human trafficking

Dressember Update: But, Like, What Is My Personal Style?

Dressember Reflection

The Dressember Challenge has been illuminating from a style perspective. When you're forced to wear a dress every day in colder and colder weather, you either have to think long and hard about how to make the outfit work or just throw up your hands and layer up. I've looked like a kindergartner dressed up for recess with my sneakers, jeans, mismatched socks, and dress more often than I'd like to admit. It has not done wonders for my self esteem. (Don't let the above photos fool you. Those were my good days.)

It's really gotten me thinking about what I'm actually drawn to right now, because it's forced me to pine away for certain items that just don't work with dresses. 

I miss my boyfriend jeans, my Everlane u-necks, and all of my delightful sweaters (I looove sweaters). I miss the un-busyness of my normal clothing routine. I like special details, but I don't need tons of crazy prints. I prefer to add unusual accessories and play with proportion rather than rely on a print to make things interesting.

This has not always been the case. I was obsessed with vintage printed skirts for a few years, for instance, but even then, I kept layering to a minimum. When I have to wear a dress in below freezing temperatures, I have to sort out where it will go in the layering lineup. I don't find it fun.

Plus, I've been wanting to do more of an Annie Hall thing for awhile and I feel like my hair right now completes the look, so I'm bitter that I'm sitting here in a dress I've worn several times instead of my calm, collected, and casual look.

Another lesson that's been reiterated for me during this challenge is that capsules wardrobes and I don't get along. 

If you think about it, Dressember is a capsule wardrobe project because it prioritizes some items over others and limits the ways you can wear the rest of your closet. As a result, predictably, I find myself wanting to shop incessantly for all sorts of things just to mix things up when, in reality, I already have way more than I need.

I am lousy at persisting in things I find silly, or things that lower my self esteem. Dressing in a way that feels representative of who I am and who I want to be is important to me, and having to forego that has made me increasingly depressed.

I suppose this is a lesson that keeps in line with the anti-trafficking mission of the challenge. I'm sitting here annoyed and slightly sad that I have to wear dresses for a few more days while millions of people are forced to do all sorts of things they don't want to do because they're literally enslaved.

I'm temporarily "enslaved" to this dumb thing I thought would be super fun. That means nothing in comparison to actual suffering. Shame on me.

But also, maybe I've learned that I can raise awareness and donate to causes I believe in without wearing a dress every day. After all, I don't like asking people for money. I'd rather share the message, raise money on my own, and encourage personal and sustained buy-in from the people I come into contact with. That's the message I've been sharing with my coworkers and friends this Dressember.

Still, there are 14 days to go, and I'm trying my best to stick it out. I'm raising my hot toddy to everyone else participating this year. We can do this.


Donate to my Dressember Campaign here. 

(I'll write you a haiku if you donate $10 or more!)

the moral wardrobe: Elegantees Hayley Top

elegantees fair trade blog

I heard about Elegantees on instagram a few months ago and was intrigued by their business model. Founded by fashion designer, Katie Martinez, Elegantees works closely with anti-trafficking agency, The Nepali Rescue Project, to provide consistent, gratifying employment to survivors of sex trafficking in Nepal. 

Elegantees focuses on dressed up basics because they want women to feel stylish, comfortable, and empowered. Designs are created and tweaked both by head designers in the US and, more recently, by Nepali staff, and sewn by a team of less than a dozen women in Nepal. Elegantees hopes to triple their sewing staff by this fall!

made in nepal elegantees
elegantees hayley
elegantees outfit post
Ethical Details: Top - Elegantees Hayley Top; Skirt - vintage; Sandals - Sseko Designs (select items* 25% off); Earrings - Mata Traders

I bought the Hayley Top in my new favorite muted pink, Rosewood, because of the cool sleeve detail. I've already received a compliment on it by a customer at work who makes her own clothing! Though it has an over-sized fit, it's cut well with slight contouring at the lower hem and a nice breast pocket. If you like t-shirts but aren't ready to go full on #normcore, Elegantees may be just the thing for you. 

Click here and get free shipping on your Elegantees order with code, STYLEWISE.


Shop the Hayley top here. Visit Elegantees on facebook, instagram, and twitter.

I received discounted product in exchange for writing this post.

*denotes affiliate link

interview: Jess Burt of rePURPOSE

interview: jess burt of repurpose

Today I'm interviewing Jess Burt of rePURPOSE. Jess and I got in touch after my guest post on Rachel Held Evans' blog and I'm so glad she reached out, because her company and its mission are awesome. rePURPOSE makes fabric accessories out of upcycled and domestically produced fabric with a mission to help trafficking survivors. Read on for more information.


Tell me a bit about yourself. 

I am a creative, sarcastic, extremely social and super active person. I don't sleep much between raising my two girls, and owning a photography business and rePURPOSE. Last year, my husband and I renovated an old 1800s farmhouse in northern NY, one of the snowiest places in the country. I love dancing, thrifting, reading, tattoos, playing Catan, hunting and of course, Jesus. 

Was there a particular moment or event that prompted you to consider where your clothes and accessories came from? 

I read the book, "Passport through Darkness" by Kimberly Smith, founder of Make Way Partners. Which, by the way, is the most gut-wrenching and eye opening book I've ever read. It changed my life completely. The book mentions a woman from Sudan who made little handmade crosses. A visiting American Pastor brought the crosses back to his church and started selling them to raise money for the woman. This became her business and created sustainability for her. I had NO clue about fair trade until I tried getting online to find this woman's business. Instead of finding her specific business, I found an entire network of fair trade companies and organizations. I also discovered the horrors of how our products are typically made in other countries. I watched documentary after documentary on slave labor, then I read every article I could find on it. I took a quiz that same week about my slavery footprint (take the quiz here), and discovered that the number one culprit in my house was children's clothing! I decided I would stop buying new at all costs if it wasn't made in the USA or another country with fair wages. Obviously I have to make an exception once in a while, but I try my hardest not to. 

repurpose accessories slouch beanie
Upcycled sweater Slouch Beanie by rePURPOSE, worn with a Nomads tunic and secondhand jacket

Why rePURPOSE in particular? What gave you the idea to reuse t-shirts? 

I tried hosting events to raise money for organizations I was passionate about, until a friend said to me "If you had something to give people, they would spend more money" which is sad, but true. I wanted to create a small business to make a little money for these organizations. I am crafty and I love accessories, so I got on pinterest and found some great DIY ideas. 

The problem I had was finding craft supplies or fabric that weren't made in China. I didn't feel right using materials made from people in terrible conditions, to basically turn around and donate it back. It would be completely contradictory. Trafficking and poverty go hand in hand, so by supporting unfair labor, I would be supporting the trafficking industry. I chose to use old t-shirts instead, which meant when I shopped at the local mission thrift stores, my money would go back into the community. After a couple of months my little "side" business took off. We have continued to come up with new and better ideas, and now I have this full-blown business which is taking over my life! 

How are items produced? 

We have a tiny workspace at my mother-in-law's spa in Watertown, NY. I have a great group of about 20 women, some volunteers, some paid, who help me when I need it! We have shelves and shelves of used t-shirts, fabrics, lace, buttons, yarn, etc! We shop at thrift stores, garage sales and flea markets to find all of our materials. Some women make the products at home, while others join me in our little workshop. 

Because we are now getting into wholesale, we had to create a way to produce larger quantities of some of our styles, so we use a fabric company out of North Carolina to make our newer prints. Everything else we create is still from used materials. All of the web design and processing is done by me, and thankfully, I was able to hire a marketing director last year! 

repurpose accessories

Where do you see rePURPOSE headed over the next few years? What professional and ethical goals do you have for the brand? 

I would like to see rePURPOSE grow into a large enough company where we can profit hundreds of thousands of dollars to just give away! My other goal is to eventually have women in need get paid to create the products, whether they are rescued from trafficking or living in poverty. We are in the VERY beginning stages of this right now by reaching out to some of our international contacts. I would love for every single part of this business to make a difference in someone's life, from the production to the profits being donated. 

Anything else? 

Since another important part of rePURPOSE is to raise awareness, I encourage you to check out the organizations that we support. They are The Exodus Road and Make Way Partners.

repurpose accessories


Visit rePURPOSE on facebook and instagram!