In 2005 two full tanks of propane oil spilled out into Mary’s basement due to a faulty valve. The entire house became a toxic oil spill. After two months of attempting to clean up the spill while still living in the house, Mary and her husband gave up and abandoned their home. Unfortunately, they had stayed longer than was prudent, and Mary’s slight chemical sensitivities turned acute.
Mary became allergic to almost every finishing agent, dye, pesticide and petroleum-based product in clothing. She would get paralyzing weakness and severe asthma-like reactions to most garments along with skin rashes and shortness of breath. She started a desperate search to find clothing that didn’t make her sick. She found one company that made 100% organic cotton men’s lounge pants with drawstring waistbands and plain organic cotton t-shirts that she didn’t react to and bought dozens of them. She found she could tolerate organically grown wool that had been processed without chemicals. With a deep love of animals, she was cautious to buy only hand sheared wool from pasture-raised sheep in Ireland. And for the next 8 years, she wore only men’s lounge pants, t-shirts and Irish wool sweaters.
In 2013 she lamented to a friend that what she missed the most was wearing a bra. As an older woman, she was uncomfortable going out without one, especially in summer. However, she couldn’t tolerate them at all and hadn’t been able to wear one in years. Her husband stepped in and did some internet searches for her, and he stumbled upon FaeriesDance.com. He bought her the Allergen-Free Side-Tie Bra.
When it arrived, Mary tried it on, and for the first time in many years, she was not only able to tolerate a bra, but also found it downright comfortable. While it wasn’t the most supportive bra she’d ever worn, she was absolutely thrilled to be able to wear a bra when going out in public and felt feminine for the first time in ages.
Excited and empowered, Mary called Faerie’s Dance to find out if we could help her with other clothing (and to buy a bunch more bras). After listening carefully to her list of allergies, we recommend a number of beautiful, feminine fashions. She purchased the first few tops manufactured by Indigenous Designs with both trepidation and hope. Every single piece worked! She called again and together we started working on getting her some skirts, and then cardigans, dresses, jackets and finally pants. She literally had no wardrobe at all, so she made a monthly budget and picked up a few new pieces every month.
Most of the fashions were from Indigenous, but with recommendations she also got intimates from Cottonique and Love Nature, a hemp jacket from Jonano, the Hillary Fleece Dress from Curator, socks from Peau-Ethique and more.
Since 2013, Mary has not only become a consistent customer, but a friend as well, telling stories of her frog pond, her pets and her life in general. She starts every phone call with what she’s wearing. She picked up the Alba Padded Underwire Bra, and while it does have a touch of spandex in it, she is able to wear it for a few hours at a time for special occasions. She called excited one day to say that when she put on the Alba bra with her Sunny Day Dress, her husband actually did a double take, “checking her out” for the first time in years.
Today Mary says eco-fashion has saved her life. She feels beautiful, comfortable and feminine in her clothes (though she’s too shy to let us post her picture). She’s more comfortable in public and able to dress appropriately for any season. She doesn’t have a single pair of baggy men’s lounge pants left in her closet! When asked after all this time what her very favorite purchase was, she goes back to that original Cottonique bra. She has half a dozen now and wears them every day.
When I started Faerie’s Dance, my focus was on the environmental side of eco-fashion. I quickly learned about the social justice benefits as well. But I was wholly unaware of the many allergy sufferers who were literally getting sick from their clothing. It’s such an honor to help people like Mary find clean, sustainable, fairly traded fashion.
What’s your eco-fashion success story?