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Friday, March 7, 2014

The Philosophy of a Wardrobe

Continuing in the vein of the Wardrobe Architect series -- I want to take a look at how my personal philosophy influences the way I dress. Sarai asks, "How does your philosophy, spirituality, or religion affect your aesthetics and buying habits? Or, what aspects of those things would you like to see reflected [in your wardrobe]?"

I am a Christian, but I never particularly considered how that plays into my personal style. When I was younger, it meant that I dressed more modestly -- but I no longer apply this too heavily. Now, what does being a Christian mean for my wardrobe? I think that, more than my beliefs about Christianity, my beliefs about being a good human being play into my personal sense of style.

While previously I'd spent a lot of money on fast fashion -- cheap, easy to buy, easy to wear, quick to fall to pieces -- I've started thinking about my clothes as investments. If I buy quality pieces that feel nice, look nice, last, and cost a little more money, I'm more likely to have my items of clothing around for a longer period of time. I feel like this is a good thing because being wasteful is never good! I'm always disappointed with my Forever 21 that fall into disrepair quickly and must be thrown away.

On top of this, I recently started realizing that those same fast fashion stores are so cheap because they employ cheap labor! There are so many chains (Forever 21 included) that don't even pay their garment workers a living wage, and don't keep track of the way their workers are taken care of. In fact, recently, a fire in a garment factory in Bangladesh caused several companies (one such being Zara) to create and sign a code of ethics that enforces better quality work environments -- people passed away in this fire, which was due to unsafe working conditions.

Because of my growing knowledge in this area, I strive to make myself aware of where the clothes I am buying come from. Two posts prior, I wrote a blog entry about ethical fashion which included a list of companies who are better to buy from than others. I also provided links to helpful sites which can help track the production of garments for various companies, and give the consumer more of an insight as to each company's policies, procedures, and social ethics.

I've cared about cruelty-free makeup for so long... I think it's time that I care about cruelty-free fashion, too. I don't want to wear clothing that was made based on the suffering of other human beings. I want garment workers to make fair, living wages, in safe, quality work environments -- and because of this, I choose the places I buy from carefully. I want to support those companies that align with my ideals, and I want to avoid giving money to those that do not.

Overall, I want to ensure that the clothes that I wear are created in a way that benefits those that make them -- or I want to promote the re-use of clothing by buying second-hand -- or I want to know that the labor required to make my clothes is fair simply by making them myself.

Monday, March 3, 2014

My Style -- Influenced By My History

I love Sarai of The Coletterie. Her style is brilliant, her creativity boundless -- but the thing that drew me to The Coletterie was my search for wardrobe simplicity. I have been in the process of preparing to move while simultaneously trying to "spring clean" my life, and as a result have begun trying to pare down the mass amount of things I own and surround myself with. However, when I got to the point of addressing my closet, I felt overwhelmed. I own so many pieces of clothing that inspire me, that were cheap and easy to buy, that are beautiful to look at but uncomfortable to wear, that are silky, that are itchy, that suit my figure, that don't -- I didn't know where to start.

And then somehow, somewhere, I stumbled across Sarai's Wardrobe Architect series -- and everything fell into place. It clicked. I've only read through the posts once, and haven't actually begun doing any of the wardrobe cleaning and reflection she suggests, but this post is the starting point for my little journey to my. style. My very own wardrobe, full of items that inspire me, that do not pointlessly take up space, that are not throwaway pieces.

Sarai writes, " ... [Lately], I've been feeling that my wardrobe -- the thing I spend so much time building for the sheer fun of it -- is created a bit haphazardly." This rang so true, and here I am -- at my first blog post about, my first step towards, the architecture of a wardrobe that reflects me.

Week One - Making Style More Personal
Favorite quote:

"Today, in addition to the ever-rotating whims of fast fashion, we are constantly being exposed to trends through sites like Pinterest, or through blogs. I won’t argue that this wealth of visual inspiration is a bad thing, necessarily. But how do we keep it from diluting our own unique aesthetics and tastes? How do we prevent becoming part of a homogenized, singular “style” rather than expressing who we truly are through our clothing or our homes?"

Today's influence on my personal style: HISTORY.
"How has your personal history informed the way you dress? When did your tastes crystallize? Have they changed over the years, and why?"
My mother dressed me almost up until junior high school. She liked cute, frilly clothes and dresses, and liked to do my hair in tube curls with dramatic bows. That's what I was used to, though often, when I got to school, I would untuck my shirts, unroll my socks, and try to shove my hair into a ponytail. When I reached junior high, I was more interested in the "emo" scene -- probably, in a way, as a rebellion against the frilly outfits of my childhood as well as the conservative aesthetic of my family. I wore goth parachute pants, torn skinny jeans, Pokemon shirts and shirts with band names plastered across them, and neon, plastic barrettes with Converse Chuck Taylor hightops. I stuck to what I saw as a "rocker aesthetic" even through early college. In late college continuing through today, my style moved more towards an indie and alternative rock look, and finally became more refined to what it is now -- a little more classic, a lot more simple, with a love of subtle, alternative-inspired details here and there. The little details are important to me -- the quality of the buttons, a small embellishment right there, a quirky hem on a skirt. I think along with me, my taste in clothing has grown up, but I still have a love for those little dark embellishments that show a little rebellion. Black leather moto jacket with a pastel shift dress and buckled ankle booties? Bring it on.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Helping You to Shop Ethically!

Unethical fashion (home fashion, too!) is a big deal. We're so concerned about animal testing and use of animal products in our purchased items -- and yes, this is definitely still a big deal!!! -- but it's also important to consider the way our beauty and fashion companies treat HUMANS. How involved are our favorite brands in their supply lines? Do they have a policy of transparency, in which they publicize the names of their suppliers, sign contracts to support better work environments and more sustainable wages, and ethical practices? Where do they get the INGREDIENTS for the supplies needed to produce goods?

Finding an overall list of fashion brands that are ethical/unethical is DIFFICULT. Believe me, I just did it. And because I am sure there are many people who are looking for a list just as I was, I decided NOT to keep my findings to myself, and to post my personal list of companies to boycott, companies that are middle of the road, and companies that are doing a good/better job of working towards better lives for their factory workers -- these companies are working towards providing transparency to their customers. They want us to be able to trace back the production of a garment or accessory and know that the people who made that item are not being abused or mistreated.

-7 for all Mankind
-Abercrombie & Fitch
-Ann Taylor
-Calvin Klein
-Christian Audigier
-Claiborne (Liz)
-Dana Buchman
-DC Shoes
-Ed Hardy
-Ella Moss
-Free People
-Fruit of the Loom
-Hugo Boss
-J. Crew
-John Varvatos
-Juicy Couture
-Kate Spade
-Limited Brands (La Senza, Pink, Victoria's Secret)
-Lucky Brand
-Osh Kosh
-Ralph Lauren (& Club Monaco, Pink Pony, Polo)
-Tommy Bahama
-Urban Outfitters
-Van Heusen
-White House Black Market

Middle of the Road:
-Arcadia Group (Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge, Topshop, Wallis)
-Alexander McQueen
-American Apparel
-American Eagle (& Aerie)
-Donna Karan
-Emilio Pucci
-J.C. Penney
-Louis Vuitton
-Marc Jacobs

-ASDA George
-Aurora Fashions (Coast, Oasis, Warehouse)
-Indigenous Designs
-Mark's & Spencer
-Monsoon Accessorize
-New Look
-Ten Thousand Villages

And of course, there are several GREAT ethical fashion resources out there. My personal favorite is -- this website asks you to answer questions related to your personal style and your current favorite brands, and matches you up with ethical fashion brands that resemble that personal style or those favorite brands. I'm a huge fan! Two other great resources include , Pure Citizen, ShopEthica, and Zady. is also a great resource with absolutely BEAUTIFUL clothing, but tends to be a bit more expensive. For those of you who like to splurge on luxury fashion, this is the ethical fashion site for you!

Another great resource is ASOS's Green Room. Each item's description carries an icon (or several icons!) that represent whether that particular item is fair trade cotton, organic, made under fair trade principles, made in Africa (supports African economy), or made in the UK or USA (much less likely to involve sweatshops)!

Lingerie, however, is a bit tougher. I did find a few resources, such as Who Made Your Pants?. Great site with pretty undies. is also a wonderful resource for ethical undies. The following information was pulled  from their website:
"Chetna Organic are the greatest farmer company on the planet and we are honoured to be able to work with them!  Since the farmers own their own seeds we can be both 100% sure that there can be no contamination in our cotton and also that the quality of the fibres is truly exquisite in the same way that the impact is be too! We support this in the following ways:

    1. Buying our cotton directly from the villages.
    2. Supporting and funding farmer owned seed development work and establishment of seed banks.
    3. Funding the educational materials in the local schools
    4. Funding the establishment of internet connections between the local schools and teacher mentors in the UK.
    5. Assisting with linking Chetna and their farmers up with buyers.

            Soon we also hope to be able to launch an amazing new education programme with the schools the farmers children go to as well as support some of the entrepreneurial activity being proposed by some of the farmers!  Very exciting!"
            So -- you look at these two options. "Great," you say, "But what about my bras?" There are many bras made for bust sizes A-DD, such as CielLuvaHuva,and Bunny Smalls. Those of you who are more interested in luxury, sexytime bras can check out Buttress & Snatch -- BEAUTIFUL retrostyle bras -- expensive, but beautiful!
            And I know. Trust me, I know. Many of you lovely ladies are now sighing heavily and rolling your eyes -- there is no way you'll fit into a DD! It's too small for you. I get it. I have the same dilemma -- I feel your pain! :( But YOU TOO can also shop ethically for bras. Gilda & Pearl, while being a tiny bit more expensive, handmakes bras in the UK SPECIFICALLY FOR YOU AND YOUR SIZE. You specify your size when you order the bra, and Gilda & Pearl will make it for you, whether you are a 28J or a 42G. Wonderful, right?!
            You can also consider using! They don't have a specific ethical policy, but I did talk to a wonderful customer service rep who gave me great info on Journelle and their brands, which I'll quote here for you:
            "Hello Valerie! 
            Thank you for getting in touch with us! This is a really great thing to ask about. Though our company doesn't have a specific policy on this, we do try to stock smaller brands that are produced ethically. If you let us know what you're looking at specifically we can give you more advice as to where the product is made, etc. We sell a brand called Only Hearts, which is made in NYC. They have a number of lovely items that are made in organic cotton as well. Bazsarozsa is another great option, it's also made in NYC from organic cotton. 
            Please let us know if we can give you advice on anything in particular, we're here to help!

            Caroline and the Journelle team"
            So while the Journelle crew may not have a specific policy in place, they DO carry ethically made products using organic cotton, and they are willing to explain where the specific product(s) are made if you want advice or have questions -- just be sure to send them an inquiry regarding the background of a specific company or garment. I was very excited about this, as Journelle does carry beautiful products.

            Last but not least, one of the most important things to remember is to RECYCLE and REUSE -- yes, for lingerie as well as clothing. For example, some of my favorite bras are of Freya brand. Rather than buying new, I'll buy second-hand bras (and other clothing!) on eBay, which is another great way to shop ethically. If I'm not certain of a company's ethical policy, I'll opt to buy their products second-hand instead! This way, I'm getting a product I'm interested in trying out (for example, a Freya bra) from someone who has already gotten use out of it (or didn't, as many products on eBay are listed as "New With Tags") and would have otherwise thrown the product out, adding to landfill waste. Etsy also sells many secondhand and vintage products, and there are plenty of upscale second-hand clothing sites, such as Poshmark, ThredUp, Tradsey, and Vaunte, You can also always check out your local thrift stores, Goodwills, and Salvation Army stores!

            Are there any additions you want to recommend for my list? I'm done doing my research, for now, but I'm really interested in YOUR findings! Who are your favorite ethical fashion brands? Who do you avoid? What are your favorite ways to repurpose old clothing and buy secondhand? Share away! :)