And the new black is…

Grass Collar Ainsley V-Neck Dress by EDUN

It’s been affecting us for quite some time, but the New Black is ready to take the stage for Summer 2009. We’ve seen it pop up in everything from home decorating to the cars we drive and the foods we eat. It took a while, but eventually, we all caught on.

If you haven’t already guessed it, the New Black is social consciousness. Now don’t get concerned: getting socially aware in fashion is not so much about changing lifestyles as it is about supporting smaller companies that take a stand on a particular issue. For example, check out Maggie’s Organics for clothing made and sold entirely in accordance with Fair Trade laws, using only 100% organic cotton. Maggie’s Organics sells basics like Polo shirts, T-shirt dresses, camis, and lounge pants, so you can be comfortable while taking a stand on this important issue.

Even some older companies that have been around through the less-aware 1980s and 1990s have changed their tune to fit the needs of the ethical consumer. Patagonia, which has been around for about 35 years, now fancies itself “at the forefront of environmental stewardship within the apparel industry while continuing to work toward fair labor standards.” They made the change to using strictly organic cotton about 10 years ago, and have only increased or diversified their ethical efforts since.

Being socially conscious in our clothing choices may be a large change for some of us, but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank picking up a few pieces to support your transition to ethically aware clothing. One can find plenty of budget threads at stores like American Apparel, which pays its employees well over $10/hour and offers dental and health insurance to all its workers and their families. Or, check out Loomstate for Target, a collaboration that takes the established designer and pairs such attire like organic cotton jeans and tees with the affordable price of Target. Of course, I’m always looking for luxe versions of everything, and finding high-end socially conscious clothing is no exception. I love EDUN, a grassroots store specializing not only in organic clothing, but also high fashion, nature-inspired designs.

So while you’re out shopping for a locavore Memorial Day or vegan Fourth of July (tofurkey dogs, anyone?), check out what the stores have to offer in the socially conscious clothing category. While it may take a while to nix your addiction to cheap, fashionable clothing made from synthetic fibers and unnatural dyes, it will be nice to have some garments that won’t itch, bleed color, or be found hundreds of years from now in the same condition as it was when it left the PVC factory.

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