Tips and Tricks: Taking the Ethical Fashion Plunge (3 of 3)

Want to take the ethical fashion plunge, but not sure where to begin? I have compiled a list of my tips for getting started. If you have been following the series, you’ll know I wrote two informational posts about fashion’s effect on humanity and on the earth, which help explain why you should start being more conscious of how you’re handling clothing. Now that you know why, I thought it would be helpful for me to provide a how, as well. It may not be plausible to make all of these drastic changes immediately, but I’d challenge you to pick a couple of these to implement in your daily life.

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How to Start the Ethical Fashion Journey

  • DONATE your old clothes rather than just tossing them.

    • Take clothing to a trusted thrift store. Many of those drop-boxes on the side of the road can be misleading. They often end up throwing a lot of the items away, rather than actually reusing them. (This is not true in all cases, but try to look into it before you toss the bag.)
    • Let your friends look through your old clothes. I bet you’re pretty stylish. You know your pals would love a free blouse.
    • Pay attention to the people in your community, and give hand-me-downs to those that can use them. When I was in high school, there was never a shortage of junior high girls at my church who would happily receive the items which I had outgrown.
  • MAKE something new out of something old.

    • One of my favorite youtubers and biggest ethical fashion inspirations, Annika Victoria, has a TON of tutorials for sewing and clothing DIYs. She has varying difficulty levels, so there is something for everyone.
    • If you can’t sew your old clothes into something you’d like to wear, you can easily create dish rags or re-usable grocery bags out of them. Even if you aren’t much of a DIY-er, you’d be surprised how simple it is to up-cycle. (Let me know below if you’d be interested in a tutorial on any of these, to help you kick-start your up-cycling.)
  • EDUCATE yourself.

    • Good On You app is a great resource to find out what stores you like to shop at are ethical. It is a super easy to keep this app on your phone and check it before you head out to shop or even while you are in a store.
    • This website has a lot of information on the transparency of popular brands.
    • We have access to infinite knowledge with the internet. There are apps, websites, and something as simple as a quick google search can get you farther than you think.
    • We need to show the fashion industry we won’t stand for the way they are conducting things. They want our money, and if they realize they won’t get it if they keep abusing their power, they’ll start to make changes. You can’t stop supporting bad companies if you aren’t willing to find out who is doing what.
  • INVEST in ethically conscious, well-made items.

    • Brands that are ethically conscious tend to be more expensive by nature. It takes more money to pay workers well and keep facilities up to code. We need to change our mindsets from expecting to buy tons of items for cheap to investing in key pieces that we can keep longer. In the end, the money evens out, we just throw out less poorly made items.
    • Big Bud Press is one of my favorite brands, currently. They may be a little out-there for some of my readers, but they are full of psychedelic color and all of their items are made in Los Angeles. They are totally transparent, and often post videos of their clothes-making processes on their Instagram story.
    • Miracle Eye is a 1960’s and 1970’s inspired clothing line, which is totally ethical from start to finish. I’m obsessed with their velvet mini dresses and jumpsuits. Getting into ethical fashion is a great way to start supporting small businesses and artists who are doing great things in fashion.
    • If you are into hiking, or pretending that you are outdoorsy, Patagonia is actually one of the most outstanding brands I have ever seen. They have TONS of information on their website about sustainability.
    • There are plenty of other ethical brands online. Searching Etsy is a pretty easy way to find some, if none of my suggestions tickle your fancy, I’d encourage you to search out the locally owned stores, vintage shops, and thrift shops  in your area.

(I am not affiliated with any of the brands or other resources linked throughout this post.)

If you are overwhelmed, simply pick one or two of these changes to integrate into your life. It may seem like we are too small to make a positive change with our personal choices, but a movement always starts with individuals. If you learned anything from this post, I hope it was that there are tangible ways to make a change on the world around us. We mustn’t be idle when there is so much good we are capable of accomplishing. Are there any tips you would add to the list? Let me know!

 

Baby Blue – Handmade Fashion

This blog has been up and running for several months and, yet, this is the first time I have featured a clothing item that I made myself. This is mostly due to the fact that this blog has only ever known fall and winter, and 95% of my sewing projects are dresses. So, without further ado, brought to you by an unexpectedly warm day in the middle of February, I present to you one of my own creations.

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This dress was made from a reproduction of a vintage 1960’s pattern. 1960’s mini dresses are one of absolute favorite pieces of clothing, ever. They are so cutesy and whimsical and wearable. I love how the 60’s style is very doll-like. These dresses are versatile, easy to style, and do not blow up in the wind like most dresses, which is a pretty huge plus if you ask me.

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I picked up this vintage, baby blue fabric from a second-hand store in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. One of my favorite places to buy fabric is at thrift stores and vintage shops. Not only is it more inexpensive than buying new, but I can always find unique patterns and colors that I wouldn’t be able to find somewhere like Jo-Ann’s or Hobby Lobby. These colorful buttons were found in one of the many, many jars of my mother’s button collection. Having a sewing teacher for a mother has its perks. The button details add a lot of character to a dress which would otherwise have a lot blank space.

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My friend Charity took these super fun pictures for this blog post. I am infinitely thankful that I have so many friends who have an artistic eye and are down for impromptu photo shoots. Also, Charity told me I had to pose by this because it matched my yellow button.

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This was my first attempt at using a decorative zipper, and I love the way it turned out. I usually opt for an invisible zipper, because they are easy and unnoticeable, but, like the buttons, this zipper is an example of how small details can make such a huge difference.

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I started sewing my own clothing mostly because I was having a hard time finding clothes in styles that I wanted. Vintage shopping can be expensive and time consuming, and sometimes the pieces I have made up in my head just don’t exist yet. Sewing gave me a creative outlet; a way to put the inside of my brain on the outside of my body. Now that I am learning about ethical fashion, being able to sew my own clothes is a great option because I know exactly where every piece comes from. I’m looking forward to spring so that I can post more of the pieces I designed and made myself.

I hope you are all staying warm these last weeks of winter.

Fashion and the Environment (2 of 3)

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In the first part of my ethical fashion series, I tackled how the fashion industry affects humanity. Today I’ll be explaining the fashion industry’s effect on the earth (which also, in turn, affects humanity). If you want a little bit of background on this topic before diving in, click here to read my first post. This issue is fairly complex, having different facets such as the production, materials, and us– the consumers. I am no professional, but we are all capable of educating ourselves, so read on if you’d like to raise your awareness with me.

Production & Materials

Every item of clothing produced uses up resources and, since we are buying more clothes than ever, companies are producing more than ever, and using up resources at a vastly unsustainable rate. One of the most prominent examples of this is the disappearance of the Aral Sea due to the vast amount of water necessary in cotton farming. The amount of water it takes to produce one cotton shirt is enough for a person to drink in over two years (about 27,000 liters) according the World Resources Institute. In the process of drying up the Aral Sea, around 60,000 people lost jobs in fishing. Not to mention the water and air pollution caused by pesticides used in cotton farming which release carcinogens and toxins, causing sickness and death in the surrounding areas. Humanity cannot afford to farm cotton at the rate that fast fashion companies are producing items.

(Other materials, such as leather and fur, have a big impact on the environment, but for the sake of this article’s length and the fact that most of us are more likely to be consumers of cotton, I left them them out.)

Although the creation of synthetic fibers can reduce the use of natural resources in the process of making clothing, it ends up negatively affecting the earth toward the end, or lack thereof, of the clothing item’s life. Synthetic products, such as polyester, do not biodegrade. So, when it gets tossed out, it sits in a landfill basically forever. When all human life, animal life, and the earth itself have passed away, there will just be millions of transcendent polyester mini-dresses floating throughout space. (Okay, that was definitely not scientific, but I was worried you stopped paying attention.)

Now what?

I know what you are thinking, “If natural fibers are bad and synthetic fibers are bad, are we just supposed to become nudists?” And the answer is no (or, yes, if you feel so inclined). Natural fibers, such as cotton, are definitely the best option, we just need to make sure we are supporting companies which source products that are organic (leaving out all those bad chemicals) and sustainable (paying attention to how they are using resources). The issue is not that we need to stop growing natural materials, we just need to grow less of it and grow it responsibly. This may sounds impossible, but if companies such as Patagonia can do a fantastic job of this, I believe other companies can follow suit.

Us

We cannot entirely place the blame on the industry, as we all have a shared responsibility in what and how we consume. According to the World Resources Institute, a regular shopper is buying 60% more clothing than they were less than twenty years ago, while only holding on to it for half of the time. A byproduct of inexpensively made and mass-produced clothing is the lack of quality. When the clothing we buy falls apart because it was cheaply made, we just toss it in the trash and head back to the mall, knowing that it won’t leave too big of a dent in our wallets.  If we throw away synthetic items, they will just take up space in landfills and even natural fibers will sit in landfills for a while before degrading, “due to lack of sunlight and oxygen,” according to EcoGoodz. The best way for us to partake in fashion responsibly is to wear our clothing for longer, reuse it when we can, and recycle it when we can’t.

I know I just dumped a ton of information on you, but the crazy thing is that I just barely scratched the surface. If you want to know even more about this topic, I recommend clicking on some of the articles that I sourced throughout. More than anything, my goal was to get the conversation started so you might begin thinking about your personal impact on the world. My next and last post in this series is going to focus more on what we can do to make our fashion choices more ethical, so stay tuned for that. I hope that we will all continue educating ourselves to the best of our abilities so that we might care for one another, and our earth, better.

Pink(ish) Everything

Surprise! I dyed my hair purple. Or pink. Whatever. I don’t need labels. What better way to debut my pink(ish) hair on my blog than with an entirely pink outfit?

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Listen, I know that it is frowned upon to wear an outfit composed entirely of one color, but it is secretly one of my favorite things to do. Maybe I just like to challenge myself to pull off an outfit that is kind of hard to pull off. Or, maybe I just like how extra cutesy I feel in head to toe pink.

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I’d like to offer some tips on rocking singular colored look, but it is pretty subjective. However, I do recommend making sure that the shades are very different. My sweater is very pale, while the roses on my shirt are hot pink, and my shoes are bubblegum. They compliment each other better this way than if they were more similar. If the shades are too close together, it just looks like you didn’t really know what you were doing, while choosing diverse shades of the color appears as a purposeful statement.

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To get my hair a lighter color, I used regular dye in a vibrant color which I diluted with hair conditioner until it was closer to the shade that I wanted. I have been having a reoccurring problem of hair dyes lying to me about their color. This dye is Punky Colors’ “plum” and it is a little pinker than I intended. I also tried the same brand’s “purple” and found that it was even more pink. However, I still enjoy the color and am finding that is staying in my hair fairly well through washes. Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches and rock it anyway. (Also, please note and appreciate that I am having a good eyeliner day in this picture.)

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My embroidered rose shirt was thrifted from Penny Pincher’s here in Joplin, which has since closed down, my baby pink cardigan is from Goodwill, and my pink Keds are from Goodwill, as well. The only non-thrifted piece of my outfit are these super comfy high-waisted jeans from Target. I like to keep it casual and cozy on days where I have to be in class most of the day. I keep it cute at the same time by choosing cozy pieces in my favorite colors, with fun prints and textures.

Today’s pictures were just taken around my campus because as school is heading into full swing, it becomes a little harder to find extra time to take pictures. (Not to mention the lack of cute locations in Joplin.) I hope you enjoyed my simple and slightly ridiculous outfit, none the less. 

Coffee Shop Blues (and Other Colors)

Sometimes the stars align when I walk into a building and my outfit matches the interior design so well that an impromptu photo shoot is necessary. On those days, I am thankful that my favorite coffee shop buddy is a killer photographer like Andrea.

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These photos were all taken at Hank’s Coffee and Wine in Midtown, OKC before I left to go back to Joplin for school. It was such a cozy hangout spot with great coffee. There were almost always dogs there, so that is also a major plus. I am definitely missing it after being back at school for a week.

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The lighting in Hank’s was gorgeous, not to mention the mixture of this pastel couch and the muted tones in my outfit. I used to cringe at the idea of indoor photo shoots in shops and restaurants. They were so public and embarrassing to do in the middle of everyone. Let me tell you, I have pretty much lost any fear, barely even flinching when Andrea jokingly told me to pose like a “sexy librarian” in the middle of a busy coffee shop.

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This bandit style scarf is the closest to cowgirl that my style will ever get. I love tying my square scarves like this because it displays the print much better than when I tie them ascot-style. This scarf has the cutest little fruit print (apples? oranges? I honestly have no idea) so it is a total injustice not to wear it this way every once in a while.

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This outfit is composed of a second-hand scarf, a sweater stolen from my sister’s closet, and a jumpsuit I bought at target my senior year. So, good luck finding any of these pieces. Layering is my best friend. This wide-leg, denim jumpsuit is one my favorite 70s’ vibe pieces I own. I love layering over and under it so that I can get as much use as possible out of such a unique piece.

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Once again, might I point out that socks are the single most underrated accessory? Capri length pants are my favorite because I get a little room to peak my socks. These sheer,  lacy socks were a Christmas present, so I couldn’t tell you where they are from. They seem like a small detail, but their addition makes a difference, tying in the ivory background of the scarf.

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I pretty much consider this couch as a part of my outfit. So, I thought I’d end this post with a picture of my completed look.

I am making a goal to post much more consistently this semester to force myself to take some regular time off from school to create, so you can look forward to that. Unless you hate this blog, then sorry. Why are you reading it? Also, I am still working on my second post in my ethical fashion series, so don’t loose faith in me. I put a lot of effort into them to make sure they are as accurate and well-researched as possible, so hold on a bit longer. It is coming. Here is a link to my last one, if you missed it. I added a few more pictures than usual to this post, so thanks for scrolling through them all.

I am wishing you all a peaceful beginning to the semester.

What the H*ck is “Ethical Fashion,” Anyway? (1 of 3)

How “Ethical” are Your Clothing Choices?

This is a relatively new question that many people have never taken time to consider. Ever wonder how it is possible that there are $2 camisoles at Forever 21? Usually we are too excited about the cheap prices to consider that there may be some corners cut along the way to make these prices possible. In short, the question of fashion “ethics” is a question of whether one’s wardrobe choices are positively or negatively affecting the world around them. It is a complex issue, but hold on tight; I’ll try and make this as painless as possible. (Spoiler: finding out some of your favorite stores use slave-labor is going to be painful.)

There are TWO main concerns when it comes to ethical fashion, to put it simply. How does the fashion industry affect humanity and how does it affect the environment? Both of these are concerned with the conditions of the factories where clothes are made. The biggest culprit causing the fashion industry to be detrimental is fast fashion.

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Defining “Fast Fashion”

Fast fashion is the industry that produces the cheap, trendy, low-quality items that you find in most mall stores. This industry profits off of our fast-moving culture. They produce clothing at rapid speeds, we buy, we get bored, and two days later the shelves are restocked and the process begins again. However, to be able to produce clothing so quickly that the average person can afford to keep buying on a weekly basis, companies need insanely cheap labor, which is just as sketchy as it sounds.

Humanity of Fashion

Our clothing is not made in a vacuum. In order for Forever 21 to grace us with their latest $9 pizza-graphic crop top every week, they are basically using slave labor. (Nice try with that “John 3:16” on your bags, F21, we see through you.) If the prices in your favorite store seem too good to be true, they probably are. It is easy to ignore this happening, as it is quite literally out of sight out of mind.

Most businesses place their factories in other countries, where there is a great need for work, making it easier for them to exploit workers by paying far, far below living wages. These low-budget factories are often hazardous, meaning that workers’ lives are at risk as well (e.g. the 117 who died infamous factory-fire in Bangladesh, 2012). This Huffington Post article written by Shannon Whitehead Lohr reveals that inexpensive beaded items are often a sign of child labor, as the equipment required to do bead-work is more expensive than low-cost brands can afford. While many companies have been outed for this slave labor, some refuse to disclose information on their employees and factories entirely. If they don’t want us to see it, we can infer that there is probably something disgusting they are hiding. Our blind support of these companies directly allows, and even promotes, the exploitation of real human lives to continue without challenge.

This website has information on what businesses are disclosing factory information.

This blog post is part one in my three part series explaining ethical fashion. Stay tuned for my seconds part on how the fashion industry affects the earth, and finally my third part on tips to becoming ethical in your wardrobe choices. This information is not meant to guilt anyone into change, but rather to help get the ball rolling on this important conversation. Many people cynically believe that one’s personal choices cannot affect industries at large, but many companies have been known to change their ways based on pressures from the public. You are more powerful than you know. Together we can make the fashion industry a more conscious place.

I appreciate you taking the time to read about a topic I am passionate about.

Never stop learning!

Thrifting 101

Thrifting isn’t new. In fact, it is pretty trendy right now. Even so, many people are struck with an overwhelming fear upon entering a stuffed-to-the-brim thrift shop, unable to tell the hidden gems from the smelly and trashy garments. If you feel this shrinking, suffocating fear, as though you might be consumed and overcome by the thrift shop, and then spit back out with nothing to show for it, read on, dear friend. Upon request, I decided to type up my personal strategy to help you slay the beast.

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1. Know What You’re Into

The best way to overcome the initial thrifters’ shock is to go in knowing your favorite colors, patterns, and textures. I don’t always have time to go through and look at every single item on a rack. Shopping that way can be draining and make one want to give up before ever finding anything. Instead of this, I skim the racks by running my hand over them and looking for colors in my color scheme. For me, this means looking for polka dots, pastels, and unique patterns. I only pull items that I know might already fit into my wardrobe, cutting down on time and making the whole experience much less overwhelming and much quicker.

2. Ditch the Name Brands

Hear me out. Most of the trendy styles you are into are not as new as you think. You can find older items that fit into current trends with the only difference being that it is some random brand no one has ever heard of instead of Forever 21. Trends like corduroy, crushed velvet, and flannels have been around since the 90s and earlier. If you keep an open mind, you will be able to find some killer unique pieces which are right on trend that no one else will be able to replicate.

3. But If You Can’t….

The best shops for name brands are chains such as Goodwill and Salvation Army. More people are apt to donate there since they are the most well-known, so they are more likely to carry big name items. Another thing to keep in mind is the area demographics. Sometimes driving into the snooty area of town and shopping in their thrift shops can pay off. This is basically the same concept as having your parents drive you to the neighborhoods that you knew would give out full-sized candy bars on Halloween as a kid. Thankfully, thrift store prices tend to stay the same no matter what area you are in, but the people in these areas will donate high-scale items.

4. Try that Bad Boy on!

There have been so many times an item looked iffy on the hanger but became one of my new favorites once I tried it on. Thrift shops are full of ugly-cute type of items. The type of thing that is interesting to you and that you are kind of into, but it is a little too out of your comfort zone. Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith. The best part about thrift shops is finding an item you never knew existed. So just try it on.

5. Check the Pockets

Okay, I know this one is weird, but this one is absolutely from personal error. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have subconsciously reached my hand into a newly-thrifted jacket pocket only to violently retreat it back out in sheer terror. You never know what is lurking in the pockets, so take a look before you put it through the wash for the first time. I have found old candy, receipts, crumbs, and who knows what else. Just trust me.

6. Don’t Confine Yourself

Full disclosure, I don’t only shop in the women’s section. Sometimes the men’s section has much better sweaters. I am pretty small, so I’ll even check the little girl’s XL section sometimes. Not everyone can shop so freely, due to size restrictions, but don’t be afraid to break out of your designated section and check out the others.

 

Thrift shopping is great for the environment and for you wallet, not to mention your unique style. If you’ve been on the fence about it, I hope you’ll give it a try and let me know if this list helped you out. Now go forth and find the perfect Christmas outfit.