Vegan Style: What I Wore (v. "Spring")

If there's anything this series of pictures highlights it's that I really intensely love black and that I pose the same way every time, except for which way my head is facing.  If I were more ambitious, I'd try to recreate that Miranda July posing video but I'm not.  At least not right now.  Talk to me when I realize mid-year that you can put all of my outfit pictures in a chronological flipbook and my head will move back and forth and plants will grow but that's the only thing that happens.

top: via a blogger's shop my closet
pants:  reused, thrift store
sneakers: american apparel

shirt: clothing swap
skirt, leggings:  american apparel
shoes:  vintage, etsy

cardigan: sweatshop, 6 years old
dress: urban renewal (US-made, salvaged material)
pants:  re-used, thrift
sneakers:  keep company jamal homers

bag:  matt & nat* mitsuko
coat:  vaute couture
(pants, sneakers: see above picture)
{see below for more matt & nat info}

dressing room picture from american apparel
babydoll top

I don't usually do dressing room reviews but I kind of wished I'd had one for the American Apparel babydoll top to save me the trip.  I was looking for anything that would cover my butt and be appropriate for work.  Online these guys looked fairly fitting.  But in the store all of the XS and S were still pretty big and while they weren't low cut, they did dip down quite a bit in the back.  While I don't mind that for weekend wear, that's nothing I want to wear to work.  So, now you know.  I do want to try on their tent dresses though, which I didn't notice until I was already leaving the store and late for something (as always).

Like every New Yorker, I'm excited for spring.  I'm finally being inspired to ditch wearing the same black jeggings or leggings every day.  (Literally, the same leggings - as you can see from my baggy knees leggings picture above.  Sorry, world.)  I know this winter has been long for all of us so I will drop the topic before it turns into whining and just say I'm really looking forward to spring and warmer weather.  (In direct contrast to the hail that happened yesterday morning.)

* Matt & Nat - I did write to Matt & Nat regarding their labor standards and they will have information out about this very soon.  I was given some details but asked not to currently share the information as they're really making an effort to discuss labor in the very near future, so I'm looking forward to seeing what they have up their sleeves.  Matt & Nat is an all vegan brand that uses PU or PVC for their bags' exteriors (although I wish they'd note which on the bag's profile) and they often use recycled materials on the bags' interiors.


Why Thrift Stores Suck, an all text post, kiddos

This is the preface for my (tardy) February Goal post on "The MOST Eco-conscious Ways to Give Away Your Unwanted Clothes".  As I started to dig into the issue, I realized I could either do a few short posts or one giant post which would be barely readable online.   

As I started looking into the used clothing industry, I found that the majority of news sources cited Overdressed, a book which I both have and like. An excerpt of its chapter on used clothing, "The Afterlife of Cheap Clothes" is here.  I've cited other sources throughout and provided a list of related links at the end so you can read them in your leisure time, if so inclined.

When people give their unwanted clothing to thrift stores as a donation, they often assume it's going directly to people in need of free clothing.  Maybe they think it goes to those in the community who just have very little money and live at or below the poverty line. Or they think it goes to people who are enrolled in the charities' programs, already receiving some type of assistance.  People do seem to realize that some of it gets sold to raise money for the charity since the thrift shops that sell the clothes are right there - often where you drop off your donations.  And a lot of people assume the thrift store houses their clothing until its sold.

While certain programs or smaller thrift stores might give clothing directly to the people they serve (like Dress for Success) or not turnover stock that often (small church basement thrift shops), the majority of the thrift stores that people donate to have too much donated clothing to be absorbed by the local community - both those in need and casual shoppers.  While some thrift stores might offer clothing through their services (and it's true that thrift stores make clothing more affordable to all), there are too many donated clothes to either give away or even sell.  

These larger thrift stores receive volumes of donations, too much for them to possibly sell, much less give away.  They often sort through the best items to sell in their stores and then sort the rest into what's suitable for rags and what's suitable to re-sell in bundles to other people who re-sell used clothing, most likely overseas.

"According to the Environmental Protection Agency, we are throwing away 68 pounds of textiles per person per year and donating such a staggering volume of clothes that a majority of our donations to charity have to be sold to textile recyclers who then sell more than half of our used clothes overseas, largely to Africa." {source}

Larger thrift stores also move stock off their floors after it's been there a certain amount of time and it gets turned into rags or sold overseas so they can make room for incoming donations.  Knowing this, I feel like I should be scanning the racks at thrift stores on the regular if I'm trying to find specific pieces.  They have such a short shelf life in the thrift store and if I feel like shopping used is helping the environment, then is that not my responsibility to scoop up what I can if it fits with my "want" list instead of letting it go the way of rags?  Or possibly uses more fuel/energy to get it overseas?  What's the right answer here?

What about those used clothing donation bins that aren't associated with any specific charity (or a vague charity)?  Often they function as a used clothing processor - pulling the better pieces for resale to vintage buyers and bundling the rejects to sell, usually abroad.  People seem to get testy about finding out their used clothing is not going to benefit a charity -- but in reality, getting these clothes to where they have the most value is probably the best thing we can do for our environment and I can't begrudge someone making a living out of that.  (People get angry because they think there really is a poor person waiting for their clothes or that the charity will be able to sell it to thrift store shoppers vs just farming it out to resellers for money.  Yes, some of the bins purposely try to look like charities and that is wrong...but the clothes ultimately end up in similar places.)  Someone is likely profiting off our donated rejects anyway, once they pass through the thrift stores hands.  If people want to make it impossible for others to profit off our discards and to prevent our clothing rejects from displacing local businesses overseas, the solution is to have less clothing to donate, which means thrift stores will have a usable amount to sell.  

Is shipping our rejected used clothing overseas the right answer?  It seemed like a good solution but signs point to no.  Not only are those markets becoming more picky, they're also becoming over-saturated and  some say they are displacing traditional textile creation in those areas because the overload of our cheaper already-made rejects makes it easier for people to clothe themselves for cheap - and spending the money on more expensive, locally-made more labor intensive clothing is no longer a priority.  (Sounds like the USA, doesn't it?  So our sweatshop clothing mentality not only displaced our own local apparel industry but now possibly other counties' local apparel industry, too.)

So - why do thrift stores suck?  Because people have the impression, because of them, that someone needy is awaiting their used clothing.  (Even if it has rips, stains, missing hardware.)  They reinforce the very selfish idea that even if you don't want something, someone out there surely wants what you have rejected.  It's simply not true in the way people think it is.  And soon it might not be true at all.  But if we keep pretending that once you dump something in the clothing donation bin or drop it off at the desk of your local charity thrift store that someone will use it, we won't have to actively face what our consumption does to us and others.  And the less we see of that, the more free we feel to buy new things, not maintain the things we have and to feel good about "closet purges" seasonally and "giving" to others.

Of course, I'm exaggerating when I say that thrift stores outright suck.  Thrift stores give these articles of clothing an opportunity to be used again (as long as they're seen within the short time they're on the shelves).  That's a true service.  But I do think our assumptions about the market for our used clothing donated to thrift stores is detrimental.  I appreciate when thrift stores are transparent about what happens to clothing they take in.  For example, in NYC our local non-profit Housing Works partnered with the city to help take in any used clothing and textiles (sheets, towels, etc).  They are clear about their processing chain, here:

What happens to clothes and other items deposited into the re-fashioNYC donation bins?
Your donations will be picked up and transported to Housing Works’ warehouse in Queens for sorting. Some donations will be sold in Housing Works’ shops throughout NYC or at one of their regular “all-you-can-stuff” warehouse sales. Some leftovers from these sales will be shipped to another nonprofit thrift shop in Haiti, while others will be made available to different nonprofit thrift shops for sale in their stores. The rest will be sold to a used textile merchant for recycling or export to overseas markets. In all cases, the profits generated from the sale of your donations will benefit low-income and homeless New Yorkers living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Granted, they don't get into what re-routing what they can't sell (or what volume that might be) might mean for others but there is no illusion that they are taking in and selling everyone's grubby towels or missing zipper jeans, at least.

Given all of this, how do you think thrift stores fit into your consumption and your options for rehoming unwanted clothing?

There will be another post on best options for getting rid of your closet rejects that discusses more options but this was just the thrift store industrial complex primer, so I don't need to discuss all of that when I use thrift stores as an option in that future post.

Related Links:

1) Slate:  The Afterlife of Cheap Clothes (The Salvation Army Probably Can't Use Your Clothes) - E. Cline

2) NPR:  Ethical Fashion - Is the Tragedy in Bangladesh a Final Straw? - E. Cline interview on Fresh Air

3) NYTimes:  Attention, Shoppers - Avis Cardella review of Overdressed by E. Cline

4) CNN: Is Your Old T-shirt Hurting African Economies?  - R. Curnow, T. Kermeliotis

5) The Business of Fashion:  Op Ed/The Trouble with Second Hand Clothes - Tansy Hoskins

6) Wikipedia overview - Global trade of second hand clothing


Product Review: Gnarly Whale Beach Waves (aka Surf Spray or Sea Spray)

I started using Gnarly Whale's Beach Waves about a year ago, when Kaelah Bee posted about the brand.  Up until that point had been trying to find a decent surf spray.  I felt like Bumble & Bumble's animal testing policy seemed too wishy-washy and the ingredients were hard to decipher.  Lush's Sea Spray smelled like an eternal hippie perfume factory (and was too thick...and the spray was too direct instead of a mist).  So when an all-vegan brand that focused on minimal ingredients was mentioned, I figured I'd give it a shot.  

Not at all disappointed.  I actually carry around a small-sized bottle of this stuff in my makeup bag.  (We never know when we'll need a little volume, will we?)

- ethical, vegan small-business company
- delicious scents **
- can use wet or dry
- effective at providing just a little bit of that beach hair, perfect for cuts that need some texture but not anything as heavy as styling paste

- a little more water-based than the Bumble & Bumble version, which means you don't get as much of a "surf" layer on your hair as you would with other products but a plus is that it's much harder to go overboard with product

**So far I've tried: 
Coconut Lime Verbena - sweet citrus smell
Oatmeal Milk & Honey (yep, still vegan!) - this was more earthy but still sweet
Coconut and Peaches - sweet fake peaches smell

I also purchased the Coconut and Peaches detangler, which I like at least as much as the Aubrey NuStyle Organic Detangler & Shine Booster (how's that for a name) I got in a Vegan Cuts Beauty Box. 

So if you're looking for a sea spray, I can happily give two thumbs up to Gnarly Whale's Beach Waves.  This is now the 2014 version of what LA Looks hairspray was for me in the '80s.  Like, it's my go-to.

There are, of course, also DIY sea spray recipes available if you want to try making your own (minimal packaging, especially if you already have some of these ingredients).


More Fun, Less Stuff

I follow a few sustainable living-type blogs that try to create community around sustainable lifestyles and the shared values that go along with it.  Since I'm always struggling with the "want stuff" monster, it's good for me to keep them popping up in my news feed.  You know, to remember that living beings (people, animals) are what matter - and "stuff" only really matters in as much as it can help them address our/their basic needs.  And instead of letting that make me feel seriously guilty for buying anything non-essential when I do pointedly remember that, I just try to use those values that as my guiding voice moving forward.

The cult-y sounding Center for a New American Dream blog recently had this post up, celebrating having more fun, but with less stuff.  And I really like that idea as a reminder that quite a bit of what we really enjoy in life doesn't take a lot of stuff.  Or uses reusable stuff.  Or is stuff we need anyway, like food stuff.

Since most blogs (and often, this blog) have a focus on "stuff", I thought I'd share some experiences where I didn't have to get new stuff, but they made me happy anyway.  I can't say all of these things have no impact on the earth, but just that they don't have an outcome of new stuff being purchased in order to enjoy something, which is something.

Mike Perry show nudes 
local studio art

packing a lunch

cats *and* library books

vegan potluck

library books & hot beverages

building murals

Savannah sign
discovering a neighborhood


aka "parks for the dead"

making your own food from local produce 

Granted, 20 years ago my favorite things to do would have been seeing bands, drinking, hanging out with my parakeets and sleeping so times have changed.  (Although I still really love sleep - and animals, but I have cats instead of parakeets now.)  These days it's more about walking around, looking at stuff, good weather, people and cats. 


Vegan Style: Stuff I Wore v. End of Winter

Recently I had to give up coffee due to some stupid and unfair stomach issues.  The combination of very little caffeine (thanks for nothing, tea!) and the lingering winter is really making me feel like I've fallen into an unfortunate hibernation from which it's taking months to rebound.  I also took to dressing like a '90s hardcore kid on my days off - grubby cuffed flood-length jeans with black socks and 10-year old Sauconys topped with a t-shirt and flannel.  (Yeah, seriously.)  It was not a pretty sight but that didn't stop me from attending art openings in it, and sallying forth to all sorts of social engagements looking like...that.  All that to say, I'm anxiously awaiting spring and spring clothing.  And I look forward to a summer of iced teas, if not iced coffees.

I've been trying to wear things I don't have in my regular rotation and work with some type of accessory for each outfit.  (IG's #noveltybroochfriday is good inspiration.)

american apparel shirt and pants (USA)
vintage belt (re-use)
neuaura loafers (monitored labor standards)

black floral dress - Dusty Rose Vintage Buy the Bag
sweatshop cardigan (6? years old)
With Care pin (handmade)

I have been trying to research my February Sustainable Wardrobe Goal ("Where should your clothes go when you don't want them any longer?") and all references to end-of-life outcomes for apparel seem to lead to Elizabeth Cline's Overdressed.  I'm re-reading that portion of the book and will hopefully have a post on that shortly!  I guess I shouldn't be surprised - there is so little transparent information about the topic and she did do first-hand research.  I do think the topic is something that deserves attention. So many people think that their discards find good homes and are used by other people, when that's not really the case.


Reconnecting: Life Lately

It's been a rough start to 2014 and I've been blogging less so far because of it.  Sometimes real life just gets in the way of updating here - and that is a bummer.  Where that doesn't happen is Instagram, which is so much easier to keep up with and "micro-blog" (if you chose to accept micro-blogging as a real thing).  To warm up this space again, I'm putting up a round up of some pictures that are already on Instagram (blogger taboo, I know but "too bad, so sad" and all.) Hopefully we'll be back to a normal posting schedule in no time at all.

Two "new" old brooches

Benny, a friendly stray who just appeared on the
snowy street one day.  I was able to get
him into a great Adoption Center and
- he was adopted just 4 days later!  Yes!

A few days in Savannah, GA where there
was no snow and I wore a dress with no tights!
{In terms of sustainable fashion, I've had this dress
for years; I wear it a lot and it's still going strong.}

An effort to dress up basics with
a necklace from Beacon's Closet

February's Vegan Cuts Beauty Box -
really liked the Medusa Lipstick and
the Greenbody natural deodorant is good, too.

Another February Vegan Cuts Beauty Box
item, lemongrass soy candle (that mostly
smelled like lemon - but I liked it anyway)

Before DIY - February Crafternoon
at my apartment (no, it's not a Hummel)

After DIY - February Crafternoon

New necklace from Mata Traders, swap ring
and LA Eyeworks glasses made in Italy.
{Mata Traders is a fair trade company that also sells apparel}

I organized some of my brooch collection

Stopped by Flirt to try on some Emily G dresses
which are hand-made in Brooklyn

Until later, when hopefully I'll have a "February" Ethical Fashion Goal blog post about the most responsible ways to pass on unwanted clothing.