How to Shop Ethically While Traveling

A souvenir does not have to be an “I heart NYC” shirt or a gator head bought at a gas station in Florida (yuck). Shopping ethically during my travels this summer was actually helpful to my wallet and to meeting the luggage weight limit. I ended up only coming home with items that I really loved instead of tons of gaudy chotchkies. Here are some tips I learned throughout my travels this summer.

Thrift stores are unique in every city.

Every city has a unique style. I find that when I am in a new city, I start to notice small details about how the people dress differently than I’m used to seeing. A thrift store will also contain these little nuances, so don’t feel weird about stopping at Goodwill in a new city. Even when traveling abroad, many places have thrift-stores that just go by a different name. An item you spent time searching for in a second-hand shop can still carry the same sentimental value and ability to remind you of your travels. The main difference is that you will actually use it instead of having it sit on your shelf or in the back of your closet.

Keep your eye out for vintage shops.

In New York City I was SURROUNDED by vintage stores. It was heaven. Some of the coolest parts of the city I visited were because I searched for vintage shops online and then just branched out and explore the surrounding area.

Look for local art shops.

No matter where you go, there is probably a community of local artist trying to make it. Look for places that real people are designing and selling things they make. It is not hard to do a quick google search. You can find much more eclectic t-shirt designs this way or just generally interesting items.

Do your research and read the tags.

If you have access to your phone, the world is your fair-trade and sustainably farmed oyster. Google to your hearts content. I am not going to lie to you and say that shopping ethically while you travel is easy, but it is definitely possible and accessible if you are willing to put a little effort into it. I made a practice of reading the tags on items to see if their is any information on its origins, and was surprised to find that if an item is sustainable or ethical, it is usually eager to tell you so. Don’t be afraid to ask store owners or workers about where their clothing is made. If something looks suspicious, it probably is.

Get creative.

Don’t be afraid to bring home more obscure souvenirs. Locally roasted coffee beans (the bag will usually indicate if they’re fair-trade) or books about the new place. If you are traveling abroad, always grab different types of candy and snacks from the country. I have a friend who grabs business cards from all of the different places she visits. You are only as limited as your mind.

 

 

Daytime Disco Dress

One of my friends told me I looked like Hannah Montana in this outfit. No shame in dressing like a pop star every once in a while.

Often times, people will compliment my outfit and say something along the lines of, “I could never pull that off.” My response to this is always a resounding, “NOOOOOO.” Nothing makes me sadder than hearing that people aren’t dressing the way they want to simply because they feel that they aren’t the “right” type of person. You just need a little bit of courage and lot of sense of humor to put on that sparkly dress you want to wear even if you’re just going to brunch. The number one piece of advice I’d share about taking fashion risks is to understand that, unless you’re going to work, there is no reason to take fashion seriously. Play with it. Like I said earlier, people makes jokes about my outfits or say that I dress like a cartoon, but I don’t see that as a bad thing. If I put on something I love and it is a little weird, I just keep in mind that people will probably think so. For every person who doesn’t get your style, there will be tons more who are into your creativity and willingness to break the status quo.

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However, I did make some conscious accessory choices to help keep the outfit from being entirely distasteful. When I wear a really attention grabbing statement piece, I like to choose accessories that won’t compete for the attention. Sneakers and a denim jacket help tone this dress down, taking it from night club to casual. I still kept the beret and sneakers colorful because that’s my thing. It works even though the dress is so loud because the colors are in smaller doses.

Almost all of the items in the outfit were thrifted. Except the coffee.

Go forth and make fashion fools of yourselves. It’s a lot of fun.

Hot Take: Is H&M Recycling a Scam?

H&M has been advertising a program in which the buyer donates their old clothing to their local H&M for recycling in exchange for 15% off of their next purchase. Sounds pretty awesome right? Is it, though?

No? Maybe. Kind of.

I’d advise a healthy dose of suspicion toward fast fashion companies in general, but especially when they suddenly advertise their image in a way that is contrary to their entire system of functioning. Being “sustainable” and having a new display of clothing every week is just not compatible. It is important to ask what H&M’s motive is and even to question our own motive in participating.

This fast fashion company has gotten in trouble in the past for the mass shredding of never before sold or worn clothing. The recycling program, which has been going on for a couple of years, if my memory serves me correctly, is part of an attempt to shine up the store’s sullied image. Trying to clean their image is not a problem necessarily, but it is not entirely genuine.

The 15% off coupon is a huge incentive for most people, considering H&M’s already low prices. If a person drops off one bag of clothing and leaves with three new bags, has anything good truly been accomplished? It seems like one step forward and two steps back. It has the potential to create more waste than it eliminates.

It is also important to consider that clothing recycling is not magic. The act of shipping the clothing around and breaking it down for re-use is also a use of resources. A good use of them, but maybe your clothing could have a second life on a friend or in a re-sale shop before needing to reach its final demise. It is a fairly new practice that is rigorous and in need of more research for efficiency.

Recycling is always better than throwing away, but it is not better than not creating or consuming excess in the first place.

The final decision and conclusion is in your hands. Mostly, I urge you to never stop thinking critically.

 

Back in Time

Let’s go back in time. I don’t mean to the 1960s’ as my outfit might lead you to believe. (I’d rather stay in 2018, thank you very much.) I am referring to close to two months ago when this photo set was taken by my dear friend, Andrea.


I made this dress YEARS ago. When I was in the 11th grade, I decided to make this dress, inspired by Marina and the Diamonds’ Electra Heart phase. Thankfully, I still had pretty good taste back then, as this hot pink mini dress has stood the test of time.



It is crazy that I’ve waited so long to post these pictures considering how awesome Andrea did taking these. This was from one of the last times I hung out with my friends before leaving on a super long trip.


If you didn’t know, I’ve been in Hong Kong teaching English for the summer and I’m current in Cambodia. I have been insanely busy since the minute I got on the first plane, which is why I sat on this post for so long. It’s been a once in a life time experience for sure. I apologize for any mistakes in this post as I only have access to the internet through my phone right now. I am sorry to be so short but am excited to begin posting more in the weeks to come!

Thanks for your patience.

Fashion Isn’t Shallow (Or, It Doesn’t Have to Be)

Often, fashion is trivialized. Those who are involved in fashion are pinned as lacking the depth necessary for other hobbies. I was made to believe that fashion was vain. Women only care how they dressed to catch the gaze of men. Fashion is just a status symbol. I even pondered if my desire to put together unique outfits was “sinful” due to a combination of loose interpretation of scripture and church modesty culture. In early high school when my love of fashion was coming into full bloom, I was embarrassed and ashamed of it.

None of these previous statements about fashion are true (at least, ninety-eight percent of the time). Some of these statements are products of a society that profits off the objectification of women. Whether or not it should be this way, fashion has been classically identified with women. Modeling and fashion are among the few industries where women have an upper hand, as queen Tyra Banks has said. This art form is about us and society shudders at the thought of women doing anything just because we want to, so they flip it around and try to distort our motives. This is where the idea that fashion is about pleasing men comes from. If they can convince us for even a moment that pleasing men is what we desire, they can sell us more insight into the male mind. Whereas, it is much harder to sell to an audience whose criteria is defined solely on personal style. The idea that any appearance decision I have made was to please men is ludicrous. I wish I had a dollar for every instance throughout my life in which I was told boys liked girls with long hair and then decided to get a haircut anyway. I’m not recommending getting a haircut out of spite, but I may have done so once or twice.

Dispelling the other misconceptions doesn’t take much. The idea that fashion is lacking depth is a statement lacking depth in itself. Do not tell me I cannot be both an honors student and a fashionista: I contain multitudes. There is a difference between loving fashion and loving shopping. Do not equate every person who is into fashion as someone with a 2003-Paris-Hilton-esque shopping addiction. It is not about spending money and it is not about having the latest trend. Many people have even moved away from the word “fashion” to focus more on “style” in order to stop being viewed as a trend-leech. It is especially hard to say that fashion-lovers are shallow when so many of us are using our platforms for activism, drawing attention to slave-labor, unfair wages, and negative effects on the environment. How can you call us shallow when we are so willingly pointing out the flaws in the industry we love, so willing to hold nuanced views and have hard conversations?  

The most insecure years of my life I dressed in Nike shorts and old t-shirts. Of course, some people dress this way because that is how they are most comfortable. (Do your thing!) However, I used it as a form of camouflage. I did not want to be seen; I thought I was not supposed to want to be seen. I grew up, as many of us do, confusing insecurity with humility. Here is how I now differentiate: humility is how you view yourself in relation to others, being secure or insecure has to do with how you view yourself when no one else is around. Self-love and humility are not mutually exclusive. I thought I had to hate myself in order to think highly of others because that is what was modeled to me. I strongly believe we love others best when we learn to love ourselves (a process that takes time and is not linear, something we may all struggle with continually).

For me, fashion was and is self-love. It was a way of saying to myself, “It is okay for people to notice you. You are allowed to take up space.” I remember the first time I wore a skirt on a week-day–going somewhere that wasn’t a Sunday morning church service in a skirt was a huge deal. It was a gathered maroon skirt that I picked up from Forever 21. (Forgive me of my past sins.) I was nervous and self-conscious, constantly tugging at the hem. Simultaneous proud of myself while also hoping no one would comment on it. And yet, someone did. I remember someone asking what I was “so dressed up for.” The classic and unintentionally yet blatantly misogynistic, “What, do you have a date or something?” I replied with a line I had rehearsed in my head over and over in preparation for the impending battle ahead, “I don’t need a reason to dress up.” I may have stuttered, may not have looked the opponent in the eye. It was not a perfect battle, but it was a quiet victory. It was a step towards freedom from physical shame.

Fashion is not an inherently shallow form of art just because your body is the canvas. Art is vast. It is anything we create. Sometimes our best creation is ourselves. You are allowed to feel like a work of art. If you feel that way no matter what you wear, that’s beautiful. Sometimes we all need to dress up a bit to remind us that we are all alive, capable, and growing. We must fight self-hate in whatever ways that we can. I choose to fight with fashion.

Capsule Wardrobes and Traveling Style

I started off this summer by spending five days in Washington D. C. and five days in New York City. Naturally, I wanted to dress as extra as possible while being there. However, I was encouraged to only bring a carry-on and wanted to leave plenty of room for souvenirs as well. I decided to try packing a small capsule wardrobe, and this outfit is just one of many outfits I was able to form with just a few pieces.

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A capsule wardrobe is a small collection of clothing in which all of the pieces can be worn together interchangeably. Some people do this for their entire wardrobe as a way of consuming less. If that’s your thing, awesome! However, for those of us who consider fashion a hobby, it is a little less feasible to do this on a daily basis. My capsule wardrobe was composed of a smaller selection of the clothes that I already owned that would fit easily into a carry-on.

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Here is the break down of my capsule wardrobe: two skirts, three tops, two dresses, and one pair of shorts. It was important for me to choose light weight items and items that all fit into the same color scheme. These items make a combined total of eleven outfits. Capsule wardrobes don’t have to be boring and neutral. Accessories, like this vintage scarf from my grandma, take up almost no space. I brought lots of scarves, necklaces, and hair-clips which put a new spin on an old outfit if I decided to wear it again.


After packing all of these items, I still had an entire half of my bag empty, which I promptly filled full of vintage and thrifted items from New York. If not for your everyday wardrobe, I recommend capsule wardrobes for traveling. Less time picking out an outfit means more time for ice cream in Chinatown.

Let me know if anyone is interested in a post about my vintage shopping experience in NYC!

Early Summer Sunset

Summer weather recently hit the Midwest full force and I am 100% more of a person than I was before it came. I always forget how much more alive I feel in the sunshine.

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I love novelty prints and bright colors no matter the season. However, I look a lot less out of place in the summer. Believe it or not, this is not the only lemon printed shirt that I own. I bought this shirt in high school, but these vintage peachy shorts were a recent Salvation Army purchase.

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This girl loves to be ridiculously matchy-matchy, hence the shirt and scarf combination, so I had to grab this lemon mug at Goodwill. It was fate. Besides tied scarves, which are a personal favorite in every season, my favorite accessories for the summer are colorful barrettes. They are a simple way to add some extra color to an outfit, especially for us short-haired girls who don’t have many options for switching up hairstyles. I like stacking several colors, especially yellow, orange, and pink as they resemble a sunset. Just pick up a rainbow pack from your favorite store in the little girls’ section (no shame).

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Velco sneakers are comfy, casual, and quirky. They add a silly touch to my already fairly silly outfit. Shoes always make the final decision about how casual or dressed up an outfit is, making these shoes perfect for everyday summer looks. I love to wear dresses on a daily basis and these shoes are the perfect paring to keep me from being too overdressed, if one believes in such a thing.

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This is one of the first summers I won’t be spending my time in class or working. I have been blessed with a lot of opportunities to travel, which is why I have gone back to a lower maintenance hair color. I am not sure what my blogging schedule will be like, but I am excited to find more unique places to take pictures as well as just to soak up new experiences.

Sail Away in Second-Hand

As an early celebration of Earth Day, I am featuring two of my favorite second-hand items: vintage clothes and used books.

Listen, I know that it is more earth friendly to read books on a Kindle but I think most book-lovers would agree that nothing beats the feeling of a physical book in your hands. Shopping at local second-hand book shops, like Always Buying Books, is the best way to keep up with my book habit without having to go electronic.

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This vintage sailor dress overflows with just as much whimsy as this darling book shop. I love finding old handmade items because it is fun to imagine someone’s mom sewing her this dress just in time for spring. Both this dress and these socks were obtained while I was working for an estate sale company this past summer. An estate sale is a great place to find vintage pieces which is often overlooked. If you are up for a treasure hunt, hit one up sometime.

I just purchased these Velcro babies on Depop and I am never taking them off. If you didn’t already know, Depop is the equivalent of an online thrift store. You can sell your used clothing items or purchase other’s. These shoes are a little goofy but I love them paired with almost anything– mini dresses, jeans, shorts. They add a little bit of personality to any outfit and make me feel like a cartoon girl.

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This post may be a little scatterbrained, but this is all just to say that you don’t have to give up all the things that you love in order to live a greener life. Making alterations in the way you consume and finding small ways reduce how much waste you create make a difference in the long run, whether that be buying used items or donating rather than trashing.

How do you live greener every day?