What’s in Your Closet? {vlog}

So far in this series, we’ve discussed modern slavery and how to fight it, what ethical fashion accomplishes, and I showed you the ten things I’m wearing this month. This week let’s get personal, and practical. 
Every item in our closet tells a story… beyond where we bought it and what we wore it to. 
I decided to look in my closet to read the story behind the barcode of what I’ve bought. Note, I made this video a few weeks ago; that’s why my hair is considerably longer!
I was totally channelling that Capital One card commercial at the end.
Try it! I think you might be surprised by what you find! 
If you know you have a closet full of clothes, but still feel like you have nothing to wear, I recommend shopping your closet (the instructions are in the “homework” section). You might remember this from last year’s Fashion 101 series. I find it helpful to shop my closet once a season; looking at each item reminds me that it’s there, and inspires me to create new combinations. 
Have you shopped your closet recently? What’s the story behind the barcode on the things you buy?

Packing Light

There’s a perk to only wearing ten items of clothing: packing is super easy.

This weekend I’m heading up to a cabin by the lake for my church’s annual ladies’ retreat. I’m excited to  relax, take deep breaths of clean mountain air, make new friends, and just be still for a few days.

In years past, I made sure to pack my cutest clothes, accessories, and shoes for every conceivable occasion. I brought a bulging suitcase to a weekend in a mountain cabin. Looking at my puny bag for this year, I have to wonder, who did I think I needed to impress?

Well…everyone.

When I began wrestling with the idea of this challenge, the first thought that came to me was, “What will people think?” I worried that people would write me off as weird, radical, over-reacting, or self-righteous.

I thought about just not telling anybody I knew in real life what I was doing and just keeping it as a blog thing, but that seemed to defeat the purpose of raising awareness of human trafficking and mobilizing people to fight it.

A week before this series started, I had a moment of panic and thought about emailing all of my sponsors back, saying, “I can’t do this! People might think I’m weird!” I realized how ridiculous it sounded. But honestly, I’m still a little worried about what people will think of me when I show up to church wearing the same dress I wore the week before.

My need to impress runs deep. Packing for this weekend at the ladies retreat feels like ripping off a bandaid.

There’s going to be ladies there that I don’t know, and others that I don’t know well. I won’t be able to rely on an array of adorable outfits to make a good impression. Stripped of the option of people like me because of my cute clothes, I’m going to just have to be myself.

Honestly, that’s scary for me. I didn’t realize until this moment just how scary that is.

Technically with a 31 Day series, I’m supposed to blog every day, but I’m choosing to not post on Saturday and Sunday, to allow for some quiet and rest. So, that means I’ll let you know how it goes next Monday.

Pray for me?

Ethical Style: When It Clicked For Me

Stop Traffick Fashion interviewed me for their Everyday Abolitionists feature. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to share how I first learned about human trafficking and why I believe in ethical fashion. Although to a large degree, I feel unworthy of being included in the ranks of the other abolitionists featured, I’m truly honored.  
Read the whole interview here! And also, did you vote yet for my tenth item

Capsule Wardrobe: What I’m Wearing This Month

If you’re just joining us, welcome to 31 Days of Fashion for Freedom!

I’m wearing only 10 items this month to change the way I shop and fight human trafficking. And today I’m introducing my ten things!

1. Stop Traffick Fashion Tee

Stop Traffick Fashion sent me the Beloved Tee to wear, and it is 100% fair trade organic cotton. This tee was made in India by Freeset, “a fair trade business offering employment to women trapped in Kolkata’s sex trade.”


The tee states “Be Loved, Be Free.” A flock of freed birds flutter across the front. I forgot to take a picture of the back, but it features the STF logo on the back.

I’m wearing a large, because it is 100% cotton and I’m not sure how much it will shrink. I LOVE the color. As you can tell in the pictures, it’s a brilliant aqua blue. I like that it’s a “slim fit” shirt, meaning that it’s more fitted.

For your information, this shirt is now on sale! So are many of the tees STF offers, they’re getting ready for a new line of designs. So if you haven’t already, check out their tees!

3. Sevenly Tee

I bought this tee a few weeks ago, to support All Girls Allowed, an organization that fights forced abortions of girls in China and provide resources for orphaned girls. Sevenly sells a different tee shirt every week to support a new cause. Check out the past causes and designs here, and see what Sevenly’s doing this week.

I think the design is beautiful. I especially love the sentiment, “Live Life.” This tee is unbelievably soft, and produced in Los Angeles, California in a WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accreditation Production) certified factory, which “requires not only clean ethical cotton fields and sweat-shop-free manufacturing, but quarterly inspections of healthy workplace standards, and environmentally friendly products.” Sevenly states on their tees that they are a fair trade company.

 4. Thrift Store Tunic

This particular tunic was a find from a thrift store in Iowa; you might remember it. I wore this yesterday, and let me tell you, it is WARM. I wore it with the sleeves rolled up, but it can also be worn with them down. 

5. Grey Tank Top

This tank top has been in my drawers since early high school. At one point it had a fine sheen of glitter, but that’s long gone now. I think I got it at JC Pennys. It’s one of the ten so that I have something to wear under the thrift store tunic and Sevenly tee, as well as to work out in and sleep in. Yeah, it’s going to get washed a lot this month!

6. FashionABLE scarf

The lovely folks at FashionABLE sent me the Bezuayhu scarf to keep me warm this month! I’ll share more about FashionABLE in another post next week. Every scarf they sell provides sustainable business for women in Africa.

“Because of you, I am ABLE to Look forward to my future. Thank you, Bezuayhu”
Each scarf design is named after one of the women whose life has been transformed by working for FashionABLE. Each scarf comes with a handwritten note from the woman who made it, along with a picture. I don’t usually save the tags from clothes, but I’m probably going to save this one forever.

7. Bootcut Jeans

The dark wash jeans I’m wearing in every picture of me above are my favorite pair, and that’s why they’re one of the ten. They’re from Charlotte Russe, and I spent the most money I’ve ever spent on a pair of jeans on them: $30. I really wanted to find some fair trade jeans, but I thought since part of the point of this series is to stop buying so much, I should use what I already have. Baby steps, people!

But, if you happen to work for someplace that makes ethical jeans, and you’d like to send me some, hit me up! 🙂

8. Black Knit Capris

I thought about going to bed pant-less every night. However, I don’t think the women at the ladies’ retreat I’m going to this weekend would appreciate it, and those days when I’m lounging around eating breakfast when the maintenance men knock on the door would be 500 times more awkward. So these are here for casual days at home, sleeping, exercising, and when my jeans are in the laundry.

9. TOMs Shoes

The all-mighty Toms! I bought these at Ron Jon’s Surf Shop at Coco Beach in Florida a few weeks ago. At the time, I’d been wearing mostly sandals, and after a day at Epcot, my feet were KILLING me. I bought these shoes and breathed a gigantic sigh of relief. They provided just enough support and cushioning for my feet. 
While I usually don’t spend $44 on shoes, Toms gives a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased. So I think of it like they’re only $22.

10. Francesca’s Collections Dress

I wore this dress for my college graduation, and it’s one of my favorites. It’s made in the USA, and while that doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t made in a sweatshop, it is less likely, especially because it wasn’t cheap. Although I have a thrift store make-over dress, I picked this one because it is so versatile. You can wear it dressy or casual, with scarves, belts, or sweaters.

Speaking of which, a sweater is not one of my ten things. Hm.

10. ?

Yep. Question mark is right. After planning, emailing, asking on Facebook, and thinking some more, I cannot decide on the tenth item. 
For awhile I planned to have a pair of shorts. After asking on Facebook how often people washed their jeans, most said after 3-4 wears, or once a week. So, I think it’s doable to just have the jeans and knit capris. Jen Hatmaker did a similar month long experience, but with only seven things, and she only had one pair of jeans and a pair of gray knit drawstring shorts. If Jen could do it, I can too, right? 
Plus, I think I need another shirt more than I need another pair of bottoms. But what shirt? 
A long sleeved tee from Old Navy: 
Or, a Good&Fair Clothing tee. 
Short sleeved or long sleeved? Fair trade or Old Navy? In my closet now, or order online and wait for it? These are the questions I’ve been wrestling with for weeks now. Let’s decide it once for all today!
Keep in mind, I live in Phoenix. It’s 100 degrees outside today. However, the month is expected to end in the low 80’s, with lows at night at 52. This weekend I’m going up to the mountains for a women’s retreat, where the high is 82 and the low is 49. Also keep in mind that I’m usually cold when everyone else is comfortable. Also remember that I already have that surprisingly warm tunic and a thick scarf (#6). 
Cast your vote! 
Although they don’t count as clothing items, I did receive a couple of special accessories that I can’t wait to share with you! I’ll show you those next week.

Now I want to know, if you had to pick ten items from your closet to wear for a month, what would you pick?

What is Ethical Fashion?

Let’s answer a few burning questions: “what is ethical fashion?” and tomorrow, “If you’re only wearing ten things, what ARE you wearing?”

What Is Ethical Fashion?

Ethical fashion includes clothes whose makers seek to address at least one (but usually more) of the issues involved in fashion today.- Stop Traffick Fashion

Ethical Fashion aims to address the problems it sees with the way the fashion industry currently operates, such as exploitative labor, environmental damage, the use of hazardous chemicals, waste, and animal cruelty. – Victoria and Albert Museum

The museum expanded on some of the issues involved with fashion today:

Serious concerns are often raised about exploitative working conditions in the factories that make cheap clothes for the high street.
Child workers, alongside exploited adults, can be subjected to violence and abuse such as forced overtime, as well as cramped and unhygienic surroundings, bad food, and very poor pay. The low cost of clothes on the high street means that less and less money goes to the people who actually make them.
Cotton provides much of the world’s fabric, but growing it uses 22.5% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of the world’s pesticides, chemicals which can be dangerous for the environment and harmful to the farmers who grow it. (Ethical Fashion Forum)
The low costs and disposable nature of high street fashion means that much of it is destined for incinerators or landfill sites. The UK alone throws away 1 million tones of clothing every year. (Waste Online)
Many animals are farmed to supply fur for the fashion industry, and many people feel that their welfare is an important part of the Ethical Fashion debate.

Some companies choose to focus on one aspect, such as environmental concerns, while others focus on providing a fair wage, but most of the issues are connected. For example, using certain chemicals may be bad for the environment, but they might also create a hazardous and unsafe workplace in the factory.

There are several types of ethically made clothing to address those specific issues:

  • Vegan: not made with any animal products, such as leather
  • Ethically produced: includes fair trade and organic certifications, clothing made with respect for people and the environment
  • Craft/Artisan: skillfully handmade products
  • Custom: made-to-order, “slow” fashion
  • Recycled: made from existing materials, often former garments reworked into new ones
  • Vintage/Second hand: using what’s already in the system, and supporting local communities and businesses

In this series, we’ll talk about several of those types of ethical clothing, especially focusing on ethically produced, craft/artisan, recycled, and vintage/second hand. Not that I don’t care about animals, because I am an animal lover, but for the purposes of this series, I’m focusing on people.

So, what am I wearing this month? Come back tomorrow to find out!

Are you already buying any of the types of ethically produced clothes mentioned above? Tell us if and why you do in the comments! 

Modern Slavery, What It Is and How to Fight It

She wore a low cut tank top and cut off short shorts and looked about fourteen. He had a gun.

They sat a few tables away from us at Taco Bell, and I might not have noticed them except that Brian nodded in their direction, and whispered, “That holster is illegal in the United States.” Something about being spring-loaded but that was a nice Glock.

Now, this is Arizona. Everyone and their dog conceals and carries, and the right to bear arms is a big deal. With that said, in the entire time I’ve lived here I’ve only seen two other people carrying guns out in the open in holsters around their waists, and they were both plain clothes policemen.

This man was not a policemen. Short and stocky with salt and pepper hair, he and the girl across from him made an odd duo. Her long, dirty blond hair was pulled back into a pony-tail, her clothes and skin were dirty. They finished eating quickly, but I could see them through the window as they climbed into a white van with a licence plate that read: “Bad Boy.”

 At least 100,000 children are trafficked every year in the United States.*Phoenix is the largest concentration of sex trafficking in the country, with approximately 200-300 child sex slaves currently in the Phoenix area.*

This is my city, people. This is happening in my backyard.

I didn’t think I’d ever seen evidence of human trafficking, until that day at Taco Bell.

Was she actually in trouble? Did she need my help? Those questions will always haunt me.

Today, I’m not going to overwhelm you with statistics and facts. There’s two you should know:

*Due to the underground nature of trafficking, it’s impossible to give exact numbers, but most experts agree on these approximate statistics. 
Human trafficking is the world’s fastest growing organized crime, with a market value of $3.2 billion, according to the UN. 

There are eight forms of human trafficking:
 forced labor
• sex trafficking
• bonded labor
• debt bondage among migrant laborers
• involuntary domestic servitude
• forced child labor
• child soldiers
• child sex trafficking

According to Stop Traffick Fashion:

Human trafficking is the fastest growing form of international crime and the second largest source of income for organized crime, surpassing even the drug trade….Although the name suggests it, human trafficking doesn’t necessarily involve transporting victims. People can be trafficked on the same street they grew up on.
Human trafficking, also known as modern-day slavery, is driven by coercion and exploitation. Physical force and violence often are part of the crime, but sometimes the oppression comes through psychological or emotional manipulation, insurmountable debt, immigration or other legal threats, or blackmail.

The challenge of fighting such a great evil can seem insurmountable, but there is hope. 

So how do ordinary people like us fight human trafficking? Knowledge is power. The place to start is with educating yourself. Find out…

Then, share with others what you’ve found. I recommend these sites:

Stop Traffick Fashion for an overview of trafficking and the connection to the fashion industry

Polaris Project for detailed information about US trafficking, victims, legislation, and getting involved

Not For Sale news about trafficking, stories of survivors, and resources
And, join me for the whole 31 day series! Tomorrow, we’ll find out how you can fight traffick through fashion. Ethical fashion, that is. 
What did you find out today, from this post or the links above, that you didn’t know before? What questions can I help answer for you about human trafficking? Share your thoughts with us below. 

10 Items, One Month: New Series!

I don’t care much about clothes. I’m not a super girly girl. I prize comfort over style. I’m fine with a simple uniform of a nice fitted tee layered over a coordinating tank top, boot cut jeans, and cute flats.

At least, that’s what I always thought. Then, I actually decided to count my clothes.

I almost had a conniption.* For someone who claims not to care much about clothes, my closet tells quite another story. In fact, it loudly screams “LIAR LIAR PANTS ON FIRE!”

354.

That’s AFTER taking two garbage bag loads to Goodwill. And that number doesn’t even include my underwear and sock drawer, which is crammed to bursting.

Who really needs 354 choices of attire? Seriously?

Here’s what really makes me sick: if I spent $10 per item, that comes to $3,540. But realistically, it’s more likely that the average is $20 per item, which comes to $7,080.

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
-Matthew 6:21

 So I’ve been saying, “I can’t help those people because I don’t have a lot of money,” while investing $7,080 in my closet. Something is wrong with this picture. So I’m wearing only ten items this month because:

  • I’ve got to change. Not just for simplicity’s sake. Not just for my peace of mind or to relieve my conscience. Not just because we’re moving to a smaller place. Because I’m called to something higher, a better way of living that values people more than things.
  • Deprived of the crutch of finding my identity through what I own, I want to learn to lean on my Savior for the things I look for from clothes: happiness, acceptance, and confidence.

But that’s only half the story of why I’m wearing ten clothing items this month.

After hearing two sermons back to back on James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows…”. I think of orphans and widows as being those who are most vulnerable in our society. I used to assume I was neutral towards them,  but then I asked myself the hard question: Am I participating in the exploitation of children when I shop at stores that oppress them by using child labor and forced labor? 

Because Biblically, that’s a big deal. 

I was pretty much terrified to look into it, afraid of what I might
find, afraid of having to change, and really, afraid of the inconvenience the
truth might create. Buying indiscriminately was so easy. However, laziness and complacency don’t mesh well with true
religion, and in the end, my desire to love like Jesus is winning out.
I’m so glad that I’ve taken the time to educate myself about
the issues, because what I’ve found is that it’s not nearly as hard as I
thought to make a difference.

This month, I’m doing a different sort of fashion series. I’m blogging 31 Days of Fashion for Freedom. The goal is to
raise awareness for human trafficking and encourage others to change the way
they shop by providing information, resources, and practical ways to make a
difference, followed by a charity auction of my clothes AND giveaways from several ethical clothing companies. 

Notice the stress on “practical.” Because you know what the research I’ve done on ethical fashion has shown me? It’s not that hard to make a difference.

Are you excited yet?! I’m bursting at the seams to begin! But first, I need to make you a promise.

I promise this is not going to be a big guilt trip. Although guilt can be a powerful weapon, its results aren’t long term. Plus, there’s no point in guilt tripping you, when I’m every bit as much of a mess (or more so!) than you are.

I can’t promise that this is always going to be easy. I can promise that it will be worth it.

“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.” ― Mother Teresa

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ -Jesus 

Will you join me for 31 Days of Fashion for Freedom? 

*This word does not mean what I thought it meant. Its not “heart attack,” but apparently, a fit of emotion?! Who knew?

Week 1: Be Informed
1. 10 Items, One Month: New Series! 

Week 2: Take Action

3. The Fair Trade Difference

Week 3: Where to Shop

Looking Ahead to October

Whew! I’m trying to catch my breath after our trip to Florida for my SIL’s wedding, followed by a day at Epcot and a day at the beach, then home to pack like crazy so that we can move TOMORROW.

One of many pictures from Epcot

On top of that, some great things are coming soon on the blog in October! Like I mentioned, this October I’m doing another fashion series, but this time with a twist. I’m going to wear only ten items of clothes for the whole month, 31 days. The purpose is twofold:

  1. To fast from my materialistic tendencies and get to the root of why I buy, and change my focus from outward to inward, confidence and satisfaction from God and not stuff. 
  2. To raise awareness for human trafficking and ethical fashion, focusing on simple changes anyone can make to fight slavery, today.

I’ll be introducing you to several wonderful companies that are actively changing the world through the clothes they sell, AND there will be giveaways! Woot!

I’ll tell you lots more about it later, but I’m very excited about the way God’s directed this series so far and is bringing it together. I think great things will happen!

The Inconvenience of True Religion

Ever have a nagging thought that lurks in the corners of your mind, and Just. Won’t. Go. Away?

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)

It’s a familiar passage, and one of my favorites. When Pastor Roger preached on it last Sunday, the following conversation happened.

Pastor Roger: (paraphrased) Orphans and widows represent those who are most vulnerable and needy in our society. It’s evident that they are very important to God. Proverbs lists dire consequences for those who oppress the orphans.

Me: (in my head) Well, at least I don’t oppress them. Maybe I don’t help them too much either, but I’m just neutral.”

Nagging Thought: Who makes your clothes?

Me: Who, me? What clothes? Huh?

Nagging Thought: Who makes them?!

Me: I haven’t ever really thought about it much.

Nagging Thought: But you’ve heard things…you’ve heard of child slavery, sweatshops, and forced labor, and you’ve also heard that that’s the reason companies can afford to make clothes so cheap.

Me: Ok…Yes. I have heard rumors of such things. But what does this have to do with me?

Nagging Thought: You love cute cheap clothes. Are your cheap clothes made on the backs of those most vulnerable in society today?

Me: I don’t think I want to know.

Nagging Thought: Are you participating in the exploitation of women and children by mindlessly buying cute cheap clothes?

Me: Everyone else buys cheap clothes! Besides, I don’t have a ton of clothes. And it’s important to be frugal. And how could I even know if my clothes were made by slaves? I’m done talking about this.

Nagging Thought: Ok, but I’m not going to go away.

And it didn’t.

According to this article, clothes not made in the US, Canada, or European countries have a strong chance of being made through slave labor. And this informative page says “Serious concerns are often raised about exploitative working conditions in the factories that make cheap clothes for the high street. Child workers, alongside exploited adults, can be subjected to violence and abuse such as forced overtime, as well as cramped and unhygienic surroundings, bad food, and very poor pay. The low cost of clothes on the high street means that less and less money goes to the people who actually make them.”

 Behind the Barcode from Free2Work on Vimeo.

Am I participating in the exploitation of children when I shop at stores that oppress them? Because Biblically, that’s a big deal. 

I think we will be held accountable for what we do with what we know. And honestly, that makes me scared to research the issue, because I like me some cheap clothes! And more than anything, I don’t like to be inconvenienced. I don’t think any of us do. So it’s easier not knowing. But laziness and complacency don’t really sound like true religion, do they?

And there’s also the nagging doubt that what I do doesn’t make any bit of difference, since I’m only one person. But I read this quote the other day that sums it up well,

“If God is really at the center of things and God’s good future is the most certain reality, then the truly realistic course of action is to buck the dominant consequentialist ethic of our age- which says that we should act only if our action will most likely bring about good consequences- and simply, because we are people who embody the virtue of hope, do the right thing…Our vocation is not contingent on results or the state of the planet. Our calling simply depends on our identity as God’s response-able human image-bearers.”

I need to do more research, but if the answer is what I think it is, it could mean the way I shop will be forever changed.

Have you ever been afraid of knowing too much, and being faced with a choice? Because that’s where I’m at, folks.