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Ethical Living

Sudara: Beautiful Clothing that Helps Change the World

This is the third installment in my ethical fashion series. A few months ago, I kicked off the series with why I care about ethical fashion, followed by a post on finding plus-sized ethical clothing. This week, I will be spotlighting one of my favorite ethical fashion companies, Sudara!

I love pajama pants. I used to own approximately seven pairs, all for different occasions. Hot summer night? Cute shorts with polka-dots. Cold winter evening? Long pants with snowflakes. Christmas morning? Something cozy and good for photos.

But in recent years, I’ve stopped wearing them. I couldn’t find a pair that fit just right, was as cute as they were comfortable, and, most importantly, met my standards for ethically-made clothing.

Enter Sudara.

Sudara - a clothing company that helps women rise out of sexual slaveryBackground photo courtesy of Sudara’s Facebook page.

Sudara makes gorgeous, ethically-produced pajama pants and shirts for women, men, and children. I’ve been a fan of theirs since several years ago, when they were still called the International Princess Project.  After I started my ethical fashion series, I reached out to them to ask if they would be interested in having me write about them and the work they do. In exchange, they sent me a pair of their Sunetha full pajama pants.

Sudara - a clothing company that helps women rise out of sexual slaveryPhoto courtesy of Sudara.

The pants are beautiful and incredibly comfortable. They stretch at the waistband and also include a drawstring so you can adjust them to your own size. I love that they have large pockets that fit my phone and other day-to-day items, which many other pajamas don’t have!

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One of my absolute favorite features, though, is how light and soft the fabric is. I can wear the pajama pants on a summer night without getting too hot or sweaty. While some pajama pants can irritate my skin if they are too clingy or heavy, Sudara’s pajama pants are really soft, and airy enough that my skin stays happy and healthy. The fabric is also bright and truly beautiful. I absolutely love them.

I kind of want to wear them as normal clothes. Like, all the time.

Best of all, though, is how they are made. Sudara’s goal is to help women rise up from sex slavery in India. To do that, it works with existing companies in India to employ women looking to leave the Red Light District and teach them the skill of sewing. Sudara employs hundreds of women who have left the sex trade and intense poverty, teaching them sewing and entrepreneurial skills and providing housing for both the women and their children. By paying them, on average, double the baseline for fair-trade pay, Sudara prevents its employees from having to return to the sex trade in order to survive. It gives these women the opportunity to work in safe and sustainable conditions and live in freedom from sexual slavery.

The women, in working for Sudara, have created a wide range of beautiful pajama pants, called “punjammies,” for women, men, and children. All their women’s clothes range in sizes XS to XXL, and I found their larger sizes to be nice and roomy. They come in a ton of beautiful prints and colors, which can be seen here.

In addition to the Sunetha pants that I was sent, I especially love these Sardha punjammies, which are made of cotton and come in a beautiful minty blue pattern, with fuchsia and gold trim. I may buy them in the fall, when I’ll need another pair of long pajama pants.

Sudara - a clothing company that helps women rise out of sexual slaveryPhoto courtesy of Sudara.

I couldn’t be more excited to be writing about Sudara and sharing the incredible work they do If you’d like to learn more about their clothes and how they’re changing the world, you can check out their website here.

As I mentioned, Sudara sent me a pair of their pajama pants so I could use them for this post. However, I was not paid or compensated in any other way. I reached out to their company myself, and all thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own. Thank you!

Ethical Living

Ethical Fashion: Plus Sized Ethical Clothing

This is the second installment in my ethical fashion series. Last week, I kicked off the series with a post on why I care about ethical fashion. This week’s post is on finding ethical clothing in plus sizes, which has been one of the major challenges of collecting an ethical wardrobe for me. To see the previous installment, click here!

I care about ethical fashion. Ideally, I want to have all parts of my life reflect my values and beliefs. However, I’m a size 20. Finding cute and affordable plus-sized clothing is hard enough. Finding cute, affordable plus-sized clothing that is ethically-sourced and -made is – well, a lot harder. Some companies who previously made such clothing have now closed, and many of the articles and websites I’ve found about plus-sized ethical clothing are out of date. Since this is an area where I’ve done a lot of searching, today I thought I would share my finds with you.

Ethical Fashion: Plus-Sized Ethical Clothing - Sara Laughed

It should be noted that several of these brands are not what I could call “affordable” for the average young person or college student. I personally do not have the means to buy from some of these companies. However, I have learned over the years that I need fewer clothes than I previously thought, meaning that the money that would previously have gone to five cheap, “fast fashion” shirts, can now go to one or two good-quality, ethical ones. Additionally, many of these sites have regular or introductory sales, so keep an eye out!

Without further ado, here are a few of my favorite plus-sized, ethical fashion brands.

1. Marketplace: Handwork of India

Ethical Fashion: Plus-Sized Ethical Clothing - Sara Laughed1. Sneha Shirt – Red/Multi 2. Mogra Dress – Lapis 3. Amethi Dress – Raspberry 4. Raipur Tunic – Lapis 5. Asmita Tunic – Black 6. Shireen Top – Ink Blue/White

What they sell: Beautiful clothes (misses, petite, women’s, and men’s), accessories, and home decor items that are handmade or upcycled.

Their sizing: Up to a 4X.

Their policies: Marketplace is a non-profit cooperative empowering women by teaching them new skills in entrepreneurship and craftsmanship.

In their words:We work with over 400 artisans who are organized into 11 independent co-operatives that produce high-quality women’s apparel and home decor[.] They learn skills such as sewing and embroidery, and participate in all aspects of running the cooperatives. In addition, programs offer educational and enrichment opportunities designed to help the artisans overcome personal, cultural and financial obstacles.  As they become more self-confident, they become agents of change themselves, ensuring that their children receive educations and organizing social programs in their neighborhoods.[Source]

2. Synergy Organic Clothing

Ethical Fashion: Plus-Sized Ethical Clothing - Sara Laughed

1. Melissa Tie Dress in Aqua 2. Jenny Boatneck Tunic in Cornflower 3. Midori Wrap Top in Dusk Blue 4. Piper Dress in Wheat 5. Breeze Tunic in Purple Orchid 6. Tissue Knit Summer Blazer in Graphite

What they make: A plus-sized (and straight-sized) line of ethical tops and dresses that are suitable for either activewear or everyday wear.

Their sizing: To a 3X.

Their policies: I love, love, love Synergy Organic Clothing’s policies. They use Certified Organic Cotton, low-impact dyes, work to reduce water waste in their manufacturing process, adhere to the Global Organic Textile Standard, and hire a group of 150 Nepali women to make their clothes, paying them a living wage.

In their own words: “Supporting our Nepali Family is as important as supporting our team in America. We pay all our employees in Nepal a living wage and offer significant yearly bonuses. Through this program, we are empowering a group of over 150 women to rise above poverty by giving them the opportunity to work from home and support their families.” [Source]

3. Fresh Produce

Ethical Fashion: Plus-Sized Ethical Clothing - Sara Laughed1. Flea Market Dress in Tropic 2. Drape Dress in Tropic 3. Take it Easy Top in Brushed Stripe 4. Long Sleeve Vintage Drape Top 5. Vintage Monterrey Shirt 6. Vintage Scoop Neck T-Shirt

What they make: Beachy, colorful clothing, most of which is made in the USA. This means that their factories and workers must adhere to American production standards for safety and fair pay.

Their sizing: Up to 3X.

Their policies: Mostly made in USA – all items indicate on the site whether they are USA-made or imported. All images above are of items made in the US.

In their own words: “For nearly three decades, Fresh Produce has delighted women as a lifestyle brand known for its original prints, vibrant color and stylish, comfortable clothing. Today, Fresh Produce designs, manufactures and markets a leading women’s and children’s lifestyle brand of clothing that is primarily made in the USA.” [Source]

4. Smart Glamour

Ethical Fashion: Plus-Sized Ethical Clothing - Sara Laughed1. The Hope Chiffon Dress 2. The Rosa Ruffle Pencil Skirt 3. The Jessica Keyhole Top 4. The Annalise Swing Top 5. The Katie Colorblocked Dress 6. The Emily Halter Dress

What they make: Colorful, retro and modern clothing for all shapes and sizes.

Their sizing: Up to 6X.

Policies: Handmade in New York. As with Fresh Produce, this means that their factories and workers must adhere to American production standards for safety and fair pay!

In their own words: “SmartGlamour is an affordable, fashionable clothing line for women of all shapes, sizes, ages, and heights. We make plus size clothing, straight size clothing, petite clothing, tall clothing, and everything in between and beyond. Every piece is made in NYC with love – just for you.” [Source]

5. Mewv Sustainable by Saffrona

This brand’s plus collection is smaller than that of the others, so I was unable to make the same kind of college for their pieces. However, I truly love their commitment to sustainability, and what they stand for.

Ethical Fashion: Plus-Sized Ethical Clothing - Sara Laughed1. Ruched Dress 2. Triple Back Gown 3. Halter Neck Dress

What they make: Beautiful handmade clothing, especially dresses.

Their sizing: Up to a 4X.

Their policies: Made in USA, sustainable fabric and notions, and not just sized up, but made for plus sizes.

In their own words: “Mewv Sustainables is a pure take on the sustainable market, using no zippers, hooks, or buttons (so far metal and plastics are not sustainable) and focusing on fabrics made of organic cotton, bamboo, soy, tencel, and hemp.” [Source]

How do you feel about these plus-sized ethical fashion collections? Which was your favorite company of the above?

Love, Sara Laughed

Ethical Living

Ethical Fashion: Why I Care

This is the first in a blog post series about ethical fashion. If you already feel informed, feel free to scroll down to the Resources section, where I list some of my favorite websites on ethical fashion, or wait until my next installment!

When I was ten, I wanted to be a fashion designer. I was constantly sketching dresses, devouring fashion books, and cutting up magazines. I had passion. But the fashion world was not made for hearts (or bodies) like mine, so after several years, that dream faded away to be replaced by newer, bigger dreams. Now I dress about as well as the average college student – which is to say, not so well. I generally wear jeans, dresses, and cardigans (sometimes all at once – ouch), and for a long time, clothing didn’t take up a lot of my thought.

Ethical Fashion: Why I Care - Sara Laughed

But a few years ago, I began to take an interest in ethical fashion. I had always been vaguely aware of the systems and processes that allowed me to wear the clothes I did, but it was more comfortable not to think about them. It was easy not to think about the underpaid hands that sewed my $12 shirt, or the pollutant dyes that went into my jeans.

But not thinking about them didn’t make those problems go away. It perpetuated them.

I had this uncomfortable realization when I was about sixteen. Being sixteen, I allowed it to settle for a little while before I did anything. I didn’t have a ton of clothes, after all. I was conscious about where I bought some of my clothing. And when I didn’t want something anymore, it wasn’t like I just threw it out – I donated it to a charity shop or homeless shelter. That wasn’t so bad, right? So I said to myself.

And then, a while later, I heard this quote:

Ethical Fashion: Why I Care - Sara Laughed“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”

I realized that my behavior – buying cheap clothing, only wearing some of it, and then either donating it or throwing out the rest – was not in line with the ways I liked to think I lived. It was not helping the world, and was actually, actively making it worse.

Please know that I am not saying this to shame or guilt-trip you – not even a little bit. I am saying this because, for the longest time, I didn’t know. I didn’t realize where my money was going, and what sort of system it was supporting. And I didn’t realize that I had the opportunity to help make it any better.

But I did, and so do you.

The first step is knowing and understanding why this is a problem. Now, take a deep breath, because things are about to get really bad before they get better. But they will get better, I promise.

Ethical Fashion: Why I Care - Sara LaughedWe have a clothing problem.

The American clothing market is a $225 billion dollar industry. Americans purchase nearly 20 billion clothing items per year, while British citizens have an estimated total of 46.7 billion dollars’ worth of unworn clothing in their closets. The clothing company Zara alone processes 1 million pieces of clothing a day.

Why is this a problem?

First of all, it matters on an environmental scale. The Chinese textile industry puts out about 3 billion tons of soot per year. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that the average American throws away 10 pounds of clothes annually, only 15% of which is recycled later. Of the many clothes that Americans so kindly donate to various organizations, only some of it is given on to others; because of its sheer volume, much of it is resold, or deemed unsellable and dumped in a landfill.

Our clothing problem makes an economic difference as well. Only 2% of American-owned clothes are now made in the United States, down from 95% in 1960. As you can imagine, this has led to a decrease in American jobs, with over 750,000 jobs in the textile industry lost between 1990 and 2011 alone – 80% of the apparel manufacturing jobs in the US.

What matters most to me, however, is the working and living conditions of the people who manufacture the clothing I wear. Many factories have low pay and poor working conditions for their laborers, and if I don’t know how and where my clothing is manufactured, I can’t ensure that I am not supporting that system of oppression. You can learn more about the conditions of some of the people who make clothing here.

Ethical Fashion: Why I Care - Sara Laughed

This is a huge global and societal problem, and for a long time it felt totally insurmountable to me. But luckily, there are many companies who strive to make clothing that is ethical in a variety of ways: environmentally, in terms of manufacturing, and in terms of societal impact. There are companies like Tentree, who plant ten trees for every clothing item sold. There are brands like Synergy, who make all their clothing our of Certified Organic Cotton, use low-impact dyes in their clothes, and are currently employing 150 Nepali women with a living wage and safe working standards. By supporting companies who value ethical production, we can vote with our money and support the causes we care about.

Ethical Fashion: Why I Care - Sara Laughed

I am certainly far from perfect in this regard. Many of my clothes are not ethically sourced, or are from chain stores whose policies I haven’t fully examined. Unfortunately, often the companies we would like to support are expensive, because paying their employees a living wage and using environmentally-friendly materials is more costly than the alternative. However, I’ve realized over time that I need far fewer clothing items than I used to believe. As such, the money that would go to more clothes can now go to better clothes.

I would love it if, eventually, all my clothing were ethically-sourced and made. However, getting rid of my “fast fashion” clothes and replacing my entire wardrobe is neither conscious nor financially realistic, so until then, my goals are:

  • To try to maintain a wardrobe of 30 items or less.
  • To only purchase new items to replace items that are torn, broken, or no longer fit.
  • That any new items I purchase should be thoroughly researched and ethically made.

Ethical Fashion: Why I Care - Sara Laughed
We are lucky to live in an age where we have access to the Internet, which can be a great resource for educating ourselves. There are many websites online that are dedicated to helping you make ethical consumer choices. Here are a few of my favorites.

  • Eco Fashion World’s Eco Fashion Guide has lists of ethical companies in many different areas of shopping.
  • Know the Chain, a website which I found through Oh Simple Thoughts’ wonderful post on ethical fashion. They work to compile a directory of different companies’ responses to the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which obliges large companies to disclose the degree to which they maintain standards preventing trafficking, slavery, and child labor in their supply chains.
  • Free2Work, also found via OST, which scores different companies on their transparency and ethical policies.

Those are my thoughts on ethical fashion and why it’s important to me. I’m planning to make this a series in which I feature some of my favorite companies in different areas – plus sized ethical fashion, budget ethical fashion, active ethical fashion, etc. In the meantime, I hope you’ll take a look at the resources above and let me know what you think of this series in the comments!

What do you think of ethical fashion?

Love, Sara Laughed