over a decade ago, the reality of it all was a little overwhelming

I realized that many of the most popular and common clothing brands (brands I liked and often wore) are caught up in these bad clothing practices. Finding alternatives seemed overwhelming. But I am committed to doing better in this area because I don’t want people in other countries or the environment to suffer just so that I can wear cheap clothes.

So here are some changes I have tried to make in my own clothing practices:

One: I try to simplify.

Owning hundreds of clothing items is not going to make me happier. So, I try to focus on having a wardrobe that is simple, aesthetically pleasing to me, and that lets me live a life filled with a lot of adventure. When I simplify, it lets me focus on purchasing fewer well-made ethical clothing items. That’s much better for me than purchasing a bunch of not-so-well made unethical items. (See #3).

Two: I buy used or consigned when I can.

I have several second-hand and consignment shops near me. In the last few years, I have been amazed at how many good, brand-name clothes I can find cheaply at these stores. Some of these brand-named clothes are good quality clothes that last a long time but are made in less-than-ideal working conditions. When I can find them second-hand, it’s great because I purchase clothes that would otherwise go in a landfill. And they last me a long time. And because I save money, I can then focus on buying other clothes I need from more ethically and environmentally-conscious companies (see #3).

Three:  I buy clothes from ethical and environmentally-conscious companies when I can.

There are more and more ethical clothing companies out there. Such businesses try to run their business in an ethical way that is good for both the environment and for people. I am trying to find as many of these clothing companies as I can and purchase their products as much as possible.

They can be more expensive, and I don’t always have money to buy a lot of these kinds of clothes all at once. However, such clothes often last longer than cheaper clothes. And they are more beautifully made. I also look at them as an investment in the earth and in people, as well as my wardrobe.

That is a great use of money.

I cannot follow these principles all the time, and I don’t shame myself when I cannot do so. But I am able to follow the practices above more consistently these days. So, I feel like I am headed in a good direction overall.

To that end, let me tell you about Toad&Co. It’s one of my favorite women’s clothing companies.

Toad&Co’s tagline is “Clothing with a Conscience”. The company is committed to several important environmental and social good initiatives. You can read more about them and find their business here: Toad&Co.

I love their clothing. It is beautifully and sustainably made and lasts for a long time. I have five year old skirts and shirts from them that I wear constantly, including for long walks and hikes. They are still going strong.

This is a recent dress I purchased from them. It’s their Cue Wrap Short Sleeve Dress.

I love it. I can wear it to work or for a walk in the park. And I can also wear it to lounge around the house. You can easily dress it down or up with sweaters or jackets. And you can wear it in the summer by itself or in the winter with a jacket or sweater.

I also love that the long belt can be tied in several different styles for variety.

If this dress is anything like the skirts I have purchased from Toad&Co, it will last me a good five to ten years.

The older I get, the more I want to make sure that the companies I invest in share the same kind of ethical goals I do. Toad&Co absolutely does. And that’s why they will be getting my business in the future. Maybe you will want to give them your business, too.


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