Monday, January 24, 2011

Need the Support of a Performance Bra in a Natural Fabric? Double Up.

One of the concerns I hear most often is that women need more supportive sports bras in natural fabrics.  While has sports bras in organic cotton and bamboo, thus far they haven't rivaled their synthetic counterparts for really good support in high-impact sports.  Last year I ran my first 1/2 marathon wearing the Bamboo Sports Bra, and while it was "good enough," I have to agree with my fellow sports enthusiasts that it could have been better.  I also happen to be on the small side, falling between an A and a B cup.  The C and D cups out there are really struggling to find something natural, breathable, eco-friendly and supportive.

Then a few weeks ago in a rather jumpy power-sculpting class, the light bulb finally turned on.  We've got great natural fiber camis and tanks with built-in shelf bras and we've got decent sports bras.  What if I combined them?  So I have.  2 classes and 2 runs later and I'm hooked for life on an ultra-supportive combo concept.  In my case, I started with the Bamboo Sports Bra and then layered the organic cotton E Tank over top of it.  Since I fall between sizes, I wore the bra in small and the tank in medium.  If you find your almost always one size, I would suggest both pieces in the same size.

The sports bra provided the basic support.  I personally like the bamboo because it seems to control odor a lot and wicks a little, too.  However, I believe the lighter weight Organic Cotton Sports Bra or even the Jen's Bra should work equally well as the bottom layer.  The internal shelf bra in the layering tank fits a tad tighter than usual since it's now sitting on another garment instead of directly on the skin.  That tightness helped hold the sports bra in place and provided a full second layer of anti-bounce protection.  Almost any tank or cami with an internal shelf bra should work equally well, and as a side bonus, the layered look was quite attractive.  I should warn that my cami got a little stretched, and while its still perfect for the sports layering, extended wear this way might make it less usable on its own.

Of course, we're still trying to find other options in technical sports wear.  I've found some companies that have the right idea.  One company is making technical sports bras out of traditional polyester, but using recycled fibers.  At the moment, they're recycled content is only 35%, which doesn't quite meet our eco standards, but it's a good start, and we'll keep following them to see if they can pull off a great design with more recycled materials.  But in the meantime if you need more support right now, just double up.

Stay active,

Friday, January 21, 2011

Chemical Finishing Agents on Clothing

One thing I've mentioned often is that it's just as important for clothing to be free of harsh chemical finishing agents as it is for the base agricultural material to be organically grown. Many people who are chemically sensitive have reactions to the chemicals that are put on the fabric last because those chemicals often have the strongest residue on the final product.

So I have some knowledge of finishing agents, and I figure a little research on my part will help out my customers who may want to know more about what's in conventional clothing and what to avoid.  I knew some basics about common carcinogens such as formaldehyde, which is used to make fabrics wrinkle-resistant and Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs), which are used as flame-retardants.  But with a little research, I learned that I had barely touched the surface of the chemical finishing agent pool. According to the textbook Chemical Finishing of Textiles, there are thousands (!) of chemical finishing agents.

After a very short bought of reading up on chemicals such as fluorocarbons, silicons, acids and chlorines, I started to get depressed, and I particularly didn't want to look up each of them in OSHA's database.  Then I remembered that part of the reason I named my business Faerie's Dance was because I wanted to approach environmentalism with a sense of joy and beauty rather than gloom and doom about toxic chemicals.  (And I almost didn't publish this post.) 

So this is my final (somewhat limited) word on chemical finishing agents.  They're mostly not environmentally friendly or people friendly and I avoid purchasing items made with them for our online store. 

Next time - something more fun! :-)

Monday, January 10, 2011

"Organic" versus "Eco-Friendly" - Is there a difference?

There seems to be some confusion about the difference between clothing that is "organic" versus clothing that is "eco-friendly".  So I'd like to provide a little clarification of these terms. 

First off the term "organic" is a short-cut term for an agricultural crop that has been organically grown, that is grown without harmful chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.  For a crop to be labelled as organically grown, it must be certified by a government agriculture agency either here or abroad.  In the USA the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) is the primary certifying agency for organic crops.  Up until recently, companies could be certified by local government authorities such as the Organic Tilth Standards or the Texas Department of Agriculture.  Now those programs are incorporated into the overall NOP by acting as agencies accredited by the NOP to certify organic crops.  In addition to the USA, the NOP program accredits 42 foreign agencies (as of 12/2010) to certify crops as organically grown in other countries.

In general we can say that most organic fabrics are eco-friendly.  However a fabric could possibly be organic and still be dyed using conventional chemical dyes, finished with toxic chemicals or sewn using child or sweatshop labor.  Additional certifications such as the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS), Oeko-Tex® for Confidence in Textiles or Fair Trade Federation standards govern those extra details. 

Eco-Friendly clothing can be environmentally beneficial while not being organically grown.  For example,'s Lingerie Wash Bag is made from recycled PET from plastic bottles that might otherwise wind up in landfills.  Plastic is a petroleum product and in its initial form would definitely not be considered eco-friendly.  Since it's not an agricultural product, the term organic doesn't even apply.  But reusing waste products is better for the planet than tossing them out.  No new chemicals are introduced during the recycling and restyling process, so the bags are definitely eco-friendly. 

Soy fibre clothing is another good example.  The clothing is made from the discarded outer casing of the soy bean, which otherwise goes into landfills.  (The casings can be composted, but they seldom are at the manufacturing level.)  While the original soy beans can be certified organically grown as an agricultural product, both organic and non-organic soy bean casings are used in creating soy fibre clothing.  This is because the emphasis is on the environmental benefits of reclaiming the waste product rather than on ensuring organic production.

In summary, growing crops organically is better for the environment and our health, but a final piece of clothing made from organic fabric may or may not be completely eco-friendly depending on how it was dyed and finished.  Reclaimed, reused and recycled fabrics make great eco-friendly options even if the base material wasn't originally organically grown.  So the terms "organic" and "eco-friendly" while often used together, are not actually synonymous.

Happy New Year,