How lockdown changed our fashion shopping habits

We asked our newsletter subscribers if their clothing habits changed during the pandemic, and what habits they hoped to retain or change going forwards. Over 200 people responded and we present some highlights below.

The fashion industry is a huge contributor to climate change. As we wrote in our recent guide to high street fashion, some estimate that it could contribute as much as 10% of total carbon emissions and is estimated to actually increase its carbon emissions by 50% by 2030.

With this in mind we wanted to see how our community was trying to reduce its climate impacts through the way they consumed fashion items and clothing. We asked

How have your clothing habits changed during the pandemic?

As you might expect the overwhelming majority of our readers were already doing their bit pre pandemic, but more time at home had an impact on a high percentage of our readers in some way, with 80% changing something over the course of the pandemic.

People mentioned repairing clothes, looking into renting items, and supporting more ethical producers. All of which are recommendations in our High Street Clothes and Ethical Clothing guides.

Overwhelmingly the emphasis was on buying less or buying second-hand. Hopefully this demonstrates a shift away from fast fashion, which has seen the average person buying 60% more clothing than 20 years ago. One respondent said:

“I hope that the pandemic has at least been an eye opener as far as the clothing industry is concerned.”

The results also chimed with previous research done for our annual Ethical Consumer Markets Report, which found that online apps for second-hand clothing were on the rise, and 42% of people were planning to buy second-hand clothing in the future.

And the survey said...

A whopping 80% had changed their habits. Of these:

Over half (52%) said they'd either bought less or bought nothing new.

Person holding cardboard box with three pairs of socks in it
Packaging is an important issue for some ethical consumers

Comments included:

  • “During lockdown I discovered less is more as regards my clothes, i.e. I don’t need as much as I thought!”
  • “I have worn many items of clothing that have been in the wardrobe for years but not worn.”
  • “I now really think if I need something before I buy it and try to just buy something that I am replacing.”
  • “I spent more on less clothes. Previously if I thought something was just a bit too expensive I didn't buy it. Now I would buy it and just have less clothes but love the ones I have.”
  • “I have bought less, but more online, and pay more attention to packaging. Where companies ask me to rate them I now also rate the packaging.”
  • “I haven't bought ANY clothes for 18 months.”

20% (or about 1 in 5) said they’d bought second-hand:

  • “I switched to buying second hand from online groups and Facebook Marketplace.”
  • “I ended up needing maternity clothes over lockdown and, other than two pairs of leggings, I sourced everything second hand.”
  • “As no charity shops have been open, I've used the eBay and Vinted apps to buy clothes.”

“Charity shops being closed was problematic for me and kids - especially kids who are fussy (texture) and growing absurdly quickly (young teens).”

16% (or about 1 in 6) said they'd tried to use more ethical suppliers:

  • “I buy very little, only undies and then only from ethical sources.”
  • “I tried to source ethical clothing: more expensive but hopefully they last longer.”
  • "I sourced ethically where possible, e.g. vegan shoes. I have used advice from Ethical Consumer frequently.”
  • "I started to actively avoid companies with dubious records in terms of the environment and workers’ rights.”
Sewing machine and hands on material

16% (or about 1 in 6) said they'd repaired, altered or made clothing:

  • “I used a sewing machine for the first time in years.”
  • “I've started using ‘conspicuous repairs’.”
  • “I have been wearing scrubs at work which I made out of old curtains.”

What did people say their intentions were, going forwards?

  • “I may even look to rent outfits needed for potential one-off occasions.”
  • “To buy less but probably spend the same amount.”
  • “To no longer care if it looks a bit odd or quirky. It's my style.”
  • “To think again and again before actually buying anything.”
  • “To move even more to quality over quantity.”
  • “To be willing to spend as much as is needed to produce clothes ethically. I'm addicted to the dopamine buzz of a bargain. This is my main challenge. Buy less and pay a fair price.”
  • “To a) spread the word & b) delve further into the sustainability of different companies.”

20% of all respondents said their habits had not really changed, usually because they already were very minimal and selective in what they bought.

“I looked at my clothes and decided to wear the clothes I really like instead of keeping them 'for best'”.

Inspired to change your clothing habits?

If the comments and ideas above have inspired you to change, you might like to begin with some of our useful articles about fabrics, tips on avoiding fast fashion, which second-hand apps are around, and also check out some of the ethical clothing brands in our guides.

Read more here: