Tagged: tops

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.]


This I Wear | The White Shirt

Last week, I had a very interesting experience in the form of a reading, which I can’t quite explain. And no, I’m not talking about books. It wasn’t astrology and she’s not a psychic, but it was a really powerful experience, despite the fact that I am, in general, a very skeptical person.

I won’t go into too much detail since I’m not really sure how much of it to take to heart nor do I want you to think I’m one of those people who goes around looking for these sorts of things. But one of my favorite parts of the reading was when she told me that I’m in a period of compression – like a seed that will eventually bloom (what’s not to love?). And because I’m in this time of compressing, it’s the perfect time to shed the things that aren’t working for me anymore – negative thoughts, relationships that have run their course, and things in my closet.

Little did she know that I’m already living quite the minimal life, but it was a great reminder to not hold on too tight to things that aren’t working, but instead to loosen my grip and see where things go.

This week, I’m compressing my computer. It’s been on the fritz for a little while, so after I back it up in just a few more places for safety, it’s getting a fresh start.

Before I head offline and clean up this tech, I thought I’d share a little inspiration along the same topic of compression and the search for simplicity.

One of my favorite things on Pinterest is the search for timeless style (in fact, I have a whole board devoted to it!). I love looking for style inspiration, but I also always ask myself when I see an outfit I love if I think I’d still love it in a year, in two years, etc. It’s good practice for continuing my search for my own style and for improving my own abilities to see past trends and focus on the classics.

And one theme I find myself constantly being drawn to? A great button-down shirt. Whether you roll up the sleeves or tie the ends in a knot, there are endless ways to style a button down. And one in a crispy white will never go out of style.

What wardrobe staples make up timeless style for you?

Photos via Pinterest: one, two, three

My Closet: Denim Shirts & Unexpected Love

This I Wear | My Closet: Denim Shirts & Unexpected Love

It’s a classic meet-cute: you’re in a store, you look around and suddenly you lock eyes. The two of you cannot stop looking at each other. You think “should I or shouldn’t it?” You feel butterflies, but you go for it anyway. You make the move, and it’s clear from that day forward: it was love at first sight.

Quick: name all the items in your closet where it was instantaneous love. It’s probably pretty easy. And if you go by my shopping motto (if you don’t absolutely love it, don’t buy it), then most of your closet is made up of those “love at first sight” pieces.

But what about those pieces that you don’t fall in love with immediately? The sneaky ones that you were on the fence about or bought in a pinch, but over time, you realize you are wearing them everyday? But one day, you wake up and realize “I’m in love”, even though you never saw it coming. Don’t we all wish we could predict these unexpected love affairs?

If my shopping motto is “if you don’t love it, don’t buy it”, my Valentine’s Day motto is “everyday should be Valentine’s Day”, which I learned from a particularly insightful friend years ago that has both caused me never to feel inclined to celebrate Valentine’s Day and reminded me to show love everyday.

And every day, I love denim shirts.

When denim shirts first became popular around 2010, I was really skeptical. I thought it was overly hipster. I thought it would never catch on. And I definitely thought I would never wear one. A few years later, I am now the proud of owner of TWO denim shirts and a frequent wearer of (*gasp*) denim on denim. How did I never see this coming, when today, it is practically my uniform?

On the day I bought my first denim shirt in 2010, I was in an H&M with a friend who was in from out of town and her friend. I was having trouble keeping up with their shopping and wandered off on my own. There was no meet-cute, but instead a few skeptical glances exchanged, lots of internal monologue, and finally the reach to grab it of the rack. When I rejoined with my friend in the long line for the fitting room, I was so unsure of my denim shirt idea that I actually remember not wanting her to see what I had picked up. I was totally embarrassed of trying out this trend. So instead, I abandoned her in the fitting room line and bought the shirt WITHOUT TRYING IT ON (this is just not how I operate). The whole scenario was filled with shame, confusion, and impulsivity.

But to everyone’s surprise, including my own (and probably H&M’s), I am still living in that shirt nearly 4 years later, since I still love it and it has lasted against all odds. Truly it has been an unexpected love that shows no signs of slowing down, but instead has constantly reinvented itself.

For all of us searching for love in our closets, I can only say that I have yet to solve the mystery of how to let ourselves grow into styles, to take risks, and to follow our seemingly irrational gut, especially when I believe so strongly in shopping intentionally. Only time will tell if I will be still looking like a Canadian cowboy by the time I close this case.

Share your unexpected loves in the comments below or tweet @ThisIWear.

My Closet: The Oldest Thing I still wear

This I Wear | The oldest thing I still wear

My mom has always had a bountiful wardrobe. When I was growing up, I’d sit on the laundry hamper in her closet as she was picking out her clothes, and I’d say things like “You have a lot of shoes!” or “Why do you have so many clothes!?” And she would say something to the extent of “Because once you stop growing, your things will fit you for a longtime.” My concern, of course, was that it was already the mid to late 1990s, and she still owned way too many blazers with shoulder pads, but I understood what she meant.

My closet is not like my mom’s yet. I reached my final height (“short”) around 8th grade, but my weight has fluctuated by a size or two and my taste has as well. As I’ve moved from place to place, my style tends to adapt to each city’s new dress code and my latest lifestyle needs. I am not yet at a place where I am keeping clothes “forever.”

But I do have one really old shirt that I am confident is the oldest thing I own and still wear regularly. In fact, I believe it was purchased the same year I stopped getting any taller, which means the shirt is at least 13 years old. I’m not old, so it is scary to think anything in my closet has been with me that long, even if there was no planned long-term commitment.

The shirt is from Gap’s golden age, when it was the place to go for dancing khakis, logo t-shirts, and things we saw as distinctly American basics: polos, white t-shirts, jeans, and, of course, khaki everything. It was during this era that I bought this shrunken Oxford shirt with a little hint of stretch and three-quarter length sleeves. In college, I wore it to class with jeans. Post-college, I’d wear it to work with a pencil or mini skirt or even layered under a dress. And in laid-back New Orleans, it is perfect with a pair of dressy shorts or colored denim.

With every closet clean-out, this shirt slipped by undetected. I never thought about how old it was or questioned if it was still in style. Every once in awhile, I forget it exists until I rediscover it in my closet and wear it again. But the shirt looks the same as it did the day I bought it 13 years ago and possibly fits me even better today, so it hangs on in my closet and does its job when required. It has proven to me that age doesn’t determine the wearability of a piece and that the perfect basic in your wardrobe doesn’t have to be particularly special or memorable, it just needs to be made right to last. So as tempting as it is to clear out the old, some pieces should be allowed to stick around.

What is the oldest thing in your closet? Comment below or tweet @ThisIWear to share your story.

My Closet: Grandpa Sweater + the Art of Staying Warm

My Closet: Grandpa Sweater | This I Wear

When you grow up in New Orleans, you only know two seasons (hot and less hot), wool is a foreign concept, and the last snow you experienced was in the final snoball of summer.

In college, I migrated north to Washington DC, a town that isn’t quite sure if it’s in the North or the South but is undoubtedly colder than the Big Easy. I bought my first real coat, a pair of long underwear, and enough wool socks for a Canadian winter. It took me awhile to learn how to enjoy cold, and even longer, to learn how to look good while cold.

The answer was, of course, knee-high boots, ladylike wool coats, big knit scarves, and cozy sweaters. When I first started dressing for the cold, my newness was apparent: my body was barely discernible under the multitude of clothing layers. But after a couple of years and a move to Manhattan, I got the hang of it. And then I got this sweater.

It arrived at work. I opened the box immediately. My job back then was far from enjoyable, so a package like this could in fact change the outlook of my day. I remember my friend had just arrived, and we were headed out the door together for the evening. I took a quick peek inside the box, was happy with what I saw, and shoved it into my bag for later inspection.

It had been an online J.Crew sale purchase, somewhat impulsive but filled the gap of 100% wool items in my wardrobe. I was still new to NYC, and my wardrobe was starting to drift towards grayscale. But this grandpa sweater makes me feel happy, adorable and warm. I suddenly feel like a Northerner; someone born and bred in the snow, who knows what snow tires are, how to light a fireplace, and does other Northern things. Yes, an octogenarian might be just as likely to wear a sweater like this, but I promise, I look way cuter in it.

Since I’ve moved back to New Orleans, this sweater has hung sadly in the closet within a safe distance of some cedar hangers. But sometimes, when the a/c has been turned carelessly low, I put this sweater on to remind me of where I’ve been. It’s a reminder of colder places, unhappy jobs that I escaped from, and all the ugly sweaters I wore before I found my Northern stride.

Comment below or tweet @ThisIWear and share what piece you can’t wait to wear this Fall/Winter.

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