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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Three things I’ve learned from two years of ethical living

Two years ago today I started this blog as a community for women and girls who wanted to live gracefully. To me, that meant making choices that respected the planet and everyone who lived here- especially the women and children most affected by forced and low-wage labour.

It’s been a windy road since my first post. I moved from Egypt to Canada, started a new job at World Vision Canada, and, most recently, got married! Through it all, I’ve tried my best to ensure that my choices are, as much as possible, conscious ones. Here are three things I’ve learned from that process:

  1. Shopping ethically can be HARD, but patience and saving do pay off.

Sometimes finding that perfect ethical item can be extremely frustrating. But saving up for quality items, hunting for the perfect ethical find, and revisiting thrift shops DO pay off. Here are a couple examples from my Instagram feed of patience and saving in action:

I wanted an item from Everlane for a long time. When fall rolled around last year, I realized I didn’t have a good trench to protect from the elements. So I saved up for this Swing Trench, waited for the colour I wanted to come back in stock, researched what size would be best for me and ordered it. It’s become one of my most-worn items, and I know I’ll have it for years to come.

On the other hand, I had just started thinking about how much I used to love my moccasins, but worried that they were too expensive and unethically made when some women from work and I went on a thrift store shopping trip. I was trying on last-minute finds when my coworker walked over to me, asked, “Are you a size 8?” and handed me these shoes from the exact brand I used to get in college…for $9.99! I have so many stories like that, I’ve learned to be patient when I need or want something- and to value and enjoy what I have in the meantime. In my experience, it always pays off.

2. No one can be 100% ethical all the time.

This one is often a tough pill for me to swallow, but the truth is that finances, necessity, and just a general lack of knowledge contribute so much to not being able to be totally ethical. The hardest area of my life to be ethical in is my diet…and after reading this article on checking our food privilege I realized I am not alone. Eating as a conscious consumer is tough on a budget. Although I try to buy fair trade and local as often as I can, I know that I just don’t have enough information about much of the products I buy to be able to tell what is and isn’t ethical.

And that’s where we need to give ourselves some grace. It sounds terrible to say we need to choose our battles, but for our own sanity and health, we do. However, that doesn’t mean we should just give up. We can each take small actions to limit our impact on the earth and those that live here. For me, that means not eating shrimp anymore due to the reports of forced and child labour in the industry. For many of my friends, I know that means leading a vegan lifestyle to limit their environmental impact. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you know the facts, and then put your whole heart into it. Every small action for people and the planet counts.

3. The conscious consumer movement is amazing…and GROWING

Back when I started this journey, finding the products and information I needed to make “graceful” choices could be like searching for a needle in a haystack. Since then, the sustainable, fair-trade, and conscious consumer movements have exploded. Every day I find a new brand, blogger or group on Instagram dedicated to many of the same principles that drove me to start this site.

That, my friends, is what change is about. Back in 2014, sitting on my bed pouring over the Guardian’s interactive documentary The Shirt on Your Back, I felt appalled and moved to action. But I also felt a sense of helplessness, not knowing how my choices could affect change, or even where to start.

I don’t feel like that anymore. I’ve learned that our actions as consumers, and our interest in ethical products DO make a difference to industry. Our opinion has pushed Cadbury to expand its Fair Trade chocolate options. It’s birthed new ethical companies. It’s protected our natural resources. And I am certain it has made a difference in the lives of the men and women in the fair wage enterprises we support. Maybe those things are small, but they give me hope. The hope that my next two years of (attempting) ethical living will be just as rewarding. The hope that soon ethical living won’t be a special lifestyle choice, but the norm.

So Happy Fashion Revolution Day Graces! Here’s to another year of living gracefully.

xoxo,

A Luminant Skin Giveaway

Before I even fully opened the box, a sweet, almond note wafted to my nose. Intoxicating, it carried me away to a blissful paradise of marzipan heaven. Luminance Skincare sent me some handpicked products to try, and the foodie opening had me enthralled.

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The handcrafted Sweet Marzipan soap smells so good that I haven’t used it yet. But with skin-loving ingredients like Coconut Oil and Red Morrocan clay, this soapie already knows it’s going to be a favourite. It’s also huge- I’ve begun favoring soaps over body washes because they don’t have packaging (using less resources), they are convenient, and they make my skin feel clean, clean, clean.

The other products I received come in luxurious glass jars, spray and pump bottles. I am blown away at the quality of these products, and the company’s attention to craftsmanship and detail. The line was created by a man whose wife became allergic to the chemical scents in conventional products. My sister is allergic to scent (and a whole lot of other things), and both of us have sensitive skin, so their story hits pretty close to home.

I am going to be reviewing the Luminance Skin Care Line side-by-side with some of my everyday favourites. Many of them are similar in form and function- but not in ingredients. While I’ve been slathering chemicals on my body’s biggest organ, Luminance Skin Care products contain only natural and beautiful ingredients. But do they work? Let’s find out.

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My usual cleanser: Purity Made Simple by Philosophy

I’ve been using this cleanser for years. It’s gentle, and it gets off every bit of makeup without making my skin dry or red. But, like the other products, it’s not as “pure” as it claims!

Luminance Skin Care’s version: Delicate Face Cleanser $18

I was dubious about whether a cleanser with this much liquid could work. But it does! All you need is one or two sprays, and it lathers like a dream, leaving your skin squeaky clean. No redness or eye irritation either!

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My usual toner: The Body Shop Vitamin E spray

I love this stuff for a refreshing spritz, and to set my makeup. It smells like roses.

Luminance Skin Care’s version: Rosewater Face Toner $18

The better, cleaner version of the one above! It’s pure rose water, which means that the only ingredients water that has been infused with rose petals. It smells more herbal than my perfumey Body Shop spray, and much lighter. My pores are noticeably smaller after using this. I plan on keeping it in the fridge for hot summer days. A winner!

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My usual facial moisturizer: The Body Shop Vitamin E night cream

In the winter, I loved the Body Shop cream, but I’m starting to notice now that it never really fully sinks in to my skin.

Luminance Skin Care’s version: Hydration Face Moisturizer $27

No such problem with Luminance. Lighter, and more effective? Yes please! I can see this working equally well in the winter. The texture is not as thick as The Body Shop. It sinks in quickly and leaves my face soft and glowy.

Overall Impressions: It’s only been a few days, but I already notice a difference in my skin. The skin around my nose has been rough and red lately. My skin is much smoother. These products really have made my skin luminant.

 

My favourite product from the line- the Rosewater Toner!
My favourite product from the line- the Rosewater Toner!

 

My usual body moisturizer: Palmer’s Cocoa Butter body cream

I bought this because it smells like chocolate and vanilla…and because Clare Bowen from the show Nashville uses it! But there are some pretty nasty ingredients in this stuff.

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Luminance Skin Care’s version: Skin Butter Rich Moisture $18

You know the scent when you beat together butter and sugar to make cookies? This is it. As with all their skincare products, it is very light, and is the natural fragrance of the lovely oils they use, not an added scent. You will smell it when you put it on, but then no one else will- making it perfect for scent-free workplaces. It doesn’t leave your skin greasy, but gently softens dry patches. I think those who suffer from eczema would love this.

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My usual deodorant: various

Since my Lush T’eo ran out, I have been trying several different things. Some days I use aloe mixed with lavender essential oil, which works pretty well, but has a very strong scent. If I need a touch up, I carry a Pacifica solid perfume in my purse- it contains coconut oil, which many use as deodorant. On really hot days (which have been plentiful here in Cairo), I go back to normal deodorant.

Luminance Skin Care’s version: Deodorant $15

This has a really fresh, herbal scent similar to Caudalie’s beauty elixir, and it feels refreshing. The scent fades after a minute, and I can’t detect it after that. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me. I wore this during a day working at home. It was around 27 degrees C in the house, nothing super-sticky. I was wearing a thin, 100% cotton tunic. I put the deodorant on when I woke up, and added another spritz about four hours later. But at the seven hour mark, this stuff fell short. I had to add some of my Pacifica solid perfume to make up for it. I think there was too much water diluting the active oils and extracts to make this an effective product.

I won’t be using this as a deodorant, but it could be nice as a refreshing spray on the back of the neck, arms etc. on hot days.

Lush T’eo is still the only natural deodorant that works for me on my tropical adventures.

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My usual facial sunscreens: Olay Sensitive Skin SPF moisturizer, Lovea SPF 15 with monoi oil, Avene mineral sun cream SPF 50

I am not a huge fan of any of these. The Olay and Lovea clog my pores (though the Lovea is great for a body sunscreen, as it is natural), and the Avene is way too heavy.

Luminance Skin Care’s version: Sun Screen $25

Red raspberry seed oil is said to have an SPF of around 28-40. This sunscreen is mixed with other oils, so I would say it probably shares an SPF factor with the Olay or the Lovea. It absorbs immediately, moisturizes well, and leaves your skin soft and not at all greasy, with a natural raspberry herb scent. I haven’t been able to test it out in the sun yet- so I will let you know how it does.

Even brands that claim to be natural often have ingredients that make me cringe- fragrance, phenoxyehtanol (which I am allergic to), or excessive plastic packaging (I’m looking at you EcoTools).

With Luminance, I couldn’t find any of those flaws. Every single product feels lovely on the skin, and, with the exception of the deodorant (and possibly the sunscreen- the jury is still out!) they worked. Also, can we just talk about the packaging for a second? Glass jars, like an old-school chemist, with modern black labels = perfection.

The price point is also great for such incredible ingredients. When compared to similar products from One Love Organics, these are a steal. Yes, they are a bit more than drugstore brands. But they work better, and they have none of the chemicals that more and more people are becoming allergic too. I would compare the prices of their facial skincare with The Body Shop products. My only suggestion would be to make a thicker deodorant, with aloe, baking soda or cornstarch, and the oils already in their current product.

Luminance Skincare and Grace’s Way have a treat for you. They are offering a giveaway of $50, $100 and $150 to spend on their website! All you have to do is click this link:a Rafflecopter giveaway
, enter your email, and comment on this blog with a question for Luminance Skin Care. If you are having problems with the link, you can also post to the Giveaway on our Facebook page. Luminance will check back and answer your question, and you will be automatically entered in the giveaway. The giveaway will be open until August 5th- so you have almost a month to post comments! You can ask as many questions as you like, but try to make them real questions, ok? To get you inspired, check out their website and the rest of their product line here.

Luminance Skincare has also graciously offered all of you 20% off on your order- just for being Graces! So if you don’t win the giveaway, you can still enjoy their beautiful skincare saviors. Just use the code GRACESWAY in the checkout.

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Disclaimer: I received these products for free. The opinions above are my honest thoughts, and I am not being paid for this post.