Is there anything better than a pretty but comfortable dress that can be worn multiple ways?
1. Sun dress
Above, I've paired this sustainably made wrap dress with a slip and a structured bag by Cult Gaia. (See the bottom of the post for links to shop.) Perfect for a barbecue with friends and my feisty Super Girl sidekick!
2. Pool Coverup
Paired with a Vitamin A bikini and a simple bandana to pull back the mommy hair, it becomes a cozy but pretty piece to wear poolside while the kids run around and play. I can imagine wearing this dress to so many other occasions, too. I bet I could dress it up for a party as well or dress it down for a schoolrun.
Either way, I know I'll easily wear it 30 times or more. That's the number of times you need to wear a garment to help make sure it's sustainable. Do you ask yourself whether you'll get thirty wears out of a piece before you purchase it? I've also already worn this bandana several times as you can see here from this denim on denim look for a day at the beach, and I'm in love with the comfortable espadrilles I'm wearing in both looks here. What are your favorite summer basics?
I don't know when I first realized how wonderful a bargain thrifting was; or how much more fun it was to look for buried treasure in racks of musty garments and boxes of half-heeled shoes. It's been a part of my life for nearly as long as NYC has been: so forever, off and on. I can't remember who took me thrifting just before my freshman year of high school, either, although I do remember the thrill of my very first score: a blue velvet jacket with a mandarin collar and frog buttons-- not actual frogs, but the silky Chinese, buttony kind. I also remember wearing the jacket to my red belt high school in the south, and I remember that I sort of knew what I was doing, too.
That is: I knew what a revolutionary act it was to wear old vintage blue velvet in the land of uniform khaki. I also knew they were voting for superlatives that day. I was not completely flabbergasted when I was voted "Most Unique", probably, mostly on account of that jacket alone. It wasn't exactly a compliment, either, though it was for boys-- the boys that won that category usually also won "Most Popular" or "Funniest" while the girls were considered simply odd. However, it wasn't exactly the worst thing ever to be singled out for something in a school of 3,000 souls. At any rate, whether insult or compliment, the power to use fashion to express a feeling or an attitude hooked me, although for a while I did merge myself with the khaki sea around me, tired of fighting the tide. Still, I did eventually grow up and get out, and ever since, thrifting has been a major hobby of mine. I would now consider myself more of an expert treasure-hunter than a lucky duck. Instead of happening onto the buried loot, I know how to zoom in on where x marks the spot. However, I know a lot of people are intimidated by all the options out there, so here are some of my tips from a misspent youth for thrifting success!
1. If you are overwhelmed by thrifting, ask yourself this basic question first:
Let's call this: square one. What's your favorite color? If you gravitate towards racks with colors that vibe with you-- dove-gray lavender or brilliant lemon or sparkly emerald or prismatic purple-- I assure you, you will find something you love. I 100% guarantee you will pull something off the rack that will delight your soul and your wallet. (And, since it's secondhand, it's pretty nifty for the planet as well.) The odds will be even more in your favor if you add my next tip to the equation.
2. Find a Fancy Neighborhood and Check Out the Thriftstores There!
The best thrifting I've ever found has been in the wealthiest neighborhoods. A lot of people have the terrible habit of wearing things ONCE. ONCE. And then tossing them. It's unfortunately become a habit for people in any socio-economic strata, which is its own issue for another post, but sustainable issues aside, because of this habit, you can find amazing designer steals in neighborhood's where people buy designer clothes. I tend to hit a handful of favorite spots over and over-- Housing Works on Crosby Street or their branch in Park Slope on 5th Avenue or Bring N Buy in Ridgefield, CT or Greene Street in Chestnut Hill. Using this tip, I have found Burberry coats and Jimmy Choo Mary Janes and Theory leather jackets and cashmere sweaters and designer denim galore in spots like that. I even found the spot where the Vogue accessories director was dumping their closet for a bit-- I scored some Jimmy Choo gladiator sandals off that one! However, not everyone lives near or in or close to a fancy neighborhood. If you can't drive or Uber to a hot spot or if you're encumbered with babies and can't peruse the racks for hours, then check out my next tip.
3. Repeat after me: eBay is LIFE!!!
EBay can be pretty overwhelming, I know. I avoided the site for years. The key to success here is a simple two-pronged approach: you either a. search for something extremely specific like a maxi Reformation dress in size 6 or that pale lemon Christy Dawn dress you've been eyeing on Instagram or you b. check in with specific shops on eBay. My favorite eBay shop is called Linda's Stuff. Amazing selection and the prices hover around $24-- even for whisper thin Ulla Johnson tops or that aforementioned Reformation maxi dress.
Do you enjoy thrifting? If so, what are some of your treasure hunting tips? I'm always honing my hunting technique. If you don't enjoy thrifting, I'd love to here from you as well. Also, what's the best thing you've ever found thrifting? Check out my Pinterest board for a few ideas as well!
1. It Can Be
I think most of us with even a modicum of interest in the slow fashion world know about Reformation now (both the dresses pictured above are from Reformation and are both are secondhand), so I'll leave these pictures here, because the proof is in the pudding and Reformation dresses celebrate my curves like no other brand. Reformation can be pricy, which leads me to my next point, but first, something else I love about Reformation is their push not only to sell vintage clothes on their own site but the way they partnered with DePop to sell their OWN CLOTHES secondhand on another site. They're really the rare company whose ethics and aesthetics match up. (Quoting journalist Rosalind Jana in that last line.)
2. Sustainable Fashion is Expensive
Image care of Pretty Little Fawn by Courtney Halverson
Not only are there a plethora of secondhand options from the very cheap on eBay or Depop to the pricier ones on Tradesy or treasures to be found in carefully curate vintage shops, but there now exist more and more mid-price retailers like Sézane, who go out of their way to craft high quality pieces at pretty affordable prices considering. (My Sézane and Rouje embroidered blouses that come in at around $115 are as nice as Ulla Johnson, which retails for more like $300.)
People Tree UK and Everlane are two other retailers in the same midway to expensive price range, and Everlane has even run "name your own price" sales! I think paying about $100 for a dress isn't too crazy, once you start factoring in what it costs to make cloth ethically and to treat the person making the actual dress just as ethically as the cloth. Not to mention that special care is reflected in the splendid quality of the garment. My sustainably made clothes are genuinely my nicer clothes, no two ways about it. I am not such a good person that I would reach for them as often as I do over more expensive (but probably thrifted tbh) clothes if they weren't!
3. Sustainable Fashion Is Minimalistic/ Boring
Kate Arnell Wearing a People Tree Dress. Click on the image to visit People Tree's blog.
I do think minimalism and sustainability go hand in hand, but there are different ways to approach the minimalist philosophy. For my part, I appreciated the idea that we should value collections that bring value to our lives but eschew a mindset that mindlessly collects objects which you don't actually need or want. While I do have an enormous collection of vintage and thrifted pieces with some new designer brands thrown in and a growing presence of sustainably made pieces, I still consider myself a minimalist, because I try hard not to waste money or energy on thing I don't need or want or that don't bring me as much immense joy as I feel when I immerse myself in my collection of clothes or books. My clothes closet, which is currently housed in my office, is such a special space that the entire family, barring the dog, likes to go in there and nap or rest!
4. Sustainable Fashion Is A Fad
Check out the gorgeous Natalie Kay (above) if you want an expert take on the current state of sustainable fashion affairs. You can follow her here or on Instagram @sustainablychic.
There's a great piece at Mochni arguing that one day (soon) sustainable fashion will one day simply be called "fashion". It makes three strong excellent points about why. You can read it here.
5. Sustainable Fashion Can't Catch On
On Instagram @dearlybethany spent 365 days showcasing fair fashion outfits that managed to be minimalist, chic, and still very pretty. Check her out for some fashionably sustainable inspiration!
Before I bought my last pair of jeans, a pair of Levi's famous wedgie icon jeans with an unfinished hem, I researched the company, and I was SO excited to discover that such a big company is making such big changes! You can read more about that here.
It's happening, folks!!!! I don't know about you, but I find it thrilling to be part of a brighter future for our children and our planet.
What are some of your favorite sustainable brands? Do you like thrifting or does the thought turn you off? What bothers you about it? Is it the fact clothes are pre-owned or is it the hunt that dissuades you?
In both pictures (of me) above, I'm wearing:
A secondhand, two-piece Reformation dress from Tradesy and an apron Reformation dress from Tradesy (while sitting outside the Reformation store no less! The cheek, ha!)
My Louis Vuitton tote was also gently pre-loved from Tradesy.
I pinned some similar cute two pieces below or follow me on Pinterest @IsabellaDavidVintage.
A Gottex hat from Bloomingdales available here .
Wearing an older pair Rebecca Minkoff espadrilles.
There are some gorgeous, handcrafted ones from Spain available on Amazon here.
I also love delicate ones from Sézane here.
In my research into the sudden popularity of bamboo bags, I was surprised to learn that the term "It Bag" is such a recent one. Its coinage is as fresh as the 90s, when it was first being used to describe high-priced designer bags like those signature bags by Chanel or Fendi or Gucci. The concept of branded bags came about even earlier, though, back in the 1940s when the designer Roberta di Camerino created the first instantly recognizable bag, using artisan-made hardware and distinctive textiles. However, the It Bag didn't explode until the 90s for whatever reason. Maybe it was, as Wikipedia drily claims, because there was suddenly, simply this huge market for handbags.
That explanation leaves me with more questions than answers, personally.
Think about it: the market still exists. The fashion industry is a 1.2 trillion dollar annual industry, but by 2011 the concept of the It Bag was in decline.
Did the It Bag disappear because bargains became fashionable or because fashion is changing too quickly to make a huge investment in one expensive, transitory piece worthwhile? (Also, here is a great piece by Celia Walden on why she's glad the It Bag is over.) Or are It Bags over because It People are in now? Never mind It Bags. What does the "It Bag" mean now in an era where it's not only handbags that are branded but people themselves through their very own social media pages?
That's probably too deep a question for a slow fashion diary blog to address in 300-500 words. However, it did delight me to spot a different kind of "it bag" on many, many Instagram feeds. That same site that encourages people to brand themselves like fancy handbags. Now, it's not a humble bamboo bag you might suddenly notice every fashionably minded person sporting. Baskets in general are suddenly as ubiquitous as the Coachella wheel-- the sight of which, like fringe paired with cowboy boots, western belts, and a joyous grin, now signals spring as surely as cherry blossoms.
But let's put my seething envy for all the people who got to see Beyoncé live at Coachella aside and get back to bamboo.
Bamboo is potentially the most renewable resource for fabrics, even more so than hemp. What does put hemp ahead in the race for title to the future's most sustainable fabric is that rendering bamboo into cloth is still often requires the use of lots and lots of chemicals. Again, though, that means the news about bamboo "it bags" is good!
1. Bamboo bags are made with the Earth's most easily renewable, least-water consuming crop.
2. And, even better, unlike bamboo cloth, bamboo bags take no (or at least) very few chemicals to transform into a chic piece of arm candy.
I've linked to a few, beautiful bamboo and other fair trade, 70s-inspired options on my Pinterest page (see below).
Do you own a bamboo bag or a cute basket that can be used for shopping or paired as an accessory? When you think about it, straw baskets and bamboo bags and patched, cloth textile bags are actually the original Birkin bags! What do you think of this 70s-era trend? Do you think you'll buy one for summer?
My sandals are (old) BCBG ones. Similar here.
My wrap skirt is available here.
My Free People sweater is sold out but a similar one is available here.
My bamboo bag is a reproduction of a classic Japanese picnic basket! It's available here.
FYI Cult Gaia, who originally made the bamboo bags such desirable Eco It Objects just made their first (stupendously gorgeous) clothing collection out of deadstock! AND they're committed to treating workers fairly! Check them out!
One of my favorite recent trends is the revival of the maxi dress from the 70s, which was in itself a throwback to the 30s when hemlines dipped low again after briefly hitting their first high EVER in the 20s.... Really what is more vintage than a maxi dress? It's the feminine silhouette from time immemorial. And modesty aside, I see why: it's comfortable and pretty and so easy to throw on. This one pictured above is a second Self-Portrait dress from Tradesy paired with sustainably made Swedish Hasbeens boots and a vintage cashmere shawl from Millay Vintage, named Best in Philadelphia! It works well for any season, and that's another reason I love it. I bought it this spring but wore it again through the fall and now into the winter.
What's your favorite maxi dress style? I definitely need a little extra confidence on the days when I wear this more fitted, textured version.
As I mention in my blog's sidebar, my sister, a scientist and professor currently working for the Army Corps of Engineers, inspired me to learn more about sustainability and climate change. However, to be frank, at first I was too frightened to delve into the situation. It felt as if, just by opening the covers of books like The Sixth Extinction, I could hear a sepulchral voice shouting from a street corner, "The end of the world is nigh! Repent, ye sinners!"
For my part, I've been easing myself into the world of sustainability via ethical fashion and, to my surprise, the more I learn about the world of sustainability as a whole, the more optimistic I feel about the future and our power to change the world, our world, for the better. Here are me and my sister's five picks geared towards others who want to strike a similar balance between activism and optimism:
1. The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
Our first pick is pretty obvious*. Published in 2014, it was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and named one of the New York Times Book Reviews best books of the year. I haven't read it yet myself, but I know Stanford is now asking incoming Freshmen to read it. For all those reasons, it's high on my TBR list. For those with less time, my sister mentions that Kolbert has also written a more feel-good(ish) essay about a Danish community's victory over carbon emissions. You can read it here: www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/07/07/the-island-in-the-wind.
*The Sixth Extinction is available on kindle for $9.99, although for some reason it's listed as an e-textbook.
2. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate by Naomi Klein
Ugh, I haven't read this one, either. My sister gave me a copy. I started reading it and became terrified when Naomi Klein began scolding people (like me) for looking away. However, we don't have the luxury to look away any longer, not with category 5 hurricanes becoming more commonplace. Not to mention the devastating effects of climate change staring us in the face. (On a related note, please consider giving a few dollars to Puerto Rico. Donors are experiencing fatigue after Texas and Florida and people haven't been as galvanized to help Puerto Rico, which suffered mind-boggling destruction).
Again, on a happier note, as I've been around the people who are dealing, I've become more and more optimistic, not less so. So I feel like I can deal now! I can read this book now. (I'll still be starting with number one on this list first, however.)
*If this pick, still strikes you as too scary, my sister also suggested Climate/ Energy: Hot: Living the Next 50 Years on Planet Earth by Mark Hertsgaard. She describes it as "hopeful" and a "solutions-driven book on climate change."
3. To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World by Lucy Siegle
My third pick is one I have read* and can only describe as life-changing. Lucy Siegle presents an expose of the fashion world's environmental devastation and its all-too-ubiquituous ill treatment of workers along with a vision of how green truly can be the new black. She's the Observer's "Ethical Living" columnist, and her book reads like a well-informed friend describing both a horrifying reality alongside an inspiring alternative.
Siegle believes ethical fashionistas can exist, and I know from personal experience beginning to shop ethically has NOT meant giving up on style. I have not had to don sackcloth and ashes but rather have changed my mindset and my expectations from the fashion world and for myself. I buy far fewer things now, yes, but those things are far more beautiful. The more I learn about what goes into creating a garment, the more I treasure what I have as well. See my post on not shopping for a month for more on the subject.
*Some other books on this subject on my TBR list are Wear No Evil by Greta Eagan and Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline.
4. American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half Its Food and What We Can Do About It by Jonathan Bloom
Another rec from my sister. I'm eager to read this one myself as this topic is a cultural fight in my own household. I'm French-American and the French half of me dominates when it comes to food as in: "Why throw food out just because it's past its expiration date? Especially if it smells all right?"
My American husband will proceed to look at me like I'm nuts. "You eat rotten cheese if you want."
"Aargh! But it's not rotten!" I'll shout, frustrated that he's being so obtuse. However, nothing I said convinced him one iota, until I pointed out that France had become the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying perfectly good food.
Now, he at least doesn't throw my food out, although I still can't quite convince him to ignore expiration dates and smell the food himself. I can't wait to read more about this difference in mentalities and where it comes from.
5. Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet by Bill McKibben
Okay, if you've read this far, you're probably pretty tough and you can take this one. Bill McKibben was one of the first to warn about global warming over twenty years ago. Now he claims, not only is global warming upon us but the Earth has been so fundamentally changed it might as well be referred to by a new name: Eaarth. "Our hope depends, McKibben argues, on scaling back — on building the kind of societies and economies that can hunker down, concentrate on essentials, and create the type of community (in the neighborhood, but also on the Internet) that will allow us to weather trouble on an unprecedented scale. Change — fundamental change — is our best hope on a planet suddenly and violently out of balance."
Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What To Do About It by Robert Glennon
-An easy-to-read, hopeful book about water crisis.
Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner.
-A famous book, written in the '80s about water. Very controversial in tone.
Water: Adapting to a New Normal by S. Postel
-There's also a shorter essay by this author that you can read here: www.scribd.com/document/63678768/WATER-Adapting-to-a-New-Normal-by-Sandra-Postel
The Last Drop by M. Specter
Omnivores Dilemma and Botany of Desire by Micahel Pollan
-Also Pollan wrote a really great essay in the New York Times to then president-elect Obama: michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/farmer-in-chief/
Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal by Tristram Stuart
-He also gave a Ted Talk:
On the Climate/ Energy/ Sustainable Living
Hot: Living the Next 50 Years on Planet Earth by Mark Hertsgaard
Farewell, My Subaru by Doug Fine
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Sleeping Naked is Green: How An Eco-Cynic Unplugged Her Fridge, Sold Her Car, and Found Love in 366 Days by Vanessa Farquharson
The Sustainability Revolution by Andres R. Edwards and David W. Orr
A Slow Fashion Diary