Style Wise | Ethical Fashion, Fair Trade, Sustainability


7 Ethically Sourced Mules for Spring

7 ethically sourced mules for spring 2018
Wearing Julia Bo mules last fall
If you've really been paying attention, you'll remember that sometime last spring I declared I would never buy a pair of mules.

Well, I was wrong.

At the time, I felt like a lot of the options on the market were too flimsy to actually be wearable. But there's been a fair amount of style development since then and now I can say with confidence that mules do have a place in the context of my lifestyle, mainly because they're so easy to slip on in the mornings.

Fortress of Inca just declared 2018 The Year of the Mule, and I think I buy it. I'm wary that, for some, they'll be a trend that doesn't last long enough to warrant the high price point of ethical shoes. But as I near age 30, I'm increasingly unconcerned with being "in style" and would rather jump on the things I consider classics while they're widely available. So if you can see yourself making mules a classic, here are my recommendations for high quality, ethically sourced ones. Contains affiliate links.
7 ethically sourced mules for spring 2018

1. Fortress of Inca Adra in Steel Gray, $240

Made fairly with leather from preexisting meat industry

2. Fortress of Inca Michelle in Caramel, $250

Made fairly with leather from preexisting meat industry
7 ethically sourced mules for spring 2018

3. Nisolo Sofia Slip-On in Brandy, $188

Made fairly with leather from preexisting meat industry

4. ABLE Miriam Mule in Olive $118 (on sale)

Made fairly with leather from preexisting meat industry
7 ethically sourced mules for spring 2018

5. Julia Bo Morgan Mules, $95

Handmade in a regulated European factory

6. Mohinders Leather City Slippers, $129.95 (on sale)

Made fairly with minimally processed full grain leather and handwoven finishings


7. Bhava Selma Slide Loafer, $129

Made ethically with eco-friendly faux suede

ethical mules for spring 2018

Ecofriendly Multi-Wear That's Never Boring: Why I Love Encircled

Encircled ecofriendly multiwear clothing review
This post was sponsored by Encircled. Opinions and styling are my own.

To be honest, I've never loved the concept of multi-wear garments. I don't like puzzles and I don't like my clothes to be a puzzle, so all those buttons and twists and turns seemed exhausting.

But I think Encircled has made me change my mind, and here's why: the clothes are elegant, beautiful, and easy to wear. 

Encircled makes their clothing out of eco-friendly, naturally dyed Modal, Tencel, and Bamboo, soft, luscious fabrics that drape like a Grecian toga. They're made in an ethical facility in Canada. Many of their most popular products have a multi-wear element, but they also make classic tees, sweatpants, and leggings.

Ever up for a challenge, I chose to style two of their multi-wear items, the Chrysalis Cardi and the Revolve Dress II.
Encircled ecofriendly multiwear clothing review stylewise-blog.comEncircled ecofriendly multiwear clothing review
Ethical Details: Chrysalis Cardi - c/o Encircled; Top and Culottes - thrifted; Slides -

I chose the Chrysalis Cardi, shown here in Charcoal Gray, because I liked the idea of wearing it as a shrug.

In reality, it's not exactly a cardigan. It's cut like an oversized infinity scarf with several snaps around the edges and comes with a guide on how to turn it into different garments. This look takes one simple snap. Other looks, including dress and blouse styles, are a bit more complicated, but the How To Wear section on the site is a huge help.

This is really the perfect item for travel. When I road tripped to Florida over Winter Break, I managed to both overpack and not bring appropriate items for the weather. I wish I'd had the Chrysalis Cardi as an added warmth layer and to wear as a dress and long skirt. It would have saved me a lot of stress (not to mention room in my suitcase). I'll make sure to feature this a few different ways in the coming months, so stay tuned.
Encircled ecofriendly multiwear clothing review Encircled ecofriendly multiwear clothing review The Revolve Dress II in this stunning Sapphire (my birth stone!) is great because it's reversible. You can wear it with the cowl neck in the front or the back. I opted to wear it in the back for this look because I like how it drapes, almost like a cape. The hem and hip are slightly asymmetrical, which adds visual interest and makes it easier to drape for different looks (like if you want to wear it as a tunic instead of a dress).Encircled ecofriendly multiwear clothing review
Ethical Details: Revolve Dress II - c/o Encircled; Shoes - Fortress of Inca; Earrings - Often Wander

While the weather's still cold, I'll be wearing this mostly as a tunic layered over jeans or leggings. But the length is perfectly appropriate to wear alone, and the color is so special I can easily wear this for special occasions.

The versatility of Encircled's product line is definitely a selling point, but it's important to me that things be truly wearable, as well. What I appreciate most about the garments I received for review is that the fabric is luxuriously soft but still substantial enough to hold up to regular wear. Plus, the colors are saturated and flattering.

Shop Encircled here

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Why I Wish I Could Quit Instagram

Why I Wish I Could Quit Instagram - Ingrid Goes West
At the end of last year, I watched Ingrid Goes West.

Starring Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen, Ingrid Goes West is about an emotionally dysfunctional woman named Ingrid who upends her whole life to befriend an influencer named Taylor, who she "met" through Instagram.

If you spend a lot of time in the world of social media and influencer marketing, many scenes will feel painfully familiar to you. Ingrid slouching on her couch barely watching a TV show while she double taps photos on her feed. Ingrid hesitating over liking a food pic as she stares in disgust at her messy meatball sub. Ingrid taking a big bite out of a meal she ordered on an influencer's recommendation only to spit it out. Ingrid and Taylor posing under a gas station sign, asking the poor mechanic to "get closer to the ground" and frame the shot just so.

The film is, above all, a critique of the way social media compels all of us - stalkers and glamorous influencers alike - to pretend we're something we're not for the sake of digital fame, or at least being liked. 

It dwells on the banality of obsession, and on the ways we sacrifice authentic relationship for an aspirational life. On the way Instagram in particular encourages us to scroll and refresh over and over again, even when we no longer derive pleasure from the platform.

I laughed one of those ugly, knowing laughs through much of Ingrid Goes West, to the utter confusion of my husband, who doesn't use Instagram. I didn't like the way that laugh sounded.

And sure, I'm not a stalker. I know better than to spend an inheritance on chasing down a carefree, glamorous life that doesn't actually exist.

But I am constantly pulled back to scrolling and self comparison by a platform that I don't really find that interesting.

And that's why I wish I could quit Instagram.

I have continued to use Instagram half-heartedly since my nervous breakdown early last year because I've felt obligated to use it as an extension of my blog. But I don't like that feeling of obligation, and I don't like reinforcing an idea that we are required to use these tools that often do more harm than good.

For some reason, even in spite of the data that Instagram is horrible for sales and click-through, brands and influencers alike feel that it's the end all be all of fashion marketing. I understand that for some of the early adopters of the platform, Instagram has been the key to their success. But for those of us who were unfortunate enough to get there after numerous algorithm changes and more than 600 million users had signed on, it feels like playing a game we'll inevitably lose.

When I get on Instagram now, in fact, the whole thing feels like a game. Bloggers, brands, and influencers who have been told they must have an Instagram presence are following set "rules" to increase engagement, from liking relevant hashtags to commenting "meaningfully" on other accounts. And there seems to be an unspoken rule that we're not allowed to complain publicly about how soul sucking it feels to create metrics around "meaningful engagement." There's fear built into the system.

I don't think Instagram was built for this, which is why it's failing us now. In order to function as an organic social network it would need to be isolated to real life community groups and family networks, or at least toward smaller affinity groups.

So we're all desperately clinging to this platform that was never intended for monetization, finding awkward workarounds and praying for the day we hit 10K. 

I don't think there's anything wrong with employing social media as a tool for building a business or a movement. But Instagram is not really the answer. I can think of one social media tool that's helped me more than anything else and that's Pinterest. Twitter is fine for talking to people and sharing links, but any actual growth I've experienced on this platform - my actual blog where real conversations happen - has been through Pinterest.

And beyond that, the real key to my success has been writing things that matter (to me, at the very least, but hopefully to you, too). You can have the best graphics and lifestyle shots, but if they redirect to half-hearted content, how can it possibly make you feel good? A couple years ago, people told me I couldn't grow my blog without having a considerable Instagram following. Well, my Instagram following is still relatively small but I've managed to grow to 25,000 page views over the last year, and I'm proud of that growth even if it's slow by industry standards.

To be clear, I'm not saying that there aren't social media geniuses out there who have harnessed the power of Instagram and other networks to profile their amazing blog content, I'm just saying that it isn't really working for me, and I doubt it's working for most of my fellow bloggers in the way they'd hoped it would.

So I'm sitting here for now, awaiting the day the Instagram bubble bursts - if it hasn't already - so I can sign off and get back to what I actually want to do. 

6 Places to Buy Well Made, Ethical Basics for Women (& Men)

6 places to buy well made ethical basics for women and men with Encircled
Sponsored Post. Contains affiliate links.

The terms ethical and artisan made are often synonymous with "novelty."

And that's not a bad thing. It's nice to own a one-of-a-kind embroidered dress, a bag made from leather off-cuts, and handwoven shoes. But unless you've really embraced your boho side, it's not particularly practical to outfit yourself exclusively in patterned and patch-worked goods.

I am a creature of comfort and versatility. My job has no dress code, but I prefer to wear cotton knits and easy pieces that pair well with simple accessories, the kind that won't get in the way when I'm unpacking a donation or reorganizing the sales floor.

So I've spent a lot of time seeking out ethically sourced, sustainable goods that fit well, last a long time, and fill the necessary category of "basics. The following brands use natural, breathable fabrics; feature styles that work in many contexts; and cater toward someone who wants a good fit without too much fuss.


Encircled and Dorsu

1. Encircled

What They Carry: Made in Toronto, Canada, Encircled specializes in multi-wear, classic clothing in eco-friendly jersey fabrics that fit a wide variety of body types and sizes.
Who: Women (+ 1 Men's Item)
Price Point: $18-248
My Picks: Chrysalis Cardi, Revolve Dress II (I'll be reviewing these items soon)

2. Dorsu

What They Carry: Made in Cambodia, Dorsu uses soft cotton factory remnants to produce their range of classic tees, dresses, and skirt. (Dorsu will be offering more affordable US shipping later this year.)
Who: Women & Men
Price Point: $20-60 AUD ($15-48 USD)
My Picks: Slip Dress

American Giant and Everlane

3. American Giant

What They Carry: Made in the USA, American Giant makes t-shirts, leggings, and hoodies in soft cotton.
Who: Women & Men
Price Point: $24.50-200
My Picks: Classic U-neck

4. Everlane

What They Carry: Transparently produced in a number of countries, Everlane makes minimalist basics in cotton, silk, cashmere, and technical fabrics.
Who: Women & Men
Price Point: $15-300
My Picks: Cotton Long Sleeve Crew

Pact Apparel and Fair Indigo


What They Carry: PACT carries organic cotton, fair trade underwear, socks, t-shirts, and leggings.
Who: Women, Men, & Kids
Price Point: $10-45
My Picks: Organic Leggings

6. Fair Indigo

What They Carry: Fair Indigo carries fair trade, organic originals, many in soft and sturdy Pima cotton.
Who: Women & Men
Price Point: $25-100
My Picks: Organic Tie Dress

First photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

My 7 Favorite Places to Shop for Vintage Clothing Online

7 Best places to shop for vintage clothing online -
Contains affiliate links

(I was going to post this tomorrow, but it's a snow day on the East Coast, so here's some snow day reading for you!)

I discovered vintage clothing in college, right around the time I realized that thrift stores existed. My roommate Mary and I had a lot of fun playing with vintage fashion, from wide leg rayon jumpsuits to short and sweet 90s dresses. I didn't have a lot of disposable income (fun fact: I intentionally ate soup mixed with Minute Rice in college so I could save up to buy clothes), but I could easily find one-of-a-kind pieces at local thrift and vintage stores, and that's all I needed to express myself creatively.

I sold vintage for several years, but it was turning me into a hoarder. I let that dream go a couple years ago with no regrets, but I still love to add a little bit of vintage to my wardrobe, and I'm trying to do that more this year. It's just more fun!

My top pick for vintage shopping is scouring local thrift shops, but that's not everyone's cup of tea. If you're looking to add a bit of sustainable, eco-friendly fun to your wardrobe, look no further than the vintage shops and marketplaces below.


1. Smockwalker Vintage

Reasonably priced, lots of selection, and the owner has a great sense of humor.
Best for: women who like casual pieces they can mix in with their contemporary pieces.
See my review here.


2. The Kissing Tree Vintage

Excellent condition, some rare items, and tons of selection.
Best for: true vintage lovers who are looking for something specific.
See my review here.


3. Neo-Thread

Reworked vintage pieces with a great eye for modern trends.
Best for: women who want a one-of-a-kind piece with a bit of attitude.
See my review here.


4. Moth Oddities

Specializing in vintage from the 70s through the 90s.
Best for: women who are prepared to pay full market value for groovy stuff.




A huge online consignment store that allows you to search by style, brand, and size.
Best for: bargain hunters.
See my review here.

SHOP HERE (Get 20% off your first purchase of $20 or more through this link)

6. Ebay

A major resale site that carries vintage alongside lots of other items.
Best for: specific item searches and those seeking a good deal.


7. Etsy

A marketplace specializing in handmade and vintage.
Best for: specific items searches and people who like the thrill of the hunt.

7 Best places to shop for vintage clothing online -

Photo by GREG KANTRA on Unsplash

I Tried And It Changed My Life (Slight Exaggeration) review
I received a no obligation gift code from that I used toward this post's featured purchases. Post contains affiliate links.

A long time ago, a bright eyed and bushy tailed version of myself waxed poetic about, a new-at-the-time online consignment store with great search features, low prices, and ample opportunity to earn referral credit to shop.

After about a year of good experiences, Thredup radically changed their consignment payout structure, raised prices to customers, and started placing limits on referral credits. I became disenchanted and, while I'll still recommend it as one option for secondhand shopping, it's no longer my first choice.

Then, in December I received an email from one of the affiliate networks I belong to announcing that I could apply to receive a no-obligation store credit to I had heard of them, but thought that they were a swapping-only website and not a true store. After a few minutes on the site, I realized I was wrong, so I went ahead and applied. They sent me a $25 gift card plus a generous coupon code, and off I went to shop. review
Ethical Details: Top - Everlane; Cardigan - Everlane; Pants -; Boots - thrifted review
I've been looking for a couple things at local thrift shops and ethical sites for the past several months and just wasn't having any luck. I wanted:
  1. a pair of plaid wool pants that reminded me of Annie Hall
  2. some embroidered shoes
I found both of these things on, plus a beautiful, lightweight wool midi skirt by Eileen Fisher for a total of $32.80 before applying the store credit.

But the real miracle is that everything fit perfectly. The quality on each item is exceptional and the shoes are super comfortable in addition to being like-new. review
Ethical Details: Top - Everlane; Jacket - secondhand; Skirt -; Shoes -

Shopping Tips

Shopping from big, multi-brand secondhand marketplaces can be a bit tricky.
  • To ensure a good fit, you should look up the size charts for each brand you're interested in on their respective websites. 
  • When searching, it's best to input a couple keywords, but don't get too precise or you'll confuse the system. allows you to narrow your search by category, style, size, color, and more. carries men's, women's, kids', baby, and maternity clothing, plus shoes, accessories, toys, and decor. Pricing is super reasonable and the site often has sales. 

Honestly, I'm just really happy with my experience and I think it's a great option for anyone looking to reduce the amount of new product purchases they make.

Shop here

Use my referral code for 20% off your first purchase of $20 or more.

An Honest Allbirds Review: One Year On

All Birds review after one year of owning them - where to find sustainable sneakers
Contains affiliate links

I purchased a pair of sustainable wool AllBirds in November 2016. I was looking for an ethical sneaker that would be just as suitable for work as it was for trail and neighborhood walking. The minimal profile and simple aesthetic appealed to me.

What Makes AllBirds Sustainable?

AllBirds is committed to using sustainably sourced, all natural materials - including ZQ certified wool - which means their sneakers are nontoxic and animal friendly. Their merino wool uses 60% less energy to produce than synthetics. Shoes are shipped in a patent pending shoebox that uses 40% less packaging than usual (This, to be honest, is one of my favorite aspects of the brand. Wait 'til you get them in the mail - you'll be impressed).

On the social responsibility front, AllBirds is B-Corp certified and financially supports the nonprofit, Soles 4 Souls.

Who are AllBirds Intended For?

AllBirds are not running shoes. They're really intended as a fashion sneaker with the benefit of real comfort. The soft wool upper makes these unsuitable for any serious trail walking or hiking, so it's best to buy these if you plan to wear them on sidewalks and inside buildings.

My Review

Let me start off by saying I'm not a sneaker person. Never have been. But I wanted something I could stand and walk in comfortably. I like to take walks in my neighborhood when the weather is nice and occasionally go on local hikes. I also frequently have work days where my feet really need the added support and comfort of sneakers.

For my needs, AllBirds has been an excellent choice. There's ample arch support in the structured wool and eco-PU insole. I wore these all day at the Women's March last year - so something like 12 hours of standing - and miraculously my feet didn't hurt at all the next day. I've also worn them on 4-5 local hikes and they've held up just fine, though I'm careful to watch where I'm placing my feet. I wear them to work at least once a week when I know I'll be on my feet a lot. I've found that, though these are made of wool, they breathe pretty well and I don't have issues wearing them on warmer days.

My one complaint is that the soft upper shows wear pretty quickly. You can see in the photo above that the area near my toes has stretched over time. Others have complained that the heel is uncomfortable when worn without socks, but I always wear mine with socks, so that hasn't been an issue for me.

Overall, I would recommend these!

Grade: A
Size ordered: 8
Usual size: 7.5

Shop AllBirds here

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Elizabeth Suzann Clyde Work Pants Review + Grab Bag Thoughts

Elizabeth Suzann Clyde Work Pants Review and Grab Bag Review
I've been a big fan of Elizabeth Suzann, the woman, ever since she posted a detailed essay on the costs and complications of running a US-based business using sustainable materials. 

She had become frustrated with people who told her that her clothing was too expensive when, in reality, her margins were exactly where they needed to be. I value her voice in the fashion industry because she's done the work to ensure that each step of the process is ethical and full of heart.

Elizabeth Suzann, the brand, has a bit of a cult following, particularly among the minimalist set. Grechen's Closet, Seasons + Salt, and Style Bee feature the brand frequently and their reviews always garner dozens of comments. I've been fascinated by this phenomenon and wanted a chance to review a product or two, but the pieces were always outside my budget, until last month when Elizabeth Suzann offered an online sample sale. Grab bags sold out in under a minute, but by some miracle, I snagged one. Using my affiliate income from November, I spent $225 on a mystery bag containing three bottoms. That's three items for less than the price of one, so although it may still sound expensive, it was a bargain comparatively.   Elizabeth Suzann Clyde Work Pants Review and Grab Bag ReviewElizabeth Suzann Clyde Work Pants Review and Grab Bag Review Elizabeth Suzann Clyde Work Pants Review and Grab Bag Review Outfit Details (contains affiliate links): Sweater - old American Apparel; Hat - c/o Ten Thousand Villages (similar); Boots - #30wears via Clarks; Pants - Elizabeth Suzann Clyde Work Pants

I was crossing my fingers for a pair of Clyde Work Pants because I really like the utilitarian, vintage-reminiscent silhouette. Fortunately, I got a pair in black, medium weight linen, size 6. I suspect that the ones I received are leftovers from their old sizing system (they updated their proportions last fall), so the hip and pocket area is likely more streamlined on a pair you would order today.

Thoughts on the Clyde Work Pants

I feel like a really cute Oliver Twist in these, especially with this hat. I wouldn't say that they're super flattering, but there's something off-kilter and cool about them. I can't quite put my finger on why. The 6 is a good fit with my proportions (28" waist, 39" hips, 5'7" height). I probably could have gone a size down in the waist, but they would be too tight in the butt, so this is the best fit for me.

The linen is opaque, and substantial enough to be warm in mild weather, but since I took these photos on a 20 degree day, I wore leggings underneath (also, I'll have you know that my hair froze to my head within a minute of being outside, so I sacrificed a lot for this review, lol).

Size purchased: 6
Fit: True to size
Grade: A

Grab Bag Review

In addition to the Clydes, I received a Clyde Billow Skirt in Flax and what I think are a sample fabric pair of Andy Trousers. The Billow Skirt is unexpectedly lovely. I don't normally go for light colors, but I really like the way this skirt falls and how it also has that vintage, homesteader look that initially attracted me to the Clydes.

The Andy Trousers I received were made in a thick cotton canvas that makes them look like very thick scrub pants. Not a good look at all. I don't think they're salvageable or saleable, so I guess I'm just going to count my blessings since the other two pieces are right up my alley.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I'm happy I took the chance with the grab bag. I like two of the three items I received and think I'll wear them a lot, especially once spring rolls around. I can't say I'm ready to join the cult of Elizabeth Suzann yet, but I am happy to support such a thoughtful company. 

In Search of (Healthy) Novelty: Why I'm Embracing the Two Season Capsule

two season capsule wardrobe advice and research on novelty
The human brain seeks novelty. We are attracted to the bright and shiny, to the untrod and unexplored. From an evolutionary standpoint, scientists suggest that this has to do with survival. Noticing small changes in our environment may help us negotiate risks - like predators, for instance - but it also helps us find food and water. Humans living in a post-industrial world may not often use their novelty-seeking trait for straightforward survival (though marginalized and at-risk populations probably use it more than they realize), but they're still heavily influenced by novelty.

This is why we are natural consumers, and why it's so easy to become consumption addicts. New things give us a dopamine rush that makes us feel good. Marketers exploit this to encourage us to buy more and more in an endless cycle of intense want.

So how do we make it stop?

I've learned over the years that simply "opting out" in protest to consumer exploitation isn't a great option from a psychological perspective. My novelty drive is strong enough to override good intentions.

So I've been seeking out ways to work with my novelty drive to develop healthier habits. An easy first step for me was trying to buy more secondhand goods, because the thrill of the hunt and the fun of trying on weird things was often enough to satiate my need for new experiences without contributing to unethical manufacturing practices.

But this, of course, isn't a perfect solution. Consumption addiction is by definition not healthy, even if the items purchased are secondhand. I had, and still have, a tendency to use shopping as a coping mechanism. I crave that dopamine rush. So I've worked out another strategy that I think will significantly impact the way I view clothing and shopping.

I'm doing a flexible, two-season capsule.

How It Works

The two-season capsule works for me because it isn't so stringent. Instead of intensely filtering my closet into 4 or more distinct seasons, I plan for two broader ones: Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter.

At the start of the cold season, I moved my sweaters into my main closet and put summer tops, lightweight skirts, cropped pants, and sundresses into storage. I kept short sleeve tees that work for layering in my main closet, along with kimono tops and other drapey things that can be worn layered with warmer clothing. I moved my boots to the top rack of my shoe shelf and placed sandals out of sight on the bottom rack.

Why It Works

I'm using a capsule in this way, not in the name of minimalism, but rather as a means to be surprised at the start of the next major shopping season before I'm tempted to buy all the things. By keeping out-of-season items out of sight for several months, I am able to see them with new eyes when I pull them out of storage. I've also decided not to put myself on a spending fast mid-capsule. Instead, I plan ahead for the following season, buying a handful of secondhand and ethical goods when I find what I'm looking for. I can ease into the next capsule season and make smarter shopping choices because I don't feel the need to rush.

I've only used my closet in this way for two seasons so far, but I plan to keep doing so. It adds just enough structure without feeling restrictive, and it helps me value what I already own.

In a recent New York Times article on keeping resolutions, David DeSteno asserts:

We too often think about self-improvement and the pursuit of our goals in bracing, self-flagellating terms: I will do better, I will muscle through, I will wake up earlier. But it doesn’t need to be that way, and it shouldn’t: Self-control isn’t about feeling miserable.

I think a lot of people, particularly those of us in the "conscious consumer" space, are tempted to practice a type of fasting when it comes to our wardrobes. But this rigorous asceticism is not always the best solution - it certainly isn't for me - so it's important to think creatively about what we can do to make positive changes in our lives.

DeSteno goes on to say:

It’s our emotions — specifically, gratitude, compassion and an authentic sense of pride (not hubris) — that push us to behave in ways that show self-control.

Pursuing a two-season capsule, then, is not about restriction but about grace and gratitude. Playing a game of hide-and-seek with my clothes reminds me how much I love them when I shake them out and put them back into my closet at the start of a fresh season. And sticking to my goals in small ways feeds healthy pride that reinforces positive habits.

I was so opposed to capsules when they first gained popularity because it felt like pure semantics. People were saying they were living better while still consuming at a breakneck pace. And there was also this element of self-loathing that seemed to come with pushing out all one's earthly goods in the name of a fashion experiment that started to take on perverse, spiritualized overtones.

But a capsule, I understand now, does not have to be about material loss or a stoic detachment from our own material bodies.

If framed well, it can be about abundance. 

Related Reading:

Do you do a capsule? What's your process like?
two season capsule wardrobe advice and research on novelty

Photo by tu tu on Unsplash

What a $15 Pair of Boots Taught Me About Ethical Fashion

ethical fashion and pleather boots
Three years ago, I had just discovered that I likely had Raynaud's Syndrome, a chronic issue that affects circulation in the hands and feet, particularly in cold weather. My boots were all too small to comfortably fit thick wool socks, so I embarked on that now familiar, ultimately futile quest to find the perfect pair of ethically sourced black combat boots with a large enough toe box to encourage proper circulation.

I searched high and low on the ethical market, and even stalked Ebay and Thredup for secondhand versions. But I had absolutely no luck (At the time, I could not have justified a $200 or $300 shoe purchase, so that limited my options).

Finally, I stopped into a Ross and found a pair of faux leather, Steve Madden boots. They were the last pair remaining and the only style that even remotely met my specifications. And, they were $14.99. Desperate from searching for several months with no luck, I slapped down my credit card and took them home.

Now, these boots didn't appear to meet ANY of my ethical shopping standards. Fair trade? Nope. Eco-friendly? Nope. Timeless? Nope. High quality? Meh. 

But despite those early misgivings, these boots have lasted in my closet like no other pair of boots I've owned before.

The toe box is perfectly roomy without looking clunky. The quilting on the sides makes them feel special. They're surprisingly comfortable, and have molded to my feet over time. And the fake, non-permeable leather means they hold up really well in rough weather, like rain and snow. If I'm traveling during a mild or cold season, they're the only pair of shoes I need.
ethical fashion and pleather boots
As much as I'd like to make this experience fit the narrative that ethical is always, unequivocally "better," that just wouldn't be honest. 

What I've learned from wearing and loving my cheap pleather boots is that intention matters just as much as the final purchase. I did my work to find something better, but ultimately it was the cheap pair that did the trick. I've worn them consistently for over three years and they're holding up really well. And, perhaps more importantly, I actually want to wear them. They feel like me.

If I were only concerned with labor standards, it would be hard to justify even an occasional "unethical" purchase. But the fact of the matter is that fast fashion culture does more than lead to human exploitation: its emphasis on more is more overburdens our resources, contributing to deforestation, water pollution, and climate change. There's something to be said for buying things we actually like and making them last instead of restricting and further restricting our shopping options to the point of burnout.

If I buy better but I'm still constantly buying, what am I hoping will happen? 

Because, sure, I want companies like H&M - or Steve Madden - to convert to ethical labor standards, but without reducing total production, this is only a short term fix. Not to mention that any attempts I make to buy better will feel utterly meaningless if I don't like what I bought. I've always understood that buying fewer things is a sustainable option, but I'm beginning to think that it's the option I should really be prioritizing above all else.

I'm also learning that things that look like mistakes can be reconciled when we understand that the end game is a total transformation of a multi-faceted web of issues in the fashion industry, not just a quick rebranding.

I'm not suggesting that we should all give up on finding the best alternatives. In fact, I wouldn't be likely to buy this pair of boots today, simply because I've cultivated a habit of looking for fabrics and production standards that better respect people and planet. But I don't think it's worth being embarrassed about. Shame plays a limited role in positive change. Instead, I will choose to celebrate the way these boots have served me, and the way they make me feel.

The problem of fast fashion is a problem of undervaluing what we have. The antidote is gratefulness. So I am grateful for the people who made this and other things I own, whether they work in a sweatshop or at a well regulated factory. Change must come, but never at the cost of forgetting that.

Update 3/26/18: Sadly, my beloved boots bit the dust a couple days ago when I realized that both soles were coming unglued and the faux leather had torn at the pressure points near the sole damage. I will be seeking out a much higher quality pair for the next cold season.

My 8 Achievable Goals for the New Year

achievable new year's resolutions ethical fashion blog
Happy New Year!

I don't like to rush right into the new year with too much enthusiasm because it's nice to keep savoring the warmth of the Holidays for as long as possible. But life moves on whether I like it or not, so I thought it best to start the year off with this year's personal and professional goals. I like setting goals that I know will make me happier, and that also don't take a HUGE amount of effort to achieve. That way I can end the year feeling proud for small steps taken. 

Wear one weird thing every day.

I like simple style just fine, but what I really like is wearing my striped tees and jeans with something a little "off." Big earrings, a funky vintage skirt or jacket, clunky shoes. I want to have more fun, and for me that doesn't take a lot: just one weird thing every day.

Throw more "crappy dinner parties."

Daniel and I have gotten out of the habit of having people over because we can never get our act together enough to make an impressive meal or clear all the clutter of the week off the table. In 2018, I want to cultivate casual community, and an environment where everyone understands that things don't have to be perfect to be good.
achievable new year's resolutions ethical fashion blog

Dance more.

I have come to terms with the fact that I don't have time to take a dance class with everything else in my schedule, but I would still like to find ways to dance more.

Streamline my work schedule.

Instead of working 50+ hours a week (and scrolling social media for another 10), I want to create a distinct schedule for freelance work so that I'm not always on call. Right now, my plan is to photograph for the blog on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons and write Monday and Thursday, with each individual task taking no more than 2 hours at a time.

Read 10+ books.

I read all the time, but I don't read a lot of books anymore. But I realized while dealing with the stress of August neo-Nazi events here in Charlottesville that the best remedy was getting out of the "hot take" culture and reading a full length novel or memoir. And I can process things with a lot more perspective if I immerse myself in a narrative that's not my own.
achievable new year's resolutions ethical fashion blog

Maintain a part time income through blog and freelance work (without overworking!).

Similar to last year, I want to continue to maintain and grow this space. I plan to take on less freelance work and focus mostly on blog writing and photography. I think if I can be strategic about what I post and who I work with, I can curate collaborations better without losing income. I'm very excited to have a plan!

Learn the power of saying no to things that aren't right for me.

It's really easy to guilt me into doing things. I may act stubborn, but I also have a strong sense of duty and that can overshadow the need to make tactful and useful decisions regarding my commitments. I want to cultivate discernment, not only in my vocation, but in every aspect of my life so that I can give my best to select things instead of overwhelming myself with everything.

Write something and get it published.

I'm willing to be gracious with myself on this one because I know that life happens and it's hard to commit to a long term project. But I'd love to work on a guide, book, or poetry collection and get to the point of being able to publish it (even if it's self publishing).
I would love to hear what your main goals are, especially the less traditional ones. Feel free to comment or email me at

Photos by me, taken in 2017.

You can read 2017's goals here and see if I achieved them here.