Ethical Fashion: A Resolution to Shop More Responsibly

    Ethical & Sustainable Fashion

    I’m not a stylish person by any means (and this is not a fashion blog). I only just discovered how the “tie-front” look can elevate your t-shirts. And I still have no idea how to dress things “up” or “down.” I’m also a bit impulsive when it comes to what I buy. And yes, I online shop excessively and I get promotional emails in my inbox each day. I’m basically fast fashion’s number one target. But not any longer. Starting now, I am committing to making more ethical and sustainable choices with my wardrobe.

    I’ve thought about ethical fashion before and I’ve looked into brands that were committed to fair trade and sustainability. But the price tag that came with it was overwhelming. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that’s what fast fashion does. It gets us accustomed to cheap clothes without thinking about the resources and labor that go into their production. And at such low prices, we often end up buying more and more of things we really didn’t need.

    Despite how packed my closet is, I find myself repeating the same outfits every week.

    There’s a striped shirt I wear weekly, even though it’s three years old and has a hole in the side. I wear my yoga studio’s tank tops every week. I rotate my two favorite graphic muscle tees every week. What am I buying new clothes for?

    that striped shirt, part 1

    At work, I repeated outfits all the time—and luckily for me, my office was super casual. In the summer, I would wear short-sleeved tees with skirts or jeans. During the winter, I would rotate all my different flannels with jeans. And when I went out on weekends, I would keep wearing flannels, but with leggings. I don’t even know why I bother shopping for parties or going out. I pretty much live in tank tops and leggings when it’s cold, and in flannels and leggings when it’s hot.

    It’s weird to think of all the ways fast fashion has tricked me.

    Yes, those backless maxi dresses are beautiful. And so are those cold shoulder tops. But I always go back to wearing the same damn thing anyway. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve bought something only to never wear it, or only wear it out of guilt. When I think about all the times I’ve wasted money this way, the $50 fair trade shirt seems so sensible.

    And honestly, trendy pieces get boring. Again, I have no sense of style. But what happens when something falls out of trend? Do you just put it away in a box and hope it comes back in style?

    Right now I’m more excited about finding timeless pieces, and finding versatility in what I already own.

    that striped shirt, part 2

    Maybe opting out of fast fashion will help me get more creative with my (currently nonexistent) style.

    I’ve been on the search for an ethically-made dress to wear to my friend’s wedding this fall. But as I’m unemployed and cannot afford to drop $200 on a Reformation dress, no such luck. This leaves me with two options: thrifting, or “dressing up” something I already own.

    I’ve never experimented with clothes, never paid any attention to the finer details of style. Like the tuck-in, the tie-front, the statement necklace, the folded sleeves, even the cuffed jeans. So naturally, I’ve never tried to dress anything up or down. But with this commitment to responsible fashion and a much tighter budget, I guess I have to try.

    that striped shirt, part 3

    Even more than the creativity aspect of ethical fashion, I want to know what it’s like to want less.

    Ah, minimalism. I don’t really get it, and this is not a minimalist blog or any kind of eco-living blog. But I go through phases where I don’t shop for months, and then others (like recently) where I’m online browsing everyday. I don’t know what sparks that appetite for more, but I want out.

    On an objective level, I know that I don’t actually need or even want most of the things I covet. And yet I buy them anyway. How many variations of the striped t-shirt do I need? And how many scarves? (Certainly not as many as I own.) I’m a sucker for sales and well-designed websites—I think those are the biggest psychological pulls for me. And things like rewards points and cash back are the icing on the cake. It’s strange to know how the capitalist machine works and still fall prey to it anyway.

    Most important of all, ethical fashion is a feminist issue.

    Most of the people making our clothes are women of color in countries that “the West” has and continues to exploit. I think about the feminist t-shirt controversy from a couple of years ago. And I think about how fast fashion brands have co-opted feminism to sell clothes while continuing their unethical practices.

    Political and fashion blogger Hota Katebi wrote this post on the political value of fashion, and it’s eye-opening. We spend our whole lives in our clothes and often never think about the people who make them. A couple of weeks ago I bought some clothes and bags from a women’s textile collective here in Thailand. I spoke to them and got to see them work for a bit. Looming in action is a mesmerizing—and intimidating—sight.

    Looming at a textile collective in Thailand

    You don’t need to see garment manufacturing in action to know it’s labor, and to value that labor. At least, you shouldn’t have to. Fast fashion obscures that reality. I appreciate movements like Fashion Revolution that push us to ask brands, “Who made my clothes?” Because it’s so necessary and yet something we take for granted.

    What feminism ignores the working conditions of people in garment factories, most of whom are women of color? What feminism neglects the environmental damage caused by fast fashion, when indigenous communities and communities of color are the ones most impacted by pollution? It’s the kind of feminism I always criticize, and one I’m choosing to no longer be a part of.

    Ethical fashion isn’t super accessible for a lot of us. That’s why it’s important to start with the clothes you already have.

    There are serious class implications with ethical fashion. I’m not going to pretend like we can all afford a $100 pair of jeans, even if that’s probably what it costs to manufacture it ethically and sustainably. The best way to support ethical fashion is to buy less and work with what you already own. The second best alternative is to buy secondhand. These are steps I’m going to take to consume less and vote with my wallet against fast fashion.


    Eat Without Guilt: Revisiting Your Relationship With Food

    red and yellow neon sign that says "eat what makes you happy"

    I’ve always felt uncomfortable with “healthy eating” and “clean eating” trends and could never explain why. Then I started listening to podcasts about Health At Every Size (HAES), intuitive eating, fatphobia, and it became clear. The diet industry has caught on to the fact that mainstream culture now rejects “diets.” So in true capitalist fashion, the industry rebranded itself. Instead of selling us diets, it’s selling us the ideas of “clean eating,” “health,” and “detoxing.” We are still living in a diet culture, only disguised under different terminology, under the guise of being “healthy.”

    What does it really mean to eat healthy?

    When we think of healthy eating, a lot of different things come to mind. Fresh produce, maybe even organic. Low carbs. Low sugar. Lots of greens. Limiting processed foods, watching out for trans fat. Cooking at home as opposed to going out. Baking or steaming things instead of frying them. Not eating too close to bedtime. And lots and lots more rules about what to eat and how to eat it.

    I’m not a nutritionist, so I’m not going to make a value statement on what food is “good” or “bad” for you. But I am going to talk about the ways we attach moral value to our food and our eating habits. Because it’s pretty messed up.

    If your eating and exercise habits are led by guilt, are they really healthy?

    Okay, so we don’t believe in diets anymore—we’ve left them behind in the 1990s and early 2000s. But we gotta get plenty of fruits and vegetables. We gotta get lots of protein and some carbs (the “good” kind) so we don’t crave so much. Desserts are fine, indulgences are fine, but not too often and remember to work it off after. Sound familiar?

    If you’ve ever felt guilty or horrible about yourself after having cheesecake for dessert, are you really eating healthy? Likewise, if you’ve ever forced yourself to exercise out of guilt after eating fried food, is that healthy too?

    Health is more than just what you eat and how much you move your body.

    How healthy are you if you’re forcing yourself to do things you don’t enjoy? If you’re consumed with guilt over something as mundane as food? I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with watching what you eat or getting exercise. But the idea that that is the definition of healthy, that anyone who doesn’t conform is unhealthy, is absurd.

    Yes, there’s physical health. But there’s also mental, emotional, and social health, and probably other aspects of health I’m not even aware of. If you’re forcing yourself into strict “healthy food” criteria that you don’t really love, what does that do for your mental health? Or if you shame yourself for “giving in to your cravings”? Likewise, what if these rules about food affect your relationships with the people in your life?

    What if we gave ourselves permission to eat whatever the hell we wanted, without guilt or shame?

    Everything is on the table. Sundaes, fried chicken, condensed milk on shaved ice, Hot Cheetos, milkshakes, all of it. What would your life be like if you allowed yourself to eat anything you wanted, with no rules or restrictions?

    Sure, lots of us allow ourselves to “indulge”—but this is often followed by some guilt or obligatory exercise afterward. The concept of “indulgence” is what I’m getting after. I’m talking about a world where nothing is considered an indulgence because everything is fair game.

    What if we didn’t impose these rules on ourselves? What if we can say, I’m going to eat Popeye’s for dinner, and that’s that? I’m not going to work it off after, and I’m not going to chastise myself after. I’m just going to treat it like a normal meal, because it is. And what if that was how you lived your life everyday?

    Some might say this is a slippery slope into poor nutrition, one that can lead to health consequences down the road. Sure, I didn’t study nutrition, I wouldn’t know. But I do know how much it sucks to see certain foods (the “bad” ones) as “off limits,” and how much more it makes you crave them. And I know how much it sucks to “give in” to a craving and then have to force myself to exercise afterward to “make up for it.” I don’t want that to be my relationship with food.

    I’d rather feel good about myself and enjoy what I eat than worry about all the “healthy eating” rules I’m supposed to follow.

    I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago about body neutrality, and how the journey to accepting your body is a tough one. How can we accept our bodies if we’re wracked with guilt over what we eat?

    Let’s talk about language for a bit. “Clean eating” doesn’t really have a definition, but we know what it looks like. Avocados, kale, black beans, fresh beets, all those colorful well-plated Instagram posts with little sauce or seasoning. But if I’m having fettuccine alfredo or green curry, does that make my food “dirty eating”? Words like “clean” attach a moral value to the food—that that type of food is inherently better.

    And what about “junk food”? So many times I’ve eaten a bag of chips feeling like I was putting trash in my body. I’m not saying high-sodium, processed foods are good for you. But the language we use to describe what we eat matters. It affects how we feel about our food and about ourselves after eating it. And just as important, it affects how we feel about our bodies.

    How do we get to a place where food isn’t that big of a deal?

    For me, that’s the goal. Sure, I want to enjoy food. But I want to be able to enjoy it without worrying about sugar content, sodium level, or how much exercise I’ll “have to do” after. I don’t want to have the scarcity mindset of “I had cake yesterday, so I can’t have it again today.”

    I want to get to a place where all food is so mentally available to me that there’s no mystique or thrill anymore. Some people call this “food neutrality”—that’s what I want. And it doesn’t mean I won’t get excited for birthday cakes or my mom’s bamboo shoot curry, because I do. It just means I’ll also be okay with boring meals, eating whatever’s available, and not structuring my life around food.

    I think some people worry that without all these food rules, you’re just going to eat pizza and hot dogs all the time. And that’s not true. Because if you pay attention to how the food makes you feel, you’ll know what works for you and what doesn’t. I love milkshakes, but they make me thirsty, so I don’t crave them all the time. Eating intuitively means I’ll have them when I want them, and I’ll ignore them when I don’t. And if I eat something that makes me feel not so great after, I can consider it a lesson learned without punishing myself for it.

    Wellness means a lot of things for a lot of people. For me, it means acknowledging what I want to eat—physically, mentally, and emotionally—and letting myself have it, guilt-free.

    Sometimes I’m hungry and I want a nice, hot meal. Other times I’m sad and I want a pint of ice cream. Both are things I want, and one is not more valid or morally right than the other. Emotional eating gets a lot of flack, but why? The very existence of “comfort foods” confirms that we attach feelings to what we eat.

    We eat certain things to celebrate, and we eat certain things to soothe us when we’re sad. When I miss my grandma, I fry up the pork ribs she makes for me every time I visit her. When was living in DC and missed Thailand, I trekked out to Wheaton to have my favorite Thai dish. And when I’m sad, I grab a Ben and Jerry’s from the fridge and go to town.

    For the sake of my mental and emotional health, I’m going to become a more intuitive eater. I’m going to respect what I want, and I’m going to stop attaching a moral value to the food I put in my body—because all that’s done is make me feel like crap. And there are more worthwhile things to do in my life than feel bad about the food I choose to eat.

    Pin It: Eat Without Guilt


    Puppy Love: 5 Things I Learned When I Got a Puppy

    Puppy Love

    I’m in a light and airy mood today. So instead of writing on feminism or career or whatever, I’m going to talk about my overgrown puppy, who I mentioned in my about page. Her name is Luna, and we (my family and I) think she’s a pitbull / Jack Russell mix. But we don’t really know because we got her from a shelter and all they could do was guess. You’ll see her every now and then on this blog and my social media because she’s my baby girl.

    1. Puppies are actually a nightmare. I’m an old dog kind of person all the way.

    Before you write me off as a heartless soul, hear me out! We got the little monster when she was about three months old. I wasn’t super into the idea of getting a puppy (because of the training and teething issues), but my mom was wary of adopting an older dog. I was unemployed at the time, so it was my job to take care of her… and what an adventure that turned out to be.

    Growing up, I’d only ever lived with older dogs that my dad had already trained. And they were mostly chill, lazy, sleepy dogs with the occasional playful moments. That’s what I was used to. Training Luna from scratch was an entirely different story. Especially since she was (likely) a double terrier, which I assume means double the hyper and therefore double the work.

    Puppy Love

    2. If you get a puppy, be prepared for some literal, physical wounds. Because puppies like to use their teeth, and those baby teeth are sharp.

    Yeah, puppies are teething, it’s not their fault, I know. But why did she have to take it out on me?! I was a studious puppy mom. I read all the articles on how to tame the wild beast. Every time she bit my hands, I would stick a chew toy in her mouth to tell her chew that, not me.

    But out in the backyard, she got wild. She would sprint around in circles on the grass like a freaking horse. And as a puppy with poor braking ability, she would end those sprints falling into a somersault. This was all nice and cute, but sometimes she redirects all that hyper-ness onto us, her humans. Because then she’d jump onto us and try to bite our hands. Or she’d bite our feet. And with those baby teeth it was really painful! Thankfully, it wasn’t long until her baby teeth fell off and she started to mellow out a bit.

    3. As a fledgling puppy parent, you will probably make mistakes in your training.

    For example, I’m pretty sure I messed up in my potty training of Luna. She will only go potty in the area behind our garage. She does not pee or poop on walks, or anywhere else outside the house. Luna literally will only pee or poop behind our garage.

    I’m not sure how this happened. I think I got her to associate the area behind the garage as her bathroom. This was intentional, because we didn’t want her peeing or pooping all over the yard. But I’m not sure how she came to think that that was her only bathroom.

    Part of me is like, heck yeah, no need to worry about picking up after her on walks. But another part of me is like, what did I do wrong?! What’s going to happen if we try to take her to faraway places? I don’t even know.

    Puppy Love

    4. Your puppy’s appearance can change drastically as they get older.

    When we first adopted Luna, she had folded ears. Overtime, they developed into giant kangaroo ears. And now? They’re uneven! My family likes to joke that she deceived us with her ears. (I’m sorry, baby girl, it’s a good thing you don’t understand words.) My favorite thing about her ears is how easily they indicate her mood. If they’re folded back, she’s either happy to see you or she’s guilty of something. If they’re perked up, she’s alert. And if they’re spread out, she’s being defiant.

    It’s cute seeing and documenting all the little changes as they get older. Her muzzle looks longer now than it was when we first got her. Her tail has less black on it now that she’s bigger. And her fur is lighter where her shoulder blades are, almost like it was intentionally designed. Plus, I love dogs with uneven ears. They’re adorable as hell.

    5. When your puppy gets attached to you, it’s hard not to feel the same way about her.

    Since puppyhood, Luna has always greeted me in the morning by climbing into my lap. I’m not sure why, but she likes to sit on me. To this day, as a 55-pound fully grown dog, she still does. And sometimes, as a 55-pound fully grown dog, she will sleep on me, too.

    If I’m ever home in the middle of the day, sometimes she’ll take a nap across my lap. And because it’s so cute and I don’t want to wake her up, I don’t move. And then I end up falling asleep, too. This is how I became a daytime napping person: to accommodate the clinginess of my dog.

    Now that I’m so accustomed to her physical affection, I miss her a lot when I’m away. Like when I was living in DC, or like now that I’m on vacation in Thailand. It’s like the little monster tricked me into being attached to her, too.

    Puppy Love

    This has been a very long love letter to / about my dog, from her puppy days until now. What are some of your funny pet stories? Have you ever raised a puppy on your own?