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How College Students Can Make Sustainable Fashion More Affordable

by Drew Allen


It is very convenient to shop for your apparel in chain stores and get something quickly, but that does not mean it is the most sustainable option. Buying ethically on a tight budget is not always the easiest, but it is not impossible. There are a few ways to make it more affordable.

Take Advantage of Credit Card Rewards

Using credit card rewards can significantly reduce the total cost of your fashion purchases. Many credit card companies offer rebates in certain categories or at certain retailers throughout the year. If you don’t already have a credit card, getting one while in college can also help you build credit and better manage your budget. Choosing the right one is a major decision, so if you are thinking about picking one, you can review a guide with more information on what you should know.


Look for Good Deals Online

Slow fashion brands are like fast fashion in the fact that you can often look for holiday deals, coupons, and sales. While paying full price may not be in your budget, a discount may make that piece fit into your budget much better. You might get a 5 percent discount or a 75 percent discount depending on the seller and the item.

Sign up for email newsletters and follow brands on social media to stay in the loop when they have a deal. You can also subscribe to ethical fashion blogs, which research brands for you so you can determine whether you can trust them. Following bloggers may also get you access to giveaways or blog-specific coupon codes.

Seek Out Sustainable Brands

While buying your clothing used may be the most sustainable option, some brands focus on the ethical production of clothing. Athletic attire, especially swimwear, may be hard to find secondhand because of how quickly it tends to wear out. Formal attire may need to be a custom fit, so it may be impossible to find something in your size that works for you at a thrift store.

When you do need new items, take some time to research the brand and make sure to pick one that embodies ethical, sustainable values. There are many slow fashion brands out there, but the important thing is to do your research ahead of time. Most of the time, slow fashion brands create neutrals in simple styles which tend to stay in style longer than trendy designs. If you want it to last a long time, it mustn't go out of style so you can keep it a while longer.

Invest in Quality Items

Sustainable pieces can save you money because you won’t need to purchase clothing as an option. Fast fashion is usually made from materials that don’t last very long in the washing machine, and the fabric may pill quickly.

Sustainable items are made using higher-quality materials, which means they will last longer. You won’t need to replace your clothing as often, and this can save you money. Consider purchasing classic items that can be accessorized to match the occasion. A basic shirt can be made more professional with a blazer over it or more casual with shorts and sandals.

Buy Fewer Clothes

Buying fewer items can help you keep your wardrobe more sustainable. This can be a painful process to get used to, especially if you are used to having a new outfit to wear on every occasion. However, if you find yourself engaging in retail therapy, take some time to evaluate the situation. Will you wear an item multiple times, and how often can you see yourself wearing that one-of-a-kind dress? Having fewer items really can be more because you won’t have as much trouble deciding between multiple options.

A capsule wardrobe can help you pair basic items to create a nearly endless range of outfits. While it might take some time to create, it can be worthwhile because it will prevent you from having to purchase as many items as possible. You can add accessories, such as scarves, hats, or sunglasses, in fun patterns and colors to make it more you.

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Share with Friends

Swapping clothing with your friends can help you and a friend each get a new outfit without supporting fast fashion. Consider hosting a clothing swap, where you and a group of friends bring items you no longer want, and you can choose from the items you are interested in.

It can be a fun way to spend an evening with your friends, and it keeps unwanted clothing items out of the landfill. If you do need clothing for a formal event, you might be able to borrow something from your friends or even rent an item. This also keeps bulky formal clothing from taking up too much room in your closet after the event is over.


Pay Attention to Shipping

When you are ordering an item of clothing, consider using standard shipping instead of same or next-day shipping. Fast shipping times get you your item sooner, but they also increase your carbon footprint because they force the carrier to deliver with a truck that may not be full. If you have an account with a provider that automatically offers fast, free shipping, see if you can select an option for greener or more sustainable shipping. You can also try combining orders, so you don’t have to order as often.

Consider Buying at the End of the Season

If you want to buy a swimsuit at the beginning of summer, you will likely pay a premium because everyone else wants to buy a swimsuit then too. But if you can wait until the end of the summer, you can often find steep discounts on items you may not have otherwise been able to afford. You might not be able to use the piece very much when you buy it, but you will be able to look forward to using them at the start of the next season.


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