Style Wise | Ethical Fashion, Fair Trade, Sustainability

SUSTAINABLE STYLE & ETHICAL LIVING

article on Christianity Today: Buy the Product, Not the Sob Story

christianity today social enterprise article

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I'm excited to announce that I wrote an article on the social enterprise model and Thistle Farms - a social enterprise serving trafficked, addicted, and abused women in Nashville, Tennessee - for Christianity Today online. It's the front page feature today, which is more than I could have hoped for.

This piece was several weeks in the making and I'm glad I had the chance to rein in my thoughts with an editor. I'm pleased with the result.

Read Buy the Product, Not the Sob Story here.


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Then come back here and comment. I'd love to know what you think. 

I also wrote an essay on my faith journey for Elephant Journal. Read it here.

spotlight: ROUTE


Special thanks to ROUTE for sponsoring this post. 

ROUTE is a nonprofit, ethical boutique with both an online and physical storefront. They place a special emphasis on supporting women artisans around the world, making sure their stories are represented lovingly and honestly to customers. Today they're introducing the brand to Style Wise readers with a guest post. 

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Our goal is to inspire conversations, think thoughtfully about where and why we are purchasing, and do it all with a little bit of style.


We created Route with the knowledge that our fashion and clothing production system is unjust and exploitative. We want to bring another voice to the growing movement of people and organizations consciously working towards industry change.

 Education, as well as a call-to-action...


We are creating a community of women who want to consciously purchase. Route considers quality, fit, style and impact in every piece, carefully curating an impactful line.  Many of our jewelry pieces are named after a strong friend or woman we know and we are always looking for new suggestions. (Drop us a line, we’d love to name an item after a friend in your life.)

We have a strong desire to create a place where anyone can purchase simple timeless items that they are confident wearing. Our pieces are simple, beautiful, affordable, and classic.  It is a line that maximizes impact in communities, both locally and around the world. Our partner organizations support and employ talented women, bringing lasting change to their families and communities.


One of our partner organizations close to home and to our hearts is FORAI (Friends of Refugees and Immigrants), based in our neighborhood in St. Louis. They teach and employ women who then work out of their own home. Our most recent collaboration with these awesome women is a unique line of classic micro-jewelry. This little project gave us an excuse to spend some sweet time with FORAI’s artisans and friends.

The takeaway...


From the customers to the makers we are thrilled to be creating routes to relationships that change lives and change the world. Join us on the journey as we grow our community by asking hard questions, and making choices that enrich our lives and the lives of many others.


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Get 15% off at ROUTE with code, STYLEWISELOVE


Shop Route's fall collections here. Follow Route on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Why I Quit My Capsule Wardrobe

why i quit my capsule wardrobe stylewise-blog.com

Way back in August when the weather was warm, I decided to experiment with a capsule wardrobe. I incorporated guest posts and explored my shopping habits, then sat down and listed all the items I wanted to include in my fall wardrobe from memory. Only problem is I never actually started. 

Why the capsule wardrobe didn't work for me

I have no idea what to expect weather-wise from day to day in the Mid-Atlantic region! I mean, in the last month, we had a week in the 50s and then things got back into the high 70s. We had 4 days of fog and then weeks of sunshine. I cannot possibly put that into a capsule - it would be insane. Rather than making life easier, the thought of starting a capsule was making me anxious. I've worn sandals and boots with wool socks in the very same week. And you know what? I love this transitional weather and I don't have time to reach for some wardrobe ideal. I'm too busy taking in the last bits of warmth and enjoying cold weather gear that's been packed away for several months.

I also had a lot of trouble finding the last few perfect pieces for my capsule. I splurged on the Everlane Street Shoes, but the fit wasn't quite right. I tried my darndest to find a maxi dress, but then I realized I don't even like maxi dresses. Often the thing you think you want doesn't make sense once you get it home. My life - and my tastes - are fluid and my wardrobe needs to match that.

What I'm doing now:

I have been wearing more than half of what I listed in my capsule on a regular basis. After all, they're things I love. I also managed to sell a few hundred dollars worth of old clothing on ebay, so I was in good shape to fill in my wardrobe. I have a short term memory when it comes to cold weather - I'm a Floridian! - so I am finding that there are a lot of things, like jackets and sweaters, that I could stand to add to my wardrobe. I hadn't even considered that when the weather was still warm. So I've stocked up on some thrifted cashmere sweaters and long sleeve shirts, added a scarf, and purchased a pair of secondhand boots on ebay in addition to taking advantage of the J. Crew Warehouse sale here in town. Things are shaping up in a way that actually makes sense and I'm making full use of my wardrobe.

There's always going to be tweaking and analyzing to do, but I'm happy with the way things are going. Considering a capsule was a great way to remind myself that I don't have to buy things just because they're on trend or on sale. I can take pride in what I like and what I wear, even if it may not embody the zeitgeist.

If you're thinking of doing a capsule, great! But do consider the practicality of it before you go all the way.

A summary of my obstacles:

  • Transitional/Varied climate
  • Eccentric tastes
  • A poor grasp of what I'd actually need in the upcoming season
  • An insistence on perfection instead of progress
  • Resistance to hiding away parts of my wardrobe

I think capsules work for some people (read Andrea's guest post for an example), but I don't think they're a long term solution for most people. Unless your wardrobe is super minimalist and you have a very good sense of seasonal weather, a capsule may actually make things harder.

the moral wardrobe: autumn glow

fall outfitpurple scarfj crew outfitfall outfit
Ethical Details: Cardigan - thrifted; Necklace - c/o Bought Beautifully; Boots - Oliberte; Jeans - old

For all the complaining I do about cold weather, it's hard not to revel in the splendor of fall in all its warm, leafy glory. The weather has been mild this October and the leaves look especially bright. I'm enjoying dressing to match the red and orange leaves and the periwinkle Blue Ridge Mountains that loom in the background of every drive through Charlottesville.

Speaking of dressing to match, I got the shirt and scarf I'm wearing at a J. Crew Warehouse sale that blew through town a couple weeks ago. I have complicated feelings about whether it was the best decision, but here's why I allowed an exception to my normal thrifting/fair trade routine: this is the end of the line for J. Crew items. Samples, rejects, past season returns - anything that doesn't sell here is sent off to textiles processors, thrift shops, and maybe ebay used good resellers. It's not the most ethical, but it also doesn't increase demand for new goods. I only bought high quality basics in richly saturated colors that are hard to find elsewhere, so I think I'll get a lot of use out of them. If this paragraph sounds like one big excuse, perhaps that's because it is. I'm open to that, but I'm also feeling like it's ok to cut myself some slack in this instance.

What are your thoughts about shopping sample and warehouse sales from companies that don't adhere to ethical guidelines?

review: Fouta Towels from Education and More



I heard about Fouta towels a few months ago on another ethical living blog and I was intrigued. Made out of woven cotton, the fabric reminds me of what I'd typically find in a scarf or lightweight throw. But according to Karen at Education and More, who kindly gave me a towel to review, the Fouta (or Hammam) style towel has been around for a long time in Mediterranean countries (it is most recognizable as the towel of Turkish baths) and is wildly popular in Europe right now. And I mean, if the Europeans think it's the bomb, I guess it's worth a try.



I gave the towel a wash and dry before using it to soften up the fibers and get the wrinkles out. It's a huge piece of fabric that feels luxurious compared to a standard towel.

I quickly found out that the large size lends to its effectiveness. The fabric is super absorbent, but it's very thin compared to a standard terry towel, so the added area is essential to dry off your whole body. There was a bit of a learning curve, as I realized I needed to shuffle around the towel as soon as a section soaked through to ensure a thorough drying-off. It took a few extra pats to get the water in my hair all sopped up, but it did work!



The real benefit is that the thin fabric and larger surface area means it dries super quickly and requires far less time in the dryer, which is great for the environment and my utility bill. I'm anxious to see how I feel about it with continued use. I think it would be a great alternative to a standard towel when traveling because it takes up less space, dries quickly, and can be used as a wrap, picnic blanket, and towel. I plan on styling it in an outfit in the next few weeks to give you all a better idea of its multiple uses.

Education and More's fouta towels are handmade by women under fair trade guidelines. Education and More's mission is to support the education and well being of children by providing sustainable employment for their mothers and local educational support.

Have you tried a fouta towel? What did you think?

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Shop Fouta Towels from Education and More here.
See my previous post on Education and More here.

guest post on Daisies & Doodles

why you should shop fair trade

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Read more on the Daisies & Doodles blog.


the moral wardrobe: thrift score

sam edelman outfit
sam edelman petty booties review
thrifted style
Ethical Details: Top - thrifted; Dress (worn as skirt) - c/o Synergy Organic Clothing; Necklace - c/o Bought Beautifully; Boots - thrifted Sam Edelman

I always take a final lap around the thrift store before checking out just to make sure I didn't miss anything. It was my lucky day a couple months ago at Valley Thrift in Cincinnati, because the final lap revealed a practically new pair of Sam Edelman Petty Booties (retail price: $140.00) for $4.00! I'm pretty sure the shop attendant who priced them didn't realize what they had, because they aren't shy about pricing nice things in the $10-20 range at least.

They're a perfect fit and really comfortable despite having such a low toe box and angled toe. I like that they're an alternative to ballet flats and a great option under flared jeans. I know bloggers have been raving about this style for awhile now, but I don't put much stock in the opinions of people who actually like wearing heels - I just assume that everything they wear is uncomfortable - but these are awesome. If you like this style, maybe try your luck on ebay?

October Favorites, Fair Trade Month Reflections, etc.

october style board fair trade


 This post contains affiliate links.


1. Assefa Scarf from FashionABLE // 2. .02 Tee from Zady // 3. Gotta Jet Set Jeans from ModCloth // 4. Simple Bow Earrings from MadeFAIR // 5. The Melbourne from Krochet Kids // 6. Mimosa Watch from WeWOOD // 7. The Cashmere Cardigan from Everlane // 8. Harper Chukka from Nisolo

Hey! It's Fair Trade Month! This Fair Trade Month feels a lot more low key than previous ones and I think it's because, for more and more people, every month feels like a celebration of what fair trade does for communities. It's awesome to look back over the last three or so years and see that things have progressed, and in more ways than one!

We're not only talking about fair trade more, we're starting to think about our environmental impact and broader sustainability issues. Companies are gladly providing greater transparency and even fast fashion companies know that something's gotta give in their unsustainable supply chains.

Even though the news is bleak and the ocean of injustice is impossible to swim across alone (maybe we can do it relay style?), I know we can make a difference, because I can see how far we've already come. So let's celebrate people power and look for more ways to be kind: to others, to ourselves, and to the earth and everything it sustains.

This month also marks the one year anniversary of my switch to Blogger from WordPress and my ever-so-slight re-branding. It's been great to work with so many cool brands, reviewing their carefully crafted goods, supporting their fundraising campaigns, and doing giveaways. I feel like I have a much better grip on what I want collaborations with brands to look like after several months of tweaking my media kit.

And I'm so thankful for the rapid growth in blog readers and Instagram followers Style Wise has had in the past year. The whole point, after all, is for people to read, learn, and be encouraged to take small steps toward intentional shopping and living.

Also, I have to give a shout out to the Ethical Writers Co. gang, who have supported and challenged me through this year of exploring what it means to be an ethical style blogger and have given me the confidence to seek outside writing and public speaking opportunities. Here's to many more years taking things seriously and writing my heart out.

the moral wardrobe: Hands Producing Hope Tee

hand lettered tee
adventure tee
hands producing hope indiegogo
graphic tee
Ethical Details: Tee - c/o Hands Producing Hope; Necklace - c/o Hands Producing Hope (previous collab); Boots - Oliberte

Hands Producing Hope is the brand behind one of my most worn necklaces, the Shalom Necklace, which I featured here a few months ago. They're expanding their resource and employment program to Nkombo Island in Rwanda and are in the midst of an Indiegogo campaign. They're seeking $20,000 to:

  • employ staff on the ground to personally oversee the program's development 
  • offer consistent training to a group of women who will be our newest artisans 
  • provide an allowance that will allow the women to attend training classes with their children instead of working in the fields 
  • host a variety of life skills workshops to help equip these women 
  • set aside for scholarships for the women and their children to attend school 
  • purchase start-up supplies & place an initial order!

The nice thing about Indiegogo is that, unlike Kickstarter, the recipient gets to keep anything they receive even if they don't meet their end goal, which means any amount can make a difference. Plus, there's a tiered rewards system and you can unlock this "And so the adventure begins" tee at $50. I put my money where my mouth is and donated $25.00 toward the cause even though Hands Producing Hope let me review this tee ahead of time. 

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Donate here. Shop Hands Producing Hope here

ZADY's Essentials Collection provides total supply chain transparency

zady essentials collection information
This post contains affiliate links

ZADY makes and sells cool ethical clothing, but they're so much more than that. They offer accessible, exhaustive resources on supply chain transparency through their The New Standard initiative, because they believe that the key to change is education. They believe that consumers are smart enough to want real, comprehensive answers from companies about where their clothes come from, from farm to closet. Knowing a little bit about one part of the supply chain isn't enough. The great thing is that, even if you're not likely to do research before making a purchase, ZADY makes learning about the people, animals, and resources behind the products you buy easy - they'll even send email updates each week if you subscribe.

With this in mind, ZADY started their own collection of timeless basics called The Essentials Collection. From the press release: "The designs for the products featured in The Essentials Collection are centered on these principles: design for longevity; utilize the highest quality fibers that also have a low footprint; work directly, as partners, with the supply chain to ensure a low impact from farm to final factory; and support American factories and excellence in production with domestic cut and sew."

zady essentials collection sweater

Read the product description for any item in the collection and you'll learn everything you could possibly want to know about materials and textiles sourcing, worker welfare, and environmental impact. An example from the .06 Lightweight Alpaca Sweater listing:

The .06 is made from the wool of Alpacas raised in their natural habitat in the Andes mountains of Peru, where they can roam, hop, and grow their silky fleece in beautiful natural colors, like this heather grey. Soft as cashmere without pilling, as warm as sheep’s wool without the bulk, hypo-allergenic, and one of the strongest fibers, Alpaca is an ideal ingredient for the sweater that will endure in your closet and become a favorite piece. This super fiber is then sorted, washed, combed and spun in nearby Arequipa, Peru, where 80% of the facilities energy needs is provided by solar panels. We receive the best fibers, called baby alpaca (though its not from baby alpaca), which are then sent to New York, where the slightly relaxed fit and menswear inspired chest pocket are crafted, converging timeless style with the ancient wool.
Considering how much research and work has been put into each piece, The Essentials Collection is reasonably priced, with items ranging from $36.00 to $185.00. This stuff is built to last, so the cost per wear is sure to be a good value. I've been eyeing their best selling .02 tee for months and they recently restocked it!

Though there are many companies committed to transparency, ZADY is the leader in examining what "transparent" means from every angle. If more companies functioned in this way, we'd be well on our way to an ethical, sustainable marketplace.

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Shop ZADY's Essentials Collection

Read about the manufacturing industry on The New Standard.


zady, the new standard

When Writing About Justice Work Isn't Enough

community organizing and justice

Last month, I joined a community organizing group here in Charlottesville. I did it because having a pet cause no longer feels like enough, because people in this town struggle to fit in, to get by, to get the helping hand they need, and I just might be able to make a difference.

Don't get me wrong. I think talking about justice work is good. I absolutely believe that the online community of ethical consumers and activists largely have committed and focused conversation to thank for their influence, and that sharing brands and causes with you all here does ignite change. You can feel the energy in the ethical living community. People are talking about globalization, overconsumption, the limits of free trade, and the shortcomings of certain fair trade models. They're acknowledging that work needs to be done, that new policies need to be implemented, and that the system is unsustainable

The only problem is that I can't be the one to implement those policies. And even if I could, I'm likely not the best one for the job. At some point, we have to acknowledge what we cannot do. I can keep buying responsibly, doing research, and sharing what I learn with others, but I can't (reasonably) meet face to face with leaders and laborers in Bangladesh or Guatemala. I can't be the one who offers a shoulder to cry on. 

This is what I can do: I can help people here. People I can see. People who have immediate needs to solve and just need a few allies to stand with them. I can be physically present, host house meetings, and attend rallies. I can look people in the eye, read the room, and offer hot tea and tissues, or a maybe just a hug. I can show up, one of many in a giant body of people who care.

Being physically present with people changes things. How do we plead or sympathize, how do we understand the complicated dynamics of a life, without being in the same room? How do we ask hard questions with confidence without the benefit of body language? I can tell you all my secrets on the internet, but will I ever fully know you without knowing what it feel like to be in your presence?

There are issues to resolve the world over and we have a role to play in discovering and implementing solutions. But there are people within walking distance of your home, school, or workplace who have issues to resolve, too. You don't have to make a choice between pursuing justice here or abroad, but know that "your voice" might be best cultivated by physically using it.

I joined a community organizing group because I'm inspired by the work of my friends in social work, and I did it because I met a young man on the streets of Chicago in June who needed someone local to advocate for him. I couldn't help him, but I can help someone with similar struggles here. It's small, slow work, but it matters. You can't do everything, but you can always do something.

*Photo: Creative Commons License by Ian Sane.

Fashion with Impact with Bought Beautifully

bought beautifully akash necklace
bought beautifully fashion with impact

I met Emily of Bought Beautifully at the Justice Conference back in June. We had a great time fangirling over the ethical products at the Bought Beautifully booth - I had the chance to see a lot of things in person that I'd previously only seen on instagram - and getting to know each other a bit.

Bought Beautifully is a social enterprise committed to sourcing products from co-ops and companies that provide fair wages, a great work environment, and a spiritually enriching atmosphere to its employees and artisans. They have a nice selection of goods, but I especially love their jewelry. It's also a great place to find Christian graphic tees that are a little bit cooler than those "A Bread Crumb and Fish" tees that were popular when I was in youth group.

causegear bag review

Bought Beautifully is doing a really cool campaign this week called Fashion with Impact, which is sort of a virtual fashion show made up of looks inspired by their ethical goods. Two bloggers will post outfits they've styled using Bought Beautifully products every day this week and create an instagram chain for readers to follow. Additionally, when you follow along on Instagram, you'll be entered to win a $50 Bought Beautifully gift card. 

Bought Beautifully sent me two items from their collection, the CAUSEGEAR Canvas Day Bag and the Akash Necklace. I actually met the CAUSEGEAR founder while shopping at Chicago fair trade store, Greenheart Shop, also during the Justice Conference (talk about networking!). He and his team are committed to providing 5x the standard wage at their factories in India. As you may know, getting a "fair wage" just right can be tricky because disproportionately higher wages can throw local economies off kilter, but the founder is committed to making sure that CAUSEGEAR wages are good for everyone, not just their employees. This bag is a little bigger than what I'm used to, but the slouchy canvas makes it easy to carry and I can use it as an overnight or shopping bag, too. It's become my everyday bag.

The Akash Necklace is stunning in person. It's made by AshaBelle in New Delhi, India. The beads are made of shiny tile shards pressed into clay that sparkle in changing light. And the color makes it really versatile. 

ll bean boots outfit
causegear day bag
Ethical Details: Sweater - old; Striped Top - made in USA; Boots - LL Bean, thrifted (and made in Maine); Akash Necklace - c/o Bought Beautifully; CAUSEGEAR Bag - c/o Bought Beautifully

I'm impressed with the craftsmanship and ethics behind both AshaBelle and CAUSEGEAR and I'm pleased that Bought Beautifully has offered a marketplace for the brands.

Every Bought Beautifully product promotes safe working conditions, fair wages, an ethical supply chain, and the practice of wise stewardship. 

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Make sure to follow along with the Fashion with Impact virtual fashion show all week using the links below. 



- See the last look in the series on the Bought Beautifully blog.

- See the next look (coming this afternoon) on Carrie of The Zimmers blog.

- Check out the instagram chain and enter to win a $50 Bought Beautifully gift card on Instagram!

- Shop at Bought Beautifully here.

spotlight: Global Goods Partners Wishlist

Many thanks to Global Goods for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own. 

global goods partners wishlist

Global Goods is a well established fair trade accessories brand (and a member of the Fair Trade Federation!) with a mission to alleviate poverty and promote justice in the global south. As its name implies, Global Goods' partnerships are widespread, extending to 20 countries, from Namibia to Bolivia to Afghanistan and dozens of places in between. It's a central marketplace for independently run co-ops, which ensures that each artisan group can operate according to its specific needs and talents. This is the beauty of the fair trade system: it is meant to be small scale, which means any problems that arise are easy to spot and can be addressed quickly and correctly. That's something a giant corporation simply can't do.

From the looks of their product offerings, Global Goods' curators gravitate toward a lot of the things I love, like super saturated jewel tones, statement jewelry, and richly textured bags. I've highlighted a handful of my favorite things here (clockwise from top left):


I also thought it would be fun to accessorize an outfit I already own with Global Goods items. I would wear this to a grad student get together or a casual weekend dinner out with Daniel.
global goods fair trade outfit
Ethical Details: Skirt - eshakti; Lapis Drop Earrings via Global Goods; Ikat Crossbody Bag via Global Goods; Shoes - Sseko Designs

Global Goods items are beautiful things meant to be treasured. I like to invest once a year or so in a nice, fairly sourced bag that will get me through several seasons in style. It's nice to carry something with me everyday that reminds me of the commitment I've made to tread lightly. What I'm really trying to say is that the Ikat Crossbody purse is the bomb. Their smaller trinkets and accessories would make nice gifts, too. 

What items are on your wishlist this fall?


(I'm still trying to sort out exactly what I want my fall wardrobe to look like. This capsule wardrobe thing is hard for an indecisive person!)

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Shop Global Goods Partners here. Follow on facebook, instagram, and twitter