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In Love with Linen: Sustainability Meets Style

Updated: Jul 1, 2022



As I thought about what message I wanted to convey in this blog post, I began to think back to why I started this blog in the first place & why I started my sustainability journey. It was roughly 2 years ago (I can’t believe it’s been that long) when I began to examine my own daily habits & practices in order to make simple swaps to every day products/items that I used. My main goal being to try to produce less waste & less impact on the environment. From bathroom & self-care products to kitchen items & cleaners, even products to grocery shop more sustainably, I did research & found ways to lessen my waste production & live more consciously all while protecting my budget.


It has been a slow, steady process but I felt very proud of myself for finding budget-friendly ways to live more sustainably. However, as I was making these swaps, the world of fashion never crossed my mind. But as I delved more deeply into the troubling information about the commercial fashion industry, I found myself gravitating more towards clothing/businesses that aligned more with my values & principles, and practices where natural fabrics are used & employees are treated ethically.


THE DARK SIDE OF COMMERCIAL FASHION



I must admit, when I started on my sustainability journey, even up until the beginning of this year, I was completely unaware of the ethical & environmental impact of fast fashion . I learned that most of the clothing that people buy from popular brands such as SHEIN, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, (and the list goes on), are made of synthetic fibers that break down & send micro plastics into the water supply every time you wash them & they also take up to 200 years to fully decompose. Or if the garments are made from natural fibers such as cotton, their production heavily relies on pesticide-filled monocultures (areas where only 1 crop is grown on a massive scale) that have completely destroyed the native biodiversity in the area in which they are grown.


In addition, I found that the fashion industry is a large contributor to the increasing amount of carbon in the atmosphere. And if that wasn’t enough, not only are the garments themselves low quality & environmentally damaging, but it is very typical of these fast fashion brands to produce exact copies (or very similar copies) of designs from small independent artists/businesses without permission, without giving them credit, and without any compensation. Even furthermore, the way these companies treat their employees is deplorable. I used to be jazzed that I could get a blouse for $10 or a skirt for $8 on sites like SHEIN, but after thinking more about it, it brought a lot of questions to my mind – if the clothing is this cheap, what type of wages are they paying their employees , how fairly are they treating them, & what are they making me clothing out of? The answer, I have found, is not much, not well, & synthetic fabric. I think it is fine to buy cheaper clothing, (a whole wardrobe of linen would be crazy expensive!), I think the goal is just to put in a little research into where/how your clothing is source or opt for mostly thrifted items (I lean towards this method – whether it be online thrifting or in person clothes shopping)


WHY I LOVE LINEN


While there are a lot of natural fibers that can be used to make clothing, my favorite has got to be linen. Linen sometimes intimidates people for a number of reasons, price is a huge factor but I also think it is because there is an assumption that it is hard to take care of. This assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. Linen possesses a copious of characteristics that make it attractive to those who wear it – it conducts heat well in colder temperatures but also keeps you cool in warm temperatures, it gets softer with each wash & ages beautifully, it absorbs water without absorbing bacteria, but also dries quickly, and it’s resistant to stains, dust & static. While it does have a tendency to wrinkle, I think the beauty of linen is that it looks lived in. I think that adds to it’s character & charm, and I certainly don’t feel the need to iron it every single time I wear linen unless it is extremely crushed.


When it comes to linen selection, there are an abundance of different terms (like stone-washed & deadstock), but my main concerns are that it is free from pesticides, chemicals, & that it was sourced ethically & sustainably. I was surprised & delighted to learn that linen is made from the flax plant & almost no fertilizers are used when growing this plant. When it comes to linen production, it is quite laborious to produce (which some of the reasoning behind the price being higher compared to other types of clothing), but it’s production uses 20 times less water & energy when compared to cotton & it’s durability is unmatched. If the source of your linen is all natural, it is guaranteed that it is fully biodegradable & it only takes 2 weeks for it to completely decompose while synthetic fibers can take up to 200 years to break down.


TRANSITIONING TO ETHICAL, SUSTAINABLE FASHION


I am by no means perfect & I would be doing a disservice to my own personal mission by just getting rid of all of my fast fashion clothing “cold turkey.” I still have plenty of fast fashion pieces that I actively wear which were purchased before I realized how harmful it was.


Many people are a bit put off by the higher price tag of “slow fashion” garments (which I admit, I was at first too). I started by scanning online thrifting websites such as Poshmark & Thredup to discover gently used, natural fiber garments & actually had quite a bit of success. It is really convenient because you are able to select & filter what type of garment & fabric you are looking for. This is certainly a great place to start if cost is a main deterrent. Next, I turned to Etsy where I knew I could count on ethically sourced clothing made with sustainable fabrics all while supporting small, independent business owners.


With this in mind, I re-worked my own monthly budget & thought about what values & practices were important to me. By re-prioritizing, I have found that it is worth the extra money to have a few staple pieces of clothing in my wardrobe that are made well, fit well, & that are both ethically & environmentally conscious. The nice part about having these type of staple pieces is the versatility they provide & the ability to build your wardrobe around them with different accessories & other clothing pieces that you already own; which is exactly what I did with this beautiful, classic linen wrap dress from Tsiomik Kids on Etsy.



THE CLASSIC LINEN DRESS


Tsiomik Kids is a small, woman owned business based out of Kyiv, Ukraine that specializes in the creation of beautiful, timeless linen garments. The owner, Kate Bilyk, was inspired to begin creating attire from natural, sustainable fabric after the birth of her first niece. Just a quick scroll through her Etsy or online store will give you an idea of the stunning quality of each piece. Not only does she create stunning clothing for children, but she also crafts striking, romantic, classic dresses for women & shirts for men, as well. Everything is made to order, nothing is sewn in advance, & her philosophy is to create a piece only when there is a need for it – the way fashion should be. The beauty of these pieces is the expert craftsmanship & the quality of the linen that Kate uses. I think it is an amazing thing when you can purchase clothing for yourself or for your children & feel confident enough that it will last, so much so, that you are able to pass it down through the generations as an heirloom, which I fully intend to do.


The dress that I received was the linen wrap dress in the color blueberry. Because of their extensive list of stunning colors, it made it so difficult to choose just one! Blueberry is a great color (it’s a medium purple hue with gray undertones) choice if you are looking for an easy transition between seasons as it easily can go from one season to another. The weight of the fabric is also ideal for the transition of the seasons as it is a little more durable/heavier weighted than most linen garments I have purchased in the past, however it is still light enough to be comfortable in the hotter months.


The fit & silhouette of this dress is incredible & is truly flattering on all shapes & sizes. I think one of the aspects that I love so much about slow fashion & handmade clothing is that most if it is made to order with your specific custom measurements designed to fit you & no one else. Most women’s body shapes do not fit standard sizes, myself being one of them, because each person’s body type/shape is unique. And why should we have to settle for standard sizing?! Why not buy clothing made to fit YOU, not the other way around?!

Personally, I am extremely pear shaped (smaller bust & waist but larger thighs & butt) so I have a hard time finding standard size dresses at times because they usually do not have enough fabric/room in the butt/thighs/hips area. Over time, it was a big hit to my confidence because I wanted to be able to wear pretty dresses but wouldn’t have any luck with finding dresses that fit properly.


Since this is a wrap dress with an A-line silhouette, it is flattering on all figures & is adjustable in the waist making it a fantastic option when it comes to the wearability of the garment. It is still wearable/adjustable even if you gain or lose weight. Two other fantastic features of this dress are the deep pockets & the full circle skirt. The pockets are large enough to fit my phone with room to spare & the circle skirt adds such a timeless element to the dress, so you can feel free to twirl to your heart’s content!


LINEN DRESS LOOKBOOK: 1 DRESS, 4 LOOKS

When I received this dress, I was so inspired to create some unique looks with accessories & other pieces of clothing from my own closet to show the versatility & timelessness of this classic dress.


LOOK 1: CLAIRE FRASER/OUTLANDER


For the first look, I knew I wanted to do something centered around Outlander, as the books & show have been a inspiration for me, especially when it comes to style. I adore all the natural textures of fabrics & the rustic theme of the outfits. As I was putting the look together, I tried to re-imagine what Claire Fraser would wear in the 21st century if she were out foraging for medicinal herbs & plants. One of the main staples of Claire’s wardrobe was knitwear to protect against the biting Scottish weather.



LOOK 2: BRIAR ROSE (SLEEPING BEAUTY)


The next look that I was inspired to create was influenced by the animated Disney movie, Sleeping Beauty. Aurora’s pink/blue gown is stunning, but I really love the simpler “Briar Rose” medieval forest maiden outfit that she wears when she goes out to the forest to gather berries while her fairy godmothers prepare her surprise birthday party.

To re-create the outfit, I paired my linen wrap dress with a casual faux leather waist cincher (thrifted), a hooded wool cloak (bought at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire), a pair of black flats (Target), & a vintage basket (thrifted) perfect for collecting berries & ferns in the forest.

You could layer a petticoat under the dress to add more warmth/coverage (I almost did but my petticoat wasn’t long enough to be visible). I would easily wear this look (sans wool cloak) to a casual dinner party or out with friends.


LOOK 3: ANNE OF GREEN GABLES


My next inspiration was largely centered around the cottagecore aesthetic (referencing TV shows & movies such as the Netflix series “Anne With an E” or the most recent adaptation of “Little Women”). I had visions of quaint cottages white wooden fences in a sun-drenched meadow with chickens roaming free & gardens filled with flowers, veggies, herbs, & berry bushes. I thought my linen wrap dress would be perfect for this theme given that it was very simple, classic, & made from natural fibers much like most cottagecore outfits.


I wanted to keep the accessories simple but feminine so I added a straw hat (Etsy), a cotton petticoat used as an apron (CottonCandyWear on Etsy), a leather belt, leather Mary Jane shoes, & a wicker basket for collecting eggs and various other treasures. On breezy summer days, this outfit is perfect for strolls through meadows & for picking wildflowers..



LOOK 4: MEDITERRANEAN FRENCH RIVIERA



My final inspiration for the styling of my Tsiomik Kids linen wrap dress came quite by accident. I took a trip to the French Riviera back in February & was so inspired by the towns that I visited there (Marseille & Arles). While wearing this dress, I kept having visions of a glamorous woman wandering through these quaint, Mediterranean towns with their colorful, old buildings, winding walkways & staircases, & lovely seaside charm.

In this dress, I could imagine myself strolling along the water’s edge on a lovely, warm day in early summer in the Vieux Port of Marseille with no set agenda except to explore the hidden streets & shops with a stop at a waterside café for champagne, seafood, sunbathing, & people-watching.


I wanted the outfit to evoke a summery feel so I started with a pair of espadrille wedges (Clark’s), straw earrings, a straw basket purse, & to give it a bit of 1950’s retro charm I added a patterned kerchief scarf to use as a type of headband. I thought this outfit would be perfect for a Mediterranean vacation or, more local attractions, like a summer gathering at a winery or a stroll through an old New England coastal town like Nantucket.


I love this dress so much and can’t wait to find even more ways to style it with the clothing that already exists in my wardrobe. Do you have any creative ideas with how to dress up or dress down a classic linen dress? How would you style your own linen dress?! I’d love to know!




Until next time…







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