Style Wise | Ethical Fashion, Fair Trade, Sustainability


You Don't Have to Feel It

Have you ever wondered why nonprofits and fair trade organizations insist on including images of starving children, decimated village landscapes, and communities in tattered clothing in their promotions? 

It's because they know that people make decisions with their feelings. The statistic that 2,500 children in Africa are dying of thirst everyday may not trigger an emotional response, but an image of an emaciated child can release a torrent of tears; it's even better if a sad song is playing in the background. If you see it, you might do something about it. You might sponsor a child or support a co-op that provides a living wage for her mother. You might give an impassioned speech about our calling to help the needy and orphaned in the world at the next dinner party you attend.

But the image will soon fade and you'll become preoccupied once again with daily annoyances, financial uncertainties, facebook arguments, or injustices at your workplace. Maybe, on a quiet evening at home, you'll wonder why you can't keep that fire alive to help the hopeless. You'll do a little research. You'll seek out pictures of starving families in an effort to get the tears flowing again.

A social justice model that relies on emotion to inform action isn't sustainable. Though we may initially rely on feelings to spur us to moral action, we don't need them to keep going. Once we realize that people are struggling and that we're a part of the problem, we don't have to feel it to know that we have to make a change. If you need to summon that post-cry, hollow feeling in your chest in order to help someone, you're going to get burnt out rather quickly.

This subject is something I can't overemphasize. It's the most difficult thing for people to grasp because our feelings are wired to max out at a certain number of individuals. People in Bangladesh or Uganda or Ukraine are dim shadows on the far borders of our social circles. We simply don't have the capacity to care about them as much as the people we see everyday. The great thing is that you don't have to care about them with your heart to care about them in general.

At some point, our feelings of guilt, distress, and empathy need to tiptoe their way to habit building. We need to employ the ever practical, cognitive part of our brain that helps us make the moral choice because it's essential, not because it's sad. When you make it your duty to do right, you free yourself up to move forward - to make an even greater impact - because you're no longer crippled by feeling.

Nonprofits don't need to change the way they promote their programs; it's essential that they pull on people's heartstrings to win them over. But they, and we, should work to teach our communities that charity works better when it's more than a feeling. We must emphasize over and over that moral habits are much more effective and much more sustainable when we don't feel an obligation to cry about it everyday.

You don't have to feel it. You just have to do it.

may favorites


favorites by fracturedradiance featuring a blue cardigan

Remember how I used to draw my monthly favorites? I ran out of drawing paper and didn't bother to buy another pad, so I temporarily removed this feature. But polyvore is also a great medium for product lists and its styleboards are shoppable, which makes life easier for me by ensuring proper credit is given to the companies and retailers that sell listed products.

It's been quite hot in Charlottesville, but last night's rain brought cooler temperatures, which means I can wear the cute varsity cardigan my friend gave me earlier this week! Other recent favorites include Mel by Melissa jelly sandals, a domestically produced eye ring, an upcycled vintage dress by ASOS, Leah Goren's Girls tote (I bought one with slight imperfections for half price!), and pretty purple eyeshadow from Clinique.

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the moral wardrobe: catch up

summer style navy dress on6on3

I had a wonderful, jam-packed weekend working extra hours, attending a tea party, singing at church, doing a fashion shoot, driving to Richmond, and celebrating a friend's birthday party. It's always nice to have a full schedule, but I'm quite behind on Platinum and Rust updates and laundry, so I have to catch up in the next couple of days.

Speaking of Platinum and Rust, I found some groovy summer dresses I'm excited to list. I'm also interested to know what styles and items you're looking for this season, particularly if you like to buy vintage clothing. It'd be great if you'd leave me a comment or etsy message so I can try to find them for you.

Ethical choices are bolded below. Retailers taking steps to become more ethical are bolded in gray.

  • Dress - Vero Moda

  • Cardigan - thrifted

  • Earrings - handmade via etsy

  • Shoes - MIA

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the moral wardrobe: evening light

cg2 cg6cg3Today was hot, so-hot-you-can't-breathe hot. But the evening light was beautiful, so I took my outfit photos then spent a few minutes photographing light through leaves, berries hidden on trees, and exuberant branches, heavy with new life.

May has been a busy month and it looks like the days aren't slowing down. Daniel and I went to Appomattox to tour the Civil War museum yesterday. It takes a little over an hour to get there and we don't have air conditioning in our car, but luckily the sky was overcast and the breeze never stopped blowing over the narrow country roads. The air here smells like greenery, onions, and honey when it's warm.

This weekend I'm modeling for a local salon! Hopefully I'll get some real photos to share with you this time (the fashion show photos were a bit of a disappointment).

Ethical choices are bolded below. Retailers taking steps to become more ethical are bolded in gray.

  • Top - very old

  • Skirt - vintage

  • Shoes - MIA

  • Necklace - J. Crew Factory

summer leaves in fog

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an ethical outfit: farmers' market


newlook by fracturedradiance featuring Clinique

The one good thing about winter (besides the temporary thrill of snow) is that it makes warm weather feel like paradise. I'm having fun creating virtual outfits fit for all kinds of outdoor activities.

I don't attend the Saturday Farmers' Market as often as I should, but I want to make sure to go when my friend from Florida comes to town in a couple weeks. Local produce, food trucks, flowers, people watching, a guy who makes "Australian" pies - even if we don't buy anything, it's fun to look around.

Click on the styleboard to be redirected to product sources.

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sseko designs: a review & giveaway

sseko review photo

After searching far and wide for a versatile, relatively simple summer sandal, I decided on Sseko Designs. The sandals come in two parts: a leather and foam base and a ribbon strap. You can lace the strap up in more than a dozen ways to achieve different looks and you can purchase more straps in a variety of styles and fabrics to match any outfit. As long as they hold up, I could wear them forever without getting bored.

Sseko Designs was born when Liz Forkin Bohannon traveled to Uganda on a post college adventure. Once there, she realized that she could use her communications background for good, so she sought out Ugandan suppliers for her unique sandal design and trained young women to make them in exchange for fair wages and the funding necessary to receive a college education in Uganda.


I like Sseko Designs' structure because it takes the fair trade concept one step further. It provides a living wage and a good work environment, but it also encourages women to move forward and improve their communities in more substantial ways by going to college to pursue their passions and perfect their unique talents. The system is less likely to succumb to a white savior complex so often present in such models because it enables women to work for themselves and for their futures; they effect change in their own communities. Sure, I might buy the product, but I'm not put on a pedestal by doing so and I'm not led to objectify workers to appease my first world guilt (this is something that's quite hard to achieve in the fair trade model; I can think of a handful of companies who don't do a great job with this).

But here's the real question: do Sseko Sandals hold up? I really like them. The sole is sturdy and quite comfortable, comparable in comfort to Reefs. To test them, I wore them to my five hour shift at the coffee shop and my feet weren't killing me by the end of the day. The only downside is that I got my cotton straps wet in the rain and they ended up wrinkling, which makes it difficult to change the strap arrangement; I need to iron them out again. I should also mention that some styles feel less secure on my foot than others, so I don't have as many wearable options as the website suggests. This could be a personal issue based on the shape and width of my foot, though, so I wouldn't let that discourage you. Overall, for the price and quality, I would recommend Ssekos.


You can enter to win a pair of Sseko Designs' new t-strap sandals on instagram. Just click on the contest image to be redirected. It ends soon, so I'd enter today if I were you!
*I did not receive any compensation for writing this post. I paid for my own Sseko Designs sandals. I did receive access to press kit photos via Sseko Designs representatives.

spring cleaning


An important part of sustainable living is avoiding unnecessary purchases. It's something I hadn't considered when I started my fair trade journey a few years ago, but it might be one of the most important habits to adopt in the long run. Reducing my overall consumption in terms of how many things I buy is awesome because it naturally reorients my spending. It gives me the freedom in my budget to save up for fair trade options I really want instead of making stupid impulse purchases at every thrift store in town. It also gives me the wiggle room to invest in non-material things like traveling or just spending the afternoon reading instead of shopping around.

I went through my closet yesterday and realized I don't even wear a dozen pairs of shoes I own. The fact that I can get rid of a dozen pairs of shoes without making a real dent in my collection is baffling! I also found 8 or so varieties of the same knit shirt that I never wear. Granted, many of them were thrift store finds, but acquiring them wasted time and money better spent elsewhere.

I think the desire to dress creatively is great, but there's a tricky balance between wanting to be fashionable and buying responsibly. I think it's ok to infuse my wardrobe with the occasional kooky thrift store purchase, but even when shopping on the secondhand market, I need to weigh the practicality and long term potential of each item before pulling out the credit card. Sigh. It's an ongoing battle, but I am making progress. I'm learning how to work toward my goals as a consumer and conscientious citizen of the world without all the unproductive guilt trips I used to take myself on.

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the moral wardrobe: simple black & gray look vintage baseball tee sh3 looking outside
^ I was looking at a bird

This week has alternated between humid, intense heat and summer-like storms. I love it! Reminds me of Florida. Since all my grad student friends, including my husband, are finally free of their academic duties, we've been doing lots of celebrating: dinner parties, Mexican food, horror movie night. It makes me feel like I'm on vacation, too.

I'm happy to have a flexible schedule so I can hang out with everyone. This time last year I had just started a full time job with an evening shift that really limited social activities. I feel so fortunate to have an opportunity to enjoy this summer to its fullest potential. One of my friends just booked her flight up to C-Ville, so I'll get to show her around town in less than a month!

Ethical choices are bolded below. Retailers taking steps to become more ethical are bolded in gray.

  • Top - American Apparel

  • Skirt -

  • Shoes - Sseko

  • Belt - thrifted

macro berries

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an ethical outfit: weekend sightseeing


sightseeing by fracturedradiance featuring stud earrings

Simple, feminine, and comfortable for a quick weekend away. Daniel and I plan to make frequent weekend trips this summer. Richmond, Williamsburg, Virginia Beach - I'm excited for the time and freedom to explore the state more and revisit favorite places. Of course, our car doesn't have air conditioning, so we'll have to take several gallons of cold water with us to make it work.

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