inside out

Inside Out Challenge: Giving Up Convenience for Fair Trade

The Inside Out Ethical Fashion Challenge 2016 | Trés Belle

I’m starting to realize one of the most difficult parts about exclusively buying fair trade fashion: You can’t just “run out real quick and grab ____.”

This realization recently hit home when I was preparing for a big meeting at work. As I was putting together my outfit the night before, I noticed how my tan belt was worn and frayed and looked as though it might snap in half. No problem, I thought, I’ll just run by Target on the way to work tomorrow and pick up a new one. 

Well actually, no. No I won’t. Because I’ve committed to this fair trade deal.

My mind started turning frantically. I can’t wear a black belt with this because I’m wearing nude shoes. Black shoes wouldn’t look half as good with this outfit. There’s nowhere within driving distance where I can find a tan belt tomorrow morning before work, and I don’t have time to order something online. Agh!

Honestly, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that not having a tan colored belt was a fashion dilemma for me. Yes, the nude shoes and belt would have looked smashing with the outfit. But the black shoes and belt looked just fine, and no one else noticed the difference. If there’s one thing this challenge is teaching me, it’s that, for the most part, I already have more than enough, and I still look fine even when I don’t look like I stepped off the runway. I’m just not willing to compromise on my values anymore in order to have a closet full of beautiful clothes.

Takeaways: 1) Learning contentment is a process. 2) Buying fair trade does not always fit nicely with the convenience-driven American lifestyle. 3) People > clothes. Always.

Thoughts, beauties?

Xoxo Laura

P.S. – You can catch more Inside Out Challenge posts here.

Inside Out Challenge: Shopping When You Can’t Shop

Well hey there, long lost friends! After a brief hiatus on the blog while I was studying for and taking my social work clinical licensure exam (I passed!! Happy dance!), I am back at it with an update on how the Inside Out fair trade fashion challenge is going. Spoiler alert: pretty well.

The Inside Out Ethical Fashion Challenge 2016 | Trés Belle

My first experience shopping since I started the challenge occurred a mere two days into the new year. My sister, her boyfriend, and my parents came to visit hubs and I at our new house for New Year’s and my mom’s birthday. Naturally, we wanted to show everyone around a bit, and Mom had a few shops she wanted to check out. Me, Mom, and sis headed downtown and to Cameron Village to get our shopping fix.

I was a little worried that it was going to be difficult to stand by and watch while the others tried on and bought beautiful clothes (at some of my favorite stores, no less). However, I was pleasantly surprised at how freeing it was to not be able to shop. I didn’t have to sort through giant racks of clothes. I didn’t have to make difficult budgeting decisions. And I didn’t come home with a dent in my wallet!

The lack of fair trade clothing options in Raleigh actually gave me a sense of…relief? Rather than coming home with more clutter to add to my closet, I came home with an aura of peacefulness and a sense of having more than enough. Abstaining from shopping, though not necessarily the goal of this challenge, has given me clarity on the difference between needs and wants. I am finding that I am more grateful for the things that I do have when I’m not constantly buying more, more, more.

Stay tuned for more Inside Out updates coming soon to a blog near you! To take a peek at previous Inside Out posts, click here.

Xoxo Laura

Inside Out Challenge: A Note on Privilege

The Inside Out Ethical Fashion Challenge 2016 | Trés Belle

As a social worker, I talk and think about privilege a lot. “Privilege” was probably the most used word during my time at the UNC School of Social Work. So, as I begin this challenge of exclusively purchasing fair trade fashion and accessories for the next year, I can’t help but think about how much easier this challenge is for me because of the many privileges I have.

For example, I have privilege in that I am extremely wealthy compared to most of the world and already have a closet full of clothes, shoes, bags, and jewelry. It’s not like this challenge is going to be super hard since I already own approximately 100 shirts. Can’t find anywhere that sells fair trade bras? No big shake, ’cause I already have a drawer full of them. Heck, if I really wanted to, I could probably get by for several more years without buying a single new item of clothing.

(Side note: If you thought I was exaggerating when I said 100 shirts, you thought wrong. I just went and counted. This does not include camisoles. I challenge you all to go count your own blouses, sweaters, cardigans, t-shirts, etc. RIGHT NOW.)

Socioeconomic privilege also plays into my ability to purchase fair trade clothing in the first place. You aren’t going to find $10 shirts that weren’t made in sweatshops. To afford fair trade clothing, you’ve got to have some spending money. Which I’m lucky enough to have.

My ability to research ethical fashion and locate fair trade companies depends on Internet access,  spare time, and ability. Again, a reminder of my privilege.

All this to say, I want to publicly recognize that this challenge would not be possible for many, and nearly every day I am grateful for the privileges I do have. My hope is that my choices as a consumer this year help to level the privilege playing field for others.

xoxo Laura

(Jeans photo credit: public domain image)

The Inside Out Challenge: Ethical Fashion in 2016

Happy New Year, belles! Are any of you making resolutions for 2016? I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions, though I do set personal goals for myself from time to time, and I almost always give something up or take on a new practice for Lent. This year, however, I’m kicking off 2016 with the Inside Out Challenge, which my friend Traci and I have created to explore ethical fashion and natural beauty products. We will be blogging about our experiences and invite you to follow along and/or join us (more on that below!).

The Inside Out Ethical Fashion Challenge 2016 | Trés Belle

I’ve known for years that many clothing companies use child and slave labor in their supply chains or pay foreign workers unfair wages. We all see it in the media from time to time when companies like Nike get exposed for supporting sweatshops. It didn’t sit well with me, but I also wasn’t sure about alternatives, and most of the time it was out of sight, out of mind. A few years ago I stumbled upon Slavery Footprint and was appalled by how many slaves I had working for me in various supply chains. I fired off emails to several companies (and amazingly, actually got a few responses!), then got busy with graduate school and never did anything serious about it. Given the choice at Whole Foods, I would typically choose the fair trade product, but that was about it.

Then, this past November, I read 7.

Traci selected it for our monthly book club, and heavens, am I glad she did. I am not kidding when I say it changed my life, in many ways that I’m only beginning to wrap my head around. Best believe, y’all will be hearing about this book more on the blog in the future.

really got me thinking about the choices I make with my money as a consumer, especially in regards to clothing. Simply put, it got me fired up about ethical fashion.

For the duration of 2016, I am choosing to only purchase fair trade fashion. This includes clothing, shoes, and accessories for myself as well as gifts for others. No ifs, ands, or buts. The only exception I will make is if the purchase is required in some way (i.e. a bridesmaid dress or a volunteer t-shirt). I honestly don’t foresee any of these “required” purchase in my 2016, though.

I am approximately 99% super excited about this and 1% nervous. I am taking the values I hold on the inside (social justice, belief in the value and worth of all human beings) and physically wearing them on the outside. I can’t wait to see how this challenge changes me from the inside out. And I can’t wait to share about it with y’all!

Traci’s doing something a little different with natural beauty products, and she’ll be sharing more about that on her blog soon.

The Inside Out Ethical Fashion Challenge 2016 | Trés Belle

Join in with us if you’d like, even if just for a month or a purchase or two, using the hashtag #2016insideout.

xoxo Laura

(Jeans photo credit: public domain image)

Inside Out Challenge: The Forgotten Black T-Shirt

The Inside Out Ethical Fashion Challenge 2016 | Trés Belle

Two weeks before Christmas (so three weeks before I kicked off the Inside Out Challenge), I got slapped with a giant reminder of just how horrible my consumerism had become.

I had purchased a vest for my sister at the outlets in Blowing Rock several months before and stowed the shopping bag in a closet for safe keeping. One night, I was wrapping up Christmas presents and pulled the bag out so I could wrap the vest. Lifting the vest out, I noticed there was something laying under it in the bag. I reached in and pulled out a black t-shirt from Gap that I had purchased for myself and completely forgotten about.

Inside Out Ethical Fashion Challenge: The Forgotten Black T-Shirt | Trés Belle

I stared at the shirt in a horrific “aha” moment as I began to feel sick to my stomach. I don’t think of myself as a shopaholic or big spender, and yet here I was exemplifying everything that is wrong with our consumeristic, fast fashion culture. With a $5 price tag, it seemed pretty likely that the shirt was made by poorly paid workers in an underdeveloped country (more on whether or not this is true coming to a future blog post near you!). After purchasing said cheap shirt, I proceeded to completely forget that I bought it. Clearly this was not something I needed, as I had not thought about it for months. I had literally forgotten I even owned it, and here it was, never used.

I’m ready to be more responsible with my buying choices. I’m sick of the flippant consumer I’ve become. It’s time for a change.

Who’s with me? Join and/or follow along as I exclusively purchase fair trade fashion in 2016!

xoxo Laura


(Jeans photo credit: public domain image)