I just bought this sweater from a popular clothing brand because I had a gift card. I already felt guilty about it because I knew this brand was not ethically minded. Meaning, they are known to use factories with unsafe work environments, utilize slave and child labor, and do not source materials in a sustainable way. But these kinds of companies are LARGE and pervasive and are sometimes unavoidable. So, when I shop at unethical retailers (because let’s face it, when I have free money – I use it!), I focus on buying items that are versatile and built to last. I spent a lot time lingering at this store trying to settle on a piece that fit my criteria for building an ethical wardrobe. It’s neutral, it’s basic, it’s durable. Okay, done, swipe, shudder, and move on.


I wore and washed this ONCE and now the gaping HOLE (pictured above) sneered at me as I took it out of the drawer. I was then thrust immediately back to that day in the store with my children whining about pizza and the litany of thoughts zooming through my mind as I wrestled with this very complicated decision…

I have one gift card. I have to use it! Spend wisely. This is not an ethical store. I need to be very conscious of what I buy! No, you cannot run around the racks. Does this sweater go with enough items in my closet? Is the person who works here judging how long this is taking me? Yes, we will have pizza after this. Only if you’re good. Now I remember why I shop online.

When I saw the hole, I felt like crying. I know that probably sounds silly. After all, it’s just a sweater. This has happened to all of us, right? We laugh at ourselves and say, “Well, now I know why this sweater was so cheap!” But that hole represents so much more than MY wasted money or my wasted opportunity to get compliments. This isn’t about me at all.

The person who made this sweater likely was paid very little, if anything at all. She is hungry and goes without meals. She sent her children away because she cannot afford to house and feed them. She is at great risk of injury or death due to her unsafe work environment. Modern day slavery is very real. We are hidden from it as American consumers partly because we want to be. Yes, companies go through great lengths to distance us from these horrible truths, but the bigger reality is: we don’t want to know. We like paying less for cheap things that get holes in them so we have an excuse to buy more. We think it makes us feel good, but in reality we are just fueling an industry that represents and provides wealth for very few people. Our endless cycle of replacing poorly made items makes us feel nothing at best. And at the worst, we contribute to a global systemic problem of poverty, hunger, broken families, and death. No, it’s not just a sweater.

We have an immense amount of power in our choices. Beyond bright or neutral, tight or flowy, our clothing represents who we are, our personalities, and what’s important to us. We want to feel confident in how we look AND how we contributed to someone else’s success. Let the holes in our sweaters represent a life well-lived and full of adventure, and not one trip through the washing machine in exchange for a person’s dignity.

For more insight into the significant problems facing the garment industry today, check out The True Cost, available on Netflix. #lifechanger If you do, please drop a comment or an email and let me know what you think!

Versatility & Simplicity Rules

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If you know me (and if you’re reading this right now there’s a good chance that you do) you know that I like to keep my style simple. In fact, for the LONGEST time I didn’t even think I had a style or that the fashion world was something for me. I am a jeans and tshirt kinda girl. I do not do my hair or makeup and I do not follow trends. This may sound kind of funny coming from a stylist and impact entrepreneur who works for an ethical fashion company. Maybe even a bit disingenuous, like I’m trying to be someone I’m not in order to sneakily gain your trust or something. But to be honest, it’s the truth. I never saw myself as a fashionista, and I will admit I may have done a bit of impolite scoffing at people who were. (Sorry about that.) In reality though, we are all part of the fashion industry. Maybe we do not keep watch and buy new trends or are bold and unique in our style, but we all purchase clothes and care about what people think. Our clothing affects how people see us and the impression we give, and so whether we realize or not, we think pretty carefully about what we wear and the message it may send. It’s taken me some time, but I generally am okay with the message I am sending with my wardrobe. It’s simple, casual, and approachable, and that’s who I want the world to see.

At present, especially since starting work with Sseko Designs, I have become intentional about the clothes I wear. Previously, I spent very little time thinking about what I was buying and wearing. I clearly had a specific style (we all do) but I did not curate it or think about it. If I bought a sweater that was like 3 other sweaters in my closet, that was fine because I just had simple taste. But decades later that adds up to a lot of duplicate items that create a lot of chaos and laundry. I did spend quite a bit of January 2018 cleaning my closet, and sorting through clothes, and creating a wardrobe that was more functional and easy (as is my style anyway). This included adding some staple pieces that were extremely versatile. Not only do I want to be intentional about where my clothes come from (and who made them, and if they were treated and paid properly), but I want to also be intentional about what those clothes ARE. What are their function? What purpose do they serve in my daily life?

Enter this black shift dress. Everyone knows a little black dress will go FAR in your closet. They rarely go out of style, black is a color that looks good on everyone, and you always have occasions that pop up last minute that require the flexibility of the LBD. It’s not that I’ve never owned one before, but I’ve never owned one that made me quite so creative. I am evolving into a person who can wear the same piece multiple ways, for multiple occasions and be proud of that fact, instead of worried that others would notice I was re-wearing something. Like I am some kind of Kate Middleton-esque celebrity that people spend time caring about how often I wore this one blue shirt to preschool drop off. A key component to an ethical wardrobe is wearing what you already have, repurposing clothing, and choosing pieces that are not only versatile themselves, but that also go with a lot of other items in your closet. A capsule wardrobe and minimal wardrobes also have similar goals and virtues.

We are all a work in progress, but I am really excited about the black shift. It fits sizes 0-16 and can be worn SO MANY ways, with SO MANY things. I had so much fun playing around with looks (instead of organizing my closet…ha) and am excited to share them with you! Which is your favorite? Do you have a versatile piece of clothing that you can wear lots of ways? Share with me here or tag me on Instagram @kmhohostyle. I’d love to see how creative you are!

6 ways to wear the black shift dress

My closet is practically empty and it makes me weirdly happy.

Style 1: Super fun and flowy with the multiway shawl, also from Sseko Designs. The new bold palm print this season is AMAZE. You can also see how unashamedly obsessed I am with the half moon necklace. #sorrynotsorry

Style 2: Super old cardigan gets new life with the shift dress! Pop of color is nice, warmth is necessary this time of year in Michigan, and the structure is also helpful on smaller frames.

Style 3: Tied with a scarf belt to give it some structure and color. I pulled the top out a bit which evened up the bottom hem and gave it a more empire waist look to it. That mini ring tote though…all the heart eyes for mint leather this season!

Style 4: JEAN JACKETS ARE BACK! I don’t care what you say, the 90s are here and I’m all over it. The stiffness of the jacket gives the dress some structure if you want less flow. The black leggings are a great addition, especially if you’re taller than me and want more coverage. Suede brave necklace with your favorite charms and quail (dreamy dusty purple) tassel clutch complete the look!

Style 5: Well, I guess this one is kinda cheating, but I wanted to show you how fun the v-neck in the back is!! Definitely gives the dress a different look. It also changes the jewelry you can wear.

Style 6: SOLO!! Here I am wearing it with burgundy tights and black knee-high boots.

So, to be honest, you will still see me in that shirt and jeans at preschool drop off most days because Kate Middleton I am not. However, I love having a casual and fun option to wear when I want to spice it up a bit. By only shopping once and buying ONE item, I am able to now create several different outfits for different occasions. While we do sometimes pay more for ethical brands, we do end up spending LESS overall on our clothes budget, which is a WIN WIN in my book.