When One is All You Have- #1Dress1Month

Growing up in Senegal, I knew that many of my friends only had one nice outfit…or one outfit at all. As a fashion lover since the age of about three, I would spend days or weeks planning what to wear to a party (a habit I haven’t grown out of), and my Christmas and Birthday wish lists always included that one item I felt would complete my sartorial bliss. Meanwhile, some of my friends would wear the same shirt and pants to every party, and every Sunday at church.

I’m well aware of this disconnect between the life I have lived and that of so many of my friends. Some of those dearest to me have recounted memories of being picked on at school because they wore the same shirt every day. I remember that very thing happening in my Canadian public school to the children of families on social assistance.

As hurtful as being bullied for your appearance is, not having enough clothes gets even more painful when the weather changes, as it is changing now. It’s this season that makes the difference between those who have, and those who don’t, a fatal gap.

That’s why, this month, I’m putting things into perspective for myself. For the entire month of November, I will wear one thrifted, little black dress. This dress:

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As I go through the month, I’ll be posting pictures of my black dress ensembles on social media, and raising awareness about how important warm clothes is for children in winter. Through my project, I hope to inspire those of use who are blessed with more than enough, to give the gift of warm clothes to kids in places where winter is bitterly cold, like Romania, through World Vision’s gift catalogue.

For someone who loves the creativity and self-expression of getting dressed in the morning, you might think this is a sacrifice. But it’s not. I get to choose from a myriad of accessories, sweaters, shoes, tights, and outerwear as the temperature drops. And, in choosing what piece I would wear for the month, I picked from about a dozen (mostly thrifted) dresses, including no less than four black dresses. This is an adventure- living without winter clothing in places like Romania isn’t.

When I was 17, I visited Romania on a high school music tour. One day we drove through a little village on our way to a local tourist attraction. As we passed the houses, I caught a glimpse of a little girl standing in a doorway, very close to the road. She was bundled against the March chill, and on her head was a warm hat in the design of a strawberry.

The image of that little girl has stuck with me. As I go through the month, I’ll be keeping her and her winter hat in mind as a symbol of what I want to achieve- that every little child we work with will have proper winter clothing this year. I’m hoping that’s a dream that will catch on.

PS- See some of the looks I’ll be taking inspiration from on my Pinterest board! To learn more about why I shop ethically (including the thrift store, where I bought my black dress), check out this post.

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A Daisy Chain OOTD

“Don’t you think daisies are the friendliest flower?”-Meg Ryan, You’ve Got Mail

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I have a slight obsession with flowers. Daisies are some of my favourites ever since You’ve Got Mail made it into my top 10 movie list. Who didn’t love making daisy chains when they were young, stringing them in their hair and pretending to be a fairy princess? There is just something about daisies that is so inviting and innocent.

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I’ve been looking for a daisy dress for quite a while. I was super lucky when, on my first trip to one of Cairo’s vintage markets, I found one! It was a grand total of six dollars Canadian. It’s so comfortable and easy to wear.

 

The trick with vintage markets, or any vintage store, is to keep an open mind, and look for colour and fabric first, not style. As you scan the racks, your eyes should be tuned to looking for interesting patterns and colours. I am always attracted to pretty pastels and floral patterns. According to your personal style, have an idea of the kind of thing you are looking for, but don’t get too detailed before you go. If you have a general idea of what you want- say, simple dresses- you will have much more luck than if you are looking for a specific colour or style. Also, if you do need a specific piece, you may need to go back on multiple occasions to get a sense of where things are, and when new pieces arrive. Have patience, and you will be rewarded with something unique and lovely.

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Dress- vintage

Belt- vintage

Locket, ring and pearl earrings- gifts from my lovely parents!

Flower hair clip- old: similar

Sandals- Birkenstock discontinued style: similar 

 

I’ve worn this dress at least four times since I bought it a couple weeks ago. I also took it on a weekend vacation to the Red Sea, and it was so easy to throw over my swimsuit. I love bringing dresses on summer holidays, because they save space in my suitcase, and they work at the pool, on the beach, going for a stroll in the garden, and at dinner jazzed up with some jewelry! In Cairo, I generally have to put leggings on underneath, for cultural reasons. But at the resort, and in my garden, with the flowers, I’m as free as…well, a daisy!

 

I’ve also uploaded a little outfit of the day and mini get-read-with-me video!

Do you guys like these short videos? I am still getting used to filming and editing, so they are nothing fancy, but I think they add a little something to a normal outfit post.

 

Also, this is not the only dress I bought that day. The other will be make an appearance in another post soon. Until then, happy sustainable shopping!

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If you have a beauty, fashion or lifestyle brand you think we should feature, or would like to do a guest post, please email me at contactgracesway@gmail.com! I have been in contact with so many of you, and some of those collaborations will be coming to Grace’s Way very soon.

 

PS- My favourite flower will be revealed on Instagram for this week’s #flowerfriday!

 

Photography by myself and Ahmed Badawi.

A Desert Adventure

Since I was a little girl, the desert has intrigued me. We lived in Senegal, West Africa for five years when I was growing up, just on the edge of the vast Sahara, and I always dreamed of living with the Bedouin like a character in 1001 Nights. When I was a teenager, Hidalgo and Sahara were my favourite movies.

I’ve had my fair share of desert forays, from sleeping in a Moroccan-style tent, climbing sand dunes and riding camels in Senegal, to baking bread under the sand in Tunisia- both in the Sahara-not to mention, one harrowing but memorable ride on horseback at 2 am near the pyramids.

These particular snaps are from a quick adventure on the way back from Sahel, Egypt’s North Coast.

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Photo by Ahmed Hossam Badawi

 

Everything I’m wearing, except for jewelry is vintage. The shirt, skirt and belt are all from the vintage market in Tunis, and are unknown brands. My burgundy Keds are from a Value Village on the Danforth in Toronto. The wooden necklace was a gift from my parents, from Senegal. The dolphin earrings were made out of a seed pod by the Malika Monkeys- a group of artisans in Senegal who mostly make African drums. Check out their website here for more fun jewelry and gifts- their skirts are especially gorgeous! I liked wearing these Senegalese pieces on this particular trip, because they remind me of my dreams as a child- and how I am living them now!

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By the way, along the road we saw a herd of camels! I wish I had taken a video, because it was amazing. There were so many of them. Here is a blurry photo I managed to snap out the window!

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetBy way of an update for those of you who have been following Grace’s Way on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, we had some issues with the camera on the trip, so there won’t be a lookbook video per se. However, we did manage to get photos, so I will be posting more of those soon. Once I get comfortable with video editing again (it’s been years!) and work out the camera kinks, I will try to post a lookbook. I have a very special idea in mind, so keep an eye out!

Also, if you are a fair-trade-loving, sustainably-living type person- or just trying to give it a go- send me your photos, post ideas, or experiences! This site is definitely not meant to be just me. Like with Haley’s interview, I love featuring people and brands who are making beautiful things, for the good of our planet and the people living here. So email me at contactgracesway@gmail.com, tweet @thisisgracesway or post on Instagram with the hashtag #gracesway.

That’s all for now, Graces. Have an adventurous day!

PS- It’s Audrey Hepburn’s birthday today!

PPS- It’s my (Megan’s) birthday month!

 

 

Let’s dress like Grace Kelly and save the planet!

My closet full of vintage lovelies.

Audrey Hepburn, Coco Chanel, Grace Kelly, Daisy from the Great Gatsby- what do all these women (real and imagined) have in common? They were born into an age when your favourite dress came from a shop down the street, or was tailor-made for you and worn for years. It wasn’t mass produced in a factory across the world, where the people who worked on it are payed less than your lipgloss cost you. It didn’t fall apart after a couple summers. It stayed beautiful for years. Maybe this is why we can still buy dresses from the 40s, 50s, 60s- even 20s- today, and continue to wear and enjoy them.

 

Vintage shopping is nothing new, but it’s gaining popularity with trendsetters from Taylor Swift  to Violet magazine creator and star stylist Leith Clark (who has dressed Kierra Knightley, Clemence Poesy, Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams to name a few).

 

One designer who is vintage inspired is the iconic Orla Kiely. In a video on her collaboration with ethical clothing producer People Tree, Kiely talked about “fast fashion” vs. quality designs: “The race to buy cheap clothes…and you know, they don’t last, they fall apart, and I just think there’s so much to be said for quality now.” Kiely encouraged customers to “invest in pieces that they love and that will last,” and to “think about what they’re buying.”

Orla Kiely People Tree SS14 Dress

Of course, we often don’t think they have the luxury of buying ethically, because of how much we think it will cost. On her blog, Wildfox Couture designer Kimberly Gordon gave us some advice about this. “When I was younger I shopped at places like Forever 21, now I realize what that company has to sacrifice to keep their prices so low, including low pay for their employees, bad fabrics (in many ways), cheap factories, and the stealing of other people’s creativity and hard work,” she said.

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Kimberly Gordon of Wildfox

As an alternative, Gordon suggested “looking for local brands or vintage.” “If you regularly shop somewhere cheap check out its history and make sure you aren’t supporting something you don’t believe in!” she warned.

 

Those things that you may not believe in include art theft, in other words, when brands like Anthropologie and Forever 21 steal a struggling artist’s work and use it for their own profit. As the sister of an artist, that does not sit well with me.

 

An even bigger problem with high street fashion, is that the less you pay, the less wages and rights someone on the other side earns to get them to you. According to the Guardian, hundreds of people have been involved in making the shirt you are wearing. Many of them were paid $2 a day. Last year, the Rana Plaza Disaster in Bangladesh made use realize the impossibly high cost of of high street brands like River Island and Primark. Though most of the brands whose clothing was being created in the factories have signed The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, many are wondering if they will actually change their ways. Horrible things like Rana have happened before- fires, the discovery of factories without washrooms, of children working long hours…and little to nothing has changed.

 

Here’s the thing- by investing your money in quality pieces, you actually save in the long run. You won’t have to buy as much, or as often, since your clothes won’t fall apart. Get creative, and wear what you have, adding a fair-trade statement piece or a new pair of recycled sole shoes.

 

Quality is another pro of second-hand shopping: if a dress is in a vintage shop, chances are its been loved enough that if it hasn’t gone to piece by now, it’s not going to for another long while. Plus, there is always that shot in a million that it once graced the beautiful frame of one of your fashion inspirations.

Marie Claire’s 8 favourite online vintage stores

Buying used clothing is also a way to keep our planet beautiful. The process of making your t-shirt the colour of your favourite flower is actually one of the most serious threats to that flower. You know the sweet “Fabric of My Life” ads with a celebrity twirling in a cotton sundress? The industry that made that dress is responsible for 25% of the insecticides used worldwide.  That’s a lot of chemicals going into the plants and animals around us. By buying a similar dress at a vintage store, you cut down on those chemicals and save our natural resources. Plus, you look unique and adorable doing it.

 

Grace once said, “ If there is one thing that is foreign to me it is shopping for pleasure. On the other hand, I believe that it is right to honor all those who create beautiful things and give satisfaction to those who see me wearing them.”

 

In buying cheap products, are we really honoring those who made them? Or are we saying, “My desire to look pretty and own pretty things is more important than your life?” Do you, like Grace Kelly, want to be remembered as someone who did her best to help others, or as someone who just looked pretty?

 

This is what Grace’s Way is about- following the example of women like Grace Kelly. It is about resisting the urge- and the incessant marketing- that pushes us to buy more, at cheaper prices (and lower quality), rather than save up and spend more for pieces that will last long enough to become our favourites. It’s about acknowledging the beauty of the world and people around us, and loving enough to protect them.

 

I believe that beautiful things can be ethical too. Starting today, Earth Day 2014, I am making a commitment to the earth and the people on it. I commit to buying only vintage and sustainable clothing for this year. Will you make the pledge with me, and believe that beauty can do good? If you will, tweet or post on Instagram with the hashtag #gracepledge2014. Let’s join the movement of fashion for good!

What would Grace Kelly do?

Happy Earth Day 2014 from Grace’s Way! Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest!