Monthly Archives: July 2011

Sweatshops make the prettiest things (or do they?)

Ever since I heard about sweatshops, I have been passionate about boycotting sweatshop clothing. I could probably give you a thirty-five minute lecture about why that really cute shirt you’re wearing sucks and leave you in tears. But um, guess what. Despite my passion and conviction, I haven’t been very good about boycotting sweatshop-made goods. Drop me in any mall anywhere with a good sale or a mother with a generous wallet (Hi, mom! Thanks for all the dresses!), and my ethics go temporarily out the window. I’ve gotten most of my good dresses this way.

Now that I am a grown-up and have a blog, it’s time to change my ways. So last week, I plugged my nose and dove into the online shopping world of sweatshop-free goods. I’m not talking etsy or eBay. I’m talking throw-it-in-the-online-shopping-cart-and-get-two-of-every(-earthtone)-color-because-you-can! I was directed to these shopping sites by a guide I found through whereamiwearing.com. All of the sites offer union-made clothes from right here in the U.S.A. or fair-trade clothes made by cool cooperatives abroad.

In the following pictures and captions, I present my very best findings from the sweat-free marketplace and compare them to their evil, unethical counterparts. It’s a fashion face-off! Who will win???

1. Shorts

~$52 + S&H, Justice Clothing

~$30 + S&H, Gap

Winner: Sweatshop pair, no contest. ATTN UNIONS MAKING SHORTS: It’s cool to make long shorts, but don’t do it in such a stiff fabric. Reserve the stiff fabrics for shorter styles (if you ever decide to venture in that direction). And actually, it’s cooler if you don’t make almost-capri length shorts. Ban together against that unfortunate trend!

2. Rain Boots

~$90 + S&H, Autonomie Project

~$80 + S&H, Chooka

Winner: It’s a tie. The sweat-free rain boots are the perfect shade to brighten up a dreary fall outfit–and rain boots totally give you a free pass for whimsy in any situation. I think you could wear rain boots with little pictures of kittens vomiting all over them to an executive meeting, and no one would bat an eye because, hello, they’re rain boots. I used to wear rain boots that made my feet look like giant misshapen ladybugs, and I only retired them because they got big holes in the soles. However, sometimes I just don’t feel like wearing cute/funny/strange/colorful rain boots. Enter the sweat-y pair. Smart, undercover rain boots that are better suited to keep the rain out from the top because they hug your calf just so. They make me want to speak in a British accent and hop over puddles instead of stomping through them. You can see why it’s a toss-up.

3. Dresses

~$30, Maggie's Functional Organics

~$25, Forever 21

Winner: Not only is the top one is fair trade certified; fair labor certified; and made with organic cotton, it is also a beautiful alternative to wearing a potato sack. No, no, no, I do not like it at all. Unfortunately, it is the only fair trade dress I could find on the internet. On the other hand, sweatshop dresses are plentiful. I went to what is surely the worst offender, Forever 21. Everyone knows Forever 21 cannot be treating its garment-makers fairly because they sell everything for ridiculously low prices, but they have so many clothes all the time that if I go in, I am bound to buy something. If I weren’t avoiding Forever 21 with all my willpower, I would stop by tomorrow after work and try to find this maxi dress. It’s so colorful and so much more visually interesting than the fair everything dress.

4. Shoes

~$35, Püpore/Desde El Pie (via http://www.theworkingworld.org/)

~$60, Toms

Winner: The fair trade alpargatas are the clear winner in every category! In fact, the coolest thing I learned while doing research for this is that Toms shoes are actually ‘inspired’ by alpargatas, by which I mean, Tom (of Toms) stole the design from the Argentine gauchos without giving them any credit then created this whole shtick about giving poor children a pair for free every time a pair is sold. Maybe you’re like, ‘Hey! That isn’t a shtick! It really does happen!’ I’m not disagreeing with that, but isn’t it a little fishy that Toms are actually made in China instead of Argentina, where they have been made traditionally and where Tom first encountered them? Isn’t that just the typical cost-cutting, corporate move? Also, I’m no economist (or Confucius), but it makes way more sense to give living-wage jobs to parents than to give shoes to children. Good thing we can boycott Toms without giving up the aesthetic, and they even cost less!

And the overall winner is…

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that unethical companies don’t provide privileged consumers with more variety at lower costs, but this exercise showed me that while the options are limited, sweatshop-free companies/cooperatives are making strong headway (look at these coats and jackets!). And there’s always the alternative of buying stuff used. Yes, it’s more time consuming–and if I’m shopping at vintage stores, sometimes more expensive–but it is also sustainable and requires little research. Plus, how good does it feel to find the perfect dress at a thrift store?

Mystery solved!

Dear Internet,

My upstairs toilet has been unclogged for a while now, only I have forgotten to share the news because nobody reads my blog (yet?). But today, I decided I should tell you and let my house’s story serve as a cautionary tale to toilet-owners and -users everywhere! After all, everything on the internet lives forever, even sites hosted by Angelfire with guest books and clip art and sickening backgrounds, which maybe I will do a whole post about because they are fascinating artifacts, and the old internet is sooooo funny. Why is it that it’s funny and not nostalgia-inducing even though we were all there? And while we’re on the subject, have you noticed that The Sartorialist is hosted by EarthLink? Do you think some nerd at Vogue is just playing a trick on us? If yes, good job! It is really funny yet understated and a little bit…baffling?

Anyway, back to my contribution to the internet.

First, a re-cap: my dear housemate dropped something in the toilet without looking while the toilet was flushing. The mystery item clogged the toilet and could not be pulled out with a plunger. And! The mystery item could not even be extracted by a plumber. Doesn’t that sound like something that would render the bathroom unusable from now until eternity? (‘This used to be a bathroom, but then the toilet got clogged and no one in the world could fix it, so now we grow herbs in the tub.’) That didn’t happen, but the toilet did have to be removed (and then put back) in order to pull out the mystery prize, which was…

A four-ounce bottle of eye make-up remover.

Moral of the story: do not keep bottles this size (smallish medium) in the bathroom. They are small enough to go flying through the air but big enough to clog your toilet almost irreparably. Who knew.

Of booties and buses and the karmic properties of the universe

The other day I rode the MAX (Portland’s light rail) during peak hours. It was so crowded that I tried to make myself smaller by holding my breath as I stepped on. I held on to a pole in the center of the car along with about seven other people. Two of my fellow pole-holders were wimyn, just getting off work, discussing an upcoming party. They were both dressed very nicely, and I noticed the one closest to me was wearing a cashmere sweater so sumptuous it took many ounces of self-restraint not to reach out and pet her.

A few stops later a womyn struggled to board with two young children in tow. At this point it was so crowded that I had to put down my purse, hold it between my feet, and scoot my body as close to the pole as possible. And it was so crowded that the womyn who had just boarded cautioned her two kids, ‘Be careful  not to touch anyone’s booty.’

Upon hearing this, Sumptuous Cashmere Lady (who had been describing the salad she would make for her party in great detail) stopped mid-sentence, scrunched her nose at the womyn and her kids, and rode in silence with a look of pure disgust the rest of the way.

Watching this go down made me livid. I thought to myself, ‘That womyn thinks saying “booty” is inappropriate and feels entitled enough to look down her nose at someone just because she said it!’ It was clear that the Perceived Potty Mouth did not mean to offend anyone with her use of the word. The way she spoke and the clothes she wore suggested she exists in a working-class environment where loudly telling your kids not to touch anyone’s booty is acceptable. From her perspective, she was doing everyone a solid, keeping their booties from being touched.

When the train jostled, my hand collided with Sumptous Cashmere Lady’s sweater, but instead of wanting to pet her, I wanted to pinch her for being so classist.

Gradually, the train got less crowded, and I was able to find a seat. I sat thinking about what I had just witnessed (blatant interpersonal classism) and what made it so (Sumptuous Cashmere Lady’s disgusted reaction, which expressed an I-am-better-than-you attitude).

Then, I heard someone start to chew gum loudly. ‘Gross!,’ I thought and began to turn my head to give the offender a look because nothing grosses me out more than loud eating noises. Then, I realized what I was doing. And so, I pinched myself.