I wrote the bulk of this post almost a year ago, it never got published as I got busy and just didn’t quite finish it, but it’s definitely still relevant. Especially relevant now with their being a culture of shaming other people’s sustainable and ethical choices seemed to creep up in communities, which to me is completely unnecessary and actually harms the cause more than it helps. So here’s to being honest about not being perfect and about addressing some of the issues in ethical fashion.

Green guilt is a term that I’ve seen used here and there in the ethical/sustainable and zero waste living communities, it seems that is something that comes to all of us. The thought of not doing "enough" to be green, to not be making good enough conscious and ethical choices, despite the fact that a) most of us are doing a lot better than the general population at trying to make a difference with our habits b) we're trying our best and c) without industry and big corporations making a change and making it easier for people to make ethical and sustainable choices we’re never going to get very far. Not an entirely green issue but I feel green guilt still covers it.

So most of the time I try not to beat myself up too much when I make mistakes, or when I'm making slow progress in using less plastic and generally consuming less. But with a recently purchase I've found myself really beating myself up for it (even a year on I still think about it) because I feel like I've gone backwards a little, but I'm trying to put it in the past and move forward.

So I bought a few things the other day (a year ago) from Urban Outfitters, a company that is known for not being too ethical. Now I very ocasionally used to buy stuff from their urban renewal range which is made locally and made from reclaimed fabrics, all stuff I support (though I don’t tend to. buy even these anymore).  But this time I bought two tops from their general range, that I know were probably made unethically in some sweatshop somewhere with little care for the effects manufacturing had it on the environment or anything else.

Now to a lot of of you reading this it's probably not a big deal, especially if you're not into the world of ethical fashion at all. And to those in the ethical fashion world you may be thinking "shame on you, you should know better". And I feel like I should, I preach this shit on my blog and here I am going against it, which is why I want to be honest and upfront about how I feel about this.

So here's the story of why I bought this, and also why I think that shows what's lacking in the world of ethical fashion. And also, why we shouldn’t beat ourselves up over every little thing when we’re all doing out best. It's not entirely "green" guilt but it all encompasses the same sort of issue.

Around 6 years ago, long before thinking consciously about my purchases, I bought this turtle neck crop top which  I didn't wear that much, but as I've gotten older  I've started wearing it with everything, and looking for another top to add to my wardrobe that's similar. It's a very short crop, just below the boobs, and as someone who wears mostly really high waisted bottoms it is the perfect t shirt. Since going on my ethical fashion journey I have tried and tried to find a top like it in Charity shops and vintage stores, I've looked online for something that is just me and it's been to no avail. Most stuff I tried on in vintage stores my boobs were to big for, or my shoulders to wide. I didn't find anything online from an ethical store that was both the right style, and wasn't made for members of the population significantly smaller than me.
Top - Urban Outfitters (not ethically or sustainably made)
Dungarees - Hand me down
Sandals - Old

Shop similar to this look (click pictures)

Then I walked into urban outfitters with my mum the other day, I normally wouldn't but we were having a shopping trip and I thought a quick look wouldn't hurt, I sometimes just walk around for inspiration and don't buy anything. But there in the sale were 6 different tops that were all that I'd been looking for for all these years and I couldn't resist.

So I caved, but I think the fact that I looked for years to find something ethical but to no avail says a lot about the current limitations of shopping ethically. And my perseverance to at least try and find these pieces.. Even to make this post I looked for hours online to try and find similar items to the ones I'm wearing in this post and still didn't find a top that was "quite right"
1. Ethical fashion is often not that fashionable
Eco Warrior Princess published a very good article talking about this. But most brands I find selling ethically and sustainably made pieces aimed at my age group sell all the same stuff, basic cotton tees in a few colours, culottes, the odd wrap dress, basic underwear. There's not a wide range. And though I understand that a lot of ethical fashion is about slow fashion and breaking out of trends that doesn't mean everything has to be basic and downright boring. I don't want to spend my time wearing plain clothing, and I don't see anything wrong with that, the way I dress is a creative expression and that doesn't mean I can't be ethical about it. I try and highlight ethical brands who are making clothes in my style, but it's part of the reason I shop second hand so much, there's nothing really original about most ethical fashion brands, it's all a bit plain for my taste.

I am happy to say that in the year since first writing this post there has been a big increase in the ethical brands out there and therefore a wider range of clothing available,  but it’s still not amazing.

2. Accessibility IRL

Unless you're shopping second hand there is almost nowhere in most people's high street to shop ethically made or sustainable fashion where they can actually try on clothes. I spend a lot of time in vintage stores and charity shops looking for clothing, and I would probably do the same if my town had an ethical fashion store. But not a lot of people have the time to look in second hand shops for specific pieces and even if they do, there’s limitations. I love the world of internet shopping as it makes things more accessible to more people, in a lot of ways, but I'm not really a fan of buying clothes that I'm spending a lot of money on without first trying them on, unless I see them on a person of a similar shape/size as me, which brings me onto my next point. 
3. Lack of body diversity
This is the same for most fashion, it's a general fashion industry issue, but most brands show their clothes on tiny, very tall models and I just can't see how they'd work on me. I'm not even that big, I have a body shape a lot of clothes are made for, I just have a larger chest which means a lot of the time I have to size up on my top half, or a lot of shirts just aren't made to fit me properly. The problem here is that there is often not a big size range in ethical fashion sites, and even if there is the clothes are only usually shown on one kind of model who is generally very slim. There are brads like Girlfriend Collective which have a range of sizes and show all of their products on a range of bodies, but this is definitely not the norm, and it puts me off ordering because I have no idea how clothes are going to look on me. Now all of this comes from someone who is definitely not plus size at a size 10, so the problem is even more prominent for people larger than me who have a tiny range of ethical brands to shop from. This needs to change to really market ethical fashion to the masses.

This body diversity issue, and diversity in general, has improved a lot over the last year, at least in the brands I’ve been following, but it’s still not nearly the norm which is what it needs to be.

So yes, I maybe should've held it together and been a "gold star" ethical consumer not buying any fast fashion but I’m not, I am a human being trying my best. I wear these crop tops at least once a week, which means it was a sustainable purchase, I didn’t buy them to throw them away again. If anything I cherish them more and will make sure to get the most out of them because I know they weren’t sustainably or ethically made.

 And I wanted to share this with you guys, because I think there is a lot of pressure to be perfect, especially in the ethical and sustainable blogger/influencer sphere, which Besma wrote a great post on, and honestly perfection is not really helpful. Trying to attain this level of consumption that is deemed “perfect” is down right impossible and we need to acknowledge where the ethical and sustainable fashion world is lacking if we want to be able to change it. So my message to you is try, try to shop slow fashion, shop ethically and all the rest of it but recognise that you won’t be perfect at it, especially not to begin with, so just keep trying and improving!

A year on? Well I don’t really have anything else I need from fast fashion places and (apart from underwear) have shopped pretty much exclusively second hand for the last year so to some extent, so I’m doing pretty damn well. This is my best for now, and that is ok.