Sustainability and the fashion industry are two things you rarely hear in the same sentence.  But when you do, you might stop to think about what you buy, the clothes you wear, and where you buy them.  You begin to wonder where they are made, who makes them, how much the employees are paid, if the conditions are good, if any benefits come with working there, etc.  I would like to start this post with a disclaimer that I too am guilty of falling into the trap of cheap prices for trendy pieces I know I’ll only wear oncewhich are most likely coming at the cost of an underpaid, overworked person.  While I am constantly researching and discovering new companies and clothing lines that take sustainability and human rights seriously, it seems like for every one step forward, I stumble upon a story that takes two steps back.  The following company is taking two steps forward in the bookstore apparel retail channel—a place you wouldn’t typically check to see if you are purchasing ethically.

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Shop Alta Gracia Lolita Racerback Tank here!

Recently, a friend introduced me to the brand Alta Gracia Apparel, a fair trade company.  Alta Gracia Apparel, founded in 2010, is a groundbreaking apparel company produced at the first ever apparel factory in the developing world to pay a living wage and demonstrate full respect for workers’ rights, according to Alta Gracia website.  The company produces mainly school apparel and sportswear—sweatshirts, t-shirts, sweatpants, etc.  Alta Gracia pays their workers more than three times the minimum wage in the Dominican Republic.  The employees of Alta Gracia are in a safe environment and are treated with respect and dignity.  The wages these employees receive are guaranteed by Alta Gracia to cover the cost of a family’s needs (i.e.  food, water, childcare, housing, transportation, clothing, healthcare and education).  

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If you've received a higher education, the least you can do is support ethical working conditions around the world.  

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Alta Gracia works with many prestigious universities in the United States such as Notre Dame, Duke, New York University and Georgetown.  'We are trying to get more people to know that this company exists, and they are actually doing something positive,' Jason Figueroa, general manager of the Fordham University Bookstore, said.  '[Barnes & Noble] is now conscientious of who we are doing business with.  I’m glad to work for a company that at least cares about these things,' according to BNC News.

A university bookstore may not be the first place you would go to for ethically conscious shopping, but Alta Gracia makes this possible.  Check out their website, and see if your university supports the ‘Living Wage’ Sportswear.  After all, if you’re lucky enough to be able to receive a higher education, the least you can do is to support the spread of ethical working conditions around the world.  

 

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Does anyone else feel like New Year’s Eve is kind of underrated?  It doesn’t have the gastronomic wonders of Thanksgiving, nor the soundtrack of Christmas, or even the eight-day-long staying power of Hanukkah–but still, there’s something about it.  Maybe it’s the champagne or the feeling of a new beginning.  In actuality, I think my love for New Year’s Eve stems from the excuse to buy a new cocktail dress.  I’ve picked my favorites from across the Internet (most of which you can find at your local mall, too!), so whether you’re wearing them with stilettos or sneakers, you’ll look great and they won’t clean out your wallet before the New Year! 

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The Sequin Dress

Pinko, $176 at Yoox // H&M, $79.99 at H&M

I personally will be wearing sequins – what better way to kick off 2017 than in sparkles? I highly recommend wearing a sequin dress with a black leather jacket. It’s the ultimate cool-girl look, and it looks great with ankle boots or sneakers, too!

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The Little Black Dress

Current/Elliot, $101 at The Outnet // H&M, $12.99 at H&M

Is there anything more apropos than the little black dress?  This Coated Denim Current/Elliot Shift looks great year-round and may even be office-appropriate.  Looking for a wallet-friendly option?  This (extremely well priced!) Satin Slip from H&M looks amazing with a sheer or mesh turtleneck underneath and a pair of statement earrings.

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The Jumpsuit

Norma Kamali, $135 at FarFetch // Madewell, $170 at Net-a-Porter

A jumpsuit goes anywhere with ease and comfort, but this Madewell one is black-tie ready with a pair of strappy heels, and this Norma Kamali one looks just as good with platform peep-toes as it does with slip-on sneakers.

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The Statement Dress

Equipment, $108 at The Outnet // Topshop, $70 at Topshop

This year, so many of my friends have picked out completely over-the-top colorful looks.  There really is something so fun about wearing a dress that takes you out of your comfort zone, and I think that these will look great with subtle accessories and makeup.  This Topshop dress would shine with a pair of tights and glittery heels, and this Eqipment dress is just begging for a dark matte lipstick.

Whatever you’re doing on Saturday night, you’ll feel best if you’re wearing something that gives you an extra boost of confidence and helps you feel ready for what’s to come in 2017.  We only get this opportunity for reflection and resolution once each year, and dressing for the you that you want to be next year is a total power move.

 

Lara is a senior at Scripps College, where she studies Philosophy and Economics. She lives between Southern California, Hudson, NY and New York City.

 

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St. Louis Fashion Week’s 2016 season included the launch of the first annual Caleres Fashion Entrepreneur Competition, a ‘fashion-meets-Shark-Tank’ style event that took place on November 10.  Five St. Louis-based fashion makers presented their companies.  The winner of the competition took home $10,000 to kick-start or expand their brand, and  the second place entrepreneur received a $5,000 grant.  The panel consisted of members of the  fashion and business communities, including: Ginger Imster, Executive Director, Arch Grants; Jason Hall, Vice President of Entrepreneurship & Innovation, St. Louis Regional Chamber; Eric Johnson, Executive Director, Saint Louis Fashion Fund; Eric Thoelke, President and Executive Creative Director, TOKY; and Elizabeth Tucker, CEO, ALIVE.  

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Purchase The Ida by Fauxgerty here!

The winner of the $10,000 grand prize was a company known as Fauxgerty.  Fauxgerty, founded in 2013 by designer Chrissy Fogerty, is a collection of cruelty-free threads with an emphasis on recycled elements and local, ethical production in St. Louis, LA, and New York.  With a cruelty-free mission, Fauxgerty recognizes the negative impacts of turning hide into leather and is making great strides into conscious consumerism.  ‘You will see recycled polyester in our faux suede, upcycled plastic bottles in our lining, and recycled or reusable products in our packaging and marketing materials.  Our pieces are designed to be timeless in their construction so they can be worn season after season' as stated by Fauxgerty.  Fauxgerty’s designs have clean lines and an overall sleek look.  The warm hues are what initially drew me into their designs, but the mission is what made me fall in love.  

The runner-up for $5,000 was Qristytl Frazier Designer.  These designs   are centered  on making every woman (of any size), feel sexy.  Qristytl Frazier likes to call the type of woman she dresses ‘plus-sexy.’  Her designs are stunning.  Frazier’s smile lit up the room during her presentation, and you could tell she has a  passion for what she’s doing.

With an unexpected donation from a panelist, Claire Flowers was awarded $2,500 to expand her business as well.  Designing multipurpose, highly functional business wear for women, Flowers proved beauty does not always imply pain.  Stable, comfortable shoes and leather dresses with a removable and washable lining (for less weight in your carry on) are just two innovative pieces from this designer.

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The warm hues are what initially drew me into their designs, but the mission is what made me fall in love.  

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Beltshazzar Jewels and Rafael Adón, the final two entrepreneurs, contributed amazing designs as well and will continue to work towards their missions here in St. Louis.  

Overall, this event was very inspiring and opened my eyes to all of the entrepreneurial creativity right here in St. Louis.  Innovators and creators like these designers are such a crucial part of the fashion industry, and it is fascinating to see them growing and developing their work in my own backyard.   

 

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As a college student and developing young professional, I'm constantly invited to events and meetings where the dress code reads ‘business casual.’  While I'm excited for these opportunities, in the back of my mind I am usually panicking and thinking, ‘WTF does that even mean?’  The good news is, I know I’m not alone.  Time and time again, when I’ve asked peers, advisors, family, and professional colleagues, the answer to ‘how do I dress business casual?’ always produces an unclear set of guidelines like ‘probably a skirt and shirt,’ or an equally confused, ‘I honestly don’t really know.’  It seems like this dress code wouldn’t be hard, and for some who already have a fully stocked professional wardrobe, maybe it isn’t.  But for me, a student who has neither the time nor means to buy a new set of business clothes, dressing business casual often results in staring at the closet for hours, wondering which tops, skirts, and pants are juuuuust the right combination of both ‘business’ and ‘casual.’  

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Ok, so WTF does business casual mean?  In this sense, causal means something you could wear to work and then head to dinner with your parents in.  It works in the office, but also could work for a nice brunch or a day of meeting your boyfriend’s family.  It's not the kind of casual you would wear every day or out to a club, but it is more laid back than what you would imagine a full-on business look to be.  So then what is business?  In this sense, the business part means something that is modest and mature, but not restricting, like a full suit and heels.  It looks polished, age-appropriate, and presentable in front of higher ups, clients, or people you want to make a good first impression on.

These can be things you might already own, like knee or tea-length skirts, wrap dresses, slacks, blouses, cardigans, blazers, silk tops, loafers, boots, and flats.  Or, you can opt to purchase a few versatile pieces that can be worn over and over.  Regardless, here are some things to keep in mind when picking out your business casual pieces:

Color

Dark colors are often the best for business casual clothing.  Not only because they tend to appear more mature, but because this makes the clothing more versatile, as it will be less obvious when they are repeatedly worn.  It also prevents signs of wear and tear, adding to your put-together and polished look.  Don’t be afraid of color though — if you are the kind of person who likes to wear bright colors, consider buying a few statement shirts to go with your darker colored pants and skirts, or throwing on a few pops of color in your accessories.  Overall, keep a subdued, but still unique look, by relying primarily on darks and neutrals, with hints of colors or prints.

Length

This can be kind of difficult when choosing from pieces you already have or when dressing for warmer weather.  However, as far as business casual goes, it is always a good idea to select skirts and dresses that are on the longer side.  This doesn’t mean you should be boring or frumpy, just make sure you are wearing something that looks appropriate and flatters you.  Try maxi skirts or dresses that graze the knee.  If you do not have longer pieces, go for something flowy to balance out the shorter length, and consider wearing tights to add a layer of coverage.

Fit

This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of a business casual outfit.  Be sure you are choosing something that looks like it has been tailored to you.  Make sure it is not too tight, and that it accentuates your best features and flatters your figure.  This will make it clear that you put thought and care into your appearance, and will make you feel confident in knowing that others can tell how much you care about your job, interview, or the event.

Accessories

Accessories are another way to make sure your look is completed from head to toe.  Keep nails polished or polish-free, but not chipped or unkempt.  Style your hair, at least in some way, to show that you put effort into your look.  Use a nice, sturdy purse rather than a sloppy tote or even a backpack, and throw on some jewelry, if you are the kind of person who usually wears it, to add a finishing touch.  With all of that in mind though, feel free to play with your accessories, utilizing pops of color, unique combinations, or statement pieces.  These will add subtle flairs of your own personality to your look.

Personality

Just because you are aiming to look professional does not mean you need to abandon your own personal style.  Fashion is meant to be an expression of who you are, and that is something that can be translated even into a business look.  Find pieces that speak to you, such as modern twists on classic styles, or pieces with lowkey patterns and subtle flair.  Little bows, pleats, zippers, and asymmetrical hems can add fun to your basics that show off the real you, especially when paired in unique ways or in combination with your favorite accessories.  Stay away from something that is trying too hard to be different, such as sequins, sheer, and excess lace, but don’t shy away from tastefully fun and flirty styles that portray your glowing personality to the world!

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You are powerful, and now that you look the part, there is nothing that will get in your way!

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All of that said, it's a good idea to keep in mind that every event and workplace is different.  Some may allow for jeans or shorts, while others may not.  Some may allow for sandals and sneakers, while others may not.  And even still, slight variations in unspoken dress codes can appear in ways you haven’t even thought of or that I haven’t listed.  If you are trying to dress for the long term, like a job where the office is business casual, pay attention to those around you, and learn from their looks.  However, if you are attending a one-time event and all these rules and variations still seem confusing to you, and you can’t figure out what to wear, don’t stress it!  It seems like a big deal, but as long as you have a general idea of how to achieve the right business casual look (as I hope you now do), you will more than likely be just fine.  When in doubt, go with something that makes you look sophisticated and polished, and, most importantly, that makes you feel confident.  Plus, as they say, you can never be overdressed or overeducated.  So just go out in your favorite combination of a silk top and slacks, or a wrap dress and loafers, or a skirt, tights, and cardigan, and wow their socks off!  You are powerful, and now that you look the part, there is nothing that will get in your way!

 

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September Issues of Vogue, pumpkin spice everything, red leaves and layering; these are just a few reasons fall is my favorite season.  Fall fashion leaves room for creativity with layering formulas that you could have never imagined.  The below lookbook follows the path of Iris Apfel, Leandra Medine, and Elizabeth Taylor – all fashion icons remembered for their creativity and individuality.  The following outfits are not your typical fall layering looks, yet remain very attainable for all closets and budgets.  Regardless of whether you would wear these styles, I hope you find your autumn weather wardrobe inspiration.

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Photos by Abigail Halter

Black Booties: ZaraOver-the-Knee Socks: Free PeopleBlack Dress and White Short Sleeve Shirt: Zara / Jean Jacket: Calvin KleinBlack Long Sleeve with Details: Free PeopleMustard Yellow Purse: Forever 21Crushed Velvet Top: ZaraSunglasses: Urban OutfittersBlack Slip-on’s: Steve MaddenOrange Knit Top: Free PeopleNecklace: Kendra ScottDistressed Jeans: Zara Denim

 

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