Show Me the Money: How buying ethically-made clothes can be cheaper in the long-run

While I’m extremely passionate about sustainably- and ethically-made clothing, I’ve always said I’d never turn down a good deal. I’ve since proven myself wrong. While perusing my inbox recently, I saw a deal offered at Victoria’s Secret for a sport pant, sports bra, and beanie—all for $55. I found myself reeling and loudly asking my laptop how this could even be possible.


What has been sacrificed to bring you this price? Quality, fair payment and treatment of workers, and environmentally friendly materials and production practices surely top the list. At prices like this though, it’s hard to think about anything other than “just buy it, it’s so cheap!” But what if you were able to silence that impulsive mini-you to really think about what you were buying? What if spending a little more upfront could actually save you money in the long-term?

Let’s focus strictly on quality for the purposes of this analysis.

Assume that these lower-priced pieces will last one year—and that’s an ambitious estimate—if used and washed regularly and that you’ll replace them each year when they fall apart, fade, stretch out, etc. with similar pieces at similar prices.

Rather than spending $550 over ten years and throwing away your worn-out fast fashion finds,—really, even thrift stores don’t want them—take a bit of time to find pieces you absolutely love that are made responsibly and will hold up to your active lifestyle. Items produced with care and emphasis on quality will stand up to whatever you throw at them for years.

Search for well-made pieces like the Tempo Criss-Cross Back Sports Bra and Carry on Legging from NUX that will give you the high-performance you expect out of your athleisure wear and hold up to daily sweat sessions and subsequent washes. Top the look off with the good hYOUman Slouchy Black Beanie. All three pieces are made in the USA with an emphasis on innovative design, quality construction, and performance.

Especially when it comes to fitness, quality can enhance or hinder your activities in the clothes. I’ve certainly found that my poorly-made activewear went quickly from the gym, to my couch, to the “donate” pile. Since higher-quality pieces are both optimized for physical activity and look great, they’ll take you from the studio to the airport and everywhere in between.

Let’s assume the pieces above will last five years if used and washed regularly and that you’ll replace them when they wear out with similar pieces at similar prices (I’ve made this assumption based on the life cycle I’ve observed for investment items—both athleisure and ready-to-wear—that I’ve purchased over the years). The full outfit comes to $170. Over ten years, you would spend $340. That’s over $200 in savings compared to buying those fast fashion clothes!

If you’ve examined your budget and really can’t buy slightly higher-priced clothes, then by all means, purchase what you’re able to. But if you have the ability to save up and buy fewer, better, more versatile pieces less often, then you should, if for no other reason than long-term savings.

This isn’t about spending a fortune upfront. It’s about thinking just a little bit farther down the road than “right now.” It’s about being mindful of what you’re putting on your body, what you open your wardrobe to, what you want your clothes to say about you, and the principles you’re willing to put your money behind. Mindfulness is a huge emerging trend in the fitness world—why limit the practice to your yoga mat when you can expand it to what you wear on the mat?

Written by Amber Vignieri, Urban Hippie and Mod + Ethico Contributor

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