How to Embrace Ethical Fashion in Your Wardrobe

How to Embrace Ethical Fashion in Your Wardrobe

 

When I started Encircled, I knew very little about the fashion industry. Even though I spent 5 years consulting for retail brands, the 'behind the scenes' practices were out of view.

First things first, you should know that I am a recovered shopaholic.

So, you can breathe a sigh of relief that I'm writing this blog post without judgement.

In high school/university, shopping was a sport for me. I remember reading the 'Shopaholic' books and feeling like she was writing about my life.

I didn't care about the clothing - who made it, where it came from, nor why it was so cheap (or sometimes expensive, and on sale). I just wanted the latest and greatest. I wanted to be seen as a trendsetter. I used shopping also as a way to kill time, and numb emotions.

What ended up happening was I accumulated too much stuff. Closets full of stuff I rarely wore, stuff that lasted a few washes then ended up falling apart, or with tags on years after purchase and ultimately at Goodwill.

Somewhere in the past 5 years, things shifted greatly for me. 

I started flying weekly for work as a management consultant and hated checking bags (not to mention my colleagues would make fun of me if I did!). So, I started traveling light.

I realized through this process that I didn't need lots of clothing. I just needed better made items that worked a variety of ways - easy to dress up, dress down and could last seasons upon seasons. Inadvertently, I'd joined a new trend, capsule wardrobes.

I also through my travels around the world started seeing first hand the environmental destruction of our planet. It was impossible for me to ignore. The more educated I became through growing Encircled on fabrics, and production, the less interested in traditional fashion I became.

 

For the most part, we wear 20% of our wardrobes, 80% of the time. 


What I now realize as a consumer is that it's the fashion industry that's trained consumers to shop often.

Every season, fashion weeks across the world in Toronto, Paris and New York, sneak a peak of the trends for coming seasons. However, what most consumers don't know is that designers know these trends 2 years in advance. There are trend forecasting services like Promostyl that provide 'inspiration' for seasonal colours, styles and patterns. 

It's no coincidence that every designer makes a plaid shirt one season. It's been in the works for years.

The industry wants us to buy more. Buy the latest trends, or else, you may be (gasp) out of style.

Largely, this translates into buying cheaper fashions as people don't love investing in trendy items. Items that will probably fall apart, or fall out of style in a few seasons.

 

The Secret of the $8 T-Shirt

The Fashion industry also wants you to shop cheap. 

Decades ago, an $8 t-shirt would be unheard of. Think about that. In the 1970s, $8 for a t-shirt was crazy. Now, add inflation. Yep. We're going backwards.

What's allowed brands to make $8 T-Shirts is the commoditization of human beings who sew our clothing. In developing countries, where human rights are not regulated, the apparel production industry is booming. On average, the hourly wage in Bangladesh for a sewing machine operator is $0.45/hour. In the United States, it's closer to $18/hour. 

Our environment too is suffering. An $8 T-shirt which is 100% cotton is rife with pesticides. Chemicals that have been proven to cause cancer in humans, and animals. Chemicals that enter the water system in the country the t-shirt is produced, and re-enter it EVERY time you wash that t-shirt.

 

How to Start to Shop Better and More Ethically

I now realize that as a consumer it's REALLY difficult to make better choices in fashion.

Because largely, the information we want, and should know is not available to us. Companies hide it, and as you can see from the above information - for good reason.

Smaller brands that are doing better, and embracing the principals of ethical fashion are difficult to find, though getting easier through platforms like google, Etsy, and social media.

What I believe is important when it comes to shopping better (for anything be it meat, vegetables, clothing, beauty products) is to embrace a mindset of progress over perfection. 

There is NO guilt allowed in ethical shopping.

By making the choice to shop better, you are allowed to buy better things, to talk about the benefits of them, yes EVEN IF you still use Tide ColdWater detergent, drink non-organic sugar-infused Orange Juice and drive a GMC Yukon SUV.

The problem with environmentalism and human rights is that they preach that you cannot be human, you must be perfect.

There are those people who strive to be zero-waste (and I admire that) but it's not realistic for most.

The idea that you have to be ALL ETHICAL inhibits others from making incremental changes for fear of being seen as hypocritical. 

So, let that stuff go.

Making the choice to switch out even one element of your wardrobe with a ethically item is HUGE. Do it. And do it without fear or judgement of yourself or others.

 

Here's a basic primer on things to look for to embrace ethical fashion.
Firstly, What is Ethical Fashion?

As a shopper, the term 'ethical fashion' may be familiar, however it's rarely defined (and quite frankly often misused) by brands. 

The Ethical Fashion Forum defines 'ethical fashion' as "represents an approach to the design, sourcing and manufacture of clothing which maximizes benefits to people and communities while minimizing impact on the environment."

 

Second, What makes a fashion brand ethical?

Ethical Fashion Forum created 10 criteria for a company to be defined as 'ethical'. Ethical fashion isn't just using fairly paid labour. It's a holistic approach to choosing better materials, training, education and awareness.

Take a minute, how do your favourite brands stack up?

  1. Countering fast, cheap fashion and damaging patterns of fashion consumption
  2. Defending fair wages, working conditions and workers’ rights
  3. Supporting sustainable livelihoods
  4. Addressing toxic pesticide and chemical use
  5. Using and / or developing eco- friendly fabrics and components
  6. Minimizing water use
  7. Recycling and addressing energy efficiency and waste
  8. Developing or promoting sustainability standards for fashion
  9. Resources, training and/ or awareness raising initiatives
  10. Animal rights
Thirdly, How do I find ethical fashion brands?

As I mentioned, the internet has made ethical fashion bigger as it's enabled smaller brands who are doing good to connect directly with customers, and share their story.

When searching on google, I recommend inputting directly into the search bar terms like 'Ethical Fashion', 'Ethically-made Fashion', 'Eco-fashion', 'Made in America Clothing', 'Made in Canada Clothing', 'Fair Trade Clothing'. As an alternative, you can search by materials that are eco-friendly/ethical such as Hemp, Tencel, Modal, and Peace Silk, Bamboo. 

There are a few directories you can check out (but keep in mind some of these are paid, so unless a brand pays, they aren't in them!).

Fourth, How do I learn to build a 'better' wardrobe?

There's a 'trend' right now in the clothing industry that I absolutely LOVE. It's called Capsule Wardrobes.

A capsule wardrobe is a micro-sized wardrobe based on essentials, mix and match colours and a neutral easy to dress up/dress down silhouettes and styles. It's the culmination of doing more with less, and buying better - all in one.

Resources for Building A Capsule Wardrobe:

The Capsule Wardrobe: How to Reduce your Wardrobe to 37 pieces

Step by Step Guide to Building a Capsule Wardrobe

My Essentials for a Capsule Wardrobe

Confessions of a Capsule Wardrobe Wearer

10 Capsule Wardrobe Basics

Embracing ethical fashion is a journey, not a goal. It's an ongoing process for myself, just as much as it is for you.

I'm proud that Encircled embraces all of the 10 principals of ethical fashion. We are making progress as shown by our growth. People WANT to buy better.

But more people need to do this.

As a consumer, we must continue to encourage each other to do better incrementally.

Keep making those small repetitive changes in buying clothing that will make the world a better place -- every day --  not just during Fashion Revolution Week or Earth Day.

With wanderlust,

Kristi

Chief Fashionpreneur, encircled

Love travel? Join our League of Travelistas -- a community for women who love to travel. Click her to request access to our private facebook group.

Photos 1, 5 and 7 are copyright Encircled. You may use them provided you add a hyperlink back to this blog post, and do not alter the images in any way. Other photos are used copyright free from Unsplash.com





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Encircled Size Charts
Please scroll down to find the size chart for each design. If you have any questions on sizing, please try out our online size recommender or click here to contact us with questions prior to ordering. Size charts are in alphabetical order based on design name.
If you're on our product page viewing the size chart, click anywhere outside of the pop-up (or on the X in the top right corner) to close the size charts, or click here to surf back to our main collection page.

The Adiona Maxi Dress

Size
0 - 2 (XS) 2 - 4 (S) 6 - 8 (M) 10 - 12 (L) 14 - 16 (XL)
Bust 27.5 - 29.5 " 30.5 - 32.5 " 33.5 - 35.5 " 36.5 - 38.5" 39.5 - 41.5 "
Waist 23-24" 25-26" 28-29" 30-31" 32-34"
Hips 30-32" 33-35" 36-38" 39-41" 42-44"
Front Length 45" 45" 45" 45" 45"
Back Length 55" 55" 55" 55" 55"

Fit Advice: The Adiona Maxi Dress fits true to size, but we recommend to size up if you are in between sizes. The length can be hemmed by a tailor, or adjusted by  bringing the waist higher up the body to accommodate many different heights. The elasticized waist will flex to fit different waist sizes within ~1-2" of the measurements shown. 

Model's Measurements: Isabel shown in the basic product shots is approximately 5'10" tall and a size 2-4 (S), is wearing a size Extra Small in The Adiona Maxi Dress. Our model Kristi, shown in the styling shots is approximately 5'9" and a size 6-8 (M), wearing size Medium in the Adiona Maxi Dress.

 

The Chameleon Maxi Skirt

Size
0 - 2 (XS) 2 - 4 (S) 6 - 8 (M)
10 - 12(L)
14 - 16 (XL)
Bust 27.5 - 29.5 " 30.5 - 32.5 " 33.5 - 35.5 " 36.5 - 38.5" 39.5 - 41.5 "
Waist 23-24" 25-26" 28-29" 30-31" 32-34"
Hips 30-32" 33-35" 36-38" 39-41" 42-44"
Length 39.5" 39.75" 40" 40.25" 40.5"

Fit Advice: The Chameleon Maxi Skirt fits true to size. The wide waistband ensures no ‘muffin top’. However, if you are a bit smaller on the top and wish to wear it as a strapless dress, we recommend sizing down because the drawstring to adjust the length is in the hem. Hemming The Chameleon Maxi Skirt would be difficult. 

Model's Measurements: Marah is shown in the product and styling shots is approximately 5'11", and a size 6-8 (M), is wearing a size Medium in The Chameleon Maxi Skirt. 

The Chrysalis Cardi

Size
Garment Length (Laid Flat) Garment Width (Laid Flat) Bust 
(inches)
Waist 
(inches)
Hip 
(inches)
Height 

Regular

(xs - xxl)

38" 39.5" 32"-41" 25"-34" 35"-44" 5'2"-6'0"

Petite

(xxs - m)

35" 34.5" 27"-35" 23"-28" 30"-38" >5'4"

Maxi

(xl - xxxl)

43" 41.5" 41"-52" 33"-45" 44"-56" >6'0"

Fit Advice: The Regular Chrysalis Cardi is a one size fits most garment ranging from sizes XS-XXL or 2-14. It can be easily belted in multiple ways, however the Regular is not recommended for petite or shorter woman due to the volume of fabric - See Petite Cardi. The Regular is also not recommended for curvier/taller women due to fabric pulling around the bust or bottom - See Maxi Cardi.

We recommend watching the how-to wear videos to see how much fabric drape and length you would like in your finished garment. If you are in between sizes, it is best to size up and the garment can always be tailored shorter to better suit your look - you cannot add more fabric unfortunately!

The Petite is best suited for women 5'4" and under with a smaller frame, although it will also work on women above this height (depending on preferred length when styled). 

The Maxi is best suited for all women under 6’0” with a curvier shape to eliminate any uncomfortable fabric pulling, although it will also work on women who are a bit less curvy (depending on preferred length when styled). 

Model's Measurements: Isabel shown in the Black Petite Chrysalis Cardi product shots is approximately 5'10" tall and a size 2-4 (S). Mandy shown in the Slate Grey + Navy Petite Chrysalis Cardi product shots is approximately 5'2" tall and a size 0-2 (XS). Anthea shown in the beach shot is 5'4" tall and a size 2-4 (S).

*If you have any questions on sizing, please contact us - Remember it is best to provide us with your height and size range of garments that you already own! 

The Dressy Sweatpant

HIGH RISE FIT

Worn higher up with rise sitting at natural waist. Straight leg tapers from the hip to ankle opening.

Size XS (0-2) S (2-4) M (6-8) L (10-12) XL (14-16)
Waist (inches)
23" - 25"
25" - 28"
28" - 32"
32" - 34"
34" - 37"
Hip (inches)
32" - 34"
35" - 38"
38" - 41"
41" - 44"
44" - 47"
Inseam (inches) 28.5"
RELAXED FIT
Slight drop-crotch look with rise sitting just above natural hip. Straight leg tapers to ankle opening.
Size XS (0-2) S (2-4) M (6-8) L (10-12) XL (14-16)
Waist (inches)
25" - 28"
28" - 32"
32" - 34"
34" - 37"
36" - 39"
Hip (inches)
35" - 38"
38" - 41"
41" - 44"
44" - 47"
46" - 49"
Inseam (inches) 28.5"

Fit Advice: We recommend staying with your usual size if you are in between sizes. The cut on The Dressy Sweatpants is more generous and the fit is meant to be drapey and slightly harem. Therefore, it's better if they don't fit snug. 

Model's Measurements: Isabel shown in the product shots is approximately 5'10" tall and a size 2-4 (S) is wearing a size small in Black, Navy, and Smoke Dressy Sweatpant. Daria is 5'4" tall and a size 0-2 (XS) and is wearing an extra small in the Slate Grey Dressy Sweatpant.

 

The Evolve Top

Size
0 - 2 (XS) 2 - 4 (S) 6 - 8 (M)
10 - 12 (L)
14 - 16 (XL)
Bust 27.5 - 29.5 " 30.5 - 32.5 " 33.5 - 35.5 " 36.5 - 38.5" 39.5 - 41.5 "
Waist 20-22" 23-25" 26-28" 32-34" 35-37"
Hips 30-32" 33-35" 36-38" 39-41" 42-44"
Fit Advice: The fit of The Evolve top is drapey but tapers towards the hip. It tends to fit large. We recommend for you to size down from your normal size if you are unsure. The fabric on The Evolve top has a natural stretch that will stretch to fit within ~1-2" of the measurements shown. 
Model's Measurements: 
Isabel shown in the product shots is approximately 5'10" tall and a size 2-4 (S) wearing a size extra small in The Evolve Top.

 

 

The Flipside Legging 

Size
0 - 2 (XS) 2 - 4 (S) 6 - 8 (M) 10 - 12 (L) 14 - 16 (XL)
Waist 20-24" 25-28" 28-32" 32-34" 34-37"
Hips 30-34" 35-38" 38-41" 41-44" 44-47"
Inseam 28" 28"
28"
28"
28"

Fit Advice: We recommend sizing down if you are in between sizes with your measurements. The Modal fabric on The Flipside Leggings is not as 'taut' as synthetic fabrics like polyester, so if you prefer a snugger fit with your leggings, size down. The Flipside Leggings are pre-shrunk.

Model's Measurements: Isabel shown in the product shots is approximately 5'10" tall and a size 2-4 (S) wearing a size XS.

 

 The Minimalist Legging

Size
0 - 2 (XS) 2 - 4 (S) 6 - 8 (M) 10 - 12 (L) 14 - 16 (XL)
Waist 20-24" 25-28" 28-32" 32-34" 34-37"
Hips 30-34" 35-38" 38-41" 41-44" 44-47"
Inseam 28" 28"
28"
28"
28"

Fit Advice: We recommend sizing down if you are in between sizes with your measurements. The Bamboo fabric on The Minimalist Leggings is tighter than the Flipside Leggings. The Minimalist Leggings are pre-shrunk.

Model's Measurements: Kristi, shown in the product shots is approximately 5'9" and a size 6-8 (M), wearing size Medium in the Minimalist Leggings.

 

The Nomadic Crew Neck

Size
0 - 2 (XS) 2 - 4 (S) 6 - 8 (M) 10 - 12 (L) 12 - 14 (XL) 14 - 16 (XXL)
Bust 27.5 - 29.5 " 30.5 - 32.5 " 33.5 - 35.5 " 36.5 - 38.5" 39.5 - 41.5 "
42.5 - 44.5"
Waist 23-24" 25-26" 28-29" 30-31" 32-34"
35-37"
Hips 30-32" 33-35" 36-38" 39-41" 42-44"
45-47"
Length 28" 28" 28" 28" 28"
28"

 Fit Advice: The Nomadic Crew Neck fits true to size. If you want a more relaxed fit, size up. The length can be hemmed by a tailor. As the fabric has a natural stretch, it will stretch to fit within ~1-2" of the measurements shown around the chest and hips. 

Model's Measurements: Jamie shown in the product and styling shots is approximately 5'4" tall and a size 2 (XS) is wearing a size extra small in The Nomadic Crew Neck.

 

 

The Nomadic V-Neck

Size
0 - 2 (XS) 2 - 4 (S) 6 - 8 (M) 10 - 12 (L) 12 - 14 (XL) 14 - 16 (XXL)
Bust 27.5 - 29.5 " 30.5 - 32.5 " 33.5 - 35.5 " 36.5 - 38.5" 39.5 - 41.5 "
42.5 - 44.5
Waist 23-24" 25-26" 28-29" 30-31" 32-34"
35-37"
Hips 30-32" 33-35" 36-38" 39-41" 42-44"
45-47"
Length 28" 28" 28" 28" 28"
28"

Fit Advice: The Nomadic V-Neck fits true to size. If you want a more relaxed fit, size up. The length can be hemmed by a tailor. As the fabric has a natural stretch, it will stretch to fit within ~1-2" of the measurements shown around the chest and hips. 

Model's Measurements: Anissa shown in the product shots is approximately 5'2" tall and a size 0 (XS) is wearing a size extra small in The Nomadic V-Neck.

 

The Reversible Pencil Skirt

Size
XS (0-2)
S (2-4)
M (6-8)
L (10-12)
XL (14-16)

Waist (inches)

23" - 26"
26" - 29"
29" - 32"
32" - 34"
35" - 37"

Hip (inches)

32" - 34"
35" - 38"
38" - 41"
41" - 44"
45" - 47"

Length Total (inches)

20"
21"
22"
23"
24"

Fit Advice: The Reversible Pencil Skirt fits true to size, but it's suggested to size up if you fall between sizes. The pencil skirt offers a smooth silhouette that slightly tapers from waist to hips and down through to the hem, hitting just at knee length. A pencil skirt should smoothly skim your curves, so to get a perfect fit, first identify your largest measurement then choose the size offering that range while still allowing for some stretch. The fabric on The Reversible Pencil skirt has a natural stretch, that will stretch to fit within ~1-2" of the measurements shown.

Model's Measurements: Monica shown in the product and styling shots is approximately 5'6" tall and a size 2-4 (S) is wearing a size extra small.  

 

The Revolve Dress

 
Size
0-2 (XS)
2-4 (S)
6-8 (M) 10-12 (L) 14-16 (XL)
Bust (inches)
27.5 - 29.5 "
30.5 - 32.5 "
33.5 - 35.5 "
36.5 - 38.5 "
39.5 - 41.5 "
Waist (inches)
23-24 "
25-26 "
28-29 "
30-31 "
32-34 "
Hips (inches)
30-32 "
33-35 "
36-38 "
39-41 "
42-44 "
Length (inches)
At longest, 38.5" Adjustable
At longest, 39" Adjustable
At longest, 39.25" Adjustable
At longest, 39.5" Adjustable
At longest, 39.5" Adjustable

Fit Advice: The Revolve Dress is designed to fit drapey that tapers towards the hip. We recommend staying with your typical dress size. If your hip measurements are above the guide, size up. The length can be hemmed by a tailor. The fabric on The Revolve Dress has a natural stretch, that will stretch to fit within ~1-2" of the measurements shown.

Model's Measurements: Isabel shown in the product and styling shots is approximately 5'10" tall and a size 2-4 (S) is wearing a size extra small. 

 

The Wanderer Sleeveless T 

Size
0 - 2 (XS) 2 - 4 (S) 6 - 8 (M) 10 - 12 (L) 12 - 14 (XL) 14 - 16 (XXL)
Bust 27.5 - 29.5 " 30.5 - 32.5 " 33.5 - 35.5 " 36.5 - 38.5" 39.5 - 41.5 "
42.5 - 44.5"
Waist 23-24" 25-26" 28-29" 30-31" 32-34"
35-37"
Hips 30-32" 33-35" 36-38" 39-41" 42-44"
45-47"
Length 28" 28" 28" 28" 28"
28"

Fit Advice: The Wanderer Sleeveless T fits true to size. If you want a more relaxed fit, size up. The length can be hemmed by a tailor. As the fabric has a natural stretch, it will stretch to fit within ~1-2" of the measurements shown around the chest and hips. 

Model's Measurements: Jamie shown in the product and styling shots is approximately 5'4" tall and a size 2 (XS) is wearing a size extra small in The Wanderer Sleeveless T.