Where to Find Fair Trade and Ethically-Sourced Clothing

Ethical Shopping | CorporetteIn our first post in our ethical shopping series, we rounded up several clothing brands made in the United States, mostly startups and small and/or independent labels. In part two, we shared a list of mainstream, more widely available workwear brands that sell clothing made in North America or Europe. Today we’re looking at clothing that’s fair trade certified, as well as clothing not officially considered fair trade but produced more responsibly or ethically than the average brand.

Of course, when a brand makes admirable claims like those, we as shoppers must simply take their word for it — but I would rather give my business to a company that explicitly details their (supposed) commitment to ethical labor practices and fair trade than to one who doesn’t say a word about its products’ origins or production. (Pictured: Brooks Brothers Wool Stretch Small Windowpane Circle Skirt, $168.)

Fair trade certification is more complicated than you might think; there’s more than one certifying organization, and each has a slightly different definition of the term “fair trade.” It’s also possible that we may not be doing as much good as we think by buying these products. Ndongo Sylla, a former Fairtrade International employee (who has a PhD in developmental economics), wrote a book last year called The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich (excerpt here in The Guardian). In The Economist’s book review, the reviewer called it “an arduous read” but wrote, “It is hard to dispute [Sylla’s] conclusion that, so far, the fair-trade labelling movement has been more about easing consciences in rich countries than making serious inroads into poverty in the developing world.” (Sigh.)

That said, here are several brands that engage in fair trade:

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Going-Out Clothes and Young Professionals

Going Out Clothes for Adults | CorporetteOnce you get to grad school, can you stick with your “going out” style from college, or is it time to make some changes? Reader C wonders how to dress for a night out on the town when she’s out with new friends from grad school…

I have a strange request/question. I’ve begun learning all about clothing for work, interviews, etc., and now know the difference between business casual and chic casual. My problem is that during my undergrad, “going out” almost certainly meant tight shirts, tight pants or leggings, and high heels, as well as blow-out hair and smokey eye makeup. Jackets were a never, and cleavage was a must.

I was recently invited to go out with from friends from my new school, and pretty much realized that I don’t know how to dress like a grown woman when I’m doing something super casual with friends, like going out for a few beers or even out dancing. I still want to look the part in some ways (these are, after all, my future colleagues — I don’t want to be remembered as “cleavage girl”), but still dress to have fun.

Please teach me to be a respectable adult, even while I’m supposed to be out having fun.

Great question, and I’m torn between a few thoughts. First: you’re in school; if you’re going out with friends it shouldn’t matter too much. On the flip side, I think it can make an impact on how people remember you, and the bigger the dichotomy between your work or student persona and your “weekend persona,” the more people will remember it.

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What to Wear to a Homecoming Networking Event

Networking at homecomingWhat should you wear to an alumni networking event right before homecoming?  How should you figure out what to wear?  Reader M wonders…

I am attending a networking event in a few weeks and am a little bit confused on what to wear. It is part of my university’s homecoming, and is right before the homecoming game (soccer for my school). I don’t plan on attending the game. However, I worry that a suit or something I would typically wear to a networking event will be too formal. This event is on a Saturday prior to a men’s soccer game. What attire is appropriate for such a mixer? I worry that a shirt representing my school will be too casual, but am not really sure what will avoid being too dressy. What are your thoughts?

Tough question, Reader M. I would first encourage you to go with the easy route: call the recruiting/alumni/other people who are setting up the event and ask what suggested attire is. See if you can find pictures of what people have worn previously, or see if you can ask a friend who has attended in previous years (use it as a general check-in for networking purposes anyway!).

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Open Thread: Best Work Pants

best work pantsOk, ladies, let’s hear it: which are the best work pants? I’ve seen many readers bemoaning the decline in old favorites like the Banana Republic Sloan and the Gap Perfect Trouser — and other popular pants, like the J.Crew Minnie ankle pant, just aren’t formal enough for more conservative offices. So let’s discuss. First, here’s Reader A’s question:

I have loved the Gap Perfect Trouser pants for work — they are far and away the best fit for my body type (the thighs were roomy enough, I liked the leg opening width, and the short inseam option). However, the quality of these pants has deteriorated in the last couple of years. When I looked online recently, the reviews have dropped a ton as well, with a lot of comments that the fit has changed.
Do you have any suggestions for similar fit of pants? On top of this, I recently had my first baby, so in addition to some body changes, I don’t have as much time to shop for pants now, and online shopping seems like taking a shot in the dark.
Any tips would be appreciated.

Oi. We’ve rounded up washable pants for work recently-ish (March); as I noted in our lightweight pants for summer roundup a few months ago, full-length trousers have been getting harder and harder to find. (The bootcut and flared look is back for denim, though, so hopefully work pants will follow suit shortly!) Some affordable possibilities for you:

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Tool of the Trade: Morphine Plugin for Chrome

Tool of the Trade - Morphine | CorporetteI have written before for my love of focus-boosting tools like Leechblock and RescueTime, but I’ve been using a new one that I like, and thought I’d share: MORPHINE. When I switched to Chrome a while back, I was bummed to find that my beloved Leechblock was only available on Firefox. (Firefox kept crashing, everyone said Chrome was faster, and I know most of you view the site in Chrome, so I wanted to switch over to make sure the experience was the same.)

I looked around and found this great little plugin, Morphine, which I now use all the time, primarily for Facebook (SUCH a distractor for me!). The idea is that you only “earn” time with the URLs you put in Morphine after you’ve been using the computer for more productive purposes for a certain amount of time. Perfect. I used to have it set to 1 minute of play time for every 10 minutes of work time, but that left me with far too many minutes in my bank — so I switched it to 1 minute of play time for every 60 minutes of work time. That was a bit too little (I’ve decided I need at least 3 minutes to look at Facebook, even using the Social Fixer plugin, because when I try to sneak a peek for one minute, and inevitably try to refresh it for another minute more, it would take me at least 30 seconds to find my place scrolling down the page. (Lazy load, you kill me!)

Ladies, what are your other favorite productivity products, especially for blocking internet distractions? (Any favorite Chrome plugins to shout out?)

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Joining the Office Fantasy Football League

fantasy football league at workShould you join the office fantasy football league — even if you hate sports and don’t want to commit the time? What about other guy-centric office hobbies? Reader S wonders…

What is the rule on joining the office fantasy football league (or other comparable sporting activity) when you don’t know or care about the sport? I want to fit in and seem like a team player, but I also don’t want to look like an idiot when I don’t know what I am doing.

For context, I am a junior associate in big law; however, I work in one of the mid-sized branch offices. One of the perks of working in the branch office is that the environment is smaller making it is easier to get to know your colleagues. On the flip side, working in a branch office means that if you do not participate in events, you may stick out like a sore thumb. To make matters worse, I am one of three (3!!) female attorneys in the office and I am the only female associate — and the men in the office LOVE fantasy football. I would love some advice on this one. Thanks!

Interesting question, S. I am also not a huge fan of sports (have I told my soccer story on this blog? I forget*), but sources tell me that fantasy football is still appropriate to talk about now, so let’s discuss. My $.02 here is similar to what I’ve said before (regarding topics such as saying no to sports at work, and joining the boys’ club with office hobbies like sports): Do it. Tell yourself you’ll do it for one season, and try to get into it — commit to spending a bit of time on it every week (see below). This is partly about getting into office culture, partly about networking, and partly about paving the path for women after you — to feel comfortable in the league or to get friendly enough with people in the office to create other kinds of office activities (i.e., changing the office culture). Hopefully after one season you’ll have stronger friendships in the office, and you may find you actually enjoy it. If you don’t, though, you’ll be much more informed next season about why you don’t want to do it — and may have some new office friends to suggest other office hobbies with.

Some practical tips from our source (i.e., Kate’s husband, who never skips the office fantasy football league): [Read more…]

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