First a most basic overview:
Our clothing is made of fibers which can be divided into two categories: natural and man-made. Natural fibers (like wool, silk, cotton, linen, and hemp) are derived from animal or plant based products and are the fibers our ancestors have been spinning, weaving and wearing for centuries. Man-made products are a new invention- made within the last hundred and fifty years and are synthesized from petroleum by products and other chemically clever means (if anyone is interested in such a topic, I've probably learned enough Organic Chemistry to puzzle out the method.)
Now, there are some eco-friendly main made products synthesized from bamboo and other sustainable materials. As important as ecological consciousness is for a Neo-Aristocrat, fashion and budget are equally important. Most garments made from the trendy organic cotton or bamboo products are very minimalist and- in my opinion- aesthetically displeasing. Plus, you are unlikely to find them in a thrift store.
Most modern clothes are a mix of cotton and synthetic material designed to last maybe half a dozen times through the wash before ripping, tearing, falling apart, or creating those nasty little bundles of fiber that look and feel terrible to wear ie pills. At this point, the original wearer either tosses the shirt or, if moved by some desire to save the environment or help others, donates it to a thrift shop. Quite frankly my dears, if you find the piece unwearable, your average thrift store shopper will too.
However, clothing of natural fibers is designed to hold up through many years of wearing and washing. Most of the clothing with a 100% natural fiber tag is still perfectly wearable by the time it reaches the thrift store. It looks and feels of a higher quality than most other items around it.
Generally, I've found that the more expensive the cloth the more innovative the design or, at least, the better quality the production. Higher end fabrics are marketed for higher end clothing- not discount or ridiculously cheap brands like what populate the modern malls of America. Higher end clothing tends to have the more interesting details and finishing that are absent from much of what I find in Forever 21. Better buttons, better seems, better zippers all result in a better product for you. (Of course, I realize that not all natural fiber pieces fit this stereotype, it is just the average of what I've found).
Finally, it is actually possible to find pieces like this. Due to trends in modern consumerism, much of the well made pieces are vintage or nearly so. At least, they don't fit exactly into the modern aesthetic. What? You don't care for a calf length wool skirt depicting an abstract french fishing village in muted blacks and greys? Well, by all means, it fits perfectly in my closet!
I'll address maintenance concerns in a later post. Below are some links if you want to learn more about the health benefits of natural fibers- keep in mind the biases of most websites:
~ A lovely, basic overview of natural fibers
~ Everything you could possibly want to know about natural fibers and then some
~ A good graph to compare the relative strengths of different fibers
~ Why natural fibers are better in the landfill