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!

Excellent condition for $15.
My daughter loves dresses – I have no idea where she gets it from – and she knows that #youcandoanythinginadress. She was the creative director of this photo shoot and did a cartwheel and/or dance video before each photo. (One doesn’t argue with a superstar.) Can you guess which was her favourite, which was my favourite, and which one she actually HATES but tried on because I loved it???!

She did find a couple skirts, shorts and tees. And now you all want chocolate. Sorry.
And now you also want bacon. You’re welcome.

No idea how this ended up in a Houston thrift store but it can stay there (sorry Dad).


  1. I love to shop at thrift stores, that is my therapy. But when my family has a need, sometimes I must shop at the mall. Thrift store shopping is more for my wants. I like unique vintage things. When we need something now we must go to mall. Previously I worked part time and had more time available to shop thrift stores. I bought most everything at thrift stores. I also bought things that I knew we would need in the near future. Now I work full time and just don’t have time to spend hours looking for a need. Some day I will work part time again and have more time for thrift stores.

    • nicole

      You’re absolutely right – time to shop is a big factor so you just do the best you can! And it’s a great point that thrifting is often about wants! Well said.

  2. i WANT the chevron top/polka dot skirt dress! waaaaah
    looks like you have a beautiful place, and happy, (for the most part–ha ha), kids
    enjoy the back to school stuff
    LOVE reading your blog—NEVER NEVER stop 😉
    cheers GF
    su <3

    • nicole

      That one was MY favourite too!! Thanks for the lovely words. Things are going well but I sure miss home some days! xoxoxo

  3. I actually used to be way worse at buying new clothes for my kids than myself. I had bins upon bins in my basement filled with clothes in the next sizes up I got from gymbucks sales, target/sears closeouts etc. The two boys who are almost exactly 2 years apart in age are actually very different, so the theory of buying new to last 2+ kids doesn’t always hold up.

    You are right about outerwear and shoes being trickier. Walmart of all places tends to carry rubber and winter boots that are made in Canada. MEC tends to make things sustainably but they are pricey. I wish Please Mum were still in business. I still thrift their stuff it holds up so well.

    • nicole

      I’m not sure where Gymboree fits in the fast fashion spectrum, never shopped much from there but was nonetheless overwhelmed by all the bins of kids clothes when they were younger. Now my older son usually wears out his clothes before they can be passed on. Things are much better now that I’ve stopped accepting handmedowns beyond what I can use immediately and thrift whatever is missing. Good to know about Walmart – I am finding more made in the USA stuff here which is nice to see!

  4. Check out the good on you ethical shopping app. I think they are newish and building their files, but they have some good info and if you can’t find the brand you’re looking for, you can suggest and they look into it.

    • nicole

      Thanks!! I haven’t checked it out – great tip! (and also, I looked up that other blog but didn’t have a chance to thank you for that!)

  5. Katherina

    I’ve researched Under Armour and I think they’re pretty good for their ethics. Nike is an interesting one since they used to get such flack for it that they really changed their manufacturing and are pretty good now. I’m not sure about Sketchers, but having worked there I can say it doesn’t seem to be a concern to them at all.

    • nicole

      Thanks for the info. I am not surprised about Skechers 🙁 I’ll aim to do better next year!