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How to: Shop Responsibly


Finding your own style while trying to be environmentally friendly can be frustrating. With the rise of fast fashion and the rapidly evolving styles of the 21st century, it can be hard to know what to wear and where to look. 

Being a high school student  generally means you don’t have a large amount of money to spend on clothes. Luckily, you don’t have to buy new clothes from the store every time. In fact, 55 percent of Maine West students have shopped at a resale store or resale website in the past six months, according to a Westerner survey of 190 students.  By hitting up their local Goodwill, Lucile’s or Community Threads store, students are finding inexpensive, sustainable, but still stylish clothes. “Thrifting is a good way to start your wardrobe because you can play around with new styles and outfits, without paying a lot of money,” Maine West 2022 graduate and New York fashion week attendee, Monisa Yusra said, “As students, we can’t afford to buy clothes from fully sustainable companies all the time since they can get expensive sometimes, and the alternative is thrifting or second hands stores.”  

Sites such as ThreadUp, PoshMark, and Ebay each have their own process for people to sell used items, but sellers with good ratings will include lots of photos, measurements, and descriptions of what they are selling so that you know exactly how used the item is.  If you’re looking for something specific – such as a particular kind of jeans in a particular size – Ebay, for example, will allow you to “save” your search and send you an email alert if anyone posts something similar for sale. 

Thrifting clothes is a great way to reduce the global impact of fashion while also saving some money. When you enter a thrift store, look for those staple pieces, but also pay attention to the quality. “Everyone will go in looking for different things and different styles, but the quality of the item is the most important,” fashion teacher Jennifer Chen said. The pieces are second hand so they might not quite be in pristine condition, but most will be in good enough condition to buy. And remember, you can donate your old clothes that don’t fit right or you just don’t wear anymore to a Goodwill for someone else to find. 

Starting your personal wardrobe can be challenging, but a few wardrobe staples can serve as the backbones of your closet, no matter whether they are new or from resale. These will be pieces that you can wear with many outfits and always look in style. Chen said, “Get a good pair of jeans or pants that fit well, and just a collared shirt that can be casual or be used for something more dressed up.” Even though fashion is always changing and new trends come up all the time, having a couple basic pieces will help keep you dressed to impress, and resale stores can provide solid options for classic staples.  

Yusra said, “There are so many different ways to style an article of clothing. There is never just one way to wear it.” You don’t even need to buy new clothes to change your style, simply just try out different pairings of clothes you already have.

Now, when you go shopping, look for brands that are known for styles you like. Once you find brands you love, continue to shop at those stores or look up brands similar to them. Keep an eye out for your favorite brand’s sustainability efforts too. Most big name brands have a tab with all of their recycled products and a statement to their sustainability. Check out these local chicago small stores “Plant Access,” “Rothy’s,” and a non chicago based company “Chnge,”  it is hard to go wrong with supporting independent businesses. 

Stores like “SHIEN”, “H&M”, and “Zara” might draw you in with their trendy styles for remarkably low prices, “there is a reason they are so cheap, they have cheap sources of labor and pollute the environment, both the air and our landfills,” Chen said. If a brand seems too good to be true, that’s a red flag and you should stay away. Cheap, low quality clothing will not hold up over time anyway. 



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