Imagine if you will, a lacy, sexy, panty, ethically made from sustainable materials, that actually sits high on the waist, covering your belly and making you feel retro gorgeous like Marilyn Monroe. It’s not a fantasy! These elusive high-waisted, organic cotton panties actually exist!
When jeans went low-rise more than a decade ago, so did panties. As a middle-aged woman, wearing undies that accentuated my pooch belly did not make for a happy time for me. But over the last few years, high-rise panties have returned with a vengeance, and gone green! Performers like Ariana Grande (left) and Beyoncé (bottom) have shown off their figures in high rise panties, pushing this retro revival forward.
More recently, San Francisco-Paris collaboration brand, Les Lunes, released the simple, but ultra-flattering, Anything But Basic High-waisted panty made from a luxurious bamboo fabric. It has less “support” and tummy control than the Swegmark panties and a bit less pizzazz than the Peau-Ethique options. Instead, it comes in at a lower price and has a silky texture surpassing the other options in comfort and barely-know-its-there wearability.
With so many luxury, ethical, sustainable options available, even the most dedicated low-rise fan might want to grab a retro high-waisted panty for under their favorite skirt or dress. What would you choose: flirty lace, tummy-controlling support, barely-there bamboo or a simple organic cotton basic made right here in Oregon? Whatever you decide, we think the retro indulgence of high-waisted panties is back to stay.
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.
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.
Ocean Blue an Oregon ocean nonprofit, is concerned about the impact of the textile industry on our natural water resources, specifically the clothes we all wear and wash everyday. They contacted Faerie’s Dance to discuss whether eco-fashion represents an improvement over conventional clothing. Adrienne Catone, Faerie’s Dance’s founder and CEO was happy to discuss what makes their threads the best option for the planet’s waterways.
Founder of Ocean Blue Project, Richard Arterbury, is concerned with the presence of chemicals and unnatural clothing fibers in our waterways. He explained how our clothing impacts our waterways, both the manufacturing and the maintenance that happens after we start wearing them.
When two environmentally friendly organization leaders join forces, or even just get together to chat about sustainability and clothing, the conversation can be quite revealing.
Richard: We really like that you offer people sustainable clothing that has the health of workers in mind as well as being environmentally friendly. Can you tell me a little bit about what makes your clothing environmentally friendly?
Adrienne: Well, there are four important pieces that we factor in when determining whether or not a piece of clothing is eco-friendly:
1. We source fabrics with no or minimal pesticide usage and minimal or closed-loop processing. For example, organically grown cotton instead of conventional cotton – which is the highest pesticide/insecticide sprayed crop on the planet.
2. We source clothing that has been at least low-impact dyed. Some items are undyed or clay-dyed, but we avoid items that have been conventionally dyed with harsh chemicals such as azo dyes. You can read about dyes in this post.
3. All of our clothing has no chemical finishing agents. Most conventional clothing is finished with a chemical soup to make them wrinkle less, stand up better to the dryer, resist fire, etc. While these chemicals do have some benefits for the clothing, we don’t believe the benefits are worth the environmental degradation or the potential health risks to both the wearer and the factory workers.
4. Finally, we are meticulous in our verification that no sweatshop or child labor is ever used in any of the items we carry. Most of them are Fair Trade Certified, though we do carry some brands that work with smaller factories that cannot afford the certifications. In those cases, the manufacturers physically go to the factories on a regular basis and verify the working conditions personally. While we buy most of our clothing from manufacturers that wholesale, we do also manufacture our own line of underwear. All of our underwear are designed, cut and sewn in Oregon from Global Organic Textile Certified (GOTS) fabric imported from a family-owned shop in India.
Richard: It sounds like you have really done your research which makes me glad that you have dedicated your work to sharing this knowledge with the world. Which fabrics do you think leave the lightest footprint on our waterways?
Adrienne: Anything grown without pesticides that also has minimal processing waste would end up being the best option all around. We’ve done an assessment of eco-friendly fabrics, and essentially, the higher on the list you purchase, the better it will be for our waterways.
Richard: Pesticides wash into waterways that make their way to the ocean and that’s not good for wildlife or people that get our drinking water from those waterways. It is good to know how fabrics are being processed so we can make better choices for people and wildlife.
A solution from our perspective is most of our waterways have been impeded so greatly that native plants and native trees are no longer protecting our rivers. Today the world is making better choices, but pollutants are now present in sediments that got put there from many years ago. I would like to know more about other ways clothing is processed. How does closed-loop processing help the world’s ocean?
Adrienne: Most fabric production does have some waste products. A closed-loop processing system captures the production waste and recycles it for reuse in the next round of fabric production. Companies like Lenzing, who make both Tencel® and Modal® have achieved near 100% waste recycling. So there’s no waste or runoff at all into waterways or oceans. Closed-loop production is really the future of fashion.
Richard: Those are the kind of solutions we like to hear about. Clothing dyes also impact waterways and the ocean. So, can you tell me more about what you have found about those impacts?
Adrienne: As I mentioned before, conventional dyes can have really harsh, and in some cases, carcinogenic chemicals. Unfortunately, the dyeing process creates a lot of waste. The single biggest improvement of low-impact dyes over conventional dyes is the enormous reduction in waste output.
Richard: It is deeply concerning that fibers from plastic based clothing come off in the wash and end up making their way through water treatment plants, eventually flowing into waterways to the world’s ocean. These plastic fibers are also found in our drinking water. Would you say it’s better to have plastics go to a landfill than to be made into products that will end up in the ocean?
Adrienne: Actually, a huge portion of non-recycled plastic do end up in our oceans. So RePET fibers keep a lot of plastic out of the ocean rather than just out of landfill. So I guess the question would be is it better to have a lot of plastic in the ocean (a lot being defined as an entire garments worth) or a little plastic in our waterways (a little being defined as the small amount of the garment that leeches away during the wash)?
Richard: What’s worse? Is it a large piece that gets churned over time, or the piece that’s microscopic that we can’t see? The answers to these questions may be filled in over time by researchers, but until then we can keep cleaning it up and your company can keep making our footprint as light as possible like you have been doing. One thing that I really love about Faeries Dance is that you are offering solutions for a One World Ocean.
To learn more about the Ocean Blue Project, checkout their Mission Page.
All of these organic bras have wide, adjustable comfort straps and 3-position hook-and-eye back closures for the perfect fit. They are well-constructed with wide underbust bands for great support and coverage. Sizes range from 34B – 46DDD. Not all bras come in all sizes, but the winner will have the option of choosing any of our in-stock options. We have Swegmark bras in white, nude, pink, blue, grey and black.
If you don’t get your perfect size on the first go, you can even send it back and we’ll do an exchange for you. Once you’ve tried this brand of comfort, stylish, sustainable bras, we don’t think you’ll ever choose anything else. So go ahead and enter below. The winner will be announced Monday, November 27.
Why don’t USA manufacturers make organic cotton bras? We get this question a lot. There are actually a number of great companies, like Blue Canoe, that make soft bras, bralettes, and yoga bras in the USA. However, you won’t find padded, molded cup or underwire bras made in the USA. When we started making our own line of organic panties in Oregon, we thought we might try our hand at making some bras as well. What we found is that bra making takes expensive specialty equipment. Most sewing manufacturers can’t afford to buy this equipment unless they are using it regularly. It’s certainly possible that somewhere in the USA there is a small manufacturing company that can make these types of “constructed” bras, but if there is, we weren’t able to find them. So let’s break down types of bras and how they are sewn.
“Soft Bras” or Bralettes
This is the category of bras made without molding, internal padding or underwire. The bralette is very popular these days, and it’s the easiest bra to sew. There are bralettes that pull-on over the head, those that have the addition of a hook-and-eye back closure, and even a few that are sewn with internal pockets for use with removable padded cups. The removable cups offer the option of a padded bralette such as the Adjustable Soft Bra, shown left, without the expensive equipment needed for internal padding. The hook-and-eye back closure takes more sewing than a pull-on style and tends to make the bras a little more expensive, but they don’t require any specialty equipment. The entire hook-and-eye piece is often manufactured separately and bra companies just need to buy the pieces and sew them in using a standard sewing machine. The Avignon Triangle Bra shown below is an example of the hook-and-eye closure bralette.
Bralettes can be sewn in almost any sewing shop or factory and can even be made at home. A standard sewing machine pulls most of the weight for these bras, though a cover-stitch machine can also be beneficial.
Molded Cup Bras
All of the bralettes described above will have some sort of seaming, pleating or ruching in the cups to provide shape. Molded cup bras provide shaping without any seams. Since this type of bra looks particularly good under t-shirts or tight knit tops, they are often referred to as t-shirt bras. The molded cups require an intricate piece of equipment that stretches the fabric to the exact shape of the cup. Since you need a separate “mold” for each cup size, the equipment cost can get expensive. I had the opportunity to snap a few photos of a molding machine at Swegmark’s offices in Sweden along with the resulting molds. As you can see in the image right, this machine creates only two sizes, so additional machines or larger machines are required based on how many bra sizes you want to create. Swegmark has been making molded bras out of polyester fabric for years, but when I visited this summer they were working on their first fair trade, organic cotton molded bra. We look forward to having those available for sale in early 2018.
A molding machine can also be used to create molded padding for bras that have internal padding rather than removable padded cups.
The Alba No Wire Bra (shown left) from Love Nature is an example of a no-wire bra with molded, seamless cups. This one has molded cups without padding. We had sent a number of request to Love Nature to add an a A-cup bra to their size range before they went out of business. At the time they told us they didn’t have any molds for an A-cup and this is what they meant. It wasn’t just re-working the sizing to fit an A-cup, they would have had to buy more physical equipment. In their case, they didn’t think the sales would make up for the large upfront investment.
The addition of underwires to bras allows them to shape and support the breasts much better than a no wire bra. Additionally, it is possible to use the wire to support cotton internal padding rather than the more common polyester/nylon padding. There were rumors stared by a book in the 90s that led some people to believe that underwire bras caused breast cancer. However, that myth has been well debunked. You can read about it here or here or here.
We still sell a lot of underwire bras, particularly padded, underwire bras and it turns out that adding in the wire requires yet another piece of expensive machinery. While I’ve never seen one in person, I have been able to find them online. An underwire bra machine such as the one shown below runs about $8,000-$10,000.
Finding the perfect bra for you always takes a little effort. While we would ideally love to offer a wider variety of bras that are made in the USA, the downturn in American textile manufacturing has left us with few, if in fact any, companies that can make seamless cup or underwire bras. In fact, the equipment is so costly that many of the manufacturers we work with are actually bra designers and still outsource most of the construction and sewing to larger facilities that have all of the needed equipment. Despite that, we are still thrilled with the variety and quality of organic and natural fabric bras that we are able offer, and hope you can appreciate all of the work that goes into making them. For our little company, though, we will not likely get into bra manufacturing any time soon.
We recently held an event at our warehouse for local folks who wanted to come in to try on organic bras and eco-fashions in person. Everyone who came walked away some freebies! From goodie bags to raffle prizes to gifts with purchase, no one left empty handed. We hope it was a great experience for our Oregon and Washington friends, but sadly, the rest of our fabulous customers live too far from our warehouse to participate. So we’re launching a few blog giveaways to let everyone in on the fun.
We gave away 3 sets of these adorable matching fingerless glove and scarf sets from Earth Creations at the show, and now is your chance to win a set. (Note: the coloring in the pictures looks slightly different, but it is actually a matching set.) The Infinite Scarf is 100% Organic Cotton Jersey and the Fingerless Gloves are a Bamboo/Organic Cotton blend in French Terry. Both pieces are low-impact dyed in an autumn-inspired pumpkin color and made in the USA. With the autumn equinox on the horizon, they’re the perfect fall accessory. We have one set to give away and the combined retail value is $45.
Leave your information and a comment on this blog post below to get your first entry. There are options for additional entries by liking / visiting / interacting with our social media pages. Contest ends September 17, 2017.
Have you been wanting to try on one (or a whole bunch) of our products in person? Your opportunity is here!
The event will run from 11am – 5pm on Saturday, August 26, 2017. We’ll be doing raffle prize drawings every 30 minutesstarting at 11:30am. You must be presentto win a prize, so be sure to leave some time for your visit with us. You could easily get into 2 or 3 drawings while you try on clothes and meet with these other wonderful Portland-area women business owners.
Dr. Kayla Luhrs will be there to help you develop a wellness plan for conscious living.
Amanda Bishop will show you how to make your own cleaning products using common household items and essential oils.
Angela Stevens will chat with you about buying and selling real estate, or how to green the home you currently own.
Our warehouse is located minutes from this years Street of Dreams site. We’ll be raffling off tickets to Street of Dreams at noon, so be sure to come early and check it out.
We’re also giving away 25 “Goodie Bags” to the first 25 people who RSVP either on our Facebook Event Page or by calling us at (971) 255-0752.
Here is a (partial) list of the prizes on offer for our raffle:
New York, London, Milan, and Paris have the largest Fashion Weeks around the world, but a number of other cities are touting more sustainable fashion weeks. Green Fashion Week is a non-profit, traveling, sustainable trade show that has already made stops in Los Angeles, Milan and Abu Dhabi with its next showing in Rome and Naples in November. And Ethical Fashion Show Berlin has become a sustainable Fashion Week staple. It runs concurrent to the Berlin Fashion Week with a clear focus on sustainability, and partners with Green Showroom, an eco-fashion resource for retailers. This summer Ethical Fashion Show Berlin has made a permanent move to a larger venue… and Faerie’s Dance will be there to check it out!
A confession… after 12 years working in the fashion industry, I’ve personally never been to a professional fashion show. In truth, I still get more excited by spreadsheets and graphs than runways and high heels. YES, I love what I do for the positive impact it has on the world. (In case you weren’t aware, EcoWatch claims Fast Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world, second only to oil.) But rekindling passion for your work is never a bad thing, and one of the things I’m very passionate about is travel.
So this year I’m going to do a little work-related traveling. Faerie’s Dance will be attending the Ethical Fashion Show Berlin, checking out new lines at the Green Showroom, meeting up with Occidente at Panorama Berlin and finally flying to Sweden to discuss organic cotton bra designs with Swegmark. Of course, since I’ll already be in Sweden… My partner and I will be taking a much needed vacation together as well, spending a week on a cruise through the Baltics.
We are training assistants to “watch the store,” and will be shipping orders and processing returns and exchanges during the entire trip, from July 1 – 20th. However, customer service will be limited to e-mail only, with no phone service at all during that period, and we will not be able to offer expedited shipping for those 3 weeks.
Be sure to follow us on Facebook to get updates from the show. I look forward to celebrating our 12 year business anniversary on July 22, 2107, upon my return.