The 15 Best Affordable And Ethical Clothing Brands For Every Budget
Today it is estimated that the average American will discard roughly 81 pounds of clothing every year, which results in 3.8 billion pounds of post-consumer textile waste landing in landfills. In the simplest financial sense this is money poorly spent and ultimately wasted. Ethically and environmentally speaking there is an even greater cost to the way view our clothes and support fast fashion.
But when it comes to shopping sustainable fashion brands there still remains an issue of access when it comes to finding ethical and affordable women’s clothing that can meet the needs of those on a smaller budget.
What Does Affordable & Ethical Fashion Really Look Like?
While everyone has a different idea of what affordable means for them, there is no denying that many of the sustainable fashion brands out there are making ethical clothing that comes with a steep price tag. Even though as a society we have a long way to go in terms of re-learning what clothes should cost (hint hint: they shouldn’t cost $10 for a t-shirt), and how we should value them, there is no denying that if we are really going to get the masses to stop shopping fast fashion then we need to have more accessible and affordable options available for everyone.
When it comes to buying affordable women’s clothing, we need to be thinking both about our mindset around how many clothes we actually need, and how much we are capable of spending. Regardless of whether your are purchasing ethical fashion or are still shopping fast fashion, if you are buying clothing in excess then you are not shopping in a sustainable nor an affordable manner.
Choosing to adopt a more sustainable wardrobe makes sense both financially and ethically. If we choose to purchase our clothing with thought and intention, we ultimately will spend less, and save more by producing less waste. While the transition away from impulse and excessive clothing shopping may be difficult at first, the less you choose to shop fast fashion, the more money you will save. This will over time allow you to be able to invest in ethical fashion made with sustainable materials that will enable you to build a socially responsible wardrobe filled with items you can wear for many years to come.
Price Does Not Equal Quality Or Sustainability
Before we get into some of our favorite more affordable brands, it is important that we acknowledge that just because something is expensive does not mean it was made ethically or is even high quality. Due to the nature of fast fashion, many expensive clothing brands charge based on what their brand worth represents to consumers, and not based on the actually quality and ethical manufacturing of their clothing. Most often in fact, designer brands will be among the worst offenders using unethical practicing all the way from the manufacturing of their clothing, to the giant rip off they charge to consumers.
So while there will never be a sustainable clothing brand selling clothes at the ultra low prices associated with companies like Old Navy, Forever 21, and H&M, many times sustainable clothing brand prices will be right in line with brands like J. Crew, Madewell, Free People, Anthropologie, Lululemon, and many many more.
This is just something to keep in mind if you are someone who can afford to shop at the retailers above, because you absolutely have the means to switch to supporting sustainable fashion brands today.
Is Second Hand Fast-Fashion Really Sustainable?
While the below brands are among the most accessible from a cost standpoint currently within the sustainable fashion industry, the most cost effective option with arguably the best environmental impact will almost always be to purchase second hand.
While purchasing second hand doesn’t mean that you will necessarily be buying sustainably made clothing brands, it is one of the best ways that you can support a more sustainable fashion industry, and ensure that the longevity of the clothing that already exists on this planet is extended and kept from landfills for as long as possible.
So if none of the sustainable brands below still seem to be within your budget I would highly recommend seeking out second hand retailers like consignment shops, and online companies like ThredUp and Poshmark, which both are really shaking up the fast-fashion industry.
10 Best Affordable ANd Ethical Clothing Brands For Every Budget, Body, and Every Wardrobe
For those looking for an excellent ethical fashion alternative to Madewell or J Crew then Everlane is the perfect sustainable clothing brand for you.
Personally, I love Everlane for their timeless and comfort driven style. They offer well designed basics from the coziest sweaters, to my favorite t-shirts and jeans that are perfect for the conscious consumer.
Everlane carries both men's and women's clothing, and offer a “pay what you choose” option which allows you to choose what you pay on “sale” items.
People Tree is recognized as a pioneer in the fair trade clothing industry. For over 25 years they have partnered with fair trade clothing producers to make ethical clothing more available to the general public.
Their garments are made using organic cotton and eco-friendly materials, while supporting ethical, fair-trade practices.
They offer some of the most affordable prices I have seen in the sustainable fashion industry, and have sale items for those on an even tighter budget.
Tradlands prides itself on creating pieces you can wear with everything and live in for years to come.
Their clothing focuses on timeless, well-made essentials that redefine the meaning of effortless style.
Tradlands also prioritizes ethical working practices and a fair, livable wage because it doesn’t matter how beautiful a garment looks if human beings and the environment are exploited in the process.
Pact is by far one of the most affordable sustainable fashion brands perfect for the whole family.
Pact clothing is made from organic cotton and fair trade certified factories with zero harmful chemicals, and processes conserve water.
Amour Vert designs sustainable, versatile, and thoughtful clothing that’s good for both you and the planet. Their pieces feel like high end luxury, but maintain a moderately affordable price tag that makes them accessible to the larger public.
To reduce their waste and carbon footprint most pieces are made in limited quantities to ensure the highest production standard and eliminate excess waste. 97% of products are made in California all from sustainably sourced textiles.
Made Trade is a one-stop consciously curated shop for all things clothing, home goods, accessories, and more.
Sustainable — made with earth-friendly materials, either responsibly harvested, recycled or upcycled
Fair Trade — handmade by artisans outside the US adhering to fair labor practices
Heritage — crafted by hand using traditional and often centuries-old techniques
USA Made — locally made by makers in the United States
Vegan — free of any and all animal materials
ABLE is a lifestyle brand focused on ending generational poverty through providing economic opportunity for women.
At ABLE 96% of employees are women, and the lowest wages are published to improve transparency and increase the demand for fair wages in the fashion industry.
While ABLE may be best known for it’s denim, they also offer a wide variety of other apparel, shoes, and accessories for women.
Organic Basics is my favorite company to go to for basics that are super comfortable. They offer a wide variety of garments for men and women made using renewable fabrics in certified facilities that ensure the ethical and fair treatment of all garment workers.
The designs, styles, and colors are all minimal, timeless and made to last, which is what makes Organic Basics a great brand to help build the foundation of a more sustainable wardrobe.
ten thousand villages
Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade clothing and home goods pioneer and non-profit social enterprise that partners with independent small-scale artisan groups, co-ops and workshops to bring their products to consumers.
I personally love the variety of accessories from bags to jewelry that Ten Thousand Villages offers, many of which are priced at less than $50 and tell an incredible story.
My favorite bag right now for summer is this Essential Companion Tote that I have been bringing with me to the beach and farmers market. The artisan quality is amazing, and it is absolutely beautiful.
know the origin
Know The Origin is all about full transparency from farm to clothing. Know The Origin uses organic & fairtrade cotton from two farmer-run cooperatives in India where 18% of our worlds cotton is grown.
Cotton is an incredible labor intensive and chemical laden crop. This results in a wide variety of global health, environmental impact, and workers rights issues
Know The Origin is one of my favorite go-to brands for basic shirts and undergarments. They also make mens clothing and a variety of graphic t-shirts as well.
eco vibe apparel
The apparel industry has become the third most polluting industry on the planet, and EcoVibe is working to help offset some of that pollution by creating a brand that puts the environment first.
EcoVibe uses a wide variety of sustainable fabrics that have been ethically produced in the making of their clothing.
EcoVibe is my go-to affordable option for more bohemian style clothing and dresses.
If I could only shop one ethical brand it would probably by Slum Love.
The Slum Love designs are that perfect mix of bohemian meets everyday basic comfort, and are made ethically in Kenya using eco-friendly materials with a portion of proceeds giving back to education for children in some of the world largest slums.
Slum Love offers both mens and women's apparel and the designs, quality, and budget friendly prices of these garments really just cant be beat.
Sancho's is a sustainable fashion and lifestyle brand that sources clothing that is certified fair trade and is constructed from sustainable natural materials.
Sancho's sells both men's and women's clothing and stocks a curated range of clothing, accessories and gifts from organic and fair trade clothing producers.
What I love about Sancho's is the wide variety of clothing options, styles, and departments. You can find basics, undergarments, dresses, and accessories all in one shop.
They also offer incredible sales throughout the year with many items falling under $30-40.
Looking for bold prints and patterns? Mayamiko is your go-to sustainable fashion brand that brings an eclectic range of colors, patterns, and styles to its sustainably made garments.
Mayamiko is a sustainable women's wear and lifestyle brand made in Malawi and inspired by African artisanal traditions and prints.
The Mayamiko collections are designed for the global modern woman with incredibly high ethical standards and micro-finance programs in place to ensure that women are able to support themselves and create the life and opportunity of their dreams.
I personally love everything that wearing a Mayamiko article of clothing embodies and believe that they are one of the best sustainable fashion brands in the global fashion marketplace to support today.
Made from recycled water bottles and ethically produced in Vietnam, the girlfriend collective is one of my favorite ethical brands for athletic wear.
The minimal designs, sustainable practices, and body inclusivity nature of the brand makes it one of my personal favorites for active/athlesiure wear.
Disclaimer: This post contains some affiliate links through which The Well Essentials receives a small commission from the brands recommended. The price is the same for you the consumer and all opinions are my own.