If you’re anything like me, your TikTok is filled with Shein, NastyGal, Forever21, and PrettyLittleThing hauls. These companies are part of a phenomenon referred to as fast fashion. These stores focus their products on current trends and a common characteristic is cheap products, both in price and quality. While that may not sound so bad yet, these products aren’t intended to last. Because of this, they often end up in landfills within a year or two while consumers rush to buy the next set of on-trend clothing, and the cycle continues. This overconsumption causes harm to our environment.
Now, I know what you might be thinking, “So what? I’m a broke college kid. It’s all I can afford.” And that is a fair point, however, shopping on a budget doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, chasing trends is not doing your budget any favors.
The first step to building your wardrobe is stocking up on basics. Though they may be pricey, the fastest way to begin is by buying a nice pair of quality jeans, ones that last. Brands that are most suitable for this would be classic ones like Levi, Gap, Ralph Lauren or Wrangler. A pair like this could cost up to $100, which may be discouraging for many of us – however, these brands are classics and can be found at many second-hand stores. If $100 is not in your budget, scour thrift stores, garage sales, and Facebook marketplace for a used pair with a more reasonable price.
The second step is tops. Solid color tops will never go out of style. Black, white, tan, brown, olive, or other neutrals in any cut or sleeve length will be something that can be recycled season after season, but to do so the product has to be quality. Thrift stores and garage sales are great places to find quality, solid-colored sweaters, and stores like the Gap and Zara offer variety in short sleeve, long sleeve, and sleeveless. Because of the price of these products new, you may choose to build your collection slowly over time.
Lastly, we are in the midwest after all, so while we may have sunnier days ahead of us now, before we know it we will be walking to class on a brisk fall morning wishing we had brought a coat. To build a classic and long-lasting wardrobe you should consider two coats. A casual coat – suitable for class, the gym, and the grocery store. And a dress coat – suitable for interviews, internships, and other weddings. You will want a coat that lasts, so this one will be an investment, but if you choose carefully, and take care of it, you can expect it to last for many years.
Once the basics are down, staples like blazers, dress pants, and black dresses can be added in. As the occasion arises, you can add in more trendy pieces, or pieces that fit your personal brand such as the dress you choose to wear to a wedding, the earrings you wear everyday, or the shoes you wear to graduation.
Overall, being intentional in your approach to style can have a lasting impact on your budget and the environment.