Claire Swinarski

Caring for Women When We Shop

Ethical Stories Claire S.

My previous complaints against ethical shopping seemed not only silly, but immoral.

I’m not really that into clothes. My idea of a great outfit includes something I can chase around my kiddos in. So I never really considered shopping something worthy of my time. I looked for clothes that were comfy, affordable, and slightly cute. Nothing else was really on my priority list.

Then I heard an interview with Jamie Wright of the Very Worst Missionary talking about how she realized she regularly buys things that were made by slaves. I watched the documentary The True Cost and learned about the environmental impact our clothes have. I interviewed Erin Mackey from Catholic Relief Services and Leah Darrow, the author of The Other Side of Beauty, on the Catholic Feminist Podcast.

And suddenly …

My previous complaints against ethical shopping seemed not only silly, but immoral. Was I really willing to support human trafficking to save five bucks on a t-shirt? Was I really so into that particular brand that I didn’t mind its factories abuses of its workers? Was I that grossed out by the idea of buying secondhand that I didn’t care about the way the clothing industry is abusing God’s creation?

A New Journey 

Shopping ethically became a huge priority for my family last year. We started out by simply buying less—just because my son’s t-shirt had a small peanut butter stain didn’t mean he needed a brand new one that he would just stain again soon anyway. I work from home so I could make do with only a handful of outfits. My daughter was given tons of hand-me-downs from our Church community.

The next step was that when we did buy, we tried to buy secondhand. Resources like ThredUp are a goldmine—you can sort by brand, quality, size, and price. I didn’t have to dig through endless racks at Goodwill to find adorable clothes for my kids and was able to put a little less wear and tear into earth.

Lastly, when we buy new, we focus on buying clothes from companies with clear ethics statements, like Target and Carter’s. There are plenty of ethical brands that still have low prices and cute, comfy clothing.

I’m far from perfect. I still wistfully glance at some brands I used to shop at in the past that I’ve done my research on and know have terrible labor practices.

In a rush, I’ve supported businesses that aren’t up to the ethical standards I wish they were. But I’d like to think I’m becoming more and more conscious with every swipe of my credit card.

Feminism isn’t just caring about women who look like us and live by us. It’s caring about women all over the world, in all kinds of scenarios. It’s being willing to be slightly uncomfortable, either in budget or taste or inconvenience, to support working women and the planet we live on.

Find Claire online at The Catholic Feminist Podcast and follow her at The Catholic Feminist.