Style Wise | Ethical Fashion, Fair Trade, Sustainability

SUSTAINABLE STYLE & ETHICAL LIVING

White Rabbit Makes the Best Ethical Bras for A Cups

ethical bras for a cups white rabbit stylewise-blog.com
White Rabbit provided items for review and sponsored a portion of this promotion.

For some reason, it seems I've become an underwear blogger.

To be honest, I always have to pysch myself up for shooting bras and underwear. It's definitely not my comfort zone to model them, but I also like to take it on as a (minor) challenge to overcome insecurities and internalized taboos (and I remind myself that people wear swimsuits in public all the time!).

And, as I've said before, I really do believe that necessities like bras, underwear, and socks are some of the most important things to swap out when you decide to shop more sustainably. You can buy most clothing secondhand and extend the life of the clothes you already own with the proper laundering techniques.

But we tend to be hard on our underthings - and understandably don't want to buy them secondhand - so finding staple items from brands we trust ensures that those repeat buys are less resource intensive and more ethical.

ethical bras for a cups white rabbit stylewise-blog.com
I've been eyeing the bras at White Rabbit for a few months now, so when they reached out for collaboration, I was immediately on board.

About White Rabbit: Ethical + Eco-Friendly

All White Rabbit products are made entirely by women at a family-owned factory in Mexico City. Fabrics are sourced from eco-friendly manufacturers that follow OEKO-TEX standards, which ensures that dyes and other chemicals used in processing are nontoxic. The bulk of the collection is made with new bamboo rayon, which is considered eco-friendly because bamboo grows very quickly, uses less water than conventional textiles, and doesn't contribute to deforestation. Lace is sourced from a US manufacturer. In addition, White Rabbit partners with social enterprise, Fabrica Social, in Mexico City to help women build and sustain their own businesses.

Why They're Great For Small Cup Sizes

If I could, I would speak to the full range of women's bust sizes, but I really only know what it's like to live as an A-Cup, so here's my two cents: White Rabbit's bras actually fit.

I think I'm a true A-cup, but often the bras I've tried, especially underwire, either have cups that are too full coverage or gape in weird places. I also have a genetic blip that leaves me with a deeper depression than most in the center of my chest, so underwire bras often gap there, as well. For the last couple years, I've been wearing lightly padded bralettes rather than t-shirt bras because I realized I don't actually need that much support at my size. White Rabbit's selection of bras fit very true to size and also offer a perfect balance between comfort and structure.

ethical bras for a cups white rabbit stylewise-blog.com
Wearing the Madison T-Shirt Bra ($55) and Ann Bralette ($40)

My Review

The Madison T-Shirt Bra is the first underwire bra I've tried in years and I really like the way it fits. As you can see, there's only a very minimal gap at the center of my chest, which is unusual given my specific body type. The cup size is perfect and the wide set straps work well for wider necklines. I received the Madison Bra in a 34A, my usual size.

The Ann Bralette is a pretty, delicate bralette with removable padding. I really like the look and feel of it - and the adjustable straps - but plan on replacing the removable padding with slightly wider ones from another bra, as these felt slightly too small. One of the best features of this bralette, and what sets it apart from other bralettes, is that it has hook and eye closures on the back for an adjustable fit. I received the Ann Bralette in a size Small.

Final Thoughts

White Rabbit's dedication to ethical sourcing sets it apart from standard bra producers, but its price points aren't that far off from what you'd buy at Victoria's Secret or a department store. For everyday bras for A-cups, I highly recommend them. You can also pair your bras with their selection of soft, bamboo underwear.

Shop White Rabbit here.

White Rabbit the best bras for A-Cups and they're ethical stylewise-blog.com

Book Review: Inspired by Rachel Held Evans

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Just a heads up if you're usually here for ethical fashion content, today I'm sharing a book review for progressive Christian author Rachel Held Evans' newest book, Inspired, which will be available for purchase next week. As I continue to work through the discernment process to become a priest in the Episcopal Church, I am consciously trying to bring faith topics into my writing on this blog. I promise to never attempt to convert you.  I received an advance reader copy of Inspired from the publisher. 

Rachel Held Evans and I go way back. I mean, we don't exactly know each other, at least not in real life, but reading her blog during my months and years of spiritual crisis was such a balm to my spirit. As I read her stories of doubt, pain, and exclusion within the context of her conservative, Evangelical church upbringing, I continuously whispered, "me too," sometimes - ok, often - through tears. Her words emboldened me to claim my own experiences of spiritual trauma as legitimate, and to seriously work through my doubt and pain in a way that was productive, and ultimately restored my relationship with God and with the church (though a very different one than the one I grew up in).

I've read all but her very first book: A Year of Biblical Womanhood, Searching for Sunday, and now, Inspired. And I can trace the ebb and flow of Rachel's own religious life and her orientation toward God and people of faith in her writing. In Inspired, I sense Rachel's newfound comfort in an inclusive and affirming religious community. Whereas before the pain was raw and the path dimly lit, in Inspired you can see that she knows who she is, and that quiet confidence allows grace to flow through her writing in a way I haven't perceived before.
book review Inspired by Rachel Held Evans stylewise-blog.com

Inspired is a book about the Bible.

It is written for both current and recovering biblical literalists - or those who believe that the Hebrew and Christian scriptures are the inerrant and factual words of God - and for progressive Christians and spiritual questioners who struggle to understand why they should even read the Bible. That's a hard audience to unify within a single book, but I appreciate Evans' quest to do so because it is in many ways the gap I'm trying to close in my own social circles, between family members who have remained in my former religious tradition and my current church community, who often laugh nervously because they've never even attempted to read the Bible.

What I Love

What I love about Inspired is its balance of research and memoir-style storytelling, authentic appreciation and valid critique. Evans clearly spent a lot of time seeking out voices that both cherish and find room for questioning within the scriptures. She is careful to remind the reader that the Bible is important and worth taking another look at in spite of its inconsistencies, historical inaccuracies, and problematic narratives.

She wants the reader - and the wider church - to appreciate the grand narrative of God's love and to truly understand why each story is told the way it is. And importantly, she doesn't shy away from the glaring ethical issues certain narratives and teachings illuminate. She allows for discomfort, which to my mind is the best if not only way to authentically engage with the scriptures.

I also think Inspired is effective. Despite some of my misgivings about the format or particular arguments, Evans' careful consideration and conversational tone make Inspired the type of book you want to share with your religious community, your mom, your roommate, or your coworker. It is the right tone for study groups and coffee dates, and beyond what it offers immediately, it allows for new, less encumbered conversations about the Bible.

What I Don't Love

For one, I don't think this book is really for me. As a Religious Studies grad who focused on the Hebrew Bible, I had to learn to deconstruct then truly love the Bible without the aid of Evans' book, and frankly, my personal experience helped me reconcile it with my own life - and the way it was used as a weapon against me - more than a book ever could.

That's obviously not Evans' fault, but it is what it is. For me, learning to love the Bible had a lot more to do with learning to love the flawed, eccentric humans who lived, narrated, and wrote about it, and to see something of myself in them. So while historical and cultural context and genre studies contributed to my overall understanding of how to read the texts, it was ultimately the grace of shared humanity with ancient Hebrews and first century Christians that led me back.

I also had to work on developing patience when it came to the "creative writing" chapters, where Evans creatively retells Bible stories in the vein of Jewish Midrash in an attempt to help the reader see ancient stories with fresh eyes. I appreciate why she did it, but I don't know if this is really her forte (Sorry, Rachel!).

Who Should Read It

Get this book if you're skeptical about the Bible, if you're trying to loosen the pull of biblical literalism without losing your faith, or if you're curious about what the Bible may offer beyond what you get at church. Evans has a knack for bringing people in and keeping them in conversation, and I hope that Inspired will give people the freedom and good theology to learn to love the Bible in all its messy, weird, holy chaos.

Inspired will be available at all major book stores in early June.

Preorder on Barnes & Noble here. (Some signed copies available)
Preorder on Amazon here.

If you have any questions or would like other book suggestions, feel free to leave a comment!

Ethical Wardrobe: The 5 Questions I Ask Before Making a Purchase

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Recently on my Instagram Stories, I polled followers about a dress I'd been thinking of getting. One person sent me a direct message asking me if I ask myself any particular questions before making a purchase. I couldn't quite read her tone - it could have been a critique or even a request for advice - but my answer was short and sweet: "Yes, of course!"

That got me thinking about the questions I ask myself. Because of course I make judgment calls before I purchase an item, but I'm not always very strategic about it. Sometimes the pull of want overwhelms the more rational side of my brain.

As much as I'd like to claim that I'm the perfect minimalist, laser focused on sustainability, I like clothes, and it's easy, especially as a thrift shop manager, to say "yes" to things without considering my current wardrobe.

So, inspired by that simple Instagram question and by Daria's Wonder Wardrobe course, here are...

THE FIVE QUESTIONS I ASK MYSELF BEFORE MAKING A PURCHASE

1. Will it serve a useful purpose in your wardrobe?

If I can't answer yes to this question, there's no point asking any others. It's very tempting to collect clothing simply because I like the look and feel of particular pieces, but if I'm not going to wear it, if it doesn't fit my lifestyle, or if it's just too cumbersome to take care of, it's simply not an item I need to add to my wardrobe.

2. Is it similar to something you already own?

I have a tendency to buy three (or 4 or 5) of things I like. Case in point: Everlane tees. But then I have 5 very similar t-shirts that are all appropriate for the same exact context, which means something isn't going to get the attention it deserves. This is the question that stopped me in my tracks when it came to that dress I mentioned on Instagram. It resembled in color, style, and seasonality a dress I already own and love. They would have competed with each other, and that's not useful.

3. Does it coordinate with most, if not all, of your current seasonal wardrobe?

I got this idea from Daria's Wonder Wardrobe course. She suggests that one of the most important things to prioritize for a successful capsule is coordination, namely that all tops coordinate with all bottoms for endless outfit options. I'm not quite there - there are simply some pieces I can't part with - but I agree that thinking in terms of color scheme will reduce the perceived need for a bigger wardrobe. My current color palette is blue, green, rust, and tan with some mustard and neutral stripes mixed in. So I probably shouldn't add a purple skirt to the mix (not that I would anyway - I can't stand the color purple).

4. Does it meet the ethical criteria of fair labor and/or sustainable production, or is it secondhand?

In my case, I often know the ethics of a brand or item before I begin shopping, but it's not necessary to make this the first question you ask because you might disqualify the item on questions one and two before you have to do tons of research. I prioritize fair labor, then check that the fabric isn't made with synthetic fibers. I will occasionally make textile exceptions for secondhand goods or things that contain a bit of stretch for longevity.

5. Is the item timeless and high enough quality to last several seasons?

Fabric quality and construction matter so much! Wearing a well made piece makes you feel more satisfied in your clothes and means that you won't feel like you have to constantly replace items in your closet. I don't subscribe to "french wardrobe" dressing that makes you feel like you have to have a trench coat to be a responsible curator, but I do ask myself if the item suits my style in a way that feels timeless, and try to ensure that the fabric will hold up to repeated wear and tear.

---
It's tempting when you're just starting out on the ethical fashion journey to only ask yourself question 4 followed by a quick exclamation of "But it's sooo cute!" before making a purchase. But I've learned and am still learning that a drive to shop ethically without a drive to slow down consumption overall does not really have the desired effect. Overconsumption is a surprisingly tough habit to break, but I'm getting there.

I actually wrote a post very similar to this one a few years ago. You can read that one here and compare notes! Only a couple things have changed. 
capsule wardrobe 5 questions to ask before making a purchase stylewise-blog.com

Nordstrom's Surprisingly Good Sustainable Selection + My Picks

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A screenshot from Nordstrom's home page in May 2018
This post contains affiliate links

If you follow a lot of fashion blogs, you may be wondering why so many of them seem to freak out about Nordstrom sales every six months. Well, I've got the answer: RewardStyle.

One of the largest affiliate networks for bloggers who cover fashion, RewardStyle is how a lot of bloggers make their commissions. And some, whose main monetization strategy is affiliate sales, fully support themselves on this commission. I was accepted to RewardStyle in February and have been dropping links here and there (with FTC disclosures) and it's proven to be a fairly successful strategy.

Nordstrom and lots of other conventional retailers are on the RewardStyle platform, and their seasonal sales apparently have a high conversion rate, so bloggers will often put together elaborate wishlists to pique their readers' interest. It's a thing, and if you're into wishlists and shopping guides, it can be useful content.

As far as conventional retailers are concerned, Nordstrom has a surprisingly large selection of ethical and sustainable brands.

So, in the name of being a fashion blogger and in the name of the apparently coveted half-yearly sale, I thought I'd create an alternative shopping guide containing ethical, eco-friendly, social enterprise, made in USA, and sustainable goods currently offered at Nordstrom...

Click on an image to be redirected to its product page


Because inevitably those links will go dead, here's a cheat sheet of ethical and sustainable brands offered at Nordstrom:

Eileen Fisher

Clothing made with sustainable and biodegradable fabrics in regulated factories.

Amour Vert

Clothing made with plant-based fibers in regulated factories. Trees planted with purchase.

Mara Hoffman

Clothing made sustainably.

Birkenstock

Shoes made with sustainable fabrics in ethical factories.

Patagonia

Athletic and casual wear made with sustainable practices and durability in mind.

TOMS

Shoes made in regulated factories with a social good mission (TOMS was originally on my "do not buy" list, but they've responded well to customer complaints and upped their ethics in recent years).

Levi's

On the list because they are deeply committed to low water usage and overall sustainability even though parts of their line do not meet my ethics requirements.

Alternative Apparel

Sustainably and ethically produced clothing.

Burt's Bees

Organic baby clothing and other sustainable goods.

Michael Stars

Made in the USA and/or with fair labor.

Re/Done

Repurpose vintage denim and USA made new denim.

Threads For Thought

Ethically produced clothing with a social enterprise component.

Herbivore Botanicals

All natural, small batch skincare.

Splendid

Made in USA clothing.

The Honest Company

Sustainable and eco-friendly baby goods.

Matt & Nat

Vegan and ethically produced accessories.

Stella McCartney

High end clothing made ethically and with sustainability in mind.

Kork-Ease

Shoes made with cork and other natural fibers (check individual products for more details).

Mighty Good Undies

Fairly made underwear.

PLAE

Sneakers for kids and adults made with eco-friendly materials.

Rachel Comey

High end clothing produced sustainably, ethically, and sometimes in the USA.


Also, a tip from a reader: Nordstrom's Clearance site, Nordstrom Rack, carries many of the same brands at a lower price point. Shop Nordstrom Rack here.

sustainable and ethical brands at nordstrom and sale information stylewise-blog.com

If you spot any others, let me know and I'll add them. Nordstrom doesn't have the most robust search tools when it comes to ethical keywords.

Everlane Review: Cheeky Straight Jean

Everlane cheeky straight leg jean review stylewise-blog.com
Ethical Details: Tee - old Everlane; Jeans - Everlane Cheeky Straight in Indigo Wash; Shoes - Nisolo; Earrings - locally made via Darling Boutique

Finally, I found my dream jeans. 

I have a relatively small waist, a long torso, and larger hips, butt, thighs, and knees. This makes it super difficult to find jeans that a. don't fall down, b. don't feel tight at the knee or pull across the hips, and c. fit as a true high rise.

After gaining weight last summer, I was forced to embark on yet another quest for jeans. I had a bit of luck with LL Bean, though they aren't ethically produced, so I bought a couple pairs early in the fall that got me through the winter. But even those weren't great: they were lower rise and tighter in the leg than I wanted. I tried out Everlane's skinny and boyfriend denim with relative success, but ultimately resold them because they didn't provide the flexibility and all day comfort I needed.

So when Everlane's straight jeans were released, I felt like they were my last hope. I held my breath and took the plunge.

And they're awesome! So awesome I bought three pairs.

About the Cut:

The Everlane Cheeky Straight jeans are a true high rise with a nipped in waist and hip. The legs fall straight after they hit the hip and skim the leg rather than contouring with it. The back pockets have a high, vintage placement, reminiscent of '70s Wranglers. I'm wearing the regular length here - when uncuffed, they hit right at the ankle. I ordered the ankle cut in sky blue and black because I thought those colors would look better with a bit of a crop.

How They Fit:

I find these true to size, though some bloggers, like Andrea at Seasons + Salt, preferred to size down. If your body is cut like mine, I would absolutely not size down, as I think you'll run into discomfort issues at the waist and butt if you do so. That being said, these fit like comfortable mom jeans, not like skinny jeans, so you should expect a bit of wiggle room in the butt and leg. I love the line on these, as they really look like more flattering vintage denim. And the small amount of stretch and medium weight fabric make these feel comfortable even when sitting down.

I often have nice things to say about Everlane's staple items, but I would say if you only bought one thing from Everlane, you should buy these jeans. You can find decent tees anywhere. You can't find comfortable, good quality denim anywhere.

Note:
I find that the indigo wash jeans fit slightly looser than the sky blue and black denim, but not enough to justify sizing down. All styles loosen up a bit during wear. I had worn the jeans pictured here for a few days without washing, so you're seeing the loosened up look.

My Size: 29
Size Ordered: 29
Verdict? True to size

I've switched between these and the light wash cropped jeans for the last few weeks and pretty much have no desire to wear anything else.
Everlane cheeky straight leg jean review stylewise-blog.com

The Business of Blogging: Why Fair Trade Rhetoric Must Include Bloggers

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The fair trade system was created to address the root causes of global poverty and income inequality by advocating on behalf of marginalized workers - mostly women - and creating economic infrastructure to aid in long term, sustainable employment.

Because the fair trade system as we know it grew out of Western, mostly white, charity models, it continues to create and reinforce, despite its best efforts, a power differential where Westerners are assumed to be the kindly, financially secure philanthropists and artisans, primarily located in "the Global South" are assumed to be the destitute, poor beneficiaries.

This means that promoters of fair trade here in the States and in Europe are often seen more as fundraisers than business people. We are expected to evangelize the fair trade cause out of the pure goodness of our hearts, using the language and structures of nonprofit charity models even when we're, in actuality, promoting for-profit social enterprises.

These root assumptions also disguise growing income inequality and continued sexism, racism, and other forms of oppression in "the West," - not to mention diminishing economic opportunities for Millennials - by lumping in all Americans as financially secure when, in reality, many of us are far from it.

Look, I recognize my privilege. I am thankful that I can subsist on the income from my day job and freelance work, and that my husband receives a stipend while working to complete his doctorate. I'm not claiming that I'm impoverished.

But my current job cannot financially support a healthcare plan for its employees and the ACA marketplace premiums are higher in Charlottesville than anywhere else in the country, so I am very aware of how close I hover to financial disaster if a health scare plagues my household. Lack of comprehensive healthcare makes it difficult for us to plan for the future (like, can we even afford to have children?) and an inability to save means we can't partake in the traditional wealth-building exercise of home ownership.

My wage at the shop, after calculating inflation, is nearly identical to the previous manager's starting wage in 1992, and we can't raise our product prices along with inflation because fast fashion brands like Walmart and Forever 21 are now the thrift shop's biggest competition.

I say this to point out that, though my economic situation may be better than that of an artisan in Peru, I don't fit the mold of the kindly, rich benefactor. And I don't think I should be required to work for free.

The rhetoric of the fair trade and ethical fashion movement is screwed up. And I'm not talking about the principles laid out on behalf of artisans. I'm talking about the way it treats the business owners, social media managers, customer service representatives, fulfillment workers, freelance marketers, and bloggers who hold up the system from right here in the States as if we're living on a Carnegie family inheritance while bootstrapping a social-good business when, in reality, we're broke or headed toward it swiftly.

The social enterprise model is relatively new, popularized by TOMS shoes in the mid aughts. Blogging, too, is a new industry. So it's understandable that this uncharted territory is difficult to navigate. But I, and my fellow bloggers over at the EWC, feel it's necessary to address a growing problem in the field of ethical fashion marketing and blogging:

No one wants to pay us. 

Due to stigma around blogging as a business or sexism because of the culturally gendered topics we discuss or a perception that our labor is not-for-profit, we often get feedback that we should work for free, that our sponsorship fees are too high, or that free product is compensation enough for what we do.

This may have been true five years ago. But as blogging has grown to become a legitimate business, and as companies have seen real benefits from influencer marketing strategies, it's become clear that serious, effective bloggers are a key part of business, not a gaggle of sea gulls fighting for free product that you occasionally toss bread to.

This flippant attitude toward serious, effective bloggers (because not all bloggers are serious or effective) is particularly problematic in the ethical fashion industry because of all of those claims about fairness and women's empowerment. Yes, people in immediate need deserve our attention and we should make amends for the horrors of colonialism that set so many in the Global South up for failure in the first place.

But women (and men, but mostly women) in this industry are making wages they cannot live on, even when their compatriots in traditional blogging are making six figure incomes, and it's because we have allowed ethical companies for too long to make an argument that goes, "If you really cared about poor people, you would support my for profit business for free."

This is, simply stated, not fair. 

If you think we are valuable enough to email about a collaboration, then why aren't we valuable enough to be compensated?

(And if it's simply a matter of budget, I get it. I run a retail store. But if that's the case, then it may be best to hold out for the collaborators you best align with instead of casting your net too wide.)

My argument, of course, does not apply to bloggers and influencers who routinely take advantage of brands, who hawk products they don't use or barely tried, or who regularly cold-call companies asking for product without prioritizing a relationship or an effective collaboration strategy.

But there are a lot of us who are professionals, who know our readers, who have our strategies down pat. And if you want us to work with you, we simply ask that you treat us as valuable members of your business.

We simply ask that you apply fair trade principles to the way you work with all employees - whether contracted or full time.

We ask for humanity and we ask for a fair wage. 

P.S. I'm not going to get into the ins and outs of particular monetization strategies or their ethics in this post. I do delve into that more deeply in my new e-book, which you can purchase here

Related Posts from EWC Members:
why bloggers should get paid for their work stylewise-blog.com

How to Be An Ethical Lifestyle Blogger: My E-Book is Here!

guide to ethical lifestyle blogging - how to become an ethical lifestyle bloggers stylewise-blog.com
I'm excited to announce that after many, many hours of hard work, my first E-Book is now available for purchase.

Ethical Lifestyle Blogging: A Comprehensive Guide for Experts & Beginners


In January I had the opportunity to do some consultancy work for an ethical trade organization. 93 (fun and informative!) powerpoint slides later, I was ready to share my knowledge on everything from blog posts to monetization to social media best practices. It was an illuminating experience for me, as this was the first opportunity I'd given myself to write down what I've learned as an ethical blogger and freelancer over the last five and a half years.

That experience gave me the encouragement I needed to put my head down and write a conversational but informative guide on ethical lifestyle blogging. 10,400 words later, I'm pleased with the guide and ready to share it with the world.
 
guide to ethical lifestyle blogging - how to become an ethical lifestyle bloggers stylewise-blog.com

Why I Wrote My E-Book

The ethical and sustainable fashion sector is growing by leaps and bounds, and that means that a new crew of influencers are cropping up to fill an ever growing need for transparent conversations and ethical brand discovery. I've learned a lot by trial and error over the last several years and I wanted to be able to spare up-and-comers the frustration of those experiences by offering a comprehensive guide to this niche.

In addition to serving the ethical fashion blogging community, I believe that this guide serves as a great tool for brands who want to work with sustainable influencers and bloggers, as it does a deep dive into the industry from our perspective and helps brands frame their pitches and form better relationships with bloggers from the get-go.

(And, let's be honest, it's also kind of fun to snoop around and see how bloggers manage their businesses. I am not shy about sharing my methods, so if you're simply curious, you might benefit from my guide, too.)

What You'll Learn

Real Life Advice: I've done my best to share lessons I've learned, anecdotes from both blogging and my experience as the General Manager of a thrift shop, and the trial and error that has helped me build a viable business and community out of my blog. 

Analytics & Financials Tracking: I suggest processes and programs that will help you track your analytics and financial goals over the short and long term so you can understand your blog business with total confidence.

Monetization: My Monetization chapters on affiliate linking and working directly with brands through paid partnerships will help you figure out what strategy or combination of strategies will work best for you, and are also pertinent to brands and individuals looking to work with bloggers and influencers in this niche. 

Content Planning & Creation: I'll walk you through how to create a blog site and content that will bring readers back, and keep you from burning out.

Testimonials

I’ve been blogging for years on various topics, but never have I come across such a succinct and power-packed blogger’s how-to guide. Leah’s book provided information for new and seasoned bloggers alike; I honestly learned more about the business side of blogging by reading the Ethical Lifestyle Blogging Guide than I have anywhere else. The tips are actionable and to-the-point. I have a hearty to-do list as a follow up, and I’m excited to implement what I learned. I would recommend Leah’s guide to ANY lifestyle blogger looking to take their efforts seriously. - Jen, Honey Rule

The writing and sections flow really well into each other, making it an uncomplicated and helpful read. I wish I'd read it before I'd started. Even now two years in I've made a super long list of things to do from reading this guide - Fran, Ethical Unicorn

The business of blogging takes work, skill, time, and patience, but the payoff is worth it as long as you have reasonable expectations and know how to negotiate your way through brand collaborations, difficult conversations, and potential burnout. I believe my guide serves as an essential resource for any blogger, brand, or influencer looking to take their work seriously and make a difference in the world of sustainability and ethical fashion.

I want to extend a hearty thank you to readers, friends, family, and fellow bloggers who have supported me and helped me build the skills and confidence to keep this blog running, and write this e-book. I hope to write another guide on social media and post more about photo editing and graphic making in the near future.

Buy the Guide Through PayPal




If you have any questions, please email me at stylewiseblog@gmail.com

Disordered Eating and Consumption in the Intentional Living Movement

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Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist or medical doctor. Ideas expressed here are based on my personal research, firsthand accounts from friends and acquaintances, and personal observations. Please seek out a professional if you have questions.

I recently read an article about the connection between partaking in a "clean eating"-type diet and having an eating disorder (most often orthorexia). The claim in the article - and a tendency I've actually seen occur in the intentional living community - is that rigid lifestyle habits both encourage and disguise disordered eating. Diets that use the language of health and wellness legitimize obsessive and restrictive tendencies that can result in life threatening self harm.

This is serious, and we - bloggers, writers, and practitioners in spaces that intersect with intentional living - should be sensitive to this and do our best to spot potential extremes before they cause irreparable harm to our sisters and brothers.

Eating disorders are not caused by surface-level issues (i.e., they're often not about food per se), and they're also not generally caused by one thing. Rather, a confluence of genetics, lifestyle habits, psychosomatic issues, and trauma lead to developing the harmful habits and compulsions associated with eating disorders. From a psychological perspective, eating disorders often develop in an attempt to regain control.

And this is what makes them so dangerous: in their earliest stages, they can appear to be positive forms of self regulation.

I worry, because I'm starting to see the warning signs typically associated with eating disorders in the minimalist and intentional living community when it comes to wardrobe curation and consumer habits. In fact, if I go down the list of psychological and social risk factors on the National Eating Disorders Association website, I can spot them in a few bloggers and influencers I follow...

Psychological:
  • Perfectionism
  • Body image dissatisfaction
  • Personal history of an anxiety disorder
  • Behavioral inflexibility
Social:
  • Teasing or bullying
  • Limited social networks

Of course, I'm not interested in diagnosing particular individuals, and I wouldn't encourage anyone else to do it either. But I finally sat down to write this post (even though I knew it was a really sensitive topic) because I want people I know and respect to ask themselves if their consumer and lifestyle habits feel nourishing, or if they are struggling beneath the surface of their carefully curated lives. 

Endless closet purging and curation - and conversely, "binge" shopping and incessant returns - aren't likely to result in major physical health problems. But they are potentially a sign of an anxiety disorder that can diminish quality of life and lead to other forms of self harm if left unchecked.

In this community, we are encouraged to think about what we buy and why we buy it, and sometimes that process can become obsessive. We are rewarded for intensive analysis of what we wear and held up as moral exemplars for what we cut out of our lives. In short, we get positive feedback for doing things that look pretty extreme from an outsider's perspective. In my Ethical Purity post, I speak to this in more detail. 

But we need to ask ourselves if our endless quest to eliminate or perfect is in some ways a quest to diminish ourselves - or that nagging feeling that something is off - either mentally, physically, or relationally. 

Does this process of self-curation satisfy a need to control a life that feels anything but secure?

In most treatment programs for eating disorders, patients are given a dietary regimen that requires moderation. They are asked to confront - for their own survival - foods that they have previously rejected due to a judgment call about its nutritive value. They are essentially encouraged not to diet, because even a "healthy" diet requires restrictions that can contribute to a relapse. 

Ask yourself what it would feel like to stop your clothing diet, to end the restrictions and ease up on the morality claims. Does it feel overwhelming? Does it make you feel out of control?

If so, it may be time for you to ask for help.

If you are struggling with a potential eating disorder, learn more on the National Eating Disorders Association website

If you are struggling with depression or anxiety, learn more at MentalHealth.gov

If you are currently experiencing thoughts of self harm or suicide, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline immediately.

Know this: you are not alone. And easing up on your restrictions will not make you a bad person. A fair and just world must include you.
eating disorders and anxiety in minimalist living

Ethical Jewelry: The Top 9 Places to Find Minimalist, Everyday Jewelry

where to buy minimalist and ethical jewelry stylewise-blog.com
This post contains affiliate links

You might think I'm not a jewelry person, but you would be wrong. 

I believe in a good jewelry, but I also believe in not overdoing it. Coco Chanel is credited with saying that you should take one piece of jewelry off before leaving the house. Well, if I did that, I wouldn't have any jewelry on anymore. But that one special piece can make a difference: in your mood, in the way your outfit looks, in the way you compose yourself.

I have started to branch out a bit. I recently purchased a delicate cross bracelet from Made in USA brand Alex & Ani that I keep tightened around my left wrist at all times. Some days I add statement earrings or a simple necklace. It's not a lot, but it's noticeable.

There are likely hundreds of jewelry makers doing innovative things with fair labor and sustainable materials, but for the sake of brevity, here are my top 9...

BUDGET/COSTUME (Up to $50)
where to buy minimalist and ethical jewelry stylewise-blog.com

1. Sela Designs

Simple geometric jewelry made with seeds and other natural materials with proceeds benefiting orphans.

My Pick: Black and Gold Earrings (Check out more styles on her website and see these worn here)

2. Hannah Naomi

Barely there, gently sculpted jewelry handmade in Portland, Oregon.

My Pick: Mini Bead Bar Stud Earrings

3. Hands Producing Hope

Lightweight jewelry with a boho twist produced under fair trade guidelines.

My Pick: Shalom Necklace (See my review here)
where to buy minimalist and ethical jewelry stylewise-blog.com

4. Happy Fox Studio

Handmade statement jewelry made with upcycled materials

My Pick: Ear Crawler (See my review here)

5. 31 Bits

Imaginative jewelry produced under fair trade guidelines.

My Pick: Constellation Hoops

KEEPSAKE/LUXURY ($75+)
where to buy minimalist and ethical jewelry stylewise-blog.com

6. Soko

Forward thinking jewelry produced with ethical labor standards.

My Pick: Lucine Statement Ring (not pictured)

7. Sharon Z

Edgy jewelry made with recycled and ethically sourced materials.

My Pick: Silver Spear Earrings (see my review here)

8. Edge of Ember

Classic luxury jewelry made with fair labor and sustainable materials.

My Pick: Edie Rose Bar Necklace

9. Ananda Soul

Bali-inspired motifs made fairly with profits benefiting homeless children.

My Pick: Ever Present Faith Nose Ring (see my review here)
where to buy minimalist and ethical jewelry stylewise-blog.com

1 Simple Trick That Helped Me Clear Out My Closet

capsule closet and closet clean out tips stylewise-blog.com
Don't do laundry for a week. 

That's the accidental trick I used to figure out what I don't wear. 

Last week was super busy: choir dress rehearsals, a board meeting, cleaning the house before my parents arrived into town. And as a result, my typical laundry schedule got delayed by several days. Over the weekend, I found myself digging down into the darkest corners of my closet to find something to wear.

And as I surveyed those neglected shirts and skirts, I realized something: I don't want to wear them. Sure, I will wear them when left with no choice, but why am I holding onto duplicate tees in weird colors and too low-cut blouses, and styles that no longer suit my taste or lifestyle?

I wouldn't consider myself a hoarder. I purge odds and ends every week, mostly previously thrifted stuff I picked up on a whim from the shop I work at. But I do get attached to some things I think I need when I actually don't: a bright red t-shirt that's in style but doesn't suit my complexion, a pair of jeans I wanted to love but that don't fit me right, a skirt with broken elastic that I know I'll never repair (though, there's another point in there about committing to repairs instead of throwing things out). Sometimes it's time to say goodbye. 

Purge Responsibly

Since I work in the secondhand industry, I am very cautious about recommending closet purges. The fact of the matter is that you may very well be the last owner of the goods you currently have. Even high quality items sometimes fail to find a new home on the secondhand market. 

So getting rid of things is a serious matter, and sometimes I wish we were forced to look at all the things we've acquired over a lifetime and gotten rid of so we really understand that even a clean home is littered with the ephemeral carcasses of goods we purged long ago. Things do not simply disappear, or find a good home. 

But there is inevitably going to be fallout if we take this premise too far - living in an overstuffed home isn't good either. So the best thing we can do is take care to make better purchases the first time, and responsibly clear out what we can't use any longer.

Don't rely on thrift shops to help you "hide the body" that is your over-consumption. But know when it's time to let go. 

So I'm going home today and packing up a tidy bag of unwanted clothes to bring to the thrift shop. And I'll cross my fingers that they all get adopted.
closet clean out 1 simple trick that helped me clear out my closet stylewise-blog.com

The Moral Wardrobe: A Vintage Blue Dress

vintage style and vegan sandals stylewise-blog.comvintage style and vegan sandals stylewise-blog.comvintage style and vegan sandals stylewise-blog.com
Ethical Details: Dress - Low Vintage (local); Sandals - Melissa via Bead & Reel

Exhaustion. 

That's what I feel this morning after a long day yesterday. After work, we had our bi-monthly board meeting (I'm happy to report that the board voted to let me reduce my total work hours so I have more time to blog and freelance), then I headed downtown for a quick dinner before a long choir dress rehearsal. 

I'm in a small women's ensemble and our concert is scheduled for Sunday. There are 11 of us and I'm the only true first soprano, which means I'm the only one on my part for several of the songs (and I have three solos! Ahh!). It's been a good challenge, but I'm very afraid of losing my voice either before or during the concert. There was also a communication snafu that left us wondering if we were even going to have a venue, so of course I went home and ranted about it on the phone to my parents for an hour, putting my voice even more at risk. Today I'm trying to speak as little as possible. 

Both pine and oak are shedding masses of pollen, too, so my eyes are constantly watering and my Eustachian tubes aren't regulating themselves very well. The stress is overwhelming and I just want to sleep.

In news that is actually related to this blog, my E-book on ethical lifestyle blogging is live on Etsy now. I'll be posting about it more once all the testimonials are in.

The National Picnic Home Base Dress That Fits Me Like a (Baseball) Glove

National Picnic Home Base Dress made in usa review stylewise-blog.com
Betsy at National Picnic provided the Home Base Dress for review and sponsored this post.

Can you believe this is my third National Picnic review? (See one and two.)

It's become pretty clear to me that if you were to boil down the essence of my style, you'd just need a little National Picnic, a little Everlane, and some '90s vintage dresses and you'd be all set. One of the unanticipated benefits of being a fashion blogger is that you get to look at yourself wearing all sorts of garments and you can almost always tell when you're comfortable and when you're not. You'd think this would be obvious from a glance in a mirror, but it just isn't.

When I go back and look at myself in National Picnic, I always look happy and comfortable in my own skin.
  National Picnic Home Base Dress made in usa review stylewise-blog.com
I think that comfort stems from a few things:
  • National Picnic clothing is made with high quality, slightly thicker organic cotton and hemp fabrics with a bit of stretch, which means the clothes don't cling, pull, or bind. 
  • Betsy makes relatively simple styles but always with a detail, pattern, or cut that adds interest.
  • The clothing is casual but cut to flatter, and her shift dresses are never too tight at the hips on my pear shape.

Not to mention that National Picnic's production is small scale and traceable, with products made by a small team in Philadelphia.
  National Picnic Home Base Dress made in usa review stylewise-blog.comNational Picnic Home Base Dress made in usa review stylewise-blog.com Ethical Details: Home Base Dress - c/o National Picnic; Earrings - old; Shoes - #30wears

My Review of The Home Base Dress

The Home Base Dress is made with GOTS-certified cotton and hemp fabric with a tiny bit of stretch to hold its shape. It's cut modestly, which makes it ideal for my casual work environment, but the slightly wider neckline is a departure from a classic baseball tee silhouette, which makes it more flattering. The sleeves are made with a nubbier fabric that I really like, and finished with a fitted cuff.

I review lots of items and I try to point out the fit issues when I notice them, but this dress really fits me like a (baseball) glove and I have nothing to critique.

My typical dress size: S/M
Size ordered: S
Grade: A+

Why It Works in My Closet

The color palette is right on point for my Spring Capsule and this item looks pretty adorable over jeans, so it's really versatile.

Shop National Picnic

Wonder Wardrobe Is the Only Capsule Closet Course You'll Ever Need

Wonder Wardrobe Capsule Closet planning video course stylewise-blog.com
This post was sponsored by Wonder Wardrobe and I received a complimentary course for review. 

The first thing you should know about Daria Andronescu, founder and creator of the Wonder Wardrobe program and video series, is that she's a highly skilled, credentialed stylist. The second thing you should know about Daria is that she's an absolute delight!

When Daria reached out to me several weeks ago to introduce me to her multi-step, highly detailed plan for a customized capsule closet, I was interested, but not ecstatic, to take part. As you know if you've been following StyleWise for awhile, I've waffled back and forth on the Capsule concept and have, more recently, adopted what I'm calling a flexible capsule to maintain order and intrigue in my closet without stifling creative whims.

Daria's video-based Wonder Wardrobe class embraces the capsule without hesitation. And surprisingly, I realized after a couple class sessions, I'm totally on board.

This Is Why

Daria understands that a wardrobe is as unique as the person who curates and wears it. Her Wonder Wardrobe class helps the viewer value herself - what suits her, what styles she prefers, what colors compliment her skin tone - and manages to tear down the cumbersome walls a typical minimalist capsule puts up, the ones that dictate what styles are "correct." In addition to all this, Daria is a firm believer in prioritizing ethical and sustainable fashion, so the course is tailored toward like-minded individuals without being exclusionary.

Here's How It Works

Daria leads you through a series of workshops that methodically and precisely determine what your closet needs are in terms of lifestyle, color palette, style, budget, and more. She does this in a way that really makes you think about the ways you interact with your clothes, and makes you value your own perspective rather than trying to chase the predominant trends. The series is effective, in my opinion, because it manages to get the capsule down to a science without losing necessary flexibility.

Wonder Wardrobe Capsule Closet planning video course stylewise-blog.com
I asked Daria a few questions to better understand her perspective on the class and on personal style more generally...

StyleWise: What inspired you to start your YouTube channel and do the Wonder Wardrobe course? How did you get started in personal styling?

Daria: My fashion journey started in 2009 in Milan at the Up-to-Date Fashion Academy where I studied image consulting for women and men, fashion, personal shopping, and etiquette. After graduating, I was lucky enough to get an internship in Milan. It gave me a huge amount of experience. A year later I went back to Moscow, where I am from originally, and decided to start a personal shopping business.

It wasn’t easy in the beginning, so I had several other jobs before I became a full-time shopper. I was working as a brand specialist and VIP stylist in a fashion concept store, as a stylist in an online shop, and as a freelance writer for Cosmopolitan Russia magazine.

All this experience helped me come up with a special method for creating fully interchangeable seasonal wardrobes. After practicing it on my clients and my own wardrobes for years, I realized that my method actually solves a lot of problems and can be useful for other people as well. An online course seemed like the perfect solution to introduce it to the world. So, I recorded the lessons and put it out there. Soon after, I’ve started my Youtube channel to connect with more people interested in sustainable fashion.

Have you used this process for your own wardrobe? What did you learn through the process of paring down your wardrobe?

Of course! I’ve transitioned my wardrobe into the Wonder Wardrobe around 4 years ago. Everything I have now is fully interchangeable. I can literally get dressed blindfolded because any top I choose goes well with any of my bottoms. It makes my life so much easier.

Although it has never been hard for me to pair clothes, I’ve learned much more about the power of color, style harmony and how they can instantly increase wardrobe functionality. I talk a lot about it in my course and Youtube videos.

The other thing I’ve learned was that it takes some time to make your wardrobe eco-friendly and sustainable. When I started applying the Wonder Wardrobe method I had lots of mass market, unsustainable items. So my first capsule wasn’t perfect at all. But I realized that instead of feeling guilty about my previous choices I should concentrate on my future purchases. So for the past 4 years, I’ve only bought clothes that I enjoy wearing as long as they reflect my values.

Wonder Wardrobe Capsule Closet planning video course stylewise-blog.com

I love how you incorporate different style preferences into your course. Share a bit about your opinion on the minimalist craze and how that's not necessary in order to simplify your wardrobe.

I agree you don’t have to become a minimalist or change your personal style to simplify and make your wardrobe more functional. Most of the people that try capsule wardrobes choose simple and basic clothes and neutrals colors. I guess it’s the easiest way to combine clothes, but it’s not the only way. I believe we’re all different characters and freedom of stylistic expression would only bring more joy to ourselves and beauty to others.

Are you working on any other projects?

Yes, I do! My mother, husband and I have been working on giving kids new types of interactive books that let them have fun while learning new things. We write our own stories, personally hand-pick the materials, draw and sew our books and then sell them in our threadandstories.com online shop. So far it seems that kids are happy solving puzzles while parents are even happier that their kids want to play with something else than their tablets or phones.

My Progress

So, I'm not that far along in the paring down and coordinating process yet, but I have watched all the videos, done my color test (my complexion is Winter as far as I can tell), and have started thinking deeply about the wardrobe formulas I gravitate toward. I'm looking forward to continuing the process for several seasons so that I'll have a fully interchangeable wardrobe in the next few years.

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The Wonder Wardrobe Course includes 17 videos and several wardrobe planning handouts you can print out for a total cost of about $238 USD (converted from Euros). You can also purchase classes a la carte on the Wonder Wardrobe website.

You can get 15% off your purchase* of a full course or single class with the code, STYLEWISE

Check out Wonder Wardrobe


*Coupon expires 5/12/18