Back to School with Justice

It’s been almost 20 years since I had to shop for back-to-school clothes. Where do I even begin, especially if I want to live justly?

Ashlee is at that weird in-between stage—outgrowing girls clothing, but not really a junior size. I remember those days from my childhood. For more than a year, the only place I could shop was Sears’ “Lemon Frog” shop (but at least the clothes were groovy).

I’ve tried the reusit shop, the yard sale and the hand-me-down route, and it works pretty well for tops, but pants, shorts and skirts are a disaster! Way too much energy expended for little or no return.

Ashlee and I have begun making the rounds of stores, trying on all sorts of sizes from both the girls and juniors. A JC Penney the girls-plus 16 1/2 fits, but at Old Navy she’s a ladies size 6 if anything fits at all. At Justice for Girls she’s a 14 or 16. Other places, nothing fits. There’s no buying without trying it on.

I know from reading Green America’s Guide for Ending Sweatshops (download your own here) that most traditional retailers are still contracting with producers operating in sweatshop conditions. Most use practices that harm the environment. Few pay fair wages.

A decade ago, I stopped shopping at WalMart and KMart because of their unfair trade practices, sending them letters telling them why. After a few years, as I began to read that every major clothing retailer has similar practices, I succumbed to the lure of the cheap: If they all contributed to the problem, why pay more? 
I was a buyer for Macy’s, and I know that retailers all use the same factories. Let me say that I have been in some factories in the Orient, and they seemed fine to me. I’ve since learned, however, that many producers have “showcase” factories, where they take visitors, and other factories, or subcontractors, where working conditions are deplorable.

So if Justice for Girls offers no justice, and neither do other retailers, how do you responsibly outfit a preteen for school?

I went on, which offers goods only by “eco-positive, people-positive” sellers, but there are no pants a self-conscious preteen would wear (little I would wear either). And since kids keep growing, and you need to regularly replace almost entire wardrobes, I can’t afford to be spending big bucks for each item.

So what’s the solution? I don’t have one. I’m guessing we’ll be shopping where all other preteen girls shop. If you have a more just solution, feel free to let me know. I’m certainly open to it!

1 thought on “Back to School with Justice”

  1. American Apparel is still made in the US (only tops though). We tend to shop etsy since those are made by crafts people. I bet in your area she could have beautiful perfect fitting pants/skirts made (I know she isn't in the dress stage probably anymore), and it would not be expensive and you would be supporting a local person. Just a thought. We gratefully take all hand me downs but won't shop ourselves in those stores either.

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