“But wait!”, you say, “It’s not Winter yet!” And, you are correct that it is not officially Winter yet. We won’t be officially in the Winter season for another 33 days to be exact.
Here though, it is Winter all right, and has been for 18 days now. It started snowing on October 31 (just in time for the little kids to go trick-or-treating out in the snowdrifts) and it hasn’t stopped yet. Well, it hasn’t gone away yet, and every morning when I look out the window, I see more snow to shovel off of my walkway. So, it’s safe to say that Winter is here, for now at least. Despite the fact that Winter comes every year, and that historically we get snow in October, every year I am caught off guard, and there are a few days there where I think to myself, “Wait- what? Snow? How do I dress for this?” And so I just end up throwing a winter coat, and boots and scarf over the top of everything without any real thought as to creating an outfit.
Now, the real question we must ask ourselves, when the temperatures have dropped below zero, is: how do you dress for the cold, when the aforementioned “hobo style” isn’t quite the look that you are going for? I present to you this outfit, which is a testament to the vintage lover’s desire to be dressed in some semblance of fashion, while also desiring to keep at least slightly warm. This is the first “real” outfit I put together since the climes dropped, and everything I wore here was chosen mainly because of it’s insulating properties. So, here are my cold weather tips for those who don’t want to sacrifice style for warmth. Yes, most of these are obvious, but I thought, why not share them anyways?
Turbans are a good cold weather choice, because they can be tied over your ears, and are much prettier than your average toque. I actually wore two scarves here, one tied over my ears and the other over the top for decoration. You can tie a turban with a warmer fabric than a thin silk scarf, and you can also get pre-formed turbans which are knitted, or made of velvet, mohair, wool etc. and those would be very toasty warm! (I don’t have one myself . . . yet!) Other options for keeping your head warm are berets, worn pulled down over your ears like this, or thicker scarves worn over your head and tied under your chin. Sometimes, I wear my scarf and pull it up over my head like a hood, if it isn’t too cold out, but there is a bit of a breeze.
Wool coats are the best. Really they are. If you are at all thinking of going outside in the cold this season, get yourself a 100% wool coat, and you will not regret it. Lots of modern/reproduction winter coats are made of synthetic blends, and they do not even offer a fraction of warmth compared to pure wool. If you can, get yourself a vintage coat, especially a long one, and you won’t be cold. This one, from the 80’s, is made of cashmere and wool, and it is one of the best thrift store purchases I have ever made. On mild winter days, this coat is even almost too warm to wear.
A fur collar. Does a fur collar keep you warm? No, not really, unless it’s a beaver hood or something known for it’s super insulating properties. But, it looks pretty! And it gives the illusion of warmth! And, if you aren’t going to wear fur in the Winter, just when are you going to wear it? I am not wearing it in these pictures, but I actually wore a scarf underneath the collar to keep warm, and threw the fur over top to add the “glamour”.
Nice winter boots. I love my pumps and thin leather shoes, but come winter, unless you want your feet to turn into blocks of ice, winter boots really are a must, and insulated ones are optimum. These boots I bought a few years ago, are lined with a layer of “Thinsulate” (which is essentially useless if you are actually out in a blizzard) but if you are just walking around town, they are great! They keep your feet warmer than shoes, and, they look a lot nicer than those clunky, rubber winter boots (that you will wish you were wearing if you get caught in an actual blizzard).
Layers are good. Here I am wearing several layers: tights, a long wool skirt, (with a slip under that) and a long coat over top. There’s only about 2 inches of exposed leg (covered with tights, but not the skirt and coat, I mean). And on the top; a blouse, then a cardigan, and then the coat. Rather than getting a buffalo robe and swaddling yourself in that (which some days admittedly does seem like a good idea) build up warmth with layers so you don’t end up looking like a stuffed penguin.
Pockets are another wonderful thing. If your hands get cold, even while wearing gloves or mittens, you can just stick them in your pockets to warm them up. I once had a winter coat that didn’t have pockets- it was the worst coat because my hands were always freezing when I wore it! I also once had a coat that only had pockets over the chest. That was an awkward place to have pockets. I know they were supposed to be decorative, but what is the point of having only decorative pockets on a winter coat?!?!
Well, there are my tips for dressing for Winter, brought to you today from one cold Canadian! So, how did this outfit hold up during my walk to church that morning? Well, for the two blocks going south, it was great! The six blocks straight into the wind wasn’t so lovely, however 🙁 But, even though my face got a bit frosty from the wind, I was actually surprisingly warm and it was a relief to take my coat off!
So, what do you do to stay stylish in Winter but also warm? Is it “Winter” yet, where you live, or are you still enjoying Fall?
(OK, I seriously just spent about an hour trying to come up with a better blog title than this, but this is the best I can come up with. And now that it’s 11:00 pm, I’m going to say that’s good enough. And goodnight!)
I had every intention of taking this turquoise shirtwaist dress out of my closet and selling it. But I thought I should do one photo shoot with it before it was gone forever. And then I saw these photos and . . . decided that I will be keeping this dress after all! I found it in a thrift shop two years ago and it fits like a dream. I think it is an original 1950’s dress, although it could have been made later perhaps too, and I believe it is a home-sew, as there is no tag.
So, why would I want to get rid of this dress?
Well, I have owned it for a few years, and I have worn it perhaps. . . five times. I never reach for it when I go to get dressed, and almost every time I wear it, I don’t like how I have styled it (which is why it hasn’t appeared on the blog before). It just never seems to work with anything. Since my wardrobe is full of warm neutral tones, a vibrant dress like this one stands out like a sore thumb. Especially since I’m trying to create a more “cohesive wardrobe”.
So how do you reconcile those “problem” garments you have, which don’t seem to go with anything or work with the rest of your closet? Here are some tips I literally just invented right now while looking at these photos (and trying to decipher why this outfit “worked” this time around), but the tips worked for me when I wore this problem dress, so maybe they’ll help you too! 😉
Resist the temptation to over-accessorize.
I think one of the hallmarks of vintage style is the accessories. While modern girls would call a t-shirt, jeans and a scarf an ensemble, vintage girls won’t consider it complete until you’ve got a hat, purse, gloves, stockings, shoes, necklace, earrings, scarf, ring, and parasol. OK, maybe not all of those things at once, but you see what I mean! The problem comes in when you are trying to accessorize a problem garment, and none of your regular accessories match very well. This is when paring down the number of accessories might be a good idea. I always tried to pair this shirtwaist with a matching purse, belt, shoes, hat, jewellery and . . . I discovered that it is just too much. Nothing seemed to “go” and the style of this dress actually works well with a relatively small number of accessories. And I don’t have to worry about looking overdone. My accessories choices for this outfit consisted only of brown laceup shoes, a cognac belt, and (though you can’t even see them in the photos) my pearl earrings. Simple, and definitely not overdone.
Try sticking with one accent colour, or shades of the same colour.
This time I chose my brown lace up flats and a cognac belt. Keeping the accessories to one neutral colour, and shades within a hue, allows the dress to stand out. The dress is bright and it doesn’t need more colour to go with it. Of course, I could have chosen a bright colour such as fuchsia, which would look amazing with this turquoise colour, but that would not have been very “me”. Choosing brown accessories made this bright outfit not feel like too much of a deviation from my regular style. Conversely, if you are wearing a neutral outfit and are having trouble choosing what to pair with it, try one brighter colour such as mint green or royal blue. The effect is just as striking, and never overdone. And it is very “vintage” in style as well, as in past eras women were very fond of coordinating outfits!
Wear what you love, even if it doesn’t “fit” the rest of your wardrobe.
Part of the reason of why I wanted to get rid of this dress, I fully admit, is because it doesn’t go with the rest of my wardrobe. I would seriously love to have a picture perfect wardrobe, where everything blends seamlessly on a garment rack and you don’t have clashing pieces getting in the way when you want to take an instagram photo. 😉 However, I do have a few pieces that “clash” and kind of highjack that plan, because I don’t want to get rid of them. When I think about it logically though, why do all of my clothes need to match? If I love something, why can’t I keep it? Of course I should keep it! Wear what you love, regardless of whether it goes with the rest of your wardrobe. Having a cohesive wardrobe is a great goal, and is one that I am still working towards with my new purchases, but for the garments I already own, there is no reason to get rid of everything. And if I want to take an instagram photo, I can just take the clashing dress out of the closet, can’t I? 😉
Before you give up, take a photo first.
It might seem silly, but when you look at a photo of your outfit, you’ll be able to see what is going wrong with your outfit. Perhaps in real life those pinks look like they go well together, but when you look at a photo, you’ll realize that you should really pair the dress with blue, for a knockout look. Or, maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you see a photo of your outfit, and you see everything that is going right with it! Perhaps you thought that your outfit was really unflattering, but when you saw a photograph, you realized that it actually fit you quite well, and you just needed to step away from the critical three-way mirror! And maybe, like me, you’ll take a photo and realize that it’s not the dress that is the problem, it’s that all of the pairings you tried before were not working because you simply needed to get rid of half of the accessories!
I think that by following these tips, this dress will see more use; I’ve already worn it once since these photos were taken! And I hope they can help you too with your “problem garments”.
Do you have any “problem garments”? How do you decide what to pair with them? Also, I don’t tend to wear very many brights, so what do you wear with bright colours?
Fashion Revolution Week finished up almost exactly a month ago now, and though I had originally planned to share some of the 2017 stats etc. as well as some of the highlights of the global event, that information hasn’t been released yet by Fashion Revolution. So instead, today I would like to share some of what I learned and researched during Fashion Revolution about several vintage repro (reproduction) brands, and how to successfully shop vintage and repro with an ethical mindset.
I know I’ve mentioned it so many times before, but shopping true vintage and second hand is an inherently ethical way to shop. The clothing already exists, so by shopping second hand, you are giving it a second life. Where it gets tricky is in new clothing. Clothing made up into the 1980’s was for the most part produced in an ethical way. So much of the mass produced clothing of earlier eras was made domestically, not outsourced to factories in other countries. You see many of the vintage clothing ads selling garments based on quality, proclaiming things like dresses “made of good quality fabric”, shoes that feature “unusual durability”, and one of Sears children’s brand was even called “Ucanttear”, which was made to withstand the rigours of children at play.
There were abuses within the textile and fashion industry of course, dating back to the 1800’s, which is why we see union labels in many vintage garments. For the most part, though, clothing was not suspect. You didn’t automatically assume back then, like today’s clothing landscape, that clothing was unethically made. Today, every $5 t-shirt and $30 dress that sports the tag “Made in Bangladesh” is questionable. It might not actually be the case, because there are plenty of factories that are safe and paying a living wage (one factory in India even took part in Fashion Revolution Week) but, because of the abuses we have seen over and over again in the industry, with cheaply produced clothing made at the expense of the garment workers, we now tend to presume guilty until proven innocent, not the other way around.
One of the problems I find with so many sustainable fashion brands today, is that they are so modern, and hardly any of their clothing fits into my personal style. I love vintage silhouettes and styles, not unstructured, loose, trendy clothes. So, I decided this Fashion Revolution Week to ask the question “Who Made My Clothes” to a few vintage repro companies, to hear what they had to say. I also researched a few other companies to come up with this small list (I am sure there are plenty more) of companies who are making their clothing in an ethical manner.
As a disclaimer, while I would not consider these companies to be “sustainable” since that they don’t share their supply chain, where the cloth and materials come from, or what the environmental impact of their dyeing processes and farming processes are. However I would still consider them to be ethical from a human rights point of view.
The brand Heart of Haute is made in the USA. They have several locations in LA and many of their employees are actually fashion graduates. The garments are “cut to order in San Dimas and assembled by three contract sewing shops in the Los Angeles area”. This way, not only are they supplying local jobs, but they can proudly say ‘Made in the USA”. They do not share their supply chain, but they claim to make high quality garments, designed to last. I would agree with that statement, since last year I purchased a blouse from Heart of Haute. Sadly, I ended up returning it, as I realized that it was too tight and the buttons pulled on the front. The blouse was made of a smooth and sturdy cotton, and all of the seams were finished nicely. The blouse included details like a tie front, and covered buttons, as well as dart shaping so it wouldn’t ride up. I truly do think that it would have been a long lasting purchase. All in all, if I were to come across another item I liked from Heart of Haute, I would not hesitate to buy it.
Another brand which I have tried on in person at a store, is the brand Retrospec’d, which is made in Australia. On their website, they say “All Retrospec’d garments are made in Australia to the very highest standard. The majority of the fabrics themselves are the product of many months spent finding colours and design elements that are “just right”. The result is fresh, vintage-inspired fashion that simply can’t be found anywhere else in the world.” The dresses I saw were made of a lighter cotton sateen, which had a very nice finish and drape, and many of them had border prints, which are always fun. I can’t recall how the insides were finished, but I think that the dresses were lined- I know that the bodice on the 1950’s full skirted dress I tried on was lined in the same fabric as the outside of the dress was (minus the border print). I didn’t end up purchasing the dress, as it didn’t fit well, (sadly!) but had it fit, I believe I would have purchased it. These dresses are definitely more of an investment, but I think that for a well made garment, ethically made in Australia, and with so many yards of fabric in the skirt, and fun touches like border prints, it is well worth it.
A company I have not purchased from (or tried on any of their garments) is Emily and Fin. I know that Nora from Nora Finds owns a few dresses from Emily and Fin, and that she likes them. I was pleasantly surprised to discover on Emily and Fin’s website, a page which states that to ensure their products “are made to the best standard possible and in a safe working environment, we aim to work alongside like-minded businesses; visiting them regularly in order to build strong working relationships and guarantee best practice of manufacture and care” and that all of their pieces are “designed and developed in-house in our London studio” taking the time and care to “ensure a high level of attention is paid to the fit and quality of each garment.” It sounds like they are committed to producing well made, quality items. This seems to be confirmed with a browse through their website, (in which I wanted to add so many items to my cart). They have garments made of fabrics like Tencel (which is a natural and usually eco friendly fabric), viscose (another natural fibre) and 100% cotton (though no mention of organic cotton). Again, the prices are an investment, but this is for a high quality, natural fibre garment, made in ethical conditions. The styles are elegant and timeless, so a dress or blouse from Emily and Fin would definitely withstand the trends.
A company I just found out about from Porcelina’s recent post, is Pretty Retro. This is a UK brand, which offers “affordable, wearable clothing without compromising on style or quality.” And that it is “one of a family of brands run by 20th Century Clothiers Ltd. based in the North of England. All garments are ethically manufactured in Europe and to a high standard.” There are a lot of companies in the UK, which sport the tag “Made in England” etc. I don’t live in the UK, so that doesn’t help me much, but for my UK based readers, this might help you! I can’t testify to the quality of their items, but Porcelina mentioned that she already considers her purchase of their tie top to be a “great staple”, and after a few washes, it seems to be holding up well. They have some fun and pretty styles, and don’t seem to be too badly priced either.
The last vintage repro company I got an answer back from, is Collectif. This is a very popular UK brand, and though I have never purchased anything from them yet, I was interested in one of their garments. I sent them an email about it, and received a reply back right away from their helpful customer service staff. In regards to a specific item I was looking at, they said “it is made in our own facility in China (as with most of our garments.) We work closely with all of our factories to ensure that the garments are ethically made. We have our own facility in China with a team who manage our production. Some of our production and design team have visited our factories there and seen first hand that the working conditions are ethical and the company owner and Chinese Facility Manager visit the factories every week.” They also have a page here in their FAQ’s that outlines their policy. I wouldn’t say that Collectif is a sustainable fashion brand quite yet, as they don’t make any mention of environmental credentials etc, but it is great to see them taking a step in the right direction, by using ethical fashion processes, and also making that information available on their website for the customer to see, without even having to ask. I decided against purchasing the garment I had been looking at, for now, but if I came across something I liked, I might decide to purchase from them. I know plenty of other bloggers have been very happy with their Collectif purchases.
Edited to add: Since originally writing this, I would say that Collectif isn’t doing anything that sets them apart as sustainable or fair trade. Brands that say they pay the garment workers minimum wage etc. isn’t something to be congratulated about- that’s just following the law. So, while they are saying that they have visited the factories etc.- they are still outsourcing their production. That may not necessarily be bad- but it’s not really great either.
Those are the companies I heard back from. Two companies whom I never received a reply from are Trashy Diva and Retrolicious. Trashy Diva’s garments are designed in the US, but they make no mention of where they are made- and since I never got a reply back from them, I unfortunately can’t tell you! Do any of you know?
I also asked Joe Fresh, a Canadian brand, where their clothes were made, but did not receive any reply back from them either. I wasn’t really expecting to, but it is too bad, as they have so many cute styles- but have a terrible track record of human rights abuses. I used to purchase a lot of clothes from them years ago, before I knew about “cheap, fast fashion”, but I don’t buy from them anymore.
So what was the one thing I learned during Fashion Revolution Week? You can ask “Who made my clothes” all year round, and if you don’t see the information on a company’s website, you can ask them directly. It’s so obvious, but somehow I had just never really thought about it before. We can do our homework, and research brands, but if we don’t find a satisfactory answer we can also ask companies directly. And sometimes, if you ask the question, you might be pleasantly surprised by the answer.
Fashion Revolution Week may be over for this year, but Fashion Revolution is not! I know that this is not an exhaustive list of ethical vintage repro companies, so if you know of other companies that are producing ethically made clothing, let us all know in the comments! I’d love to find new repro brands to buy from.
And, if you want to ask a brand yourself, about their clothing production methods, here is an outline of the letter that I emailed to the brands:
“I have been wearing vintage styles for a few years now, and I love that there are vintage reproduction companies making beautiful vintage inspired garments today.
“I have in the past purchased _____ from you,” or “I have never purchased from you before, even though I Iove so many of your styles, and I have seen a fair number of vintage bloggers feature outfits by you.” However the one thing I couldn’t find any information about, is where the clothing is made.
The most important concern I have when deciding to purchase new clothing, is in making sure that is produced in an ethical and sustainable way. I want to make sure that when I wear something I feel great about it, not just because it is a lovely style, but because I know that the people who made it are being treated in a fair manner. Where are your garments being made? Are they being made in an ethical manner? I would love to know that those who make the clothes are being treated fairly, have the freedom to speak out, work in safe conditions and are being paid a living wage in order to live with dignity, opportunity and hope.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions!
Sincerely, ____ (your name)”
What are your top ethically made vintage repro brands? Have you ever purchased from any of these vintage repro brands? Have you ever asked a brand where their clothes are made?
I have only been consciously dressing ethically for five years now (since 2012) but in that time I have picked up a few tips. Making the decision to start dressing ethically can be both exciting- as well as completely overwhelming when you start to look around you and see only fast fashion, or sustainable fashion brands that you cannot afford to buy from! The first step to dressing ethically (yay!) is not in completely overhauling your entire wardrobe, but in taking small steps starting from this point on. So, continuing in the spirit of Fashion Revolution Week, today I am sharing both a completely ethical outfit, as well as my tips on how to start dressing ethically yourself.
My purse was from a vintage store, and the scarf and shoes were thrifted.
Secondhand clothes make up a large portion of my wardrobe, because they are a really great and affordable way to dress ethically. Because used clothes are already in existence, whatever history and supply chain they may have had previously is given a second chance at life when you add it to your wardrobe. There are so many textiles already in existence, and unfortunately many of them are sent to the landfills. (11 million tonnes each year in the USA alone!!!) This is obviously unsustainable, and one of the best ways to combat this is to wear secondhand clothing. For my fellow vintage lovers, we’ve already seen the value in wearing “old” things 🙂
While shopping second hand may be time consuming- and might not be the best option when you need something very specific, if you treat it like a treasure hunt, you might be surprised at what you can find. Some of my favourite pieces in my closet are thrifting finds: one man’s trash is certainly another’s treasure.
My shirt was “thirdhand” as it originally belonged to my aunt, who then passed it on to my sister, who finally passed it on to me!
Some easy ways to start wearing secondhand clothing would be by thrifting and shopping at vintage and consignment stores. If you don’t have a thrift store in your area, consider having a clothing swap with friends, accepting hand me downs from others, or buying online through places like Etsy or ThredUp. (ThredUp is an online thrift store. I’ve never purchased from them before- but I know plenty of other people who have had great success shopping there.)
I upcycled my skirt from a thrifted extra large wrap skirt.
Another great way to way to dress ethically is by making your own clothing or accessories. Learning to sew, if you don’t know how to already, is a great life skill and can really help you to appreciate the value of clothing (and the hard work that goes into making it!) By making your own clothing, you are escaping the “fast fashion” trend and instead creating thoughtful, slow-fashion pieces.
Although, one of the downsides of sewing your own clothing can be in not knowing where your fabric is sourced from, one of the best ways I have found to sew sustainably is in refashioning and upcyling. This is second hand and handmade combined in one: the best of both worlds 🙂 Some of the projects I have upcycled (including this dutch wax print skirt) are featured in these posts here, here and here. Even if you don’t want to get involved in time consuming refashions, second hand textiles such as linens or extra large maxi skirts give you a lot of fabric to work with to cut new things out of, and some thrift stores even sell yard goods! That being said, I do still purchase new fabric from time to time, if I have a specific project in mind. I would love to one day be able to source all of my fabric from sustainable textile mills, but in the meantime I am glad to be able to hand make slow-fashion pieces for my wardrobe.
And, even if you don’t want to sew for yourself, have you considered the handmade pieces other people are making (both clothing as well as accessories)? Check out your local craft fairs and farmer’s markets, or search on Etsy. There are so many talented people out there who are selling lots of beautiful handmade items. Some of them even take custom orders- so you can get exactly what you want!
My belt is from the Canadian company Brave Leather, and as well as being fair trade, it is also made of vegetable-tanned leather byproducts sourced from the food industry.
Another way to dress ethically is in buying from (and supporting) companies that are producing sustainable and ethically made goods. When it comes to finding ethical fashion brands, keep in mind that it’s like getting a grade in school- if you get a good grade you tell everyone, and if you get a bad grade, you tend to keep it to yourself. Ethical fashion companies usually have easy-to-find information about their practices and supply chains. If a company doesn’t have that information for you, they probably aren’t an ethical company (although that’s not always the case.)
The best way to find ethical fashion companies I’ve found, is simply by searching the internet with keywords like “ethical fashion brands”, “fair trade fashion companies”, “ethical leather purse”, “fair trade jewellery” “sustainable fashion” etc. This will bring up tons of companies for you to choose from, as well as sites dedicated to sharing ethical brands, such as this one. I shared a post a few weeks ago listing some ethical jewellery brands, here.
My fair trade bracelets are engraved brass, copper and mother of pearl from India, which I purchased from Ten Thousand Villages. The Pearly Bracelets and Etched Bangles are currently still available.
I find buying ethically made clothing to be out of my reach at the moment. I don’t feel confident in purchasing clothing online, because I am never sure if it is going to fit how I like it (and since I don’t live in the USA, where many of the companies are from, I don’t qualify for things like free shipping and returns). And unfortunately I don’t have any local ethical clothing shops to buy from. However, once thing that I do like to purchase from ethical companies is accessories. Things like jewellery, belts, and purses are a great first step to buying ethically. You don’t have to “try on” a necklace, so it is easy to purchase things like that online. I also do have a Ten Thousand Villages store a couple of hours away from where I live, so I’ve bought plenty from them over the years. Investing in ethical companies is a good option, because it sends the message to the fashion industry that this is something that is important to you- and by helping fair trade companies to succeed, you are helping to shape the future of the fashion industry too.
My necklace was from Ten Thousand Villages. The Engraved Choker is currently still available for sale. My earrings are vintage and second-hand from my mom.
Well, those are my tips for some ways to start dressing ethically. It can seem overwhelming at first, but small changes make big differences over time! I hope that wherever you are on the ethical fashion scale, that these few tips can help you, and, if you have any other tips, please do share!
What are your favourite ways of shopping and dressing ethically?