Category: If You Need It

Something Borrowed: Bridesmaid & Wedding Guest Dresses

This I Wear | Something Borrowed: Bridesmaid & Wedding Guest Dresses

It is the curse of the late 20s/early 30-something to have a wedding every single weekend during some months of the year. That time is now for me…or at least it was for the last few weeks. It’s been quiet here for a few reasons, but one reason is back-to-back weddings with travel required.

I have no reason to complain though. I’ve heard stories of friends and friends of friends with 10 weddings in a single year, which means all of their vacation days and disposable income goes towards celebrating others’ special days. Wedding-hopping might be fun for some, but I tend to prefer everything in moderation, including I-do’s.

I personally have been trying to wear one dress to several weddings, and I’m not alone. Fashion writer Lauren Sherman wore one dress to 10 weddings in a single year and she wrote about in the fantastic article, Say ‘Yes’ To The Dress: How To Make One Look Work For 10 Weddings. [And if you love this article, you should really sign up for her newsletter, Lauren in the Afternoon.]

But when seasons change or when you’re in the wedding, you might have trouble making something in your closet work for every event.

Lucky for me and you, I got a chance to try one dress rental option and explore another for my back-to-back weddings that helped me realize that I didn’t have to make any commitments just because someone else is celebrating theirs.

For the Bridesmaid: Union Station (formerly “Little Borrowed Dress”) is an NYC-based startup that rents made-in-NYC bridesmaid dresses. For a super affordable price, you’ll get one dress, a backup dress size, and paid shipping both ways. Plus, they’ll take care of cleaning the dress after the event for you. You and the bridal party can try on dresses in their NYC showroom or they’ll send you swatches in the mail. My amazingly go-with-the-flow super considerate girlfriend just used them for her wedding (this is only clue as to why I love this girl). By the end of the night, my dress was still looking fresh after hours of photos and dancing. My one warning though is that we all chose the “Kate”, and there was a lot of very unruly, very unexpected cleavage for those above an A-cup, even though we had tried the dresses on in person. Luckily, I don’t think Memaw noticed…

For the Wedding Guest: I had every intention of trying Rent the Runway for Wedding #2. There’s nothing really ethical about the dresses or designers they carry, but it is sustainable in the way that you borrow instead of buying a dress you’ll only wear once or twice. I spent some time exploring the dresses, but as a Rent the Runway first-timer, I realized I should have booked further in advance. The options for my size were really thin for my delivery and return dates, so I gave up and opted to dress up something I already had in my closet instead. Even though I struck out this time, I’ll keep this option in mind for future events. And perhaps in the meantime, they’ll start stocking more emerging designers and/or ethical fashion frocks (or has someone already invented that business?).

So tell me, is it wedding season for you too? I want to hear what you’re wearing to your upcoming special occasions, AND this is also the perfect occasion for you to tell us your bridesmaid dress nightmare stories in the Comments.

P.S. Summer is right around the corner. Just a quick heads up that I may be posting less frequently as I spend more time outside, and as with last year, I’ll be taking August off. Telling you now so we can all be prepared for this!

[Photos via Union Station and Rent the Runway]

7 Tips for Traveling Well

This I Wear | 7 Tips for Traveling Naturally

While I am ok with roughing it once I’ve reached a destination, I like to make sure the journey is pretty comfortable and in line with my routines at home. As I was flying back from New Orleans last week, drinking a cup of herbal tea, I realized how much more enjoyable travel becomes when we bring some of our home wellness habits with us. A good journey means we arrive at our destination relaxed, and return home still savoring the good memories of a trip.

My travel calendar is filling up for spring, and I have my heart set on a few summer trips already (does anyone know a good yoga retreat in Costa Rica?). As my at-home routine has become more health and self-care focused, I can’t imagine traveling without bringing these practices with me. Especially when there’s lots of travel on the horizon, it’s nice to know that you can still feel like a human even in an airport.

I hope you’re planning a few adventures, and if you are, here are my favorite tips to travel naturally and healthfully:

1. Travel with tea. Sugar, caffeine and alcohol are your worst enemies during a flight, especially when you’re going between time zones or seated for an extended period of time. Instead of a sugary in-flight beverage, I ask for a cup of hot water and use my own caffeine-free herbal tea bags that I pack in my carry-on. The experience of drinking tea is not only relaxing, but the aroma of the herbal blend freshens the air around you. If you’re like me and love something warming or spicy, try Yogi Tea Ginger or Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice.

2. Bring a cozy wrap from home. No little scarf or paper-thin airplane blanket will do when you’re freezing on a flight. A large wrap like this one from Study NY rolled up in your carry-on is easy to pack and can double as a blanket during transit. It’s also the perfect accessory once you reach your destination.

3. Opt for refillable containers to bring your natural body care with you. I used to use whatever shampoo a hotel supplied. Now that I’ve so carefully selected the safe and natural products I use at home, I stock up on small refillable containers (These mini Nalgene bottles have never let me down!) rather than purchasing travel size items or using hotel-supplied products. Bonus tip: In my carry-on, I always make sure to have hand sanitizer and a heavy duty hand cream to keep me fresh and moisturized during a flight

4. Don’t underestimate an eye mask (and earplugs). Sleep can be tough in unfamiliar environs and when you know you should sleep, but it’s hard. Pack an eye mask (like this option on Etsy) and earplugs to protect your sleep, both during travel and once you arrive at your destination.

5. Drink enough water. It’s hard when you’re in transit and out of your normal routine to remember to drink enough water. But water can kick jet lag to the curb and keep your body working when it’s under the stress of travel. Pack a reusable water bottle like this easy-to-clean and super lightweight Klean Kanteen version and fill it up at the airport after security. Then play a game – whenever you see your travel companion(s) drink water, you each have to take a gulp. It’s a helpful reminder and it keeps everyone mutually un-grouchy.

6. Carry a reusable bag that folds up. Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you should say yes to plastic bags. And with more cities charging for disposable bags, it’s a good time to start the habit of bringing one with you. Slip a fold up bag into your purse for day trips or bring a larger bag that folds up and stores in your luggage in case you plan to do some shopping.

7. Stay grounded with a yoga or meditation service. Whether you have a regular routine you want to keep up while you’re away from home or to stretch out if you will be doing lots of walking, try a service or app that will stream to your phone or tablet. I’ve been a yogaglo subscriber for 3 years, and I love taking a break for a 10-minute post travel grounding practice or a longer session to work out the travel aches. Recently I’ve been trying out the meditation app Headspace. It’s a great option for beginners and quickly brings a little calm to long days. I’ve also heard that vacation is the best time to start new habits, so if you aren’t meditating or practicing yoga yet, it’s a great opportunity to try it out.

So there you have it. Those are my travel tips, but I can’t wait to hear yours! What are your travel essentials? What at-home routines do you make time for during your travel? And most importantly, where are you headed this year?

Photo sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

If You Need It: Wool Sweaters

This I Wear | If You Need It: Wool Sweaters

It’s amazing how suddenly cooler temperatures have descended on the East Coast. My wardrobe is already transitioning to Fall and for me, this means cozy sweaters. And for most of us, cozy sweaters mean wool.

Wool is actually a pretty amazing fiber. It’s biodegradable, breathable, and a renewable resource since it grows right back on a healthy sheep.

Wool also doesn’t raise ethical flags for most people. While leather is often a byproduct of the meat industry, wool can be removed without killing the animal. Sheep and goats are sheared for their wool and then they hang around until the next shearing (though obviously living conditions can vary).

But there is one issue that I had never heard of until fairly recently, and I’m going to guess you haven’t either: mulesing. Merino sheep, specifically those raised in Australia, are prone to flystrike, when botflies burrow into the sheep’s “breech” (a nice way of saying, butt) to lay their eggs and the sheep die a slow painful death and…I won’t get into the details here. To protect the sheep from this terrible death, the farmers use the practice of mulesing in which they cut off a young sheep’s excess folds of skin around the rear. If that sounds like a nightmare-inducing lose-lose situation, it’s because it is.

PETA launched a campaign against mulesing several years ago, trying to get wool farmers to use alternative methods. Some options include breeding sheep that don’t have the folds and therefore aren’t as vulnerable to flystrike. At the very least, there is a plea for these farmers to use painkillers on the sheep during this practice. But also keep in mind that farmers don’t want their sheep to die from flystrike either – whether for ethical or financial reasons. From what I’ve learned, it’s a complex issue.

But there are ways to avoid the issue by purchasing mulesing-free wool.

First, companies can avoid sourcing merino wool from Australia, since its neighbor, New Zealand, does not practice mulesing. Ethical suppliers do exist in Australia, like NewMerino, which is based in Australia but certifies that their producers not only do not practice mulesing but also abide by other animal welfare standards. In addition, some companies, like Icebreaker, People Tree, Swedish brand Fjallraven, and even fast fashion brand Uniqlo, have publicly shared their commitment to sourcing mulesing-free wool, which makes it easy to know which sweaters are safe to buy.

In searching, I also discovered John Smedley, a UK brand founded in 1784 that has incorporated sustainability as one of its core values. The brand’s luxury merino wool sweaters are made of New Zealand merino wool to avoid mulesing and knit in the UK.

So if you’re shopping for sweaters this season, I recommend a great mulesing-free sweater from Uniqlo or John Smedley. And if you are out shopping, ask some questions if you see “merino wool” listed on the content label. I know this issue is not a happy one, but the more we ask, the more companies will make phasing out this practice a priority. And I’d like to think that happy sheep make cozier sweaters.

One important note: I recognize that I’m recommending a $30 sweater from Uniqlo in this post, which for many people may raise other questions related to ethics since it is a “fast fashion” company. But it’s also important to me to be super transparent with you, and I will say that (1) I hope this recommendation is helpful if this issue of mulesing is particularly important to you, (2) I’m offering this as a small step you can take to incorporate ethical decision-making into your clothing purchases, since 100% ethical clothing can still be difficult to find, and (3) I do occasionally buy basics from Uniqlo and they inexplicably last a very long time. That said, I welcome discussion on this!

[Images via John Smedley and Uniqlo.]

If You Need It: Organic Unmentionables

This I Wear | Organic Unmentionables

Photos via (left) PACT and (right) Hanky Panky. See below for links!

Yes, I said unmentionables. You were not expecting me to set you straight on what you’re wearing underneath your clothes today. But what better way to start building a sustainable wardrobe than stripping down to the basics?

A few weeks ago, I discovered that Hanky Panky, my favorite brand of pricey and in-demand women’s intimates, was now producing a “Cotton with a Conscience” line. And since this organic line is sold at the same price point as their conventional cotton line, this was one easy switch! I already knew that unlike the Gap Body intimates I’ve been buying for years, Hanky Panky’s pairs will last forever, which is both impressive and totally justifies the cost. So not only are these skivvies made to last, but they’re newly organic, incredibly comfortable, and, as always, made in America. It’s a great step forward for the company, and I hope they’ll share more about this conversion with their customers soon!

There are also quite a few options for the gents: PACT’s fair trade organic cotton boxer briefs win the day for style, but Pants to Poverty’s options are a close second. Both brands have women’s lines too.

As long as we’re getting down to the basics, we should also answer the very basic but often misunderstood question of why we should choose organic clothing. The argument for organic food is straightforward enough: when we spray pesticides on the food we grow, those chemicals enter our bodies when we eat conventionally-produced food. Eating organic food means keeping those pesticides out of our bodies.

The argument for organic fiber gets messier, but we can keep it simple. It is often debated, but at this point fairly accepted, that when we wear conventional fibers, pesticides are not seeping into our bodies through our skin. However, our health as well as the health of the farming communities, the environment, and wildlife can be directly impacted by pesticides that enter our air, water, and even our food. When we use pesticides, we introduce them to our ecosystems. From there, according to all laws of nature, they don’t just disappear – they have to go somewhere. Unfortunately, that “somewhere” can still be in our communities, since the US is the third largest cotton producing country in the world, and conventional cotton requires more insecticides than any other crop (read more here). And just when you thought you weren’t eating this conventional cotton, the truth is that cotton by-products do find their way into our diets from the cottonseed fed to cattle to the cottonseed oil used in processed foods. So at the end of the day, choosing organic cotton and other organic fibers means we’re taking a big step to keep ourselves and our communities pesticide-free, so we can all be a whole lot safer.

There are many more reasons to advocate for organic fiber, but we’ll keep it basic like our skivvies today. In the meantime, if you want more, read up on how PACT does a whole lot more than just use organic cotton and then check out TextileExchange’s quick fact sheet on organic cotton. And if you have a great organic cotton resource, I hope you’ll share.

If You Need It: Winter Accessories

This I Wear | If you need it: Winter Accessories

Lately, I’ve become really interested in what handmade even means these days, and I’m clearly not the only one. In these first few weeks of the year, “artisan” was named one of the “words for the dumpster” of 2013. And the concept of handmade became a hot topic this past fall when Etsy changed its seller rules to allow for outsourcing of production and hiring staff, as many Etsy success stories have outgrown the platform. This has led to some really fantastic conversations wondering if anything is truly handmade anymore and what that might mean (see NYTimes op-ed and this Rena Tom post).

But if you’re interested in engaging in slow fashion and supporting local makers, regardless of your definition of handmade, the perfect entry point is with winter accessories. And now that temperatures have continued to stay at face-freezing cold, it’s time to pull out the scarves, gloves, and hats.

So if you need it, here are a few of my favorite winter picks (clockwise from top left):

Handknit fingerless gloves, made in the USA, for United By Blue, a company that removes one pound of trash from oceans and waterways through company organized and hosted cleanups with each product sold.
A Peace Treaty cashmere and wool scarf, handwoven by artisan coops in Nepal.
Handknit Winter Hat by Emily of KnitSip, based in Illinois.

Stay warm!

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