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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Wardrobe Worship

Updating your autumn wardrobe? Or perhaps, like me, you’re tempted by the latest 70%-off ASOS sale. Fast fashion beckons from every direction, promising style and swagger with a £7 shirt.

But the industry has come under fire once again following Stacey Dooley’s documentary, Fashion’s Dirty Secrets, which explores the global effects of cheap clothing consumption. Exposing fashion as one of the top five most-polluting industries, Dooley takes us from Kazakhstan’s Aral Sea (drained dry by cotton production) to the toxic chemical waste discarded in Indonesia.

Her conclusion? ‘The few pounds we spend for an item of clothing isn’t the true cost.’ When we also factor in the staggering human cost that cheap clothing often demands – sweatshops, exploitation, and slave labour – the picture is very bleak indeed.

So what might it look like to honour God, not only in our workplaces but also in our wardrobes?

God calls on his people to act justly. We need to work out what that means for us as greed takes its toll on the world’s poorest and their environments. As consumers, we can substantially reduce our buying, mend rather than discard, use charity shops, research the ethics and sustainability of brands before purchasing, and support new transparent labels (check out here (USA/UK), here (UK), here (men), and here (UK) if you’re unsure where to start). Discernment is needed to put God’s values above ‘good value’.

As Former COO for London Fashion Week, Simon Ward, remarked: ‘Fashion, if it’s your servant, can be great. If it’s your master it’s a real tyrant.’ Clothing lines can come and go within a week, demanding continuous buying to stay ahead. They drive insatiable appetites for more, when no earthly thing can offer lasting satisfaction.

And yet, as we are made in the image of a wonderful designer, we can still take a blessed delight in beautiful design. We can enjoy gorgeous patterns and colour, intricate embroidery and ingenious creativity that speak of fruitful work and point to the glory of our own Creator. In doing so, the gift of beautiful clothes allows us a glimpse of the giver of all good gifts.

While shops restock and trends shift, let’s seek to honour the eternal God in the what, when, and why of our clothes. And while we celebrate whatever is just and beautiful in fashion here on earth, with how much more joy do we await the day God will clothe us in the shining white of Jesus’ righteousness.

Katherine Ladd
Katherine lives and works in London where she enjoys scoping out charity shops and borrowing her friends’ jazziest clothes. She recently began working for an MP.


  1. I looked in hope at the list of ethical clothes suppliers. Unfortunately, as I feared most are US brands, and the handful of UK ones are catalogue brands.
    My experience of mail order shopping is so frustrating, involving a long series of failed deliveries, visits to sorting office to collect parcels, returns because of poor fit. I SO want to be able to try on my clothes in a retail outlet before buying ………

    By Eleanor  -  19 Oct 2018
    • Hi Eleanor

      Thanks for your comment! Just this morning we’ve added a couple more places you can look which are more UK based (check back on the article to see!). I completely agree re: online shopping, but I’m afraid there aren’t that many places that are both ethical and able to afford all the overheads of running a shop! If you check out the final link of the four now in the article, you’ll find a website called ‘Know the Origin’, who occasionally have pop-up shops open around the country. If you find a particular ethical brand that you like, it’s definitely worth researching whether they have ‘pop-up’ shops happening anywhere near you!

      Hope that’s helpful – and thanks again for your comment.

      By Nell Goddard  -  19 Oct 2018
  2. Great

    By Daniel Mendes De Araújo  -  19 Oct 2018
  3. Hi
    Great article. After the Bangladesh factory disaster, 2 Christians decided to set up a clothing business that was fair trade with good working conditions.
    Google “visible clothing” and be inspired by their story and God’s love in action

    By Hilary Taylor  -  19 Oct 2018
  4. Important article. I have been buying 80%+ of my clothes from
    Charity shops for years now because I try not to buy anything that could have been made in a sweatshop and to avoid waste. I have some amazing buys but I am very aware that this is actually only really possible because of the wastage of clothes bought. However, it is an ethical alternative for the time being till we have some longer term sustainable options.

    By Betsy  -  19 Oct 2018
  5. I agree with Eleanor. I don’t buy clothes online as you can’t tell the fit. It was much more faff than it was worth buying from People Tree as it was hard to return clothes to them as when I bought, they were too busy and it took weeks and loads of worry that I’d miss their phone call before I got my money back (this was 3 years ago). It makes me really sad that I can’t buy ethical clothes. I really want to try them on in a shop. I did end up with something I liked from my efforts after returning the first dress and choosing another longer dress, and I still wear it. I like charity shops a lot as though the clothes aren’t fair trade, you are giving money to charity for them and re-using, and you get some really nice clothes at affordable prices 🙂
    I will check out ‘Know the Origin.’

    By Alison  -  19 Oct 2018
  6. I basically agree with the comments made and try to be careful with my clothes buying, getting many from a friend who sells fairly traded goods of all sorts. My dilemma is that, if everyone gives up buying the clothes made by sweated labour, what happens to the workers who now don’t even have any job, however awful it might have been?

    By Nancy  -  19 Oct 2018
  7. Great piece and appreciate the links to take practical action, and the follow up comments/responses too 🙂

    By Bruce Gulland  -  19 Oct 2018
  8. Sadly I find that ethical suppliers tend not to stock plus sizes.

    By Karin  -  19 Oct 2018
  9. Wonderful article! Watch out for so called ‘pure cotton’. Unless it’s organic it’s been sprayed with multiple chemicals which cause skin and breathing illnesses to the cotton farmer and his family who live on the cotton farm.
    For online fairtrade- despite the previous comments- I use, Nomads, Komodo, Traidcraft for all kinds of goods, and Thought. I recently bought lovely jeans from Thought. BAM have sporty clorhes made from bamboo and Seasalt have some organic cotton clothes. Love their denim shorts. I live in Hitchin which has a British Association of Fairtrade Shops (BAFTS) registration shop called Harvest Moon and sells some clothes there. Once you buy and get to know the sizes you are ok. Check the size guide on the websites and measure yourself carefully before choosing. All brands come up differently.

    By Helen Richardson  -  20 Oct 2018
  10. Its hard to disagree with the content of your article, but the practical outworking is very tricky for most people. I looked at all the ethical suppliers listed for UK women, and the clothes were way outside my price range, and I’m not struggling financially. Many people in the UK are thankful for affordable clothes on the high street – much better to put pressure onto these shops to ensure their suppliers behave in an ethical way.

    By Lesley Mackintosh  -  23 Oct 2018
  11. Seeing people’s comments here I wonder whether church buildings offer an opportunity – why not offer some of these businesses a shop window – the high street costs are astranomical and prohibitive to so many businesses. Great article Katherine.

    PS: Guilty Pleasure – “Stacey Dooley for Strictly Champion!!”

    By Steve ROUSE  -  25 Oct 2018

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