Published on april 20, 2023

We’re Revealing the Filthiest Clothes to Buy Brand New: Meet Our Dirty (Fashion) Dozen

written by Team thredUP

Heard of the Dirty Dozen? It’s commonly used to refer to the top 12 pesticide-ridden produce (yuck!) to inform people of what to prioritize when buying organic. We were inspired to make a list of our own because not all new clothing items are created equal! Some clothing categories are more carbon intensive to produce than others. Especially when it comes to fast fashion. While we encourage you to thrift 100% of the time, we know it’s not realistic, just make sure these items are on your must-thrift list (or if you do buy them new, consider investing in high quality versions you can pass on)! 

Carbon intensity, who?

The more resources used in the process of making an item, the higher the carbon emissions. More resources= more impact on the planet! The fashion industry has no shortage of CO2 emissions, so pinpointing the top carbon-intensive clothing categories helps us to be even more sustainably conscious about our choices. So shopping these top 12 carbon-intense categories does even more good for the planet than the average thrift purchase.

Whoa, anyone expect blazers to be the #1 carbon-intensive category?? Lucky for us thrifters, the top categories were already some of our favorites to shop secondhand anyway. The numbers in the chart reflect the carbon breakdown each time one of the twelve is worn after being purchased new. When you buy any of these 12 categories brand new you’re contributing to more CO2 emissions and increasing your own carbon footprint, so choose well.

The Takeaway 

Think Secondhand First
Buying a new and disposable (read: super cheapo, not gonna stand the test of time) item from these 12 clothing categories is like one of the worst fashion habits you can have. Going the secondhand route makes the most earth-conscious impact because it takes the place of producing more carbon-intensive clothing (not to mention the money you save!).

Be Selective About Buying New
If you have  to buy any of these 12 categories new, it’s best to invest in really really good ones. Take your time picking them out to make sure they’re everything you want and can stand the test of time! That means good construction, durable fabrics, and versatile styles that won’t feel like last week’s trend, next week. Better quality means a longer life in your closet (and the next one and the next one, hopefully).

Take Good Care of Your Clothes
The better your clothes are cared for, the longer they’ll last. The goal is to keep fashion in closets and out of landfill, but snafus happen of course! Before giving up on an item because of a stain, a snag, etc.. follow us on Instagram for DIY mending hacks and much more. There are endless ways to repair and repurpose items, you’d be surprised.

Ready to get the scoop on your own eco impact and lighten your own carbon load? Head over and take our Fashion Footprint Quiz!