Reclaiming #Charlottesville with MATTER Prints

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

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

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

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

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

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

I like a good adventure as much as the next millennial, but I especially love when I can get away without boarding an air plane or renting an overpriced room at a questionable hotel. It's a nice reminder that, sometimes, the good things are close to home, and that anyplace can feel like an escape if you take the time to tap its resources. Plus, if you're cash strapped like I am, you have an excuse to splurge just a little bit on a good meal or an extra glass of wine without suffering an existential crisis when you get home and look at your bank account.

This is minimalism at its finest: enjoying the good things in life without living beyond your means. 

Great things to do in Charlottesville with MATTER Prints

So settle in, because my weekend in Charlottesville is jam packed...

Friday Night

Beers at Michael's Bistro

A UVa grad student hangout, Michael's is located in a warmly lit upstairs space on The Corner, the cobblestone strip of shops and restaurants across from the University. Lots of local beers on tap, seasonal egg rolls if you're hungry, and board games to play if you're up for it.

Dinner at Peter Chang's

My all time favorite restaurant, Peter Chang's was founded by the former chef of the Chinese ambassador. There are a few locations throughout Virginia and DC (and no, it's not related to PF Chang). Peter Chang's specializes in authentic Szechuan style dishes presented family style, and it's great for large gatherings.


Early lunch at Bodo's Bagels

Ask any Charlottesvillian for food recommendations and they're sure to mention Bodo's. Fresh, delicious bagels and bagel sandwiches that are amazingly cheap. I like their feta spread.

Great things to do in Charlottesville with MATTER Prints

Hike at Humpback Rocks + Driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway

Charlottesville is only about 35-40 minutes away from Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive, but you can get similar overlook views free of charge on the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you're up for some exercise, bring your sturdy shoes and hike up to Humpback Rocks (just make sure to bring plenty of water and your camera).

Bold Rock Cidery Charlottesville, Virginia - Charlottesville Vacation Guide

-or- Ciders at Bold Rock + Wine at Veritas

If Humpback Rocks doesn't interest you, head over to the local cideries and wineries. Amazing mountain views and award winning alcoholic beverages: the perfect combination.

Dinner at Miso Sweet or Now and Zen

Head downtown for dinner and enjoy some ramen and a brown butter donut at Miso Sweet or a sushi feast at Now and Zen. If the weather's nice, you can eat al fresco at Miso Sweet.

Great things to do in Charlottesville with MATTER Prints
Squinting on the Downtown Mall wearing MATTER's Sideswept Dhoti

Drinks at South Street Brewery

My favorite local brewery, South Street is conveniently located on the other side of Charlottesville pedestrian mall - the Downtown Mall - from Miso Sweet and Now and Zen, so you can walk over after dinner. I recommend Satan's Pony, an easy-drinking amber ale.


Brunch at Cafe Caturra

Back to The Corner for brunch at Cafe Caturra. Make sure to ask about mimosa pitchers. I recommend the Crispy Cheese Panini with the Arugala Goat Cheese salad.

Great things to do in Charlottesville with MATTER Prints

Shopping at Darling, Low Vintage,  ReThreads, and Circa

Drive over to the Downtown Mall for some secondhand shopping at Darling Boutique and Low Vintage (if you want to check out some fair trade goods, make sure to stop in at Ten Thousand Villages and say hi to Sallie), then head to McIntire Plaza to check out ReThreads and furniture and home goods emporium, Circa.

Great things to do in Charlottesville with MATTER Prints

Afternoon coffee at Java Java

End your visit with an organic, fair trade latte and Java Java's famous honey bunches (buttery, sweet muffins with coconut).

There are hundreds of other great ways to spend time in this region, including eating gelato at Splendora's, visiting Monticello, walking the Saunders-Monticello Trail, hiking part of the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park, and driving over to historic Staunton and visiting fair trade shop, Latitudes. If you're driving through Virginia, you should also consider stopping in Richmond, about an hour away from Charlottesville.

This town can feel claustrophobic and cluttered with tourists at times, but I love living here. It's full of natural beauty and all the good food and drinks you could want. Making this list reminded me how lucky I am.

So the next time you're looking to see the world, consider starting right where you are. 

Great things to do in Charlottesville with MATTER Prints
Memorial for Heather Heyer, killed on this site by a neo-Nazi

I wrote about my experience in Charlottesville this weekend for Christianity Today.


About MATTER Prints
MATTER uses traditional textile printing and weaving techniques to create thoughtful clothing for women and men with fair wages and an eye toward both versatility and innovation. Read my review of their Organic Cotton Dhoti Pants here.


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

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

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

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

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

According to those who have pored through forums, promotional websites, and twitter feeds, the Unite the Right folks are looking for violence. More specifically, they're hoping to rile up counter protesters to start a fight so that they look like the nonviolent ones, the good guys. This is the first national effort to build a united network of racist, homophobic, misogynist, antisemitic hate groups that can begin to exercise greater political power.

Richard Spencer, in an interview earlier this year, claimed that Donald Trump was helping his movement gain traction, but more recently, he and his ilk have been disappointed by Trump's willingness to embrace traditional conservative perspectives, which, at least in part, is why they think it's time to build a movement.

The event in Charlottesville will not be a one-off. This is only the beginning.

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

The good news is that the people of Charlottesville are prepared to resist.

Local leaders are expecting thousands of counter protesters from all over the country to attend Saturday's event, including hundreds of faith leaders like Cornel West and Traci Blackmon. The Charlottesville Clergy Collective, an interfaith social justice network, has joined forces with SURJ, Black Lives Matter, the Jefferson School (a local Black History & Culture organization), and more to ensure that counter protesters have access to safe spaces, training sessions, and community events.

The fact of the matter is that we are in danger.

The Neo-nazis will be armed. "Security" hired for the event is a motorcycle gang with a history of violence. Some groups have already put a hit list out on prominent local leaders, including our mayor. There's already infighting occurring between the various neo-Nazi groups. The city still hasn't decided whether or not they're going to close down surrounding roads, which may cause confusion and frustration for counter protesters and locals just trying to get through town. Crowds are unpredictable. Angry crowds even more so. The president of UVa is in liability-prevention mode because she doesn't want another student dying a violent death (since I've been here, one student was killed by a serial killer and another, more recently, by the North Korean state).

We have no idea what to expect, but we are prepared to resist. We are prepared to sing and march and pray. We are prepared to show the world what it means to wage love.

I ask for your prayers, your thoughts, your support, your good vibes. I'll take anything. Because when I learned about the Civil Rights Movement in school, I always asked myself what I would have done, and now I have to answer.

It's a crazy world we're living in and we need all the love we can get.


If you're in Charlottesville, you can learn about counter-protest events here and get resources on the Charlottesville Clergy Collective home page.

Ethical Giveaway: American-made Denim & Leather Clutch from Hem + Haw

Hem + Haw Conroy Clutch ethical giveaway, made in USA
This post was produced in partnership with Hem + Haw.

When Hope, founder of new domestically produced purse line Hem + Haw, initially reached out to me, she had no idea we shared the Charlottesville connection. It amazes and sort of baffles me how many people in the ethical consumerism space have lived for a time in Charlottesville. I'm grateful to be able to live in a relatively small town with all these interconnected, well traveled people. It makes it a heck of a lot easier to feel like you're a part of something, and to challenge yourself to be the best you can be.

Anyway, Hope lived here for several years while working for a local marketing agency, but she recently took a leap of faith to become a small part of the American manufacturing revival by producing high end clutches and purses with upcyled denim and American-sourced, new materials. In her words:

Here’s the thing that’s true about a good pair of jeans—they hang in there. It’s part of why we love them. We’ve worked to make our designs nimble, to maximize the material in a single pair of jeans as well as make use of the wide variety of washes available. 
Having seen firsthand what happens in communities when economic livelihoods disappear, we’re committed to U.S. manufacturing. We’ve sourced materials from all over the country and learned from a variety of local craftsman. We’re pretty thrilled that Hem + Haw bags have have been put together by hands that have been working in their respective fields for years.

Now Hope lives in Louisiana, but I had the chance to meet her at the Hem + Haw Launch Party she threw in downtown Charlottesville a couple months ago. Hope is one of those people who greets you like you're an old friend, and she's truly passionate about ensuring that every component of the line is traceable. She's also worked hard to ensure that the profit margin on each product is fair (a subject we ethical marketers and writers don't talk about enough, in my opinion).

The Goods...

Hem + Haw Conroy Clutch ethical giveaway, made in USA

Hem + Haw currently offers a mini collection of denim and leather clutches and convertible bags, available on their website. Today, they've offered to give away one Conroy Clutch in the color of your choice to a StyleWise reader, just in time for the Holidays.

The Conroy Clutch, valued at $95.00, is made from upcycled denim, American-made vegetable tanned leather and cotton, and Charlottesville-made antique brass hardware. Keep it for yourself or give it as a gift. Either way, you'll have a good story to tell about where the item came from and how it was made.

Hem + Haw Conroy Clutch ethical giveaway, made in USA

This giveaway will end on Tuesday, December 6th at 11:59 pm EST. By entering through the form below, you agree to allow Hem + Haw to add you to their email list. Open to US readers only. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Moral Wardrobe: Wear Anywhere OESH Shoes, 3-D Printed in Charlottesville

A few weeks ago, I was checking the StyleWise inbox when a familiar name caught my attention. I opened the email to discover that my friend, Maggie, writer of this piece on badass grandmas, had recently started working for a local shoe company called OESH, and that they were interested in doing a collaboration (they provided these sandals for review).

This would have been exciting regardless, but it gets better. Not only does OESH produce the bulk of their shoes less than ten minutes from my house (in a town not known for manufacturing), they 3-D print the soles! They recently won a National Science Foundation grant to perfect their custom printers, which use biodegradable pellets instead of the traditional cording, making the process more efficient and less prone to error. OESH is also a woman owned, woman operated company where employees like Maggie actually fabricate the 3-D printers, design the shoes, and program the printers on site. Basically, it's the coolest!

Maggie and owner, Casey (that's Dr. Kerrigan to you - she was a tenured professor before quitting to start OESH), gave me a tour of the operation one muggy Saturday afternoon, showing me the ins and outs of printer maintenance and design and letting me know why OESH products are superior to traditional footwear, namely because the shape and internal structure of all OESH shoes were designed with 20+ years of studies on gait (the way people walk) in mind.

OESH makes injection-molded sneakers, too, and they're careful to avoid the super toxic glues used in traditional footwear. They're working on developing the right 3-D printed design for flats that won't require glue at all. Almost all base materials are sourced in the US, as well, with many of the sandal strap varieties made in neighboring Waynesboro. The exception is the sneaker tops - they source those from China - because high performance athletic textiles just aren't available in the US.

Ethical Details: Dress - thrifted; Bracelet - c/o Candorra Artisans; Athena Sandals in Snapdragon - c/o OESH

I'm wearing the Athena Sandals in vibrant Snapdragon yellow, but this style comes in lots of other colors. The Athena sandal retails for $135.00. See another way I wore them here

I wore these every day for 7 days when I was out of town a couple weeks ago and my feet have never been happier. I'm serious. It's tempting to wear them every day with everything. And somehow they work with everything, even boho maxi dresses.

OESH just released a new sandal style, the Artemis, and StyleWise readers will have a chance to win a pair in the color of your choice! Stay tuned for tomorrow's giveaway post here and on Instagram!


Shop OESH here.

Follow OESH on social media: Instagram // Twitter // Facebook

the moral wardrobe: an epic ten thousand villages review + giveaway

ten thousand villages outfitten thousand villages giveaway
When Ten Thousand Villages reached out to me to see if I'd be interested in a collaboration, I was delighted. Ten Thousand Villages holds a special place in my heart as one of the first fair trade shops I ever visited, long before I even knew what fair trade was. They're also credited with inventing the fair trade model as we know it back in the late 1940s when Edna Ruth Byler came back from a trip to Puerto Rico determined to expand the market for artisans there.

Ten Thousand Villages works with hundreds of artisan partners around the world with a mission to empower women, build relationships, preserve cultural arts, sustain livelihoods, and show dignity. In my experience buying from Ten Thousand Villages for several years, the products are well made, with attention given to detail and consistency. Plus, they make great gifts and their Christmas ornaments are lovely.
  ten thousand villages outfitEthical Details: Top and Skirt - thrifted; Shoes - Sseko Designs c/o MadeFAIR; Necklace and Earrings - c/o Ten Thousand Villages

Ten Thousand Villages sent me the Honeycomb Blossom Necklace and Earring Set made by Tara Projects in India. The pendant pieces are made from dyed bone sourced as a byproduct from animals that have either died of natural causes or are killed for food production. My position on material sourced from animals is that it must be a byproduct of a preexisting industry so that as much of the animal is used as possible, so I'm glad to hear that. The bone makes these delicate and super lightweight, so sensitive ears will have no issue wearing the earrings. I also appreciate the unexpected way the tri-flower necklace pendant is attached to the chain. It feels very contemporary.

ten thousand villages outfit
The spring-time exuberance of this set inspired me to get out and take photos on one of those perfect, breezy, warm-in-the-sun, cool-in-the-shade early spring days. And now that the Northern Hemisphere is hurdling toward warmer weather, I'm excited to be giving away not one, but THREE Honeycomb Blossom Necklace and Earring sets. Details below.
  ten thousand villages charlottesville
I'm honored to not only be working with Ten Thousand Villages Corporate, but to be collaborating with my local Ten Thousand Villages store (Sallie and her team are the bomb!) to offer two ways to enter the giveaway.

Option 1: Enter to win one set at the Charlottesville Store. 

You'll have an opportunity to win one Honeycomb Blossom Necklace and Earring Set when you enter at the Charlottesville Ten Thousand Villages on the Downtown Mall. The contest will run for one week at that location, so check the store for details.

The address is:
105 W Main St
Charlottesville, VA 22902

Option 2: Enter to win a set for you and a set for a friend on my Instagram account (@stylewiseblog).

Head over to my instagram account for the opportunity to win 2 necklace and earring sets, one for you and one for a friend you tag in the comments. 

This contest will run for one week. The Charlottesville store will designate its own entry period and rules, and information can be found in store. The Instagram contest, in collaboration with Ten Thousand Villages Corporate, will run until Thursday, April 21st at 11:59 pm EST. Winners will be selected randomly.


the moral wardrobe: it's snow time

krochet kids pocket teekrochet kids pocket teeethical outfit
It's blizzard time! Charlottesville, as I've mentioned before, is obsessed with talking about, photographing, and anticipating weather. The TV is on in the background and the weather man has said the word, "snow," about 20 times in the past 3 minutes. News correspondents are commenting on the presence of children playing and people walking their dogs in the snow. The grocery store lot was packed full this morning with people doing last minute emergency preparedness shopping in case the power goes out (I was buying dish soap - I did my shopping two days ago).

We actually do have a reason to care this time around, though. With 24 inches of snow forecasted for the next 24 hours, this could be the biggest snow storm on record for our area. As the weather man just noted, we have a reason to enjoy it for now, but things could take a turn for the worse this evening, especially if power lines get weighed down and we lose electricity. Crossing my fingers that everyone stays safe and warm.

snow storm outfit Ethical Details: Top - Krochet Kids*; Cardigan (similar at Everlane), Coat, and Boots - thrifted; Hat - locally handmade (similar at Krochet Kids*)

Climate change is going to make all of us talk about the weather more and more. It's something I'm still learning about and trying to process, having grown up in a staunchly "Climate change isn't real, the liberal media is lying to us" household. For now, I'm trying to enjoy the novelty of heavy snow while acknowledging that the severity of this weather is a sign of things to come. Reducing meat consumption and trying to use less gas and plastic are a few ways I'm trying to keep climate change at bay, but it's nowhere near enough. It's important that we vote for initiatives and politicians who make tackling climate change a priority.

*indicates affiliate link

Gift Guide: alternative gifts in Charlottesville, VA

Life isn't about stuff, but stuff is so easy to give. If you're searching for an experience to give instead, I can help you out - if you're reasonably close to Charlottesville, VA anyway.

Here are my top choices for alternative gifts in the Charlottesville area:

bold rock cider

1. Winery Hopping: 

There are 23 wineries, cideries, and breweries within easy driving distance from Charlottesville, many of them critically acclaimed, all of them beautiful. Be the designated driver for a friend and let them enjoy tastings at a few wineries, or pick your favorite location and settle down for the afternoon with a cheese plate and a glass of your favorite wine.

Tastings tend to cost around $6-8 and most wineries let you keep your tasting glass as a souvenir. My favorite wineries are Veritas, King Family, and Loft Mountain. Bold Rock is a great choice if you prefer cider. Read more about the local wineries here.

2. Dinner and a Movie at Violet Crown:

Violet Crown is a new theater experience located on the Downtown Mall, a public, pedestrian mall in the heart of Charlottesville. Order food and a beer or glass of wine in the lobby and enjoy it while the movie is playing. I recently went to see Spotlight there with a Chicago-style hot dog in hand. I recommend napkins, both to dry your tears and to get all the mustard off your hands if you choose to partake in that particular experience. Pick your movie here.

skyline drive

3. Skyline Drive at Shenandoah National Park: 

There are two entrances to Skyline Drive within 45 minutes of the city. The scenic road spans 109 miles through the Blue Ridge Mountains, but you'll probably want to choose your own adventure and exit the park at a convenient location for getting back home. This trip is great for people who love the outdoors, but don't necessarily have the stamina or the dedication to camp or go on a hike. Prepare to gasp at the beautiful, expansive views. Learn more here.

4. Hot Air Ballooning:

Hot air balloons are a big deal around here. On a calm day, it's not unusual to see half a dozen or more floating above you on your morning commute. There are several places to enjoy a hot air balloon ride, but Boar's Head is the one I hear about most often. It'll cost you around $200 per person for a 1 hour trip, but it will probably change your life, so really, it's cheap.

low vintage in charlottesville, va

5. Vintage Shopping:

Here's my ideal day: drive out to Circa and poke through all the weird, vintage and secondhand collectibles and pretty furniture, stop into ReThreads for a quick scan through the racks, then head to the Downtown Mall to scope out the vintage clothing and accessories at Low Vintage and Ike's Underground. Stop by Paradox Pastry for a slice of Almond Pave and some tea, then go home and take a nap. I should be doing that right now instead of writing this post.

There are lots and lots of secondhand shops around town and you'll never get to all of them in one day. Check out my Resources page for more local recommendations.

luray caverns luray, va

6. Luray Caverns:

You'll have to drive about an hour out to get to Luray, but it is definitely worth it. Boasting an underground lake, cathedral-sized rooms, and a charming Stalag-pipe Organ (I'm not kidding - someone made an instrument out of the rock formations and it plays eery music), if you like caves, you'll love Luray Caverns.

Admission costs $26 per adult, but there are AAA and other discounts available, so make sure to ask about special offers before buying tickets. Learn more about Luray Caverns here.


Charlottesville is the bomb when it comes to unique, accessible experiences. I recommend that you check online for things to do in your locale if you're looking for alternative gifts this Holiday season. So much of this ethical shopping thing is about learning how to live with less stuff and enjoy life more. Don't be afraid to get out there and explore.

the moral wardrobe: all the stripes that we can see

multi stripe casual dress
fall outfit inspiration
ethical personal style
striped dress
Ethical Details: Dress - secondhand via consignment shop; Earrings - Mata Traders; Cardigan - old

My car was due for a safety inspection last week and it just so happens that the garage I go to is across the street from a shopping center, so I dropped off the car and walked over to see what I could see. I'd been in local consignment shop, Rethreads, before and hadn't really seen anything I liked, but this time around, I struck gold. This dress is everything a stripes-lover could ever want, plus I've been on a black and white kick for several weeks now (to the point that the volunteers at work are remarking on it), so I snatched it up. They have great prices and a reasonable consignment structure, giving back either 50% of the sale price in store credit or 25% in cash to the original owner.

When the weather gets cold and dreary, I try to make sure I'm wearing something that makes me happy. As a result, my cold weather wardrobe is a lot more varied than my summer one. That and afternoon tea are the only ways I get through winter here. Fortunately, it's not that cold yet, but we haven't seen the sun here in about 5 days. Suffice it to say there was no lunar eclipse viewing party at our house this weekend. 

shop local: Betsey Boutique

betsey boutique charlottesville

Betsey Boutique is a new-to-Charlottesville women's clothing shop on Market Street near the Downtown Mall. I first heard of it while using Mata Traders' find-a-retailer search tool and was so excited to see that Mata Traders had finally come to Charlottesville. I intended to stop in several weeks ago, but it was closed before I could get there.

By a twist of fate, however, Betsey Boutique had been asked to participate in the Sew What fashion show I was set to model in, so I met owner, Lisa, during fittings for that event a couple weekends ago and got to wear a few Betsey items on the runway! In our conversations during show prep, she told me she recently relocated from a small Virginia town and loved to find unique items at reasonable price points, the latter being something sorely lacking among Charlottesville boutiques. She also features local designers when possible.

sew what fashion show
photo credit: Keith Alan Sprouse

Yes, that's me (my own mother had trouble recognizing me at first). Here I'm wearing a tunic dress from a local designer. 

I finally got a chance to check out the store a couple weekends ago and was pleasantly surprised to see a wide range of fair trade and made in USA options (Betsey is not exclusively an ethical retailer), including lots of Mata Traders' jewelry and dresses, ethical bags, and cute soaps made in New York. 

mata traders charlottesville
betsey boutique charlottesville
betsey boutique charlottesville

I plan on stopping in again to shop when I have more time (I have my eye on a dress and some earrings). 

betsey boutique charlottesville

Lisa wasn't there when I took the tour, but a friendly shop attendant welcomed me. Thanks, friendly shop attendant!


Check out Betsey Boutique on facebook!

the moral wardrobe: mad men

Ethical Details: Dress - c/o Nomads; Sandals - Sseko Designs

Did you watch Mad Men? It's 1970 in the last season (just ended Sunday) and all the secretaries were wearing itty bitty mini dresses to work. I don't think I'd wear this outfit to work, but it's just fine for a lazy Saturday afternoon. I used to wear short dresses all the time, but as I get older, I just don't feel like I can get away with it anymore. Subtle social pressure paired with greater personal awareness, I suppose.

This week is an exciting one! I drove over to Roanoke to see a friend on Monday, my parents are coming into town Thursday, and I'm going to a book premiere party for Lauren Winner's new book, Wearing God Thursday evening. They're even letting me give a little speech about Style Wise while I'm there. If you're local, you can RSVP on facebook.

Ten Thousand Villages Charlottesville WFTD event

world fair trade day at ten thousand villages

I had the opportunity to check out the World Fair Trade Day event at my local Ten Thousand Villages on Saturday. Manager, Sallie, and assistant manager, Valerie, were warm and welcoming, and plenty of volunteers and staff members were on the floor to show people around and let them know about the day's special offers.

Ten Thousand Villages was the very first fair trade company and their business still serves as a model for the industry. Begun by Mennonite Edna Ruth Byler in 1946, it has since built partnerships with artisans all over the world. Artisans are paid in full before products are sold to consumers, which provides security and assists with the costs associated with production. Additionally, artisans are encouraged to use sustainable practices.

ten thousand villages charlottesville

The shop was putting on several raffles for beautiful fair trade goods, including a scarf, sarong, bag, and the book, Fair Trade: A Human Journey, full of breathtaking images and concise information about how fair trade impacts workers across the globe.

They were also offering free chocolate samples from Equal Exchange and Divine Chocolate, fair trade coffee and tea, and coloring activities for children.

ten thousand villages charlottesville
ten thousand villages charlottesville

I couldn't resist doing a little shopping while I was there, so I picked up a few things for my mom and received a delicious Equal Exchange fruit and nut chocolate bar and a sample of Level Ground dark roast coffee free with purchase!

ten thousand villages charlottesville

I had a great time getting to know some of the team, talking shop with the managers, and swapping fair trade brands and resources with others who care just as much as I do about shopping ethically.

Sallie let me know that the Charlottesville store was chosen to receive special recognition from Corporate due to its success, which means they'll have the opportunity to operate as a test market for new and exciting products in the coming months.

Congratulations on your success and thanks for having me, everyone!

UVA, Greek Life, and Institutionalized Inequality

uva rotunda at

On Wednesday, Rolling Stone (the article is quite disturbing, so proceed with caution) published an exposé on the gang rape of an undergraduate student by fraternity members at the University of Virginia.

Then the sh*t hit the fan: the frat house involved was vandalized on Wednesday night, professors organized protests, students organized a slutwalk, and the President released several (mostly inadequately forceful) statements before finally shutting down Greek activities for the remainder of the fall semester.

When someone is violently sexually assaulted and told by her peers (and potentially by the administration) that it's not okay to report it, there is no easy fix because the blame doesn't fall on one person. The particular students involved must be held accountable, but so should the fraternities, sororities, administration, local police force, and the (far less tangible) culture at large. 30% of UVA students are members of Greek organizations and a significant number of undergraduates attend frat parties as their primary source of socializing on the weekends. Students here may study hard, but they party harder, and many of them come from money and privilege that shelter them from significant repercussions. This extreme entitlement paired with Type A perfectionism and reputation above all else has created a perfect storm for persistent, unpunished sexual violence. Greek life is inherently, fundamentally discriminatory and exclusionary; the system preys on the lonely, desperate, and inexperienced. And, though the administration may know something needs to change, they are limited either by pride or by fear of legal action. As a result, they are part of the problem.

My experience with undergraduate students here is that they're often ill equipped to properly respond to violence or injustice in the lives of their friends and peers. They seem to lack a sense of self-reflection and independence that would allow them to speak up when it's necessary. To add insult to injury, their support networks are often superficial and therefore unable to withstand the type of vulnerability that comes with admitting you or a friend has been harassed or assaulted. Though I'm sure emotionally mature, justice-oriented undergraduates exist here, they don't exist in large enough numbers to change the culture.

But I believe the culture can change. I believe it is my responsibility to listen to the concerns of the undergraduates I interact with on a regular basis and to help them find a way to take a stand against unjust sorority codes, biased administrators, and the implicit expectations of the rape culture that exists here. I believe that change means more than just talking things out until we feel better, and I know we have to work together - and risk being disliked - for real and lasting progress to be made. The important thing is that we don't just allow news like this to blow over. We don't get to forget it. We must remember: for the sake of assault survivors and for the sake of prevention. No one should live in the hopelessness of feeling that their trauma has gone or will go unnoticed.

Update 11/24: Students, faculty, and community members have started a group called Alliance for Social Change. If you live in the area and are interested in participating in local events, feel free to like the page. You can also sign a petition to permanently suspend Phi Kappa Psi from UVA's campus. Personally, I believe that it would better to suspend all Greek programs on a temporary basis during which the university can dramatically restructure them (e.g. require them to move to on-campus housing, change policies, make rush more inclusive, affirmative action, etc.). I don't know that a permanent removal of one fraternity will change things long term.

Bangladesh Garment Workers Memorial Quilt

Last night, the Virginia Arts of the Book Center sponsored a one night exhibition of the Triangle Fire and Bangladesh Garment Workers Memorial Quilts. I wasn't able to attend since I had plans to see my friend's play, but I still wanted to mention it here.

The quilts were designed by Robin Berson, a labor rights activist associated with the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition based in New York. Before the 2013 collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh that killed 1,133 people, The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911 was the deadliest factory disaster in the history of the industry. The owners of the Manhattan-based building were indicted for manslaughter, but were acquitted. The incident is responsible for improving safety standards in New York and in the country at large. The Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition was formed in the years leading up to the 100 year anniversary of the tragedy and works to promote universal worker dignity and safety. The Bangladesh Garment Workers Quilt commemorates the lives lost in the Rana Plaza collapse and the Tazreen fire.

The handmade quilts serve as a moving reminder that we are all connected by the stitches that make our garments. We are all responsible for worker safety.

For more information about the Rana Plaza disaster, read my article for Relevant.

the moral wardrobe: camel sweater

j crew camel sweater personal style post on
j crew camel sweater personal style post on
j crew camel sweater personal style post on
Outfit Details: Sweater - J. Crew via ebay (similar); Pants - thrifted; Earrings - Mata Traders; Shoes - Blowfish

I call that last photo "Camel-flage."

It's really looking like fall now. We've had a warm October, but everyone says this is the best leaf display we've had in years. I don't know about that, but it's certainly better than last year. 

I've spent the week marketing the thrift shop's Halloween costumes like crazy. I've almost convinced myself to buy one, but I'm on a spending freeze at the moment, partially because I finally broke down and bought J. Crew's Fall '13 camel sweater on ebay. I've wanted it for a year, so I guess that means it's not an impulse buy. I have a weird tendency of thinking that some items are so special I can't possibly purchase them.

an ethical outfit: exploring midtown

ethical outfit with sseko designs, vintage, and people tree on

ethical outfit: exploring midtown by fracturedradiance featuring a long wool sweater

Sources: People Tree Sweater, Paige Denim, Recycling History Beret, Sseko Designs Bag, Nemres Boots

UVa students rarely refer to the area of Main Street between campus and Downtown as Midtown, but townies, of which I am one, proudly do. It's a small area - only a few blocks long - but it boasts the best local pastry shop in town, an upscale market, several good restaurants built in old industrial buildings, a tattoo parlor, and a few hoity toity shops.

This outfit would be perfect for a sunny, cool day like today. I'd bring a local paper and a book in my bag then settle into an outdoor table at Albemarle Baking Company with hot tea and a chocolate croissant. Alas! Today is Homecoming, so I'll have to wait for a quieter weekend.

birthday weekend

Things have been hectic recently and I'm looking forward to next weekend, when my schedule is clear and I can read and doze and play my banjo.

On Friday, a group of us headed out to Peter Chang's (not to be confused with PF Changs) for dinner, followed by cake and drinks at my place. Since it was my Golden Birthday, it had an understated gold theme and a couple friends gave me gold-adorned presents (but no real gold, unfortunately). Yesterday I went on our church's second annual hike in Shenandoah National Park. We had perfect weather and an enthusiastic group this year!

shenandoah national park mountain flowers, leah wise sunlit fall leaves, leah wisered leaves in the mountains, leah wise

For more photos from the hike, check out

the moral wardrobe: low back

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Outfit Details: Top - thrifted via the Schoolhouse Thrift Shop; Skirt - Old Navy (old); Shoes - thrifted

I'm emotionally exhausted over the disappearance of local student, Hannah Graham, and spent the week being snippy with people I love. I'm feeling a bit down, but am encouraged by the way the Charlottesville community has stepped up to comfort one another and aid in the search.

This week is birthday week and I'm determined to count my blessings. I have lovely plans for Friday and am going on a hike in Shenandoah National Park on Saturday, so there's a lot to look forward to. I'm also excited to work on some new pieces on my banjo; I'm painfully inexperienced, but I think my guitar basics will transfer well enough for now.

an ethical outfit: afternoon lecture


Details: People Tree Dress, Mata Traders Earrings, Malia Designs Bag, Ruby Dust Vintage Loafers

(Click the styleboard to be redirected to polyvore)

I don't have any lectures to attend, though I did go to a special talk given by one of Daniel's professors a couple weeks ago. It's important to me that I'm still connected to the academic community. I enjoy living outside of it while keeping up with the conversations within it; it's the best of both worlds. Being married to a grad student has its perks.

I love this People Tree Dress, but the conversion rate makes it pretty far out of my reach. Sad face. The Malia Designs bag, however, comes at a reasonable price at $38.00. It's made from a cement bag and has the most adorable graphic elephant print!

The weather is inching down to fall temps. I'm not excited for the winter, but Charlottesville is really meant for fall. It's a fireworks display of changing leaves and mountain breezes in October and November.

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