2016: The year of a better wardrobe!

January 1, 2016


I don’t usually make New Years resolutions, not because I don’t love goals and lists and feeling inspired, but because I make a birthday list in July instead (currently working through my ’27 things to do before 28′ list!)

But for those of you thinking about your goals and intentions for the new year, here’s a few ideas towards a better wardrobe in 2016 (for both those brand new to making more ethical/ sustainable choices, through to those who are already on the journey)!

1. Commit to no new clothing purchases for three months – break the bonds of consumerism.

Especially after all the shopping of the Christmas season, try putting a pause on all new buys!

2. Make do and mend – get all those items missing buttons / needing taking in / needing repairs to the tailor or pull out your own needle and thread.

I gathered up all our unloved, in-need-of-mending pieces a few months ago – 12 items between the two of us. The tailor took things in, took things out, added buttons (we are so lazy) and brought back to life 12 perfectly good items that were otherwise sitting unworn in our cupboards.

3. Make your very first purchase from a fairtrade / ethical / organic or eco-friendly better brand!

I’ve been keeping a list here, but there are so many better brands out there that make good quality clothing that’s both better for the planet and nice on the eyes.

4. Buy ONLY fairtrade / ethical / organic or eco-friendly brands!

This is what I’m working on for all new pieces. To be honest, it’s not always easy but it’s making me much more thoughtful about what I add to my wardrobe… and it gives me a real buzz to know I’m not contributing to some horrible sweatshop operation.

5. Thrift it – source all your new clothing purchases at your local secondhand store.

My favourite work shirt is a $3 blouse from the secondhand market down the road. I’m looking forward to adding more pre-loved pieces to my wardrobe over the coming year.

6. Commit to a 30-day waiting period – no spur of the moment clothing purchases.

So this is also good for the hip pocket 😉 But with so much advertising around and a pervasive ‘buy buy buy’ consumeristic mentality, it feels good for the soul to say no to instant gratification and add some mindfulness to our shopping habits.

7. Learn a new skill and knit / sew / crochet a DIY item of clothing.

You might pick up a new hobby in the process!

8. Ask your five favourite brands #whomademyclothes and keep asking until you get an answer!

Jump on the Fashion Revolution campaign bandwagon and encourage the big brands to pick up their game and ensure their products aren’t harming the very human beings who are making them!

9. Educate yourself about the fashion industry – from fibers to dyeing and fabric production, to sweatshops and living wages and child labour.

Here’s a couple of great books on the issues and a fantastic list of ethical bloggers worth following!

10. Take good care of the clothes you already own – follow the care instructions, wash less, put everything away neatly!

No more shrinking that wool sweater in the washing machine, or using a too-hot iron to burn through your favourite blouse. We’re losing the culture of caring about our possessions, precisely because of our ‘disposable’ mindset and the rise of fast fashion. Value what you own and adopt the ‘buy less, choose better, make it last‘ mentality!!

May 2016 be the year of your own better wardrobe!

A Better Dressed Update

November 26, 2015


A Me Update

Ooops! I didn’t mean to take such a long break. In the past few weeks I wrapped up two consulting jobs, started an exciting new (fast-paced!) role and began a Masters programme via distance. It’s been busy, to say the least!

But on the fashion front, I’ve been happily wearing my capsule wardrobe, which I’ve updated with some warmer weather pieces. I’ve also been playing with a mini-capsule for work, basically ten mix-and-match pieces that I rotate through each week. So far so good, though I’m still keen to try a personal uniform one day!

I have made some great better buys as well. I recently picked up a second hand work top from Toi market and have added a few beautiful pieces of jewellery to my collection, from Sasa Designs, Red Tribe and Kipato Unbranded (including that lovely necklace above!).

A Blog Update

My entire ‘better dressed’ philosophy is based on a quote from Vivienne Westwood.

Buy less. Choose better. Make it last.

I feel like I’ve covered a lot of the big issues I wanted to cover on the blog, like:

And rather than just focus on the problems, we’ve also talked about realistic ways we can change our wardrobes for the better in posts like:


So while life is so full-on, I’m going to focus on some ‘mini-blogging’ over on the Better Dressed Instagram and continue my break from writing longer posts here. I’ll definitely be checking back in sometime soon, because while we’ve covered a lot, there is still so much more to say! But in the meantime, follow along on Instagram for more regular updates, tips and tricks, and brand recommendations 🙂



Setting your standards

October 20, 2015


The main reason I write this blog is to inspire myself and others to craft a better wardrobe – in real life! I get such a buzz when I hear from friends that, after reading a post or checking out a better brand, they’ve cleaned out their wardrobe or adopted a ‘less is more’ approach or sought out a more ethical option for their next purchase.

But I’m so aware that buying ethically or organically or sustainably can really be a bit overwhelming (and here’s my advice for when it is!). And once you start to learn about the issues it can feel impossible to know where begin.

In Wear No Evil, Greta Eagan outlines the 16 key issues to consider in crafting a more ethical and sustainable wardrobe. It’s such a solid, comprehensive list:

  • Natural/low impact dyes: the environmental impact of dyeing and treating fabrics is insane! Natural and low impact dyes aren’t perfect, but they can significant reduce the impact on the environment.
  • Natural fibers: as opposed to synthetic fibers made from petroleum and other toxic chemical processes.
  • Organic: the production of our clothing shouldn’t poison the planet’s soil and water with pesticides.
  • Fair trade: ensuring the people who make our clothes work in safe conditions and receive a fair wage for their work.
  • Upcycled: reducing both landfill AND new purchases by giving a creative second life to our own, or others, clothing.
  • Local: cutting the impact of international shipping and supporting local jobs.
  • Social: brands that support a cause either in the production of the item or through it’s profits.
  • Zero Waste: ensuring production utilizes the most, if not all, of the fabric. (Did you know an estimated 10-20% of fabric is wasted in mainstream production?)
  • Convertible: when a single item of clothing or accessory can be worn and used in more ways than one (allowing us to buy less in the first place!)
  • Vegan: considering the cost to wildlife in fashion production, which ties closely to wider environmental considerations.
  • Low Water Footprint: The amount of water used, wasted and polluted in the production of our clothing is a little scary!
  • Transparent: how much do we really know about our favourite brand’s supply chains and production methods?
  • Cradle to Cradle (as opposed to Cradle to Grave): what happens to our clothes after we are finished with them? Do they end up in landfill or have they been created to be used again?
  • Slow Fashion: much like the slow food movement, slow fashion is about sustainable fashion development, local sourcing, artisan production and originality.
  • Secondhand: reduce landfill and save future resources by reusing clothes.
  • Style: let’s be honest, no matter how ethical or green it is, if you don’t like wearing it, it’s not a great choice.

Great huh? But also overwhelming!

So I love that Eagan follows it up with a really practical way to apply the issues to our wardrobes. Essentially, her book encourages readers to consider the list, identify the top 4 or 5 issues they care most about and focus new purchases on meeting those top 4-5 standards. She calls it the Diamond Diagram, where each standard represents a ‘base’ in a baseball diamond – home, first base, second base etc.

Eagan’s list includes:

  1. Style
  2. Natural fibers
  3. Organic
  4. Local production
  5. Socially linked products.

“Every time I fill a base I get closer to wearing less evil. The addition of my selected standards for each piece is applied in a limited and realistic way. If I filled home base with style and then added organic to get to first base, that would be a great step toward sustainability, and two of the four bases would be filled. The goal is to try to fill all four bases for as many products (or purchases) as possible. That said, I realize that filling all four all of the time is still a challenge. This is why this model is flexible. Filling four out of four is awesome, but so is three or two out of four. The only rule to making this system work is that you can’t dip below two filters. That means you can’t buy something just because it is cool. It has to have integrity creds to back up its style status.” (Wear No Evil)

I LOVE this approach. There are no more excuses to justify a ‘cool’ purchase that undermines our own personal values, but at the same time, it feels practical and doable to ensure each new garment is better in some way.

I’ve been thinking through what key issues would make my list. I’m playing with the following:

  1. Style: Yes, I’ve got to like it to wear it!
  2. Fairtrade: This is the big one for me. I want to know that the people who make my clothes (most likely young women just like me) are getting a fair deal – regardless of whether the brand is officially ‘fair trade’ certified or not. I’ve mentioned before, but I also use the Australian Fashion Report gradings to decide if I’ll support a particular brand.
  3. Organic: Learning about the environmental issues has been another major eye-opening for me, and when pesticides and pollution impact the environment, undoubtedly they are affecting the farmers and communities in the vicinity.
  4. Local: There are a growing number of Kenyan brands and while I’ve got the honour to live here, I want to support Made-in-Kenya!
  5. Secondhand: It makes sense to capitalise on our well-stocked local second hand market, and it really does feel like guilt-free shopping.

I highly recommend adding Wear No Evil to your reading list, especially the first three chapters. Eagan gives a full rundown of the 16 issues above, with insights from leading ethical brands and great reasons on why (and how!) we should care.

How does the ‘Diamond Diagram’ sound to you? What issues would you add to your list?



A Better Friday / 05.

October 16, 2015


Hello Friday! How’s your week been?

We’ve had a lovely sunshiney week here in Nairobi. And now my winter capsule that I shared a few weeks back needs a bit of a do-over to incorporate some more summer items! I’ve got a handful of pieces in storage to pull out and I’m on the hunt for a new pair of denim shorts at our local second hand market, but knowing Nairobi weather, as soon as I pack away my sweaters and long-sleeve shirts, the rains will start up and the cool weather will descend again. Layers, I’ve got to keep reminding myself it’s all about the layers!

Every few weeks I’m taking a moment away from the longer posts to share a few lovely / thoughtful / inspiring links to make your Friday a little better:

I’ve been running this Instagram account the last few months 🙂

What’s on your bedside table right now? I’m reading this, this and this again.

Meet my dog Rum.

We’re new fans of this organic skincare range made here in Kenya. Not available internationally, but Kenya friends, they deliver to your door!

How to clear your inbox when you’re drowning

I’ve been wearing this Red Tribe necklace and getting non-stop compliments!

Salted caramel fondue. Yes please.

I’m slowly learning a new skill.


And three BD posts you may have missed:

Using a 5 Piece French Wardrobe to craft a better wardrobe

10 Reasons Why Your Wardrobe Sucks

How to buy better jewellery 

The Ethical Blogger Network

October 12, 2015


Today’s post is a just a quick note to let you know about the Ethical Blogger Network. Hosted by Hannah of Lifestyle Justice, it’s a network for people who write about conscious consumerism / ethics / sustainability / slow fashion / eco friendly lifestyle.

If that’s you, you should certainly join But for the rest of, it’s a great collection of some really fantastic ethical fashion blogs worth checking out!

Do you follow any great ethical / eco blogs? Any extras I should add to my Bloglovin’ feed?

my current capsule wardrobe

October 1, 2015


After dipping my toes last year and then writing this post, I’ve been testing out the capsule wardrobe approach again.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a capsule wardrobe is a limited-piece wardrobe designed around a season, a life stage or an activity. This has been my ‘winter capsule’ and what I’ve been wearing the past three plus months.

In June, after returning to Kenya from a trip to Australia, I sorted through my wardrobe, picked out 38 pieces and put the rest into storage. And by storage I mean, half of it went back into a suitcase and put up in my cupboard, and the other half – mostly work dresses I wanted to store on coat hangers – I moved to my husband’s wardrobe. Lucky him! (My excuse – his wardrobe is bigger!)

I don’t think there is a ‘magic number’ for a capsule wardrobe, rather I aimed to pare back my options significantly.

Originally I was aiming for the 37 mark like Caroline of Unfancy but added an extra piece. In different seasons and life stages I can see that number fluctuating both up and down. For this post, I’ve included 30 items of clothing and 4 pairs of shoes here – the remaining 4 pieces are purely for work, I’ll post on that later! What I haven’t included? Underwear, yoga gear and pyjamas.

So here’s my breakdown by type:


Jeans – 4 pairs. I know four could be considered excessive, but like most of the world, I live in jeans and wear each of these on high rotation. The first two pairs are maybe five plus years old? And the remaining two I bought in Istanbul in June last year… my last ‘fast fashion’ purchases before I decided to change my buying habits!


Skirts – 3 skirts. I’ve already said if I had a ‘uniform’ it would probably involve a top tucked into high-waisted skirt. It’s a style I love, and love to wear. The green one sits just above my knee, which is about as short as I like to wear things here in Nairobi, and the other two are more ‘midi’ length.


Dresses – 3 dresses. Originally I started with two, but just a few weeks ago the weather got warmed and I have been dying to wear the denim dress after picking it up in Australia (see it in action here!)


Tops – 11 tops. Four with long sleeves, three with 3/4 sleeves, three tees and one stripey tank. I didn’t realise how basic and plain my shirts are until I saw them arranged like this… hmmmm.


Cardigans, sweaters + jackets – 9. Light layers are the way to go in a Nairobi winter, where it’s never really freezing cold, but always cold enough to need that extra warmth. Most weekends you’ll find me snuggling up in that bunny sweater or the poncho. So cosy!


Shoes – 4 pairs. I’ve got to say upfront that I am not really a shoe person. I wear the same pair everyday until they are completely worn out and then grudgingly head to the store to try and find a new pair. These four have been my go-to pairs the last couple of months. But the other night I did sneak out to a party in a pair of heels!


In July 2014, I committed to only buying second-hand, ‘better brands’ or making garments myself from here on in. Of course when I made the switch, I didn’t get rid of all my old clothes; these still make up the bulk of my wardrobe.

I thought I’d show a breakdown by source as well, to give you an idea of how my closet is slowly transitioning into a better wardrobe!

Already owned – 18 items. The oldest is probably my khaki green jacket, which I bought maybe 7 years ago? (It’s hazy). The newest is that blue turtle neck top, gifted from my mum when she visited Kenya early this year.

Second hand – 5 items. The giraffe top and black maxi dress are hand-me-downs from my little sister, I got the green skirt at Swop and the grey cardigan and dark grey tee are from a second hand market here in Kenya.

Better brands – 8 items. This includes three items from really great brands (the denim dress and white sneakers from Bibico and the black top from Modavanti) and five items from brands that ranked well on the Australian Fashion Report (loafers, ballet flats, green long sleeve top, navy long sleeve top and striped dress from Country Road and Witchery).

Up-cycled – 2 items. Technically, both the torn jeans and bunny sweater could also count as ‘already owned’ items, but after wearing them to death (literally, the bunnies used to be covered in black and white sequins that fell off in fits and starts), I gave them second life with a little DIY.

Made by me – 1 item! It’s a start, right? I made the maroon and navy kitenge skirt while I was home in Australia, with fabric I bought in Kenya and lots of sewing help from my sister.


In the name of full disclosure, I have a lot of clothes in storage. I should count them up, but I haven’t. Some items are best for summer. Some items are fancier work clothes that I haven’t needed in my current job. Some are other winter pieces that I put away for a season and will revive again next year. So I’m trying to be more minimalist, but I haven’t gone all out and got rid of everything! Practical minimalism is what I’m aiming for.

So this is what I’ve been wearing the past three or so months – June until now. In a nutshell, it’s been great. Less options makes for easier decision making! Less clothes makes me appreciate them more! I know it sounds totally counter-intuitive. But I really feel happier about what I’m wearing… and happier about where the clothes are coming from!

Have you tried the capsule wardrobe before? How’d it go for you?