Art to wear

LogoI grew up on the Pacific coast of Canada with a deep appreciation for the art of the Indigenous people of that area. Four years ago, I shared the story of the beautiful hummingbird ring made by Haisla artist, Hollie Bear Bartlett, that hubby gave me for Christmas.

This Christmas, I received some more wearable Pacific coast art!

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The cozy, reversible wrap, was a gift from the Vancouver branch of our family; our oldest son, his wife, and their two sons. A product of Native Northwest, it features the work of Coast Salish artist, Doug Horne. You can probably see the whale motif best in this photo. Look for the rounded head, the toothy mouth, and the blowhole on top.

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In the stories of the Northwest Coast, the killer whale, or orca, is associated with strength, dignity, prosperity, and longevity.

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100% of the art featured on Native Northwest products is designed by Indigenous artists and used with their consent. Artist names and cultural affiliations are acknowledged on all packaging and the artists are paid in fees and royalties.

In addition to my beautiful wrap, hubby and I received two Native Northwest masks from another family member. Here, I’m wearing the eagle design by Haida artist, Roger Smith. Eagles are associated with guidance, hope, healing, and the pursuit of freedom.

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You can easily see the tentacles on Ernest Swanson’s octopus on the mask on the right. Swanson comes from a long line of established Haida artists. The octopus is respected in the Northwest coast culture for its ability to adapt to change. The raven mask on the left, by well-known Tsimshian artist, Roy Henry Vickers, is one that I purchased when we were in Vancouver in October. It was produced by Oscardo, another company that partners with Canadian and Indigenous artists and pays royalties for each product sold. The raven is an important figure in Northwest coast art and mythology. Known as a trickster, he has the power to transform both himself and other beings. He can even change animate to inanimate, and vice versa. Hopefully, when I wear the mask, he transforms Covid into something harmless!

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Perhaps this is a good time to talk about the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. Cultural appropriation involves adopting an element of another culture without respect for its meaning or significance or with the purpose of exploiting the culture for personal gain. Appreciation, on the other hand, involves a desire to learn about another culture in order to broaden one’s perspective and understanding. It also involves fair compensation and giving credit where credit is due. That’s why it’s so important to me to learn the meaning behind the symbols that appear on my wearable art and why I appreciate the fact that companies like Native Northwest and Oscardo credit the artists and pay royalties for their work.

If you’re interested in knowing more about the stories behind the symbols and creatures that appear in the art of the Pacific Northwest, the book Understanding Northwest Coast Art by Cheryl Shearar is an excellent resource.

That skirt again

LogoThree weeks ago, I shared this skirt with you. It was one of my most recent thrift store finds. One of my personal fashion rules is that everything in my closet should be able to be worn at least three ways, so I’ve been playing around with the skirt and looking for other things to wear it with. Today, we’re going to look at two combinations that I tried and discuss why I think one works better than the other.

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First, I tried the skirt with this turtleneck sweater that’s been in my wardrobe for many years. The colour worked, but I felt frumpy. That definitely wasn’t a look I was going for! But what was the problem? The sweater is a bit bulky and very straight. I don’t have a girlish figure and the shapeless sweater emphasized that. It made me look thick in the middle! I tried adding a long necklace and belting it at my natural waist, but I still felt frumpy, so this look was a no go for me.

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I think this look is much better. The V neck, the shape of the sweater and its shirttail hem give me a more streamlined look. The necklace and the glimpse of navy at the neck draw the eye away from my midsection and toward my face.

What do you think? Do you agree with my assessment?

I meant to have hubby take a close-up shot to show you the jewelry I was wearing, but I forgot, so here they are.

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I’ve had the necklace for about 20 years. it was a gift from a very dear friend who lost her battle with breast cancer 15 years ago, so it’s very special to me. The cameo earrings are my latest purchase from cabi. Aren’t they exquisite? I felt a bit like I should be walking around a heritage house or maybe a stone castle instead of my 1980s bungalow!

Must haves for 2022

LogoThe internet is filled with lists of fashion items that every well dressed woman “must have” in her closet. Though I have neither, most agree that we should have at least one white button up shirt and a little black dress. Today, however, for my first fashion post of the new year, I want us to look at a completely different list found in Colossians 3:12-14.

“Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience… and over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Whether you work from home in your pjs, wear a uniform each day, dress to impress in a corporate boardroom, or don PPE to care for the sick and dying, you won’t go wrong if you clothe yourselves in these six items.

When the young mother in front of you holds up the line in the grocery store while she fumbles in her purse for her wallet and tries to hush her crying toddler, practice patience. Have compassion for the cashier and offer her a word of kindness when it’s finally your turn at the till. When a friend, overwhelmed by the world that we live in today, posts another negative and poorly informed tirade on Facebook, be gentle with your response. When someone at work offers constructive criticism, accept it with humility and consider whether or not they might be right. Show love by listening to another’s story and acknowledging their struggles or by doing something unexpected for someone else without expecting anything in return.

Even if your smile is hidden behind a mask, your beauty will shine through for all to see when you clothe yourself in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and love.

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2021 fashion shopping review

LogoAs I’ve done for the past few years, I once again kept a list of all the clothes, footwear, and accessories that I bought over the past year so that I could analyze my shopping habits and establish goals for next year. I started doing this because I wanted to be more intentional about wardrobe development and because I wanted to focus on becoming a more ethical shopper. Hopefully, I’ve made progress in both these areas.

Let’s begin by looking at my fashion shopping goals for 2021 and see how I did.

  • I will continue tracking my purchases for at least one more year so that I can review and evaluate my shopping habits again a year from now. Done!
  • I will continue to buy things that I need and items I love that work well with what I already have. Mostly successful. Two items have already been returned to the thrift store though. After wearing one of them a couple of times, I realized that I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. The other, a pair of sandals, ended up being quite uncomfortable when worn for more than a few minutes. 
  • I will continue to experiment with new ways to wear what I already have. Done!
  • When considering a purchase that was made in China, I will attempt to find a suitable alternative made elsewhere. Fairly successful. Only three of the fourteen new items that I bought this year were made in China. Read more about why I’ve made this a personal goal here and here.   
  • When adding to my closet, I will consider five adjectives that begin with C… classy, confident, comfortable, casual, and creative. While I don’t consciously think about these adjectives as often as I used to, purchasing and wearing clothes that say these things about me has become habit.  
  • I will continue to write a Fashion Friday post each week. Done!  

With the pandemic continuing throughout the past year, shopping trips were few and far between. That, combined with the fact that I live in a rural town with a population of just over 800 people and no clothing or shoe stores, made it very easy to limit my 2021 purchases. Let’s take a look at a few stats.

  • I bought a total of 28 items
    • 18 garments
    • 6 accessories
    • 4 pairs of footwear (shoes, boots, and sandals)
  • 14 items were thrifted and 14 purchased new
  • I paid full price for only 4 items
  • I spent a total of $582.38 CAD or an average of $48.53 a month
  • The most expensive item that I purchased was a pair of Asics running shoes that I paid full price for ($159.99)

The six goals from last year, mostly unchanged from the year before, will continue to guide my fashion shopping for 2022, but I’m adding two more.

  • I will strive to add more colour to my wardrobe.
  • I will be more selective and intentional about the thrifted items that I buy. A bargain is only a bargain if it’s something that you’re actually going to wear!

And now a few of my favourite fashion purchases of 2021. They’ve all appeared on the blog before.

Uniqlo denim shirt

The Uniqlo denim shirt, purchased last spring, quickly became a workhorse in my wardrobe and was one of the six items that I wore exclusively for an entire month earlier this winter.

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The Cabella’s utility jacket that I bought at a garage sale was one of my best second-hand purchases this year.

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I stepped a bit outside my fashion comfort zone with this thrifted outfit, but both the dress and the boots have become favourites.

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And finally, the gentlewoman blazer that I purchased earlier in December. Judging by the number of you who checked the link when it first appeared on the blog, I wasn’t the only one who loved it. Now it’s on sale for a fraction of what I paid for it!

And finally, with just a few hours left in 2021, I wish you and yours a very Happy New Year! Hopefully 2022 will be a better year for all of us.

All dressed up and nowhere to go

Prior to the pandemic, this was the time of year when I shared the outfits that I wore to various Christmas events. Now, for the second year in a row, there have been no such events to attend. No parties, no dances, no reasons to dress up! 

As I mentioned last week, I’m not a girly girl, but I do like to dress up once in awhile. On a recent visit to our local thrift store, I even bought a skirt. It seemed a bit daft considering the fact that I’ve nowhere to wear it these days, but I loved the richly patterned fabric and at $2.50, what did I have to lose? 

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We haven’t attended church in months, opting to participate online instead because there have been numerous cases of Covid amongst the congregants and we’re aware of several who are not vaccinated. In spite of the fact that we were only going as far as the living room couch to worship, I decided to wear my new skirt last Sunday. 

No, I don’t usually wear boots in the house, but for the photos, I tried the skirt with a couple of different pairs. I think I prefer it with the tall pair, but both would work. The skirt has a wide elastic waistband which makes it super comfortable and I wore it over leggings for warmth on a cold winter day. I also wore a shirt and sweater that pick up colours from the skirt. Both are from previous seasons of cabi and have been shown on the blog before. 

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I have no idea how old the skirt is, but I suspect that it might be a vintage piece. I have three reasons for thinking so. 

  1. The only evidence of the brand that I can find online is other vintage pieces being offered for sale. 
  2. It was made in the USA. While a limited amount of clothing is still made in North America, the garment industry began moving production to Asia in the 1960s and most of what has been bought more recently was made there. 
  3. While the paisley pattern made a brief comeback in the early 2000s, it had it’s heyday in the mid to late 1960s. 

And now, a very Merry Christmas to all my readers! I’ll be back next week with my annual fashion shopping review. 

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Gentlewoman blazer

As a child, I was a tomboy. I was happiest climbing a tree or playing barefoot on the beach. Pink and frilly were never my style. Now, six decades later, I still prefer blue jeans and flat shoes over more feminine garb.

In her book, Style Forever: the grownup guide to looking fabulous, blogger and freelance journalist, Alyson Walsh, calls the boy-meets-girl, menswear inspired look Gentlewoman Style. Katharine Hepburn and Diane Keaton immediately come to mind.

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Last weekend, while hubby finished the last bit of his Christmas shopping, I enjoyed an hour simply browsing in the mall. That’s when I found my perfect gentlewoman blazer. At first, I hesitated to buy it because we’re still not going out much and I wondered where I’d actually wear it. After pondering for a bit though, I went back and bought it and I’m very glad I did. I’ve already worn it twice!

Casual, yet sophisticated, the open, tunic length blazer can easily be dressed up or down. Here, I’m wearing it with a column of navy made up of dark wash jeans and a silky blouse. Since I was about to go out and we have lots of snow, I’m also wearing my tall brown boots.

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The timeless houndstooth pattern means that this is an item that will likely continue to be part of my wardrobe for a long time without looking dated. It’s easy to layer and very versatile, so I look forward to trying it with many other pieces from my closet.

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I added a feminine touch with dainty gold jewelry. I’ve had the necklace since the early 1970s and, until recently, hadn’t worn it for a very long time. I’ve also had the earrings for twenty years or more!

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While the blazer might be too long on a petite person, I’m 5’8″ and I love the length. The ultra soft knit fabric has plenty of stretch making it very comfortable and I like the oversized pockets. The jacket is unlined, so it’s not too heavy or too hot and the ultra soft knit fabric is machine washable. Made in Bangladesh, it definitely ticks all the boxes for me and it’s even on sale this week!

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What to do with worn out clothes

LogoAfter a full month of wearing only six items from my closet, I have thoroughly enjoyed getting dressed this week! In fact, I’ve worn something different every single day!

As promised last week, I also went through my closet, tried on a lot of things, and put aside a few to be donated. I usually do this twice a year when I switch my closet from summer to winter and then back again in the spring, but after a month of not missing some of the items in my closet I knew that a few more could probably be moved out.

This exercise led me to think about the different things that can be done with clothing that we no longer want or need. Often, the obvious answer is to donate them or consign them so that they can be enjoyed by someone else, but what about those items, including sheets and towels, that are too worn out to be donated?

A conservative estimate is that clothing and textiles make up 5 to 7% of what occupies landfills globally. Many believe that this figure is closer to 12%. The average American citizen reportedly throws away 70 pounds (31.75 kg) of clothing and other textiles each year. The figures are probably similar in other first world countries. I’ve never weighed my wardrobe, but 70 pounds of clothing sounds like an awful lot to me! What can we do to keep this fabric waste out of the landfill?

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Cut them up to use for cleaning rags. Towels and sweatshirts are particularly good for this purpose.
  2. Some thrift stores do accept worn out fabric that can be cut up and sold as industrial rags.
  3. Take advantage of the H&M Garment Collecting programme. Simply bag any unwanted clothes or textiles, by any brand, and in any condition, then take them into an H&M store and hand them to a cashier. In return, you will receive a thank you voucher to use toward a purchase. Anything that is still wearable will be sold second-hand. Textiles that are no longer suitable to be worn will be turned into other products and those that can’t be used in any other way will be shredded into textile fibres that are often used as insulating material. Several other brands including The North Face, Zara, Patagonia, Levi’s, and Uniqlo have similar programs. 
  4. Check with a local animal shelter. Many will take old towels, sheets, and other soft or fuzzy fabrics to use for bedding.
  5. Compost natural fibres. Remove attachments such as buttons and zippers, then shred the fabric finely and add it to your compost alongside fresher, wetter material such as vegetable peelings or garden cuttings to help it break down faster. Find more information about how to to this properly here.
  6. Purchase an unstuffed pouf style hassock such as the one pictured below and fill it with old bedsheets, towels, and clothing. Again, remove any attachments like buttons and zippers that might poke through the cover. If you’re like me, it might take half a lifetime to fill a hassock, but you can do the same thing on a smaller scale by filling  an unstuffed throw cushion.

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Unstuffed pouf from Amazon.ca

Do you have any ideas to add to this list? What do you do with old, worn out clothing?

One more day and what have I learned?

LogoTomorrow is the final day of my “six items or less” fashion fast! It went by faster than I thought it would and now it’s time to share what I learned. Again, let’s take a quick look at the two pairs of pants, three tops, and one cardigan that I’ve been wearing for the past month. 

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The first thing I learned was that we don’t need as much as we think we do. Dressing in just six items for an entire month was much easier than I thought it would be. In fact, not having a lot of clothes to choose from every morning was quite liberating. It took the work out of having to decide what to wear each day. 

Apparently Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein understood this concept. Jobs wore the same black turtleneck, blue jeans, and New Balance sneakers every day. I hope he had duplicates of the turtleneck and the jeans or they would have become awfully smelly! Einstein was known for owning several variations on the same grey suit so that he wouldn’t have to waste time deciding which outfit to wear each morning. Both men understood that they had a finite amount of brainpower for making well thought out decisions and intentionally determined not to waste it on deciding what to wear!

Secondly, I learned to be more creative. Even though I wasn’t going out a lot and being seen by other people, wearing the same six items day in, day out did get boring. As the month wore on, I started to look for ways to use accessories to make little changes to my outfits. Instead of wearing the same few pairs of earrings over and over again as I usually tend to do, I brought out some that hadn’t been worn for years. Some days I wore funky patterned socks instead of plain ones and at least half a dozen scarves came out to play. Here’s one of my most creative looks. 

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No, I didn’t cheat! That’s not a blouse that I’m wearing under the cardigan. It’s a large, square scarf! I held it in front of myself, tied the two top corners behind my neck and the two bottom corners behind my waist, and voila! It looks like a blouse, but it isn’t.

This trick could revolutionize packing when we finally feel comfortable flying again. After managing three and a half weeks in Europe pre-pandemic with carry-on luggage only, we’re committed to traveling that way in the future. A scarf takes up hardly any space in a suitcase, but what a great addition to a limited wardrobe! 

I learned that I missed colour. My wardrobe tends to be made up mostly of neutrals and I intentionally chose a limited colour palette for this exercise so that the six items could be mixed and matched to create many different outfits, but as time went by it definitely began to feel bland. 

I also learned that I need to take a closer look at what’s in my closet and let a few things go. When I started this exercise, I thought about moving the six items to a different, empty closet so that I didn’t have to look at the clothes I wasn’t going to wear, but I’m glad I didn’t do that. As I looked into my closet each morning, I found myself yearning to wear some of what I saw, but other pieces didn’t call out to me at all. If, after a month, I didn’t miss them, do I really need them? I’m going to do another closet purge this coming week. If I didn’t miss it, I probably don’t love it, and if I don’t love it, maybe it’s time to donate it. I’ll be asking myself questions like: Do I love it? Do I wear it? Does it still fit properly? Does it go with other things I own?  

Today though, I’m just dreaming of what I’m going to wear on Sunday and Monday and…  

I’ll definitely be keeping the six items in rotation, but I probably won’t be wearing them for a little while. Except for the blue jeans, that is. Over the past month, I wore those at least twice as often as the grey skinnies. I’ve always been a blue jeans kind of girl and I don’t think that’s about to change! 

Ethics and fashion blogging

LogoIf you had told me ten years ago that I would someday write a fashion blog, I’d have laughed. In fact, I probably would have told you that you were crazy! Fashion just wasn’t my thing. Then I discovered fashion blogs, followed several of them, started to take a greater interest, and eventually decided to add this weekly feature to my own already established blog. Now I’m in the process of unsubscribing from some of those blogs that first caught my interest.

Why? 

Has my interest in fashion waned? Not really. It’s about ethics and excess and what the fashion industry is doing to the planet we live on.

I’m not naming any names, but over time, some of the fashion bloggers or influencers that I’ve followed for a long time have become little more than advertising arms for the retailers that they are affiliated with. They’ve decided to make their blogs their careers; in some cases, their only source of income. It’s all about selling stuff. Some have moved beyond fashion to hawking cosmetics, health care products, exercise programs, you name it. Anything that will make them a dollar. They make a small commission on every item that is ordered through links on their blogs, so it’s all about buy, buy, buy!

Then there are those who post new looks, new items every single day. How do they do that? Well, in the words of one of them, “I order a TON of things for photos, but I like to order when there is a sale so that I can get the best price available on items that I keep.” In other words, she constantly orders clothes for photos for her blog, but sends most of them back. She’s not alone in that. In fact, that’s a common practice amongst many fashion bloggers, vloggers, and Instagrammers. Do they not know that much of what they return ends up in the landfill, not back on the shelves? Do they not care?

There are also those who just buy a lot of clothes, more than any woman could possibly need. If I hear (or read) the phrase “shopping haul” one more time, I might scream! One blogger recently posted a photo of a beautifully organized section of her closet. It contained 28 long-sleeved button up shirts! 28! Why would any woman need 28 shirts? Nine of them were white. I will give this particular woman credit. She abstains from buying fast fashion, buys only quality items, and keeps them for a long time. She also shows the same items worn in different ways as opposed to wearing something new every time she posts. But 28 shirts? Come on! That’s excess to the extreme. 

So who are some of the bloggers who are not on my cutting room floor and why? Fellow Canadian, Sue Burpee, who writes High Heels in the Wilderness, is one of my favourites. In fact, she wrote about this same topic in this recent post. Sue and I have a lot in common. Also a retired school teacher, her passions include books, fashion, and travel. When she’s not writing about fashion, she might be writing a book review, an intelligent opinion piece or telling about a recent hike or a trip back home to New Brunswick to visit her mum. Sue encourages her readers to be ethical shoppers and to shop their own closets for new looks.

Through Sue’s blog, I discovered Frances, another Canadian, who writes Materfamilias Writes. Also a retired academic, Frances and her husband traded life on a small coastal island for a home in the heart of Vancouver a few years ago. Though she includes an outfit photo in many of her posts, she also writes about family, books, and travel, and offers many interesting observations on life.

Are you beginning to see a trend? No, I’m not talking about the fact that both these women are Canadians or that they both retired from teaching careers. I enjoy bloggers who lead interesting lives, who read, travel, and sometimes think deep thoughts, and who also happen to have an interest in fashion.

More recently, I’ve been following Dutch blogger, Greetje, who writes No Fear of Fashion. She posts once a week, on Sundays, and I find myself looking forward to her entertaining posts. She features one outfit a week and again, it isn’t always something new. Instead, she looks for new ways to combine pieces that she already owns. She’s not a bit shy about having her picture taken in public and looks for interesting locations for her fashion shoots, so I get to enjoy glimpses of European life and architecture as well as her outfits. In each post, after sharing her outfit, Greetje writes a bit about what she did that week. She’s a very social gal, so her mom, who she visits almost every week, and several of her friends are regulars on the blog. She often takes photos of what they wear as well and shares snippets of her life with them.

Each of these women has a style all her own. Of the three, Sue’s fashion style is most similar to my own, but I enjoy Greetje’s flamboyance and Frances’ unique style and I love reading about their lives. These are the kinds of blogs that I will continue to follow, not those that promote excess consumption with little or no concern for its long term effects on the planet.  

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Image: Eluxe Magazine

It’s a start

LogoI was thinking about a topic for this week’s fashion post when I came across a news article that fit very well with what I said last week about boycotting products that are made in China.

The Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) recently intercepted a shipment of women’s and children’s clothing that originated in China on the grounds that the garments were made by forced labour. This was the first interception of its kind since new federal laws came into place in July 2020 officially banning the import of goods made partially or wholly by forced labour. Just as there is no way for us as consumers to know what conditions our purchases were made under, there is no visual indicator to show a border services officer the labour standards by which a particular good was produced. This makes this a very difficult situation to deal with, but the CBSA says that it will continue to investigate complaints and allegations pertaining to imports made using forced labour. Hopefully this will lead to further interceptions of this kind and will ultimately result in retailers ensuring that they don’t order goods that have been produced unethically. At least it’s a start. 

So what exactly is forced labour? According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), forced or compulsory labour is “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the threat of a penalty and for which the person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily.” It refers to a form of modern slavery in which people are coerced to work through the use of violence or intimidation, or by more subtle means such as manipulated debt, retention of identity papers, or threats of being handed over to immigration authorities. In China, Uyghurs and other Turkic minority ethnic groups are being subjected to forced labour in Xinjiang province. As well, a recent CBC Marketplace investigation found that several Canadian retailers, including one of my favourites, had brought hundreds of shipments of clothing into Canada from a Chinese factory suspected of secretly using North Korean forced labour. The factory is located in the city of Dandong, just across the Yalu River from North Korea.

The more I learn about unethical clothing production in China, the more convinced I am not to support it with my fashion dollars! I know I’m only one and I’m not even a big spender when it comes to clothing, but if I can convince even one of you to consider not purchasing clothes that are made in China, it’s a start. 

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And now, are you wondering how the six items or less challenge is going? At the end of the second week, I must admit that wearing the same things over and over again is a bit boring, but there are also advantages. Getting dressed in the morning is easy and so was packing for a weekend away to meet our brand new baby granddaughter! I simply wore two items and packed the other four along with some socks, underwear, and pjs. Easy peasy! No thought involved.