As mid summer quickly approaches, I am tasked with the riddle of how to dress for the heat while still protecting my delicate steamed-lobster skin tone. Living in southern Germany means I see many moons of winter weather, peppered with intermittent months of a ‘’summer’’ so unpredictable I could easily leave the house in just a bathing suit and an umbrella and need both within the span of 45 minutes. I grew up in Northern California, where desert heat was the dominant season and it wasn’t considered summer until the temperature posed a legitimate health hazard. Back in those days, it was normal to be as tan as Rachel on FRIENDS when she was pregnant with Ross’ baby. You know the color to which I am referring. As lovely as those days of trying to force the melanin into my skin were (and by lovely I mean futile), these days I am pretty content being my translucent self and slipping on a good old fashioned, tried and true, covers-your-freckled-shoulders tee. And, more specifically, I am referring to the most tried and true of all tees… your mom’s old best friend…..the plain white tee. Now here’s the thing about tried and true: it can sometimes be overlooked. You take it for granted, because it has always been there, and will continue to always be there. Like sands through the hourglass, the plain white tee has seen it all. It’s been around since the beginning of TIME (the magazine.) But I think the white tee still deserves our attention. It is, after all, a timeless staple that has seen us through some of our most unexpected adventures.
my fair ladies
To remedy my need for a plain white tee, I looked no further than my friends at the humanitarian fashion label EYD (pronounced ‘aid’). EYD is a label with whom I have worked with, and have been proud to represent, for a few years now. EYD works together with partner organizations to give new hope to rescued workers of the sex slave industry in India. These partner organizations provide trauma therapy, basic education, and housing as well as a training in the seamstress trade, so they needn’t return to the sex work industry when they have completed the rehabilitation program. EYD also utilizes organic cotton and bio degradable and sustainable materials such as lyocell to ensure their designs are both humanitarian and ecologically friendly.
Paying attention to the source of my clothing and conditions of their production has become increasingly important to me. The fast fashion industry, which refers to runway-to-retail stores with high product turnover rate and ever-diminishing garment quality such as H&M, Forever 21, GAP (and its daughter companies like Old Navy and Banana Republic) has risen in economic importance in the past 15-20 years to become one of the largest global industries. It has also risen to become one of the most atrocious abusers of our planet’s natural and human resources. Garments from fast fashion retailers are meant to be cheaply made and worn only a number of times before they are discarded. But that’s ok, we don’t need these clothes to last because if we want to keep up with the lightening-fast trends we will need to be on our merry way to a fast fashion retail outlet at least twice a month, where we will not be disappointed with shiny new objects to peck our parrot beaks at. Let me be clear….. this is how I used to shop. I didn’t know where clothes came from. ’’Made in Bangladesh,’’ ok, sure, whatevs. Same as all the others. But the more I learned about it, the more I realized the mass production can’t continue on this way. 20 percent of the world’s water pollution is caused by textile processing, which makes the fashion industry the second biggest polluter of the planet’s freshwater resources, as reported by the World Bank. 20 freaking percent! Eileen Fisher, an über successful American fashion designer has been quoted multiple times as saying, “The clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world ... second only to oil.’’
loved clothes last
Simultaneously, factory workers are abused and exploited because factory owners have to keep up with the insane volume of clothing demands put out by retailers. And who demands this insane volume from retailers? You guessed it, my friends: it is we the consumer. With our consumer purchasing power, we convey a message to retailers. Sadly, in this instance we have communicated that we are insatiable for more things, regardless of the human and ecological cost. Our super casual attitude towards the abhorrent working conditions of garment factory workers is sending the message to retail conglomerates that we don't care at what cost we get a new wardrobe every season. Garment industry workers are being poisoned by dyes and pesticides, verbally and sexually abused, and committing suicide because they cannot see hope. Retailers ARE aware of these factory conditions and ARE profiting from them. If we don't demand change, they have no incentive to do so. What I am trying to say is that our dollar matters. Our habits matter. There are already major changes happening in the fashion industry as consumers are demanding transparency, fair wages, and more sustainable solutions from retail giants. As for my habits, I try to buy only what I can imagine wearing for years to come, repair what I have, support fair trade and humanitarian labels, make whatever I am able to hand-make, and give new life to vintage and second hand articles.
ARE YOU STILL WITH ME? haha. Things got a little real there for a minute. Like, record scratch and room goes silent real. But never fear, because the purpose of this post is to engage! With my plain white tee from EYD, I have put together 5 looks that we all can achieve with stuff we already have in our closets (or can source at second hand/vintage shops). Mine cost just 25€. That’s your consumer purchasing power put to good use!
Here are some other options from retailers in the UK and America:
Get your plain white tee from EYD Humanitarian Clothing here.
FIVE WAYS TO WEAR FAIR
Look Number One: I Have An Office To Get To.
I paired my plain white tee with a classic black blazer, second hand patent leather loafers, vintage Levis, a leather purse of my own creation, and a chunky bangle for a bit of spunk. Don't forget a wristwatch so you can look at it really confused when you show up late anyway. Mine is from Belgian brand Komono.
Look Number Two: Adult Toddler
We have all got something similar to this in our closets! Be it overalls, a pinafore dress, or a real pinafore because you were raised on Little House on the Prairie re-runs. I paired my tee with a comfy jeans version, second hand aubergine leather sandals, and Komono ''Lennon'' sunnies.
Look Number Three: I've Got A Garden To Tend
I bought these super funky giant trousers from a vintage store in Belgium. I feel like they speak for themselves, so wearing a plain white tee is the perfect compliment to allow these pants to have the big personality they do. This hat is an accessory I bought at H&M. My second H&M purchase in 2018. I know I will wear this hat for years to come, and in summer I wear a brimmed hat almost every single day. When buying at fast fashion stores, always think about if you will get lots of use out of your items!
Look Number Four: Concert Goer
I am a practical person. I can't help it; it's in my German gene pool. So if I'm going out at night to grab a drink or go to a concert, I want my outfit to be chic but convenient. With this lightweight silky vintage button-down, I have the luxury of having something cover my arms if I get chilly, and easily tying it around my waist if I get warm. I've paired it with a leather mini skirt, vintage box purse, and second hand geometric necklace. And don't forget your gold hoops, guuurrrrrl!
Look Number Five: I Might Be Active Later
I love going hiking with my husband. He takes my hand and drags me into forests and up mountains and I guess that makes us bond. These are my hiking shorts paired with an awesome vintage hat I found online and had to have! For active days the plain white tee is perfect. It keeps your chest and shoulders protected and won't absorb the sunlight. For this active weekend look I've got on my trusty Nikes for a walk around the park followed by a latte in the sun.
Being aware of how our clothes are made and giving them the longest life cycle possible is something each one of us is capable of. I know how overwhelming it can seem to consider all the ways things need to change in order to have a bright future for all. But have heart! Becoming conscious and creative with how to buy and wear fashion is one small way we can change the world!