There are a number of ways to know that you are buying sweatshop free clothing, ranging from using ethical consumer guides to purchasing clothes directly from their producers. By being more aware of the use of sweatshops in the garment trade, you can also help to pressure conventional clothing manufacturers. Consumer demand often results in major industry shifts; by stating a preference for clothing that doesn't come from sweatshops, you can encourage more companies to adopt ethical labor practices.
Garment labels are an excellent place to start. One of the best signs that a garment was not made in a sweatshop is a union label; UNITE is an international union which makes sweatshop free clothing, for example. Look for a label which is clearly sewn into the garment, as some unscrupulous merchants may add union tags to garments produced in sweatshops. You can also also seek out clothing with fair trade labels.
Fair trade consumer goods are a great consumer choice because the supply chain is short and tightly controlled. The goal is to get as much of the profit as possible into the hand of the producer; and fair trade certification is denied to producers who use sweatshops or other questionable labor practices. Although many people associate garment production in developing countries with sweatshops, it is possible to find sweatshop free clothing from places like Africa and Asia, with a bit of digging. You can find fair trade certified goods through worker collectives and at many mainstream retailers.
Another option for you is to seek out producers and retailers which have committed to anti-sweatshop values. Many organizations publish ethical consumer guides, especially during the holiday season, which list their recommendations for sources of sweatshop free clothing. Workers rights organizations, unions, and activist organizations are good sources for these guides. You can also check with colleges and universities; many student organizations promote sweatshop free clothing for their college stores, and these groups may provide lists of safe garment manufacturers.
The price of sweatshop free clothing may be higher than that of clothing produced in sweatshops, but as a consumer you can be assured that the people who made your clothing are making a living wage and living in safe conditions. Sweatshops can be found all over the world, and they typically have a plethora of illegal conditions including child laborers, unsafe working conditions, and long working hours. In some instances, these workers are virtual slaves; by taking a stance against clothing produced in sweatshops, you can help stamp out modern slavery.