This post originally appeared on Style Wise, a place for ethical consumers and conscious people to learn more about shopping and living sustainably.
There are a handful of relevant questions every conscious consumer should ask before making a purchase. We may choose to prioritize some questions over others depending on personal preference and stage of life, but I believe the amalgamation of responses will help guide us to a lifestyle that is better for everyone.
This is a companion piece to 6 Myths About Buying Ethical Clothing and What is Ethical? 7 Terms You Need to Know.
1. Will it make a real and lasting impact on my wardrobe?
This isn't a question of whether you "need" something or not, but whether you know that the item is timeless and "you" enough to be a staple in your wardrobe. If you ask this question first, you'll be able to avoid low quality, trend buys and save yourself some money in the long run since you won't have to replace the item as often.
While this question obviously applies to things like winter coats, denim, and work attire, I think it's useful to ask it about every single thing you consider purchasing. Don't buy the fuzzy sweater just because it's in, but by all means consider it if fuzzy sweaters are the foundation of your personal style! (I own a fuzzy sweater and it's starting its third winter season with me this year.)
2. Is it durable and well made?
This is the most boring question to me, because I associate it with all those style books and capsule wardrobe posts that advocate only buying neutrals without a lot of individuality. Nevertheless, it's a really important question to ask, because you don't want to have to keep buying and re-buying clothes, shoes, and accessories that are shoddily crafted, not to mention that buying poor quality products from social enterprises does a disservice to the makers
. You'll waste money over time and you'll be sad that the things you love disintegrate so quickly.
Check the seams, buttons, and materials label on items before you purchase to make sure they seem well made. Lower quality products often have side seams that warp and bend in the wash or buttons that are sewn on with just a few loops of thread. I also try to avoid polyester/cotton blends with too much polyester - they're more likely to pill after one wash. Be wary of rayon blends, too, because they often require more maintenance to keep looking new.
Find out the other three questions to ask on Style Wise.