sseko designs

Ethical Fall Favorites: A Virtual Capsule

Ethical Fall Capsule Wardrobe
This post contains affiliate links.

It's taken me 4 years, but this former Floridian actually looks forward to cool weather now. I joke that I'm a reptile - I need to warm up in the sun before starting my day - but fall really does hold a bit of magic no other season holds. Maybe it's the startling, bright, liveliness of things dying: all the tactile, sensory delights of crackling leaves and crisp air and seeing your breath as you exhale.

I'm also going into this season with a refreshing clarity around what I like, what I "need," and what works with what I've already got. It's taken nearly 4 years of being a more conscientious consumer to get to this point, so I'm ready to mix things up and get full use out of my fall closet.


SILHOUETTES AND PRODUCTS I'M EXCITED ABOUT...

Everlane Luxe Wool Sweater in Oxblood


I purchased this sweater (in a size Medium) and it's just perfect for early fall. Lightweight, slightly form fitting, in a lovely brown-red oxblood that I love.

Prana London Jeans


I'm fortunate to already have my denim wardrobe squared away for the fall, having purchased a few pairs 2 years ago that have held up quite well (I re-dyed some with indigo last week and they turned out great!). If I needed new denim, though, I would consider Prana's line of classic cuts in classic colors.

People Tree Crystal Dot Pendant


I'm addicted to simple, minimalist jewelry that adds just the right touch to an outfit. I like the lariat style on this natural stone, handmade necklace.

Housgoods Rill Ring


A simple little ring to stack and pair with other rings in my growing collection. I didn't like wearing rings when I was in school because they always hit against my pens uncomfortably as I took notes, but now that I am free from the burden of note-taking, I've found that I like the simple statement they make.

Amour Vert Paola High-Low Tee in Tandoori


I bought this tee in early September as soon as the Tandoori color became available. I LOVE it. This is the color of the season for me, and the high-low cut feels very contemporary.

Prim Botanicals Organic Botanical Lip Sheen in Pretty Perfect


This lip sheen is nearly the same color as the Amour Vert tee so, naturally, it's my favorite. I'm getting back into tinted lip balms and glosses this season. It's nice to add some color as the world gets more monotone.

Sseko Designs Black Suede Loafers


I bought these last winter, but I'm looking forward to wearing them more frequently this season. They're super comfortable and pair well with casual and more formal outfits.

Etiko Organic Fair Trade High Tops


I grew up wearing Converse high tops, but the pair I had in high school (pink patchwork!) is no longer with me, so I was so pleased to find fair trade sneakers that fit the bill. I'm planning on wearing these with everything.

Komodo Liana Wool Boucle Dress


I am really into the idea of layering tops under tank dresses and pinafores this fall, both to get more use out of my summer favorites and to add some versatility and creativity to my wardrobe. I love the color and length of this pinafore, and it looks great layered with a turtleneck. I'm a bit self conscious that turtlenecks make my neck look big, but I'm trying to get over it, so maybe I can convince myself into it with cute styling.

The Moral Wardrobe: Perfect Pairings

Victoria Road tunic and Sseko Designs outfit - ethical outfitVictoria Road tunic and Sseko Designs outfit - ethical outfitthrifted straw hatVictoria Road tunic and Sseko Designs outfit - ethical outfit Ethical Details: Tunic - c/o Victoria Road (also worn here, on sale now); Hat - thrifted; Bracelet - c/o Candorra Artisans; Sandals - Sseko Designs; Jeans - old

I bought this hat at a Goodwill in LA for $4.00 and it's definitely one of those surprise finds I'll cherish for years. It came in handy during our sunny hike up to Point Dume, too. When I travel, the only souvenir I buy is something from a local thrift shop. It's low cost, reminds me of the place I visited, and tends to be more practical than a keychain with palm trees on it or whatever other nonsense thing they've created to feed our nostalgia.

I really love this outfit. It's amazing how much it feels like me while embodying something a little more even keeled, a little more mature, than how I typically see myself. Sophisticated but not stuffy. As I approach year 28, I think that's how I'd like to be described. 

Top 10 Ethical + Affordable Clothing & Accessories Brands for Fall

Top 10 Ethical and Affordable Clothing and Accessories Brands for Fall on stylewise-blog.com This post contains some affiliate links

Lucky for us, there are now hundreds of ethical clothing brands making cool clothes in all sorts of innovative ways. But just because it's ethical doesn't mean it's practical. And just because it's practical doesn't mean it's affordable.

To make life a little easier for you as you fill out your fall wardrobe, I've narrowed the list down to my top 10 ethical and affordable clothing and accessories brands. Every brand on this list makes items that are both fashion forward and versatile enough for a busy life, whether you're a student, a mom, a freelancer, or anything else.

All brands offer items priced well below $200, with most items averaging around $40-80.00. When you consider that these items have been made by people who receive a fair wage and work in safe factories using organic and sustainable textiles, that's not too shabby.

CLOTHING:


1. Everlane

Tees, blouses, dresses, backpacks, and shoes made with transparency. Everlane is my go-to for knit cotton tees and dresses.

2. Amour Vert

Minimalist and feminine silhouettes made with ecologically sustainable textiles. I love Amour Vert's contemporary-cut tops.

3. Synergy Organic Clothing

Versatile, organic cotton tops, skirts, and dresses made fairly. Synergy is my first stop for easy-to-wear skirts and dresses. Take an extra 50% off sale items through Labor Day with code, laborday.

4. LA Relaxed

Laid-back tees, skirts, and dresses made with ecologically sustainable textiles. LA Relaxed is for cool girls (and obviously we're all cool girls).

5. Dorsu

Mix and match separates made with factory remnants in Cambodia. Their tees have a great drape.

6. Braintree Clothing

Vintage-inspired tops, bottoms, dresses, and accessories made fairly with ecologically sustainable textiles. Braintree's patterns and textures liven up a basic wardrobe.

ACCESSORIES:

7. FashionABLE

Contemporary jewelry and sustainably-sourced leather bags. $5 off your first purchase when you click through the link above.

8. Sseko Designs

Versatile sandals, loafers, boots, and bags made ethically in Uganda and Ethiopia. My pick for loafers.

9. Etiko

Converse look-a-likes out of Australia made with sustainable rubber, organic cotton, and vegan glues. Their high tops are just what I've been looking for.

10. Oliberte

Fair trade certified flats, loafers, and boots. Try their super comfy boots.

For me, it's important that the clothes and accessories I buy have at at least something in common with the rest of my closet. Having access to brands that know how to make flattering, modern, comfortable pieces makes my life a lot easier.

---------

Did a miss a brand? Give me suggestions in the comments. 

The Moral Wardrobe: Lazy Summer with Sseko Designs + Mata Traders

ethical summer outfit Sseko Designs T-Strap sandals with Carnival Accent ethical summer outfit with everlane and mata traderssseko designs t-strap sandals Ethical Details: Top - Everlane; Shorts - thrifted; Layered Amulet Necklace - c/o Mata Traders; T-Strap Sandals* - Sseko Designs (worn with Carnival accents*)

I love the super hot days of summer that make it suddenly acceptable to wear cut offs and sandals everywhere you go. I love driving in my hot car with the windows down and letting the sun seep into my bones. I love feeling good with minimal effort and minimal clothing required.

If you follow me on Instagram (and are also paying a lot of attention), I recently sold my Sseko Designs' Ribbon Sandals and replaced them with the T-Straps. I have a condition called Raynaud's Syndrome that causes me to have circulation issues in my extremities and the constriction of the ribbon strap around my ankle had become a growing concern. The T-Straps are the perfect replacement, because they still have interchangeable pieces, but the straps hit lower on my foot and don't require that I secure them as tightly. I had really wanted to go with the black Nisolo Serena sandals, but the fit wasn't right, so I went with the neutral Caramel Sseko sandals instead.

In unrelated news, I decided to do an Ask Me Anything post on Instagram this week. Feel free to participate either there or in the comments section of this post.

The Moral Wardrobe: Ketchup + Mustard

sseko designs d'orsay flats via madefair outfit
everlane and gia coppola collection review
everlane and gia coppola collection review
everlane and gia coppola collection review

Ethical Details:

Tee -

Everlane

; Skirt - thrifted; Ring -

Alex & Ani

(made in USA); Shoes -

Sseko Designs

* via MadeFAIR

I ordered this tee from Everlane's

collaboration with Gia Coppola

on a whim since I had a bit of

referral credit

and was pleasantly surprised with the fit. As a general rule, if Everlane describes something as slim fit, I order one size up and when they describe something as loose-fitting, I size down. That worked well with this tee, as well - I'm wearing a Medium and the fit is just right. The banded collar and sleeves and mustard stripes make this feel very summer-in-the-70s, and I love the contrast between it and this thrifted maroon skirt. The combination is pretty close to my alma mater's Garnet and Gold.

Also, a quick note on my

Sseko Designs

* flats: I've had these for a couple months now and they're not holding up that well. Sseko Designs keeps making the mistake of using soft lambskin for their flats and it's just not hearty enough to stand up to regular (mostly inside) wear. That being said, their suede options and sandals tend to hold up a bit better and they're doing a series of anniversary sales this week, so sign up for their email list or follow them on Instagram to see if you can snag a deal.

(If you're still thinking about dyeing your hair with henna and red tea

like I did

a couple weeks ago, here is what it looks like about 4 weeks in. Still noticeably red, but the color is more subtle.)

The Moral Wardrobe: hips don't lie

simple ethical outfit sseko designs krochet kidskrochet kids pocket tee
I am "pear shaped" according to those silly women's body quizzes that compare you to different fruits. Though I know it's absurd, I generally take the body proportion rules for dressing pretty seriously. I try to wear things that "cinch at the waist and skim over hips and thighs." It's true that I look much slimmer when my proportionally larger hips and butt are hidden away, but at some point you just have to ask yourself what you're trying to achieve by adhering to superficial standards that you know are harmful.

So today I'm wearing a pair of jeans that most definitely wouldn't be allowed in my What Not To Wear post-makeover wardrobe. Screw it! I like 'em. I like the mid-rise and the straight, cropped leg. I feel like a cool '90s woman who has just discovered feminism and feels that she can achieve anything, starting with tackling androgynous denim trends.
  boyfriend jeans ethical outfitethical outfit sseko designs
These jeans weren't sourced ethically, I'm afraid. I've mentioned it before on Instagram, but I have had 0 luck finding good quality, long lasting jeans on the ethical market that fit. For that reason, I make sure I look for conventional denim with a comfortable rise, good seaming, and thicker material that will last me for years. I haven't bought new denim for a couple of years and my last purchases are still going strong. It's one way I ensure that I'm still being thoughtful even in less than ideal circumstances.

krochet kids outfit Ethical Details (contains affiliate links): Tee - Krochet Kids; Shoes - Sseko Designs via MadeFAIR

What compromises do you make when it comes to building an ethical, meaningful closet? Is there a particular type of item you haven't been able to find on the ethical market?

Let's share our resources and see if maybe we can't find it after all. 

the ethical closet: spring closet update

ethical capsule wardrobe madefair thredup This post contains affiliate links.

Though I swore off doing a rigid capsule wardrobe last fall, I'm finding that my personal taste is narrowing in on particular colors and silhouettes that work well together anyway, and that things inadvertently look a bit capsule-y around here.

I used to find simplicity unbearable, but I'm learning that a well-cut garment that fits me correctly can be more beautiful than an unusual print or style. This season, I've updated my closet with a few things that will carry me through summer and into fall. I love knowing that what I'm buying can be worn for months and even years and still look good. Some of my pieces have become like security blankets, things I can fall back on when I'm not up to the task of putting together a complicated look.


MY PICKS THIS SPRING:

(clockwise from top left) 

1. Mata Traders Here and There Dress via MadeFAIR, $64.99
It's not spring without Mata Traders! I was thrilled when the brand introduced cotton jersey to their collection last year, but the colors didn't quite work with my complexion. I'm loving this red for spring and summer. Hand block printed, fairly made in India.

2. National Picnic Organic Cotton Skirt via MadeFAIR, $59.99
I didn't purchase this particular skirt, but the style and print are what I look for in spring skirts. I always hit up the thrift stores for vintage midi skirts and recently found a polka dot chambray one at the shop where I work. I'll be featuring National Picnic on the blog soon, so make sure to come back and learn about the brand. Organic cotton, handmade in the USA.

3. Sseko Designs' D'orsay Flat in Caramel, $89.99
I have poor circulation in my toes, which leaves them feeling cold even when the weather's warm, so I'm betting on these beautiful flats to keep my feet comfortable. The style is perfect for both casual and more formal looks, so I think I'll get a lot of use out of them. Leather sourced from small scale meat industry, fairly made in Ethiopia.

4. Everlane Micro Striped Tee, $18.00
I love Everlane's new pima tees and I can't wait for this one to arrive in the mail. I plan on pairing this subtle pattern with my printed vintage skirts. Milled and ethically made in Los Angeles.

5. Jean Jacket via thredUP, purchased with store credit
I've had this jacket since early fall, but I have a feeling I'll be wearing it all spring. As I explained here, it looks like denim, but it's actually a woven, stretch cotton, so it's super comfortable. Secondhand.

6. Teva Sandals via thredUP, purchased with store credit
These aren't an exact version of the pair I purchased, but I'm glad I took the plunge into slightly ugly footwear, because these are quite comfortable and fully adjustable for the perfect fit. Check out ebay for a better selection of secondhand Tevas. Secondhand.


What are your spring picks? I'd love to know about new ethical brands you've discovered recently, as well.


new in: Sseko Designs' spring collection 2016

sseko designs spring 2016

I always look forward to seeing how Sseko Designs' creatively reinterprets its original versatile ribbon sandal each season. They did not disappoint.

The Spring '16 collection launched today and I'm digging the new stitched leather soles on their ribbon sandals, the accent updates, and the brand new designs in their collection, like these cool, gold slip on sandals.

My favorites, pictured above, are:

(clockwise from top left, affiliate links included)

It's so inspiring to watch ethical companies I love thrive and improve over time. Sseko Designs deserves their success. They've worked hard to ensure that their business improves not just the lives of the young women they employ, but the local economy, as well. Their employees go on to get degrees, start their own businesses, and serve as mentors for new hires. 

ethical sale alert: Everlane's "Pay What You Want" Sale and more (updated)


* denotes affililate links.

Read on for tempting ethical sales. I've got my eye on the Everlane Wool Trench and basically everything at Sseko Designs.

  • Everlane
    • My go-to online shop for everyday basics made transparently and ethically is doing their first ever sale. For the next 5 days, select items are offered at "Pay What You Want" prices up to nearly 50% off. Click here to sign up with my referral link. Click here to shop the sale.
  • Sseko Designs*
    • My favorite place for ethically made shoes is offering up to 70% off select items in their sale section, including steep discounts on several of their loafer styles. Click here to shop.
  • Elegantees
    • Comfortable, every day knits-with-a-twist brand, Elegantees, has an end of the season sale going on. Click here to shop. 
  • Fair Indigo
    • Fair trade ornaments on sale, up to 60% off original price. Use coupon code, ADORN, for the additional 30% off. Click here to shop. 
  • People Tree
    • Unique, fair trade clothes and accessories from the UK. Select items up to 50% off. Click here to shop.
  • Buy the Change
    • Get 40% off everything with code, GOODBYE2015, until 1/1/16. Click here to shop.
  • LUSH
    • All natural skincare. BOGO on select items while supplies last. Click here to shop.
  • ZADY*
    • Up to 60% off coats, hats, sale, and menswear items. Click here to shop. 
  • Krochet Kids*
    • 15% off orders $50 or more with code, 15OFF. Click here to shop.
  • FashionABLE*
    • Free hammered stacking ring with purchases $25+ purchase with code, NEWYEAR. Click here to shop.
  • Fair Indigo
    • 30% off everything through January 3 with code, NEWYEARS. Click here to shop. 

---------

If you know of any sales I haven't mentioned, let me know in the comments and I'll add them!

the moral wardrobe: oldies

personal style
h & m jumper
polaroids
sseko designs loafers
Ethical Details: Top - made in USA; Dress - old; Shoes - Sseko Designs c/o Made Fair

Sometimes the most ethical thing you can do for your wardrobe is wear out your old things. I bought this dress at H&M a few years ago on a trip to Richmond with a friend. At the time, I was impressed with H&M's corporate social responsibility report and thought they'd be a good option for ethical goods. My opinion has changed over the years - fast fashion is unsustainable regardless of how well-intentioned your policies are - but I am pleased to see that H&M is starting to make jeans out of recycled materials and plans to use organic cotton for all its cotton goods within 5 years. It's not perfect, but it's a start. 

I've been spending a huge amount of time at work preparing for and implementing our seasonal switchover to fall-appropriate clothing. Lots of physical labor. But it's pretty much done now and I'm excited to have more time to enjoy the cooler weather and maybe stop by a nearby sunflower field in the next couple of weeks.

A note on the camera: my parents sent me back from my recent visit with my old Polaroid camera, so I bought myself some film and tried it out! It still works just fine and it made a nice prop for this photo shoot. Maybe I should hold more things in my hands when I take outfit photos. It makes me feel like I have a purpose.

inspiration board: back-to-school 2015


I'm not going back to school, but it's hard not to get caught up in the frenzy, what with all the commercials of little kids skipping through hallways and twirling with backpacks. I loaded up on cold weather essentials last winter after two years of suffering through Virginia weather in Florida clothing, so there's no need to go wild this year. But, in my ideal world, I would buy a few high quality, ethical staples to round out my wardrobe as the temperature begins to plummet (though I wish it wouldn't do that!).

Namely:

  • The Alternative Apparel Alpaca Cardigan
  • A printed canvas bag, preferably crossbody
  • A simple striped tee from Amour Vert
  • A new bralette (I've given up on underwires after experiencing some chest pain)
  • The Krochet Kids Pocket Tee
  • Warby Parker Newton Frames (already have these!)
  • Loafers from Sseko Designs (they've improved the heel design since I last tried them, but I might go for the Chestnut Afar Loafer this time around)
  • A classic, roomy backpack from Everlane (for weekend travels)
  • The Everlane Street Shoe

Click the product images to shop. Please note that these are affiliate links.

Organizing my shopping list this way has all the advantages of a capsule wardrobe without the fallout. I can get a sense of what I like and visualize how they'll all work together, but continue to use my full fall/winter closet - nothing hides away in a far corner to be forgotten. 

the moral wardrobe: Liz Alig Ada skirt

liz alig review

Liz Alig has been on the ethical fashion scene for several years and had a wildly popular (well, wildly popular in my mind, at least) dress made out of flour sacks, which they still produce. This season's line offers lots of versatile options in recycled cotton sourced from old t-shirts. Liz Alig sent me the Ada skirt to review today.

Liz Alig products are designed in Indianapolis, Indiana (woot woot! I was born in nearby Anderson) with 100% recycled or organic fabrics and fair labor standards. They also incorporate traditional textile and weaving work done by artisans around the world. The Ada skirt was made in partnership with a fair trade organization in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Learn more about their mission here

liz alig ada skirt
liz alig
Ethical Details: Top - thrifted; Skirt - c/o Liz Alig; Necklace: handmade via (of)matter on etsy; Sandals - Sseko Designs

The coolest thing about this skirt is that all of the fabric is sourced from old t-shirts, but that also means that you can't select an exact color. I think I would have been happy with anything, but I can't resist heather gray, so I'm happy with the one I received.

I like the zig zag hem and the foldover top. It's a great skirt for weekend wear. I wore this outfit for a belated anniversary dinner at a new-ish Neapolitan pizza joint in town. I do want to mention, however, that though the skirt is advertised as a versatile dress/skirt combo, the seam edge is unfinished on the foldover portion that can be pulled up into a tube top, so it will be a bit obvious you're wearing a multi-use item. Also, an important note on fit: there is no elastic in the waistband and I had to pull this one over my head since it wouldn't go over my hips. This could pose a problem for people with different body proportions.

Check out Julia's behind-the-scenes post for more about Liz Alig. 
Follow Liz Alig on twitter, instagram, and facebook. Check out the Fall '15 line, too.

---------

Stay tuned for another product review and a giveaway coming later this week!

RIP beautiful overgrown backyard bush. My landlady had it cut down last week. :(

What is Ethical? 7 terms you need to know

7 ethical terms
This post contains a few referral links, noted with a *

When I first started this blog, I found it rather difficult to navigate the ins and outs of "ethical consumerism." I knew vaguely that designated fair trade items were preferable to conventionally produced goods, but that was about it. All I really knew was that my consumer habits needed to change if I was to live up to my faith tradition's call (and personal goal) to love even when it's inconvenient.

I thought it might be a good idea to define a few terms in the ethical consumerism category and parse out the pros and cons of different models.

Let us begin...

  Fair Trade:  


According to the World Fair Trade Organization (my go-to for fair trade info), fair trade is defined as:

a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South.

The fair trade model is set up to help the poorest people in the poorest areas of the world. It doesn't necessarily seek to revolutionize the entire industry (though I think many would argue that it does set itself up as a model for the ideal relationship between producers and consumers). Rather, it hopes to provide economic opportunities and social stability to those who would otherwise not have access to good work and fair wages. That's a big reason why fair trade organizations and businesses focus on skills and education for women, who often experience the greatest disadvantages when access to resources is scarce.

A number of the most prominent "ethical" companies - and certainly most of the brands I've featured here - are categorized as fair trade. Some have official fair trade status granted to them by external auditing agencies, but it costs a pretty penny to get fair trade certified, so some operate under fair trade principles without official certification. Many fair trade organizations are classified as non-profits.


  Social Enterprise:  


Social Enterprises, according to the Social Enterprise Alliance, are:

businesses whose primary purpose is the common good. They use the methods and disciplines of business and the power of the marketplace to advance their social, environmental and human justice agendas.

Social enterprises operate in the regular business sector instead of the non-profit sector. A perfect example of this is Sseko Designs*, who employs women in Uganda as a means of both providing job skills and assisting with their ongoing education through scholarship programs. Operating as a regular business also allows them to take on investors, expand, and develop new products and job positions quickly and efficiently (ideally), which in turn means greater economic prosperity for everyone involved. Sseko's model also means that no one is ever made to feel like a charity case.

A less wonderful example of the social enterprise is TOMS. Don't get me wrong: TOMS revolutionized the ethical market with its often copied one-for-one model, but it's taken them awhile to realize that people would rather have a nice job and pay for their own shoes than get free shoes and remain unemployed. Until recently when they began to improve working conditions at their factories, TOMS and Sseko Designs were on opposite ends of the social enterprise spectrum. Instead of offering dignified employment (the start of the marketplace), they offered goods to those in need (the end of the marketplace).

In my mind, a social enterprise is better than just any old enterprise, but it leaves itself open to some troubling mindsets and can cause more harm than good for both the people who receive the "benefit" and for the psyches of American consumers. Watch this awesome video with Slavoj Zizek for clarification.

  B Corporation:  


According to the B Corporation website (and helpfully summarized on Wikipedia) a B Corp Certification is:

a private certification issued to for-profit companies by B Lab, a United States-based non-profit organization. To be granted and to preserve certification, companies must receive a minimum score on an online assessment for "social and environmental performance”, satisfy the requirement that the company integrate B Lab commitments to stakeholders into company governing documents, and pay an annual fee ranging from $500 to $25,000.

Phew! That's a lot of money. Basically, B Corp certifications are given to businesses with a commitment to fair labor, sustainability, and transparency. The B Corp is the no nonsense sibling to the sentimental social enterprise in the sense that they strive to do good by integrating it into the entire supply chain. B Corps aren't necessarily attached to a specific social good, but they aren't as likely to fall prey to well meaning but ineffective ways of "helping" people because they're simply adhering to a sort of best practices for people and planet.

A good example of the B Corp is PACT Apparel (from whom I just purchased a couple of cute t-shirts).

  Eco/Organic/Sustainable:  


The above terms have slightly different connotations depending on who you ask, but for a lot of brands, they're often interchangeable concepts. Organic and eco tend to fall under the larger umbrella of sustainability. Sustainable manufacturing, as defined by the International Trade Administration, is:

the creation of manufactured products that use processes that minimize negative environmental impacts, conserve energy and natural resources, are safe for employees, communities, and consumers and are economically sound.

You've probably noticed that some ethical brands are more oriented toward environmental impact while others focus on labor rights. As it turns out, the eco/sustainable brands tend to think of what's ethical in a holistic way - after all, we don't exist apart from nature - so most incorporate fair labor into their business model while also finding ways to reduce waste, water usage, and pesticides throughout the production process. I was initially turned off by the hippie dippie branding of the sustainability movement, but I've come to embrace it because I know that those who are committed to sustainability understand that it must extend to employees, consumers, and the earth.

Of course, there's been a lot of greenwashing - or labeling things as "eco" when they're not - as it's become more popular in recent years. Not everything made with organic cotton is truly sustainable. Not everything in a green bottle is nontoxic. Be wary. A certification for organic cotton is available for companies who can afford it. Look for the GOTS Certified label on product listings and tags to ensure that your organic item was produced with consideration for sustainability and human welfare.

  Transparency:  


The basic definition of transparency is fairly obvious and doesn't just apply to the fashion industry, so I'll use Everlane's* concept of "radical transparency" here:

Know your factories. Know your costs. Always ask why.

Everlane certainly isn't the first or only company to value supply chain transparency and, in fact, most companies that fall under the previous categories are likely concerned with transparency, as well. But they have made transparency a buzzword and I think they set a particularly good example for other companies who may not be ready to get certified organic/B corp/fair trade, but want to respond appropriately to consumer demand for ethically produced goods.

Companies concerned with transparency are ready and willing to share information about their factories, production standards, costs, raw materials, and corporate structure. They do an unusually good job at answering tough questions because their employees are trained to know the answers. And they're prepared to make changes if they don't live up to consumer (or their own) expectations.

  Vegan:  


In the words of Happy Cow, Vegan fashion is:

clothing and accessories made from cruelty-free sources, i.e. NO animal products were used in making the garments and gear, and no animal was harmed.

I'm not a vegan, but I do believe in maintaining high ethical standards in the meat and fashion industries. The definition is simple and straightforward and, as such, something can be labeled as vegan without necessarily being sustainable or concerned with the human good. Some leather substitutes, for example, are fairly toxic to the environment and to the people who work with them. But by ensuring that no animals were slaughtered to make your purse or shoes or whatever, you can be certain that no animal suffered, and that matters.

It should also be noted that the conventional leather industry wreaks havoc on workers and the environment, so choosing leather substitutes that treat animals, people, and the planet with respect is a good idea (The True Cost movie expands on this. You can download it here if you haven't had a chance to see it).

  Ethical:  


This one's a doozy, because ethical priorities are different for everyone. I'll stick to the Ethical Fashion Forum's definition:

...ethical fashion represents an approach to the design, sourcing and manufacture of clothing which maximises benefits to people and communities while minimising impact on the environment.

The models defined above are all ways of being ethical. What I like about Ethical Fashion Forum's definition is that it broadly defines the two main categories (or really one category if you can smoosh together the artificial human-nature dichotomy for a second) that matter: people and planet.

Whether you come to this conversation because of your concern with climate change, human trafficking, pollution, personal health, or economic justice, people and planet are connected, and ideally we'd let our definition of ethical include everything that we have the power to influence. And heck, even the Pope knows that we don't have time to waste here. We're destroying ourselves and our earth home.

Ethical is no longer an option; it's absolutely essential.

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

the moral wardrobe: indigo girl

Mata Traders In Full Bloom Dress
Mata Traders In Full Bloom Dress
Sseko Designs Chiffon ribbons
mata traders dress
Ethical Details: In Full Bloom Dress - Mata Traders; Sandals - Sseko Designs*

The moment you've all been waiting for! This is the dress I bought at Mata Traders in Chicago. The rich indigo and resist dye flower motif are beautiful and the classic silhouette makes me feel feminine but not twee. As I mentioned in my behind-the-scenes post, I have trouble finding a good fit in some Mata dresses, but this one works great on my frame and the waist hits right at my natural waist as it's meant to. 

You've probably noticed that this month's blogging schedule has been jam packed. I was determined to finish the Justice Conference posts while everything was still fresh (and relevant), but between that and all these (awesome) giveaways, I've spent a lot more time blogging than usual. I think I'll ease up and get my bearings next week. 

Speaking of giveaways, the Hands Producing Hope giveaway is over and a winner will be contacted shortly. The Synergy gift card giveaway is still going strong 'til next Friday, however, so enter if you're interested. And if you don't have an instagram account (the mandatory entry), just click through as if you do and make sure to sign up for the Synergy newsletter. I don't want you to be left out just because you don't have access to an expensive iPhone or iPad.

*denotes affiliate link.

the moral wardrobe: backlogged

Ethical Details: Earrings - handmade by Hannah Naomi; Top - thrifted; Sandals - Sseko Designs


I started this post, uh, like a month ago and forgot to post it!

This morning, I dropped off Daniel at school, then headed over to Albemarle Baking Company, a Charlottesville staple. I dreamed about their chocolate croissants last night, so I was determined to get one. When I got to the counter, I ran into my old boss from Java Java! The male attendant complimented me on my Sseko Designs sandals, handed me my croissant and hot tea, and I settled into an outdoor table with a magazine for the next hour or so. 

I'm not very good at taking time to just breathe. I spent a lot of time at home dawdling and reading blogs, but my mind's always preoccupied with the next task, so it was nice to really settle into leisure time this morning. 

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.

an ethical outfit: summer exploring


Untitled #350


I love summer. When I lived in Florida, I never said that, but now I crave the humid air. I like stripping down the layers and going to the mountains in summertime, driving through dense fog and sudden rainstorms. In Charlottesville, we only get thunderstorms in the summer. I crave the temporary (albeit relatively safe) chaos of it.

On a warm day, I'd dress simply and load a crossbody bag with my camera before heading out to see what I can see.

The items in this look are:
(* denotes affiliate links)

  • PACT Apparel Fair Trade Dress*: Hooray! Pact makes dresses now. I also like the navy and white striped one.
  • Warby Parker Haskell Frames*: Warby Parker has a lot more clear frame options since I last did a home try-on, so I've ordered another set of frames to try out.
  • Gift Yenta Fair Trade Backback: I know nothing about this company other than that they listed this and other items as fair trade. I like the look of this backpack, though.
  • Sseko Designs Ribbon Sandals*: Summer classics, in my opinion. I wear mine several times a week.

I'm trying to find a comfortable, purse-sized backpack for upcoming travel, so if you have any other suggestions, please let me know. 

the moral wardrobe: evening light

shadow filigree
ash and rose lattice top
sseko designs sandals
evening light
Ethical Details: Top - Ash & Rose; Cardigan - Seamly.co; Sandals - Sseko Designs; Earrings - Mata Traders

Ah, warm evening light. I love the glow of early evening and the shadow filigree it creates on every surface. 

I've really overbooked myself over the past couple weeks and the madness doesn't end until May, so I've been struggling to keep up with everything and maintain sanity. I've resorted to using my planner again; I hope jotting things down will keep me from waking up in a panic over meetings and appointments several times a night.

---------

P.S. Don't forget to enter the Ecouture giveaway!

spring update

spring


Hey! It's snowing again, so it's a great time to talk about warm weather clothing (snow, snow, go away!).

This whole minimalism thing works out really well for those interested in sustainability and fair trade, because it means we can look on trend while making more thoughtful purchases. I'm sure the pendulum will swing back to flamboyant soon enough, but I'm hoping I can get comfortable with simplicity now while fashion culture is on my side. By getting a sort of uniform down now, I'll be less likely to be swayed by trend cycles later.

This spring/summer season, I'm looking to get a new dress from zero waste brand, Tonle, and keep everything else neutral. I want a couple pairs of versatile, season-less flats and understated sandals from Jerusalem Sandals. I'm also updating my ribbon collection for my Sseko sandals. I found a pair of jeans in my donate pile yesterday that fit me well and were barely worn, so my denim wants are taken care of (thanks, slight weight gain!).

I'm relying more and more on Everlane for t-shirts and small, sustainable labels for skirts and accessories. And there's always the thrift shop!

I'm brainstorming new features and topics for Style Wise in all my snow day spare time. Is there anything you'd like to know more about? I'd be happy to receive a prompt and do some research!

Ethical Items shown above: Everlane Tee, Everlane Striped Top, Nomads Cardigan (similar option here), Amour Vert Leeron Skirt, Curator Nora Skirt, Tonle Keang Dress, Similar Loafers, Similar Flats, Jerusalem Sandals, Sseko Ribbons