Style Wise | Ethical Fashion, Fair Trade, Sustainability

SUSTAINABLE STYLE & ETHICAL LIVING

The Moral Wardrobe: Timeless Wedding Style

ethical wedding style ethical wedding styleethical wedding styleethical wedding style
Ethical Details: Dress - old eShakti; Jacket - thrifted; Boots - c/o Po-Zu; Purse - c/o Amalou; Necklace - c/o Ember & Aura

When I reviewed this eShakti LBD 3 years ago, I got a lot of flack for it. eShakti doesn't have a very transparent supply chain, but their rep had told me that they paid two times the minimum wage, which, at the time, seemed about on par with many fair trade brands I'd been reviewing (to be honest, that's still true). So, the problem wasn't with the information I received, but with the fact that I was using a bare minimum standard as my litmus test for "ethical."

Still, this dress has proved to be a real work horse in my closet. It's extremely flattering, comfortable, and the proportions are right for my frame (I often have issues with fit and flare dresses sitting too high at the waist). For that reason, I don't regret reviewing it. It's a #30wears item for me.

I wore this outfit to an outdoor, country wedding last Saturday. The boots were essential to walk through the field to the big oak tree it took place under. I ended up switching out the blazer for a shawl because the wind was cold, but this makes the whole look feel more polished. And, as promised, the Amalou purse made its public debut to great acclaim!

I wore this Moon Phases necklace because the song I sang in an ensemble during the ceremony contained the phrase, "the moon in a clear blue sky," and when we were rehearsing, one of the brides' mothers pointed out that the moon was, in fact, gently radiating from a clear blue sky. It was serendipitous.

Here's the full text of the Rumi poem:


May these vows and this marriage be blessed.
May it be sweet milk,
this marriage, like wine and halvah.
May this marriage offer fruit and shade
like the date palm.
May this marriage be full of laughter,
our every day a day in paradise.
May this marriage be a sign of compassion,
a seal of happiness here and hereafter.
May this marriage have a fair face and a good name,
an omen as welcomes the moon in a clear blue sky.
I am out of words to describe
how spirit mingles in this marriage.

The other pieces I'm wearing here are from various blog collabs, proof that I actually use them in my wardrobe (quite frequently, actually).

We've been having the perfect fall weather lately. I always savor the short season when all the leaves are the color of fire.

Nostalgia & Knockoffs: The Ethical and Spiritual Crisis of Trend-Driven Homes

ethical and spiritual crisis of trendy homes - GlobeIn
My living room
A friend and I were chatting recently about the changing world of home design. 

When we were growing up, we remember most homes being full of a mixture of old family furniture, mismatched picture frames, and trusty dinnerware. Things were saved up for in young adulthood and early marriage, then used for the duration of the kids' childhoods. Outdated kitchens were a fact of life, not something to be ashamed of. Some homes were more eclectic than others, sure, but generally, things felt balanced and lived in.

That's not true any longer. I suspect the culprit is actually three things:
  1. the rise of image-based social media like Instagram
  2. the popularity of home design shows like Property Brothers and Fixer Upper
  3. the Marie Kondo minimalism craze
Meticulously curated consumerism has entered the way we dress our homes. Where once we gladly accepted hand-me-downs from parents and uncles, now we insist on new. Where once we set aside our savings for vacations or retirement, now we save up for wood floored kitchens (which, by the way, is a terrible idea because wood shouldn't get wet).

ethical and spiritual crisis of trendy homes - GlobeIn
Little details
My friend lives in a home some people would consider old fashioned. Her living room is filled with hearty wood furniture and decidedly un-modern chairs. A classic red rug covers the floor. She received most of her housewares from an aunt and uncle who, despite their best efforts, couldn't get their own children to take their hand-me-downs.

We talked about the sadness of this, that children no longer value tangible connections to their predecessors, that they feel social pressure to buy new, because their home is now inextricably linked to their identity, an identity that is no longer proud of family ties but always seeks and strives for individual recognition.

But when we insist on curating our homes through an individualistic rather than a traditional, collectivist process, we inadvertently sanitize the nostalgia and homey-ness right out of it. My friend's home is the center of our friend group. It is where we get together for birthdays and band practice, for Easter lunch and grad student get-togethers and going away parties. This is a place that feels like home to so many because the physical space isn't an obstacle or a fashion statement. Rather, it serves its purpose with grace and abundant hospitality, much like its inhabitants.

This is what home is, a place to settle in. A refuge from the showing-off culture we enter into every day when we leave our front doors. This is a place of rest.

ethical and spiritual crisis of trendy homes - GlobeIn
Old and new plants   ethical and spiritual crisis of trendy homes - GlobeIn
I want to foster a space that feels like that, and that feels welcoming to everyone who enters. 

That means being intentional, but not aggressively so. It means welcoming in family heirlooms and secondhand finds, and being content with these things even as trends change. Over the course of years, Daniel and I have scavenged for things we love: a student woodworking project we use as a TV stand, a green velvet couch we purchased form a waitress at our favorite college restaurant, Goodwill end tables, Grandma's wicker chest, my childhood bedroom set, and my mom's blue and cream dinnerware. We've added our sisters' artwork to the walls, mixed in with art from travels and fair trade trinkets. The end result is that every piece recalls a happy memory and the love of our friends and family. Everything is imbued with meaning.

This is my thought: things aren't bad, but we can misuse and abuse our relationship to things. So fill your space with mementos and sturdy end tables and childhood photos. Live in a place where the struggle and joys of your ancestors and friends permeate the air.


Argan oil and coasters provided by GlobeIn.

Secondhand Halloween: My Madeline Costume

thrifted halloween costume - Madelinethrifted halloween costume - Madelinethrifted halloween costume - Madelinethrifted halloween costume - Madeline
Ethical Details: Jacket, dress, blouse, sash, socks, and hat  - thrifted; Shoes - Frye

I love making costumes out of secondhand and thrifted goods because it forces me to get creative. I find no joy in buying a pre-made costume when I can hunt for the perfect details at charity shops.

I picked up this hat, which I've affectionately been calling my Madeline hat, last year in California. It's what inspired this costume. I purchased the rest of my outfit at a local thrift shop. Not a perfect match with Madeline's swing coat, but I could still see her wearing it.

See how Madeline wore it here.


Happy Halloween!

Everlane Review: Cashmere Crew & Swing Trench

Everlane Swing Trench review Everlane Cashmere Crew Donegal review Everlane Swing Trench review Everlane Cashmere Crew Donegal review Everlane Swing Trench review
Cashmere provided by Everlane. I purchased the Swing Trench with store credit.

Why I Keep Coming Back to Everlane

I don't think Everlane is the model of sustainability. I have questions about the specific wage structure at their factories (though even if I had this information, I'm not sure I would know how to measure it).

But I keep coming back to Everlane for a few reasons...
  1. Quality: Everything I've purchased from Everlane, with the exception of a long sleeve shirt purchased last spring (the bottom hem unraveled), has been of exceptional quality. I've owned a few t-shirts for 3+ years and they're still going strong. Considering they're lightweight, knit cotton, that's incredible. 
  2. Fit: Tops and jackets are cut well for my frame, and the sleeves are always long enough. (I don't always fare so well with their pants or shoes, however.)
  3. Price Point: Right there in my comfort level without being a throwaway purchase.
  4. Example: This is the only company besides Patagonia that I've seen scale to a high level while continuing to be transparent about their production and corporate policies. They're also receptive to questions and have continued to work toward great sustainability, exemplified by their new denim collection.
Everlane sent me a press sample of their $100 Cashmere in Donegal and I purchased their swing trench to deal with this transitional fall weather. Overall, I'm very happy with the fit and quality for the price. In fact, the "perfectionist shopper" in me doesn't feel a need to shop for something different. These are just what I wanted.

For reference, my proportions are 34A-28-39, I'm 5'7", and I typically wear a small in tops and a 6 in pants.

Swing Trench in Sage

Size Purchased: S
Grade: A

I wasn't sure I was into the swingy-ness of this trench at first, but it's actually very flattering on. The fit is great for me. I typically wear a small in Everlane and this one feels true to size. The sleeves are long enough and the shoulders aren't too tight. The fabric is medium weight, which makes it a great overcoat for fall and light winter weather.

Cashmere Crew in Frost Donegal

Size Purchased: S
Grade: A

I have last season's bright pink version of this sweater already, so I was sure this one would fit just as well. I really like that the ribbed wrists are double length. It makes the whole arm look more streamlined and keeps the chill out. The frost donegal reads light gray with black flecks and feels sophisticated and timeless. The length is perfect for my relatively long arms and torso. I'm wearing this right now and it's a nice, light but warm layer for chilly evenings.
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These are two of the best items I've purchased from Everlane, and ones that I think will stand the test of time in terms of style and quality.

Read other Everlane Reviews here.

Shop using my referral code here (I'll get store credit to purchase more things to review).

5 Very Simple Ways You Can Jumpstart Your Sustainable Lifestyle

very simple steps to a sustainable lifestyle
Ethical blogs and marketing can make it seem like the first step to buying better is, well, buying.

But I say that's thinking in the wrong direction. I was commissioned by the college ministry at my church to talk about "ethical fashion" this month and I might have confused them a little in last week's lesson, because I didn't talk about consumption at all.

Instead, I talked about the false narrative of scarcity in our capitalist, individualistic culture.

Scarcity claims that:
  • there's not enough to go around
  • we must circle the wagons, putting our self-interest ahead of the needs of others
  • we are inadequate, and the solution is to hoard goods and buy more

I also shared the counter-narrative of abundance. 

Abundance claims that:
  • there is plenty to go around
  • we are valuable and valued
  • our lives need not be driven by a fear-based need for more

I believe we must internalize this life-giving narrative before we can begin to consider our consumption. After all, if we don't know what drives us to consume in the first place, we are still being controlled by outside forces. And that means we are still susceptible to the toxic pull of over-consumption, keeping up with the Joneses (or FOMO), and stress shopping.

That being said, thinking through the ideologies that under-gird our behavior only go so far in helping us make practical, everyday habit changes.

These are my top 5, very simple suggestions for consuming more sustainably...

1. Buy less.

Were you going to go shopping this weekend? Here's an idea: don't.

Go apple picking. See a movie. Go bowling. Do anything at all besides shopping for new goods and see how you feel. In my experience, a lot of shopping is done out of boredom, or to fulfill social needs. If you can find a way to cure the boredom and see your friends without going to Target or the mall or online, do that instead.

2. Ditch the straws, plastic wrap, and coffee lids.

It is estimated that Americans use as many as 500 million straws per day, and they're typically not recycled. Straws are not biodegradable. They break down into ever smaller pieces, making their way into oceans where they wreak havoc on wildlife.

If you can resist some of the most common single use plastics, like straws, plastic wrap, and coffee lids, you can make a big impact. When you're out and about, simply say, "I don't need a straw/lid" to your server. When you're at home, consider putting leftovers and cut fruit and vegetables in reusable containers. I keep one reusable container in my fridge at all times, and fill it with onions, peppers, and whatever else needs to be sealed.

3. Upcycle, swap, or buy secondhand.

One of my readers just told me that the thrift shop she frequents gets 10,000 donated items in every single day! Americans discard or donate 14 million tons of clothing each year, and only 20% of clothing donated is actually sold in charity shops each year due to saleability and overall demand. The crisis is two-fold: we buy too much new stuff and we don't buy enough used stuff.

The solution starts with step one of this post - buy less - but the problem can also be alleviated by reusing secondhand goods. If your pants are too short, consider cutting them into crops. If you've never like the way that dress fit, see if a tailor can fix it for you. Instead of buying a new dress for that wedding, see if you can borrow one from a friend. And, by all means, go thrift shopping.

If you're looking for specific items, try searching on ebay or poshmark.

Related: Why Everyone Should Support Community Thrift Shops

4. Eat less meat.

Many hobby environmentalists claim that the best way to reduce human-caused climate change in the food industry is to shop local. But according to this study, transportation accounts for only 4-5% of greenhouse gas emissions. The biggest culprit is meat production, and more specifically, feeding and raising cows ("red meat accounts for about 150 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than chicken or fish").

Global demand for beef is also bad for the rainforest. Conservationists estimate that 65-70% of Amazon Rainforest deforestation from 2000 to 2005 was because of the meat industry.

Consider cutting your meat consumption in half, or at least to once a day if you're a voracious meat eater. Find some hearty bean dishes on my Pinterest board.

Related: If Everyone Ate Beans Instead of Beef

5. Save up for quality buys.

Instead of buying cheap, ill-fitting things that don't particularly suit your taste, consider saving up for high quality items. If there's one big lesson I've learned from nearly 5 years of blogging on conscious consumerism, it's that attention to details matters, in the way you feel in your clothes and in how long the garment will last.

I no longer get sticker shock over a $100 item when I know the quality is good and the manufacturers were treated fairly. The trick is to balance your expensive items with good quality, secondhand and upcycled items. Here's a lesson, too: sometimes you can get really good stuff cheaply on the secondhand market, you just need to keep your eyes peeled for natural fibers, conventional brands that care about quality, and silhouettes that suit your style and frame.

There are hundreds of other ways to make a small impact, but I think it's important that we get good at the things that don't hurt too much before launching into more aggressive changes.

What changes have you implemented that you think are good building blocks for people just getting started?


My Scarcity and Abundance talk was based on Walter Brueggemann's essay, The Liturgy of Abundance, the Myth of Scarcity: Consumerism and Religious Life.

The Moral Wardrobe: Clothing Anniversaries + a New It Bag

Amalou Wool Felted Handbag review
I was compensated by Amalou and provided a bag in exchange for styling and an honest review. All opinions expressed here are my own. 

While fast fashion may finally be in decline, it's alive and well in the blogging industry. How many conventional bloggers do you see wearing and re-wearing the same clothes over months and years?

It's all a part of the job, and I can understand that bloggers and readers want fresh content, not to mention that it's easier to encourage an affiliate sale when the item is still in stock. But it's obviously unsustainable, and not just from an environmental point of view. In my own experience, it's mentally taxing and disorienting to constantly feel a need to feature new items. It takes away the joy and creativity of getting dressed in a way that feels like you. It's ok to be attached to things that help us feel like our best selves.

Amalou Wool Felted Handbag review
Ethical Details: Top - United by Blue; Jeans - #30wears; Shoes - Frye; Ring - thrifted; Handbag - c/o Amalou

I have happily owned this United by Blue shirt for just over a year now, and I always feel good about myself when I'm wearing it. The shoes, too, are about a year old. A year isn't a marker of longevity by any means, but it still feels significant to me, because it means I chose wisely.

I'm not the most confident person when it comes to shopping and I can be very fickle about the things I do end up purchasing. I once read in a shopping book that I'm a "perfectionist shopper," that I am always looking for the best version of the thing I already own. That can make for tedious and unwanted purchases. So it's good to know that I made a few great decisions this time last year.

Amalou Wool Felted Handbag reviewAmalou Wool Felted Handbag review
I'm also featuring this work-of-art handbag from Amalou. 

It might seem strange to start a review of a new item talking about the value of old items, but bear with me. The reason I think it's relevant is because this is the sort of bag you don't ever get rid of. It's artisanal in every sense of the word: handmade using traditional techniques, but more than that. The bag is crafted out of one, solid piece of wool felt, hand formed by father-son team Abdullah and Mohammed in Morocco.

It's a bag that demands comment, but isn't so out there that it can't be used every day. For me, it's the thing I plan to use when I want to stand out. I'm going to bring it to a wedding this coming weekend, because I already have friends who want to see it in real life after reading last week's post on Amalou.
  Amalou Wool Felted Handbag review
The Amalou Bag retails for $120, putting it right in that comfort level for most readers who took my Reader Survey. It's a price point that allows for fair compensation, and judging by the quality, I think it's fair on the consumer end, too.

I always want to be honest about what I actually wear over time, and I know some of you would appreciate more outfit repeats. I work full time outside my house now, so it's hard for me to take photos frequently, but I hope this post is helpful. I also want to mention that most of my base clothing, like denim and t-shirts, are frequently repeated throughout my styled posts.

SHOP HERE.

Follow Amalou on Instagram.

From Herd to Hand: A Story of Sheep Herding and Wool Felting in Morocco, with Amalou

Amalou brand story - the history and story of morocco's wool and felting industries
I was compensated by Amalou for my time researching and writing this post.

When it comes to ethics, things are not so cut and dried, especially when you start to create value hierarchies that combine attention to people, planet, and animals.

Nothing makes this more clear than Alden Wicker's recent long form piece on the complexity of arguing from a position of animal ethics. In that piece, and the piece I shared on wool a few weeks ago, Alden points out that many surface-level solutions - such as avoiding the silk industry in favor of materials like rayon - can actually be more devastating than the original "problem." The same is true of vegan leathers, as Emily Folk explained on this blog two weeks ago, and even, according to Alden's research, of fur alternatives.

How do we absorb this information without throwing up our hands? 

In some cases, it's easier than we think, at least when it comes to wool.

Sheep have been raised for their wool for as many as 11,000 years. The industry has historically sustained communities and empires, though it has declined considerably since synthetic fibers took hold of the marketplace in the mid twentieth century.

While a baseline level of animal care must be met to ensure that individual farms and larger, country-wide industries can sustain themselves, exploitation is rampant due the rise of fast fashion and factory farming in the last 15 years. Still, untreated and organic wool is a smart ecological choice, and it can be ethical in regards to animal treatment when attention is given to the process, so we're left at a crossroads.

From a psychological standpoint, it's no wonder that we struggle to prevent large scale problems and identify solutions: humans lack a capacity to comprehend the massive scale of modern operations.

Rather, we are people compelled by stories. 

That's why I find it increasingly necessary to engage with artisans and their work - this is something we can hold onto.
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Over the last several weeks, I've been in conversation with Ellie at new ethical handbag company, Amalou, to create a narrative around human and animal care as it can be. This is the story of Amalou, and of the process from sheep and herder to wool and maker, across the world and into our hands and homes...

Amalou is based in Morocco, a country nestled within a region where sheep and wool have been the primary industries for centuries

Nomadic herders journey with their flocks across vast swaths of countryside, navigating an internal map for watering holes and rest stops. As Ellie expressed, sheep herding is by its nature a very different experience in Morocco than it is in America and other countries known for wool. In the words of Richard Grant, writing for The Telegraph, "the animals [are] regarded as individuals, easily recognised by their markings and personality traits."

The work sounds romantic to my Western ears, but it is arduous - hot, with long stretches without water - and requires the skill of years of experience to navigate the terrain and prepare for each new stretch of barren land, not to mention an attunement to the needs of each animal.

When shearing season begins, families and even whole communities work together to shear the herds, then sell the raw wool in local markets, or souks. Some artisans will buy it to turn into carpets or yarn.

Amalou brand story - the history and story of morocco's wool and felting industries
Felters Abdullah and Mohammed at work
In the case of Amalou, wool is purchased to be felted. Wool felt is the oldest known textile, not surprising considering how long humans have lived alongside sheep.

But think about that for a second: when you touch a piece of wool felt, you're connecting to thousands of years of human craft and culture.

The process is low tech, but labor intensive: hot water is added to layers of unprocessed wool, then the wool is pressed continuously until the fibers start to hook and tangle together.

Since Ellie works directly with the felters, she can describe their process firsthand:

Once dyed, the wool is turned over to the felters as large bags of loose, dyed wool. From there the felters prep and comb the wool to remove thorns and other debris that might remain. Once the wool is clean the felting process begins. As you'll see when the bag arrives, each bag is actually made out of a single pice of felted wool with no seams. This means they work out the size and shape of the finished item in their mind before they even begin the work, a feat that frankly boggles my mind. Using nothing but water, wool and an all natural black soap they felt the wool into shaping using their hands. To do this, they add water and soap to the fluffy wool and rub it with their hands until it felts. This is an hours long process and over those hours, you see the bag begin to take shape.

Amalou's primary felters, father-son team Mohammed and Abdullah, are in this business because they love it, and it's a natural fit due to the availability of high quality wool. Mohammed learned how to felt from his own father more than 20 years ago and they continue to work in a simple workshop, occasionally enlisting help from a friend when they're backed up on orders.
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This narrative, one that takes into account the hands and hard work of each animal and person in the process, is something we can digest.

And because it's manageable, we can make a judgement call: we can call it good.

amalou
Photo Credit: Layli Samimi for Amalou
I am not so naive as to think that all industry can, or even should, go back to the good ol' days, where handcrafted wasn't a marketing designation so much as it was simply the way things were done. I know that sometimes these processes feel easy and pure when written out on a fresh sheet of paper, but they can often be the only means of survival in a world of scarcity and crisis. We must be careful as far-removed consumers to not romanticize (or exoticize) "foreign" handicrafts.

That being said, exploring the inner workings of smaller scale, integrated industries like that of wool in Morocco underscores how important manageability is when it comes to building ethical and sustainable companies. We often can't know what happens at every step in the global supply chain, but when the co-industries of raw goods and finished products literally and figuratively gather together in open air markets, it's easy to see the people and processes behind our products.

And because we can see what's happening, we can understand our tiny part in a big world full of reverence for history - and for those loved ones who taught it to us - and with an eye toward sustaining our futures for the good of all who dwell on the planet, from Moroccan sheep herders to felters to American bloggers.

Learn more about Amalou here.


I'll be featuring an Amalou bag next week, in case you're interested in learning more about the product.

Road Tested Bags for Every Lifestyle: JOYN Review + Giveaway

JOYN bags fair trade handbags review and giveaway
I was compensated by JOYN for my work on this post. I also received items for review (and to giveaway!).

A good - I mean, really good - handbag is the unsung hero of one's wardrobe. 

They say there are shoe people and bag people. I'm not a collector of bags, but I certainly appreciate the ones that were made with consideration for how they'll be used. Multiple storage pockets, a place for my phone, easy to wear, and just enough space for a day planner are my necessities for an everyday purse.

It's surprisingly hard to find all of these qualities in a single bag, especially one that's made fairly with an eye toward style.
    JOYN bags fair trade handbags review and giveaway
Ethical Details: Top - Everlane; Flannel - thrifted; Jeans - thrifted; Shoes - Julia Bo; Nyma Satchel - c/o JOYN

When Jennie at JOYN reached out to me, I wasn't necessarily thinking I'd find an essential. 

I'm good friends with her brother and a longtime fan of JOYN's style and mission, so it was a no brainer to collaborate. But it turned out even better than I expected, because the Nyma Satchel is the thing I've "needed" for the last year. 

I've been toting around a too-small crossbody for the last several months, which was great in terms of size, but meant I couldn't bring my planner with me (which meant, unsurprisingly, that I kept forgetting appointments and daily responsibilities. I know, I know, I'm not very smart.). Then, I switched to a backpack purse, which you'd think would be awesome, but just means you have to take the whole thing off your back and carefully open it up just enough to get your wallet out without spilling everything else on the floor. 

When the JOYN delivery arrived, I wasn't sure which piece to keep for myself, but after a road test, it became clear this was the one that best suits my needs. (You can get 10% off your order with code, StyleWise)
  JOYN bags fair trade handbags review and giveaway

What You Need to Know About JOYN

JOYN Bags are produced under ethical guidelines in India. It was very important to founder, Melody Murray, that cotton be hand loomed to provide sustainable, long term jobs to artisans and preserve local craft tradition (she was inspired by Gandhi's dedication to sustaining local industries). The printed fabric on each bag was made with Indian cotton, hand processed and loomed, then block printed using traditional techniques. The environmental advantage of this process is that it uses far less electricity than modern methods.

Leather used in JOYN bags is mostly recycled, but occasionally sourced as a byproduct of the preexisting meat industry. Some bags, like the Nyma I'm wearing here, come in vegan leather.

JOYN is serious about offering a better quality of life to their employees: they offer maternal and paternal care, on site daycare, job training, educational opportunities, and entrepreneurial development.
  JOYN bags fair trade handbags review and giveawayJOYN bags fair trade handbags review and giveaway
Because JOYN specializes in handbags, they're able to offer a versatile core collection suitable for all types of needs. Leather clutches that convert into crossbodies, ID pouches, satchel styles, and even tote bags. 

For each design, I can think of a friend whose lifestyle best suits it:
  • Sarah, a social worker who often walks a couple miles to work, would love the Anna Handbag.
  • Hannah, a blogger and entrepreneur on the go, could get a lot of use out of the Kosha Crossbody Wallet.
  • My sister would love the satchels.

What I'm trying to say is that you can tell that the JOYN collection has been road tested and meets the requirements of a diverse range of people, no matter their lifestyle or profession. There's a lot of thought behind it.

JOYN bags fair trade handbags review and giveaway
Because JOYN was so generous with me, I'm able to offer a giveaway. You can choose (1) bag from the selection above: 1. The Siya Satchel ($70), 2. The Anna Handbag ($100.30), or 3. The Kosha Crossbody Wallet ($80).

If you don't want to chance it, you can get 10% off your order with code, StyleWise.

To enter:
  1. Visit JOYN.
  2. Tell me what your favorite item is and why in the comments of this post (Important: please include an email address so I can contact you if you win).
Must be at least 18 years old and a resident of the contiguous US to enter (I'm shipping this out myself!). Ends 11:59 pm EST, October 31, 2017.

SHOP JOYN. GET 10% OFF WITH CODE, StyleWise.

Follow JOYN on social media: Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook

Ethical Halloween: Simple Costumes You Can Make With Ethical Clothing

ethical halloween costumes
It's tempting, this time of year, to trek to the local Halloween store and buy a pre-made costume. I wouldn't blame you if you did: it's convenient and fun. 

The only problem is that Halloween costumes and their related accessories are some of the least ethical and sustainable things you can buy:
  1. Almost everything is plastic or polyester based, and therefore not biodegradable.
  2. Materials are low quality, which means they won't last over several seasons.
  3. One word: sweatshops.
  4. Costumes are heavily trend driven, so chances are you won't even want to wear your costume again.
  5. The costume industry is chock full of cultural appropriation and general bigotry. My local store is currently carrying a "Mexican" outfit, numerous "Indian Chief" costumes, and a child's Robert E. Lee costume. 
Basically, it's best to stay as far away as possible from commercialized, "fast fashion" Halloween and do it yourself. Here are my recommendations for some costumes you can put together yourself using versatile, ethical clothing.

FOX COSTUME

ethical halloween costumes
Elegantees Dress | Fair Indigo Leggings | Ears via Etsy

More Resources: 

BLACK CAT COSTUME

ethical halloween costumes
Elegantees Tunic | Boody Wear Leggings | Beanie via Etsy

More Resources:

FAIRY COSTUME

ethical halloween costumes

Symbology Dress | EcoStardust Biodegradable Glitter | Wings via Etsy

More Resources: 

Visions of Utopia: Why Everyone Should Support Community Thrift Shops

why you should shop at a community thrift shop
The motto of the Episcopal Church, emblazoned on signs and bumper stickers, is:

The Episcopal Church Welcomes You

The Episcopal-affiliated shop I manage displays this inclusive phrase near the front register, and I like to think it informs the way I manage the shop, and the way customers feel when they walk through our doors.

Regardless of affiliation, community thrift shops have a unique opportunity to create inclusive, equitable spaces. 

Shopping is socioeconomically stratified

Think about it: most brick-and-mortar stores draw in a relatively small demographic. Middle class teenagers, plus size women, high income outdoor enthusiasts, low income single moms, wannabe fashionistas, or bargain shoppers. Because of specific marketing goals and price points that match desired socioeconomic targets, even our shopping is stratified. In fact, retail employees are often trained, implicitly or explicitly, to either welcome or shun particular shoppers. Case in point: one time I entered a Coach store in a ritzy Florida mall wearing a tie-dye t-shirt and cutoff shorts. The employees literally grimaced when I walked in the door, assuming that someone dressed like me wasn't there to buy anything (as it turns out, they were right, but if they had treated me with kindness I may have added something to my mental wishlist).

On the other side of the coin, upper middle class shoppers are socially encouraged to stay away from stores where "poor people" congregate, places like K-Mart and Wal-Mart, for instance. It sounds harsh to articulate that, but if you are or have been located within that demographic, you know it's true. Sure, you may justify it on the basis of poor employee treatment or manufacturing policies, but at least a portion of the disgust you feel has to do with the physical space, and who tends to occupy it.

Involvement in community and civic groups has declined rapidly

People don't get together anymore. A rapid decline in community involvement (as much as 50%) - whether in civic groups, bowling leagues, or religious services - over the last 30 or so years decreases our opportunities to interact with people in different economic and political demographics from our own. One researcher speculates that this is a multi-fold issue: the rise of suburbs, recessions, more women in the workforce, greater mobility, and technology all contribute to the way society is structured.

By the same token, volunteerism has been in decline for more than a decade. Community groups and nonprofits are hemorrhaging participants on both sides, leaving them with little choice but to restructure or close their doors altogether. The end result is fewer resources for community engagement and involvement, and the breakdown of infrastructure that would allow us to reweave this social fabric.

Online "tribes" all but eliminate the need to interact with diverse populations

The rise of complex online forums like Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook make it easier to connect to like-minded people than ever before. In terms of creative and political synergy, this is an asset. But it also means we can attain much of our social fulfillment without ever leaving our homes.

And, because the internet is vast, we have no reason to congregate in diverse thought groups or tolerate conflict. The social borders are well maintained.

why you should shop at a community thrift shop

Where the thrift shop comes in

Thrift shops by their nature offer something for everyone. Prices are low, inventory is overflowing, and the environment is casual. 

Mothers come in with their kids, clients from social service agencies shop free with vouchers, upper middle class donors peruse the racks after dropping off their goods. Homeless people stock up on t-shirts, college students buy party costumes, Trump supporters chat with hippies in the checkout line. This is one of the last places where diverse populations coexist peacefully, finding common ground discussing the beauty of that $4.00 cashmere sweater or asking how old the baby is. This is a place where Christians catch a glimpse of the Kingdom and secular humanists restore their faith in humanity. 

Thrift Shops as Ministry

As a practicing Christian, I often compare the "ministry" of the thrift shop to the ministry of more traditional church work. Theoretically, religious spaces are intended for everyone, but it's easy to be burdened by the metaphorical heaviness of a church's front doors. Religious institutions have not, historically, been welcoming spaces for all. They have always been stratified along the lines of race, doctrine, sexual and political orientation, and social and economic class. This means that a significant portion of the population will feel unable to enter the community space of the sanctuary. 

But the thrift shop is different. When a person enters the space of a thrift shop, they are equal. Rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight, Trump follower or socialist, if they've come to browse, they're welcome here. Shopping in this space is as democratic as it gets. Everyone's come for a deal, and a deal they shall receive. By contextualizing our mission as a sort of holistic ministry, we are often better equipped to meet people's basic social needs - and certainly their material needs - than a typical commercial or religious space. 

People are free to talk about their dying mother or their wayward kid, to share their work woes or their big dreams, to trade recipes and life stories. And when you give them the space to do it, they open up.

Finding Balance

Of course, not every thrift shop is created equal. Some local and national shops in my area don't find the right balance between raising funds for their outreach programs and creating a welcoming and inclusive environment.

Sales are important, because they ensure you can sustain your financial commitments to local agencies, which ensures that they can sustain their work. But the way I see it, the most important resource we offer - and what makes us markedly different from other nonprofit models - is physical space and physical goods. We are uniquely equipped to meet people where they are, and to not understand that part of the mission is a moral problem. There is one particular shop that advertises itself as an "upscale boutique" and, as a result, only attracts a more well-to-due clientele. Sure, they're making bank for their charity, but where does that leave the people thrift shops were created for? And how does that help loosen the bonds of socioeconomic stratification?

Conclusion

Find a community thrift shop and support the heck out of it. 

While you're there, think about chatting with the volunteers, asking for fashion advice from a fellow shopper, and waving at a baby. You just might find that your life has become more meaningful than when you started out.

P.S. There are also practical reasons to shop at thrift shops, namely, that they keep stuff out of landfills and help you budget for higher priced, ethical goods.

My Other Posts on Thrift Shopping:
Reasons to support thrift shops

Do It Yourself: Crafting with Old Tea Boxes

DIY crafting with old tea boxes
I developed recipes and wrote blog posts for Numi Organic Tea for about a year and one of the perks was receiving lots and lots of fair trade, organic tea. I drink tea at least three times a week, so I've put all those samples to good use, but I was left with dozens of perfectly good tea boxes. Tea boxes are generally recyclable, but it seemed a shame to send them off to be smashed if there was a way to repurpose them.

Due to a combination of personal and social stressors, I've been drawn back to crafting and working with my hands over the past year (I'm saving up for a larger loom so I can do bigger weavings). So, after giving a few boxes to our pet rats, I looked through my craft bin and thought up a few upcycling ideas...

DIY crafting with old tea boxes

Custom Note Cards

What You'll Need
  • Numi Organic Holistic Tea boxes (or any tea boxes with pretty artwork)
  • Scissors
  • Watercolor palette
  • Jar with water
  • Paint brushes
  • 1 Sheet of Watercolor paper
  • Paper cutter
  • School glue (like Elmer's)
To Make:
  1. Carefully cut out the artwork on the front of your Holistic Tea boxes with a pair of sharp scissors. Set aside. 
  2. Use a paper cutter to cut a sheet of sturdy water color into 4, notecard-sized pieces.
  3. Using your watercolor palette, select complementary paint colors and paint abstract backgrounds onto your notecards. Let dry for 15-30 minutes.
  4. Use a paint brush to "paint" glue onto the back of your tea art and affix them to your notecards.
  5. You may want to use a book to keep the tea art from warping as the glue dries. 
  6. Write a special note on the back of your cards and give them to loved ones!
DIY crafting with old tea boxes

Jute Wrapped Tea Caddy

What You'll Need:
  • One Tea box
  • Matte acrylic paint in the color of your choice (I used black)
  • Paint brush
  • One roll of Jute Cording
  • Hot glue gun and glue
To Make:
  1. Carefully un-tape the side of your box and cut off the lid and side folds.
  2. Paint the exterior and interior of the box using the paint of your choice (you can leave the base unpainted to aid in drying). Set aside for 45 minutes to 1 hour. 
  3. Starting at a top corner of your box, apply a bead of hot glue and begin to wrap the jute.
  4. Continue adding small beads of hot glue to each corner until you've wrapped around the box once. 
  5. Continue wrapping without adding additional glue for 3 full rotations. Add glue to each corner on the next rotation, and continue the process - glue 1 rotation, no glue 3 rotations - until you're near the base of the box.
  6. Add extra hot glue as you make your last rotation to ensure that the jute stays in place. Cut the jute to lie flush with a corner and carefully glue in place.
DIY crafting with old tea boxes
I'm hoping to incorporate more crafting and upcycling content into the monthly blog cycle because I think it's a nice diversion from typical, consumerist posts: it connects us to artisan work in a more tangible way and it's definitely better for instilling self confidence than a shopping binge.

Let me know if you have any ideas, or if you'd like to be a guest contributor (stylewiseblog@gmail.com).

Woodsmoke & Wanderlust: Spotlighting the Haushala Weekender

Haushala Weekend Bag - fair trade, ethical, artisan made
I was compensated by Haushala for my work on this post and was provided a Weekender Bag for review.

Fall inspires wanderlust in me like no other season. 

The cooling air carries a current of wood smoke, late blooming flowers, and decaying leaves. That complex fragrance recalls every other fall I've lived through, even the Florida ones, and gives me the urge to become who I want to be. I clean my house. I take long walks. And, when I get the chance, I travel.

Road trips in this region are a vacation unto themselves. Sweeping mountain views, an aesthetic cacophony of backlit leaves showing off oranges, reds, and yellows. Daniel and I love to take the winding roads of West Virginia to visit my parents in Cincinnati. Sometimes we stop into artisan markets and moonshine distilleries on the way. Once we arrive, we settle in and decide what adventure we'll take that weekend, whether hiking in the nearby gorge, visiting craft fairs, or stocking up at the farmer's market. (Oftentimes, the adventure is just staying in and taking a breather.)
  Haushala Weekend Bag - fair trade, ethical, artisan made
Ethical Details: Top - Everlane; Jeans - secondhand via Ebay; Shoes - thrifted in Ohio; Necklace - c/o Bought Beautifully; The Weekender Bag - c/o Haushala

Weekend trips to Ohio - and elsewhere - call for a distinct type of packing. I don't need a suitcase, but it's nice to have something I can stick my laptop in and load up with a couple, interchangeable outfits. Inevitably, I'll find some treasure at a local thrift shop to bring back with me, so a little extra room is helpful.

I've been using my trusty Jansport backpack circa middle school for the last 13 years, but it doesn't fit my laptop or camera, so I end up juggling a few bags whenever I leave town. When Haushala reached out to collaborate, I knew immediately that I wanted to try out the Weekender, because it fills a gap in my life I've been trying for years to fill.

What You Should Know About Haushala

Haushala, which means encouragement, is an ethical women's cooperative that partners with NGO, Children & Youth First, a program that funds progressive, rights-based education for 47 underprivileged youth in Nepal. The women of Haushala, many of whom are mothers of the children in the educational program, were not able to receive a formal education themselves, but have employable skills that allow them to make an income and support their families long term. 50% of proceeds from the sale of Haushala products goes back into youth programming and 50% goes back into the women's initiative.
  Haushala Weekend Bag - fair trade, ethical, artisan made

About Nepali Dhaka

The fabric used for this bag and other Haushala products is hand loomed using a traditional process, and the patterns are linked to the distinctive cultural heritage of the region:

The Dhaka collection is one example of a truly indigenous form of expression reflecting Nepali mastery of craftsmanship. The fabric is traditionally hand-woven using a wood or bamboo treadle loom, where a print pattern is formed according to which sections the different color thread is laid down. The Dhaka Topi, a hat made from dhaka fabric that is a part of Nepali national dress, is considered a very important symbol of Nepali culture and national pride because the pattern embodies a piece of their history, culture, and tradition.

Haushala Weekend Bag - fair trade, ethical, artisan made

My Review

I'm really impressed with the quality of this bag. The sturdy, woven straps angle comfortably toward the shoulder. The exterior is padded for structure and to keep the contents of the bag safe. A large pocket inside can be used for laptop storage, while a smaller open interior pocket can store accessories or underwear. The bag is self standing, which means you can see the contents quite easily and retrieve what you need without disturbing everything else (this was not at all possible with my old backpack). 

All Haushala items use vegan leather. Shop the bag here ($60).

SHOP HERE


Follow Haushala on Social Media: Instagram

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Spotlight on Dhaka Cases

Haushala Dhaka Case fits ipad, kindle, and more
Haushala's artisans are especially interested in spotlighting their Dhaka Cases in the fourth quarter of this year, as they make great Holiday gifts or travel cases. Woven using the same process described above, the Dhaka Cases come in two sizes and colors. Customers have used these to store iPads, needlework, Kindles, makeup, and more. They also work as clutches. 

The Moral Wardrobe: What I Wore on a Saturday

ethical style postethical style postethical style postethical style post
Ethical Details: High Neck Tank Top - c/o Live the Give; Blue Tank Top - thrifted; Megan Cardigan - c/o Liz Alig; Boots - thrifted; Jeans - #30wears

Not much to say other than that I really enjoyed myself a couple Saturdays ago. The weather was perfect (73 degrees), so Daniel and I ate outside, then headed to the Downtown Mall for a stroll. Later in the afternoon, we met up with some friends to bowl and eat pho, a belated celebration of my 29th birthday.

I haven't gotten a lot of use out of this Live the Give tank because the cut isn't suitable for work, but I think I can pull it off by layering a tank top under it to make it a bit more modest and cover my bra straps. I think the high cut neckline is really flattering.

In case you were wondering when I'm going to post an Everlane* denim review, I'm not, for now. The first pair I ordered was way too tight in the hips, which made it impossible to button them up. By the time I got them in the mail, everything was backordered until November.  If I can get enough store credit, I might purchase several pairs to sample when they come back into stock, but for now I'm happy with my locally purchased (and not very ethical) jeans.

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P.S. Neo-nazis showed up in Charlottesville again this weekend. Fortunately, they disbursed their torch lit rally after about 15 minutes without any (physical) violence. State and local representatives are trying to figure out how to stop this from happening, but free speech and assembly laws and rather lax gun (and torch?) laws have made it very difficult to push back. Local clergy and activists were present near the synagogue during Sukkot services because police detail was, inexplicably, denied. I was out in the countryside enjoying dinner with friends at the time, so didn't hear about it until much later in the evening. I wanted to share what I know in order to correct any misinformation you may receive from national news coverage and/or twitter.