Meet the Practically Perfect Encircled T-Shirt Dress

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You all know my love for Encircled. I’ve shared about them in at least five separate blog posts over the years and, more recently, have loved partnering with them the past few months to share some of their new releases and versatile classics.

If you need a quick refresher, here’s what I love about Encircled:

  • They’re based in Canada. (I’m not, but for all of my Canadian readers who ask me where to shop, here you go!) All of their production and sourcing happens as locally as possible (100% in Canada, which is amazing) and everything is cut and sewn in their studio in Toronto.

  • They’re B Corp Certified.

  • They focus on versatility and sustainability. As someone who lives in a tiny space with a tiny closet, I can’t say firmly enough that versatility MATTERS. Encircled’s pieces are designed with travel in mind, so almost all of them are able to be worn in multiple ways (we’re talking 5 or more for some of the most innovative garments like the Chrysalis Cardi and the Evolve Top).

  • They’re transparent about the struggles of owning an ethically minded business. I wrote in my Ethical Basics Guide that Kristi, the brand’s CEO and designer, shared with me a bit about how tricky it is to source fabrics that meet their high quality and longevity standards — if you’ve ever felt an Encircled garment before, you know what I’m talking about — and is gentle on the environment. They’re honest about when small compromises (like blending their fabrics with spandex) are necessary to achieve the final product they know will last women years and years.

  • They’re size inclusive. Their pieces fit sizes 00-20, which is a vast step above most brands who claim to include sizes for all.

  • Their pieces fit WITH your evolving body. Along with my Natural Edition tees, my Encircled tops and dresses were the only ones that comfortably fit me throughout my entire pregnancy. I know it’s unrealistic to expect the same piece to fit me when I’m my “normal” size and when I have a tiny human inside my torso, but I’ve been so pleasantly surprised that I can stretch my wardrobe with their help.

Which brings me to the real reason you’re all here…Encircled’s newly released Everyday T-Shirt Dress.

I was able to test the dress out a few weeks before it was released and, if I’m being completely honest here, I’ve already lost track of the amount of times I’ve worn it. The dress is intentionally oversized, so even at 9 months pregnant, it still fits with room to spare.

It’s another winner in the versatility department, which is why I’ve styled it several different ways in this post. My preference currently is to pair it with a pair of sneakers and a jacket, but it’s just as easy to dress it up with a pair of heels or clogs and some statement jewelry.

The Everyday T-Shirt Dress

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Features:

The dress is reversible — one neckline is a lower scoopneck and the other is a higher boatneck. It has two pockets with a mesh lining, so the pockets can easily reverse as well. It falls just above the knee and is meant to “skim your curves” and not hug them too tightly.

Fabric:

Made from Bamboo based Rayon which has lots of pros and cons sustainably-speaking, but on the pro side, it’s incredibly soft, stretchy, easy to care for, and long-lasting. It’s made without the use of pesticides in a closed loop-process (that you can read more about here). There are also drawbacks to using bamboo-based fabrics (which you can read about here), so I try to limit the amount of rayon that I own.

Fit:

I’m wearing a size Small in the Everyday T-Shirt Dress, which is the standard size I wear in Encircled. I could have sized down likely, for a tighter fit, but opted for this size so I was sure it would fit my baby bump and be comfortable postpartum.

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It’s truly a closet super hero and can multi-task right along with you and your lifestyle.

Shop the Everyday T-Shirt Dress in three colorways here (I’m obsessed with the Vintage Rose color!).

Use the code SIMPLYENCIRCLED for FREE SHIPPING and for all US/Canada orders from now until May 31, 2019!


*This post is part of a long term collaboration with Encircled. All opinions, photos, and creative direction is my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep SL&Co. running!*

The Natural Edition || Sustainable AND Affordable Basics

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Last month I shared a giant round up answering a frequently asked “where to shop for ethically made basics”. Today, I’m excited to dive in deep with one of the brands featured there and one I’ve been honored to work alongside for several months now.

Forever drawn to all things neutral, versatile, and timeless, The Natural Edition has quickly worked it’s way to hold the grand title of “most worn brand” in my closet. This brand, more than just another brand who has jumped on the “sustainability bandwagon”, The Natural Edition, owned by fashion industry guru Nicole Adamo, has truly taken every aspect of creating a piece of clothing into consideration and made the most sustainable choice possible for the planet, the garment creator, and the consumer.

Today’s post will give you a deeper look into the decisions that brand owners have to face when setting out to make a truly sustainable brand. It’s not a black and white arena and, as you’ll see, there are lots of aspects that we as consumers oftentimes don’t consider or underestimate the complexity of when it comes to ethical production. Learning from the brand owners I’m lucky enough to work with is one of my favorite parts of my little job and I hope you get as excited as I do reading about the “behind the scenes” of it all.

The “Basics”

Before we get into the backstory, here’s a brief overview of who The Natural Edition is in a nutshell:

  • Where: The Natural Edition is based in the UK and produces their clothing using a Dutch/Turkish factory that’s Fairwear audited.

  • What: The brand, newly launched this year, has a first collection of versatile basics including tees and dresses made from GOTS-certified organic cotton and Tencel (read more about both of those fabrics in my Ethical Basics Guide!)

  • Who: TNE is owned by Nicole Adamo. She’s no stranger to the fashion industry and owned a successful luxury-wear brand sold in stores all over the UK. She felt unfulfilled though and constantly worn down by the harmful effects of fast fashion, so she decided to switch gears and create a brand that would do good in the world.

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From Fast to Slow, TNE’s Backstory:

The Transition: “I immersed myself in research, attended every talk and event that was on in London that addressed sustainability or ethical production and while researching more into sustainability and the issues decided it was important to influence the hardest working pieces of the wardrobe- wardrobe essentials. Starting a sustainable and ethical fashion brand was a lot more difficult than a luxury brand..firstly it was very different production to what I made before so I had to find a new factory…after working in luxury fashion my quality standards are very high and this proved a bit of barrier.”

The Fabric: “We started with sampling in the UK with the plan on producing in the UK as we could do smaller quantities and I could oversee production, however the quality was not to my standard. When we first started sampling our main jersey was bamboo as many brands cite this as eco-friendly but after further research realised that bamboo was not eco-friendly due to lack of transparency with sourcing and the amount of chemical needed to turn it into fabric. I became aware that there was confusion over what was sustainable and not well researched information doing the rounds.”

…”we had to make our own signature fabrics that were bespoke with the downside being the minimums were high the upside being we could get what we wanted which was super premium sustainably sourced fabric that was super soft and luxurious. I looked for a designer who was experienced in athleisure as my designs were all about combining style with comfort and found someone who was the designer for Beyonce’s Ivy Park and Sweaty Betty who had just gone freelance with her baby on the way. “

The Packaging: …”I assumed a factory that only makes for sustainable brands had a solution that was NOT plastic..but they didn’t as no one had figured it out and those biodegradable bags just break down to micro-plastics. Currently, nearly all garments are packed in a plastic polybag before leaving the factory and end up as landfill, or worse, in the oceans and we did not want our legacy to be that. At the final hour we found a packaging supplier that was willing to experiment and we designed a kraft card pouch so we could say no to the poly bag!”

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As strange as this partnership may seem at this point in my life (ie. 9 months pregnant and very well out of clothing that truly fits), The Natural Edition is one of the few brands I’ve been able to wear for my entire pregnancy. The intentionally oversized design — with extra length in the sleeves and at the bottom of tees — along with the rounded hems has made each item I own from TNE truly worth its “weight” in my closet.

The pieces hold up to daily life (real daily life…I’m a pregnant mama to two over here…), wash extremely well, stretch when and where they need to without becoming droopy, and go with just about everything in my closet.

I’ll be wearing them all for years to come and am so grateful to have connected with a brand who truly understands the need for well-made, fairly-made pieces for real life at a real-life price point.

You can shop Nicole’s gorgeous first collection here, and don’t forget to use my code LIV20 for 20% off your order!

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*This post is the last of a long term ambassador partnership with The Natural Edition. Thank you for supporting the brands that make SL&Co. possible! As always, all photos, opinions, and baby bumps are mine ;) *

Where to Shop for Ethically Made Basics (for All Bodies and Budgets)

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Whether you fancy yourself a fashionista or wear clothes for the primary purpose of, you know, being clothed, basics are the cornerstone of a well rounded wardrobe. You know the ones, the white v-neck tee you wore till it had holes in the armpits and looked more yellow than white from coffee stains. The t-shirt dress you can dress up or dress down effortlessly. The striped long sleeve shirt you can wear anytime you want to add a layer or two of Parisian style to your day to day.

Try as I may, I can’t seem to gravitate from a wardrobe made up of mostly basics. And now that I’m more familiar with my style and “life-style” than ever, I don’t really want to. Even in outfits where I throw on a statement piece, like my MATTER Prints pants, I pair it with a basic to keep it feeling like “me”. Most days, you can find me in a striped tee and jeans (although, at nearly 8 months pregnant, I’m ditching the jeans most days). In the summer, a pair of mom shorts and a cozy button up or tank top are just fine.

Basics are the cornerstone of a well-rounded wardrobe. Make sure they're made to last when you buy from these ethical and sustainable brands.

However, considering the wear and tear that most basics get, I’m finding it more and more important to invest in ones that are made well. There are some pieces that work well buying secondhand, but for basics, buying new, from brands you trust, ensures the long life of the product.

Fabric content and quality, production standards, and price tag all pay a role in finding basics that will actually last more than a season. Most brands, ethical or not, have some kind of collection of basics, but finding the ones that will last AND are worth supporting can be tricky.

This post, I hope, will act as a resource when you’re on the hunt for a new closet staple. It’s not an exhaustive list, of course, but it does include the majority of brands I know, love, and have tried in real life. I’ll be focusing on textile type (NOT a black and white matter, as you’ll soon see) size inclusivity, ethics and price point making notes on which brands prioritize what aspect.


Fabrics to Look For

  • Organic Cotton

    • As conventional non-organic cotton becomes rightfully more and more controversial, GOTS certified organic cotton is a highly sustainable alternative that is making it’s way into more and more brands’ pieces. Conventional cotton is widely grown worldwide and it uses a shocking 6% of the world’s pesticides and 16% of the world’s insecticides. (Source). Furthermore, it takes 2700 liters of water to make a single t-shirt. These chemicals are both harmful to the consumer and, mostly, to the farmer growing the crops and to the environment.

    • Organic cotton on the other hand, uses no chemicals, pesticides, or insecticides to produce, isn’t hazardous to the health of the farmers, and uses much less water to grow and turn into fabric.

    • A Quick side note on cotton: I got a few questions about the difference between conventional cotton, Pima cotton, and organic cotton so here’s a quick breakdown in addition to what’s above.

      • Conventional cotton: grown worldwide in relatively unregulated conditions, usually using harsh chemicals

      • Pima cotton: called the “cashmere of cotton”, Pima cotton is simply a higher quality cotton than conventional. It yields a longer fiber which makes for a softer, better quality fabric. (Source). It can be both organic and non organic.

      • Organic cotton: cotton grown without the use of any chemicals or pesticides. This is the ideal type of cotton for sustainability, health, and fabric quality.

  • Hemp

    • Hemp is one of the most sustainable fabrics out there. It requires little water and grows extremely fast (producing around 250% more crop in the same amount of land as cotton). (Source).

    • Similar to linen, hemp produces a sturdy fabric that wears well and lasts years. It’s also naturally UV ray resistant. It can be blended with other fibers, like organic cotton, to yield a variety of textures and weights.

  • Linen

    • Linen, like hemp, is easy and quick to grow/harvest and requires even less water than organic cotton. It’s moisture resistant, becomes softer with wear/wash, and biodegrades when you’re done!

    • It’s grown from the flax plant, which is able to be used in its entirety, meaning no part of the plant is wasted. (Source).

  • Tencel/Lyocell/Modal

    • Here is when the controversy sets in. Few people will argue any cons about the above fabrics, but these last two definitely aren’t pure sustainability.

    • All three of these fabrics are created and made by Lenzing, in a closed-loop process. They’re similar, but made from different plants using the same process.

    • Pros:

      • Tencel (Lyocell) is a cellulose fiber marketed by Lenzing (the third generation fabric of second generation modal) made from the pulp of sustainably harvest eucalyptus trees certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC). Modal is made from the pulp of beech trees.

      • All three are produced in a closed-loop process, which means that all resources/materials/solvents used to produce it are recycled back into the process to do it over again.

      • It uses less water than organic cotton

      • Since it’s a naturally derived fiber, it’s also biodegradable

    • Cons:

      • It’s not a chemical free process and conventional chemicals are used to turn the fabric into Tencel from wood pulp (however, Lenzing noted that it has a 99% recovery rate of the solvents due to the closed-loop process). (Source).

      • The production method uses a lot more energy than is ideal. No fabric is exempt from using energy, but Lenzing has work to do in the coming years to produce a product that uses less energy to produce. (Source).

  • Bamboo Rayon/Vicose vs. Bamboo “Monocel”

    • Pros:

      • Although calling a fabric “bamboo” is slightly misleading because of of the processes the bamboo goes through to become a textile, it is plant based which means it will biodegrade.

      • Bamboo self-regenerates from its own roots, requiring little water and little grow time.

      • Bamboo Monocel is another Lyocell fabric, but this time made from bamboo, so it’s made in a closed loop, more environmentally friendly process. However, it’s harder to find.

    • Cons:

      • Although the cultivation phase may be more eco-friendly than growing cotton, manufacturing the fabric from bamboo is when the cons arise.

      • Most bamboo fabrics are labeled “rayon from bamboo” and the process to create this fabric is similar to that of Tencel or Modal but MUCH less sustainable since it isn’t a closed loop process, so the chemicals are released into the environment without reusing them. (Source). It’s essentially a synthetic fabric derived from a natural fiber.

      • There isn’t evidence that the properties of bamboo (UV ray resistant, antibacterial, water resistant) are present after the bamboo is processed into fabric.

Of course, there are plenty of ethical brands that use synthetic fibers to create their basics and any brand that takes steps towards sustainability should be lauded for their work. I would, however, push the envelope even further by asking if they consider themselves holistically “ethical” if they aren’t prioritizing the use of truly natural fibers and working to minimize their brand’s footprint.

It seems fairly cut and dry doesn’t it? Simply choose fabrics that are 100% organic and made from natural fibers at all costs.

However, like most issues of ethics and sustainability, it’s not always that simple.

The Unsustainable Reality Check

Why, you might ask, would any brand owner ever choose to use fabrics that are factually not great for the environment? I’ve noticed that bamboo derived fabrics are especially popular among ethical brands — have they just not done their research? I don’t think that’s the usually case.

The reality is that brands have A LOT to factor in when it comes to producing a quality product. First, they have to consider where the fabric they’re planning to use was grown, before it’s ever harvested or turned into fabric. Were the farmers treated fairly? Paid a living wage (an issue all on its own)? They have to source a fabric (regardless of what kind it is) from a responsible factory that pays its employees well. They need to design a product that represents their clientele well. They need to design a product that won’t disintegrate after a few wears/washes. They need to consider affordability and the “true cost” of the product and charge accordingly without marking it up too much or too little.

Obviously, you know all of this. But I think it’s all too easy to judge brands a bit harshly for not scoring a perfect 100% on the ethics/sustainability/inclusivity/price front. Indeed, we as the consumers should push for high standards and hold our ethical brands to even higher ones, but celebrating progress and steps in the right direction is important for growth in the industry too.

Ethical shopping isn’t a black and white matter in the least, not even when you’re trying to buy something as simple as a new white tee.

All of that said, below are a few brands that I’ve fallen for and whom, I believe, meet the criteria to be considered ethical/sustainable/inclusive and worth supporting.


Brands to Love

Encircled

Price point: $$-$$$

Encircled is a Canadian brand that prioritizes quality, longevity, and versatility. I’ve worked with them several times, own 3 or 4 pieces from them, and can say with full confidence that their pieces are worth the investment. On the size inclusivity chart, Encircled ranks higher than most with pieces that are meant to fit a wide range of sizes and, of course, fluctuate with your own body throughout life’s seasons. They offer sizes xs-xxl and considering that most of their styles are stretchy and oversized, can fit quite the range of body types.

As far as sustainability and fabric choice goes, they offer a healthy mix of fabric types. The majority of pieces I’ve tried from their line have been a Lenzing Modal blend (incredibly soft, stretchy and durable). They also work a lot with bamboo based products for its softness, but blend it with cotton for the strength and durability.

I chatted with Kristi, Encircled’s founder and designer about the murky issue of choosing sustainable fabrics and she wisely noted that oftentimes 100% natural fibers don’t hold up as well over time when they aren’t blended with other fabrics (oftentimes elastane, polyester or lycra) and, instead of creating a fully sustainable product that deteriorates more quickly, have opted to balance the two by mixing their natural fibers with less sustainable options for the sake of the longevity of the garment. Sustainability can be argued from both sides in this matter and although I don’t claim to be an expert, I can say that Encircled’s pieces truly stand the test of real life and real bodies.

(Pictured above: Encircled’s Nomadic V-Neck and Encircled’s Everyday T-Shirt Dress (soon to be released!))

The Natural Edition

Price point: $-$$

You’ve all heard me rave about The Natural Edition’s basics for a few months now, but I’ll say it again — I’m so impressed with this newly launched brand and their dreamy first collection of basics. I’ve spoken extensively with Nicole, the brand’s designer and owner, and she, like Kristi of Encircled, noted the struggle that goes into creating a brand that is as sustainable as it is practical and high quality.

The Natural Edition’s first collection features pieces made of GOTS certified organic cotton and Tencel, both of which (especially organic cotton) rank high on the sustainability charts. Their first collection is likewise oversized, excluding the Striped Breton Dress which fits true to size, with sizes ranging from xs-l (Nicole noted that this most accurately means sizes US 4-12). She’s also told me that her plan is to include more and more sizing options as her collections grow.

(Pictured above: The Stretch Jersey Long Sleeve Top and The Organic Cotton Oversized V-Neck. Use the code LIV20 for 20% off.)

LA Relaxed

Price Point: $-$$$

Another amazing brand with a wide selection of styles, sizes, and fabrics, LA Relaxed creates some of the coziest and easy to wear pieces I’ve ever tried. They’ve recently added hemp and organic cotton to their repertoire which is a huge step towards ultra-sustainability. They also use Tencel and Modal fabric so you can rest assured that their pieces are even softer than they look.

As far as sizing goes, they offer sizes xs-xxl (conventional 0-18) which is beautifully inclusive. I’ve worn all of the pieces I have from them during my third trimester and they’ve accommodated my baby bump perfectly.

(Pictured above: The Norah Dress in grey and the Lila Tank in black stripe. Use the code SIMPLY25 for 25% off.)

ROUND + SQUARE

Price point: $-$$

ROUND + SQUARE is one of the most mission driven and sustainably focused brands I’ve encountered in a while. All (yes, all) of their pieces are made with organic cotton (aside from their bandanas and scarves which are 100% silk). They sell a line of thoughtfully designed tees meant to inspire equality. Although their graphic tees are pretty amazing — you’ll see more of those soon — their solid color shirts are beautifully made, slightly thin and stretchy, and come in a lovely variety of colors.

Their sizing is refreshingly inclusive as well, offering xxs-xl with an emphasis on oversized fit. Their models show a variety of body types that will hopefully make ordering the correct size easier!

(Pictured above: The Relaxed Long Sleeve Tee in plum and the Basic Boxy tee in Olive Nights. The first photo in this post features their Sunflower Silk Bandana.)

Honorable Mentions:


Let’s end this novel of a post by restating that slow fashion is messy and choosing to support sustainable brands comes with lots of grey area that, luckily, is up to the consumer to push for and decide what to prioritize.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the sustainable fabrics listed above or any other struggles you might face when trying to shop for not-so-basic-basics.


*This post is part of a long-term collaboration between several brands and myself. As always, all opinions, photographs, and storytelling are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make SL&Co possible!*