The True Cost of Our Clothes

If you watch one thing this week please make it The True Cost.  It’s streaming on Netflix right now, which is where I ran across it.  This powerful documentary shows us the real cost of our clothes – the disregard of worker rights, the environment – all for cheap, disposable, trendy fashion (fast fashion).

This movie opened my eyes to how much I am contributing by purchasing from environmental and socially irresponsible companies.

I did some more research and found lots of great blogs including Life, Style, Justice that has this wonderful guest post on the garment industry.

Thankfully, it’s easy to change the way we shop!

From this day forward I will strive to have at least 80% of my clothes come from ethical companies.  I will define ethical companies as companies that use at least one if not more of the following: organic fabrics, fair trade practices, socially responsible factories, USA made, and donations to social/environmental causes.

I plan to continue my Five Piece French Wardrobe Challenge, because I believe that having a small wardrobe is also an important step in a sustainable direction.  The tools I learned here about a minimalist wardrobe are still completely relevant.



FPFW: What I’m Learning from My Downsized Wardrobe

I’m now three months into my Five Piece French Wardrobe challenge.  Already I’ve learned so much that I wanted to share.


Embrace your own style.  I don’t like those posts about the items that every woman should have in her closet.  We are all different in our style, so why should we conform to one checklist of clothes?  I had a black blazer in my closet gathering dust for 6 years.  I never removed it because I believed it was a staple I needed; I must have read this countless times in fashion magazines.  The worst part is that I didn’t even buy it – it was a hand-me-down from a friend and I still couldn’t bring myself to part with it.  But once I was finally honest with myself and admitted it was something I would never wear, removing it from my closet became a liberating experience.  My closet was closer to representing me and less of what I thought I had to be. The more I embraced my own style the happier I became.

Investing in quality items doesn’t have to be financially daunting.  I thought that my switch from fast fashion (Forever 21, H&M etc) to quality fashion was going to cause me to spend more.  But I’ve been surprised at how many quality items I can buy on sale. For instance, I buy all my jeans on sale so none of them are over $40.  This spring I got a gorgeous sweater from Lucky during their blowout sale for $10 even though it was originally $100.  And good finds are not just in the sale section.  Check out thrift and consignment stores. I found a brand new, unworn, pair of Madewell boots (that retail for $230) at my local consignment store for $45.

Sometimes you may get in a style rut. After investing in some quality basics I was tickled by how small and versatile my wardrobe was.  But then I started to wear the same striped shirt, jeans and faux leather jacket every day because it was easy and comfortable.  I realized that with a small wardrobe you have to maintain the motivation and creativity to make your style shine through.  Otherwise it’s easy to starting looking pretty monochromatic.  So maybe I could wear those jeans and striped shirt every day but I needed some other pieces to make the outfit reflect my own style. But even though this was a hard hurdle, overall…..

Basics make getting dressed easier.  I’ve heard bloggers say this before, but it’s hard to believe until you actually try it yourself.  But it’s true – creating outfits becomes so much less time consuming and stressful when you have a small closet made up of your favorite items that you know pair well together. And I really love that I can get up in the morning and quickly put an outfit together.  It’s so refreshing to not have that feeling of “I have so many clothes but nothing to wear.”

California Love / Lake Tahoe

santa cruz 06820140808_124148santa cruz 073 Tahoe '08 2It’s summertime and the urge to go to the mountains is so strong it’s hard to resist.  Growing up I would spend summer break at my grandparents cabin in South Lake Tahoe.  I carried the tradition into adulthood, and still try to go whenever I get the chance.  When I’m not there what I miss most is the smell of the trees and pine needles crunching underneath my feet, and the excitement of seeing the lake for the first time as we drive into South Lake.

(My photos are of some of my favorite places: Fallen Leaf Lake at dusk, Emerald Bay by canoe, summer lupines in South Lake and views from Lily Lake )


FPFW: My 5 Spring/Summer Purchases

I’m still holding fast to the Five Piece French Wardrobe.  Here are the 5 items I purchased for my Spring/Summer collection:

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Blue summer dress (Goodwill, $10): I love how light and flowy this dress is.  Plus it has a vintage feel, with a cut similar to 1940s tea dresses.

Bathing suit (Aerie, $$50):  I bought this top because it offers a little more coverage.  No accidental flashing everyone at the river when jumping off a rock!  I also wanted a pair of high waisted swim bottoms.  In theory these seem perfect because you can adjust the height.  I am going swimming this weekend so I will test how functional they really are.

Baggu leather tote (Urban Outfitters, $100):  The brown leather tote craze hit SF (and the blogging world) hard and I admit that I wanted part of the action.  But the one that every woman has is the Madewell Transport Tote, and while it’s beautiful it is also HUGE!  Even similar totes at Banana Republic and J Crew are really too big for me (what am I suppose to bring in them, I don’t get it?!).  I guess I don’t cart a lot of stuff with me in my purse.  It took a while to find the perfect brown tote, but when I saw this one online for 50% off I knew it was worth a shot.  It’s much narrower that the Transport Tote and it has a basket weave design.  Plus it’s the most gorgeous orangey brown color.  I’ve really fallen in love with it, and I like  that not every woman has the same tote as me. I love it so much it’s become one of my basics.

Baggu leather clutch (Baggu, $16):  After having such a positive experience with the Baggu tote, I thought I would try their leather clutch too. I found it on super sale, and while I like it, I don’t think I would buy it full price ($54). It’s fun but hasn’t been too practical yet.

Blue billowy tee-shirt (Lucky Brand, $14):  I wanted a bright oversized t-shirt that I could wear to the pool or to the beach.  It’s a simple shirt but it provides a jolt of color  to my monochromatic basics.

Total cost for spring/summer 2015: $190

Overall I’m happy with my 5 purchases.  But only buying 5 items for 6 months is more challenging than I thought.  There is a lot of self restraint!  This is my first seasonal collection and I bought all the items within a month of each other and right at the beginning of spring.  I realize now that this was not the best way to do it.  I’m thinking that in the future I will space my purchases out and buy a few of them later in the season.

Garden Envy / Filoli

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20140501_130253Filoli is a country estate from the early 20th century, now preserved as a historic site for everyone to enjoy.  It is located in Woodside, 30 miles south of San Francisco.  Being there gave me that luxurious Downton Abby feel (minus the giant castle estate of course, but still with impeccable formal gardens and a swoon-worthy ballroom and study).  I was in my not-so-elegant gardeners clothes, having received a behind the scenes tour of the propagation facilities.  But next time I will visit wearing my finest vintage, with cocktail in hand, and insist that everyone play cricket!


FPFW: Defining My Basics

I am embarking on the Five Piece French Wardrobe (FPFW) as I detailed here. My goals: downsize and streamline my wardrobe, reduce the amount of money I spend on clothes, and make getting dressed easier. FPFW is an exciting challenge for me because I have never been one to invest in basics. In the past, my impulse shopping resulted in a cute wardrobe with a not so cute headache because I couldn’t figure out how to pair anything. This winter after purging my wardrobe (check out this great resource), I did have to spend some money on basics like plain tee shirts and pants. I’m now thinking of my basics as the glue that holds my outfits together.  These are pieces that should be timeless, reflect my personality, and be easy to pair with each other. shirts    16 Shirts (black, blue and 2 grey t shirts, 4 striped shirts, black tank top, nude tank top, black and blue long sleeve, polka dot blouse, 2 denim shirts, black and white abstract print blouse) pants     2 Dresses (formal LBD and casual white and black striped); 2 pairs of pants (black and grey); 2 skirts (black and white striped, black pencil skirt) coats   4 Outwear pieces (back faux leather jacket, red blazer, blue wool coat, thick houndstooth sweater) assessorites   Accessories and shoes:  5 pairs of shoes (black booties, brown clogs, black t-strap heels, black boots, brown boots).  4 purses (brown tote bag, black crossbody, grey shoulder purse, black laptop)