Remaining An ‘Ethical Sartorialist’ . . . Underneath

December 2nd, 2009 - filed under: The Fashion » Clothing and Accessories

So you’ve read the reports and you’ve taken the pledge, and now you’re quickly becoming an effortlessly styled Ethical Sartorialist. You shop primarily secondhand, except in cases of positive pro-cotts. You’ll proudly drop your dollar at vegan, earth-friendly, sweat-free shops like Herbivore, Alternative Outfitters, and No Sweat. You rock handcrafted jewelry from Etsy and recycled kicks from Ebay. You flaunt the frills you can now afford on this ‘no-frills’ budget, and relish in the thrill of a mint condition vintage score. Yeah, with a little practice, you’ve figured it out and you’re working it.

That is, until the elastic wears out in all your panties. Or your last good bra just melted in the dryer. Or you’ve blown out the toes in your entire collection of stripey long socks. What about these garments – the more personal underthings? How do we remain true to our values without having to buy such skintimate skivvies . . . secondhand? (eek!) Well, like this:

~ Panties ~

Patagonia is a southern California industry leader, pushing the limits of sustainable clothing for the past 2 decades. Their mission statement reads: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” They’ve also written a comprehensive essay on corporate social responsibility.

Blue Canoe is another California-based company, with an entirely organic line. All their clothing is manufactured in San Francisco, California. You can read all about them here.

Cottonfield USA uses only 100% certified organic cotton, grown in America, milled in America, and made in America. All their dyes are also free of heavy metals. You can read all about their commitment to organic on their website.

Faeries Dance is a sweet little online company featuring diverse pieces from a variety of vendors. They have great options and lots of cute cuts. All are made sweatshop-free, with environmentally sensitive fabrics and low-impact dyes. Read about it on their ‘About’ page.

  • The panty page! Lotsa choices, cheap cheap prices!

And . . . *sigh* . . . if worse comes to worst you can always get organic cotton underwear from American Apparel. (read about why I don’t like to support them, here, in italics)


Bras are so hard to find! You can get organic, but it’s not sweat-free. Or you can get vegan, but it’s not green. You can definitely find lots of yoga wear/sports bras, but anything underwired or purty is like ‘Where’s Waldo?’ on the internets. But here’s what I came up with.

Patagonia, as noted above, is always a good bet for quality and conscience.

  • Here’s the organic cotton selection.
  • Here’s the rest of them – spandex, nylon, and mostly recycled (and recyclable) polyester.

Blue Canoe, discussed above, has a pretty disappointing selection of bras. But if you’re looking for something sporty you may want to check them out.

Faeries Dance, bless their hearts, have tons of options to choose from. Lace, push-up, and prints included. I love these guys!

  • Get the whole list and see for yourself. It’s good stuff!

Enamore is the perfect choice for those across the pond. Sexy, sultry, specializing in sustainable and vintage fabrics. A bit on the pricier side, but also the nicest ‘eco’ lingerie I’ve seen!

So there you go, my ever-conscientious, fabulous fashionistas. Now you’ll be just as fly on the underside, as you are on the outside (and on the inside!). But it’s not quite over yet. We mustn’t neglect that essential other half . . . our feet! Nah, just kidding, I mean boys of course! And yeah, socks too.

Tune in next week for part II, on sustainable socks and boxers!

  • Allison

    Thank you Sayward! This is exactly the kind of information I wish was common knowledge!

    By the way, I know it’s been a while but I ended up getting a duplex with a shared backyard! After the new year I am going to get started on my garden! I also need to read up some more on composting. Oh and my neighbor already has her own garden going and they have a clothes line! So excited.

  • Sarah

    Giggle if you want, but I darn my socks when they get thin :) Even the cheapy cotton ones that we’ve had for years! It’s a pretty mindless task that relaxes me. If they’re my husband’s, I sometimes embroider something little on the toe, like ‘ROFL’.

    I like to knit too, but sometimes I need a mindless task that isn’t project based… I mean, it’s just a sock, right?

  • Becks

    Have you looked at making your own underwear? I have a bag of old clothes that I never wear in my closet waiting for me to either make something out of them or to suck it up, admit that I won’t ever find the time to haul out my sewing machine and send them off to Goodwill or what have you.



    or my personal favourite,

    may not be your crafty cup of tea, but it is definetly worth looking at! That way you know what fabric you’re using, that no sweat shops were employed in the making of your panties, and (if you’re me at least) you can have custom made neon green undies with a bright pink Charlie Brown on your derriere.

  • Laura

    I love the idea of making my own panties!
    I’m going to try this out soon.

  • Kathryn

    Oooh, these are great. My underwear IS getting rather old and worn, and I do need more bras (hello, growing body :P)… and these links are just in time for the winter holidays! Score!

  • Kate

    I am excited to look into the panties, but alas, I’m not sure if I can get away from the Victoria’s Secret sweatshop, toxic, Biofit bra :-(

    As a gal with DDs up top, it’s nearly impossible to find a bra that even WORKS, much less how eco-chic it is. In general I would like to see more lingerie being designed by women (because what girl would make cone shaped breast-holders?) and I’m hoping that more eco-chic options will be in my top-heavy future.

  • Sayward

    @ Allison – Congratulations! That is so exciting, you’re going to have so much fun next spring. =) And compost and line drying on top of it, that’s great! Let me know how it all goes.

    @ Sarah – I would never laugh at that! That sounds awesome, I’m totally going to look into that.

    @ Becks – YES! Love it, this is on my list. Thanks for the links. =)

    @ Lauren – Me too!

    @ Kathryn – Oh yes, this is timed intentionally. Great gifts for the upcoming season. ;)

    @ Kate – I feel you so much lady. Being pregnant, my Cs have shot up into the DD-Es, and I’m having SUCH a tough time. I know they’re less than sexy, but I’m loving the variety of sports bras available now, because they give great shape (instead of just squishing them flat like the sports bras of my youth) and tons of support. Faeries Dance has some pretty cute ones for super cheap – you should check them out!

  • Meghan

    $10 for ONE pair o’ panties is cheap?! eeeek!

    I may try making my own, I haven’t bought any since like… gosh, 2001 probably (eeek again!)

  • Kelly

    Great information here…Thank you to you AND Becks!

  • katrina

    If you wanted to try making your own bra you could get vintage fabric and use one of the patterns from this place.

    I have never tried it my self because art school eats all of one’s time.

  • Valerie

    I haven’t bought from them but I did find this site last week. It appears that they try their best to tour their suppliers facility’s to make sure they are fare trade-sweatshop free, and also use low impact dyes.

  • Sayward

    @ Meghan – I know, I know. But you figure at Victoria’s Secret you’re paying 3/$25 . . . it’s pretty comparable. Of course it’s nothing compared to the Jockey multi-pack at the drugstore, haha. For me, I’m willing to pay more when it comes to supporting my beliefs. Plus, they’ll last a looong time. I put on a pair of underwear just the other day, and I realized they had been given to me . . . by my first boyfriend ever . . . in high school! That was over a decade ago! So, $10 for something that may last 10 years doesn’t seem so bad, after all.

    @ Kelly – Thanks and I agree – thanks Becks!

    @ katrina – Thank you, that looks awesome. So many good ideas here, you ladies rock!

    @ Valerie – Awesome, that place looks great. I can’t wait to explore their site!

  • Jess

    Etsy is also a really great source for underthings. Underwear more than bras, unless you’re on the smaller side, unfortunately…but its definitely not to be overlooked!

  • Sayward

    @ Jess – Yes, Etsy is so awesome! There’s so many options that I didn’t even try to ‘go there’, but you’re right – it’s an excellent resource for ethical underthings. =)

  • Aydan

    Late to the party… came here searching for info on blue jeans, but I recently found out about PACT, which has some nice patterns and colors, and also has special collections supporting various charities.

  • Sayward

    @ Aydan – Thanks! *Very* cute stuff! =D

  • Aprilxgamer

    Hey, I have seen lots of t-shirt to underwear tutorials online. You can either buy a tee at the thrift store, or use a too-small/unwanted shirt of your own :)

  • Jessica Duff

    I looked & searched through the sites you listed for bras. I couldn’t find any of them in my size. I wear a 38 G or H cup depending on the company. None of them went above a DD (most sizes only to a C). Most of the styles & designs of all but Enamore are designed for women without larger breasts. I need waaaay more support than that. I have a hard time finding any bras, let alone organic ones in my size. I am now having to make my own to fit both my ethical & physical requirements.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Girl, I hear you! For the first 2 years after my son was born, I was a 32F. It was SO hard to find bras – even nursing bras! – that fit. I gave up on buying new brands and instead just resorted to buying secondhand. Some people can’t hang with that, which I understand, but it works for me and fulfills my ethical requirements. If I could afford it I’d definitely go the handmade route!