Posts by Elizabeth

Inaugural #DressWellDoGood Clothing Swap

austin-clothing-swap-rackEllie and I recently hosted our Inaugural #DressWellDoGood clothing swap and it was a great success!

Not only are clothing swaps a fun excuse to get together and spend time with friends, it is an economical, ethical, and eco-friendly way to expand your wardrobe. It’s like thrifting for free!

Here’s what we did for our swap:

We asked our friends to clean out their closets and bring any clothing, shoes or accessories that were in good condition. We borrowed several garment racks and had our friends hang up their clothes as they arrived. (Next time, we will ask our guests to bring their clothes on hangers! We ran out of them very quickly!)

We had 12 people attend, which seemed like a good number. More than that would have been harder to organize and direct. But by having 12 people, we ended up with a great variety of sizes and styles!

Once all of the clothing was laid out or hung up, we set people loose to ‘shop’. Folks grabbed anything that looked interesting to them and tried it on. We saw a lot of handoffs: “Oh, this didn’t fit me quite right but it would look great on you!” and “This looks like your style. Here try this on!” which made the event very encouraging. It feels good to have your friends suggest clothing items for you!

We had a couple different areas available for changing and provided a full-length mirror so everyone could clearly see how things fit them. As people claimed items, they put them in a bag they brought with them so they wouldn’t be grabbed by another swapper by mistake.

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When the swapping was complete and everyone had something they liked to take home, Ellie and I went through all of the remaining clothing, sorting into two piles: send to ThredUp (*referral link) and donate to Goodwill. We ended up with two ThredUp (* referral link) clean out bags very full of barely worn clothing, and 4 trash bags full of clothing to donate to Goodwill.

If you don’t want to organize a swap on your own, there are many clothing swaps that are already happening! You may be surprised what you find if you search for “<the name of your city> clothing swap”! In Austin, even our library system hosts a clothing swap!

Tell us if you have participated in a swap or if you are planning on hosting a swap! If you already have, share a photo of something you swapped on Instagram with the hashtag #DressWellDoGood! We would love to have you join us in this ethical fashion conversation! And of course, don’t forget to follow us over on Instagram at @DressWellDoGood and subscribe to receive blog posts via e-mail.

Giveaway & Interview: Jen Lewis – Purse & Clutch Founder

jen-lewis-purse-and-clutch-austin-texasPurse & Clutch is an Austin based Fair Trade Handbag Boutique that partners with artisans around the world who create their products with an emphasis on craft & quality. Purse & Clutch is committed to a set of ethical principles. Their artisans are treated with respect and are paid a living wage for their region.

ADORABLE – All of their handbags are made of high quality, handmade organic fabrics & recycled materials when possible.

AFFORDABLE – Everything in their shop is under $150.

RESPONSIBLE – On average, every $200 spent in their shop employs an artisan full time for a month!

We are so happy to have Jen Lewis on the blog today to answer some questions about Purse & Clutch! Thank you for joining us today.

Tell us how Purse & Clutch was born.
About 4 years ago, I was working at a local non-profit trying to create sustainable jobs for the homeless community of Austin. I kept wanting to make the “non-profit” model fit into my business brain. And it just didn’t. I had the mindset that to help others with my vocation, it had to be non-profit work.

At the same time, a good friend of mine from grad school had just moved to India and told me about the organization she was working with that was creating jobs for talented artisans groups by designing and creating textiles and women’s accessories and selling them in the States. The business side really drew me in – I loved the idea that I could use the way my brain naturally worked to help connect resources with needs.

I asked how I could help and she said she would send me a box of handbags for me to sell online since they didn’t have anyone selling online at the time. I figured that if it didn’t go well, at least my $500 investment was going towards a good cause!

I snagged a website and a name and was up and running in a few months when the first shipment arrived. And then I proceeded to frantically read every article I could find online on how to run an e-commerce business!

I quickly realized that there was a niche for my product – that people did want to shop ethically and didn’t want to sacrifice their personal sense of style to do so. At the time, the term “fair trade fashion” didn’t really exist! There was either Fair Trade or Fashion.

As I learned more about supply chains management, I realized that I needed to carry more than just products from one artisan group both to offer more variety to shoppers and to make sure that I had products in stock even if a shipment was delayed in route from India.

Now, we’re currently working with about 10 artisan groups from all over the world and work to curate seasonal collections of handbags that are set apart by their sense of design. We carry hand woven cotton that is block printed by hand and stitched together at a center for abused women in India, raw organically tanned goal leather bags from Afghanistan that are designed in Germany, and recycled Mayan blouses repurposed into stunning clutches from Guatemala to name a few.

How do you locate artisans to work with that meet your company’s set of ethical principles?
We always work with existing artisan groups, usually that are under the umbrella of an organization that can guarantee that our set of ethical principles are being met. Some are larger Fair Trade Certified groups while others are a small wing of developmental Non-Profit groups with a heart for sustainable development. I have a robust network here in Austin of travelers who are always looking to connect P&C with new artisan groups they discover who are doing good work.

What drew you to selling purses over other wares?
My initial reason to sell handbags was that it feels like more of a necessity to me than other things that many artisan groups have the existing skillset to make. While an extra throw pillow or table runner may be lovely, I know I’m always going to want something to carry my wallet & keys around in everyday!

What are your long term goals for Purse & Clutch?
We’ve actually just launched a new Ethical Style Ambassador program to get more people involved in telling the stories of the fair side of fashion! We’re looking to add 2 – 3 part time, flexible people to the team in the Austin and Denver areas. This program came out of our Apprenticeship Program that I facilitate twice a year and I hope to continue to empower Apprentices to create a job for themselves at Purse & Clutch.

Our reallllly long term vision for Purse & Clutch is to change the culture around fast fashion and to eradicate the use of sweatshops entirely!

What is your favorite styling tip?
This summer I’m obsessed with mixing neutrals with tons of textural details. Think interesting pleats, loose knits, and embroidered hems in a similar color story. Having 4 or 5 pieces that you absolutely love that can be interchanged makes getting ready in the morning so easy!

We are so glad to have you here today Jen! Thanks for taking the time to talk with us.

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We are super excited to be giving away this Indigo Clutch from Purse & Clutch’s newest line! We think it adds a geometric pop of interest to any outfit.

Please enter to win the Indigo Clutch by using the giveaway interface below. You can enter once a day with the Facebook and Twitter entry options, so come back and enter again to raise your chances of winning! Contest ends at Midnight CST on Sunday, July 26th. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends July 26th at 11:59 PM CST. Open to Residents of the US only. Winner will be selected by Random.org and be notified by email. Winner will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. The product offered for the giveaway is free of charge, no purchase necessary. Our opinions are our own and were not influenced by any form of compensation. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are in no way associated with this giveaway. By providing your information in this form, you are providing your information to thinkliz.com and thinkliz.com alone. We do not share or sell information and will use any information only for the purpose of contacting the winner.

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Follow Purse & Clutch on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

Finding Your Style

How to find your style. A lot of people have told us that they don’t know how to use the clothes in their closets to put together outfits that they like, or how to buy items that they will actually wear and enjoy. We want to help! One way to start is to identify your individual style. If you have an idea of what your style is, you can make more purposeful purchasing decisions, which is important to our conversation around ethical fashion. What is the point of purchasing an ethically made piece of clothing if you don’t enjoy wearing it?

These are some of the things that have helped us determine our styles:

Create a Pinterest board.

About the time my son Jude was born, Pinterest really took off. One of the ways I used it was to pin outfit ideas. I have never been one to flip through the pages of Vogue or InStyle, so this new exposure to fashion really changed how I dressed myself. I began to learn what clothing was suitable for my body type, find new ways to style clothing I already owned, and identify a couple key pieces of clothing that would make my wardrobe stretch much further.

If you feel lost when it comes to style, we suggest that you start a board on Pinterest and pin things you are drawn to. (If you don’t have/want Pinterest, just start to pay attention to clothing items that catch your eye, and colors that you are drawn to.) Start to identify common looks in the clothing you pin. Then see if you can create any of them using clothing you already own, or by adding a couple key pieces to your wardrobe. For example, I noticed early on that I was pinning a lot of striped tops paired with brightly colored skirts and pants. I already owned the skirts and pants, so I went out and thrifted a stripped tank top and a stripped t-shirt! Those two items made me more excited about the clothes that were already in my closet. Later on, I realized that I was pinning high waisted skirts with tucked-in tops. I began to try tucking in shirts I already owned to skirts I already owned (or made) and felt much more put together and better about my figure!

By identifying the ‘key pieces’ of clothing that I was attracted to, I could thrift one or two identified items to get more wear out of what I already owned. Some common items that can really help make your wardrobe more versatile could be items like a chambray button-up, a tailored blazer, a certain color of t-shirt, a pair of slacks, or a piece of jewelry.

Think about your style profile.

Maybe you started a pinterest board but you can’t identify what type of styles you gravitate towards from your pins. Most people like more than one specific style category but we all tend to feel most comfortable in one or two particular styles. Another resource for you could be Stitch Fix (* affiliate link). This company has done a lot to help women figure out what their personal styles are. If you look them up on Pinterest you will find boards dedicated to the seven style categories they use – classic, preppy, romantic, glam, boho, edgy, and casual. Each board has a description of that style and lots of pins to give you an idea of what that style might include. Look through the boards, pick out your favorite pictures, and add those pins to your own fashion boards. This will give you a clearer sense of how to describe your style and what pieces and outfits you would enjoy wearing.

Find your ‘uniform’.

We all have types of outfits we wear everyday, or that we grab when we’re in a hurry. Make them play to your advantage! What are you most comfortable wearing? What do you feel best in? What do you feel most put together in? What outfit item do you get most excited about – shoes, tops, pants, skirts, or accessories? If you find outfit ‘formulas’ that you enjoy, you’ll know what to shop for and what to pull on those mornings when you don’t have time to think about style.

Some examples of our daily uniforms:

EllieUniform 1: Crisp button up with shorts/pants; Uniform 2: Casual dress with sandals and accent jewelry

Elizabeth – Uniform 1: Skinny jeans and a half tucked t-shirt with flats and lots of jewelry; Uniform 2: High waisted skirt with a tucked in tank top, flats and big earrings; Uniform 3: A basic dress, statement necklace and sandals.

Identify what you feel best and worst wearing.

This is very personal. For example, I am uncomfortable in wrap tops, cowl necks, and some button-ups. Ellie doesn’t like to wear anything sleeveless. Once you have identified these things, don’t make exceptions! Use your preferences to guide you when you make purchases.

It is also helpful to identify which types of fabric you feel comfortable wearing. I am learning that I really don’t like polyester tops because they have no give, they wick sweat in weird ways, and they can hold odors. Because of this, I am beginning to focus on natural fibers like cotton, linen, and wool. If you are always pulling at something or adjusting it to lay right, it’s likely that fabric is not for you. Avoid buying pieces made of this fabric, and give that piece to someone else or donate it!

Determine what compliments your body.

This can be tricky because we all have such unique shapes; what works on my figure may not work on yours. I have found it helpful to take a picture of myself in clothing that I am considering purchasing. This tells me a lot about what the clothing really looks like on me, and not just how it feels. If you have a friend who you think will really tell you the truth, send her a quick picture of you in the item so she can tell you if she thinks it looks good on you. But even if she says it looks good, if you don’t feel good, don’t buy it!

Figure out what you’re really wearing in your wardrobe.

Holding on to clothing we don’t actually wear clutters our closets and makes it more difficult to put together an outfit we enjoy wearing. Here are two systems we like for figuring out what we actually wear and what we should give away:

Ellie keeps items in her closet in order and generally wears what comes up next in line, skipping over any outfits she’s not excited to wear. After she’s worn something, she moves it to the end of the line. If she finds herself skipping an item several times in a row, she knows it’s time to get rid of it. This system also encourages her to wear each item she owns, which is a great way to tell what you like: after wearing an item all day you know how you feel about it!

Another good system for finding what you are and aren’t wearing in your closet is to turn all of your hangers to face the ‘wrong way’. When you wear something and hang it back up, hang the hanger the ‘correct way’. After a couple of months, any hangers that are still facing the ‘wrong direction’ are clothes you know you can live without.  Both of these systems can be modified for clothing you keep in drawers; for example, you could move through a drawer in a line, moving clothing you’ve skipped to the front of the line. Another option would be to hang up more of your clothing for a month or so while you evaluate what you have, returning it to its usual place when you’re done with the process.

In addition to helping you clean out your closet, both these methods can help you determine what items you gravitate towards and which you don’t really enjoy.  The more you know about what you actully wear, the more you know about your own style preferences and what you should and shouldn’t buy in the future.

Go with your gut.

If you try something on and feel iffy, don’t try to make it work, especially if you would just be buying it because it is inexpensive. Buying something just because it’s cheap is not the answer – especially if it doesn’t fit! Don’t convince yourself, or let others convince you, to purchase something unless your first impression of it is very good. Snap judgments are good here. This is also true of what is already in your closet – do a test day and see how you feel in an item. If you don’t love it, give it away!

Less is more; look for versatility.

The idea of a capsule wardrobe has been floating around a lot lately. If you don’t know what that is, we encourage you to read up on it! Read Capsule Wardrobe 101 here. Ellie and I don’t do capsule wardrobes, mostly because it’s not practical to pack any of our wardrobes away: in Austin the weather changes quickly and you need access to wool sweaters one day and shorts the next. But the idea of a capsule wardrobe has a lot of great concepts embedded in it: less is more, find versatility in what you already own, and purchase items based on how many different ways you can wear them. You can consider these ideas as you are building and adjusting your wardrobe.

It’s about YOU!

Ultimately, what matters is how YOU feel about what you are wearing. Trends come and go, but feeling good about yourself in clothing that you like always matters. We’ve said it before: our clothing is the most visible way that we tell the world who we are. It can communicate emotion (mourning clothes vs a sundress), our intent (workout clothes vs heels), and so much more with just a single glance. It’s worth spending time thinking about what you want your wardrobe to say.

Tell us what you learned about your style, or share a photo of something you love wearing and tell us why you love to wear it on Instagram with the hashtag #DressWellDoGood! We would love to have you join us in conversation as we continue to explore this idea of style and fashion! And of course, don’t forget to follow us over on Instagram at @DressWellDoGood and subscribe to receive blog posts via e-mail.

Cloth Pocket Giveaway: Completed!

Cloth-Pocket-Giveaway-CompleteWe loved hearing about all of the ideas you had to make something if you won the gift card to The Cloth Pocket! Giveaways are just the best.

The contest is over and congratulations to Heather for winning the $30 gift card!

We hope that you enjoyed reading about the direction of handmade and slow fashion in Austin. If you are a local, be sure to stop in to check out Nicole’s cute shop, The Cloth Pocket, in person! She has an amazing selection of quilting and apparel fabrics. Ellie and I have a few other slow fashion plans we are excited to share with you in the next couple of months, so be on the lookout for that!

While I have your attention, I want to draw your attention to a page that we recently created that I think could be very useful to you all as we continue our conversation on ethical fashion.

Check out our new ‘brands we love‘ page to learn more about some of our favorite companies that are doing good work in the ethical fashion world.

Let us know if we are missing your favorite ethical brand by commenting below!

And of course, don’t forget to follow us over on Instagram at @DressWellDoGood. We post outfits of the day, questions to our followers and more. We would love to have you join us as part of the conversation over there!

Giveaway & Interview: Nicole LaBry – Owner of The Cloth Pocket

It’s no secret that Ellie and I enjoy sewing. For me, part of the enjoyment is knowing that I am taking the time and love to make something for myself or those close to me. The idea of slowing down to make your fashion – often called “slow fashion” – is very similar to the idea of the slow food movement.  In both, we relish each step on the way to the end product. The adorable Austin, TX fabric shop, The Cloth Pocket, is a great source of supplies and inspiration for making hand-sewn wares. We are so pleased to chat today with Nicole LaBry, the owner of The Cloth Pocket!

Nicole-LeBry-The-Cloth-Pocket-Austin-Texas

Hi Nicole! Thank you for joining us today!

What was the path that led you to the textile world?
My first job ever was cutting fabric in the back of Crafts, etc in the strip mall behind my house! I taught myself to sew by hand that year & received my first sewing machine from my grandmother for my next (16th!) birthday. I wanted clothes that were wildly inappropriate for a teenager, but I just could not help myself! Seriously, no child needs to go to school wearing royal blue tulle mini dresses, but how could I know this? I’ve really never stopped messing around in the sewing world.

What is your favorite thing to sew and why?
I love sewing apparel for myself & my children. I will always get a kick out of drafting a (very dirty) pattern & sewing up something I can feel proud of.

What does ethical fashion mean to you?
Oof. This is a lot. I can tell you that it is not the person wearing a diaper chained to his or her sewing machine making garments that cost more than he or she makes in a year.

For myself, limited budgets warrant occasional junk-food wardrobe purchases. By that I mean, I do have to buy my kids basic things that they will either tear up or lose or grow out of and I can’t be paying for custom clothing or finding the time to sew their entire closets myself. This sort of thing is a real sticking point for me. There’s really no good option when we’re basically talking about necessarily disposable activewear. So I buy the least amount possible. I even used cloth diapers on my babies!

I know the big box companies have no craps to give about who makes their merchandise or under what conditions they make it, and it shows in the quality of their goods. This knowledge really limits those purchases for me so I try to buy things second hand, making sure to rehome the items that make it out on the other end intact to smaller children in my friend group. I try to buy locally made or at least from locally owned mom & pop type stores. I look for Made in the USA labels because, let’s keep those dollars at home. The anarchist in me will always despise giving money to big-game takers that can’t be bothered to care about anything beyond lining their pockets. As well, the entire textile industry has some serious kinks in the system from the bottom up.

The fabrics I provide are carefully selected for style & quality. I combine that with American-made whenever I can. Keeping the dollars at home really is a crucial part of ethical fashion. As it is, the cottons are grown here, shipped to China for milling/weaving, then on to Korea or Japan for dying and finally redistributed from American companies around the world. There are some great Japanese mills, too, but by and large just from this very abbreviated synopsis one can easily tell that we’ve got a very inefficient system going on and I’m only talking about the industry that produces just the fabric!

Tell us about some of your favorite movements that have started up that are furthering the mission of Slow Fashion.
SO much good stuff! Right now there is a TON of local Austin initiative. Open Arms comes to mind as they are hugely inspirational. They’re a local manufacturing company who hire immigrants with incredible production-sewing skills to construct garments here in Austin.

Whitestar Manufacturing is also doing local garment production right outside of Austin.

Sewn on the Street, or SOS, is a really cool project headed up by some folks who wanted to make the public aware of what it really takes to create the garments we all wear. Sewing machines were taken to the steps of City Hall last year where members of the public were invited to sit down & sew a shirt. Participants received pay for their work equivalent to sweat shop workers’ wages in other countries. I think it really made a great point.

Additionally, a city initiative for Austin, TX was pushed through last summer to recognize the textile industry as a viable source of potentially larger-scale local revenue. Thoughts on that movement include creating a garment district, a fashion incubator, more local production, etc. but the traction has so far been fleeting & it needs a little more cohesion. That’s something I’d like to put more time & effort towards when the timing is better for me.

Lastly, I’m so excited to see more local production sprouting in and near Austin. Friends of mine that started the pre-production company Stitch Texas in Buda are now moving northwards into the city as they expand their enterprise. Their services include an on-site pattern-maker, a plotter for digitizing & grading said patterns, and a fit sample maker also on site. They have been helping designers bring collections to life and into the market. It’s super exciting to see.

How are you using your business to inspire those around you to engage in slow fashion, handmade, and the community that both those things can bring with them?
Certainly I encourage home sewists to continue their craft. It’s my business to sell them the raw goods! I try to provide excellent fabrics, trims & patterns to encourage their endeavors. I run contests to keep their motivation going and love to see what people are making. I also give discounts to anyone taking a class anywhere in town. New sewists are always good for me & it’s endlessly fantastic to watch their progressive gratification in learning a new skill. I don’t care if you’re taking a weekly lesson from your grandmother, I’ll extend that discount.

Additionally, I really enjoy sourcing fabric larger-scale for designer services & consulting. If I can help them get their line going, point them in the right direction- even when it cuts me out of the equation as the merchant/middleman- I’m in. I think it behooves the greater good of the domestic sewn-product industry at large. Outside of shop involvement, I also moderate a group of local, back-end textile professionals that meet loosely every quarter to talk shop. It’s been such a fun process watching the group start out at 20 members, now up to 250! I’ve seen multiple lines launched, businesses formed, friendships forged- really heartening. We also have a free directory now for local pros where people can access a database of folks in the field: www.atxdatabase.org

Who are your style inspirations?
Well, let’s just say that when I grow up I’d like to be the love child of Alexander McQueen & Daphne Guinness!

If you could encourage folks to make one change or do one thing differently, what would it be?
If you’re able to afford it, consider where your consumables come from. I realize this is coming from a place of affluence, because only those of us fortunate enough to not live in poverty are considering luxuries like this. I think it’s equally important to recognize that privilege. If you get to choose where your garments come from, you can examine this in more depth. You vote with your dollars, and if those dollars are shouting, “More American goods, please!!!”, then guess what? That’s where the trends will turn.

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We are excited to do a giveaway from The Cloth Pocket! If you have been interested in learning how to sew, or just need a little push to get back in front of your sewing machine, we have a $30 gift card to Nicole’s shop, The Cloth Pocket! She has an online storefront, so no worries if you don’t live in Austin – you can still purchase her luscious fabrics from the comfort of your computer. This is enough to buy fabric for a simple sewing project, like a basic skirt. May I suggest this beginner level appropriate Zinnia skirt in a lovely bright red Chambray? Or check out my free sewing patterns page for some free pattern ideas.

Please enter to win the $30 gift card by using the giveaway interface below. You can enter once a day with the Facebook and Twitter entry options, so come back and enter again to raise your chances of winning! Contest ends at Midnight CST on Sunday, July 12. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends July 12th at 11:59 PM CST. Open to Residents of the US only. Winner will be selected by Random.org and be notified by email. Winner will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. The product offered for the giveaway is free of charge, no purchase necessary. Our opinions are our own and were not influenced by any form of compensation. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are in no way associated with this giveaway. By providing your information in this form, you are providing your information to thinkliz.com and thinkliz.com alone. We do not share or sell information and will use any information only for the purpose of contacting the winner.

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Follow The Cloth Pocket on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest!

What is Fast Fashion?

Why is fast fashion bad?If you’ve been around the ethical fashion conversation for any length of time you may have heard the phrase ‘fast fashion’ thrown around. But what does ‘fast fashion’ really mean?

‘Fast fashion’ comes from the unsustainable practice of producing and purchasing clothing as if it were disposable.

This clothing tends to be high-volume, low-quality, and super-trendy. It’s the poorly made items that are meant to last one season, made by companies like Old Navy, Zara, Target, Forever 21, H&M, and Walmart. If you feel like you purchased an item cheap enough that you don’t mind throwing it away when it rips, odds are that the item is a result of fast fashion.

That clothes can be had for so little money is historically unprecedented.

Clothes have almost always been expensive, hard to come by, and highly valued; they have been used as an alternative currency in many societies. Well into the 20th century, clothes were pricey and precious enough that they were mended and cared for and reimagined countless times, and most people had only a few outfits that they wore until they wore them out.

In the past few decades, the cost of clothing has decreased dramatically. “Retailers today are now forced to sell exactly the same products for less than they did fifteen years ago. In 2008 the New York Times tracked the price of deflation in fashion and found that the price of Liz & Co. capri pants had fallen by a third and a Lacoste polo shirt by almost a quarter. A pair of Levi’s 501 jeans sells for $46 today, about $4 less than it was in the late 1990s, when adjusted for inflation. Of nine items that declined in price, the Times found that those that dropped the most were basics like underwear and t-shirts, by as much as 60 percent,” (Page 32, Overdressed; Eric, Wilson, “Dress for Less and Less,” New York Times, May 29, 2008). H&M’s $4.95 dress released in 2010 sparked the Vogue article, ‘Do I get a Coffee, a Snack, or Something to Wear‘? Is that something we should be asking?

Every other basic commodity has increased in cost over the years.  Yet the price of clothing continues to drop.

What do we sacrifice so that clothing can be so inexpensive?

Money is saved in a number of places when you purchase a fast fashion item:

  • Fabrics that are used in fast fashion clothing are lower quality, tending towards thinner fabrics with less natural fiber content and more polyester or other synthetic fibers. These lower quality fabrics are quicker to show wear, quicker to fall apart, harder to mend, and don’t hold their shape over time.
  • Fast fashion clothing is produced with low quality construction methods.  Sometimes this is done on purpose so that you will have to purchase more through a concept called planned obsolescence. For example:
    • using thread that is too thick for the fabric so it will unravel or tear the fabric after several wears
    • using the wrong type of machine stitch for the type of fabric (example: using a stitch that has no stretch on a stretch jersey fabric) – this leads to the thread ‘popping’ and unraveling
    • sewing in buttons, zippers, or other notions without tacking thread when completed, leading to quick unraveling of these notions
    • using fewer stitches per inch in the seams (wider gaps between stitches), leading to quickly unraveling seams
    • not including extra buttons/sequins/other details in seams
  • Many of these fast fashion companies have tremendous economies of scale, which means the orders they places are massive, enabling the factories to give them a lower price per item.
  • There is little to no regard for matching patterns at the seams because it would take more fabric to achieve this detail. Overall, fast fashion has a lack of attention to detail because details take more time and money to achieve.
  • Linings are left out of work pants, blazers, jackets, skirts, or other clothing items that would typically require a lining.

Most troubling, fast fashion companies cut costs by paying workers as little as possible. A huge savings occurs when workers are exploited through lack of a fair wage, unsafe work conditions, enslavement, or the use of underage workers. These workers are often hidden in the production chain when ‘brand approved’ factories contract work out to other factories that do not work directly with the brands.

Mass produced clothing or fast fashion, like fast food, fills a hunger and need, yet is non-durable, exploitive of the environment, dangerous to those in the garment industry, and wasteful.

We have discussed the reaction to fast fashion a little bit already. Slow fashion encourages taking time to ensure quality production, giving value to the product, and contemplating the connection with the environment. There are great companies that are springing up with models that are influenced by the slow fashion movement. We have so many options when we choose to spend our money!

We know this is uncomfortable information and that most of us rely heavily on fast fashion to fill our wardrobes. We encourage you not to feel overwhelmed or guilty, but to spend some time thinking about what you would like to do with this information. We will continue to discuss how to begin to move towards making more ethical decisions in a cost-effective way!

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Join us in the conversation! Use #DressWellDoGood in social media and make sure to sign up to receive our posts via e-mail (you can sign up on the sidebar to your right), or add www.thinkliz.com to your RSS blog reader (we recommend Feedly)! If you are enjoying this discussion, please share our posts with your friends!

Noonday Giveaway: Completed!

Noonday Sunburst Necklace StyledWe had a lot of fun giving away the Sunburst Necklace to one of our readers! Thanks to everyone for joining in and entering to win.

The contest is over and a big congratulations goes to Jennifer for winning this beautiful necklace!

We hope all of you had fun learning a little more about Noonday Collection and their incredible mission.

We have more companies that we will be sharing with you over the next couple of months that we can’t wait for you to meet!

We have been focused on blogging about ethical fashion for 3 weeks now and would like to get feedback from you about what you are enjoying so we can continue to give you helpful information that you enjoy!

Would you drop us a comment below, e-mail us at hello@thinkliz.com, or comment on instagram and let us know if we are heading in the right direction?

Here are our typical posts:

  1. Styling posts (10 Ways to Wear the Little Black Dress)
  2. Informative posts (What is Ethical Fashion?)
  3. Company interviews (Noonday Collection)
  4. Giveaways (The Sunburst Necklace)

We would also love to know what you are wanting to learn more about: do you have a particular styling challenge we can help address, or are you curious about how companies handle an aspect of production or manufacturing, or do you want to learn more about slow fashion and making/repairing your own clothing?

What are your ethical fashion questions?

Don’t forget to follow us over on Instagram at @DressWellDoGood. We post outfits of the day, questions to our followers and more. We would love to have you join us as part of the conversation over there!

What is Ethical Fashion?

What is ethical fashion?One of the big questions we are asking is ‘what does ethical fashion even mean?’ What do companies do to try to be ‘ethical’? Let’s take a look at some of the most common practices.

Fair Trade

Fair trade certification is a product certification system claiming that a product meets certain environmental, labor, and business development standards. FairTrade USA certifies products made in the US, while Fair Trade International certifies everything made internationally. One of the critiques of this method is that this certification can exclude the poorest countries and smallest producers from the fair trade market, because the process of getting certified can be cost-prohibitive and difficult to navigate. This label is most often seen on items like coffee or chocolate, but there are an increasing number of clothing brands that have received the Fair Trade certification.

Made in the USA (or Canada)

Because the United States has labor regulations to ensure safe factory conditions and a minimum wage to ensure fair wages, this is often considered an ethical option. However, items labeled as ‘Made in the USA’ aren’t necessarily made of materials that are manufactured in the US (fabric, zippers, buttons, etc), so there is a chance that the supply chain is hiding unethical conditions. Additionally, one could argue that the minimum wage is not high enough to be considered a living wage in America. For example, in Texas the minimum wage is $7.25/hr, which adds up to $15k per year. The 2014 Federal Poverty Level Threshold for two people (say a single mom and her child) is $15,730. Furthermore, ‘Made in the USA’ is certainly not a guarantee of an ethically made product since companies freely break those laws in favor of higher profits (see Forever 21 several years ago). Still, better regulations and higher transparency can make purchasing ‘Made in the USA’ a good option, and perhaps a best option depending on the company. Another advantage of purchasing products made in the US is the ability to keep these trade jobs in country to help boost our economy. Only 2% of clothing purchased in America is made in the US, down from 50% in 1990. Exporting jobs to cheaper factories overseas contributes to the loss of American garment trades, and the decline of domestic wages.

Slow Fashion

Think of slow fashion as a cousin to the slow food movement. Slow fashion items, similar to home cooked foods, are made with care and sustenance: quality, classic, traditional, small batch productions, often with local production chains. It encourages taking time to ensure quality production, giving value to the product, and contemplating the connection with the environment. We are looking forward to talking more about this in future blog posts with some really inspiring examples!

Handmade

This category is sometimes a subset of slow fashion. It encompasses everything from the mom crocheting headbands while her child naps to the artisan weavers in South America keeping cultural traditions alive. Small batch production, artisan techniques, and hand finished details – these are the marks of handmade items. Handmade items can be expensive depending on the quality of materials used and the time spent making the product. However, you are sure to receive something that is unique and created with care.

Organic

This term describes the raw materials for the fabric an item is produced from; it refers to the ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony. This can only apply to natural fibers: cotton, linen, and wool. You won’t find any organic polyester! The USDA National Organic Program sets the standards regulating the labeling of organic products in the United States, and worldwide there is Global Organic Textile Standard Certification.

Trade Not Aid, Mission-Driven or Social Enterprise

This is one of our favorite categories because we love what some companies are doing to work with artisan groups to make their crafts and traditions known to the world, and how they are empowering entire groups of people to rise out of poverty. These companies focus on providing a living wage to their artisans, which varies from country to country. A living wage is broadly understood as pay high enough to cover the cost of a family’s basic needs such as food and water, housing and energy, clothing, healthcare, transportation, education and childcare, as well as modest funds for savings and discretionary spending. There are tons of companies that we love in this genre and we will be sharing them with you over time!

Radical Transparency

Companies like Everlane are making everything available for consumers to see – the conditions of their factories across the world, their supply chains and the costs of everything that goes into the product. The transparency of product costs and product markup allows you to purchase a t-shirt knowing that you have not paid more for it than its worth. (In traditional retail, a designer shirt is marked up 8x by the time it reaches the customer.) Additionally, this transparency offers a safer production chain for garment workers.

Reuse/Thrifting

This category  includes your local thrift store, vintage shops, and online thrift stores like ThredUp (*referral link) or Twice (*referral link). Thrifting is a great way to begin engaging in the ethical fashion conversation; you can save money and you aren’t supporting the corporations that are dealing with unethical supply chains. You promote reuse and recycling instead of trash. Thrifting may not get to the root of the Fast Fashion issue, since many thrift stores sell poorly made, stylish clothing in addition to higher-quality items. Still, it is a valid and inexpensive option for ethical consumers.

Upcycling

Upcycling is often a combination of the Reuse/Thrifting and Handmade category. When you upcycle something, you do not break down the materials as you do in recycling.  You take old or discarded materials and modify them into something useful.  For clothing, this could look like turning old t-shirts into yarn and crocheting a handbag, thrifting a dress that is too big and tailoring it to fit you, or taking an old pair of jeans and turning it into a jean skirt.

Recycled Fabrics

The most common recycled fabric is PET –  Plastic bottles that are processed into polyester yarn. Polyester lasts for a long time, is very durable, and has the potential for multiple life-cycles because the garment can be recycled again. The downside is that polyester is a petroleum-based product and will never biodegrade. Other natural fibers, such as cotton or wool, can be recycled as well when they are shredded back into their fiber state and re-spun, in combination with virgin fiber into yarn.

Zero-Waste

Zero-waste, while not a new concept (think Kimonos and Saris), is beginning to make it’s way into mainstream modern clothing. This is a method of clothing production generates little to no textile waste. “Zero-waste fashion design refers to fashion design that ensures that all of the fabric used to make a garment is in the garment. On average, 15 percent of fabric used to make the clothes we wear is wasted during manufacture. All fabric embodies investments of material, water, energy, and labor; recycling fabric waste can only recapture some of these investments. Avoiding waste is always better than recycling it,” (Timo Rissanen, professor at Parsons in New York).

Local Production

This is another area where fashion is similar to food. Through purchasing items that have been designed or produced locally, you reduce CO2 emissions from shipping, support your local economy and local jobs, and possibly even create long term relationships with local vendors.

What to focus on?

So many options, right? We have found it helpful to identify which factors are personally most important to us. Often, companies that embrace one of these ideals naturally encompass multiple facets of ethical fashion practices.

None of these categories should be considered a fail safe, and products that do not fall into one these categories are not necessarily unethical. There are factories in China with excellent working conditions where workers are treated fairly and paid well for their work. There are factories in America where workers are exploited, work in poor conditions, and aren’t paid fairly. It’s worth doing the research on individual companies, figuring out what categories are most important to you, and finding businesses that align with your views and price point. This is something we will dig into more as we continue this discussion.

A recent article in Forbes regarding Mission-Driven Companies states that most American consumers are not aware of which businesses are providing socially responsible products and services and that there needs to be a grass roots education effort. This is one of our goals with this blog – we want to be the grass roots effort among our friends, and hopefully beyond!

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Join us in the conversation! Use #DressWellDoGood in social media and make sure to sign up to receive our posts via e-mail (you can sign up on the sidebar to your right), or add www.thinkliz.com to your RSS blog reader (we recommend Feedly)! If you are enjoying this discussion, please share our posts with your friends!

Giveaway & Interview: Jessica Honegger – Noonday Collection Founder

Jessica-Honegger-Noonday-ATXWe are huge fangirls of Austin-based company Noonday Collection (no surprise to any of you that know us) and have been advocating for our ambassador friends since the company’s beginning! Noonday Collection is a fair-trade business that uses fashion to create meaningful opportunities around the world. It partners with artisan entrepreneurs in the developing world, empowering them to grow sustainable businesses and to create dignified jobs that allow Artisans to earn sustainable, reliable incomes. If you haven’t heard about Noonday before, get ready, because we will be talking about them a lot.

We are so thrilled that Jessica is joining us here on the blog today! She is Noonday Collection’s Founder and Chief Dreamer. Jessica spends her days inspiring others to live lives of purpose—from empowering Noonday’s Ambassadors to be powerful storytellers and stylists, to visiting and encouraging their Artisans partners across the globe. It truly is an honor to have her here.

We love your sense of style! Who are you inspired by in fashion?
I always look to Mara Hoffman for inspiration. She has a great eye for color! I have also been very inspired by Chanel and Custo Barcelona, who were big inspirations for our current Spring line.

Tell us how Noonday got started.
I started Noonday as a fundraiser to adopt my son from Rwanda. I began selling jewelry in my home and hosted some of Noonday’s first trunk shows. Women fell in love with the style and story of Noonday Collection and I began to dream much bigger than a fundraiser! I soon partnered with a friend, Travis Wilson, who is passionate about social entrepreneurship and experience in building businesses. Together we dreamed of starting a business that would alleviate poverty through entrepreneurship. That dream is Noonday Collection!

We’ve seen you post about how Noonday has led to your whole family flourishing and it has been so good for us to hear about that! Could you tell us more?
Yes, my whole family has been. During my first few years of leading Noonday, I struggled with a lot of mom guilt. I would look at my friends and other mothers and what they were doing and comparing myself to them. I myself often was the one judging others, along with judging myself. I assumed that all the energy I poured into Noonday meant that my kids would suffer and end up in therapy for life somehow because of me. However, what I have learned, though, is the opposite. First, we have to stop the comparison game. We are all running our own race, each in our own lane. My life may look different than yours, and that may look different from another. No one is doing it “wrong” or “right.” For myself and my family specifically, I learned that my work contributes to my family’s flourishing. The creative power God gave me to build a business doesn’t come at my family’s expense. It has been incredible to watch my family learn and grow through Noonday.

Tell us about empowering women through your business model and how they make a real difference in their communities.
We launched the Ambassador Opportunity as a way to invite and empower women across the US to launch Noonday businesses in their communities. We partner with artisan businesses in developing countries that create opportunity for women who are vulnerable, allowing women to earn a sustainable income and become leaders in their communities. It has been amazing to watch this community grow and to watch women empower other women across the globe. Neither Ambassador nor Artisan could do their job without the other. It’s such a beautiful story!

What is a helpful tip that you could give us as we learn more about ethics and style?
Just jump in! You don’t have to have it all figured out. You can start by hosting a Noonday Trunk Show!

What are a couple ethical companies that you love?
I love Everlane’s tee’s for great wear-with-everything basics. I also live in my Colette Sol lace cut out booties.

If you could give one fashion tip to all of the women out there, what would you tell them?
Get out of your comfort zone! Try on that statement necklace you’re not sure you can pull off, pile on an extra bracelet. You’ll surprise yourself.

Thanks so much for joining us Jessica! We love what you have to say!

And now, we be giving away the Sunburst Necklace which is definitely one of our favorites from Noonday’s newest line! We really fell in love with this necklace after watching Noonday Style School, Episode 1, where Hilary and Jesse explained that the Sunburst Necklace falls into one of the essential six necklace categories, the illuminator, a light reflecting necklace. We think it is super versatile; it will go with just about anything, from a t-shirt to a fancy dress!

sunburst-necklace-noonday-collection

Please enter to win the Sunburst Necklace by using the giveaway interface below. You can enter once a day with the Facebook and Twitter entry options, so come back and enter again to raise your chances of winning! Contest ends at Midnight CST on Sunday, June 28th. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends June 28th at 11:59 PM CST. Open to Residents of the US only. Winner will be selected by Random.org and be notified by email. Winner have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. The product offered for the giveaway is free of charge, no purchase necessary. Our opinions are our own and were not influenced by any form of compensation. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are in no way associated with this giveaway. By providing your information in this form, you are providing your information to thinkliz.com and thinkliz.com alone. We do not share or sell information and will use any information only for the purpose of contacting the winner.

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Follow Noonday Collection on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest!

Why Fashion?

Ethical fashion blogFashion is a funny thing. We all wear clothing; for the most part, it’s inescapable. We all participate in ‘fashion’ by either choosing to participate in particular styles or making a statement through refusal to participate.

On one hand, fashion is a way to express ourselves that is fun and light-hearted.

It is the most visible way that we tell the world who we are. It’s exciting to try on new outfits, to experience new ‘looks’, to see what compliments our unique figures. We feel empowered or more focused when we have dressed in a particular way. I know that I dress with more thought and care for a special event, an important meeting, or a night out with my husband, and the confidence I gain from feeling put together can help me succeed or have a good time.

On the other hand, fashion can be superficial, expensive, and unnecessary, and for some, it can be a burden.

We obsess over what celebrities are wearing, what is trending, what color is hot, and the next new thing. Fashion can be trivial in light of more serious matters in the world. I frequently feel the tension of needing to look put together or ‘cute’ everywhere I go, when sometimes, going to the park with my son doesn’t need to be a fashionable experience. My identity is not in what I wear. Nor should it be. We are all much more than the clothes on our body.

Additionally, clothing production is full of paradox and contradiction.

It’s easy for companies to hide acts of exploitation in their supply chains, feigning ignorance and citing their company’s Code of Conduct like a shield, while supplying to the wealthy public the latest fashions for a steal. Fast fashion. Their catalogues show models living what look like picture-perfect lives, clean and sanitary, but the reality of clothing production is that the factories are far from clean and sanitary.

Once factories took over the creation of our clothing and the majority of what we wore was made outside the home, our clothing purchases became a moral act.

Our fashion choices do have social outcomes and meaning.

As westerners, we are linked with those factory workers in developing countries by our desire for fashion, whether you acknowledge it or not. Your purchase contributes to how they are treated, the well-being of their families, and how they spend the majority of their working life. It is easier to choose not to focus too closely on the people that make our clothing and the state in which they live. But easy isn’t always best, right?

“Most of our lives are spent in clothing. It’s a basic need, but more than that, clothing and style are a huge and integral part of our everyday lives. Clothes are an essential part of the economy and easily the second largest consumer sector, behind food. Dressing sharp, dressing up, and caring about what we wear existed long before the fashion industry, and these values can exist outside it as well.” (Overdressed, *affiliate link)

Because our lives are spent in clothing, and by proxy, in some kind of fashion, it’s worth diving in to look at the true costs of clothing, which can range from the exploitation of people because they are poor and have few options to the empowerment of whole communities. There are so many choices that support empowerment, sustainability and transparency – let’s keep exploring them!