Work clothes that aren’t made by little hungry children putting in 18 hour days

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Daily Outfit - Work - Friday - side view
So something like this, but not made in a sweatshop © by …love Maegan, used under Creative Commons license.
Good news, Homies! I just acquired my first white collar job in a while. My wardrobe is almost completely unprepared for this, and I really feel strongly about not buying sweatshop-made clothing.

I am normally a big thrift or vintage shopper, but as everyone who does this knows, it’s kind of luck-of-the-draw on whether you’ll find anything. I’m a mediocre seamstress, but not good enough to produce my own clothing en mass. Combing the internet for non-sweatshop goods, I find a lot of men’s bike clothes, a legion of organic hemp t-shirts, and a variety of beautiful things which are way too hippie to be my regular style, and not a lot I can wear to work.

If non-sweat shop clothing is also a priority for you, how do you make it work?

For the Homies who do their best to buy sweatshop-free clothing, how do you dress yourselves for work?

Comments on Work clothes that aren’t made by little hungry children putting in 18 hour days

  1. let’s you find brands based on causes that are important to you, and you can also find brands that compare in style to your favorite traditional brands.

  2. Suggestion:
    If you are a crappy seamstress but are in need of alterations/adjustments to thrift-store finds, hit up your local college/university’s theatre department.

    A lot of the students there will at least know how to work a sewing machine/are studying costume design and want practice and beer money.

    I earned a ton of cash when I was in school just sewing really easy, basic things like straight hems and buttons for low, low prices—like $5/pair of pants– think of it this way. If your pants are $4 from the thrift store and altering them costs $5, you still only paid $9/pair of pants that fits you beautifully.

    Also, older-aged girl scout troops and 4-H clubs are good places to pick up a “spare cash personal tailor”.

  3. One more small point that I don’t think has been made yet: you might not need as many clothes as you think.

    It’s tempting to think OH NO MY WARDROBE IS UNPREPARED – BUY ALL THE THINGS! This is often a recipe for buying too many things, some of which you won’t end up wearing.

    With a bit of planning about how much clothing you actually need to get you through the working week, and what will suit you best, you might find that you have to buy fewer clothes than you think.

    This means, (a) you can buy from more expensive, more ethical retailers on the same budget, or (b) if you need to shop unethically, you can reassure yourself you’re making the smallest impact possible.

    • Such a great point. I have friends who say they can’t afford to try to shop ethically, and it’s so hard for me not to (bitterly) point out that they make a lot more money than I do… they just buy stuff more often.

  4. Prairie Underground!!! Made in the USA with organic fabrics (friendly to your environment also). They have unique pieces that are well-made, will last, and I get compliments all the time. It can be pricey, but prioritize with what you really need, and view it as an investment – it won’t fall apart in a season. Clothing should not be an impulse buy. I buy fewer items now (pricier, well-made items), but I feel like I have more because I thought harder about it because of the price and picked great items. Of course, bigger names like Patagonia are well-known for their clothing ethics. Also, read Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion if you haven’t already…they talk about some options for more ethical clothiers.

    • “…prioritize with what you really need, and view it as an investment…”

      So much THIS that our engines can’t take it.

  5. I feel your pain. Because of my budget, I stick mostly to thrift stores, but if you are and odd size (and I am) this can be less than ideal when you are talking about well fitting items of grown up clothing. There ARE clothes out there that are made in America, and I have always tried to save up my money and invest in those things when I need something quality that will last. However, my last experience (with a made in America line of footwear, which I saved up for six months for) was pretty disappointing. The shoes literally fell apart within three months. When I contacted the company with my concerns their best offer to me was a 25 dollar off coupon on my next purchase (for a pair of shoes which cost over 100 dollars that realistically I will never risk buying ever again from them.) Point being, I guess, that you have to watch people these days. They might be skimping on quality and materials just so they can slap that “Made in USA” label on something, because they have now figured out that that is a “thing” that people will pay extra for. It does not necessarily mean anymore that the quality is better (or even that the workers are treated fairly.)

    It is possible to buy clothing made overseas by companies who treat their employees decently and comply with UN regulations about safe working conditions for workers. It just might take a little research. Also, etsy is a great source for one of a kind clothing made by someone just for you; even sellers that are in places like Korea and Thailand are people, working for themselves, rather than sweatshop slaves.

    Good luck!

  6. I haven’t been into a store to shop for myself in years. All of my clothing is purchased online…even my wedding dress, which I found via OBB ;). If you’re into American made companies, but find some too expensive, you can try looking at their clearance section. If I see something that too is big but a great price, I’ll order it and take it to my seamstress. Then I have clothes that fit me even better than off the rack anyway! I found a lovely seamstress who works out of her home. She has altered so many things for me at such a good price! Even thrift or consignment items altered by a seamstress could be better than off the rack items. I only wish I thought of going to a seamstress sooner! I have all affordable clothing items that fit like a glove!

  7. Try MEC. I used to work there. They source very carefully for work manufacturing conditions. A lot of there clothes are athletic based, but there are also some clothes that will work for work.

  8. I love Mata Traders — My two regrets: not enough stuff for winter and favorites go “out of stock” too quickly. Modcloth carries some of their stuff, but I prefer buying directly from MT’s site.

  9. Try

    They specialize in basics and there are lots of work friendly (and beautiful) clothes. They focus on transparency and cutting out middle men. They are online only. Not cheap, but quality.

  10. I’ve been trying to do this for about 4 years now and I find the best solution that I always end up at is to just buy second hand. it’s win win win situation.

  11. This may be surprising but Costco (at least in Canada) has been regularly stocking clothing Made in Canada. You need to read the labels when your shopping because not everything on a table will be Canadian made but I have been able to find some basic peices at super reasonable prices.

    I can also very highly recommend Joseph Ribkoff clothing for professional clothing made by people who are protected by respectable labour laws. The designer has committed to keeping manufacturing in Canada. With the added bonus of the clothing being generally easy to wash. Yeah! Less dry cleaning.

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