5 questions to ask when buying clothes online

Hazel Needham

Hazel Needham

lady buying clothes online

The pandemic has revolutionised the way that people are buying clothes. Pre-lockdown, buying clothes online was something left to the technologically-savvy youngsters or those of us who live yonks away from a decent high street.

Since COVID 19, more than half of the population have confessed that they find online shopping preferable to buying clothes in a store.

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The rise and rise of buying clothes online

As more and more people are buying online, fast fashion brands like Topshop no longer have a place on the high street. Unfortunately, this isn’t because everyone has suddenly decided to buy more sustainably.

Topshop understands that if its customers are shopping online, it needs to be able to accommodate. Topshop is becoming an online clothes store, joining the likes of competitors like Boohoo, Missguided, and ASOS.

This migration of fashion giants from high street clothes stores to online clothes stores may seem like a win for opposers of fast fashion (read more about how world fashion is not sustainable here) but with incentives like free postage, social media advertisements, bundle discounts, and the convenience of next day delivery, buying clothes online will undoubtedly result in a rise in impulse buying.

Impulse buying has some mega issues for the planet. It’s also got some mega issues for our pocket. But we’ve got you – here are 5 questions you can ask yourself before buying clothes online.

Image of topshop closing as people are buying clothes online

1) Can I reimagine what I already have? 

It’s your mate’s birthday coming up. Of course, you’ve got to be looking fresh. But before we hit the online clothes stores, let’s look at the physical world of possibilities right there in your bedroom.

Repurposing outfits is one of the best things you can do for the environment because it doesn’t involve using up any new materials or dumping anything in landfill. Repurposing could include repairing something (not sure how to sew on a button? Learn how!).

It could mean altering something (there are sewing machines going for £20 on eBay!) It could literally mean – shock – wearing something you’ve already worn before. Team it with a different jacket. Opt for tucked in instead of tucked out. The rainforest is dying here – it’s time to get creative!

2) Do I need this? 

Again, clothes shopping online can be a rabbit hole. With access to so many garments in one click, it can be tempting to fill up your basket, let alone buy less. But remember your purpose. Have you added that to your bag because you like it, or because you ‘might as well?’ If we are going to buy more sustainably, we need to stop buying the things that we don’t actually need.

buying clothes online leads to more waste

3) How long do I want it for?

Okay, and if you truly can’t find anything in your wardrobe – ask yourself why. Is it because you are shopping online for things that you can only wear once? In which case – stop! Fast fashion is the second biggest polluting industry and if you keep buying online, you’re fueling it like there’s no tomorrow (which, if you carry on, there won’t be).

Instead, we want staple, long-term clothes that will last. You can work on this by giving yourself a limit. If you know that you are only making one purchase every – say, six months – your mindset will change. That one purchase needs to be worth it.

4) Can I buy this second hand?

The benefits of buying second hand clothes are endless. It’s cheaper. It completely cuts out the resource-intensive and polluting processes involved in making new clothes. If convenience is the reason you’re buying clothes online in the first place – have a look at eBay, or Depop, or Vinted, or any of the other great places you can upcycle someone else’s garms.

5) Can I buy this more sustainably? 

This is the most important question. If buying online feels like the only option, look at how you can buy more sustainably. Beware of greenwashingif a price seems too good to be true, it probably is, and someone else will be paying for it.

Search for local businesses and ethical brands, like One Tribe’s partners, who are all protecting the rainforest with every purchase that we make. Provided we are buying less and buying more sustainably, it is absolutely possible to fuel a passion for fashion and protect the planet.

Image of a sign reading think big shop small for when buying clothes online

So there were are, five top tips to help you shop sustainably.

We’ve got to make sure we’re making ethical decisions, hopefully this little checklist can help you to help change the world.

Oh, and one last tip, just for good measure: there’s no better short cut to an ethical shopping decision than buying from a certified B Corp. We’re proud to be a B Corp ourselves, and we recommend you check out some of the most inspiring B Corp fashion brands below.

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