The Ultimate Guide to Affordable Sustainable Clothing Brands and Options

Your Guide to Affordable Sustainable Clothing Brands and Options

What does more ethical consumption mean? What does it entail? Sometimes, certain solutions in the sustainable living community tend to get emphasized more over others.

A hotly debated and problematic topic that comes up in sustainable fashion spaces is overly simplified or singular solutions that don’t take into account someone’s individual circumstances. Great divides are often formed – both online and in-person – mostly in regards to where people shop and the price point of said shops. We’re going to break it down because there are many impactful and valid approaches to sustainability, and making an impact has nothing to do with how much you can spend.

A more eco-conscious life can be achieved in a lot of ways, from shopping less and supporting sustainable brands, to thrifting and swapping, or to simply diversify what you already have. Many articles here on Eco-Stylist talk about these methods, but this one will dive deeper and provide a wider variety of solutions that help to validate all audiences.

In this light, allow us to clarify before we continue: The idea is to shift into a mode of awareness, and then from there to be as proactive as one is able to be when faced with apparel buying decisions. There’s a huge difference between buying what you can genuinely afford versus buying giant “hauls” of cheap things just for the fun of it; we need to make it known that it is essential to re-evaluate the existing shopping habits that we have and to recognize the dark truths behind the apparel industry.

Every single one of us leads incredibly unique and valid lives, so we should uplift all solutions – and especially give credit to the ones that are the most accessible – and only ever come together with compassion and inclusion. Each positive step we take – whether it’s big or small – makes an important impact on our world and her people, so it’s crucial to dissolve any separations that may occur.

More will be discussed below, but first, the next couple sections will shed light on how deep some of the most prevalent issues in our society run when it comes to retail.

The Lack of Ethics in Big Clothing Brands

Big Clothing Retailer Walmart, brands to avoid

To get this started, it’s important to call out the powerful systems that are all around us. A tough pill to swallow is that nearly every popular establishment that’s brick-and-mortar in our environment – especially department stores – are all highly unethical. Very little transparency and huge volume comes out of them. 

There’s a Fashion Transparency study performed annually by the non-profit organization Fashion Revolution that was discussed by Good On You, and it was found that “more than half of brands score 20% or less and some brands—both high street and luxury—disclose nothing at all” when it comes to business operations. Big corporations like Target, Walmart, and Macy’s either don’t want to disclose supply chain details, or in some cases, they don’t even know where their own products come from. These monster businesses make millions while many of their employees throughout their supply chain don’t make a living wage. 

In fact, the international fashion accountability non-profit Remake has researched big fashion retail companies and the scores for Kohl’s, Walmart, and JC Penney are -6, -1, and -8 respectively, out of 150! Large corporations overwhelmingly fail on ethics and sustainability; an article like this wouldn’t really be complete without at least mentioning the horror that is Amazon, scoring a 2 on Remake.

Amazon sources from sweatshops in the Global South, puts an insane amount of emissions from their operations into the atmosphere, and have poor ethics throughout their supply chain. An important step for us as consumers to take is to start shopping consciously in every sense of the word – within our own genuine abilities and circumstances – rather than going with the crowd or going with habit.

Shopping brands to avoid, Amazon on mobile

It can get a little tricky and complicated, but the most effective and honest way we can approach this is to evaluate our individual threshold. This means to determine 1) what we are able to spend on clothing and 2) how to do that as ethically as possible. 

It is, in fact, essential to re-evaluate existing shopping habits and support brands that are doing great work for our planet and her people. That being said however, please try not to allow others who aren’t in the same position as you to dictate which actions you should take, because there are many valid solutions. 

A truth is that fast fashion doesn’t benefit anyone – not the farmers, workers, planet, or consumer due to the highly impactful processes involved, so if we can all simply shift into awareness of that and implement even a single solution from this article that is doable for you, that’s amazing and it makes a difference. We’ll talk more about thresholds after the solutions.

Let’s Talk Solutions: A Range of Approaches to Slow Fashion

Below are a variety of helpful tips and practices, some of which aren’t spoken of enough. You may already be familiar with a few, but perhaps there are others you haven’t thought about much. 

We’re here to lay it out, and we encourage you to take these and make them your own in whatever way works best for you! Since the focus of this article is on consumption specifically, please refer to our other articles here on the Eco-Stylist blog if you’d like to learn more about things like recycling and how to handle textile waste.

Thrift Shopping and Consignment Stores 

Thrift and consignment stores come in all shapes and sizes, so hopefully there’s at least one wherever you live or close by! A lot of joy can come from making it just like any other shopping outing with your friends, leaving with unique treasures. That’s the beauty of thrifting. 

The prices are very good, and depending on where you go, there’s no criteria for style so there’s truly something for everybody! There are online options as well, noteworthy sites being ThredUp, Good Fair, Beyond Retro, and Curtsy. When perusing the web, please beware: sometimes online thrift stores like Depop and Poshmark have a lot of people who buy cheap clothes just to sell them there for more, which totally defeats the entire purpose of thrifting. If you see a profile with a mass amount of fast fashion products in different sizes, run away! This is talked about more here

Try to stick to in-person when you can, but online is good too of course, as long as you keep an eye out. There’s also this exciting, cool directory to locate local thrift and vintage stores in your area.

People thrift shopping

Clothing Swaps: What and How

Swaps are a way to get new clothes for free when you bring something of your own that may no longer be serving you! Events could be hosted by anyone, from a local organization to a small group of friends, and could be found out about either from posted fliers or online sources like Meetup, Facebook, and GFX clothing swaps. Alternatively, Swap Society is an online clothing swap where you send in your clothes in exchange for points that you can use to shop with. Another effective and well-reviewed clothing swap site online is Rehashed Clothes.

Host a Swap Party

Can’t find a clothing swap near you? Host your own and get the word out!

Renting Clothes

There are both local and online places where you can rent clothes! This is especially a good option for formal events like prom and weddings to avoid the only-worn-once problem. 

If there aren’t any obvious or well-known options in your immediate area, head on over to Google (or a carbon-negative option like DuckDuck Go or other engine) and search around. You may also find community conversations happening in local Facebook groups, and don’t be afraid to ask a friend if you know they have a really nice particular something for your occasion!

When it comes to online, Rent the Runway and Dressd are excellent choices. For more specialized options, great places include Borrow the Bazaar and Bump in Bloom.

Hand Me Downs from Family and Friends

We don’t know about you, but when a family member or a friend is giving away a bag or box of clothes, it’s like Christmas! You have the chance to give the pieces that you like a new life, and then you can pass the remains on to another person you know or donate it to your local thrift store or charity. This is also a nice opportunity to get creative and try to play around with the pieces (with the giver’s permission) by cutting it up, wearing it the “wrong” way, or tailoring it to your liking!

Ask for Fashion Pieces Found on Eco-Stylist for Birthdays and Holidays

Whatever you love to celebrate, there’s probably a gift list involved to help our loved ones out. This can give you more opportunities within the shopping-new route to practice and promote ethical consumption, but best of all, you have the chance to score great sustainable pieces for free!

Support Local Small Businesses

Keep an eye and ear out for any hubbub surrounding a local small business – you may be surprised at what you find. Whether it’s a boutique, artist fair, or a small family-owned shop, show them some love and check out what they’ve got! Local shops can be found online too if they’re hard to discover in-person at first. The highest-quality lists usually come out of travel blogs! Simply do an online search for local small businesses in your area and an article may come up like these: Chicago Businesses to Support for Small Business Saturday (or any day of the week <3) and 25 Black-Owned Businesses in Atlanta.

Attend Second-Hand Community Events

There also may be local events for free clothes in your community, which are usually held at places like schools, parks, or public facilities. It’s cool, mostly free, fun, and eco-friendly! 

You could also find some online opportunities, such as Free Cycle which is like Facebook Marketplace but for trading clothes and other items (most of the time it’s free), or you may choose to support this aesthetic small business called Bullsh– Boutique which has awesome prices for stylish vintage goods! 

Find Affordable Ethical Fashion via Sales

affordable ethical clothing via our Sales Roundup

We keep an ongoing list of sales on sustainable brands and we recommend bookmarking it here. Subscribe to our email list and follow us on social media so you never miss out on these wicked deals! Scroll down to the footer of our website to subscribe and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Have a Styling Night

Take some time to rediscover why you love the clothes you already have. You may invite some friends over and tear into your closet, or you could put on some music and mosey over your pieces by yourself. A fun way to do this could be to take pictures of your flatlays and add them to a digital album that’ll serve as your own personal lookbook! 

With this, you can see some of your favs in a whole new light and make it way easier for you to sport kickass outfits every single day! It also allows you to find holes in your wardrobe, to see what you may truly need rather than what you want (which, you may already have a garment that accomplishes that particular purpose).

Upcycle What You Have

This is put after the styling night tip because they can go together – what are some of the pieces you weren’t able to make into outfits as much? Is there a way to transform them into something more your style or more wearable? 

For example, here’s some upcycling I, Olivia at Eco-Stylist, was recently able to do: 

  • Take an old turtleneck crop top and make it into a trendy super crop
  • Make a halter top into a crop top which then allowed the cut-off fabric to be used as a trendy wrap halter top—so two new pieces! 
  • Take a hand-me-down cami I’ve had forever, crop and ruch in the front, and make a cute y2k baby tank! 

The possibilities are endless, and think: you’re not wearing the piece very often and it’s something that you already have, so what is there to lose? Watch some tutorials on YouTube if you need more guidance on how to create something you’ll love!

What’s Affordable Ethical Clothing? Determining Your Price Threshold

determine your personal threshold and budget

Within the sustainable fashion conversation, there is a complex web of perspectives, the heart of which lies at the intersection of different approaches to a more sustainable closet and personal thresholds. An online documentary which captures this diversity of opinions well is Salem Tovar’s The Horrible Aftermath of the SHEIN-pocalypse. It has received 1.6 million views and has over 10,000 comments. 

The video contains well-researched reflections towards the various perspectives present in the debate. The discussion that happens in the YouTube video comments is a fantastic visual representation of conversations that happen everywhere, all the time, when talking about these issues.

Two distinct opinions present are between people who feel their only choice is to buy fast fashion for a variety of reasons (financial instability, social criticism, lack of thrift stores in their area, etc.) and people who don’t acknowledge the complexities that might keep other people from shopping sustainably. Here’s some of the common assumptions and misconceptions that arise in the comments:

  • The audience isn’t providing for dependents
  • The audience isn’t living paycheck to paycheck
  • One must reach a specific stage in life where they are more financially stable in order to participate in sustainable fashion
  • There should be a pure replacement of fast fashion with thrifting or sustainable brands without shifting into a headspace of lower consumption paired with the new more sustainable shopping source
  • Sustainable fashion is only one thing

At the core of the various debates, people recommend solutions that work great for themselves, but may not work great or be preferred by someone else. There are numerous moving parts to this with varying levels of awareness, compassion, defensiveness, and genuine solutions. It’s such a dynamic topic, and some even say no one can win, but we at Eco-Stylist beg to differ.

We win by truly listening, by educating ourselves, and by making decisions that make us feel morally good on the inside but are also realistic for our individual situations. Hope, proactivity, and enthusiasm are present in this topic, but so is guilt, shame, and defeat. We need to try our best to see the bigger picture, and to acknowledge that attacking any side won’t help.

We should not alienate people if they’re trying their best and doing what they need to do to live sustainably for themselves. No matter your individual circumstances, what you are able to do with an honest heart is enough, and with every piece you mend, every small business you support over a corporation, every item you’re able to save up for within one of our certified brands if you’re able, and every clothing swap event you attend all make a huge difference. 

People who can afford alternatives to fast fashion should be held accountable for making more ethical choices. It’s true that an investment for a lifetime worth of use is fantastic, so the way we can bridge the gap is to determine what we are able to spend, and do that as ethically as possible.

How to Find Affordable Sustainable Clothing Brands

where to find the best affordable sustainable fashion brands

Something that helps is that our directory here on Eco-Stylist has a wide variety of options with price ranges indicated by $, $$, or $$$, but buying new sustainable fashion isn’t always accessible. If you’d like to go deeper into the financial planning aspect, check this out if that’s realistic for you. But the bottom line is to judge for your own self and circumstances what dollar amount is realistic for you to purchase each type of item.

Your threshold is up to you. The key is to get a product that you can use for a long time, which is something that you like to wear and something that you can make a lot of outfits with. We must determine the threshold we are able to pay for certain items, and then get what we need of those items in a way that is as ethical as possible that aligns with one’s individual circumstances and values.

The 14 Best Affordable Sustainable Fashion Brands

Up next, we’ve compiled our most cost-effective Eco-Stylist Certified brands. These recommendations are either the lowest prices or showcase the same prices on average that are seen on similar unethical products (particularly sneakers, shoes, and jeans).

The name of the brand, price range, description, inclusive sizing if applicable, and an indication of whether the clothes are feminine/masculine/non-binary presenting is included. But that’s not all! You’ll see brands that offer home goods and other essentials along with the strictly-apparel brands for that all-encompassing shift. It’s so important to bring awareness to these brands so we can support them over corporations whenever we can, because they deserve it! Some of these brands also offer gift cards, so what better gift to give?


affordable ethical clothing from Pact

Under $100 (but most of the stuff they offer is under $50)

From dresses, to sleepwear, to leggings, Pact has a ton of nice things to choose from. They also have a bed and bath line which includes sheets, towels, bath mats, sets, and more. They also carry kids, baby, and maternity clothing.

For feminine & masculine

Organic Basics

ethical fashion on a budget organic basics

Mostly under $50

What started as a brand offering underwear and basics in organic cotton now offers a lot more! See their new arrivals for mini skirts, tank tops, bodysuits, shorts, sweatpants, hoodies, loungewear, striped tees, and leggings. Most of their pieces are under $50 and their hoodies and pants are under $100.

For feminine & masculine

Select styles in XXS and XXXL

Thousand Fell

Thousand Fell x Eco-Stylist

Under $150

Here, you can buy a variety of sneakers that are recyclable! The styles are similar to Grand Court Adidas and Slip-On Vans, and they come in many colors and lace options. 

For feminine & masculine

Girlfriend Collective

Girlfriend Collective Active

Mostly under $100

Their motto is ‘body positive loungewear’ and it shows! They have a great variety of colors and styles of both lounge and activewear including dresses, unitards, and sets!

For all

Petite, Plus, and Big & Tall

Colorful Standard

Colorful Standard organic cotton clothing

Mostly under $100

The most colorful sustainable essentials out there with over 40 colors to choose from! They offer both tops and bottoms, and even some plant-based sunglasses too.

For feminine and masculine

Known Supply

Known Supply Dress

Under $100

With special, detailed emphasis on who made their clothes, Known Supply offers some tops, bottoms, dresses, jumpsuits, and accessories.

For feminine, masculine & all

Plus and Big & Tall

Toad & Co

Toad&Co Brand Rating

Under $150, with dresses between $80-120

Toad&Co offers a wide selection of tops, bottoms, dresses, skirts, underwear, jackets, shorts and loungewear, including some unisex pieces. Sort by their hemp, organic cotton, recycled, or vegan collections. Check out their sales section for up to half off a wide selection of items.

For feminine, masculine & all

Select styles in XXS unisex


affordable brand prAna

Mostly under $100, with pricier items under $150

prAna offers clothes for people with an active lifestyle and those who love the outdoors. Their yoga, climbing, and hiking ready clothing also looks great at the coffee shop or out and about. Check out their pants, leggings, shorts, swimwear, tops, fleece, outerwear, and more.

For masculine, feminine & all

Select styles in plus, petite, and big & tall


Coalatree Lifestyle Pic

Mostly under $100, with tees for $29

Coalatree offers “Eco-Minded Goods” for lovers of the outdoors. Check out their t-shirts, shorts, pants, hoodies, jackets, hammocks, and blankets.

For masculine & feminine

GOEX Apparel

Goex Eco Tri Blend Tees

Under $100

They have colorful basics and performance wear in so many styles and options, truly going above and beyond! They also have a select few practical accessories and a kids line.

For feminine & all

Plus for all

Nudie Jeans

Nudie Jeans Cover

Mostly between $100-300

Made out of recycled materials, Nudie Jeans doesn’t cut corners. The value of these jeans is worth an investment if you’re capable – They have a lifetime warranty for repairs and also have programs where you can buy gently used products. You may also turn in your old Nudie jeans and get a discount on your next purchase! Talk about circular.

For all

Pants up to 38×36 with many length options


Subset Sustainable Underwear for Her

Under $50

What’s offered is organic cotton intimates – underwear and bralettes – in many different styles. What’s amazing is that they have a recycling program too, where you can send them your old, worn undergarments of any brand (including all feminine, masculine, and kids underwear, tights, and socks) and get a free pair of Subsets with your next order.

For feminine

Petite up to Plus


Nisolo mens and womens ethical shoes

For the most part between $100-200

There’s no better variety of sustainable shoes out there, showcasing both casual and formal options in an impressive amount of styles including boots! They also offer a fair amount of accessories. Their prices can compare to higher end unethical brands like Nike and Vans. 

For masculine and feminine

Ten Thousand Villages


For the most part, under $100

For all things home, this is the place to go! They have kitchen, outdoor, decor, and bath products as well as jewelry, bags, gifts, baby stuff, and stationery. On top of that, they have a great sales section. Wow, what’s not to love? Can we replace the average brick-and-mortar with them already?

For all

Our Certification Standards

Eco-Stylist Certified

Wondering what makes these brands great? At Eco-Stylist we certify the brands we recommend to you for Transparency, Fair Labor and Sustainably Made.

Finding sustainable brands can be hard, but we believe it shouldn’t be. We do the research so you don’t have to. Learn more here.

Notes on Promoting a More Inclusive Ethical Fashion Movement

Awareness, grounded action, and self-compassion is the recipe to a truly sustainable life – whatever that looks like for you. Big corporations rule our resources and are alarmingly unethical, so local and eco-friendly options not only support the people in your community and clothing makers, but also support our planet. 

Apparel is one of the top polluters of our world, especially when it’s consumed irresponsibly. The amount of clothes Americans throw away has doubled in the last 20 years.   

Implementing any of the above tips into your life within your genuine capabilities is fantastic and is enough. This diverse range of solutions facilitates prolonging the life of your clothes, keeping them out of the landfill, repurposing your old clothes, sustainable alternatives to fast fashion, and making positive shifts in the culture surrounding fashion. 

Again, let’s only ever come together with compassion and inclusion. We can all make change, in our own ways, that will make waves when we stand together.

*Article updated 10/4/23.

Eco-Stylist is reader-supported. If you make a purchase using our links, we may earn a commission. We only feature fashion brands that pass our sustainable brand criteria. Learn more here.

Olivia Perovic_Eco-Stylist

Author Bio: Olivia Perovic is a sustainability analyst at Eco-Stylist. An Apparel Merchandising student at Iowa State University, she’s passionate about fashion, culture, and the planet.


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