Summer Staple: Striped Dress

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I love a good striped dress. And this is a good striped dress.

(sorry that I take only the worst mirror selfies.)

There’s something about a nice striped dress that just screams summer, right?

What I like about this dress (the Everlane Gia Mini Dress) is that it’s a heavier cotton, it does not at all feel like a traditional t-shirt dress, so it’s not clingy. I usually prefer dresses that have a defined waist, but this is very comfortable and well-made, works over navy tights in cooler weather and is good during the summer.

It’s a very casual-looking dress (although I think since it’s not a traditional t-shirt material it looks a little nicer), so when I wear it to work I throw a blazer on to make it look professional. It was one of my favorite purchases last year, so I’m pleased to say that  though no longer on the page of dresses, is (as of writing) still available in size small, medium and large on their website, so it’s probably in very low stock. Anyway, if you need a striped dress, I recommend the Gia, but I’ve linked a couple other responsibly-made striped summer dresses if the Gia isn’t your exact style:

Gia Mini Dress – Everlane, $48
Similar:
The Cotton Striped Tee Dress – Everlane, $38
Blake Short-Sleeve Dress – Amour Vert, $98 (made in USA)
Celine Swing Dress – Amour Vert, $98
Teah Dress – Amour Vert, $138

 

Clothing Manufacturing is a Women’s Issue

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, which, like many holidays with more radical roots, has kind of been co-opted by capitalism.

International Women’s Day was actually not created so that we could post #inspirational memes or pictures of your #WCE girlfriends. IWD was in fact created after female textile workers at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York went on strike over labor conditions in 1909. (After the strike ended in 1910, in 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire occurred, which prompted more government oversight into the safety of factories and working conditions.)

It is crucial to remember the roots of IWD because the same gendered power imbalances are still an issue today.

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Jewish factory workers on strike

The striking workers in 1909 were largely Jewish immigrants and the victims of the fire in 1911 were mostly Jewish and Italian immigrants who took on factory jobs because they were available–not because they were good jobs. This dynamic still rings true. Although most clothing manufacturing today occurs outside of the United States, most garment workers are female (estimates range between 60-80% of all garment workers). These workers are typically paid very little and frequently work in unsafe conditions. (The 2012 factory explosion in Dhaka, Bangladesh is one modern example among many.) To keep up with consumers’ want for fast, cheap fashion in developed countries, clothing manufacturers make clothing as cheaply as possible to maximize profits and keep prices low.

Modern garment workers are threatened with violence and loss of jobs if they demand better working conditions. With depressed wages everywhere, leverage is hard without a united front of workers, although workers who form unions are also often punished. In Cambodia, the government denied a request of female garment workers to use city hall for a rally space on IWD for fear of appearing “political.”

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Police outside a factory in Bangladesh after a 5 day strike in 2016

Consumers have the power to vote with their dollars and demand more from companies who produce clothing under unethical conditions. Likewise, this is something that matters not just for big brands but also for one-off t-shirt fundraisers or merch associated with causes. Broadly’s article, Was Your Feminist T-Shirt Made by Factory Workers in Exploitative Conditions? brings up important points. When you’re buying a t-shirt off zazzle or from a t-shirt table at an event, how do you know where that t-shirt is made? And isn’t it extra ironic if that t-shirt is emblazoned with a message about gender equality?

Thinking about clothing production as a gender issue (even if there are also factory workers who are men and who can and should benefit from improved conditions and wages along with their female coworkers) is important because it gets at some of the systemic inequalities involved in labor issues. “Women’s jobs” have historically and continue to be under-valued economically and socially. Think about who you imagine as a nurse vs. doctor or teacher vs. professor, or cook vs. chef. In professional hierarchies, women are more frequently in the lower-paying, lower-prestige positions. (Some of this is by choice, but choice is also guided by opportunity and social norms, so don’t give me any of that “women choose lower paying jobs and that’s why there’s income inequality” nonsense.) For professions that are dominated by female workers, like garment workers, systematic low wages are not just an issue of fair pay  but gender inequity.

(Locally, this dynamic played out yesterday as over 900+ female teachers called out from the Philadelphia school district for the IWD Day Without a Woman strike. Teachers are predominately female and in Philadelphia, have been working for over 3 years without a contract. They are underpaid compared to their suburban counterparts and in a chronically underfunded school district. Funding Philadelphia’s schools properly is important for students and for their mostly female teachers!)

IWD is now over, but gender equality is an issue every day. Don’t get lazy, keep learning and listening and challenging default narratives about gender and labor!

Morality and Consumption

You don’t live under a rock, right? Then you’ve probably heard, the President of the United States has complained about Nordstrom deciding to no longer carry his daughter’s clothing line based on lagging sales– prompting the question everywhere: wait, isn’t it unethical for the President to attempt to influence businesses for the profit of his family members? 

In response, many people, including many celebrities, have been tweeting about their gleeful support of Nordstrom. Spend your money where you want, but I don’t think we should pretend that conspicuous consumption is a morally or politically progressive practice.

What is conspicuous consumption? It’s a term that was introduced in 1899 (!) by Thorstein Veblen, describing the phenomena in which consumers buy expensive things for  accumulation and optics, rather than need or utility. I get the gleeful  shadenfreude at seeing Trump sputter at the thought of his daughter losing income, but at the same time… buying your luxury t-shirts at Nordstrom is not changing the world.

At the end of the day, you may feel better about buying products that are made by a company that aligns with your political values, whatever they are, but buying things is not an inherent good. I think you should absolutely make decisions and can derive satisfaction from knowing your purchase isn’t going toward something horrible (or that it is going toward something good, in the case of certain companies or business partnerships), but it should not be the only way you direct your political activity, money, or time.

P.S. Donate to the ACLU, or my favorite local organization, the Women’s Medical Fund, any other organization you care about and feel like is doing good stuff. That’s putting your money where it will really make a difference.

 

 

Ethical Fashion?

I just read a really interesting article about ethical “fast fashion.” 

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So the deal with fast vs. slow fashion is basically that fast fashion is produced at a high speed to keep up with(/create) consumer demand for new things. You know how H&M always seems different even if you visit it after a week or two? It’s because they are actually adding in new stock on a nearly-week basis. Fast-fashion is also generally characterized as being made as cheaply and quickly as possible, so that it stays on-trend and is inexpensive enough for the consumer to keep buying something new every couple of weeks.

Slow fashion, on the other hand, is characterized by an emphasis on quality materials, quality manufacturing (and often ethical manufacturing) and a larger emphasis on curating a smaller line of items that are all high quality.

I work in a non-profit, so Reformation is out of my budget, but it was interesting to read about Yael Aflalo’s approach to keeping up with the trends while also creating ethically and sustainably-made clothing. How should retailers balance consumer demand for trends with a responsibility to the ethical manufacturing?

I’m definitely intrigued by Aflalo’s and Reformation’s approach, although the fast/trend-based aspect makes me nervous (in general, I think the emphasis should be on consuming less), but since fashion is the second-most polluting industry in the world, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

Read for yourself. What do you think?

Winter10x10 part II

Having just finished day 5 of the Winter10x10 challenge I’m thinking maybe I didn’t put enough thought into this. On the other hand, getting dressed in the morning is very fast.

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Continue reading “Winter10x10 part II”

Winter 10×10 Closet Challenge

Lee Vosburgh (Style Bee) and Caroline Joy Rector (Un-Fancy) are “hosting” another 10×10 challenge, wherein you pick 10 items of clothing and wear them for 10 days. The idea is to get creative pieces from your existing closet as a way to reflect on the versatility that exists in minimal choices.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetI just realized that not including my 2 pairs of shoes–I’m 1 item short in this picture.

Winter is tough – especially this week in Philly, as Monday it was in the 20s and by Friday it could be near 60?  Continue reading “Winter 10×10 Closet Challenge”

Reselling for a Responsible Closet

It’s inevitable that even well-loved pieces, someday, will no longer fit. Especially when those things were bought in high school. Sometimes, you have to admit to your 27 year old self that… no, you can’t wear that anymore because you can’t breathe when you wear it.

I have sold things at my local Buffalo Exchange in the past, but I’ve never tried any of the reselling websites before. So now I have a few items posted on Tradesy! As I continue my closet cull I may post more, but I’m curious to see how it works and if it’s any better than lugging a big bag to Buffalo Exchange every couple months.