Vegan Black Leather Jacket

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Every woman needs a sleek, well-fitting black leather jacket to wear with skinny jeans and a t-shirt, or draped over a dress for a night out. Black leather jackets are so versatile, effortless, and they instantly make your look so much cooler. In this case, the jacket is vegan leather, which is even better!

Brevity’s  Do Anything Jacket is the most comfortable jacket I own. It’s made of soft, vegan leather, and it molds to your body like it was custom made. With a slight lift in the back and expertly placed darting and paneling, it is so slimming and flattering. I usually have a hard time finding jackets that don’t overwhelm my narrow shoulders, but this jacket fits me perfectly.

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I began my journey to build a wardrobe comprised of only fair trade clothing, or clothing made in the United States about a year ago, and one of the first places I looked was Kickstarter. I found so many amazing small companies looking for help financing ethical, beautiful products. These designers took care to produce their products sustainably and with great respect for the humans making them, so it was more difficult to find investors than it would be for many “fast fashion” retailers.

I found Brevity’s Kickstarter campaign through a Facebook friend and immediately fell in love with both their product and their mission. As you can see, the jacket is gorgeous. It is also produced in a women-owned factory in San Francisco, CA. The owner is a young woman who wanted to create a polished jacket that looked professional, but felt like leisure wear. She knew that women needed a sleek jacket that could take them from coffee with a friend, to campus, to a business meeting, to a night out.

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I immediately donated to the Kickstarter campaign, and when I received my Do Anything Jacket I filmed an unboxing video for my YouTube channel. This piece was one of my first steps toward investing in a more ethical, sustainable wardrobe. I love that it is vegan, and it supports female business owners and employees. I’m so glad that the weather is finally cooling down in Southern California so that I can wear it everywhere!

It’s just as comfortable as a hoodie, but infinitely cooler. It completely elevates my look every time I wear it with a more casual outfit, and I recently wore it to a wedding with a fancier dress. It was perfect to throw on during the outdoor reception. I love the classic look of this black jacket, and now it’s also available in a light grey and blush pink.

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My friend who got married was the Facebook friend who had shared the Brevity Kickstarter campaign. The owner and designer of Brevity, Dara Elliott, was a bridesmaid in the wedding, so I actually got to meet her! I was so excited to take a picture with her in my jacket, and I loved hearing from her first hand about the company and the production. She is an incredible businesswoman and I’m so impressed by how she runs her company and produces her amazing pieces.

Check out her gorgeous jackets from Brevity Brand and definitely put one on your Christmas wish list!

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My Favorite Fair Trade T-shirts

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Sometimes several of your passions collide into one super, amazing, jumbo passion. Like Hamilton, for example. I remember showing Lin-Manuel Miranda’s White House performance to my 8th graders a few years ago and explaining Hamilton the Musical and one kid said, “Wow, it’s all of your passions in one thing: history, hip hop and musical theater.” Truer words were never spoken, kid. (And he totally got an A).

Anyway, I just found my t-shirt version of Hamilton. Pan Clothing makes fair trade, totally cute t-shirts, and donates five textbooks to classrooms in need for every product sold. Ethical business, relaxed style and support for education all in one!

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Pan Clothing was founded last year by two college students who have a heart for overseas service missions. Jacky and Tanner helped to build schools in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, but as they spent time with the teachers and principals, they realized that some classrooms literally only had access to one textbook. They wanted to do their part to support literacy and education in these schools, so they started a t-shirt company with a mission to donate five textbooks for every piece of clothing sold.

They also make men’s t-shirts, but I’m obsessed with their women’s line. These shirts are soft, comfy, and come in three muted, wearable colors. They have a scoop neck, a pocket detail, and they are cut slightly longer in the back. They are perfect everyday t-shirts, and they’ve become weekend staples for me.

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My favorite thing about Pan Clothing is that even though they are a small, startup company, run by two friends who are still in college, they made a commitment to producing their clothing ethically. I had the opportunity to speak with Jacky and Tanner personally, and they told me that they researched Patagonia’s manufacturers and built relationships with some of the same factories. The teacher in me was thinking, “What great problem solving skills! They refused to be limited by the fact that they were a new company and used established businesses’ models as a template for their own business.” They get an A also. 😉

Another impressive aspect of their company is that these t-shirts are only $24. I’ve been getting pretty deep into the fair trade fashion world recently and I don’t think I’ve EVER come across a $24 fair trade t-shirt. Not only are you getting an affordable, ethical t-shirt for $24, but you are also donating five textbooks to a classroom in need with your purchase. Just a win-win-win all around.

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To incorporate yet another of my passions, Jacky and Tanner also have a vlog channel where you can follow along with their travel adventures and see your dollars in action as they bring textbooks to schools around the world. It’s amazing.

I definitely encourage you to order a t-shirt or two for yourself, but you also have the opportunity to win a gift card to Pan over on my Instagram. Follow my account, Pan Clothing, and let us know in a comment where you would like to travel next. Tag the friend you want to travel with! Best of luck to you on the giveaway–now I’m going to go listen to the Hamilton soundtrack…

 

 

*I am not being sponsored by Pan Clothing. They graciously gave me clothing to try, and I genuinely love and support their products and mission! As always, all opinions and reviews are my own.

 

Necklace by The Giving Keys (another ethical company that I love)

Photography by Joyetic (a husband and wife photography team who also strive to be ethical consumers)

(Check out my YouTube video about Pan Clothing!)

My Favorite Teacher Shoes Ever

I know I just wrote a post about teacher shoes, but I’m doing it again because this is a very important topic! Like, we should have professional development days dedicated to effective educator footwear. I’d show up for that.

And these are my actual favorite teacher shoes. Ever.

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I’ve been wearing Toms ever since I started running after school programs seven years ago. I wore a pair of grey wedges (similar) every single day with jeans and my YMCA t-shirt and they were perfectly comfortable even during activities and games. I wore a black pair (similar) nearly every day during my first year of teaching, and I’ve owned two pairs of the strappy version as well. All together I’ve had about seven pairs of Toms, but I’ve actually never owned the classic alpargatas (I had to look up the official term!). They are so comfortable that I rarely feel the need to venture out to other brands.

I went on the Toms website to look for another pair of the black wedges that I loved so much, but I was drawn in by these black leather heeled sandals. They sold out a couple of times while I was trying to decide whether or not to order them, so the next time they were in stock I jumped at my opportunity! I’m sorry to report that at the time I am publishing this they are sold out again. This pair is similar, and I’m considering getting them in another color.

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For me, wedges and shoes with a block heel are more comfortable than flats. I also love that they give me a little bit of height, and they make me feel slightly more dressed up. The ones here are particularly comfortable since the leather forms so well to my foot, and the open toe ensures that there is no rubbing or pinching. Today I wore them all day while teaching and then taking care of Jenson and I didn’t even remember to take them off until about 7pm. Twelve hours in and they were still feeling great.

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You are probably already familiar with the Toms mission to give away a pair of shoes for every pair sold. They also provide vision services, access to clean water, safer birth resources, and they donate to causes to prevent bullying. Production-wise, they produce one-third of their shoes in the regions where they give them. They have factories in Ethiopia, Kenya and India, and they also employ and equal ratio of men to women. I’m happy to incorporate their products into my increasingly ethical and sustainable wardrobe.

These black heeled sandals are hereby declared my official teacher shoes of the 2017-18 school year. What are yours?

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Tieks Review: The Best Teacher Flats?

The number one most-hyped teacher fashion item has got to be Tieks flats. If you spend fifteen seconds on Pinterest looking for anything teaching related, you will definitely see an image of a beautiful rainbow assortment of ballet flats somewhere in your feed.

I’ve had my eye on a pair for a few years now, but they’re quite pricey (some will set you back over $200). One of my teacher BFFs bought these chestnut beauties a few months ago though, and they looked so cute on her that I just had to try them! Here are a few of my thoughts on my Tieks:

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The packaging they arrive in is GORGEOUS. I’m a sucker for packaging.

They are only available in full sizes. I usually wear a 7 1/2. The website suggests sizing down since the leather stretches, so I bought a size 7. I wore them around the apartment for about an hour and they felt way too small, so I thought I would try an 8. Tieks sent me the 8 right away so that I could compare the two sizes, and then I sent the size 7 back. I was happy with the larger size and with the customer service on the exchange.

They are very comfortable. At this point in my life I have worn too many cheap, uncomfortable pairs of flats and I’m just not doing it anymore. I would rather invest more money in a quality pair that doesn’t give me blisters or pain in my arches. They are the kind of shoes that you just don’t really have to think about. Sometimes after a day of teaching I can’t wait to get home and kick off my shoes, but I haven’t felt that way with my Tieks.

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They ARE really great for teachers. We have to stand on our feet for most of the day, plus we have to maneuver around roller backpacks and lunch boxes and then climb on a chair to hang the top row of student work on a bulletin board. These are perfect shoes for the that. I wouldn’t choose to wear mine on a long outdoor hike, and they aren’t well-suited for cold weather, but they are great as a casual, indoor, comfortable, classroom flat.

They look cute! I remember loving the little black flats that Cinderella slips into before she goes to feed the animals, and these simple flats remind me of that. I copied my friend and ordered the neutral chestnut pair, but another teacher friend of mine ordered the gorgeous rose gold pair, and I love this printed leopard pair. The teal sole is also totally adorable.

Lastly, I was under the impression that Tieks were made in the US, but from what I can now tell, only the last stage of assembly is done in Los Angeles. They contribute to a women’s empowerment fund called Kiva, but do not claim to be a fair trade company. I consider these an investment piece (they are the most expensive pair shoes I own!) and I will incorporate them into my increasingly fair trade and American-made wardrobe.

However, I am interested in trying out other boutique flats companies that have a stronger mission and purpose. Rothy’s are made from recycled plastic and are slightly less expensive than Tieks, Oka-B flats are made in the state of Georgia, recyclable and affordable, and The Root Collective has gorgeous fair trade flats. I’d like to try give one of these companies a try the next time I’m in need of a pair of teacher flats.

Ethical Weekend Style

This year my resolution was to only purchase clothing that is fair trade or made in the United States. After participating in Dressember and watching the documentary The True Cost, I felt convicted about how my frivolous fashion purchases affect the environment, the global economy, the lives of individual workers, and even my own happiness. Ten months into this journey, I have learned so much more about ethical fashion, and I’ve found several fair trade brands that make beautiful clothing while also fulfilling a mission to improve the lives of women.

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One of these companies is Elegantees. They employ women in Nepal, and actively participate in the effort to rescue sex trafficking victims on the Nepal-India border. They also make ethical and fashionable clothes. I love purchasing from them because I know that not only am I investing in a well made, lovely piece of clothing, but my money is helping to keep a woman employed in a dignified job.

When I saw this top I knew I had to buy it–it’s called the Megan. I love the asymmetrical hem with a longer cut in the back. It’s perfect for my every day teaching style, or as an easy, casual shirt for the weekend. It’s comfortable and fits perfectly (I ordered a medium). I even made an error when entering my shipping information and Elegantees worked quickly and kindly with me to rectify my mistake and get my order shipped to me within a few days.

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Additionally, Elegantees is working with Dressember again this year to create, not one, but FIVE styles of Dressember dresses. I’ve already ordered the Penny dress to add to my Dressember collection. I’ve also got my eye on the Courtney dress because apparently I can’t get enough black, hi-low pieces!

The dresses and shirts I’ve purchased from Elegantees cost a little bit more than I was used to spending on clothing. In the past I did a lot of my shopping at places like Target and TJ Maxx. Those places have some really cute outfits at great prices, but these days I am much more selective about how much I buy, and who I am supporting with my money. I could make a huge corporation even richer, or I could literally help keep a woman out of a sweatshop with my purchase. Whenever possible, I choose the latter.

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Since I have been buying simpler, more classic pieces that I can wear for years to come, it’s also been fun to add some jewelry to my collection. I love the unexpected yarn detail on this Joy Necklace from Noonday Collection. Noonday is another Dressember partner that offers gorgeous fair trade jewelry, handmade by artisans all over the world. You can search their website for a Noonday Ambassador in your area. I’ve always placed orders online, but ambassadors also host trunk shows where you can check out their jewelry in person.

As I continue on my journey toward becoming an ethical consumer, I want to share what I learn with you. For now, I will only be providing links to items that are fair trade, made in the United States, or ethically produced in some way. I still own clothes that I bought before I made this shift in my purchasing habits, and I see no reason to throw them out and simply create more waste. Ideally, I’d like to transition to a fully fair trade wardrobe, but that will take time. It will also take creativity, and I welcome the challenge.

 

 

Photography by Joyetic

My Favorite Subscription Box

I love subscription boxes. I’ve tried out so many fun services: Ipsy, Birchbox, Julep, Boxycharm, Olia, Fabletics, Wantable, and maybe even a few others I’m forgetting. I love the concept because it feels like you are getting a gift in the mail every month, even though it’s from yourself!

Causebox follows the same model, but it’s different in such an important way. All of the products in Causeboxes are curated from leading socially conscious brands. The products are fair trade, handmade, eco-friendly, sustainable, and they are providing jobs to people around the world who need them. As the consumer, you receive a mix of beauty, lifestyle, accessories, and home items that were made with care.  One of my favorite aspects of the box is that I also get to learn about companies and products that are empowering women, and making a difference in the world.

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Causeboxes arrive seasonally (about every three months). For me this timing is perfect. Sometimes with monthly subscriptions I haven’t had enough time to try out the products from one box before another one arrives. I also love that each box is curated for the season, and you receive products that will be useful right away.

On my journey in becoming a conscious consumer, Causebox has been incredibly helpful. I’ve learned about so many new brands and products that are truly fantastic in quality, and also in their mission.

If you want a sneak peak of what was in my Fall Causebox check out my latest unboxing video on my channel.

Welcome Back!

Hello my friends! I am sitting down to update my blog while my baby boy is trying to climb behind the TV and play with the wires. “This Is Us” is on in the background, and I’m sipping on my iced Americano while I ignore the pile of essays that I eventually need to grade. Life has changed quite a bit since I first started Too Cool for Middle School!

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Let me reintroduce myself. My profile read “second-year teacher,” but now I’m in my sixth year of teaching. I work at an amazing middle school in Southern California with students from all over the world. I’m currently teaching 6th grade history, 6th grade English, and 8th grade English. I coach volleyball, softball, and I’ve acquired a little collection of clubs including a Human Rights club, a Hamilton/Harry Potter club, and a fashion club. Clearly my students and I share a lot of interests!

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This is a new season of life for me. For the first time since Kindergarten, I’m not a student. I completed my Masters degree in US History last May (at thirty-nine weeks pregnant!). I wrote my thesis on Rothschild Francis, my husband’s great grandfather, who fought for citizenship and civil rights in the US Virgin Islands in the 1920’s. Research, writing, and telling the stories of unlikely heroes truly fulfill me. I’m sure that I will find myself in the world of academia again soon.

Last June my husband and I began the most incredible journey we’ve walked together yet–parenthood! Our son Jenson was born on the last day of school in 2016, and we spent the summer learning all about diapering, nursing, swaddling, and functioning on two hours of sleep. Jenson is a year old now and he’s an absolute joy. He is THE cutest child I’ve ever seen in my life (I’m biased, I know), and he keeps us laughing constantly. He fills up my Instastories, so for his daily antics, check out my Instagram!

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Speaking of social media, my YouTube channel has grown slowly but intimately. I’ve made genuine friends through both YouTube and Instagram, and I love the sense of community from the subscribers who comment and engage with my posts. I want to write more about my lessons and classroom strategies, and offer resources to middle school teachers. This blog is a useful platform for those goals, so I am going to be more intentional about creating blog content in addition to YouTube videos.

I’ve always written and spoken about fashion, and these days I am even more invested in fashion than ever. My fashion goals are to purchase only fair trade clothing, or clothing made in the US. I am becoming much more minimalist in my style, and I want to invest in pieces that truly make me feel like my best self, and that will last for years to come. I am learning about sustainable fashion, eco-friendly fashion, and the effects that fast fashion have on human rights, the planet, and even our sense of satisfaction. I will continue to share with you amazing companies that are making the world a better place, while also offering beautiful products. I have a few fair trade fashion posts coming soon!

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Thank you so much for stopping by my blog. I appreciate this online community of teachers, and I hope to make this Internet world a more positive and encouraging place. Thank you for the opportunity!

Photos by Joyetic

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