I’ve always been conscious of the fact that most of our goods in the USA come from factories overseas. The labor practices in those countries differ from our standards meaning long work hours, low pay rates, and in many cases young children are workers. It’s one of the reasons overseas manufacturing is cheaper. I am simplifying things a bit, but in general we now that items made overseas aren’t made with safe labor practices in mind. The cost of buying those goods may be cheaper, but at what cost to humanity?
There are several ways we can avoid buying items made in these types of conditions and while some are more expensive many will cost you less than buying new.
Want to know more than my brief overview? Watch this entertaining video from Last Week Tonight. Jon Oliver will have you laughing, but you’ll also learn why it’s such an important thing to shop ethically or USA made clothing.
Where To Find Ethical & Made In The USA Fashion
Thrift shops are a goldmine for fashion. You can find retro looks that are back in now at a fraction of the cost, give back to the local community (purchases often help create jobs or offer services or housing to those in need), and spend much less than you would elsewhere. The key to finding a great thrift shop is to arrive early in the week (most people send donations in on weekends) and to look for thrift shops that carry the type of items you prefer. For instance, I can go to one thrift shop in a more rural area and find great vintage pieces whereas if I want high-end or designer pieces I can head to the suburbs of our city where housing is pricier and clothing that’s donated is often designer.
While it’s true many of the labels you’ll find here are going to be from overseas you are giving the clothing a second life and you’re able to find more current or on trend pieces for less and with a little less stigma attached to your purchase.
Shop Used Online
There are a number of sites and apps that have sprung up in recent years to help you find used clothing for less. Some focus on kids, others on brand names, but they all offer great deals and savings while helping keep clothes in use.
Check out these apps and sites:
Create A Clothing Exchange
Looking for clothing but don’t have dough to spend? Gather together friends and neighbors to host a clothing exchange. Everyone brings what they no longer want to keep/don’t fit into and you can take home whatever goodies you like. Add in some music and wine and it’s a fun girl’s night in.
Keep Your Clothes
One of the issues that we face as a whole is how disposable our society is. While I’m all for donating things you no longer need try hanging onto items for longer. Mend items that need it, and store items you’re no longer using and pull them back out again next season. It’s liking having a whole new wardrobe! I’m a bit of a purger myself, but I definitely regret donating a handful of items, so I’ve learned to just sock them away. If in the next 3-4 years I need to purge I can always get rid of them, but no need to be hasty especially since trends are cycling ever faster these days!
Shop Big Department Stores Online
It’s harder to find Made in the USA items in store, so shop online. Nordstrom is a great resource for finding Made in the USA items. You can simply plug it into their search box along with narrowing your options down by sizes, gender, or kids to find exactly what you need. Right now they have their Anniversary Sale going on and if you’re a cardmember you get early access. You can preview the sale if you’re not, and shopping for non cardholders starts on July 16th.
Bookmark Blogs & Websites
Blogs and websites that cover American made or ethically made fashion are a great resource. Check out a few of my favorites below. You can search their archives for specific items, too.
Buy Made in The USA
The most obvious way to find ethically made or Made in the USA products? Seek them out whenever you’re shopping. Whether you’re looking for a dining room table or a new bra you can find American made or ethically made clothing and household items.
A few of our favorites:
- Hanky Panky: Made in the USA lingerie
- New Balance: Sneakers (not all are USA made, so check your label)
- American Apparel: Clothing and lingerie
- Spanx: Yes, they’re made in the USA!
- Splendid: Lots of great stuff here.
- Wear Your Label: Made in North America, printed in Canada, and proceeds benefit mental health organizations.
- American Giant: San Francisco based these guys know how to make the ultimate hoodie, sweatshirt, and tees. A little pricey, but they guarantee them!
- AG Jeans, J Brand, Rag & Bone, 7 for All Mankind: All high-end denim that’s made in the USA.
- L.L. Bean: The iconic outdoorsy brand has many made in the USA products.
- Frye boots: My favorite and all made in the USA.
This is by no means an extensive list, but it should help you get started. Click here for a more extensive list of USA made products.
Buy Ethically Made Products
Ethically made products are products that are made in clean and safe working conditions. The products are often handcrafted and the workers are compensated at a fair wage. The only way to know for sure what the conditions are like at a company and where their materials come from is to ask. Ask on social media, shoot them an email, or search their FAQs.
Some great suppliers of ethically made goods:
- Ten Thousand Villages: home, jewelry, limited food goods, decor, gifts, and some furniture
- Gaiam: Focuses mainly on health and wellness products, but they have great exercise and yoga wear thanks to their focus on yoga.
- Uncommon Goods: Products on this site are not only ethical, but many give back to great causes. You will find great guides on products, too. Like a guide to gifts for under $25. There’s something for everyone here. For clothing it features accessories, jewelry, scarves, and more.
Ethically made products are becoming more and more available for everything from back to school supplies to clothing. Often you’ll find these products as startups or small companies, so if you find something you love be sure to share it!
Check out this extensive guide to ethical shopping at The Art of Simple for more.
Buy Products Made By Artisans
Shoes from Germany, clothing from Australia or Canada, pottery from Spain-buying from artisans in other countries is a way to know you’re buying ethically (and well made) products. While it may be more expensive in some cases you will find that these products are designed to last a lifetime. That handbag that’s handcrafted in Italy is likely to be passed down to your kids with a little care and regular cleaning.
And as one reader pointed out in our comments if you live overseas buying products made in your country makes sense.
What are some tried and true ways you look for ethically made fashion? Do you prefer buying used? If so, what resources or shops do you find are the best?
This post was updated on July 17th.