Style Wise | Ethical Fashion, Fair Trade, Sustainability

SUSTAINABLE STYLE & ETHICAL LIVING

2014: what I learned

I'm following Hoda's lead and considering what 2014 taught me. It was a long, winding, weird year, but it was good.

2014

1. Taking risks is worth it.


In April, I applied to model in a local fashion show on a whim. I agreed to let them chop off my hair and dye it platinum blonde. In May, I took another leap and participated in a collaborative beauty/fashion shoot, wearing teeny tiny bloomers and a blouse on a downtown rooftop and doing my best model poses. Then, at the end of the summer, I got a call out of the blue asking me if I was still interested in a thrift shop job I had applied for two years ago. I accepted.

Every time I took a risk this year, a small voice in the back of my head told me I was being crazy, that I would fail or be burdened by regret or embarrass myself. But every risk I took was worth it. I wanted to model, so I modeled. I wanted a shot at running a business and working in the nonprofit industry and I got it, even though it meant giving up a job that I truly enjoyed and plunging head first into a position with less than four days of training.

2. Caring is a lifestyle, not a hobby.


I became interested in fair trade issues a couple years ago and have really enjoyed and been challenged by the project of conforming my consumer habits to my values. But I realized, especially this year, that caring can't apply to just one category. As I began to try to figure out how to support fair trade causes, I also started to care more about environmental sustainability issues. I started to think about the people in my own country who don't benefit from the privileges I enjoy.

I timidly joined conversations on race, religion, and gender identity. I learned that it's not enough to have a pet cause, because caring is something I must choose in every interaction, in every comment. Justice will come when we all start communicating with compassion and intention and when our work reflects the kindness and vulnerability we have fostered deep within us. We don't get to take a break from this work.

3. Self reflection is necessary, but too much of it is destructive.


I've always been obsessed with parsing out every detail of my life. I consider and reconsider my interactions with friends, coworkers, and clients until nothing makes sense. But this year I decided to live a little more. I spent more time out of the house, in conversation with smart, weird, funny people. I rehearsed with a girl band. I traveled and photographed and stomped though snow drifts. I've reflected at times at my lack of reflection and have wondered if there's something wrong, but, you know, I feel really happy. There's such a thing as over-thinking and I'm thankful I'm letting myself enjoy life without so much internal commentary.

4. Listening is important.


If you want to get inside someone else's head, stop yakking for a second and listen to their story. We can't make the world better if we refuse to listen. I can't possibly know what it's like to be a person of color, a man, a Muslim, an elderly woman, homeless, etc., but I can listen to people who are ready and willing to share their experiences with me. Because I'm obsessed with self reflection, I can also get caught up in telling my experience, but I'm learning the value of engaged listening.

I'm also learning that it's not my job to tell stories on behalf of those I deem less privileged than myself. Rather, it's up to me to clear the way for their voices to be heard. Basically, I shouldn't talk so much.

5. Grace.


Above all, I'm learning the power of extending and receiving grace. We're all flawed, self conscious, and irrational at times. We need to cut each other slack and never turn our backs on one another. Grace should be given to everyone. Practicing it means we don't get to roll our eyes at our parents or avoid that particular friend who drives us crazy. It means we treat snooty people and humble people with the same amount of love, kindness, and understanding. It means we look for the good. It means we celebrate small acts of bravery. It means we forgive ourselves when we don't meet our own expectations and that we don't hold others to expectations they never asked to be held to.

It was a growing year for me in a lot of ways. I'm thankful for lessons learned and for challenges endured and overcome. I hope you can look back at your 2014 and see how far you've come!

Here's to 2015! 

modern slavery exhibit at the freedom center


Daniel happened upon the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center while researching Cincinnati based attractions. Housed in a modern building that follows the curves of Ohio River currents as it overlooks the Ohio River, it serves both as a memorial to those who suffered under the heavy burden of American slavery and a reminder that slavery still exists and that it's up to us to do something about it. 

Rather than focusing on artifacts, the freedom center is about stories. It features the narratives of hundreds of people who fought for freedom. It emphasizes that working together for a common cause is more important than classifications, backgrounds, and social boundaries. It also features a couple excellent short films that help us understand just how risky it was to help slaves escape. 

I think a lot of us are under the impression that we would be right there with the abolitionists, risking our lives to help people we don't even know simply because we know it's right. But I think if we take a really hard look at ourselves, a lot of us would realize that we might not be willing to die for someone who has no direct impact on our lives. The men and women of the Underground Railroad, slave and free, were incredibly courageous, more courageous than most of us have ever had to be. 


But the story doesn't end there. The Freedom Center partnered with International Justice Mission to tells the stories of present day slaves. They broke down global slavery into several categories, from sex slavery to child labor to forced factory labor. The exhibit was dark and jarring, with stories scrawled on dirty fabric scraps and mattresses. There was an ever-present creaking noise as a globe suspended from the ceiling slowly made its way around its axis over and over again. By the third display, I started to cry. I composed myself in the dark and moved forward.


The exhibit emphasized that, while anyone can be forced into slavery, the industry feeds on the desperate - on those with few resources and few options. And it happens everywhere, from Spain to Malaysia, from Peru to Texas and Florida in the United States. It happens right under our noses. It happens in industries we support with our consumer dollars. It's also quick to point out, however, that slavery and low wages are not the same. While wage slavery does exist, there are thousands of people who have absolutely no choice but to do the work they were stolen away to do or suffer the consequences. Young women are sold by their parents and fiances into prostitution. Children are sold to work in mines. Immigrants desperate for jobs to help feed their families are forced to work in tomato fields and sweatshops.

The reality is grim, but we do have the power to help free people from slavery. We may not be called to risk our lives as fieldworkers (but maybe some of you are), but we can contribute financially to organizations like International Justice Mission and to companies that adopt fair trade principles and work to ensure that their materials are sourced ethically. The museum devoted a whole room to resources and organizations that work to end the global slave trade and additional resources are offered periodically online.

The Freedom Center is concerned that it may not be able to secure long term funding. But it's a gem in a museum culture that often favors artifacts over narratives. We need stories more than we need porcelain fragments on display. If you get the chance, I encourage you to take a trip to Cincinnati and visit the Freedom Center.


the moral wardrobe: red and green

Ethical Details: Dress - old; Vest - thrifted; Earrings - Mata Traders; Belt - old

I wore this outfit for Christmas Eve. It's sad, though, because I wore my choir robes for the evening service, so it had a very brief moment in public. 

We've been spending time with my parents in Cincinnati, OH over the break. It's been great to catch up, sight-see together, and eat home cooked meals (don't worry; I helped with the mashed potatoes and made mug cakes for my mom and me). We went to the market on Saturday for phở, bánh mì, and Belgian waffles before heading to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, an incredibly moving exhibit that spans early American slavery to modern day, global slavery; I'll dedicate a post to it soon.


merry christmas


down in yon forest


We're singing a wonky version of this song at the late Christmas Eve service at my church. I hope you have a quiet, restful, meaningful evening even if you don't celebrate Christmas. If you do celebrate Christmas, however, I highly recommend attending an Episcopal service. I love the thoughtfulness of liturgical services, particularly on Christmas and Easter.

the moral wardrobe: nomads shrug and lariat necklace



I love this natural stone lariat necklace I received from Nomads. The beads are made of Amazonite, a mineral that is found in limited quantities in parts of Russia and the U.S. It goes with everything. All components were ethically sourced, then assembled in the UK. I paired it with Nomads' jersey shrug, a nice layering piece for chilly days. It has pretty ruching details on the sleeves and shoulder. This piece will also work well over sundresses (alas! all my tights were in the dryer when I got dressed today, so jeans had to do).

Ethical Details: Shrug - c/o Nomads Fair Trade; Jeans - made in USA via ModCloth; Eva Lariat Necklace - c/o Nomads Fair Trade; Top - Everlane

You probably noticed that I went back to a proper pixie. I always debate growing my hair out, then someone goes and asks me if I'm in high school and I promptly chop off my hair again. I don't mind looking young, but high school is a little too young. There are perks to looking like an adult.

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Get to know Nomads on facebook, pinterest, and twitter

this is where your Christmas stuff comes from


According to Quartz' recent article, about 60% of the world's new Christmas decorations come from the city of Yiwu in China. Reporters state that conditions are bad by western standards and that many workers are likely inhaling toxic chemicals on a daily basis. On the spectrum of possible working conditions, however, it's not so bad. 

What surprised me most about the video is that production looks more like a craft project than a factory operation. I think a lot of us assume that our goods are churned through a high tech, fully automated machine, but, in industries that rely on the cheapest manufacturing cost possible, it's not a priority to update equipment. It's much easier to employ people to do it all by hand. This is true even in U.S. factories. This is why fair labor is expensive. 

an ethical outfit: lunch with parents

lunch



I finally get to visit my parents for the first time in nearly two years! Their life was in upheaval when my dad lost his job last year and it's taken awhile for things to settle back down. Now they live in Cincinatti and we get to spend some time hanging out and exploring the city together. If the weather was mild enough, I'd wear this comfortable, sophisticated outfit for lunch and afternoon thrift shopping with my mom. 

I had resigned myself to never getting proper vacation time again, but I'm pretty fortunate to work at a job that is primarily staffed by volunteers. Since our staff refuses to volunteer during Christmas break, I don't have to be there either! I'm looking forward to getting a chance to travel without feeling guilty that I'm missing work. Today is my last day until 2015! Hooray!

the moral wardrobe: migraine weather

gap moto jacket
black and white outfit personal style
madden girl combat boots
thrifted outfit
Ethical Details: Top - thrifted; Skort - thrifted; Leggings - uber old; Socks - SmartWool

I was inspired by my thrift post to put together a thrifted outfit. With a little more thought, I could have easily gone full thrift, but, you know, I was getting dressed midday after a morning of blogging and it was surprisingly warm outside and I just needed to move forward with the day. 

I got this skort early on in college and am sort of horrified that I used to wear it without leggings underneath, as it's awfully short. Black and white pattern mixing is one of my favorite ways to make an outfit more interesting, but I also wanted to add some color with my jean jacket. 

The light in these photos is pretty crazy! Winter light has arrived, the kind that's so clear and white-bright it threatens to give you a migraine if you stay outside too long. I narrowly averted one this afternoon.

Do you have an old item in your closet that you'd second guess wearing now?

10 ways to thrift shop like a pro

thrift shop like a pro

I know there have got to be tons of thrift shopping guides on the internet, but were they written by a thrift shop professional?! I've been managing a local thrift shop for 5 months now and I still thrift in my spare time. I've got a system that helps me scan and shop even the largest shop in under an hour.

Here are my steps. Modify them to suit your needs!

Bring cash just in case.


Some of the best thrift shops don't have the income to support credit card costs. My thrift shop just got a card reader, but we still require your purchase to be greater than $10.00 to use it. You don't want to abandon your new favorite thing just because you don't have a few dollars with you.

Grab a cart. 


You may think you're only going to grab a couple things, but it's always best to go hands-free on a thrift adventure. Having a cart will make it easier to sort items and make your final choices. If the shop doesn't have carts available, ask an associate where you can stow your goods while you continue shopping.

Start in a section that inspires you. 


I always start in shoes! Even in Goodwills that organize shoes on top of the clothing racks, I prefer to skim shoes first just because I love them. Finding a few items I love at the very beginning encourages me to keep going and I can make sure I grab up what I want before someone else discovers them.

Spot clothing by pattern or color. 


Clothing racks at thrift shops can be extremely overwhelming, especially if they don't seem to be organized in any particular way. To get around the panic, I look for hints of patterns, textures, and colors that I love. The item may be the wrong size or in poor condition, but at least I've given myself a system to find the things that are best for me instead of mindlessly going through the entire rack.

thrift shop

If something is cool, but you're just not sure, put it in your cart anyway. 


This may sound counter intuitive - and it would be if you were at the department store - but thrift shopping offers opportunities to get creative. If a pattern or style appeals to you, but you don't know if it'll fit or flatter you, put it in your cart to try on. You never know!

Estimate your total along the way. 


Never stop tallying! For some, thrift shopping means spending under $20.00 every time. Since I resell and buy almost everything secondhand, I can easily rack up a total close to $100.00. I always estimate my total to make sure that I'm staying on budget. This also helps me part with things I don't really want anyway.

If you're buying it for yourself, try it on!


Admittedly, I have trouble with this one. I buy a lot of stuff without trying it on first, but there's a 50/50 chance it won't work out. Sure, it might be in your size or be your color or be really cheap, but trust me when I say you really don't want to make a habit of taking things home that you'll never wear.

Get a second opinion.


If you can, bring a friend who shares your passion for secondhand or knows your style well. If you can't, don't be afraid to ask an associate for her opinion. My thrift shop is staffed primarily by retired women (and me!) who would love to help you find something you love.

Narrow it down!


Now that your cart is piled high and you've tried everything on, begin the purge. Put back anything that doesn't fit correctly or is just too funky/boring to suit your needs. Check and double check for rips, stains, and tears. It's best to do this by laying the item as flat as you can get it and inspecting it from all angles in direct light. If you find quality issues, decide whether to tell an associate, put it back (if it's minor or noted already), or keep it. Keep in mind that some thrift shops will not allow you to purchase an item after you've noted a condition issue, so if you really want something with a tiny stain, keep that information to yourself.

If you love the shop, take a business card and get social.


Most thrift shops maintain a facebook page even if they don't have a website. If you can't readily find a business card, ask an associate for details. It's fun (and useful) to stay up to date on shop sales and events and the people who run the shop really appreciate your support. There are lots of thrift shop chains in the US these days, but the little guys (like me) have to work pretty hard to get the word out, so we rely on happy customers to tell others about it and to let us know how we can better serve the community.

Here's a helpful cheat sheet to pin or take with you!

thrift shop

the moral wardrobe: nomads peacock tunic

indian tunic

I'm feeling pretty groovy in this Nomads Peacock Dip Hem fair trade tunic. The silhouette is a little outside of the norm for me, but I love that it has a sort of late '60s feel to it. It's also long sleeved, which means I could (just barely) get away with wearing it without a sweater on Saturday. I think I'm finally starting to adapt to Charlottesville weather; either that, or I'll go to great lengths to get the perfect shot. 

Nomads graciously sent me a few items to style and review and this is the piece I looked forward to most. While this top is made of viscose for a flowy chiffon look, many of their pieces are made with organic cotton (you'll see a few examples here soon). I like the subtle bell sleeve created by elastic at the wrist and the perfect placement of the v-neck - it's not too low or too high. If you look at the pattern closely, you'll notice little peacocks! Nomads draws heavily on the craft and print traditions of India, where their goods are made under fair trade guidelines.

nomads printed peacock tunic on stylewiseblog.blogspot.com
boho style post womens fashion on stylewiseblog.blogspot.com

I wore this last Saturday. It turned out to be the relaxing day I'd been anticipating since before the toy sale and Daniel's end-of-semester madness began. I drove Daniel to school (UVa has this weird practice of administering finals on Saturdays), then headed downtown to buy some fair trade coffee and browse at Ten Thousand Villages before stopping into Java Java for a latte made with Equal Exchange fair trade coffee. I caught up with my old boss (I used to work there) and then walked around a local craft fair, where I saw a woman who made some of the clothing I wore in the fashion show I was in last April. 

Sometimes I get a bit bored with Charlottesville, but a trip downtown always cheers me up. This time around, there was an excellent banjo player and an accordionist singing Irish traditional music serenading people on the pedestrian mall. 

boho style post womens fashion on stylewiseblog.blogspot.com
 Ethical Details: Top - Peacock Dip Hem Shirt c/o Nomads; Shoes - old; Earrings - handmade via etsy

boho style post womens fashion on stylewiseblog.blogspot.com

Nomads is based in the UK, but ships internationally. They're currently offering 30% off a large selection of products, so it's a great time to shop!
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Get to know Nomads on facebook, pinterest, and twitter

Interview: A Look Inside the Origin and Process of MATTER Prints

MATTER Prints interview


Pants to see the world in.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Renyung Ho, co-founder of social enterprise, Matter, about the brand and its mission. I hope you enjoy reading about the process and inspiration behind some pretty groovy pants.

In one sentence or less, how would you describe MATTER? 

A socially motivated business focusing on affordable luxury, thoughtful design and provenance to create travel wear with stories to tell – the first edition is pants to see the world in.
Do you remember the moment or particular experience that motivated you live more ethically?

I don't think there was a specific moment, but more a realisation that we're all dealt with an uneven hand in life, and that I was incredibly privileged to be born where I am. I knew early on that I wanted to work to even out the opportunities available to people.  

How did MATTER start? Why pants? 

MATTER was sparked by the excitement of travel and the human connection that comes with it. The feeling of anything is possible, the richness of a life that is open to global inspiration. I met my co-founder, Yvonne, on the beaches of Mexico, and we were inspired to combine our love for travel, cultural stories, and unique travel wear into a business catering to the global nomad.  Practically, it kicked off last year when I drove a tuktuk covering 3000km from North to South India for a charity drive – I fell in love with the country, met some key people I work with now, and was inspired as to how something small can really go a long way.  The message is to find out the where and why something is made – we will make better choices when we know those stories, for ourselves and the world. Also, that we are all connected – that’s why it’s called MATTER – going back to the basics that connect us. In terms of why pants, there is still something slightly rebellious about women wearing pants. It suggests a woman in control and living her life and having her adventures. Those are the women who inspire me in my life and inspire us in Matter. Pants are extremely comfortable whether you’re getting wandering around the back streets of Barcelona or in the aisles of your local supermarket. 

Plus, we believe in doing one thing really well and excelling in that. And so even though we want to eventually expand into other types of travel wear, pants will be our main focus for the near future.


What made you decide to source and work primarily within Singapore? What strengths and weaknesses does your location provide for the company? 

We actually work with artisans in Rajasthan, north India and Hyderabad, south India. HQ is in Singapore but we work in a 'network' form with people across geographies. For example, my co-founder is currently based in Shanghai. In terms of HQ being based in Singapore, what's difficult is sampling, prototyping and finding good pattern makers; given we are such a small country the manufacturing base is very small and so those vital aspects of the business are hard to keep close to hand. The main strength is that we are close to so many textile clusters in South east Asia and finding artisans and traveling to meet them is easy given our airport hub status. The cosmopolitan base of our city also means that there is a ready base of savvy, conscious consumers here as well. 


MATTER Prints interview

Tell me a bit about the manufacturing process from start to finish. How does a pair of MATTER pants get made?

Primarily, Matter is about providing our customer with the best quality product out there. That’s why we personally visit each of our supply partners with a certain set of criteria that focuses on product integrity, social and environmental impact, business imperatives and management robustness. First things first, is the fabric and print. We focus on working with rural textile artisans who are experts in their respective crafts and have passed it down from generation to generation, and they are our main consultants when it comes to producing this phase. They are mostly small family businesses where everyone is involved in the making.

In terms of the print design, we invest a lot of time into learning the cultural histories and symbolic stories behind the prints. This wasn’t an easy task as much of this is being lost – we visited over 10 blockprinting workshops in Rajasthan and found one person who still knew those origins well. Our designers then reinterpret the motif by playing with size, colour, outlines and white space to bring out the essence of its story. From there on its an iterative process between the designer and artisan to achieve the final perfect balance. 


The fabric then goes to our factory partner in Delhi, also a family business who cuts and sews the final garments, before sending them to Singapore. For the style of the trousers, we reached out to the real women who Matter around us. We want our pants to be something that women can call upon not only when they’re travelling but when they are grounded back in their day to day. We curated a collection of styles from Asia and the rest of the world that were whittled down to 9 types. These were then road-tested by women of all ages, shapes and lifestyles who honed them to the 5 basic styles we now produce. 



What is the future of MATTER? Do you have plans to expand to other styles or products?

Well, sticking with the pants format, our next edition will be with men in mind – we feel they deserve to Matter as well! We've just launched scarves with a collaborative partner here in Singapore, as well as gift cards for the holiday season. I'm also planning to visit the Philippines for a sourcing trip next week, so expect more beautiful fabrics.

Thanks for the interview, Renyung!

If you're looking for Holiday gifts, check out Matter's new scarves and gift cards

How to Be An Ally


In the above video, Franchesca Ramsey outlines 5 ways we can be allies to oppressed and marginalized groups as outsiders. This is obviously relevant to issues of racism and police brutality in the U.S., but it's also worth considering when it comes to the way we approach fair trade. We don't need to be a voice for the marginalized, we need to listen! They're already speaking.

To watch more from Franchesca, check out her youtube channel.

fair trade Christmas List

christmas
Sources: 1. Sweatshirt, 2. Scarf, 3. Shoes, 4. Glasses, 5. Purse

I don't anticipate receiving most of the above items, but they certainly would make beautiful Christmas gifts. I'm encouraged to see a huge increase in both the number of fair trade companies and the number of interested consumers. The fair trade blogging community is growing and I'm excited to be part of a passionate, uplifting group of like-minded women.

I have to admit, however, that a part of me has felt as though my mission is less meaningful now that there are more voices advocating for fair trade, but I realize that this is what I hoped for all along! I had no idea when I started this blog two years ago that I had inadvertently joined a movement, not just a fledgling cause. Striving to live ethically and sustainably takes constant consideration, but it is getting easier to find fair trade options.

I prefer to buy all fair trade for Christmas presents because it's the perfect opportunity to support companies I believe in and start conversations about fair trade with my friends and family.

brand: Mamafrica (needs your help)



Mamafrica Designs is a fair trade company that specializes in women's clothing and accessories. Based in the Democratic Republic of Congo and co-founded by a Bukavu, DRC native, their specific goal is to reach out to internally displaced women and provide both short term employment and long term skills. They believe in helping women take charge of their futures and care for their families. In addition to selling handmade goods, Mamafrica relies on donors to help implement higher budget goals, like sending a woman back to school to receive a high school education and covering medical costs.


This is the type of program that I really believe in. In much the same way as Sseko, Mamafrica seeks to empower women rather than hold them in a permanent state of making knick-knacks for American consumers (though there's nothing wrong with working in manufacturing if that's what you enjoy). We can help women provide for their families in the short term, but we also know that our contributions help DRC organizers provide well-rounded programs and a positive environment that gets people back on their feet and allows them to make progress on their personal goals.



Mamafrica recently launched a kickstarter campaign to raise the funds for a second location in Bukavu. They're seeking $7,000 to hire 40 new women, offer community assistance in a high need area, and provide long-term financial assistance to associated families. Please consider donating or spreading the word this Holiday season. If you're looking for Holiday gifts, check out their online shop.

the moral wardrobe: dappled

vintage sunflower dress personal style post on stylewiseblog.blogspot.com
vintage sunflower dress personal style post on stylewiseblog.blogspot.com
vintage sunflower dress personal style post on stylewiseblog.blogspot.com
ethical and fair trade outfit idea with sunflower dress on stylewiseblog.blogspot.com
Ethical Details: Dress - vintage; Cardigan - old

90s dresses have the miraculous quality of making you feel awesome and comfortable at the same time. 

On a personal level, this week has been quite successful. The thrift shop's annual toy sale is this weekend and I was freaking out a bit about the pre-sale workload, but I think everything will be ready! On a public level, this week has been challenging, but important. I struggle to know how to talk about racism and prejudice in my own country, but I know that staying out of it isn't right. We're screwed up. I'm screwed up. It's a matter of fact that people of color in this country are treated implicitly and explicitly as less than human all the freaking time. It's horrifying that so little has changed since slavery. It's devastating that black men keep dying. The reason is easy to discover: racism. But the solution will take a lot of work. It's up to all of us to be willing to engage with the issues and with the real people behind them and to stop excusing ourselves or opting out. It's up to us to hear people out and to make our voices heard. If you're white, it's important that you get involved, but don't get in the way. If you're black, know that I'm with you and I really want to support you and fight with you in a productive way, so please feel free to step in and let me know the best way to approach this. 

The Moral Wardrobe: A Very eShakti Thanksgiving

I spent Thanksgiving day in rural Virginia with my father-in-law and his wife's family. The landscape was covered with snow in the Shenandoah Valley, but Charlottesville was sunny and relatively warm. I'm glad I thought to take pictures here before I left - it was too cold to go coat-less in Edinburg!

eshakti review of lbd with retro inspiration on stylewiseblog.blogspot.com
eshakti review of lbd with retro inspiration on stylewiseblog.blogspot.com

eShakti contacted me a few weeks ago to see if I'd be interested in reviewing a dress and I chose this one. They're a women's clothing brand with a secret weapon: customization. Say you find a dress you like. You have the option of buying it in its default form using the company's size chart or you can enter your measurements, change the sleeve and skirt length, and remove pockets and other special features for a minimal add-on fee. If you have particular modesty requirements, a body that's hard to fit, or are just picky about the way things fit, it's a great option. 

eshakti review of lbd with retro inspiration on stylewiseblog.blogspot.com

Since this is a fair trade blog, I asked them to provide some information on manufacturing and labor standards. Here's what they said:
Our clothing is made in India in our own factories and in local factories that produce some of the leading brands at retail...And wages paid by eShakti are typically 50% to 100% over the Indian government's minimum stipulation. The people who work to make eShakti's clothes are typically the main wage-earners of their families, and provide for them, including education for their children. eShakti is proud that hundreds of families enjoy the advantages of such employment provided by it. Indeed, it is a part of our organizational ethos and goal to contribute to the welfare of society in India as a responsible corporate citizen and employer, just as we contribute in the USA by creating new jobs as we grow. 
eShakti's covenant with its customers is this: we will never allow anything that is opposed to human dignity or the laws of the land where we operate.
I appreciate eShakti's transparency on this issue and feel comfortable supporting them here. And they knew what they were doing when they provided a product for review, because I'm hooked. This dress comes in a stretchy medium weight cotton knit that's flattering and versatile. I opted to change the sleeve length only since their size chart measurements were close to my own. The only thing I would change is perhaps making the skirt a bit shorter; that option is available, but I worried it would be too short. Knit dresses are the best kind of dresses and I love the retro-meets-modern design of this one. I'd been looking for the perfect LBD and I actually think I've found it. Groovy!

Update 8/22/16: This post has been more popular than I ever expected because a lot of you are trying to figure out if eShakti is really an ethical company. My answer today is slightly more nuanced. eShakti is better than most, but I wouldn't call them truly sustainable and wouldn't regularly purchase from them. Still, in the custom apparel space, they're you're best bet in an affordable price range. If you have any other questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

Shop eShakti here.


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eShakti provided me an item for review as part of their Real Fashion for Real People campaign. Visit their website or get to know them on facebook, pinterest, twitter, and instagram.

brand: Nomads Clothing

Nomads Clothing is a UK-based women's clothing designer that has specialized in fair trade garments since 1989 (which means it's basically the same age as me).

nomads fair trade clothing review on stylewiseblog.blogspot.com

The company works with Indian manufacturers to produce clothing using traditional techniques, such as block printing and patchwork. They're also taking steps to become more environmentally sustainable by using more organic cotton and recycled/biodegradable packaging.

I like the understated, grown-up appropriate look of their garments. They make items for a range of ages and lifestyles. Here are a few of my favorites:

nomads beautiful womens fair trade clothing on stylewiseblog.blogspot.com


Their tunics and longer-length tops look like they'd be the perfect layering pieces.

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Nomads contacted me to introduce me to their products. I received no monetary compensation to write this post, but do plan on reviewing their products in the near future, so stay tuned!

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an ethical outfit: 9th & Elm giveaway

9th & Elm is a curated marketplace for all things "handmade, independent, or otherwise cool." Their focus on small scale businesses and independent designers makes it easy to find ethical pieces. I made an outfit out of a domestically produced dress, handmade beret, vintage bag, and sustainable espadrilles.

handmade clothing


In celebration of Cyber Monday, 9th & Elm is running a giveaway. Enter to win up to $100.00 in store credit! You could buy more than half of the outfit pictured above with that amount of money.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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This contest is sponsored and run by 9th & Elm. Please read contest rules through the Rafflecopter application. Open to US and Canada residents only.