Made in USA style series part 1: A made in USA outfit (might include polyester)

This is the first post in a five piece made in USA style series, featuring my beautiful friend Mary Beth. I am excited, but most of all honored that she wanted to be part of my blog. All you readers get to be excited too, seeing someone other than me strut their stuff!

Putting together the perfect outfit using only made in USA pieces is actually quite a challenge. It can be done, sure, but often one would include some well-chosen, foreign pieces as well, which is what we did for this series. For the very first and maybe my favorite made in USA outfit, we chose an orange blouse, skinny dark blue jeans, brown leather boots and sustainably-made accessories.

Throw some leaves, Marybeth!
Throw some leaves, Mary Beth!

Let’s start with the blouse, tagged “Brenda’s” and made in USA. Mary Beth found this top at a small boutique called Willa in Rice Village, Houston, and paid about 40 dollars. (This shop happens to use reusable shopping bags too!) Fabric content: 100% polyester.

Now, you may think that polyester, a petroleum based product, would be an unusual choice to be featured in a sustainability blog of any kind. True, it’s not going to appear on any “top ten most eco-friendly fabrics lists” anytime soon, but sustainability has many faces.

Polyester is made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the same material that is used to make plastic drink bottles.  The plastic bottles we offer for recycling are often reheated, turned into fibers, and eventually become the fabric we label polyester. This is an efficient, well established, quite simple recycling process, and for that reason, polyester will always be one of the materials you see most of in clothing lines featuring recycled fabrics, such as H&M’s Conscious Collection. Call it ‘the low hanging fruit of recycled garments’ if you will. It’s actually likely that the polyester clothing you own is made of partly recycled fibers, only not labeled as such.

Polyester is durable and easy to care for. Naturally, a blouse like this one, would be washed in cold water and hung to dry, eliminating the need to iron, and saving electricity by opting to not use the dryer. If Mary Beth manages to avoid a tear or a wine stain; this polyester top will last forever. That statement is true if it’s in her closet, and if it’s in landfill, so let’s go with the former. If a garment you love and already own, has the properties to last forever, a timeless design, never wears and requires little energy to maintain – am I crazy, or is that not sustainability defined?

With any polyester garment like this blouse, your chances of it being all made in USA, including raw materials, are great. We have the raw material needed (obviously) and we have the recycling abilities right here. With all the research being done on plant-based and biodegradable plastics, I am excited to see what the future holds for “green polyesters”. Maybe we’ll be putting our out-of-style poly blends in the compost some day soon – then we’ll have really eco-friendly fabric!

American blouse, American girl.
American blouse, American girl.

Continuing on, we’ve got a pair of made in USA Rag & Bone Skinny Jeans, retailing for about $198. This company is not committed to sourcing 100% in the US, but most of their denim pieces are made here of domestic fabric. The boots Mary Beth is wearing are great quality Clarks Artisans that she has had, and loved, for a few years. They’re made in Romania. The scarf we chose was a gift, it is fair-trade and made in Nepal. I love how it makes the outfit come together. (I admit, that’s something I say about all scarves, no matter the outfit. Scarves are magical accessories.)

Last but not least: handcrafted earrings, made right here in Friendswood, Texas. A friend of Mary Beth’s creates beauties such as these, as well as pendants, and sells them in her Etsy Shop – The Purple Toadstool. I cannot believe they‘re only 20 dollars! MaryBeth was actually wearing these the day I came over for our first run-thru and I was like “Those earrings are perfect, take them off, and let me look at them!” She did, and we added them to this outfit’s “polaroid”. Locally made, one of a kind, beautifully stitched and bought from a small, local vendor. I don’t like them, I love them.

Hand stitched earrings made in Friendswood, TX. Fair-trade scarf.
Hand stitched earrings made in Friendswood, TX. Fair-trade scarf.

For the first look, we managed to showcase durable garments that will last for years and years: polyester, denim and leather. All these materials have a large environmental foot-print, therefore using them for a long time is crucial. If not, we cannot call them sustainable. Three out of five pieces are made in USA, two of which were bought from small, local businesses.

Stay tuned for the next part of the made in USA style series, “Celebrating American Beauty”, coming next week, right here at (your favorite blog) made right (here) :)

Photographs by the wonderful Shutterluv by Ashley.

9 thoughts on “Made in USA style series part 1: A made in USA outfit (might include polyester)

  1. Which are the most eco-friendly, ethical materials for clothes? Naturally i think about natural material, meaning stuff that’s not fabricated/chemical but exist in nature. Like: cotton, silk, wool, linen.. But then I also know what I’ve head about the cotton fields and the horrible working conditions and toxins used to fight away bugs and viruses etc from the plants.
    Thinking about silk. Those worms. And the ladies “peeling” them.. Also poor, poor working conditions..
    Enlighten me!

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    1. Hi Linda! You are right about the cotton fields. I have a post on denim coming up next month where I’ll talk some more about it :-) I’m big into organic cotton now!
      I should look into silk more, might make a good post, but most of it is made in China so I haven’t seen any silk in 2 years ;)
      You had asked a similar question before, where I had answered, but maybe you missed it. “…All materials basically has a negative impact one way or another, so I awareness and reduced consumption is a great start! So, in short, hemp, organic cotton, locally made, pre-owned. :)”
      Here’s a link to that post & full comment thread:
      https://notmadeinchinachallenge.com/2015/12/07/ask-and-you-shall-find-out-like-a-boss/

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      1. I was looking at your brand page and I had a few other suggestions off the top of my head. Rambler’s Way for wool garments and Alabama Chanin for cotton. Rambler’s Way has a fully American vertical supply chain. I think at least some of Alabama Chanin clothing is fully American as well.

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        1. Thanks! I try to only feature brands I have tried for myself or a friend has bought and recommended. There are many, many brands with US made products not on my brands page (USA Love list would be more of that type).
          But I will definitely check these brands out! :) Great to have more options when looking for items. Have you personally shopped from them and can recommend?

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          1. I have not shopped from them yet. I’m at the very top of the size range for Rambler’s Way so I was iffy on trying them in case it didn’t fit. Alabama Chanin is WAY outside my price range! But I did consider them both (back before I started just making my own clothes!) because I had heard great things about their quality. Another suggestion for American made is onawadesigns.com . The owner and designer Jess is actually a friend of mine from college and while I haven’t worn her garments I have seen her stuff in person and it is lovely. She’s in Charleston, SC and is heavily influenced by the water sports culture there (surfing, sailing, etc) so lots of loose, light clothing in natural fibers and sun bleached colors. Also her oil paintings, which she is no longer selling to my knowledge, are amazing!

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        2. Wow! Yes Alabama Chanin is hefty….way out of my league too – but beautiful. Looks like your friend at Onawa designs is just starting up? I’d love to do a feature with her on the blog, probably late spring as her clothes are, like you say, quite beachy. If she is interested in being interviewed on here, have her leave me a comment, anywhere on my page, or shoot me an email at sve underscore anna underscore linnea @ Hotmail.com

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