I’ve been thinking about my wardrobe a lot lately. Now, now… don’t laugh. I do have periods, brief though they may be, when I am NOT thinking about clothes. But, January is not one of those times. 
In January, I usually start thinking about which of my fall and winter pieces I’m already tired of, and how I might change them up without shopping for something new. Or which pieces in my closet haven’t been out and about enough, and how I might wear them. But this year is a bit different.
This year, I’ve been thinking about how I’ve measured up in my quest to join the “slow fashion” movement, and whether I make the grade as an “ethical shopper.” Or not. So, since I do not have to return to school next week, like most of my friends and former colleagues, with the spectre of exams and report cards looming in the next few weeks… I thought I’d do my own form of evaluation, of my wardrobe and my clothing buying habits. And prepare a kind of ethical shopping report card. 

There are many ways to define the term “ethical shopper.” But every definition I’ve read says it’s partly about shopping less, and spending our shopping dollar more wisely and more judiciously. As a teacher I know that before we can evaluate anything we have to have a standard against which to measure progress or achievement. I did some research. And since numbers are easy to measure, and to report, let’s look at some numbers.  
You may remember that, in a previous post about Slow Fashion, I quoted a statistic from a 2013 article in Bust magazine which said the average American woman purchases 70 items of clothing yearly. That number seemed like a lot to me, and it prompted me to do a count of my own, of everything I’ve purchased since the beginning of January 2016. I present below my itemized list. With accompanying visuals. 
Mixing old jackets with newly purchased scarf and bag, and sweater and jeans.
Mixing old jackets with a new scarf, bag, sweater and jeans.
My grand total was 26 pieces purchased since last January. That includes: 8 tops (blouses, tanks, and sweaters), 2 pairs of pants (one pair of leggings and one pair of jeans), 2 dresses, 1 jacket (which I actually didn’t buy but won on Alyson Walsh’s blog), 1 coat, a 2-piece pant suit, 1 bathing suit + cover-up, 3 pairs of footwear, 2 scarves, 2 bags, and 1 toque. Equals 26 items. 


New blouse, jacket and sweater this year.
New spring jacket and blouse, and sweater from last winter.


In her Forbes Magazine article The Real Cost of Your Shopping Habits, Emma Johnson says, according to the  Daily Mail, “women in the UK buy half their body weight in clothes each year.” That seems like a weird statistic, to me. Does that mean that small women who weigh less buy fewer clothes in a year? Or that larger woman who weigh more can buy more before they have bought too much? Ah well, not all research proves to be fruitful, or meaningful. Let’s move on.


Tanks and tee shirt dress from Aritzia.
Two tanks and a tee shirt dress from Aritzia last summer.


An April 2016 article in the Daily Mail says that the average American woman has 103 items in her closet. To be fair to the women surveyed, the article doesn’t explain what the number 103 actually means. Does it include everything a woman owns? Only those items that need to be hung up, or do their closets have shelves for knits? And what about shoes? I have 41 items hanging in my closet; I’ve just counted them. That includes: jeans, trousers, jackets, a coat, blouses, and a few light sweaters and tees. My heavy knits are in a drawer as are most of my casual tee shirts and turtlenecks. All my summer clothes are stored away. So if I were to hang everything I own in my closet, an impossible feat given the minuscule size of my closet, and counting footwear, there would be at least 103 items. 

Posing for the first time outdoors near Manotick Mill.
New white shirt and  bag bought in late summer, and leggings purchased last January. 
The article in the Daily Mail goes on to say that of the 103 items in women’s closets “21% are unwearable, 33% are too tight, and 24% too loose.”  And that 1 in 7 women surveyed confessed they bought “something they already had because they couldn’t find it.” I’m not sure how reliable any of these numbers are; they were taken from a survey of 1000 American women done by Closet Maid, a company that sells closet organizers. Still I can’t argue with their conclusions; getting organized is an important element of shopping judiciously. I don’t have any items in my closet that are too big, too small, or otherwise unwearable. I don’t buy things I don’t need because I always know what I have. And what I need and don’t need. I love to plan and organize. But I’ve said this so many times before that I’m sure you’re sick of hearing it. So I’ll move on.
My favourite navy purchases from 2016
New two piece suit, scarf, dress, and sandals. I’m loving navy this year, apparently.


These were my favourite purchases this year. My Veronica Beard suit, and my navy Rag and Bone dress above. And my Max Mara fuchsia tweed coat below. Sigh, sigh, sigh. If something makes you sigh, and you can’t wait for next season to be able to wear it… then it was a wise purchase in my view.


Found my perfect fall coat and boots.
My new fall coat and boots. 
Of my total 26 pieces I don’t have pictures of 6. My new bathing suit and cover-up bought last summer… posting a shot of that outfit would be sharing way too much information.  And 4 items recently purchased for our big trip to South America in February: hiking boots, a blue fleece, a sports turtleneck, and a light toque. All of these are “seasoning,” as my Mum says, in readiness for our trip. So I purchased 26 new items in 2016. That makes me a very judicious shopper, if we consider that the average is 70 items. 
Of course there are other elements of ethical shopping besides quantity, and organization. Awareness of ethical brands, and companies which use fair labour practices, for instance. I confess that I’m not up to snuff in this area. I know I should be. I’ll try harder this year. 
And there’s accessing thrift and consignment stores, and recycling our clothes. I’m better at this. I consigned numerous items this year at my friend Fiona’s store. In fact I made quite a chunk of cash. Enough to buy the things I need to take to South America anyway. And anything I don’t take to Fiona, I give away to friends, or donate. Unless it’s torn beyond repair, or an utter rag too old even to wear canoeing, nothing goes in the landfill. 
So how do I stack up? I gave myself an overall grade of B- … not bad, but there’s definitely room for improvement.
As you can see, I gave myself a grade for each specific element. Including my ability (or inability) to parlay my minimal closet into a creative wardrobe with a variety of outfits. In any field of endeavour there is a quality that separates the merely competent from the truly gifted. Or in this case, the ethical shopper from the ethical… fashionista. Okay, I’ll admit that my tongue is firmly in my cheek as I say that. Still… I feel as if I should shake things up a bit. Try new looks. Be more creative with what I already own. 
And I need inspiration to be able to do that. And more research. I’ll get to work on that. 
Or maybe I just need a brief vacation from fashion altogether. Maybe I’ll come back from South America so tired of fleece tops and jeans, or tank tops and sweat pants, so desperate for a fashion fix, that I’ll be inspired.
Or maybe I just need a new lovely cashmere sweater. After all, I do have almost a hundred bucks sitting in my account at Fiona’s shop. 
How about you folks? How do you stack up? Care to share some numbers with us? Or just thoughts? Thoughts without numbers are good too. 









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35 thoughts on “Ethical Shopping Report Card”

  1. You've done very well.

    I read recently that Eileen Fisher is quite ethical with their clothing production, although I didn't research it.

    Since I sell vintage online my closet blurs with what I'm selling. 90% of what I buy for the Etsy shop fits me. I do that on purpose in case I can't sell the items I can still wear them.

    I shop 90% at thrift stores. I'd like to say I've managed to eliminate that last 10% but I'm still hooked in with Black Fridays and big Anthro sales. More often than not it is shoes that I buy retail as it can be challenging via thrift to find exactly what you're looking for.


    1. I've seen Eileen Fisher on a couple lists of "ethical brands." None of her stuff fits me or suits me….although I love it on other people. Shoes are a problem to thrift aren't they? Especially if you have trouble finding them new like I do.

  2. Summa cum laude from me! You did it fine-post and overall achievement :-). I love analytical and methodical posts (and your wardrobe choices in general)
    You made me think and count- my total is about 20 (I have all my new bought clothes in my notebook but together with all purchases,too lazy to read all),two of them are scarfs. I've bought only things I liked. There are maybe two or three pieces I still want now (yes,transition to navy here,too)-but we don't have this brands or they even don't ship here,so it helps,too 🙂 for buying less
    I think I have a good basic wardrobe (too much actually-but ,due to my thyroid condition and medications,my weight vary a lot,one to two sizes). There are still too many things in my wardrobe (all loved and-maybe- needed and I wear them almost regulary),I take good care of them and they last very long. Decluttering is twice a year-I usually donate or give away. 2016 year was very tough (care about my father) and busy for me,so I failed completely (what's the lowest grade in Canada? ) in that area
    A couple of years ago.I started to check the brands for their ethical production-I'm not completely there,but I'm trying….excellent support are Lady Sarah's London Living and Universe with Love blogs,with a lot of interesting and useful informations

    1. Thanks for the positive grade, Dottoressa! I am nothing if not methodical… it's my forte. Not being able to find something that suits or fits is one way to cut down on how much we shop, isn't it? Are those blogs you mention? If so, I am going there now! I'd like to make my own ethical brands list… of brands I am able to find and whose clothing I like.

    2. Yes,they are,I like both very much-hope you've found it already
      For the ethical brands ,google "35 Fair Trade&Ethical Clothing Brands Betting against Fast Fashion" on The Good Trade
      Your investigation and Fair Trade&Ethical List is something I'm really looking forward

    1. Oh, you'll love thrift shopping. I sometimes find articles with the tags still on. You can have a lovely, varied wardrobe with very little money spent.

    2. Good luck, Nancy. Don't forget to try to consign some of the stuff you bought that you realize you won't wear. Makes the blow softer if you can get a little back from what you've spent.

  3. Sue, you are so organized. I have no idea how much I bought this year and am afraid to count them. It might be a "yikes!". Having said that, I do buy quite a bit from a local thrift shop and have a favourite consignment shop that takes only quality clothes. So…the total spent is probably low. Let's go with that. oK?

    1. OK…let's go with that:) I love to sell stuff in consignment stores, but am not so successful at finding stuff to buy. Pants are too big or too short…my friend Fiona says that pants and jeans are the most difficult to find. And I'm not very good at just shopping for whatever is out there. Way too anal about my "list" I think!

    2. I buy my pants (long seam) and footwear (narrow) new. But, I've had a lot if success with tops and jackets. I've never consigned but I think I might take some in for the spring rotation. As you said, it doesn't hurt to get some money back.
      You are a bit anal about lists. Must be the school teacher in you. I love how methodical you are about your clothing and only wish I could be as restrained as yourself.

    3. I also have narrow feet and long legs as well as no hips to speak of, so I seldom buy footwear or pants at thrift stores either. I manage to find plenty of tops though and I even bought an almost new winter coat recently. All I had to do was replace the buttons because it was missing a couple.

  4. I'm a big navy fan too . I'm much pickier than I used to be but still not as disciplined as you – think I may be bottom of the class
    Wendy in York

    1. Ha. Your comments always make me laugh, Wendy. "Bottom of the class" … I highly doubt it. What about all those lovely Margaret Howell things you've mentioned you found at your local outlet?

  5. Interesting post! It sent me to my closets to evaluate my own ethical shopping habits. I discovered 28 items that were new to me in 2016. I only bought 12 of them new. 10 were thrifted, 3 were gifts and 3 were hand me downs from my daughter. That should definitely give me a high mark in the "thrifting and recycling" category, especially considering the fact that I also donated more items to our local thrift store than I purchased. I fully admit to not paying enough attention to which brands are ethically produced, however, and I would love to learn from you if that's an area that you decide to pursue in the coming year.

    1. You most certainly get a high mark for quantity and for thrifting/recycling, Elaine! I'm trying to work up my own version of ethical brands. Brands whose clothes I like and which are accessible for me. So stay tuned.

  6. I think you're ahead of the pack in that your purchases seem to be carefully considered and slot in nicely with what you already have. To me, it's just as important to look at usage as total numbers. You do a great job at re-mixing and repurposing a lot of your clothing. You must be getting so excited for your South America trip!!

    1. Thanks, Sue. You're right, of course, usage is important. I used to love the CPW idea that Stacey and Clinton talked about on What Not To Wear. I am getting excited about South America… a little. Still so much to do, though.

  7. Your stylish purchases demonstrate the value of planning, a step that is missing in my wardrobe. I do get good marks for shopping consignment stores but for me it leads to random purchases. I find something I like and think 'I have to buy this now or it will be gone '. I've cleaned out most of my business clothes since I'm retired so there are 70 things hanging in my closet. Interesting exercise, I thought there would be more.

    1. I thought it was an interesting exercise, too. Kind of like finding out if we're as bad or as good as we thought. Merely an exercise, though. The number is irrelevant as long as we know what we have and wear what we own.

  8. "In any field of endeavour there is a quality that separates the merely competent from the truly gifted." I so agree – I think your wardrobe is gorgeous, ethically shopped and SO well organized. But we can't ALL be Melanie of Bag and a Beret, who makes masterpieces out of thrifted pieces. I have about 60 hanging pieces, and not much folded, except jeans, undies and two heavy sweaters. It sounds like a lot but I still get bored, and crave new-ness. Love, love your post, xox

    In any field of endeavour there is a quality that separates the merely competent from the truly gifted.

    1. Thanks Patti. No we can't all be Melanie. I couldn't pull her looks of at all.

      And I was being a teensy bit tongue in cheek with that uber serious line about those who are "truly gifted" with their outfits. I don't take my wardrobe all that seriously…only somewhat seriously:)

  9. Oh, I loved this analysis of your purchases and spending habits (I'm a super-organized person too!). I tend to fall outside the bell-curve on these things. I probably have 200+ items in my closet right now, and I wear all of 'em (I know this because I have a system of turning the hangars backwards until I wear an item). I am ruthless with getting rid of things that don't work, and I donate everything that leaves my closet. I likely bought well over 70 new things this year, from jewelry to tights to dresses and shoes and regular clothes, but close to 90% of it was purchased second-hand. Of the 10% that was purchased new, nearly all of it was ethical (made in a first-world country or by a fair-trade/certified company). So I feel good about that.

    The awareness and starting the conversation about ethical shopping/fashion is the most important thing! Well done!

    1. I love that idea. Keeping yourself honest with hangars. You should feel good, Sheila; sounds like you score high on the ethical shopper scale.

      It's so much fun to sit down and write a semi-serious analysis of my wardrobe. Much more fun than grading 1500 word Senior English essays which is what I would have been doing this week when I was still working.

  10. I think you did very well. And, as others have mentioned, you are very organized.

    I planned and considered purchases a lot more in 2016 than in the past, but I don't know how many pieces I bought (I should have kept track! And I will this year!). I know it's a lot less than 70. I'm happy that I didn't make any impulse purchases and wasn't swayed by bargains. Everything I bought was on a list and either was bought to replace an item that had to be retired or something that filled a hole in my closet and could be worn with most of what I own.

    Happy 2017!

    Andrea’s Wellness Notes

  11. Great post Sue …I'd also add an A+ for "Advising others on planning and organisation"! 🙂
    I'm also grateful that you highlight the importance of ethical shopping and I really need to research the brands I use regularly. I haven't counted my purchases for the year as yet but I do know that I've become far more organised and selective since reading your blog. Consequently everything I've bought has been worn regularly and will be in the future. As I've mentioned before, I'd often buy things because I "loved them" without thinking when I'd wear them etc. So yes, I love them but often they just take up space in my wardrobe 🙁 This hasn't happened at all recently and I'm definitely buying less and "shopping from my wardrobe" I've come up with so many new outfits that it's like having lots of new clothes! Thanks again!

  12. Hello! I found you via Amid Privilege via Une Femme. I'm hoping you have some more details to share about those fabulous lace-up Stuart Weitzman ankle boots. I'd love to find some for myself.

    I'm giving myself permission to shop quite a bit this year, as I've been whittling down my closet and am now in the "replenishing" stage. I'm aiming for high-quality, "fewer better things," and purchased secondhand whenever possible. Looking forward to following your ethical fashion journey!

    1. Hi Erin, My Stuart Weitzman boots are called "Brogan" ankle boots. I bought them at the Stuart Weitzman store here in Ottawa. I've had a look on the Stuart Weitzman website and they don't appear to be offered there anymore. That's too bad because I haven't had a pair of boots in years that I've liked more. They are super comfortable, and even though they are leather, and not officially winter boots, they've been really warm due to their thicker sole. Good luck finding them.
      And thanks for finding your way here to my blog. Welcome:)

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