Ethical fashion on a budget?  Isn’t that an oxymoron?  Shopping ethically can’t be done on a budget?  Or can it?  As a fairly thrifty Mrs I like to think so: here are my top tips for shopping ethically without breaking the bank!

The Moral Fibres Guide to Ethical Fashion on A Budget

ethical clothing on a budget

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Do The Ground Work

It’s not really groundbreaking, but before you buy anything new have a good sort through your wardrobe.  Donate any items of clothing you don’t wear to charity, repair any clothes that need a little fix, swap with friends, or sell your clothes online.  

It’s also a little-known fact that you can also donate worn-out clothes to charity shops.  Just pop them in a separate bag marked rags, and the charity shop gets money for it from the rag trade.  The rags then get recycled.  Look, no landfill!

Once you’ve had a good sort through your wardrobe, look at the items you have left.  Now ask yourself if there is anything that you really need?  Be really honest with yourself. Ask yourself if you really need the item, or is it more of a want.

If you do need any clothing, make a list (and stick to it!).  At this stage, it’s also a good idea to set a budget.  When shopping, particularly secondhand, it is easy to get caught up. A £5 top here, a £3 dress there, a £15 coat there – it all starts to add up.  Set a firm budget and stick to it.

Shopping Secondhand

ethical fashion on a budget

The most ethical way to shop for the items you really need is to shop secondhand.  There are quite a few ways that you can shop secondhand and buy ethical fashion on a budget:


eBay* is a second-hand clothing goldmine (some of the time!).  I mostly love shopping on eBay. I’ve found so much good stuff on there (and at the same time a load of rubbish).  As such I’ve put together a guide on tips for buying clothes on eBay to help you navigate its murky waters!

Asos Marketplace

Asos Marketplace* is another good resource for buying pre-loved items, although, with so many options, it can be a bit overwhelming.  I find browsing by category and setting my maximum price on the slider makes it a bit easier to deal with.

Charity Shops

Charity and vintage shops are always an excellent port of call.  If you don’t have the time or inclination to mooch around charity shops in the hope of striking gold then Oxfam* sells secondhand clothes, shoes, and accessories online.  I’ve also put together a guide on charity shop tips that you might find useful, as well as a guide to other places to shop for secondhand clothes online.

Vintage Shops

Living in Edinburgh I’m quite spoiled for choice when it comes to vintage shops.  We have some amazing reasonably priced ones.  If you don’t happen to have any vintage shops near you, or your nearest ones are astronomically priced (like some of the London ones I’ve visited) then try Rokit’s online store*.

Other online options include Asos again, which has 408 vintage shops* operating in its vintage marketplace.

Beyond Retro* also have a good fairly affordable selection on their website (you can use the exclusive code MORALFIBRES at the checkout to receive 15% off your order at Beyond Retro).

Etsy* is another veritable gold mine for vintage clothing.  The majority of it is US-based.  However, you can filter your search to only show UK items to avoid getting stung on postage fees and import duties.  

Etsy does have a UK sister site – Folksy.  I find Folksy’s vintage selection not particularly great, and I find their search function a bit rubbish, to be honest, but you might find some gems if you search hard!

Wardrobe Swapping

Another option for ethical fashion on a budget is wardrobe swapping. These are fun and sociable community events, where you can take along the good quality clothes you no longer wear and find preloved treasures. Check the internet to see if there are any wardrobe swapping events near you.  

Affordable Ethical Fashion Retailers

people tree

Buying new is less ethical than buying secondhand.  It’s also often less affordable.  However, that’s not to say you can’t get a good deal.

Some of my favourite ethical retailers for men and women include People Tree* and Thought*, which can be more affordable than some other retailers. 

However, there are loads of men’s and women’s ethical retailers out there. So much so that I’ve put together a list of over 45 ethical clothing brands. To help you out, I’ve categorised the retailers by budget and their size range. I’ve also put together a separate guide to more affordable sustainable clothing brands

Many of these retailers do run amazing sales periodically throughout the year.   You can sign up to their mailing lists and be notified of when their sales are. Bear in mind that it is easy to get carried away in the sales.  Keep a list of the items of clothing you really need.  This way when the sales swing around you know exactly what you’re looking for.

As an added bonus, some brands have mailing lists when you sign up to them you can get money off your first purchase.  I’ve listed in the brand guides the retailers that do offer a discount.  For many, it’s 10% but some do offer a whopping 25% of your first order. Linger about on their site for a few seconds and often good introductory deals do pop up.

Ethical Fashion on a Budget on the High Street

marks and spencer ethical

The high street is often the most accessible place for people to buy clothing.  Particularly so in terms of size and price.  There is absolutely zero shame if you can only shop on the high street.  

The Good Shopping Guide and Ethical Consumer are great places to research high street shops and find out how your favourite shop ranks on ethics. It does get a bit confusing as the Good Shopping Guide and the Ethical Consumer do contradict each other a little.  However, some retailers do seem to be doing a bit more than other high street retailers.  

I’ve previously put together a handy guide to shopping ethically on the high street. It includes four simple questions to ask yourself before shopping to help avoid those impulse fast fashion fixes!

What You Can Do

The High St will always be the most accessible place for people to shop.  Therefore to make the ethical fashion movement more inclusive to all, and at all budgets, then it’s important to take action beyond your wallet.

You see, sustainable fashion lacks diverse representation.  Particularly in terms of race, gender fluidity, and of the LGBTQ+ community.  However, there is also a lack of a range of sizes, a lack of variety of styles, as well as issues of affordability.  These issues are leaving a large swath of potential would-be customers behind.

Things that you can do to help engender change include asking High St brands who make their clothes.  See Fashion Revolution for their great resources.  This will help press for transparency and sustainability on the High Street.  You can also support ethical brands that align with your values.  This means purchasing from them if you are able to.  Even if you can’t afford to shop with these ethical brands, it can also mean liking, commenting, and sharing their social media posts to help boost their exposure to a wider audience.

So there we go, I hope this helps you shop for ethical fashion on a budget!  If I’ve missed something or you want to add anything do let me know in the comments section below!

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