Style Wise | Ethical Fashion, Fair Trade, Sustainability

SUSTAINABLE STYLE & ETHICAL LIVING

10 Ethical + Slow Living Bloggers You Need To Follow



Back in the day, being an ethical blogger was kind of lonely. 

I "met" a few fellow conscious consumers through Wordpress, but for the most part, I felt like I was talking to myself. Not so any longer. There are hundreds of slow living, conscious, vegan, eco, and ethical bloggers out there, and I like to think I've heard of most of them. I also follow quite a few of them. It's really helpful to hear about new ethical brands and get fresh perspectives on this work, to step outside of the echo chamber that is my overactive mind, and see what others have to say about the state of the fashion industry, blogging, and mindful living.

Here's my in-exhaustive list of ethical and slow living bloggers that provide great insight and high quality content on everything ethical, thoughtful, and slow. Though there are several others I could name, these are the ones I turn to based on their originality, aesthetic, post frequency, and usefulness.

Leotie Lovely

Holly is one of my dearest ethical blogger friends. Her in depth analysis, attention to detail, and stunning photos (shot by her husband) make her blog and Instagram worth a look.

EcoCult

Alden's day job is as a journalist, primarily writing on sustainability and women's issues. Her professional background means she brings a no nonsense, well researched approach to this niche, which is incredibly important.

Life Style Justice

Hannah is the first ethical blogger I met in real life! Her passion for social justice led her to the Philippines, where she and her husband assist with social enterprise, A Beautiful Refuge. Her perspective "on the ground" challenges me and keeps me from becoming apathetic.

Tortoise & Lady Grey

Summer's focus is on sustainable textiles, and she does an incredible amount of work to ensure that the posts she shares are accurate and will move the industry forward.

Simply Liv & Co

I just discovered Olivia's blog. Her perspective as a young mother with a deeply rooted call to pursue ethics and authenticity are inspiring to me.

A Day Pack

Also a new discovery for me, Emily and her husband share ethical brands in a cheerful way, and their Instagram feed showcases bright, beautiful photography.

Sustainably Chic

A veteran in the sustainable fashion world, Natalie features ethical, eco, and sustainable brands with a relatable voice and spot-on photography.

Grechen's Closet

I appreciate Grechen's stream-of-consciousness posting style and her focus on chatting about shopping and finding what works for her.

Selva Beat

The Selva Beat team focuses on creative, helpful approaches to living a vegan, palm oil free life without being preachy. I'm obsessed with their '90s zine aesthetic.

Seasons + Salt

Andrea's another longtime read. She focuses on capsule-ish dressing and prioritizes a lot of ethical, indie-made brands, with weekly outfit check-ins.

The Moral Wardrobe: Feminist Frump




Ethical Details: Carmela Apron Dress - c/o Conrado; Tee - Elegantees; Sandals - Betula

Last week, my friend Catherine sent me this tongue-in-cheek post about female frumpiness as a feminist statement:

The dominant sensibility of femininity, which we will call Sexy Adult Woman (SAW), values flattering-ness, attractiveness above all else—pleasing the eye. In common parlance, “frump” is the defective result when a feminine person tries and fails to achieve SAW. Frump is not. Frump is a whole sensibility in and of itself, entirely distinct from, and in valid alternative to, SAW... 
Frump is a way of being feminine. The way of Frump is not in terms of attractiveness but in terms of freedom, comfort, and self-delight. It can be observed in objects, structures, and people of any sex, but because it was born of the machine of patriarchy and male domination as a way to shame the feminine for failing to subscribe to SAW values, it is a sensibility most fundamentally of and for the feminine.

As a teenager, I realized pretty quickly I wasn't going to win at the attractive-to-teenage-boys game. For one, I could tell it was unfair, and that a variety of factors, including family income and socialization, impacted the kind of social capital I could build based on looks. So I dressed for other girls, the girls who read Teen Vogue and appreciated a bit of eccentricity.

I embrace the sack dresses of this current age because I think they defy expectations. They say that we don't exist to please others, we exist to build our identities however we want. So tight dresses and apron dresses are both right.

Why I Quit Being an Ethical Purist

ethical fashion purist discussion

Yes, it's fair trade. But is it eco-friendly?...Yes, it's organic. But is it sweatshop free?...Yes, it's vegetable dyed. But is it cruelty free?

I only buy vegan, nontoxic, fair trade, sustainable, zero waste makeup.
I only buy organic, local, small batch kombucha. 

Being a conscious consumer can be hard, not only because choosing an "alternative" lifestyle often isolates you from family, friends, and the dominant culture, but because you have basically obligated yourself to have a headache-inducing ethics discussion every time you need to make a purchase or lifestyle choice.

It can also be hard because your fellow conscious consumers are immersed in the same internal debate, and they may come to different conclusions than you. You may think that fair trade advocates and vegans are more alike than different, but their passion for a particular perspective often puts them at odds. I see full scale attacks break out between these parties at least once a month, with each claiming that the other doesn't care enough.

But maybe the truth is that we care too much?


Put another way, maybe we've turned the corner from well meaning ethics into fiercely self-centered identity politics, where every disagreement challenges who we are at our core. This is dangerous, not only to our own sense of self worth, but because it turns on our fight-or-flight reflexes. It makes those we disagree with the enemy and forces us to build ourselves up by claiming moral superiority. Dialogue is out.

Four months ago, I posted a graphic to my Instagram feed in response to Alden's insightful response to that totally made up statistic ethical consumers love to repost: "Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world." In fact, according to Alden's analysis, it's the fifth.

I didn't get any pushback on that, but just last week, I received a delayed comment on that post:

Animal agriculture is also the worst! Remember to wear #crueltyfree

The response is eye-roll inducing not only because it displays rather poor reading comprehension ("also the worst" is an impossible statement that also doesn't match the statistic I shared), but because it forces a subject change for the sake of the writer's self-interest. And it's just absurdly preachy. How would you like it if I found semi-relevant hashtags and started saying, "Remember,  #Jesussaves!"?

I'm going off on a tangent-rant (tang-rant?), but here's my point: it's ok to not talk about every single problem in the manufacturing industry at the same time.

And it's probably ok to forego a few ethical credentials for the sake of meeting other ethical criteria.

I used to be a hard core fair trade advocate. And then I started talking to eco-advocates and realized how devastating synthetic materials, pesticide-laden cotton, and toxic dyes are to the environment, not to mention the people who work in the industry.

So I added eco-conscious to the list.

Then I discovered that leather sourced as a byproduct of the meat industry can be more eco-friendly than synthetically produced faux leather.

So I sought out "eco-friendly" leather goods.

Then I started talking to vegans and vegetarians about animal ethics, and was inspired by their compassion.

So I became a vegetarian

Then a few fellow bloggers reminded me that even "fair trade" companies only have to meet a minimum standard to claim that status, and that we can't believe what people tell us.

So I started asking more pointed questions, and narrowing who I would support. 

Then brand leaders like H&M and Everlane reminded me that the industry will only change dramatically once ethical models can scale, and that someone has to prove the model.

So I started reconsidering my small-scale stance.

Then the minimalists came out of the woodwork and reminded me that quality matters, too, and the key to long term sustainability is buying things that last.

So I stopped buying "ethical" stuff that didn't fit me well, or was too trend-driven. 

Then I looked around at my options and realized I couldn't find things that ticked all the boxes. So I walked around in a daze for a few months, threw my hands in the hair, and asked myself, "If everything can't matter, does anything matter?"

And that's when I realized my ethical purity goals were dangerous. 

In a recent article for Aeon, "practical ethicist" Alberto Giubilini lays out a scenario in which a vegetarian is forced to consider whether she would eat a pork chop at a dinner party if it turned out doing so made a more persuasive case for vegetarianism than abstaining would. The argument goes that converting many "flexible" vegetarians who make occasional exceptions for meat consumption would undoubtedly be more productive - from both an animal ethics and an environmental perspective - than converting only a few with the teetotaling model.

Of course, practical ethics isn't the only approach to ethics at large, and we should hold in high regard those who fully abstain from certain lifestyle choices out of sincere conviction. But I liked the thought experiment because it applies quite well to a conversation on conscious consumerism.

Can a flexible conscious consumerism encourage more people to change their habits?


I think the answer is, and has to be, yes.

It has to be because there is currently no company or business model that gets everything right, and because social and financial limitations don't give us an even playing field for analyzing our consumer choices.

And even in a vacuum, social psychology tells us that when people are too intimidated by the task at hand, they won't pursue it at all.

I have to acknowledge the personal and social obstacles that stand in the way of being perfect, and move forward. By the same token, I have to let go of my pride so I can let others in.

So when a friend asks me if a Made in Cambodia blazer is "ethical," my answer is no longer, "No." It's "Hmm, does it fit well? Is the material and stitching high quality? Will you wear it for a long time? Can you afford something with more ethical credentials? Here are some recommendations, but you should decide for yourself."

We're wasting our time and muddying our message by striving for perfection wrapped into an individual garment. We're hurting the reputation of the industry by insisting that others prioritize ethics over quality. After all, shouldn't quality be an ethical category? It is right and good to stay informed and weigh various ethical criteria, but we are lying to ourselves and discouraging others by acting as if we have, or are even capable of having, it all figured out.

We have to stop telling people, including ourselves, that our work is in vain if we slip up, or perhaps if we're a bit too flexible. Progress is progress, and increasingly I determine what is right based on a sincere exploration of what to prioritize in that moment - and what psychological, financial, social, and spiritual factors should be considered - rather than working from a place of guilt. (Of course, there should be space for critique, but this is not the same thing as shaming.)

Our guilt will not redeem us, or the industry we aim to change. It should not be a marker of our goodness.


Instead, our cultivation of inclusive and considerate community will mark us as advocates and activists. We'll be the nonviolent, direct action folks singing marching songs that kindle fire into deadened eyes. We'll convert people with our deeply held joy.

Related Reading:

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Season to Season in Verry Kerry's Kimono Dress

verry kerry boho and sustainable kimono dress
This post is in partnership with Verry Kerry, who sent me items for review.

Ever since I got a kimono jacket earlier this year, I've been on the hunt for similar, drapey pieces to wear layered over simple tees.

My love for patterned jackets took me by surprise: everything had gotten so streamlined in my closet that it felt like a block printed piece might throw a wrench in the whole thing. But I've always been a lover of color and pattern, and soft statement pieces strike that balance for me between standing out and feeling comfortable in my own skin. When Very Kerry reached out to me, I knew it was a good match.

Verry Kerry is a UK based women's clothing retailer specializing in kimono-inspired robes and dresses in stunning patterns. They use sustainable materials - like this ethically certified bamboo - and azo-free, nontoxic dyes, producing their collection in fair wage, safe, family run factories. Read more about their ethical policies in detail here.

Thoughts & Links on Charlottesville From People Who Were There

firsthand account of Charlottesville and discussion on racism
Photo by Aaron Burson on Unsplash

It's been just over a week since #Charlottesville happened. 

I spent much of last week waffling between rage and grief, hope and hopelessness. Not to mention a certain amount of guilt that it took *this* event to make me realize how awful it must be for people of color and survivors of individual and collective trauma to repeatedly have to retell their story in an effort to educate an ignorant populace.

And then there's the survivor's guilt, that I shouldn't be so traumatized by something I was only on the periphery of. I live in the city of Charlottesville, population 46,000, but I didn't end up going downtown last Saturday. I had intended to take shelter in the United Methodist church that was designated as safe space, and bear witness to whatever occurred alongside my faith community, but the governor declared a State of Emergency just as Daniel and I were packing up to head over, and it seemed clear that our decision had been made for us.

We opted to go to a prayer service at a nearby Episcopal church instead, talking with members of our community about our call to action and trying to determine what our role would be in the inevitable aftermath.

My Ethical Fall Wardrobe Picks

fall17
Contains affiliate links

While I certainly don't need to add half a dozen items to my wardrobe right now, I like visualizing what I already have against the silhouettes and specific styles I'm drawn to this season. I've become much more of a pants person over the last year or so - I hardly wore my skirts this summer - so I'm looking forward to being able to wear pants every day as the weather cools down. 

This fall, I want easy, flattering pieces that fit well and make me feel comfortable and pulled together during my work day. In terms of ethics, I'm sticking with a balance between fair & sustainable and well made & well fitting, as the best ethics in the world don't matter if I'm not going to be able to wear the heck out of what I've purchased.

Why Weavings Are Worth It: DIY with Uncommon Goods

DIY Weaving Kit from Uncommon Goods
Thanks to Uncommon Goods for sponsoring this post and offering an item for review. 

Well, I drank the kool-aid and am now obsessed with weaving. 

It started when I stopped by a local shop and saw beautifully complex weavings for sale. They could have easily been an impulse buy, but at $250 a pop, that wasn't going to happen. So for the last couple of months I've been wondering if I should take the plunge and try to DIY it.

I've crafted all my life - painting, sewing, macrame, paper mache, tie-dye, and even weaving simple pot holders - but this seemed like it was going to be especially difficult. I've never been patient with fiber arts (I quit knitting after about 2 hours) so I put it on the back burner.

Then, a couple weeks ago, I was perusing the Uncommon Goods website -  namely wall hangings (still on the hunt for pre-made weavings) and plant-related stuff (because apparently I'm now a plant lady) - and stumbled upon the Mini Loom Weaving Kit. At $55, it was decidedly more affordable than buying a completed piece and it came with everything I needed to weave my own masterpiece, including a mini loom, needles, pick up stick, comb, yarn, and instructions. Uncommon Goods generously partnered with me so I could try it out for free.

Uncommon Goods is dedicated to supply chain ethics, sustainability, and craftsmanship, and it shows in their collection of curated gifts, art pieces, decor, DIY kits, and more. They're B-Corp and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, and they make sure that their products reflect their values.

DIY Weaving Kit from Uncommon Goods DIY Weaving Kit from Uncommon Goods

My Experience with the Mini Loom Kit

The first thing you should know about weaving is that it's not exactly easy.

It takes some time to get your fingers moving and your eyes focused on the patterns you're trying to create. The kit comes with a photo-heavy instruction booklet to help you create roughly the design I've created here, but the product image on the site is slightly different and more closely matches the yarn colors I received in my kit. So the design is really up to you!

The makers predict that this weaving will take about 3 hours to complete. It took me 7. Not because I messed up or anything - just because I was careful at every step. I get really frustrated if I make mistakes, so it was to my benefit to take things slow. I enjoyed working away at it while watching episodes of The Office and The Middle over the weekend.

The instruction booklet contained just enough guidance to teach me the basics while letting me customize my own design. This is ideal for me, as I really prefer to experiment and go my own way. I'm also more of a visual learner, so the photos were excellent.
  DIY Weaving Kit from Uncommon GoodsDIY Weaving Kit from Uncommon Goods

Final Thoughts

I'm hooked! To be honest, I haven't felt this proud of myself in a really long time. I spend so much of my life writing and speaking, and relying on those things to make me feel good about myself. It was nice to remind myself that I can put my head down and learn how to do something tactile that yields material results. I get this physical proof that I accomplished something! The reward was worth the time spent.

And it made me more aware of the work that goes into artisan craft traditions more broadly. Weaving may be having a moment in the American mainstream, but artisans have been keeping this kind of craft up for centuries. Their work takes incredible dexterity, creativity, patience, and attention to detail. It makes me proud to be able to feature their work on my blog.


Check out the Mini Loom Kit here. Learn more about Uncommon Goods here.

Hooray for Fair Denim: Introducing ABLE by FashionABLE

FashionABLE ethical denim collection
Contains affiliate links. Not sponsored - I just love jeans.

Modern fits, versatile colors, and a focus on ethics...

These are things I've had a difficult time finding rolled up into one pair of jeans.

In fact, I've never bought a pair of ethical jeans before. For the last few years, I've been relying on old American Eagle jeans and thrifted pairs (which are, inexplicably, almost always too short - glad the ankle length thing is in). There are a handful of brands that are either produced in the USA or incorporate low waste, nontoxic manufacturing processes, but many of them look just like your run-of-the-mill skinny jeans and, honestly, the fabric doesn't look like it'll hold up to years of wear.

So I'm really excited to see that Nashville-based FashionABLE - known for its minimalist jewelry and handbags - has released a denim collection as a part of their rapidly expanding ethical clothing line. I own one of their purses and a couple pieces of jewelry, so I know they insist on quality.

Reclaiming #Charlottesville with MATTER Prints

Great things to do in Charlottesville with MATTER Prints
This post was generously sponsored by MATTER Prints. 

Note: I wrote the bulk of this post before the terrorizing events of August 11-12 took place. Perhaps it's a blessing in disguise that the folks at MATTER and I discussed this post months ago. I couldn't have foreseen how important it is to reclaim Charlottesville spaces and celebrate what it has to offer. Talking about the good things will never negate the violence and loss of life, but maybe it can unify us and remind us of the world we want to build. Thank you to everyone who prayed with me, checked up on me on social media, and wrote your own posts about Charlottesville. I can feel your love. Solidarity forever! 
---

Charlottesville is really a vacation town and I'm just one of those awkward townies who calls it home. 

This community at one point boasted more restaurants per capita than New York City; local wineries and breweries abound; Thomas Jefferson's mountaintop estate is available for tours every day of the week; and you could spend a week visiting all the antique, thrift, and secondhand shops.

While it sounds great - and it is - it's impossible to live like a tourist every day (unless you're lucky enough to be retired). So I like to scheme up little adventures that we can take once or twice a month to keep things interesting without exhausting our bank accounts.

I partnered with MATTER for this post specifically because their motto is "Pants to see the world in." 

12 (More) Places to Find Affordable + Ethical Fashion

Here it is - my second annual affordable and ethical fashion roundup. 

In the past year, there's been an explosion of more affordable ethical fashion. It's a sign that the market is growing, that companies are able to scale, and that the conscious community has an interest in being more inclusive by opening up ethical shopping to people who can't necessarily afford designer duds. There are still plenty of high end, artisan made goods on the ethical market - and I advocate saving up for them when possible - but to build a basic ethical wardrobe, you need things that work for everyday and don't cost a month's rent.

Click here to see last year's recommendations.

Contains affiliate links.

CLOTHING:
where to find affordable ethical fashion

What I'm Adding to My Ethical Wardrobe This Fall

building an ethical, minimalist wardrobe
Photo by Bart Jaillet on Unsplash

Before I'm inundated with fall promotional emails, I thought I'd take a moment to honestly reflect on what I "need" for the upcoming season.

Uh...nothing.

You read that right. I've been doing this ethical fashion thing for almost 5 years and I can finally, confidently say that I have all the wardrobe building blocks I want in my life.

Shout, Pray, Resist: The Neo-Nazis Are Coming to Charlottesville

charlottesville clergy council counterprotest against neonazis
By Keith Alan Sprouse, used with permission

I tend to forget that people outside of Virginia have better things to do than stay up to date with Charlottesville news.

But when the news is that hundreds (at least 400, maybe more) Neo-Nazis of various stripes and violence levels are planning to protest at a downtown park in an attempt to "Unite the Right" against diversity, intermarriage, immigration, and the equal rights of people of color, it's hard to believe the message isn't being spread far and wide. If anything is news, this is it.

The "Unite the Right" rally was conceived by local (UVa grad) Jason Kessler, a white supremacist who lost his job at a conservative newspaper a few months ago when they realized he was a racist. Since then, apparently he's had nothing better to do than sue our only African American City Councilman for "racism" (the case was dismissed); invite neo-Nazi Richard Spencer to town (also a UVa grad) for a torch lit protest against the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue downtown (City Council voted to remove it earlier this year with widespread public support); assault and intimidate activists and people of color on the city's outdoor pedestrian mall; invite the KKK to protest in early July; and now, rally motorcycle gangs, neo-Nazis, "proud boys," and all sorts of similarly hostile groups to our town of 40,000 this weekend.

Top 8 Ethical Shoes for the Retail & Service Industries

Photo by Tim Wright on Unsplash

If you've ever worked in a service job, you know that most "comfortable" shoe recommendations just don't cut it. Sometimes you're on your feet for 8 to 10 hours straight. Sometimes you're literally standing in one place for an entire shift (that factory job was the worst job ever). It takes a toll on your whole body, and sneakers designed for walking or running aren't designed to handle prolonged foot stress.

I've worked off and on in the service and retail industries for 8 years - at a Blockbuster (RIP), craft store, coffee shop, screenprinting company, and thrift store - so I know what it feels like to end a long, chaotic shift with aching feet.

Here are my recommendations for ethically produced women's shoes suitable for this industry. I truly believe that these are some of your best bets even if you expand out your search to conventionally produced options; they're that good.

DoneGood: Get Ethical Bargains & Boycott Trump With One Extension

DoneGood ethical fashion and shopping browser extension and app
This post contains affiliate links

DoneGood is a browser extension and app developed with the express purpose of helping consumers avoid fast fashion and discover ethical brands without the burden of endless research.

I'd bet a day's wages that the number one reason people don't shop more ethically is because of the time it takes to sift through endless websites, articles, blogs, and marketing claims to find what they're looking for (a close second is price point). Though I'm an ethical shopping nerd, even I get exasperated over the difficulty of accessing and assessing ethical companies. Bloggers and advocates are working to change this in big and small ways every day, but without some creative thinking and intentional teamwork, we're not going to be able to make things much easier.

DoneGood has done a lot of creative thinking in addition to technical development to make something that can move the industry forward - at least as it pertains to consumer interest - much more rapidly than before.

I downloaded the browser extension right when it premiered in late November, so I've been using it for more than 8 months. Not only does it allow me to pinpoint ethical alternatives when I'm doing a Google search for a particular brand or item, it offers up discount codes for a number of fair trade and social good brands right from your search page. And since February, it even alerts me when a website I'm on sells Trump products, allowing me to boycott them - or at least feel that necessary pang of guilt that I'm just as much of a sucker for retail giants like Amazon as any other consumer.

Inside an Ethical Wardrobe: Summer 2017

an ethical capsule wardrobe for summer, stylewise-blog.com

Hey! I actually managed to photograph two seasons of wardrobe items in a row.


I actually wanted to do my first video now that I have a camera with recording capabilities, but I couldn't figure out how to get the sound going (maybe I need a microphone?), so photos it is.

As I always mention, I don't do capsule wardrobes because I'm a big believer in versatility and layering. My style is cohesive enough across seasons that a lot of basics, like t-shirts, can be worn year round. This, however, doesn't represent everything I own. I focused on the things I've actually been wearing throughout the summer and disregarded those aspirational items that don't suit my lifestyle.

I've linked to items that are currently available for purchase. This post contains some affiliate links.

an ethical capsule wardrobe for summer, stylewise-blog.com
Left to Right: Thrifted Shorts | NeoThread Co. Tee | GlobeIn Hat | Mawu Lolo Suborsubor Sandals | Elegantees Giselle Top | Thrifted Skirt

New this season: Shorts, Tee, Sandals, Skirt

On Body Image + Personal Modesty

on christianity, purity culture and personal modesty
I wrote this piece 4 years ago for my friend's blog on womanhood and rediscovered it recently via Facebook Memories. It still holds true, and I think it's pertinent as we look toward another fashion season. 

I was steeped good and long in American evangelical culture, though not one that held too tightly to ideals of traditional gender spheres. As a result, I was both encouraged to join the worship team and participate in co-ed theological discussions and discouraged from flaunting my sexuality (along lines of thought very specific to Protestant Christian tradition).

I was told that the boys in youth group would lust after me and sin in their hearts if I didn’t wear a shirt over my swimsuit on beach excursions. I was told to be mindful of cleavage and short skirts and too much makeup. Obsessed as a child (and still) with ideals of fairness and personal responsibility, this didn’t sit well with me. In my view, the boys were given a free pass to lust. I asked a youth leader once if boys would cover up, too, so as not to cause women to stumble. I was immediately dismissed with a laugh and the subject was never brought up again.