Today, we want fast likes, fast friends, and fast coffee. Turns out, we want our clothes fast, too. Meet fast fashion: imitation couture garments available instantly and at a fraction of the price. The problem is, fast fashion comes at a high cost. Most women today are trading quality for quantity and someone, in a factory somewhere, is being paid an unfair wage for your runway rip-off. The majority of factory workers are underage and underpaid; most making a mere $3 a day. Not exactly what we’d call fair wages. I’d say it’s time for a fashion revolution.
“Fast fashion isn’t free. Someone, somewhere is paying.” — Lucy Siegle
Low quality apparel means clothing deteriorates more quickly. While your closet may be sardined with skirts, crammed with capris, and mashed with maxis, you’re likely wearing only 20 percent of those threads, according to Ginny Snook Scott, chief design officer of California Closets.
Not only is this waste taking a toll on Earth’s resources, 85 percent of the clothing people dispose of ends up in landfills, totaling 14.3 million tons of textile waste. Add nearly 2.8 billion tons per year of additional carbon dioxide generated by 2030, and it appears that the fashion industry has a serious wardrobe malfunction that would make Janet Jackson blush. Add this to the fact that cotton-producing countries are facing water shortages that are only becoming more severe.
Consider, if you will, the concept of investing in high quality clothes that last, that hang better, and that are, well, worth the wait. Plus, when you’re ready to sell or trade those items, you’ll reap the return on your investment since most of the outlets that buy gently used clothing won’t accept fast fashion, including brands such as Forever21, Charlotte Russe, or Wet Seal.
5 Ways to Earn Cash from Your Closet
Convenient online outlets offer quick payouts, convenience, and simplicity. Remember, most places seek clothes in good condition without visible stains or tears. Here are five sites to get started:
- threadUP: The largest secondhand online store, threadUP accepts no knockoffs. They only take high quality women’s and kids’ apparel, shoes, and accessories and pay 5 to 90 percent of list price. Just request a Clean Out Kit. They take the photos and upcycle or return anything that can’t be sold. After they receive your bag, they’ll email you a payout amount. (Or, if you prefer, they’ll donate your items to charity and send you a tax receipt.)
- Poshmark: This business buys and sells women’s clothing only. You can list an item from your smartphone in less than 60 seconds. You can even host or attend a posh party using their app to create a virtual shopping party. This site is best for do-it-yourselfers who are comfortable photographing, uploading, and shipping items since they don’t offer full service.
- Tradesy: This online outlet began as a popular site for buying and selling gently used wedding items (read: Vow To Hold An Eco Friendly Wedding: 5 Easy Tips To Green Your I-Do’s) and still offers a large selection, but has emerged into a full-blown website to buy, sell, and trade clothes — hassle free with no listing fee. Tradesy takes 9 percent of the sale and you keep the rest (you can buy and sell fast fashion on this site) via secure PayPal transactions.
- Swap: The largest online consignment shop for women, men, and children offers shoppers a sustainable way to re-commerce by keeping clothes out of landfills and giving them a second life. The also buy and sell toys, games, books, and décor.
- Preowned Wedding Dresses: I sold my gorgeous Monique Lhuillier dress here 12 years after my nuptials for a fantastic price. I was happy, the new bride glowing, and my closet, lightened. Buy or sell wedding dresses, bridal party dresses, or accessories. They have a high sell rate and small listing fee with no commission.
And, speaking of weddings, you can donate your pre-loved wedding dress to the wonderful people at Brides Against Breast Cancer. They sell your dress and use the money to fund breast cancer charities. Donations are tax deductible.
Rent. Wear. Return.
If purchasing clothing isn’t your thing, you can always rent and return it. With brands like Rent the Runway’s Unlimited program, you can pay $159 a month for unlimited designer clothing rentals, which includes dry-cleaning and insurance. Le Tote offers a similar service starting at just $59 a month with a stylist to help create your look. You can wear high-end designer duds with the option of buying anything you like.
Buying quality clothes over fast fashion maximizes resources and reduces waste. Remember, you vote for the kind of world you want each time you make a purchase. Heed the words of Vivienne Westwood, “Buy less. Choose well. Make it last.”
Editor’s note: Originally published on January 12, 2015, this article was updated in June 2018 by Lisa Beres.
Feature image courtesy of Emily May