minimalist fashion: a few truths

Starting next week, I'm going to be diving into the ethical side of this series on minimalist fashion: my reasons for making the switch to ethically produced garments, some great sources for ethical shopping, how to be ethical with kids' clothes, etc.

But first, I wanted to shed light on some truths about the fashion industry, and define some of these terms that get thrown around like "fair trade" and "ethically produced" and "sustainably made." Similar to the buzzwords in the food industry ("organic", "all-natural", etc.) they can be confusing if you're unfamiliar.

To start out, a few truths about the fashion industry in today's world.

There are now 52 "buying seasons" per year. Whereas there used to be two buying seasons back in the day: spring/summer and fall/winter, then four seasons (spring, summer, fall, winter), now each week of the year represents a new "buying season" for brands and retailers. This is why you feel off trend just three weeks after popping into the mall - this is exactly how these brands and retailers WANT you to feel. Studies show that women now wear an item just SEVEN TIMES before tossing it, and consider an item "old" after just a few wears. This is crazy!!

Clothing is made to fall apart. Did you ever read Little House on the Prairie books? I was always amazed at the way the Ingalls girls would carefully craft a garment out of fabric by hand, then when they needed a new dress, they would "turn out" their old dress by ripping out the stitches and making it into something new. The reality is that that kind of quality in our garments is hard to come by these days. We accept that our clothes are going to fall apart, fray, get those annoying teeeeeny little holes where they snag on the edge of our jeans right below the belly button. And we shrug it of because, oh well, tshirts are only $4 at H&M. They're cheap enough that we don't expect or need them to last longer than one season. In fact, clothes are DESIGNED to fall apart after a certain number of washes, because it requires you to buy more. The term for this is "planned obsolescence", which is when garments wear out or otherwise lose their shape, forcing us to buy replacements. Part of the blame for this is on the creators of such clothing, but a large part of the blame falls to us, the consumers, because since clothes are inexpensive, we keep our expectations low.

Americans spend thousands of dollars per year on clothing. Those $5 Target tees and $3 H&M leggings add up. Add up to $1,700 dollars, which is what the average American spent on clothing in 2010. One of the biggest arguments to buying ethically made is that it's expensive. And it's true! I would guess that the average price of an ethically produced garment is around $60. I am completely speculating here. So with $1,700 to spend over the course of a year, you could only buy 28 new items. I would guess that most people buy FAR more than 28 items in the course of a year. You might be thinking "just 28 pieces all YEAR? I buy 28 pieces per MONTH!" The thing with buying ethical, though, is that those pieces are going to last. You might only buy 20 pieces all year. But they're going to retain their quality, so you can buy ANOTHER 20 next year, if you want. And again the next year. It's ending this buy-and-toss mentality that we have grown so accustomed to.

Beading and intricate detail often indicate child labor. I was shocked to read in this article about this fact, but it makes sense. Machines that sew beads and intricate details like sequins onto clothing are expensive, so instead much of that work is done in people's homes, where they enlist the help of their children and are not paid well for their effort. It makes the $10 sequin shrug a lot less appealing when you take ten steps backward up the supply chain and know the dark side that's likely behind all those glitzy beads.

American women today own four times as much clothing as they did in 1980. I can't even imagine how much bigger our wardrobes are than the women who lived in the 40s and 50s. And yet, we look to those women as style icons, as women who were always dressed to the nines and very well-groomed. 

A GLOSSARY OF FASHION TERMS

These are some terms you might come across as you look for ethically made items. 

Fast fashion: emphasizes optimizing certain aspects of the supply chain so catwalk trends can be designed and manufactured quickly and inexpensively to allow mainstream consumers to buy current clothing styles at rock-bottom prices

Ethically made: a garment that is made in a way that the design, sourcing and manufacturing maximizes benefits to people and prioritizes human dignity (fair wage, safe working conditions) and minimizes the impact on the environment.

Sustainably produced: “[to meet] the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Fair-trade: trade in which fair prices are paid to producers in developing countries. If something is certified "fair trade" it means due diligence has been done to ensure the supply chain and every step of the manufacturing process from raw material to finished garment is in line with these practices.

Recycled fibers: some ethical clothing companies use recycled fibers, which means material that is cast-off from other factories, or previous garments have been taken apart and used to provide the material. 

WRAP: Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production. This is an independent agency that, according to their website, is "dedicated to promoting safe, lawful, humane and ethical manufacturing around the world through certification and education." Companies that use factories that are WRAP certified are generally good companies to buy from because it means there is oversight on these factories to ensure safe working conditions for the employees.

FLA: Fair Labor Association. According to their website, the FLA is "a collaborative effort of socially responsible companies, colleges and universities, and civil society organizations, FLA creates lasting solutions to abusive labor practices by offering tools and resources to companies, delivering training to factory workers and management, conducting due diligence through independent assessments, and advocating for greater accountability and transparency from companies, manufacturers, factories and others involved in global supply chains."

Organic cotton: cotton that is grown from non-genetically modified plants, that is to be grown without the use of any synthetic agricultural chemicals such as fertilizers or pesticides. (*A note about cotton: a TON of cotton used in the garment industry comes from Uzbekistan, which is notorious for using slave labor and child labor to pick the cotton that is used. To avoid garments that are made from Uzbek cotton, do your research. Google the brand you're buying from to see if they use Uzbek cotton. This list is a good place to start.)

 

A note about "corporate responsibility" or "social responsibility" statements

Many big brands nowadays have a page on their website mentioning their "corporate responsibility" statement or something similar. These statements usually include vague language about how the brand complies with all laws where their clothes are made. However, these statements are usually vague and filled with flowery language to make you FEEL like their clothes are being made in an ethical way; most often, they are not. If a company is truly producing garments in an ethical way, they will be upfront about it. They will say where the item is made (if the item's description says simply "import", that's a bad sign) and they will state whether their factories are WRAP-certified, etc. Don't be fooled by vague "social responsibility" statements that are all fluff!

Okay, whew. Doozy of a blog post. I'm excited next week to dive into WHY I made the shift from fast fashion to ethical produced, and the things that convicted my heart to pursue this with very little exception. I'm excited! Hope you're still hanging with me on this series, and in case you need to catch up, here are all the previous posts below. xo!

3 montessori treasure basket ideas

I've mentioned before that we're trying a Montessori-esque approach when it comes to Xavier's toys and playtime. I am by NO means strict about it, and like to think I'm a fairly laid-back mom in general. But I have noticed that when Xavier has the freedom to choose his own activities, which is a principle of Montessori, he is entertained for longer and seems to enjoy what he's doing more. I'm also a huge proponent of toys and activities that stimulate creativity, imagination and open-ended play, rather than toys that light up or sing or generally have to played with in one certain way. Different things work for everyone, and this is what works for us.

I get most of my ideas from Pinterest. I typically type something along the lines of "Montessori toys 6 months" or "Montessori activities 9 months" or whatever age Xav is at the time. There will be a ton of results, so I just scan until something catches my eye. Usually it's a basket of items I know we have already, or an activity using things we already have laying around. I keep it really simple, and aim to have just 3-4 baskets, and only try ONE new activity per week (which, to be honest, usually doesn't happen.)

Here are three ideas for Montessori-inspired "treasure baskets" that are currently out on Xavier's toy shelves!

CONTAINS: two corks (be sure they're large enough that baby can't swallow them; champagne corks do the trick), seashells, driftwood, smooth river rock, greenery orb (fake) and airplant (fake)

SOURCES: corks are from champagne we drank, seashells, driftwood, greenery orb and airplant from Hobby Lobby, river rock from the thrift store

CONTAINS: wooden tree, wooden egg, two napkin rings, star puzzle thing (?), smooth wooden grasping toy.

SOURCES: wooden tree, egg and grasping toy are from Hobby Lobby (in the woodworking aisle), napkin rings and star puzzle are from the thrift store

CONTAINS: a whisk, a basting brush, wooden spoons, a wooden meat tenderizer, tablespoon set and flexible funnel.

SOURCES: large whisks and tablespoon set from Hobby Lobby, foldable funnel from our kitchen, everything else from the thrift store!

For thrift store items, I spray everything down with plain white vinegar to start out, since vinegar is a natural disinfectant. Then I wash everything in VERY hot, soapy water, making sure to scrub all the nooks and crannies since he will most likely be putting everything in his mouth.

He does seem to be getting a little bored with these three baskets, and since they've been out awhile, I'm planning on switching them up next week. I like the idea of an autumn-themed basket, and once the leaves turn, plan to find and laminate some to use for play, sort of like this flowers exploration.

Here are a few more ideas for babies of different ages:

Are you a fan of Montessori, or some other method? What toys do your babies love most? I'm always on the lookout for new ideas! XO!

52 week project

I'm still waiting on the photobook of Xavier's weekly photo project to come in, but in the meantime, I wanted to share all 52 photos!

Xavier was born on a Friday, so every Friday I took a photo of him on my DSLR camera. I wanted them to be "big camera" photos to set them apart from the millions of cell phone pictures I have. With the exception of three cell phone pictures, I did it!

I also knew I wanted the photobook to be square format, so I cropped each photo to square along the way. I love black and white images and their timelessness, so I made them all black and white, too. I also feel like you can more clearly see the changes week to week without distracting colors.

ORGANIZING THE PHOTOS

I made a folder on my desktop called "xavier 52 week project." Each Friday I would usually snap the photo during morning playtime, then download and edit it when Xav went down for his first nap. It took ten minutes to download, edit and save that week's photo. Quick and easy!

I named each photo according to the corresponding week. So week one's photo was titled "1/52.jpeg" and so on all the way to "52/52.jpeg." This kept them organized in the folder from start to finish, and also made photobook creation a breeze because when I uploaded them to the photobook creator, they uploaded in order and I could just autofill the book.

Here's a screenshot of the labeling:

THE PHOTOS

I cannot wait to get the photobook in my hands and be able to flip through this record of Xavier's first year. It is INCREDIBLE how much babies change during their first year of life! I also love this project because although I swore I'd remember every little detail (ha) I've already forgotten some things, like how he was obsessed with Matt's boy scout patches and his enthusiasm about his jumperoo. So fun to see some of his favorite things represented in this series!

Do you scrapbook or archive your kids' photos somehow? I think going forward, I'm going to do one yearly photobook for each child, and one yearly photobook for our family. Seems easy to keep up with and I just love having books to flip through and reminisce on!

PS: my scrapbook for Xavier.

minimalist fashion: outfit ideas

One thing I get asked a LOT about is how my minimal wardrobe ACTUALLY works. What kinds of outfits do I put together? How do I make things work for multiple situations?

The reality is that I live a VERY casual lifestyle. I know that's not the case for everyone, which is why it's important to build a wardrobe that works for YOU and your life, and not just one that is full of "staples" that Pinterest says you need. Pinterest and women's magazines tell me I need a classic black pencil skirt and white button-down. I would never wear either of those pieces because I'm never in a situation that requires them. I'm a stay-at-home mom who runs a business on the internet. No client meetings, nothing of the sort, so I can get away with really casual clothes basically all of the time.

That being said, I still love to mix things up and really like to feel put together. I pretty much have two go-to formulas for making that happen: lots of layers, and statement jewelry. Throwing a swingy vest over a basic tee, for me, elevates the outfit from ho-hum to "I actually thought about this look." Layering on a chunky necklace (my favorites are from Noonday Collection!) instantly makes me feel pulled together.

I'm a jeans-and-tee girl through and through, but that doesn't mean I wear the same thing everyday, or that my outfits are boring. At least, they don't feel boring to me!

Here are eight outfits I'm currently loving for this fall. They work for running errands, going to church, meeting friends for coffee, playing at the park. These are super quick, no-makeup, snapped-on-my-iphone-in-my-messy-bedroom shots. Hashtag real life :)

OUTFIT #1: dark skinny jeans, black ruffle tank, military vest, chunky necklace

OUTFIT #2: dark skinny jeans, drapey tee, oversize sweater, long necklace

OUTFIT #3: dark skinny jeans, lace hem top extender, loose sweater

OUTFIT #4: black maxi dress, grey tee knotted over top, chunky necklace (this is probably my MOST worn outfit. The dress feels like pajamas, and the tee overtop makes it more practical for chasing around a baby and more modest for wearing to church, since the dress is pretty low-cut on its own.)

OUTFIT #5: dark skinny jeans, lace hem top extender, plain black tee, open cardigan

OUTFIT #6: black maxi dress, chambray tee over top, tooled leather belt (I love this look because it turns this loose top into more of a peplum shape, which I love!)

OUTFIT #7: dark skinny jeans, striped tee, military vest, long layered necklace

OUTFIT #8: black maxi dress, loose sweater layered over top, braided belt

What are your go-to outfits for fall (or any season?) Do you get inspired seeing how others put together pieces in their wardrobe? If there's interest, I might do more of these in the future! Let me know :) XO!

Xavier's 1st Birthday

Yesterday, our darling boy turned ONE! It seems surreal that I have a one year old and that toddlerhood is upon is. TIME GOES SO FAST.

To celebrate, we threw a backyard party and invited lots of family and friends. The weather was perfect (although a bit hot - I was hoping for cooler fall weather!) and so many people came to celebrate our boy.

I didn't really have a theme, but used lots of shades of blue to match his invitations. I will forever think of Xavier when I see the color blue, because of his big blue eyes and how much they sparkle when he wears blue! I'll try and cover as much of the decor and planning as possible. But first - photos! Duh. Huge thanks to my pal Tessa Tillett for snapping these for us. I'll treasure them forever!

DECOR

I opted for decor I can hopefully re-use again. Hashtag minimalism. I started buying and creating the decorations 2 months or so before the party. Maybe that sounds ridiculous, but I LOVE to throw parties. It truly fires me up and I love being creative and finding all the right things to pull together. If that's not your jam, don't do it! But I personally enjoy it.

The garland above the high chair and the high chair skirt were made from thrift store sheets, pillowcases and tablecloths that I picked up for a couple bucks each. There's a million tutorials for these types of garlands on Pinterest. Basically you cut material into strips and tie it to a piece of string. Easy! And I can reuse them in the future!

The chipboard bunting strands with letters were another quick DIY. Chipboard bunting from Hobby Lobby and a couple packages of 3" white letters, also from Hobby Lobby. I'll pack these away for future celebrations. I attached the high chair skirt to the tray with command strips, which honestly didn't work very well, so there was also a lot of duct tape involved.

The letters and number ones are from Hobby Lobby or Michaels. I went a few times and grabbed letters when they were on clearance. I love that I can reuse them for future parties. I can swap out the blue letter "n" in "one" for a pink one if we have a girl, for instance. Reuse, reuse, reuse!

The blue berry baskets to hold apple slices are from Shop Sweet Lulu. So are the wooden utensils and little glassine bags to hold them. Paper plates, cups, napkins, balloons and party hats from our local Party City.

Other than that, I used a lot of "decor" that is just hanging in our home. The sign behind the high chair hangs above Xavier's crib. The photo frames were also hanging in our house, and I printed a few extra photos of Xavier to display. The potted plants are from various rooms around our house. Shop your house to pull together items to display - I bet you have more than you think!

TIPS + TRICKS

If you have kids or babies coming, set out a basket of toys for them to play with and lay a blanket down on the grass. The little ones loved playing with Xavier's toys and it let parents relax and chat!

If you have a fence or garage, utilize that for decorating. This worked so well for Xav's party. We used the side of the garage to hang the garlands and bunting and photo frames, using nails that were already there. We hung the sign behind the high chair on two nails in our fence, and draped the blue garland overtop.

For outdoor parties, use fans to keep bugs away. We didn't have a strong enough fan, but having a small tabletop fan on the food table and a larger box fan in a corner will keep yellowjackets and bugs away because they don't like the wind.

If you want your baby to wear a party hat, practice! I know this sounds ridiculous, but Xavier wore his party hat the whole time because I put it on him several times in the weeks leading up the party and he was used to it.

We had so much fun celebrating our sweet baby boy and are so grateful to have this village alongside us as we journey through parenthood!