” Budget is what the vast majority of us are on, ethically driven or not.” – Sinead O’Reilly talks ethical fashion on a budget

By Sinead O’Reilly – Buying Ethical On A Budget

Ethical fashion, but make it budget. Not the most widely-used phrase around and, as it stands, not the most attractive either. Primarily because ‘budget’ is the reason why ethical fashion as a subgenre must exist. Budget garments, budget working conditions, and, despite recent reports of raising salaries, budget wages, that barely oblige the recipient of any real quality of life. It is budget that has gotten us into this situation, so how could it possibly get us out of it?

Whether we admit to it or not, budget is what the vast majority of us are on, ethically driven or not.

But, whether you’re a longtime follower, occasional voyeur, or have simply stumbled upon Stiall for the first time today, there is another common ground you stand on – the desire to, or the exploration of the desire to, make better wardrobe choices. Admittedly, better wardrobe choices sounds slightly budget, but the real-life effect it can have on the globe and those in it is not. The Ethical Consumer puts it perfectly when stating that

Every time we make a purchase we are “voting with our wallets,” for better garments, better working conditions, and better wages. Every time we buy something ethical we are voting for positive affect and change in the world, but how can we effectively do that while on a budget ourselves?



  It’s all starts with taking a look inwards. And, before we lose you first time reader, worry not, this is no 12-step programme to enlightenment, but rather a four-step guide to more ethical apparel, the looking inwards refers to your wardrobe, not your soul. Not rocket science but rather just good sense, if you are about to make a date with your wallet, start by assessing what you already have before going for broke. Crazy about a newly spotted crew neck? Possibly, but isn’t the worn-once piece at the back of your wardrobe as good as new? Same goes for the must-have statement knit, that you forgot about all but two seasons ago. It’s still sparkly, it still makes a statement, and you will still undoubtedly win the best Holiday jumper competition in it, while still making it fashion and, now, making it budget. So that’s what you have, but now what about what you need? That statement knit makes a splash with your paperbag pants, but undoubtedly it could make waves paired with a corduroy skirt, as could your crew neck top, and the other array of jumpers you have stored away. Voilà – week’s worth of outfits created without opening your wallet, it looks like you’re more budget than you knew.  

Sunburn Corduroy Short Skirt, €49.00, Thinking Mu



And no, not your shopping trip. Your online-plus-wine or out-and-about preferences for retail is your business and nobody else. We’re talking seasonal, annual if you’re that ambitious.

If this is your first foray into ethical fashion, we’d suggest starting small.

Right now, ‘tis the season to be freezing, so let’s start first and foremost with what coat you are wearing this season. Faux fur, slick mac, and/or all of the above – we’re easy, so long as it’s ethically made and works as the base for all future purchases. If you’ve gone for a cerise pink showstopper we salute you, but let that factor into your other choices. That new dress may match or clash, the choice is yours, just make sure you feel comfortable in both it and the coat together. Because as the chill sets in you’ll be wearing both together, a lot. From the season to the multitude of occasions that accompany it. From work to friends to family the pressure to be merry is there, along with the outfits to match it. Think wisely, think widely, to the huge wardrobe you have at home and the new mixes of people you have yet to be graced by the elegance of your favourite red dress. Think of the occasion, you care most about (there is always one) and focus on that and build backwards. If you want to look and feel your best at that, find the garment that makes you feel that way. While you may not care as much about your Aunt’s Turkey and Ham buffet that follows, you’ll still want to look good and the amazing feeling you had the first time in you wore that floral number won’t die down, particularly when it’s a first time viewing for the other party guests.

Elke Fall Flowers Wrap Dress, €109.90, ARMEDANGELS


Focus on your budget


The decision to become an ethical consumer does not come with a pay increase, your means are your means.

In order to stick to them, however, we suggest you focus on two key principles.  

Less is more.

A cliché perhaps but one with truth at its core. Environmentally, clothing waste is a danger beyond belief, so much so that the ignorance to it is constantly at war with the truth. Personally, avoiding clothing waste is about simple consideration for you and your bank account. Looking back to The Ethical Consumers’ words – while you do vote every time you open your wallet you also do the same every time you choose to keep it shut. And when doing so, on a global scale you are making positive affect and on a personal level, you are making a realistic choice.  

Research, research, research.

It’s in our nature to shop around and that instinct shouldn’t be squashed in our attempts to be more ethically-minded. As with everything, you will find your preferences for specific brands, styles, practices, and ultimately find the ones that work for you, your conscience, and your budget. Naturally, Stiall only stocks brands that fit with its core principles – virtuous ethics and gorgeous aesthetics – we expect our customers to do the same with theirs, budget included. Just some of the brands that we’ve found to fit the more money-conscious customer include People Tree and Thinking Mu. For example, these People Tree pants – has there ever been a more necessary staple? Throw in the fact that they are made up of harm-free sustainable materials makes them more than budget, but bargain.  

Sasha Trousers, €69.00, People Tree

Reassess and repeat

With all said and done, the steps above are nothing in isolation, buying ethical on a budget is not a one-time thing but a conscious choice to be practised and perfected over time. It is not always straightforward, it is not always easy, but that’s why we are here to help guide the way.

Be it with budget tips or clothing care advice, Stiall is voting for positive affect and we hope you’ll do the same too.

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