Here’s a very good reason for why I can’t quit American Apparel (just yet): cute hosiery. Where else am I going to get it (and not worry about the abuse that might have gone into their manufacturing)? If you have an answer, please let me know, for now…this is my answer.
[As an aside: I used to go into American Apparel and see clerks with style that, though I might not have wanted to emulate, I at least could appreciate and respect. Now I go in and it looks like everyone got dressed in the dark. American Apparel, your clothes and “style aesthetic” have gone downhill.]

Here’s a very good reason for why I can’t quit American Apparel (just yet): cute hosiery. Where else am I going to get it (and not worry about the abuse that might have gone into their manufacturing)? If you have an answer, please let me know, for now…this is my answer.

[As an aside: I used to go into American Apparel and see clerks with style that, though I might not have wanted to emulate, I at least could appreciate and respect. Now I go in and it looks like everyone got dressed in the dark. American Apparel, your clothes and “style aesthetic” have gone downhill.]



Ethical Retailer Watch: Boden

Boden came into my sphere of awareness right around the time I was thinking about making the switch to ethical clothing consumption. Strangely, I didn’t discover them through a search for ethical researchers: no, Boden introduced itself to me, through means of an unsolicited catalogue.

I don’t remember what it was that made me think that this retailer might be different from others, somehow, but I quick trip to their website revealed that—unlike most retailers—Boden does, in fact, have a statement about their ethical practices and ecological impact.

Now, as an educated (and web-savvy) young woman, I am quite aware that just because someone says something on the internet, that doesn’t mean that it’s true—and in the case of “ethical” fashion, there’s even more incentive to utter meaningless statements about standards and ecological impact (greenwashing, anyone?).

However, there are some things that make me think that Boden is on the up and up—specifically the fact that they’re members of the Ethical Trading Initiative, self described as “a ground-breaking alliance of companies, trade unions and voluntary organisations…[working] in partnership to improve the working lives of people across the globe who make or grow consumer goods.”

Which is, shall we say, not too shabby.

On eco-friendly terms, Boden is a little more vague. Though they have a statement about ecological impact, it seems mostly concerned with the fact that they print a paper catalogue, with no mention of how eco-friendly their fabrics are. However, good labor standards is a good start—and certainly far beyond what I know about most companies out there.

Now, with regards to the clothes: I’m not going to say that Boden’s prices are cheap, because they’re not. But they’re not mindblowingly expensive, either: they’re about in the range of Banana Republic. Also? I think the clothes are pretty cute—and definitely good for the “classy grown up lady” look I’m going for.

There’s really only one concern I have (well, aside from the vague eco-friendly status): I fear that these clothes might actually be too long for me—and given their price point, I would like to know that they’re going to fit, and fit well, before I buy them. (Call it the tragedy of buying online.)

But I’m tempted to purchase one of their more forgiving items—a cardigan, perhaps—and see how it goes. If the fit seems good to me, I might move on to one of their dresses. We’ll see. Regardless, I’m pleased to be able to add a new company to my list of places that seem safe to support. One down, several thousand to go.


I want to make this shirt. More to the point, I have been saying that I am going to make this shirt for a few weeks now, I just haven’t gotten my act together.
The problem with sewing, for me, is more or less the same as the problem with cooking. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the actual activity of cooking or sewing—I quite like both, actually. It’s that I get intimidated by all the prep work. I hate going grocery shopping, particularly in search of obscure ingredients I may only use once. Likewise, fabric shopping always seems like an exhausting hassle.
This is why my cooking and sewing efforts always end up being haphazard, thrown together efforts involving items I just happen to have lying around.
But I am hoping that, by putting this note here, I will shame myself into buying fabric and making the damn shirt. This had better be done in the next two weeks, self.
[NB: Clicking images will take you to the item’s source!]

I want to make this shirt. More to the point, I have been saying that I am going to make this shirt for a few weeks now, I just haven’t gotten my act together.

The problem with sewing, for me, is more or less the same as the problem with cooking. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the actual activity of cooking or sewing—I quite like both, actually. It’s that I get intimidated by all the prep work. I hate going grocery shopping, particularly in search of obscure ingredients I may only use once. Likewise, fabric shopping always seems like an exhausting hassle.

This is why my cooking and sewing efforts always end up being haphazard, thrown together efforts involving items I just happen to have lying around.

But I am hoping that, by putting this note here, I will shame myself into buying fabric and making the damn shirt. This had better be done in the next two weeks, self.

[NB: Clicking images will take you to the item’s source!]


How deep does the rabbit hole go?

So. Having my initial list of criteria for what constitutes ethical clothing is nice and all, but I’ve still found myself occasionally unsure of whether a few things really fall into the category of clothes I am comfortable buying. For example:

  • While at a pop up shop featuring handmade items, I found some clothes that were effectively repurposed fast fashion: clothing from H&M and the like that had been refashioned and upgraded, with vintage buttons and other trimmings sewn on as decoration. Now, on the one hand, this is kind of like buying clothes from a vintage store, in that my money is going to the Etsy shopkeeper, and not, for example, H&M—on the other hand, these are clothes from H&M with trimmings sewn on them. I think they go under the category of ethical, but I’m still somewhat torn.
  • Screen printed clothes. I hear tell that there is some discussion about these items in the handmade community, and it seems worth talking about. If a manufacturer buys dress, and screenprints it, and then sell it to someone else, does that fall under the category of ethical (let alone “handmade”) fashions? On the one hand, there’s the second hand clothes argument; on the other hand, if the manufacturer is consistently buying their dresses from a nonethical producer, then their customers are, by proxy, supporting said nonethical producer with their purchases. Fortunately, most of the people who screenprint seem to use American Apparel clothes, and since American Apparel is already on my approved list of merchants, well, bullet dodged. (I’ll leave the debate about whether or not these items actually count as handmade for someone else.)
  • These stockings. I can’t help myself, I like them. But I can’t, for the life of me, figure out whether or not the stockings themselves are made by the shop owners, and then screenprinted, or if they’re just going out and buying stockings that they then screenprint. On the one hand, some of the text in their descriptions makes it seem as though they make their stockings themselves, on the other hand, I can’t fathom how you would  hand make stockings (in part because I’m convinced that stockings are made from moonbeams and pixie dust). Now, if they do hand make their stockings, that’s great; if they don’t, we get into the questions raised above of whether or not they count as a second hand merchant, or if I am, in fact, supporting an unethical merchant by proxy by purchasing their stockings.

This is all going to require a lot more thought.


A few more notes.

There are a couple reasons why I’m in a particularly good place to take on this experiment right now, and I feel like I should elaborate on them:

  • I need a wardrobe upgrade. I’ve spent the past few years slowly shedding my college look (a lengthy metamorphosis aided by the fact that I’ve never had a job that required even so high a dress code standard as business casual), but I’m finally at a point where I want to dress like an adult woman. That’s going to require a few key purchases.
  • I have the means to do this. Fast fashion is, of course, a huge boon to those with limited incomes, and I do understand that. If I’d decided to take on this experiment a few years ago, it would have been a lot harder. But I’m currently at a point in my life where I can afford to spend a little more to insure that I’m giving my money to a manufacturer that I feel comfortable supporting, and I’d like to take advantage of that. Also of note: I’m a single woman with no kids, so the only person whose clothes I have to worry about is, well, me.
  • I don’t buy a lot of clothes. Wardrobe upgrade aside, I’ve never been the type of person who constantly needs (or wants) to buy new clothes. Seriously: I’m still wearing H&M sundresses that I bought three years ago. Because of that, it’s easier for me to take my time with this project, and give a good deal of thought to my purchases before, you know, purchasing them.

I had a stroke of luck early on in my experiment: Jezebel held its first swap meet. Though I didn’t go home with my arms overflowing with clothes, I did find this really sweet skirt. Also? I managed to donate a few items that had been clogging my closet.

I had a stroke of luck early on in my experiment: Jezebel held its first swap meet. Though I didn’t go home with my arms overflowing with clothes, I did find this really sweet skirt. Also? I managed to donate a few items that had been clogging my closet.


A few weeks into my experiment, I ran into my first hurdle: my friend was hosting a theme party, and I had nothing to wear to it. The good news was the theme was easy: all I had to do was wear white. But since I don’t wear white that often, I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on a one time outfit…and since I put off my planning until the last minute, my options were limited.
The fates were in my favor, though. I went to Filene’s Basement in search of some overstock American Apparel clothes (which combines American Apparel’s ethical manufacturing with the joy of not giving your money to Dov Charney). They didn’t have much, but they did a white tube dress and a white shirt made out of sweatshirt material. Neither was great, but I figured I could do something with them. And do something I did! The above dress is said tube dress meshed with a section of the skirt for an outfit that actually looked good on me. Ingenuity!

A few weeks into my experiment, I ran into my first hurdle: my friend was hosting a theme party, and I had nothing to wear to it. The good news was the theme was easy: all I had to do was wear white. But since I don’t wear white that often, I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on a one time outfit…and since I put off my planning until the last minute, my options were limited.

The fates were in my favor, though. I went to Filene’s Basement in search of some overstock American Apparel clothes (which combines American Apparel’s ethical manufacturing with the joy of not giving your money to Dov Charney). They didn’t have much, but they did a white tube dress and a white shirt made out of sweatshirt material. Neither was great, but I figured I could do something with them. And do something I did! The above dress is said tube dress meshed with a section of the skirt for an outfit that actually looked good on me. Ingenuity!


The experiment.

About a month ago, I decided to make a change in my life: no more would I rely on fast fashion. No more would I support clothing companies with ethically questionable manufacturing policies. Instead of complaining about the policies of companies while continuing to line their pockets with my hard earned dollars, I was going to take a stand.

I decided to stop buying clothes from ethically questionable sources. From here on out, my clothing purchases would only support companies who were creating their product in an ethical, ecologically responsible manner.

The only issue was figuring out who, exactly, those companies were.

That part was easier said than done.

I knew, going in, that it was going to be a bit rough. I didn’t realize how rough though: of the many friends that I polled, only one offered the name of an ethical retailer. If I was going to do this, it was going to have to be through my own hard work and research.

But hey, I like a challenge. So I decided to jump in.

Now, there are many different considerations that go into deciding whether or not a purchase is ethical and eco-friendly—if I really sat down and considered every level of impact, I would drive myself crazy. (For instance: sure, I can just sew my own clothes, but what about the source of the fabric? Who made that? What were their working conditions? Were the raw materials sourced in an environmentally friendly manner? And so on and so forth.) So I decided to set myself some basic guidelines which—although not perfect—seemed like a reasonable way to guide my consumption. 

I’m considering purchases to fall under the rubric of ethical and eco-friendly if they are:

  • Vintage/thrift store purchases, or other second hand goods. Though items obtained in this manner may not have originally been produced in an ethical manner, at least I know that my money is supporting the reseller, rather than the original creator. And hey, reusing things is totes eco-friendly!
  • Handmade by me. I have a sewing machine, it’s mostly been used for minor alterations and a few crazy projects I’ve dreamt up. Though I have sewn my own clothes before, it’s been with a lot of guidance. Now seems like the perfect time to start sewing more, and getting better at making my own clothes.
  • Handmade by someone else. So far, Etsy has been the biggest boon for me. I’ve found quite a few items that I love through Etsy shops, and I’m impressed by the variety and quality of the items for sale. (I’m also intrigued by the idea of custom made clothes, which I’ll be exploring through this journey.) The downside? Handmade items can be a bit pricey, buying online means not being able to try before I buy, and though there’s a lot of great stuff on Etsy, you sometimes have to sort through a lot of crap to find it.
  • Created by an ethical, eco-friendly corporation. This has been the hardest category to define. Because most companies aren’t what you’d call forthcoming about their labor practices, I’ve basically had to assume that every clothing shop I see is unethical unless I get concrete proof otherwise. So far, the only corporations that are on my OK list are the notoriously sweatshop free Alternative Apparel and American Apparel. (A note on the latter: Yes, I know many are not fans of Dov Charney and his philosophies on the hiring and management of retail staff; however, I’d rather give my money to the devil I know who has ethical manufacturing standards, but is kinda skeevy and fires people for having “bad style,” than the devil I don’t know, who may be using sweatshops and quite possibly treats retail employees no better than American Apparel. Also? A girl needs a place to buy socks and underwear.)

So, those are the basic rules. I should mention that I have one caveat. Though I’m trying to buy as much as possible from the aforementioned ethical sources, I have given myself two exemptions: bras and shoes. Bras, because it’s hard enough to find a good 36DD bra without worrying about the source; and shoes, because I’m pretty picky about shoe styles, they’re not something I can make on my own, and though vintage stores do sell them, they’re not something that can be altered if I find a great pair in the wrong size.

Now, about this blog. I’ve decided to start it for a few reasons. Firstly, keeping a log of my purchases and creations will force me to stick with this project (and, uh, be honest). Secondly, it’s a place for me to share my thoughts about ethical shopping. And lastly, it’s a place to collect recommendations and ideas for ethical shopping.

All that said…here we go!


I’ve also been trying to upgrade my look by expanding my jewelry collection beyond the tough girl pieces I picked up while in roller derby. I love this shop’s designs—the reworking of vintage items to create new, unique pieces is really exciting, and I just like the aesthetic, period.

I’ve also been trying to upgrade my look by expanding my jewelry collection beyond the tough girl pieces I picked up while in roller derby. I love this shop’s designs—the reworking of vintage items to create new, unique pieces is really exciting, and I just like the aesthetic, period.