Tis that time of the year for my annual plea for people to avoid fast fashion. (Straight to the point.) I’m (not) sorry but here in Texas and much of the US, school starts next week (which finally explains why back-to-school ads start so early), which means we are in the thick of school supplies and back-to-school shopping, which bring up my annual angst. You see, I loved back-to-school shopping in my youth – everything from clothes to school supplies and special notebooks. I loved it all. I saved up my money and shopped once a year. BUTTTTT we all know that’s not how it is nowadays. We shop every. damn. day. There are new clothing lines every. damn. day. We buy what we don’t need every. damn. day. And the world is paying for it. So this is just your friendly (truly) reminder that it doesn’t have to be like that. You do not have to do “back-to-school” shopping at all and whatever you do actually need, you have some choice as to where you spend your money. Take me as a single case study example in how I approach “back to school.”
School supplies – here in Texas, teachers make far less than they make back in Canada so you bet your boots I’m going to buy all the school supplies off the list and not grumble a bit about it. I don’t want those teachers spending a penny out of their already paltry wages to outfit their classrooms to educate my children. Fortunately, many of the supplies are “made in the USA” so I feel better about getting them from Target. And thank you teachers for telling me your favourite drinks in your back-to-school info sheets because I will be bringing you Starbucks on the regular. You deserve more and I’ll do what I can to show it.
Clothing – the first question we should ask is “what do my children truly need?” And while you’re asking yourself, ask them. I did, and to my surprise, they said, not much. Times have changed. They don’t feel like I did when I was their age. They don’t feel the need to get new clothes at the beginning of school just because it’s the beginning of school. Huh. I have to be careful not to create in them the desire for more just for the sake of it.
Shop secondhand or ethical/sustainable – if by-chance they (or you) want to have some new threads for school, shop secondhand first. Sure, kids clothing at Target (yes, I can shop at Target now) is adorable BUT where is it made? Who made it? Can you be sure that it was made ethically? I tried to find some info on clothing at Target specifically and though there seem to be some positive moves towards sustainable ethical manufacturing, I couldn’t be sure. Same goes for popular retailers for kids’ clothes – Old Navy, Gap, Zara, H&M, Forever 21, etc. By shopping secondhand for these brands and generally, you opt out of the fast fashion cycle. An added bonus for any kids focused on their individualism, secondhand clothing is off the grid. Chances are, no one will have the same pieces and you’ll be able to encourage your children to develop their own personal sense of style. I call that a major win, like Pretty in Pink level of awesomeness. If you follow my Instagram stories, you know that I had to buy my daughter some pieces because the school dress code does not allow spaghetti straps and shorts have to be longer than fingertips when your arm is by your side. I guess this is a big problem in grade 2?? Anyway, I also got my boys a few lighter coloured tees because they are boiling and we aren’t even at the hottest part of the year. Scroll down to see their finds!
Do the best you can when you have to buy regular retail – Two examples: coats and shoes…
- I had to buy my kids a waterproof shell because when it rains in Houston, it POURS, but it is still HOT and their current rain coats are fleece lined. Sometimes, you need something before you can find it thrifted, and that is okay. I looked at a few different options but just couldn’t afford to spend near $100 per kid, so I settled on an option from Amazon for $55 per kid which is still pricey but I’m hoping they will fit for a couple of years and that this will be the only coat they need. (no snow, HA!)
- I scan the shoe racks every time I thrift and regularly thrift footwear for myself and my children but I usually buy them a pair of “new” shoes at the start of each school year. I intend these to be their indoor shoes but lo and behold, there is no such thing as indoor shoes in Texas. You wear the shoes you come to school in all day long. Huh. There are some shoe brands that are more ethical than others, but to be honest, there were other factors influencing my shopping. Like, I do NOT want to go back to Katy Mills Mall. I do NOT know how to get to any other shoe store. I do NOT even know if there is some kind of shoe warehouse discount store here. So, I went to a shoe store near the grocery store and found a pair of new shoes for each of my children taking advantage of their BOGO event. I might have even accidentally found a pair for myself (!). I don’t know if Nike and Under Armor and Skechers are ethically made… doubtful but I’m confessing this so that we can all agree that doing your best is enough. You don’t have to be a perfect ethical consumer. If your best means sourcing ethical footwear and buying it for your kids, do that. If your best is buying one secondhand thing, do that. As long we are moving in the direction of more sustainable consumerism, that is enough.
Before I share what I thrifted for my adorable children (who are currently mad at me for catching them fighting then sending their friends home then telling them that if it happens again, I will be forced to join them and their friends and sit right in the middle and help them build their minecrafts #howiparent), I wanted to comment on the Houston sustainable fashion scene, to comment that there doesn’t seem to be much of a scene at all. I’m finding the lack of awareness of fast fashion in Texas to be surprising and so hopefully this will help to shed a little light. If you’re new to the term, please click the links above or search The Spirited Thrifter for “fast fashion” and you’ll learn all about it. Things do need to change which means WE need to change. If I can do it, YOU can too!