How To Quit Fast Fashion On A College Student Budget

By now, it is no secret that fast fashion retailers like Forever 21, H&M, Zara, ASOS, Fashion Nova, Topshop, and so many more keep their prices low using unethical work practices and unsustainable manufacturing processes. The fashion business has one of the largest carbon footprints of any industry worldwide, and workers are often underage and underpaid. However, most of us aren’t well off enough to simply switch to eco-conscious, ethical brands, which comes with a higher price for what appear to be essentially the same products. Below are six ways to avoid the temptation, while still satisfying the desire to wear something new. 


Secondhand stores are a broke college student staple, where you can find anything from Hawaiian shirts to formal gowns with prices in the single digits. Thrifted clothes mean that nothing new has to be manufactured, which scores points on the sustainable and ethical sides. Many thrift stores have racks designated to plus or extended sizes as well.

Clothing Swap

Get a group of friends to sort through their wardrobes and pick out the items they no longer wear. Then, bring everyone together to present the items and “bid” on new pieces - if more than one person wants an item, flip a coin or guess a number. Your new clothes will come both free of charge and free of guilt.

Resale Platforms

You probably get ads for these apps all the time. Poshmark, Mercari, Vinted, eBay, even certain Facebook groups can be used to buy secondhand clothing. These sites also allow you the ability to sell your old clothes (read: earn back the money you spend on new clothes). Some even offer “swap” options, where you trade clothing with the seller rather than paying.


If you’re tired of every piece of clothing that you own (aren’t we all?) and don’t mind potentially making a mess, there are infinite ways to change up what’s already in your closet. Pinterest has tons of ideas to get started, some perhaps more doable than others. Cut a t-shirt into a crop top or tank top, tie-dye old whites, or turn too-big jeans into distressed cutoffs. 


Eco-conscious, ethical fashion retailers tend to be expensive. Higher prices typically mean the brands are paying their employees a living wage. That’s part of the reason it can be so hard to break from the convenience of fast fashion. However, ethical clothing companies offer deals like free shipping as well as seasonal sales and markdowns, just as fast fashion brands do. Search promo codes for the site, subscribe to email lists to receive updates, or check websites around holidays and between seasons until the items you’ve got your eye on are within your price range.

Stop Shopping So Much

This one hurts the most, but when the items in your cart are cheap, it can be easy to order without considering if you really NEED more clothes. When you are buying clothes that you know you both want and need, the steeper prices of ethical brands seem a lot more manageable. Minimalism is more stylish than $8 crop tops, anyway.