Aug 14, 2014

stepping away from sweatshops

Over the last few weeks and months, I've felt more and more compelled to move away from buying clothing for our family that's been made in sweatshops. And let me tell you something, it's harder than I thought!

Mostly, it's harder because I'm an impulse shopper. I see cute clothes for me and the kids, and I want to grab it up right away. I tend to shy away from buying things for Zach, and he tends to wear his clothes for years and years, but with me and the kids, I'm totally prone to Old Navy and Target sales like you wouldn't believe.

But the fact that workers in Bangladesh are on hunger strike right now due to the horrible conditions? Man, that's a wake-up call. It's time to make a change.

For me, I'm just going to stop buying clothes. I've got plenty, and where I lack is in the sweater department, so I plan to make a few for myself this fall and winter. (I'll share more about that later).

Owen is a bit more difficult, but not much. He's finally at the stage where he's wearing his clothes for more than one season. And while he's transitioning between sizes a bit with his shirts, by winter he should be in just 3T in everything, and be able to wear that size for about a year. He's set for jeans, but will need some long-sleeve shirts as it gets colder. I plan to knit him a sweater or two, in washer/dryer safe yarns, and we're thinking of shopping American Apparel for a few staple long-sleeve shirts.

Lou is the hard one. She's still quickly growing out of clothes, and will continue to do so for the next year or two. I'm lucky that we have a friend whose daughter was born a year before Lou, almost to the day, and she's been generous with the hand-me-downs. I may turn to Etsy for some staples, and will probably get a few things at American Apparel for her as well, but with how fast she's growing, and how messy a stage she's about to enter (food for the win!) I'm not sure how this will all work out for her just yet.

I'm also super excited about a start-up called Wildly Co. I've already backed them on Kickstarter, and am hopeful that they'll get the full amount they need to begin production on their fall line. This feels like a great option for shirts and pants for Owen, with their fun tees priced right where I'm comfortable spending. The best part is they plan to do their manufacturing in North Carolina, so they're totally not sweatshop made! (Their tees are currently being made by their family, from production to screen printing to product testing!)

But it still feels like, especially for messy and growing babies, there just aren't very many good AND affordable options. American Apparel is better, but not the best (they still don't pay their workers very much, and because they're super trendy styles, the clothes don't always last more than a season or two), but I'm not sure what else to do to keep away from Target and Old Navy buying in the future.


(Note: This post is not sponsored by anyone. I'd love to be able to get clothes for my kids that are ethically made, so I'm writing about it in the hopes someone has some ideas.)


  1. I follow the NonConsumerAdvocate blog. The blogger buys almost nothing new but does buy second hand, figuring that it is better in a multitude of ways. She likes to shop at thrift shops. When I had a little one most of her clothes came from yard (garage) sales and second hand stores. It is cheaper and if the items already exist it seems you are supporting third world slave labor less.

    Another blogger that has been working on being a more responsible consumer is TheFrugalGirl. She is the mother of four.

    I think just buying/having less is also a great step towards addressing this issue, that is my main method.

    Good luck and God Bless you for being such a responsible person.

  2. Thrift stores work well for me (except for pants- but I have to order those anyways). There are a variety of ethical issues- but better than supporting mass produced clothes stores directly. I can find the same quality of clothing that I would find at a mall, often nicer than what I would be able to justify buying for myself at full retail- and often can find items that are made in the USA. The money savings means I can afford to buy other local or sustainable goods (be it clothes, yarn, food, or other items), and that I don't feel as bad when I ruin an item of work clothing.

    I go to at least one thrift store every couple of weeks--sounds like a lot of shopping!---- but often go with a coworker who is always looking for pants for her son (they get ruined quickly at his work), and I am looking for cashmere sweaters to unravel for yarn.

  3. I follow some amazing handmade tee shirt businesses on Instagram like the WildlyCo . Hello Apparel and Geo Fox are a couple of my current favorites and I have stumbled on some second hand IG sellers as well. Love love love your intentions.

  4. I also hate buying sweat shop made clothes and conventional cotton is also very heavily sprayed with pesticides. My family's financial situation does not allow me to buy alternatives which where I live are almost always very expensive. I have instead been buying second hand for years. I have short and curvy teenaged daughter with an intellectual disability who loves clothes and second hand shopping (for us mostly at Value Village here in eastern Canada) means she can have pretty clothes that fit her. Yard sales are another great source for guilt free impulse clothes shopping. Sometimes I come across amazing yarn that way too:)