Friday, September 2, 2011

The Difficulty of Getting Dressed

the difficulty of getting dressed

the difficulty of getting dressed
works cited: tee c/o five bamboo; handmade skirt (pattern here); thrifted belt, bag, and wedges; necklace from etsy (c/o little o by wolfbrother); earrings a gift from christopher (handmade at boneyard pottery)

One of the ideas I've been brooding over lately is how difficult it can be to shop/dress ethically. Tuesday's post and the conversations that ensued were very thought-provoking and made me realize one of the major obstacles standing between me and 100% ethical clothes shopping is that being an ethical shopper of clothing is time-consuming, expensive, and difficult in a way other consumer activism is not. It's easy and fun to ride my bike instead of drive; and it's cheaper and more delicious to go to the farmer's market than the grocery store; but it takes a lot of time, research, and money to buy clothing ethically. Today's outfit feels more or less ethically-sound (handmade, environmentally-conscious, thrifted, etc.) but it took more research, time, and resources to locate these garments than it would have to walk into the nearby Gap and buy the cheap tee and jeans that fit. This leaves me wondering: are there any shortcuts for shopping ethically? Five Bamboo, for instance, has really great basic tees, dresses, and undergarments that are ethically-produced and reasonably-priced. Thrifting is cheap but takes dedication and time. Handmade clothes (like Megan's or Emerson Made) are a great way to go, but not easy on the pocketbook. If accessibility is the number one obstacle standing between a consumer and an ethical shopping choice, the lazy and busy part of me wants to know: how do you make ethical clothes-buying easier?
P.S. And because this post was a little heavy, here's a few things on the lighter side: lobsters! a nerdy mug! hermoine! better book titles (the most hilarious website ever)!
Update: Loren suggests this website as a great place to start doing research: better world shopper, for grades on a lot of major clothing brands.

42 comments:

.kt said...

I love this post.. So right on.
The color of that skirt is amazing :)

Katiediditt.blogspot.com

Kelly // Elegantly Academic said...

Yeah! Finally up late enough to comment on your blog! That is a tough question ... surely someone has put together a list of stores/websites that sell non-sweat shop garments? Or is a green-y organization who has this on their website? Hmmm ... I read that recent article by Adored Austin & made me think about this too, but haven't had the time to do the 'research' either ...

Eclectic Flair said...

Wish I could give some good advice here but I'm just as stumped as you. Maybe other readers will suggest more sites/stores life Five Bamboo? Like you mentioned, other than thrifting, most other options are budget breaking.
This outfit, is simple, classy and cute! Wish I could sew my own skirts too!

Lidi @ Eclectic Flair

Loren said...

To be fair to the Gap they actually have implemented fairly decent buying practices the last several years http://www.ethicaltrade.org/in-action/projects/purchasing-practices-project
And only buy from countries and factories that are implementing labor laws. (Countries that are essentially going through an industrial revolution.) So while it is not the BEST choice it is much preferably to Kohls, Dillard's or Walmart.
I also use this book to help guide my shopping choices.
http://www.betterworldshopper.com/
Which gauges companies not just on their buying practices and environmental choices, but their treatment of employees as well.
Also I really like your skirt. :)

What Would a Nerd Wear said...

loren, wow! that website was just the kind of thing i'm looking for.
i'm surprised to hear about the gap--i knew they reformed many of their labor laws but i still feel skeptical about the ethical effect of buying so many garments made overseas (not that this stops me when i need a tee shirt, but it doesn't give me the warm fuzzy feeling either). thanks so much for the recommendation.

half pint said...

By buying less for starters (which is not always easy). It allows me to have a more generous clothing budget, which allows me to buy a few versatile and functional pieces.

Another part of buying things well made is that you need to replace them less often. I also pay a lot of attention to the laundering needs of my clothes, which keeps them in good shape for longer and also discourages me from buying clothes which require harsh cleaning procedures (dry cleaning for example).

Celynne said...

Hehe, you and lobsters. I say you pull out the lobster dress again sometime soon! We haven't seen it in a while and now there's a whole new city to flaunt it in.

I find Etsy is a great tool for me to shop more ethically. There are a few vintage shops here in my city, but they tend to be grossly overpriced. It's awesome to be able to spend $10-50 and still get a GREAT vintage item, all while supporting someone across the continent who is doing this as their sole form of income (more and more popular a trend these days it seems).

And while thrifting DOES take time and effort... I've found once you get into the swing of things, find your groove, it doesn't take any longer to comb through a thrift store than it does to make the rounds of a large mall. If you're willing to spend a few hours going store-to-store in a mall, then spend those few hours in a thrift store instead. You'll save money, glean new clothes-hunting skills over time and come out with unique pieces you'd not find elsewhere.

What Would a Nerd Wear said...

half pint, yes definitely. in fact that is one of the biggest ethical moves i think shoppers can make. i guess i felt like my post was already a mouthful enough. i'm also wary of sounding preachy about stuff, you know? if you can think of a non-pushy and encouraging way to say "buy less" i'm behind the message all the way.

ceylnne, how right you are!! i love etsy, too! sometimes i have a hard time finding things on there--again, it takes a lot of time and research to stumble upon the perfect piece (worth it? yes. but do i have the time? not always).

i love thrifting, as this blog well shows!

Loren said...

Yeah Tania, I understand still pausing before buying things from big box stores. I have that same nagging feeling in my stomach. The fact is though that if these factories that are implementing labor laws don't get money to produce more items then they won't have a reason to continue practicing the better laws. I know it is not a perfect solution I just wanted to make the point that Gap is not as super evil as it was years ago. And comparatively they are not doing so bad.
There are other fair trade and eco friendly places to buy clothes. I've been working on/trying to compile a decent list myself.

Carly said...

This post was terrific - very insightful and thought provoking. Thank you for sharing, you've given me a lot to think about. I love your outfit, too!

Rhiannon said...

terrific post! and that skirt is adorable.
http://modernsuburbanites.blogspot.com/

No Guilt Fashion said...

I have recently made a change to my shopping practices, and thrifting just seems the easiest and cheapest for me. I don't think you sound preachy at all with this post. Thanks for including that link that Loren left.

Love the mustard skirt by the way.

hannah said...

I routinely have the same problem. It's tough to balance the need for new clothes and the budget to afford all things handmade. I'm lucky enough to live in a neighbourhood with a great store that sells clothing handmade by women in Canada, and while I love their clothes they're tough to afford. It's all about buying in moderation with intent.

wildchild said...

umm unrelated, but your hair looks bomb.com in that first photo. blowing in the wind like a model and such :)

Michelle Parker said...

Great post. And great outfit.

Charmaine said...

We can join together & pool our research. Here's a couple more for you:
http://www.ascensiononline.com/
&
http://iouproject.com/shop/

Amy said...

I've been enjoying your "heavy" posts. Although I love looking at cute clothes, if my brain can be stretched/expanded in any way while clicking through bloglovin', I'm all for it! Thanks for being stylish AND thought provoking :)

chillairandperfume said...

it's funny that you bring this topic up. my husband and i have been vegetarians for almost a year, and recently we've been talking about how we'd like to become more ethical in other areas of our lives as well, particular in the clothes we purchase. it's a struggle, as you've indicated! for now, we buy almost all our clothing at thrift stores. we're trying to become better a little bit at a time.

chillairandperfume.blogspot.com

Charmaine said...

Oh, and here's the little video to explain the concept behind the IOU project. It's pretty awesome:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yybe3hB3Ix4

Camille said...

I'm now purchasing my clothing second handed. It creates an issue because I so badly want that cute polka dot blouse from H&M but I don't know who, who where or how it was made. Such a dilemma! I feel as though I'm 10 or 20 steps behind you in the ethical clothing route. Thank you for sharing the "better world shopper" site! I'm reading through it thoroughly!

Emma said...

Learning to sew is one of the best investments (both for financial and ethical reasons) that you can make when it comes to fashion. You can start by thrifting and altering things so that they DO fit you and eventually progress to sewing your own clothes from scratch. This is also great if you have body measurements that don't conform to the norm.

Jenn said...

I know exactly what you mean. I wanted to be more ethical/green in my lifestyle once I came back to school, but it's really tough finding alternative ways of doing things and buying things that don't take a lot of time or money.

There's a site called Good Guide (http://www.goodguide.com/) which rates tons of products (including apparel) in safety, health, greenness and ethical categories. It's really interesting and useful :)

Evie said...

To me personally, one of the biggest challenges of ethical shopping is the kind of clothing that I need to wear on a regular basis (or will need to, once I graduate). The vast majority of ethically-made clothing tends to be casual, which is great for a lot of people, but not for my chosen profession. I need several pairs of black wool pants, fitted button-downs, tailored jackets, you name it. Yes, my field does sort of take it to an extreme, but there are lots of other sectors where a comfy Five Bamboo dress or an adorable Megan Nielsen dress just won't cut it at work. A professional wardrobe for a woman is hard enough to build as it is (guys with their suits and ties have it so easy!); ethical shopping for that elusive professional wardrobe is almost impossible. Unless, of course, you're able to find and afford a great personal tailor who can do everything from scratch. Every once in a while you can thrift a great classic, but that's oh-so-rare. I can only hope that someday I'll stumble across an ethical version of a Banana Republic or Ann Taylor...

Vanessa said...

This can really be an exhausting task to take on. Personally, I do not wear (or eat) any animal products , which means no wool, leather, suede, etc. This can suck when I fall in love with a great pair of boots or a kickass purse, but I have to step away...I just can't justify that kind of purchase for my ethics.

As far as fair trade and labor, that is a ridiculous task to take on, but so worth it. It's hard to find anything "fancy" that isn't crazy expensive, but it is easy to find the basics. I really love alternative apparel and alternative outfitters as well.

The Learned Lady said...

Here's another site/source for info on ethical clothing: http://thegoodcloset.tumblr.com/

It's funny, I've been battling the same shopping demons lately...I've started turning to etsy and Ebay more and more to "thrift" for vintage clothing because I can sort easily (it sort of takes the hard work out of thrifting).

Shopping is difficult because I know the right things to buy and the right places to shop, but often they are well out of my price range or I simply don't have the time to spend to really find great clothing at the thrift stores.

Sometimes, I think we have to give ourselves a break, and know that we are doing the best that we can given our current life/situation/etc. Any effort to purchase clothing in a more ethical manner is worthwhile, and every little bit helps.

Terri said...

I admit I haven't read other people's comments yet, so I apologize in advance if I'm repeating something that's been already said.

Truth is, consumerism is dictated by supply and demand. If the market has a high demand for something, the supply (and the convenience of acquiring that supply) will follow. Ethical clothing just isn't popular. As long as there is clothing that is cheaper and more widely-available, that clothing will win unless ethical clothing sources can somehow become more economically sound and more widely available than it currently is. The problem: I don't think the manufacturers of ethical clothing don't know how to increase efficiency yet. It's not their fault. The fact that it's being produced at all is amazing, but I just don't think the technology as caught up yet on how to more easily produce ethical clothing.

Just my two cents. Oh, and that yellow is beautiful on you, by the way.
stylishsass.blogspot.com

Amanda said...

This is a great conversation! I'm so torn on this subject, often. I'm not sure that I'm ready to assume that all readily available clothes from big-chain stores are not ethically made. Just like I'm not ready to assume that all small stores or individual sellers (etsy, for example) are ethically made. While that's probably true in many cases, to assume that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I'm not sure why. I think it hints of elitism maybe? To assume that things accessible to the general public are automatically bad. But that may be the wrong word.

At any rate, I do think it's nice to keep these things in mind. But I think it gets tricky because you have to separate advertising from ethics. Many brands will advertise themselves as green or ethically produced in order to pay a premium price. Not all such claims will be correct. Many brands that make bamboo clothing, for example, still use techniques that require a great deal of energy to process the bamboo- by which point it would be more green to use cotton. Some brands, like American Apparel, tout the fact that they use American workers making a living wage, but end up with a string of poorly-handled sexual harassment cases.

I do think a conversation re: supply and demand is appropriate here. We need both a demand for ethically produced clothing, and a viable supply of it. Right now there is neither, not on a large scale anyway. Of course, I wonder what would happen if consumers took matters into their own hands- raising awareness for other consumers (people we know, even) to create a demand, or writing to the companies that we would like to shop at if they had better records. To me, that seems perhaps a more effective way of enacting real change, and you see it in other areas of activism, but rarely ime in clothing. For some reason, we just tend to assume that clothing companies should just be boycotted if they do anything unethical. But the case of Gap shows that if consumers are displeased enough with their companies, and they make that clear to the company, real change can occur. Of course a boycott in addition to making your opinion clear to the company is probably extra effective.

Whew, long comment of the week. Some of that might make sense, ha, but it's just a bunch of jumbled thoughts in my head.

Rachel said...

I strive for balance - sometimes pay a little more for locally made/handmade clothes, and sometimes buy cheap basics of questionable provenance. I'm also teaching myself to sew. My next goal is to learn to enjoy thrifting (I find it a real chore).

Between Laundry Days said...

This has been something I've been chewing on for awhile now, and I can honestly say that I haven't found the answer. For the most part, I've moved towards exclusively thrifting, but that comes with time, of course, and the risk of simply not finding a piece that you're looking for. And honestly, it's not perfect either. I can't remember now who wrote this, but I remember reading, a while ago, a very well-written blog post about the trendiness of thrifting, and how it can also encourage the cyclical commercialism of clothes-buying, in it's own weird way. I'm not doing it justice, but if I find it I'll send it your way. :)

p.s. Hi! Between moving (for the both of us!) and having no internet, I feel like it's been forever since I "saw" you! Hope you're doing well. :)

Healthy and Homemade said...

Hermoine!! Is it weird I'm still sad Harry Potter is really "over" now?? =(

Anonymous said...

I'm always at a lost...how do I know the fabric I'm purchasing is ethical, even if I can do basic sewing?! And on a strict budget, how can I afford even organic fabrics?

Maggie said...

I ride the bus, buy local or fair trade groceries when possible, recycle, compost, etc., but I agree that the clothing issue is more complicated. I experience a twinge of guilt just walking into a chain clothing store, because I know most of the stuff they sell isn't necessarily produced ethically. I've tried thrift stores, but like you said, it takes too much dedication. My best solution is consigment/resale stores. They are a lot more picky about what they sell, only taking things that are in good shape and in trend (some have a vintage section, too). If I go to a good store, I can spend over $100 in one trip (which equals a lot more stuff than $100 at Gap or J. Crew would). I have many favorites and amongst them I can easily build a wardrobe.

I know you're in the D.C. area. There are several nice resale stores (Current Boutique, Mint Condition, Diva) in Old Town Alexandria, if you ever go there (King Street). There's also a decent one in Bethesda (Mustard Seed). There are a bunch in D.C., but I haven't been to most of them.

http://2ndhandknowledge.wordpress.com/

trinketsandtalmud said...

I really like the yellow skirt - I love this colour but I'm a bit scared to try it out - but I think in skirt form (away from my face) could be the perfect way to start - inspiring!

HailesHeartsFashion said...

That skirt is amazing, you made it?! wow. I have a bit of time on my hands so I think I might try it out :)

Also, in terms of being ethical - I always think about this with Make-up. I want to buy products that don't test on animals and these days there are a lot less companies that do but it is more expensive to pay for this peace of mind and also takes time working out which one is ethical and which ones aren't.

Hailes <3

Caroline said...

I was at Half-Price Books earlier (love it!) and picked up a book that made me think of your blog post: Style, Naturally by Summer Rayne Oakes. It has a TON of resources, information and (most importantly :-) ) pictures! I'm really looking forward to reading it, because it's something that has been weighing on my mind as well. I love the idea of being as self-sufficent as possible (though I don't think I could ever be a vegetarian, sadly) and so I've been making moves towards creating my own clothes - or trying to, anyways. I'm currently researching different sewing machines. It's something I've been thinking about for a few months and I've decided now is the time to take the plunge. Reading blogs like yours gives me the courage to do that. You are one of my favorite bloggers because I feel like I relate to you the most!

Caroline said...

Oh, and the book also talks about beauty products as well - someone mentioned that in the comments above.

Anonymous said...

Just thought I'd let you know that your bag is handmade probably from Kenya. They are called kiondo pronounced 'kyondo'. Kiondos are traditionally woven from sisal by women primarily from the Kikuyu and Kamba communities and they are used for storage or carrying stuff around. Think to the market, from the farm etc and the size varies according to the intended use. It's the ultimate in green shopping. More biodegradable than a plastic bag. I've heard there are Chinese versions made by machine but never seen one. Hope you have the real thing!
If you're ever in Nairobi, visit a craft market and pick another one up. There are fashion friendly versions of course with various colors and designs. They are quite inexpensive($30 or so). Online there are vendors most claiming to be fair-trade i.e. the money goes directly to the women but it's hard to know. I guess that's another hard part about being ethical in our consumption, we may have the best intentions but sometimes there are those who take advantage of labels like fair trade to exploit others.

Sue

What Would a Nerd Wear said...

sue--it is! i got it at my local goodwill but there's a tag inside that says "made in kenya" it's so good to hear all the details about how/where they're made.

thank you so much for your comment!

La Professionnelle said...

I just found your blog and it is really cute! I love that you have a "works cited" section. <3

xoxo
A Preponderance of Fashion

Dawn said...

It's nearly midnight here (which really isn't an excuse, because I know it's an hour later where you are), so I don't feel too verbose or intelligent at the moment. All I can come up with is this: Hey, cool outfit! It's like ... the opposite of the colors I had on the other day! Cheese-colored skirt, white top. :)

In all seriousness, though, I appreciate the handmade and ethical clothing conversation. It's something I guess I've never thought of before, so it has definitely got my gears turning.

Your bag is from Kenya? It reminds me of a company called "Ten Thousand Villages." It's one of the world's largest fair trade organizations, and it offers textiles, jewelry, knick-knacks, etc. All of it is handmade by villagers in countries around the world. The villagers are paid for their handicraft, which are then shipped to other countries (like us). Their whole mission is to improve the lives (and popularity) of disadvantaged artisans.

Danielle said...

I was so inspired by the use of this skirt- and your awesome DIY tutorial that I sis in fact do it myself! I would love if you checked it out! :)

http://everythingsboring.blogspot.com/2011/09/sol-needle-pulling-thread.html

Thanks for the links and idea!

Lonestarcasie said...

Love this skirt, so I looked up the tutorial. This looks like my favorite kind of project (one you can do in one sitting, even if your children and dogs are trying to thwart you). :)

www.stylinggame.blogspot.com

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