Tag Archives: Ethical Fashion

New scarf, leftover fabric: A beautiful (birthday) combination

My husband got me this beautiful scarf for my birthday. A little bird had told him that I really, really wanted it. (Guess who!).

Birthdays are awesome. Especially so if you are on a one item per month shopping challenge, since a well chosen gift just doubled your monthly fun. (That’s me.)

Now, this scarf is very special. Not only is the New York designer who made it committed to American manufacturing, but most garments Tabii Just offers is sewn from scrap fabrics. Yes!  The most beautiful discarded yardage from American mills and designers that would otherwise end up in landfill (or maybe once in a blue moon be recycled/downcycled). A great way to reduce a garment’s carbon footprint!

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Due to the fact that fabrics are “leftovers”, quantities of some styles are limited and the exact fabric content is not always known. The most common threads made locally are rayon, polyester and conventionally grown cotton, so one or more of those most likely. I actually shot Tabii an email and asked, and the owner replied that my scarf is some sort of rayon blend. The ball hem is “new” and made ethically by artisans in Mexico.

As we’re talking about a piece of clothing made from scrap material, the rayon’s biggest eco-issue in this case becomes the microfibers released when washing, but I don’t really wash my scarfs a whole lot ;)

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Another way Tabii Just is focusing on zero waste is by making patterns and designs with minimal scrap and cut-outs. And of course, a scarf is actually the ultimate zero waste item since, well, it’s basically just a square of fabric!

I am super excited to spend colder fall and winter days in this scarf. Happy birthday to me indeed.

Tabii Just is a member of the Made in America Movement.

Red, white and blue (sunny harbor dress!)

We’re mid-way through September, and although temperatures are cooling off, Houston still allows us to wear dresses. And that’s pretty lucky for me, considering I have a brand new one!

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Via 74 dress with Oka-B ballet flats – made right here

Have you heard of Via 74 before?

It’s an online shopping site with ONLY made in USA garments from which I got my new dress! The clothes are not only stitched together here, the actual fabrics are made in USA as well. Via 74 source from different trustworthy wholesellers and you don’t know exactly what the what the brand label will say (other than made in USA) until the garment shows up at your doorstep. This mix of sources adds up to quite a versatile collection.

For me, being not just a “support local” consumer but also an eco-woman, I always want to know the contents of the fabric too, and at Via 74 it’s listed loudly and clearly for each item.

That’s how I came to decide on exactly this dress (there are so many!) for myself. It’s made of 95% modal (and 5% spandex) which is an eco-friendly choice made from beech wood. There were lots of pretty dresses that I liked, but since they were made of polyester or rayon they weren’t for me. Transparency online is so awesome.

This dress was on sale for 3o-something dollars, but I ended up paying only 22 after rebates. And on top of that, shipping was free! What!

I’m very excited about this.

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Via 74 is a member of the Made in America Movement; they are committed to American made goods and honest domestic sourcing. Check them out here (you won’t believe their colorful selection :)).

Pics by Shutterluv.

Local is the new black (pair of shoes)

Yes. I bought myself another pair. A black pair for upcoming fall fashion.

In my defense, I did go through the entire list of Made in USA shoe brands on The USA Love List and did a google search before I committed to a yet another pair of Oka-bs.

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Made in USA “Janey” flats from Oka-b. Love.

The truth is there is just no beating the price ($45), the origin (made in Georgia, USA) and the comfort of these ballet flats!

The fact that they’ll recycle the shoes for me when (or if!) I’m ever done with them, just makes me feel so much better too.

This beautiful pair of flats are the Janey style in licorice (with grey pendant) and I am proud to say they were my one and only purchase in July. I’m rocking the 12 months – 12 items challenge.

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New ballet flats with my LuLaRoe (made in USA of imported fabric) skirt. Oh, and a plant.

To learn more about this company, read my other Oka-B posts: The first one. The second one.

Escape the heat: Six must watch eco-awesome documentaries (on Netflix!)

Houston is getting hotter by the minute with frizzy-is-my-style percent humidity. Most weekend afternoons are just better spent inside. Contrary to many places where summer brings people out of hiding, Texas Summer makes you beg for air conditioning.

What better time to catch up on some well made and important documentaries?

Here’s my ultimate summer watch list to boost your awareness and kick start some eco living habits for fall. (Woop – they’re all on Netflix)

Diet is everything

1. Cowspiracy
This movie finally explained all the environmental impacts of animal agriculture and how devastating meat, especially beef, production is. I’m lucky I have a simple relationship with food and stopped eating beef and most meats cold turkey the same day I saw it. From what I’ve heard, it has had the same effect on many people.

2. Forks over Knives*
And here came the health side of a plant-based whole-foods lifestyle that I needed to complete my lose-the-meat-education. It also gave me the final inspiration to try and cut all dairy products out of my life. Now that’s harder, as it hides in a lot of things but it’s a work in progress. No more cheese, lattes and ice creams for me! Though yes, the veggies I’m eating at restaurants are probably sautéed in butter and the occasional tsatsiki does happen.

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Cowspiracy fact.

Consumption and corruption (go hand in hand)

3. True Cost
This movie has been out for a while and most people know the damaging consequences of fast fashion by now, but it’s still an enlightening watch. It’ll open your eyes to some of the corruption behind cotton production (how Monsanto plays a part) and you’ll never buy Asian-made leather goods again (I hope).

4. Poverty Inc.
Just because you think charity is good, doesn’t mean it does good. Who profits the most from aid? Why is the western world so determined to keep Africa “poor”? This is a great and eye opening watch that made me take yet another look at my consumption behavior. You’ll most likely unfollow TOMS shoes on Instagram immediately.

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True Cost Fact.

The power that fuels our car and our plastic addiction

5. Pump
They’re pushing the agenda a bit for ethanol as the optimal fuel, which is highly debatable, but the big topic of the movie is this: why are we as a society completely controlled by the oil industry? It goes all the way back to the beginning of the oil-era and exposes the men who made the decisions that changed our world forever and caused unimaginable environmental destruction.

6. Trashed or Plastic Paradise
I wanted to include one on waste but I haven’t watched one in particular that really got me going “yes!”. I’ll mention two. Plastic Paradise: The great pacific garbage patch, which mostly focuses on the mythical garbage island in the pacific and trash in the ocean. The second one is Trashed in which Jeremy Irons investigates our wasteful ways as a society and the impact all our trash has on our health and planet.

Let me know what you all think of these films! And leave comments with more eco documentaries below, if you have the time :)

*There’s also a great Forks over Knives app ($5) packed with whole food, vegan recipes you’ll love.

Totes, stripes and cats: These are a few of my favorite things.

This awesome tote bag is the first thing I have bought for myself in 2016 on my “12 months – 12 pieces” adventure. Meow, it’s cute.

I knew I had to have it the minute “our eyes met” thru a store window after-hours, because he looked just like my adopted cat-brother. (RIP Tusse!)

Our cat was practically impossible to carry, yet we insisted on bringing him everywhere. This light-weight tote has already proven itself to be way easier to handle when out and about! I am used to heavier leather bags and my shoulders are definitely happy about this new, striped, lighter option.cat

Now, did this purchase hit the spot on my 2016 shopping goals? Yes!

I bought this “Cat Stripes Tote bag” online, directly from Seltzer Goods, a small company based in Asheville, North Carolina, and it is all made in USA. Since it only cost me 24 dollars, and obviously is awesome, I decided to buy the same bag for my mom’s birthday. I knew she’d love the look, size and remarkable resemblance to our beloved cat. And, I admit, I kind of love it when we secretly match (we live faaar apart y’all!).

The Seltzer Goods website is full of goodies, all with origin listed. Lots of 100% recycled paper cards with friendly dyes made in Canada, US made accessories, and Swiss-made pens. Totally sweat shop free and eco-aware.

They also pay it forward by supporting Earth Justice, a legal organization focusing on environmental causes – because the earth needs a good lawyer. Yay.

When you shop small, you discover the most amazing things.

Selfie on my way out!
Selfie on my way out! Take note of my awesome, one-of-a-kind, handmade, Texan hand-warmers. A vintage-store find.

How dirty is your denim, dear?

Oh, beloved denim. I think I speak for everyone when I say we’ve all got that one favorite pair of jeans that seems to go with most of the tops and shoes in our closets. How many pairs one has in total varies, but surely they cannot all be equal. Not in style and certainly not in environmental foot print.

It takes over 10,000 liters or 2,600 gallons of water to grow enough cotton for one pair of jeans. 2,600 GALLONS. That’s a lot of water. A scary fact in current times when climate change is causing more severe draughts and water supply, globally, is scarce.

But let’s put that amount into perspective and see what other “fun” things one can enjoy using that same amount of water:

  • Take 25 baths in a regular size bath tub
  • Eat one 16 oz. steak (believe me, in Texas this is not an unusual size)
  • Drink 44 glasses of wine
  • Or have 88 cups of coffee

I don’t know about you, but I sure enjoy a pair of skinny jeans way more than one steak! Or I would, if I ate beef. So does that mean that vegans and non-beef eaters can buy 50+ pairs of jeans per year with the same environmental impact? Nah, let’s not over-consume now, and there are still pesticides to consider.

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Environmental impact of one pair of jeans

According to our trusted source, the internet, it takes 2/3 of a pound of pesticides to produce enough conventional cotton to make one pair of jeans. Conventional cotton production accounts for 11% of the world’s pesticides and 25% of the world’s insecticides. The chemicals are harmful not only to the workers (five of the top nine pesticides used in cotton production are known carcinogens) but chemical runoff also affects surrounding ecosystems and contaminates lands and rivers. (The True Cost Movie highlights many important facts about growing cotton and its corruption; “Hello Monsanto”. If you haven’t seen that movie yet, please do.)

A better choice is organic cotton! Even if it uses the same amount of water, there are some great things to it; like no GMOs, no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, healthy soil practices, enhanced biodiversity and ethical treatment of farmers.

Google search, here I come.

The coolest denim brand I have found using only organic cotton, transparent sourcing policies and eco-friendly practices is Nudie Jeans. A Swedish company that doesn’t only live by mentioned practices, but also offers mending of old jeans at selected stores, (LA is my closest location), recycles denim and sells an all made in Europe product. Nudie buys the fabric in Turkey, the biggest producer of organic cotton in the world, and their jeans are sewn in Italy. It’s a bummer all their models are modeled by male models (that’s a lot of models!) online, but apparently many styles work for women as well. I am skeptic, but intrigued, and I can’t wait to find a retailer and try some of them on! All their other products, like tees and accessories, are fair trade or all made in Europe – they also source in Sweden (go local!).

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Nudie Jeans stores: so stylish, euro and eco.

Next, I’d like to mention Patagonia and their line of eco-friendly, fair-trade, organic jeans. (Sewn in Sri Lanka). The drawback for me is that they only come in few styles and colors. Being designed for outdoor activities, comfort and “heavier use”, I am not sure these jeans would be best paired with a blouse and heels for a night of cocktails… I really appreciate Patagonia’s commitment to long lasting quality and the environment though. Did you know that every single cotton garment they’ve made since 1996, is organic? Love that!

Eileen Fisher has earned a shout out too, as they offer an all made in USA line, with jeans made of organic cotton! I have never tried anything on by Eileen Fisher, and at first sight, it looks like more of a classic ladies brand than a modern brand, but I have been surprised before. Made in USA plus organic? I’d be a fool not to try them on next time I need jeans.

If mentioned styles don’t work – don’t give up your eco-fight just yet. Do a search of your own for organic jeans and see if you find something you like better. If not, here are some other ways to make a positive eco-difference when it comes to denim:

  • Only buy jeans you are 100% awesome-looking in. Don’t jump on temporary denim trends.
  • Wear them in and wear them out. Mend them if they need mending. Repurpose the fabric for something else if they are beyond saving.
  • Support locally made and buy your pair from a small, local vendor. If you can’t avoid pesticides in the process of making your jeans, at least pump some money back into your local community.
  • Look for awesome pairs at resale shops and thrift stores. If you want many variations of jeans, or brands you know are bad for the environment, this is the way to buy them.
  • Honestly, you don’t need to wash them very often. And never, ever, like ever, throw them in the dryer. Wash cold and hang dry.

Good luck :)

Dang! You look hot in those jeans!

Every mama needs a mumu (The finale of my made in USA style series!)

This is the fifth and last piece of my Made in USA style series, featuring American made apparel and my beautiful friend Mary Beth.

We’re ending with a garment Mary Beth swears is the perfect mom-on-the-go piece: a tunic from Show me your Mumu.

The reason for its awesomeness? She can dress it down with boots, tights and a cardigan when hanging out with the kids or dress it up with skinny jeans, jewelry and heels for a dinner out on the town. It is indeed a good thing that this tunic is versatile and gets worn a lot – the price tag is $106 (unless you find a good sale, like Mary Beth did!)

The name, Show me your Mumu, is a reflection of the spark and the creativity of this brand. And just like Mary Beth finds her tunic (or “mu” as they call it) incredibly versatile, the brand seems to agree, writing on their website: “We sometimes wear our same Mu for 48 hours – to work, dancing at night, over a bikini, to weekend brunch and then to bed.”

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Label and close up of Mumu’s “Baby Buds” tunic – a gorge floral

Show me your Mumu is made in the gorge USA – as they proudly state on their labels and website – in a downtown Los Angeles location. But like always with an online “Made in USA” claim, we need to check for ourselves if the fabric is imported or not, and in this case it is. That’s a bit disappointing considering the hefty price tag, that the fabric is polyester (which we certainly can make here) and proud proclamation of its “gorge” origin.

What we have here friends, is a classic example of online “tags” not following the FTC established rules for garment tagging. Looking at Mumu’s website; the exact tunic Mary Beth is wearing is listed as “Made in USA” while the tag in the actual garment states “Made in USA of imported fabric and components”. Online shopping will get you!

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Speaking of shopping, for a busy mom like Mary Beth, digging thru piles of clothes at Nordstrom Rack or Marshall’s, isn’t her preferred way to buy “Made in USA”. We both find great deals there, sure, but I can’t deny it can be time consuming, and time is precious when you have two little (very active!) ones to mind. Instead, she has a more straight forward way.

It’s simple. She shops in small, locally owned boutiques and asks the clerk as soon as she enters the store, if they sell any made in USA brands! Then adjusts her browsing-action accordingly. This is an especially great technique when travelling; as it helps her stay local to where she is, and often leads to discovering new, exciting brands.

Another way to shop made in USA without too much time and effort, she says, is to use styling companies, such as Stitch Fix, where you can specify exactly what styles you are looking for. In this case, that’d be only US-made garments.

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Mary Beth has paired the Sherman Tunic (in Latte Crisp) with made in USA tights ($17) from Express.

Mary Beth’s “On Target” arrow necklace is another beautifully hand painted, American piece from The Gleeful Peacock jewelry makers ($32). The striped hoodie is also made stateside (~$60) by Bobeau Collection. This brand has an online shop, featuring as many imported garments as it does American-made (so check the details), and can also be found at department stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom.

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That’s the last outfit of the series, folks!

A huge thank you to Mary Beth, for being such an awesome and truly gorge model! I happen to know that since we shot these pictures, she has bought a new USA-made, eco-friendly t-shirt and a handmade handbag, so I will do my best to convince her to model them both for the blog this spring!

And a big thank you to Shutterluv by Ashley for shooting all these outfits!

What’s your favorite made in USA brand or garment? Share with me!

Here are the links to the other four posts (incase you missed one):

  1. The one about poly-blends: A made in USA outfit (might include polyester)
  2. The one with an all USA made outfit: Celebrating American Beauty
  3. The one about labels: What’s with all this Imported Fabric?
  4. The one about jewlery: Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I’ve got

 

NOTE: After this post was published, Show me your mumu has started to produce more garments at international production sites (China, Vietnam). Check the labels. Unfortunately this “Made in USA company” may have deserted their original patriotism.

Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I’ve got (it’s not what you think)

This is the forth post in a five piece made in USA style series, featuring pictures of my beautiful friend Mary Beth. This week jewelry is on the agenda.

It is interesting because jewelry is both a sustainability hero and a sustainability zero if you ask me.

The cool (hero) part about the bling we own and wear is that it rarely goes out of style, and if it does, it is likely to come back in a few years, allowing us to wear it with confidence again. Jewelry lasts forever and no one can tell if a piece is old or brand new, making it a very sustainable and eco-friendly accessory to be worn over and over again, and passed down thru generations. Buying second hand clothing can be very intimidating, but thrifting for jewelry, I find is much easier. It is by far my favorite way to add new pieces to my accessories wardrobe. Not only is it the best eco-choice, but there are endless bargains to be made!

Jewelry is such a great way to complete an outfit, to make it feel more festive and put together. For the Made in USA style series, Mary Beth has been wearing artisan pieces she loves, in timeless designs.

Supporting small vendors, local artisans and craftsmen is definitely the next best option to buying second-hand jewelry in my opinion. The Purple Toadstool earrings ($20) we introduced in the first post are crafted in Texas, and the Gleeful Peacock necklace ($32) from the second post is handmade in Oklahoma. Two great quality, made in USA options with incredibly cheerful brand names!

The Purple Toadstool, Texas (left) & The Gleeful Peacock, Oklahoma (right)
The Purple Toadstool, Texas (left) & The Gleeful Peacock, Oklahoma (right)

Moving on to the not so great (zero) list of jewelry; at the top spot are diamonds (they’re not this girl’s best friends).

Roughly 49% of diamonds originate from Central and Southern Africa. Some of the politically unstable countries there are dealing with revolutionary groups who have taken control of the diamond mines, using proceeds from diamond sales to finance their operations. This is what is referred to as “blood diamonds” or “conflict diamonds”, which I am sure you’ve heard about (and maybe you’ve seen the movie with my eco-hero Leo DiCaprio).

According to what I have read, blood diamonds only constitute as low as 1% of all diamonds traded (2014 numbers), so buying a blood diamond by mistake is unlikely to happen. The problem still remains though, as it is of relative ease to smuggle diamonds across African borders and there are always buyers.

Diamonds are also considered clean when mined in nations that are not in a state of war or conflict, but whose diamonds have been mined using violent, unethical methods. Every day, more than a million diamond diggers in Africa endure dangerous and unfair working conditions, earning less than $1 a day, which is not enough to feed their families or sustain a healthy lifestyle. That sounds like “conflict diamonds” to me!

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Vintage jewelry shopping: eco-friendly and 100% conflict free!

With 49% of diamonds being from Africa, it is safe to assume that about half of the diamonds we see at the jewelers in the west are “clean”, but nonetheless unethical, slave labor stones. (Canada is a big producer as well, where I am sure better employment standards are used for diamond mining.)

With the help of Fairtrade International, a fair trade diamond standard is in the early stages of development, but not in place yet. (A Fair Trade (US), or Fairtrade (Europe) Certification ensures that the producers in developing countries get a fair price for their products. The goal of fair trade is to reduce poverty, provide for the ethical treatment of workers and farmers, and promote environmentally sustainable practices.)

Most of the silver in the world is produced in Mexico, and China ranks third largest supplier, after Peru. When it comes to gold, China is the biggest consumer AND the biggest producer in the world. Which brings us to the next zero on this list: gold.

According to Fairtrade International, ninety percent of the labor force involved in gold mining is made up of artisanal and small-scale miners who produce between 200-300 tons of gold each year. Around 70% of this is used to make jewelry, which consumers across the globe spend a whopping $135 billion a year on buying! (Don’t get me started on our overconsumption issues now! Jewelry will NEVER be a “need to have”.)

I do worry about the miners, in terms of fair wages and working conditions, but also about the environmental impact of gold mining. According to Brilliant Earth, by the use of dirty practices such as open pit mining and cyanide heap leaching, gold mining companies generate about 20 tons of toxic waste for every gold ring made (0.333 ounce of gold). And of course, there are also serious health risks associated with improper handling of toxic mercury and cyanide.

Small-scale miners and artisans, are at the end of a long and complex supply chain and for those working in remote locations, it can be difficult to sell their gold at a fair price. Fairtrade Certified Gold  is the world’s first independent ethical certification system for gold. The Standards include strict requirements on working conditions, health and safety, handling chemicals, women’s rights, child labor and protection of the environment.

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Whole Earth Provision Co. sells handmade, fair trade jewelry from World Finds!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t run into Fair Trade gold very often. And, most of the time, it is impossible to tell by the tag, how and where the raw materials of a piece of jewelry were made. Facts such as these are important to know, and should be kept in mind when one shops for jewelry. Maybe you don’t need another 20 tons of toxic waste on your finger, huh? Everything has an environmental footprint. 

Do you have a favorite handmade, artisan, eco-friendly, locally produced jewelry brand? Please leave a comment with a link to it, so we all can get inspired!

There’ll be a necklace again in next week’s post, I assure you, but mostly we’ll be talking shopping and smart outfits for busy moms. Come back and see us!

Read more about Fair Trade at Fair Trade USA

Made in USA style series part 2: Celebrating American beauty

This is the second post in a five piece made in USA style series, featuring my beautiful friend Mary Beth. She is an awesome mom of two, a supportive wife, gifted music teacher, singer and humanitarian. She’s always looking for ways to improve society and I am so impressed by her spirit, intellect and efforts. Therefore, I decided to call this post “Celebrating American beauty”.

Last week I wrote that putting together a perfect outfit often requires some foreign pieces. Mostly that is true, but this week we did it, head to toe, using only made right here apparel! Another reason to celebrate.

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Let’s start with the blouse, which is made by Collective Concepts – a wholesale brand you’ll find at department stores like Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Nordstrom Rack to name a few. This one with roll up sleeves and a cute leaf print was about 40 dollars at Nordstrom.

For anyone just starting out hoping to add made in America fashion to their closet, I truly recommend Nordstrom Rack. I have found so many stylish, reasonably priced, US made garments there over the past year! Yes, it requires some digging, tag-checking and effort, but rarely have I left empty handed. From 20 dollar shirts to 60 dollar Citizens of Humanity Jeans, most of what I have found there have become instant made in USA favorites.

The fabric of Mary Beth’s blouse is polyester, and it’s all USA made. The style kind of reminds me of the orange polyester blouse we showed last week, also made right here. You can read all about it and its petroleum based fabric here.

Leaves and feathers go well together. Love the light in this picture!
Leaves and feathers go well together. Love the light in this picture!

For a stylish pop of color we added an American feather design necklace, made in Tulsa, Oklahoma by the inspiring Gleeful Peacock Designs. Their collections are an ode to vintage designs, nature, warmth and beauty. All their items are hand-painted, so no two items are exactly alike. Mary Beth actually introduced me to this brand, when she bought me a bracelet for my birthday last year. I love the brand name (!) and the simple, yet timeless pieces.

The biggest challenge when it comes to dressing head to toe in made in USA items is shoes! Stylish options are few, and often expensive if available. The only shoes I have found that are affordable, yet appropriate for the office, dinners and outings, are (you guessed it) the Oka-B ballet flats! I bought myself a pair back in October, and we happen to wear the same size, so Mary Beth ‘borrowed’ them in order to complete this outfit. They are vegan, zero waste, 100% recyclable and made right here in Georgia by a company committed to American manufacturing. The price tag for a pair of Oka-B ballet flats (all styles) is 45 dollars. I love them because they are super comfortable, cute and eco-friendly.

Luckily, one can find America’s favorite garment, jeans, made here quite easily. Last week I featured Rag & Bone and this week Mary Beth is wearing the Victoria Skinny Cigarette by True Religion. They are rather expensive, like many other US-made jeans, the tag is around 200 dollars (Mary Beth got them for $75 at the Rack!). Unfortunately they’re made of imported materials but at least local hands stitched them together.

I’m sure you’ve seen that tag from time to time; “Made in USA of imported fabrics”. It’s definitely something worth talking about, in terms of what it means and why it’s done. I will share some facts about labeling and my personal approach to imported fabrics in my next post. So check back in!

There you have it! Four stylish items we found in Mary Beth’s closet, put together into an all made in USA outfit – pretty incredible right?

Celebrating American beauty, indeed :)

Photographs by the gracious Shutterluv by Ashley.

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.

Anna’s adventures in thrifting: From fuzzies to the perfect vintage dress

Resale apparel scares me. And I know I shouldn’t admit that because I’m an eco-girl who knows that buying previously owned clothes (instead of new) helps our environment. In my head, I am a cool thrifter, one that finds awesome deals, colorful items and makes them work. But that never really happens.

Last Saturday, I woke up in a go-get-them mood and decided to check out a resale shop and a farmers’ market on the other side of the lake, I hadn’t been to yet. Full of optimism and actually craving a bit of shopping (see this happens to everyone, also the low consumption folks :)) – I started at the resale shop:

  • Man, it’s unorganized in here.
  • Wow, that’s a bad print. Who bought that to begin with?
  • Ooops, I stepped on that purse. Hope no one saw me.
  • There goes all my inspiration. Bye, bye.
  • That cardigan is actually cute! But oh, it comes with a fuzzies-party.

Is it just me? Or is this a reflection of what is happening here? Would it be too much to ask that the store be tidy? That there’s a minimum acceptance level for the clothes they take in?

This happens to me over and over, and I don’t like it. People who live in ‘trendier’ areas of the country, or of this city for that matter, must have better luck thrifting than I do. I must not be the type of shopper the resale places are targeting, I may be too inside of the box for this. Or is it as simple as me being a spoiled shopper? (Hey, don’t answer that!)

I left the resale shop and went to the farmers’ market. To my surprise, in a strip mall located right by the market, I spotted a small “antiques” sign in front of a shop called Vintage Revival. Intrigued, I went in, browsed, and immediately said to myself; “I want to buy everything in here”.

Miraculously, when one goes from “resale” to “vintage”, the whole setting changes. The boutique was organized, cozy and smelled nice. Items gathered together – went together, and were set up in proper arrangements. Jewelry, clothes, deco, art, locally handmade soaps and creams, artisan crafts, and old photographs covered the place.  The few dresses they had, hanging inside of an antique closet, looked like they were taken from a Mad Man set. Which one must be mine!?

With earrings I "inherited" from my mom on right... and headband on the left.
With earrings I “inherited” from my mom (right) &  the original headband (left).

I decided that a round neckline, sleeveless vintage dress with orange and yellow flowers was the perfect choice for me. I tried it on and though the fit was not 100% perfect, I just loved it so much already that I had to take it home. The storeowner believed it was a custom-made dress from the 60’s and she was so happy I wanted it. It also came with a matching headband (which needed a few stitches at home to get back to its previous glory). There are no labels what so ever inside this dress, so not only previously owned, but also, most likely, made in America, handmade with love and one of a kind. Thus this dress hit the spot on all shopping rules, not forgetting “support small business”. Price tag? 15 American dollars. Oh, the excitement! (Of course I had my reusable bag with me, and recycled the paper receipt.)

This dress will we worn to work – dressed down with a cardigan – or worn in Mad Man style for parties, costume parties and around the house when I feel like being vintage-glam. Back when I lived closer to my grandma, I used to scavenge her closet all the time for hidden gems from the old days. Re-discovering my love for vintage made for a great, successful shopping excursion.

My Mad Men dress with my cigarette free hand.
My *NEW* Mad Men dress and a cigarette free hand. The pose seemed appropriate.

I will not give up on resale just yet. I will keep looking, checking, browsing and visiting the thrift stores, hoping that one day a gorgeous outfit will appear – fuzzies free.

I must overcome my resale fear, and frankly, my own judgmentalness. 2016 might be the year I will do just that. I’ll keep you (blog) posted :)

A Fashionista can’t do this – lucky I’m not one

Almost 6 months into the challenge and it probably goes without saying that I haven’t bought a lot of clothes this year. Yes, stylewise I am at a standstill.

I’ve been looking for cute, ethical garments, but most of the things I liked were off limits. It’s very frustrating to find that the high dollar stores (Anthropology) and the low dollar ones (H&M) all sell clothes from the same places; China, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

More specifically, good looking Made in USA clothes are even harder to find!

Eileen Fisher has a made in USA line, and of course American Apparel is all made in USA, but unfortunately for me, neither brand is really my style. I did discover that you can search on Nordstrom.com after Made in USA and a bunch of things come up. Don’t check out the women’s ballet flats section though – utterly depressing… but lots of lovely dresses and active wear. And as far as I understand, you can return items at a store near you.

As stylish + USA seems somewhat impossible, I surrendered and got some Tory Burch flats and wedges made in Brazil recently. I looked at matching bracelets but they were all made in China. So what happened to all the leftover leather from the Brazilian shoe factory? It wasn’t enough to make bracelets?

I’ll have to accept that I’ll be a bit untrendy summer of 2014 (“that’s so 2013!”). Maybe I’ll get my groove back and find some cute things in the fall. I just need some extra energy, prepare for failure, hope for success, plan to spend a whole weekend shopping and read a gazillion tags…

I can do this!