Dear Vegans: What Did You Do With Your Non-Vegan Clothes?

Dear Vegans: What Did You Do With Your Non-Vegan Clothes?
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January 2016

People always ask the hardest part about going vegan. It’s never been finding good places to eat or getting the right nutrients. There are vegan options wherever I go. My B12 levels are perfectly fine.

For me, the hardest part about going vegan was what to wear. Here’s why I still wore leather and wool when I went vegan and how I’m adjusting this season.

I couldn’t afford to replace my whole wardrobe

The main reason I still wore some of my non-vegan clothes was because I couldn’t afford not to. But the fear of judgment was overwhelming at times. I attended lots of vegan conferences and events my first year vegan and spent hours deciding how to avoid both offending others and freezing to death.

I got rid of half of my non-vegan collection within the first three months but I held onto the warm jackets, shoes, and sweaters I bought well before my transition. I actually stopped buying non-vegan clothes before I went fully vegan, so everything I had was at least two years old.

I bought a few vegan-friendly replacements here and there, but veganizing my wardrobe all at once just wasn’t in the budget.

I don’t support the fast fashion industry

I could’ve easily replaced my non-vegan clothes with a few hundred dollars, but as vegan-friendly as they are, I don’t support the fast fashion industry.

I always wondered how an entire dress can cost $19.95, and the movie True Cost opened my eyes to the deplorable practices of many popular brands. The child labor in the cotton industry, termination of pregnant garment workers, and unlivable wages workers sustain themselves on were all too much to bear.

I couldn’t bring myself to throw away all my non-vegan clothes and vote with my dollar for horrible practices.

Synthetic fibers are horrible for the environment

The fashion industry is a leading contributor to waste in the US. The “cruelty free” synthetic fibers we love so much may still be in landfills long after we’re gone. I have no judgments on vegans buying vegan clothing, but the constant cycle of buying, tossing, and replacing isn’t something I can get down with.

I figured sticking with the clothes I had was the best solution while finding the proper vegan alternatives. The kind of alternatives I’d love for years to come—not some one-off item that I bough from fear of judgment and plan on throwing away once I found a better option.

I knew the vegan replacements I got had to be with me for at least 3 years. I had to research to make sure I’d love what I bought for more than a few months.

I hadn’t made the connection

The leather jacket in the photo above was made from the skin of someone who’d been murdered.

I get that on an intellectual level, but it still doesn’t hit me as hard as seeing meat. I can’t watch someone cut into a steak, but I can throw on the skin of the exact same cow without feeling uncomfortable. That’s how deep my conditioning runs.

I still haven’t fully made the connection, but I’m a lot closer than I was.

My second-year commitments

For those reasons, I thought sticking with what I owned would be the best decision, but the dissonance is weighing on me. I understand leather more and more day by day. Now, I’ve committed to finding vegan alternatives for my last remaining leather clothes.

I’ll support small vegan brands with transparent practices so that I’m not financing slave labor. Will Green from Will’s London is just as proud of his shoes being vegan as he is about their responsible labor practices, and Hipsters for Sisters makes their vegan belt bags right in Los Angeles.

The things I buy also have to last. I won’t make exceptions for flimsy coats just because they fit my ethics, but with brands like Vaute Couture, I won’t have to. Leave it to a Chicago designer to start a line of vegan outerwear that’s actually warm.

The wool may take a bit more time. I don’t see it as acceptable, but for the reasons I stated earlier, I can’t part with my last few sweaters just yet. I’m trying my best to organize my life with respect for all my ethics. It’s been challenging finding solutions that work, but I’m determined to figure it out.

What did you do with your non-vegan belongings? Click here to tell me about it.

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