Ethical festive looks on a budget: how to look good and do good affordably this Christmas
Not to fear: it is possible to put together a show-stopping festive look, without compromising your fashion ethics. Here’s the easiest (and cheapest!) ways to find the perfect Christmas party outfit.
Rewear a look from your wardrobe
Now I’m not saying wear last year’s work Christmas party dress to this year’s work Christmas party, but I guarantee if you look hard enough you will already have a gorgeous festive look to rewear with pride. Maybe a former Christmas Day ensemble could be worn at an event with colleagues who won’t have seen it? Or a dress you wore to a wedding two years ago could be ‘festified’ with some sparkly accessories?
The problem with always buying new is sometimes we purchase something just because it’s fresh. How often have you bought something to quickly realise it doesn’t really suit or fit you perfectly? You’ll save a fortune in the long run by buying fewer, better pieces. Note, better doesn’t have to mean more expensive: rather, you should focus on looks that make you feel a million dollars.
Once you’ve purchased your perfect party dress, don’t be afraid to rewear, then rewear again! I still receive so many compliments on my personal ‘hero pieces’, regardless of how often I wear them. Switching up your jewellery, trying a new shape of shoe, or even styling your hair differently can make a look seem totally different than the last time you wore it.
Hands up if you love sequins *raises both hands enthusiastically*. Unfortunately, the production of sequinned and beaded clothing is particularly contentious in the ethical fashion debate right now. The nimble fingers of youngsters are often used to secure embellishments, while the artisan home worker industry that provides the majority of our most intricate garments has come under fire for its especially low wages.
HOWEVER, as the ethical fashionista that I know you are, you don’t have to abandon sparkles altogether to remain conscious. Vintage shops are a treasure trove of sequins, especially when rummaging through the 1980s fashion section. A silk and sequin shell top could be yours from around £25 – £35 when you shop retro – a huge saving on any modern sparkly garments, not to mention the quality is likely to be much higher! Plus, the fear that Sandra from accounting will turn up at the work do wearing the same outfit is eradicated by shopping vintage: a totally unique garment is all but guaranteed.
Often the biggest turn off with vintage fashion (at least for me) is dated features, like shoulder pads and longer sleeve or hem lengths. These are quirks of the garment that can easily and affordably be altered by a tailor – you can even snip out shoulder pads yourself. Look out for the raw character of an item, then turn to Instagram or Pinterest for alteration inspiration.
Vintage shopping can be an effort, but these days shopping secondhand has never been more convenient. If retro fashion isn’t your style, use eBay and Etsy to search for your favourite modern day brands for a steal. Usually modern clothing on the secondhand market is at least a few seasons old, which again reduces the risk of wearing the same outfit as someone else. Who hasn’t turned up to a party/ nightclub to see someone else in the exact same Topshop dress?!
Before you start your secondhand search have keywords at the ready, such as ‘velvet trousers size 12’ or ‘Allsaints sequin dress’. While marketplace sites can be a great place for inspiration, it’s easiest to have an idea of what you’re looking for before you start.
My number one online secondhand shopping tip? Don’t be afraid to ask questions! It’s totally reasonable to request specific measurements, or ask for any further details on condition. Buyers should always be upfront about faults or stains, although with anything secondhand you should expect a few worn-in quirks.
Remember to be respectful to sellers. Super lowballing their requested price is not cool, nor is sending aggressive messages. You don’t want to end up on the Depop Drama Instagram page!
Borrow from a friend
Sharing is caring! We can only wear one outfit at once, so why not share your clothes with friends and family? I personally love seeing my curated finds bring other people joy too, and borrowing clothes is one of the most sustainable things you can do.
You could make an evening of it. Invite a group of friends round for a clothes swapping or lending session, where you can offer each other styling advice ahead of the festive season. Mulled wine optional.
The rules of borrowing clothes: look after them as your own (or even better than your own!), carefully wash them before returning, and always return them promptly. There’s nothing worse than ‘lending’ something, only to never see it again. Unless the person you’re lending it to is your sibling. Then you should just accept the garment’s a gonner (sorry, sis).
Rent your party look
The upscaled version of borrowing from a mate? Rent your outfit! There’s more websites than ever before offering designer gowns for rent, often for as little as 10 to 25% of the cost to buy. Most sites let you order multiple styles but only pay for the one you wear, which saves on last-minute anxiety if your favourite doesn’t fit or suit.
In the UK, search for sites including Girl Meets Dress, Frontrow, and Chic by Choice. Some of these companies, such as Girl Meets Dress, offer an unlimited rental option for a fixed monthly fee, which is perfect for the festive season full of parties.
Many rental sites also sell on their secondhand designer dresses after a few season’s wear. Check the ‘for sale’ section for a big brand bargain that you can rewear again and again.
Have an amazing Christmas party season – I can’t wait to see all your ethically styled looks!
All photos in this post were taken by Teresa Dickson.