ethical fashion

Fashion Revolution Love Story: An Ode to a Humble T-Shirt

Fashion Revolution Love Story: An Ode to a Humble T-Shirt, clothing love stories

Care for your clothes, like the good friends they are – Joan Crawford

Fashion Revolution Love Story: An Ode to a Humble T-Shirt, clothing love stories, horizontal

This year, Fashion Revolution has suggested several ways to get involved, one of which is sharing a fashion revolution love story. “We love fashion. We love how clothes can make us feel, and how they can represent how we feel about ourselves. They’re our message to the world about who we are. Rather than buying new, fall back in love with the clothes you already own. Share your story about an item of clothing that means a lot to you. The more we love our clothes, the more we care for them, and the longer they last. We are asking fashion lovers from all over the world to join the fashion revolution and create a love story.” Want to see more clothing love stories, or get involved and share your own fashion revolution love story? People are sharing on Instagram or Facebook this week with the hashtags #lovedclotheslast and #fashionrevolution.

 – –

Dear cream coloured peasant style t-shirt,

You are such a sweet, yet innocuous garment. I bought you about six years ago now in the first big clothing “shopping spree” I ever had. There I was, just out of college and in desperate need of some clothing. I had a job and money to spend, and after so many years of hand-me-downs which were on the verge of wearing out completely, combined with years of a negative body image, in which I didn’t wear nice things, I was ready for some new and pretty clothes.

Fashion Revolution Love Story: An Ode to a Humble T-Shirt, clothing love stories, detail and outfitmy most recent outfit featuring this peasant style top

On that day, while browsing the sale racks, I found you. In fact I found two of you. I bought two of the same shirt, because I thought that I would tie dye one. I am very glad that I never got around to doing that- because, well, tie dye isn’t really my thing and I am sure that wouldn’t have lasted long in my closet, and also because I can now wear “you” twice as often. I was drawn to you that day because, quite simply put: you were perfect. Basic, but different. Classic, with a twist. Vintage in style, yet made of comfortable knit. Long enough to tuck in and loose enough to be blowsy, but soft enough to drape. And on top of all that- you are a wonderful shade of cream that magically seems to coordinate with everything I put you with.

Fashion Revolution: An Ode to a Humble T-Shirt, 1anne of green gables worthy puffed sleeves

You work surprisingly well underneath my pinafore dresses, and make me look as though I belong in The Sound of Music (this is always a good thing). When I pair you with a full skirt, I look like I’ve stepped out of a 1950’s picnic. You work with all of my casual outfits, and function surprisingly well as a “shell” too, underneath blazers and cardigans. You are so neutral that you go with everything, and your “puffed sleeves” have just the right amount of puff without being overdone. When in doubt, I always know I can fall back on you.

Because you are cream, of course, I have spilled all manner of things on you- curry, spaghetti sauce, beet juice and many other staining kinds of things. And yet, every time, the stains have come right out- I don’t know how you do it- but I’m glad you do!

Fashion Revolution: An Ode to a Humble T-Shirt, 1with a pleated skirt

I bought you cheap from a fast fashion brand. You were probably less than $15.00 brand new, less than $5.00 on sale. All of the clothes I bought that day were on sale. That day, I bought cheap clothes, because I didn’t know differently, and I don’t think I could afford anything else either. Because you are so cheap, I am actually surprised that you have lasted this long. Yes, I do have two of you, and yet I thought you would have worn out years ago. I wear you at least once a week. . . probably twice a week, which means that I have worn each individual shirt at least 150 times in the last six years (but probably more). Look at how many times I have featured you here on the blog in just over one year!

harem pants with a vintage style blouse the artyologistperfect with harem pants

You were made in Bangladesh. I don’t know who made you. I wonder who cut out your fabric, sewed your seams, gathered your puffed sleeves and trimmed your errant threads. At the site of the Rana Plaza factory collapse four years ago, in the rubble, tags were found bearing the logo stamped on the inside of your collar. Were you made in that factory? I wonder about the garment worker who made you. Was she or he there that day? Where are they now?

the artyologist- vintage style dutch wax print skirtworn as a “shell”

I didn’t know about fast fashion in those days when I bought you. If I saw you today, I would have to pass on by. And yet, despite your questionable history and supply chain, you have without a doubt been one of the best garments I’ve ever purchased. If I was told to choose a favourite garment from my wardrobe, and pick something to write this “Love Story” about, my first thought would be something showy and exciting. Perhaps my grey fur coat, or a true vintage dress or a pair of pretty shoes. . .  but in reality, while those are the fun things in my wardrobe, I don’t wear them all that often. At least not when compared to you!

A Limited Knowledge of Alice's Understanding, The Artyologistwith a suspender skirt

I wash you in a cold gentle wash, and hang you to dry, to try and keep you in good shape. But, the other day I found a hole. It is near a seam, so I think I can mend it. But, I started to wonder- what ever will I do when you are gone? I know that I can never replace you, and you will surely be missed as one of my most loved garments of all time. As much as one can “love” a piece of clothing, I do love you, my humble and ordinary cream coloured peasant t-shirt!

Love, Nicole

– – –

What is your favourite garment in your wardrobe? How long have you had it, and what is the story behind it? I’d love to hear your fashion revolution love story too!

leave a little sparkle, holiday outfit, the artyologistunder a cardigan

What is Fashion Revolution Week? (And How to Take Part)

What is Fashion Revolution Week, the artyologist

Here we are already, almost at the end of April, and this means that Fashion Revolution Week is almost upon us. Next week, April 24-30th is Fashion Revolution Week 2017, and I am getting ready to take part. I thought though, that some of you may not know about Fashion Revolution, so I thought I would share with you some of the “events” going on next week, so you can get ready to take part too.

So, what is Fashion Revolution Week? Well, it is a global movement which seeks to create transparency, sustainability and ethical standards within the fashion industry. The fashion industry is one with more than a few dirty secrets, and the Fashion Revolution organization works to generate awareness about the issues and injustices garment and textile workers around the world face. In their own words, “We want to unite the fashion industry and ignite a revolution to radically change the way our clothes are sourced, produced and purchased, so that what the world wears has been made in a safe, clean and fair way.

Fashion Revolution Week comes once a year, and falls on April 24th, marking the anniversary of the tragic 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Rana Plaza factory collapse, which is the largest and deadliest garment industry tragedy to date, resulted in 1,138 deaths (including both garment workers and rescuers) and injured over 2,500 people. Sadly, even though it is the largest tragedy, it was not the first to take place within the fashion industry, and it has not been the last either. There are many factories which are, quite simply, disasters waiting to happen. When word of the Rana Plaza building collapse hit the news, back in 2013, many consumers at the time, expressed outrage, claimed that the situation was terrible, and shameful and demanded transparency within the industry and improvements in the working conditions of the garment workers. But, like many other tragic news stories: people move on. Fashion Revolution was created in order to keep the issues alive, to keep people aware of what is going on within the fashion industry, and to keep asking questions, and encouraging us, the consumers, to ask brands and retailers, “who made my clothes”?

The fashion industry is one that is not fully “automated”. Someone, somewhere in this world made the clothing on the rack at your local shop. It may have been sewn by a machine, but someone was running that machine, and feeding the fabric through it. There are an estimated, 60-70 million people worldwide who work in the garment and textile industries, and about 3/4 of those workers are female. Some of those workers are treated well and are paid a fair wage, but many are taken advantage of and mistreated. Fashion Revolution Week gives people an opportunity to ask questions about how are garments are being made, who made them and what conditions they made them in. And of course, the goal is to be a part of helping to create change for the lives of these workers.

This year, Fashion Revolution has come up with several great ways to get involved in the event.

The first way to be involved is to ask brands, “Who made my clothes?” You can do this by showing the label on your clothes (like my picture above) and then asking the brand #whomademyclothes? You can do this on twitter, instagram or facebook. I’ll be taking part on instagram. Don’t forget to tag the brand in your post, so they’ll get the notification, and see your question!

There are a few new ways ways I am going to be involved, outside of social media, this year as well.

One is by sharing a fashion “Love Story”. I thought this was such a great idea on their part- by getting people excited about the clothing we already own and love we will start to think differently about impulse buys, cheaply made garments and “fast fashion fixes”. I’m going to be sharing one of my fashion “love stories” next week.

Another idea, is to share a “haulternative”, (fashion “haul” and “alternative” combined). This is a chance to refresh your wardrobe, without buying new clothes. I will be sharing some of my recent thrift shop finds next week, but there some other ideas for ways to take part in the haulternative.  Some of their great ideas for taking part are upcycling, mending, swapping or second hand finds.

They also have a template for writing a letter to a brand, in order to ask more directly, “who made my clothes”. I might be sending a couple of letters next week too. As for as other ways, last year I remember that there was also an “I made my clothes” event going on, where seamstresses and textile makers were sharing what they have made for themselves etc. so I might be taking part in that too. A lot of this will be going on over on Instagram, but I have those two posts lined up for this blog.

*UPDATE* I have since found out that, yes there will be a #makersforfashrev event going on this year too, hosted by Emily of In The Folds. Here is the “poster” for that. And feel free to share this image, Emily said, as the more people know about this event, the better!

makers for fash rev

If you want to take part in the event this year too, (last year there were over 70,000 participants) there is a pdf created by Fashion Revolution, with all the ideas on how to take part, here. Also, check out to see if there is an event in your area, on their page here. I am really excited for this years Fashion Revolution- because as each year passes, the event gets bigger and bigger- and though at times it may seem like an uphill battle, I know that changes are taking place in the fashion industry, ethical fashion is becoming more and more available and some of the bigger fashion brands are taking transparency seriously as well. Little by little change is coming, and it feels so good to be a part of that, in my own small way. We can’t be responsible for the actions of others, but we can each take a bit more care in the fashion and purchasing choices that we make for ourselves. I can’t wait to see what everyone is doing next week, and I hope you’ll join in the movement too!

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday Subscription Box

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist

Those of you who have been following this blog for a while, will already have figured out by now just how much I love fair trade.  Really, I wish that there didn’t even have to be a term such as “fair trade” as the very wording implies that some people are not being paid fairly. Sadly, this is a reality for many people around the world, but it is so encouraging to see just how many fair trade groups there are all around the world who are ensuring people are being paid fairly for their work and helping them to escape the cycle of poverty that they live in.

I always love finding new fair trade groups. My go-to here in Canada is Ten Thousand Villages, as they offer a great variety of wares (mostly jewellery, scarves, housewares, etc), they have travelling fairs which come through all the small towns, and if I buy online I don’t have to worry about import/duties. I always love finding items that are both fun and unique (this is why I also love thrifting!), so if those fun and unique pieces are also fair trade, well, that’s just the icing on the cake.

Just this last week I learned about a new (to me) group called Fair Trade Friday. At my church’s final Ladies Bible Study, one of the ladies in the group surprised us all with a gift from Fair Trade Friday. Fair Trade Friday is a monthly subscription box based out of the USA, where each month you receive three to four handcrafted items such as jewellery, housewares, fashion accessories etc. which have been made by women all around the world.

It is a program which is run by Mercy House Global. Their aim is to help empower women who are living in impoverished conditions, struggling single mothers, and women who have escaped the sex trade (or other slavery and abuses) by helping them to obtain meaningful employment. They work with various fair-trade artisan groups around the world, who are dedicated to providing assistance to these women, not through charity and hand-outs, but rather by helping these women out of their situations, teaching them skills and providing employment for them to make a living wage and support themselves.

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Papillon Marketplace necklace

In each box, there is also information about the women who have made the items, which countries the items came from, and how many jobs were provided that month because of the box. Some of the items are signed, or have a tag including information about the woman who made the item, which is such a lovely personal connection. Additionally, some of the artisans’ websites also have information about their teams, and give background information to the women who are making the items.

You can buy individual boxes, or sign up for a monthly subscription, which you can cancel at any time. They also have a “Bracelet of the Month” and “Earrings of the Month” offer, and they also sell individual items in their shop. And the best part is that 100% of the money from the purchases goes towards the workers.

I think that the unique part of subscribing to Fair Trade Friday is not only do you receive a fun surprise package in the mail, but you can also consider it to be a donation to help their ministry. And, if you decide that you don’t want to keep the items for yourself you can always give them to others, just as the lady in our group did. She was originally going to choose an item for each of us, but then decided to instead let us each choose our own item. Here is what we (my Mom, my sister and I) chose from the box!

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Batik Boutique Jewelry Roll 1

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Batik Boutique Jewelry Roll 2

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Batik Boutique Jewelry Roll 3

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Batik Boutique Jewelry Roll 4

I, amusingly enough, picked out the exact item that she was going to give me! I guess she knows me well 🙂 I chose this hand dyed cotton Batik and leather jewellery roll by Batik Boutique. This artisan group is based in Malaysia and employs over 50 people. The women who work for the Batik Boutique set their own wages and hours which gives them the flexibility to be able to support their families monetarily, while still being able to care for them. The income they earn making these items is helping their families to escape poverty. They offer a small selection of Batik items such as other jewellery rolls in different patterns (this one is not available anymore), place mats, scarves, and various bags.

I am so excited to use this jewellery roll the next time I travel, as the last time I threw all my jewellery into a zippered pouch and ended up with a bent earring and a lot of tangled necklaces 🙁 This will be much nicer for organizing, and it’s just really pretty too!

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Have Hope Necklace 2

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Have Hope Necklace

The gift that my Mom chose is this beaded necklace from Kenya. It is made of gold beads interspersed with lacquered rolled paper beads and was made by a lady named Rose, who works for a group called Have Hope. This group started up with help from Mercy House Global and consists of housewives who had no income because their husbands were unemployed. Originally the women were meeting for a Bible Study, but with the help of Mercy House Global they were also able to start making jewellery for Fair Trade Friday. The women now have a steady source of income, are able to feed their children, are moving out of the slums, and are even starting their own businesses. I don’t believe that this group has their own website, as I couldn’t find any, but they do sell through the Fair Trade Friday shop and the subscription boxes.

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Village Artisans Journal 3

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Village Artisans Journal 2

My sister chose two items (as there were some extra gifts left over at the end). The first is this beautiful leather journal with recycled cotton pages made in northern India by the talented workers of Village Artisan. Village Artisan has been around for sixteen years now, and provides fair employment for over 100 artisans as well as being an eco-friendly company. They sell other eco paper products, recycled sari scarves and bags, jewellery and other items. I am a stationery hoarder, so I am eyeing up all those beautiful card sets 🙂 Also, a bonus for me and my fellow Canadians is that orders over $50 USD receive free shipping to Canada!

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Papillon Marketplace necklace 2

This bead and pottery necklace is from Haiti by the group called Papillon Marketplace. Papillon Marketplace trains women who have had no education in order to give them marketable and useful skills. They use as many local products as possible to benefit the Haitian economy and pay their workers a living wage which is three times higher than the country’s minimum wage. They make pottery, tote bags, jewellery and t-shirts.

It is so exciting to see these beautiful handmade items, but also to know the story behind them- who made them, where they came from and how these women’s lives have been changed because of it. One thing that really stood out to me, too, is how so many of the companies’ prices are not much higher than, or are equal to, the prices you would see for similar items at a retailer. I often have a misconception that because items are fair trade they are going to be a lot more expensive, but really most of them have not much for markup and the majority of the money is going directly to the workers themselves.

I looked into buying a subscription box for myself, but because the program is out of the USA, with shipping, dollar exchange and duties, sadly it ended up being too expensive for me per month. I also wondered, because I do dress in a very defined vintage style, if many of the pieces would end up not fitting with my “look”. (With just my luck, the subscription box would include a t-shirt, coffee, a fabric headband and scented soap. Hint- none of these items are things that would work for me!)

However, I did look at some of the sites of the artisan groups who sell to Fair Trade Friday. The majority of these companies sell jewellery, scarves, pouches and bags and other small items like that. They sell lots of things which I think would make great gifts, even if you don’t need them for yourself.

The company JOYN in India, sells both leather and vegan leather and canvas purses and bags. They have a really lovely brown satchel, which is kind of a modern take on the classic 40’s style bag.

The group Purpose Jewelry sells jewellery and they have a collection of simple and graphic pendants and chains. Their main focus is on providing employment opportunities for young women who have been rescued from sex trafficking. (hence their name “Purpose Jewelry”)

Vi Bella has centres in Haiti, Mexico, the USA, and also partners with workers in India and Ecuador to create jewellery. They have some more “global” pieces of jewellery made out of products like horn and clay, as well as more delicate pieces made of metal and polished stones.

Have you ever heard of Fair Trade Friday? Have you ever purchased a subscription box of any kind? What are your favourite fair trade companies to buy from?

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Village Artisans Journal

Thrifting Treasures

grey-dress-feature, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

Old things are just prettier. Don’t you agree? OK, I guess not all old things, as I have seen my fair share of terrible old things too, but as a general rule, old things are just prettier. The packaging is more thoughtful, the details are a bit more unique and the fact that they have lasted this long already, and have a story of their own, makes them just a bit more special.

I used to hate thrifting, because you could never find what you were looking for. But then, about 5 years ago I realized- that’s exactly the fun of thrifting. You never know what you are going to find and it’s like a treasure hunt. Now, I love to go to the local store about once a week, if I can. My local thrift store is a community store staffed by all volunteers (most of whom are older ladies) and all of the money they make goes directly back into the community (by giving the proceeds to the Boy Scouts, Cadets and Santa’s Anonymous etc.) I love to shop there because they get a ton of stuff donated, there are always new things out on the floor, and their main concern is really in getting it out the door, so they keep the prices very low, and every once in a while, when they have too much stock, they have a half price sale. The funny thing about thrift shopping is that I get into a bit of unrealistic bubble about prices, and then I catch myself saying “$3.00 for this vintage wool skirt? I don’t know, I wish I could have gotten it for $1.50 when it was the half price sale.” Oh right. . . $3.00 is a pretty amazing deal.

The past few weeks have been pretty good, and I have found quite a few thrifting treasures, so I thought that I would share them with you.

vintage grey dress, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

This piece has a bit of damage, where it looks like the dye has faded or discoloured, and some seams that need to be resewn. Since it is a larger size, it won’t be a problem to bring in the kimono sleeves a bit, though. It feels like a acetate fabric or something of the kind, and is rather lightweight, and has the prettiest metal rhinestone buttons and buckle on the front. It is about 2 inches too short for me, but it has a really wide hem, so I am going to let the hem down to amend that problem.

black-stars- vintage dress, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

black-stars-dress, thrifting, the artyologist

This dress has a lot of damage, and is going to require quite a bit of help, but the fabric was just so pretty, and it has flipped up sleeve cuffs . . . it was calling to me! It is some kind of artificial rayon/taffeta fabric (it is drapey like a rayon, but heavy like a taffeta). There are areas of the fabric that are shredded, like it got pulled apart, so I am going to see if I can fix them by patching from the underside. So, needs a bit of work before I can wear it.

tag-closeup, wool dress, the artyologist

wool dress vintage, thrifting, the artyologist

This one is too small for me in the hips 🙁 It fits perfectly in the top though, and since there is a hole in the skirt, I am going to transform this into a shirt. I know some people feel that vintage shouldn’t be altered, but since this piece is damaged as it is, I am OK with changing it; especially as I know enough about sewing to not destroy it! By refashioning this piece into a shirt, it will have a second life, and I will finally have a winter appropriate top to wear with my favourite pleated wool skirt! I like the fact that is brown, black and grey too, so it will coordinate with a lot of things I have in my wardrobe.

thread-spools, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

pile-of-spools, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

Next are the bags of sewing notions! I found two ziploc bags full of wooden spools of thread and other assorted vintage sewing notions. I love wooden spools- it’s so sad that spools are plastic now, don’t you think? There were thirty eight spools, and I love the variety of colours, and the labels too.

thread-spools-grid, the artyologist

These are some of my favourites. Top L-R: 1. I love the carved end of this spool. 2. This colour of green is so perfect. 3. I just liked this label. Middle L-R: 1.Another pretty blue. 2. This is the label for the blue spool. I’ve never heard of “The Canadian Spool Cotton Co.” 3. This deep royal/navy blue thread is so shiny and smooth. Bottom L-R: 1.Another carved spool and this time for silk thread. 2.This is the silk thread, a grey/mauve colour, and it is so pretty and . . . well. . . silky 😉 3. And the last one: there are two unopened spools of lilac. I guess I’m not the only one who buys thread for a project, and then never gets around to using it 🙂

notions, ricrac and hem tape, the artyologist

vintage needle-book, thrifting finds, the artyologist

needlebook-zippers, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

vintage sewing pamphlet, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

The elastic thread that accompanied this paper was long past useable, but this little instruction booklet has some great illustrations, don’t you think? They all look rather 1950’s in style to me, but the logo says “known over 50 years for Quality, Style, Value” and as the company started in the 1920’s, I guess it would date this paper as the 1970’s. Maybe the illustrations weren’t current, but rather a throwback to earlier times, or maybe they just never updated their illustration style?

books, thrifted treasures, the artyologist

Two lovely vintage books. They didn’t have a price on them, so the lady gave them to me for $0.25 each! #thriftscore

vintage xmas ornaments, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

When you doubt whether your outfit is really festive enough, just add this corsage. Instant Christmas kitsch! How could I resist it? Also, these ornaments were just in a ziploc bag, and tossed into a bin. I don’t think they realized that they are glass! One was broken (fortunately it was a modern and ugly one) but all these vintage ones were intact, albeit a little scratched, but that’s OK. 🙂

bonus-ornament, the artyologist

And, one “extra special” bonus treasure that was also included in the same ziploc bag, was this Limited Edition beauty from 1986. This is literally a glass ornament, with plastic wrapped around it. Yes, that nativity picture is a piece of shrink wrap. Why was this a Limited Edition (with capital letters)? And the better question to ask ourselves is, why did someone buy it in the first place?

Have you found any great treasures lately? (I’d love to hear about them!) Do you like thrifting items if they need to be fixed or altered, or do you stick with only things that are good “as is”? And, what are your feelings on refashioning damaged vintage items?