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Dress

An interview with ethical lingerie brand AmaElla co-founder Julie Kervadec

I recently caught up with AmaElla co-founder Julie Kervadec to find out a little more about the ethical lingerie brand…

Hey Julie, how are you? What have you been up to lately?

Hey Zara. I’m very well, thank you. Craving a nice cup of chai latte after a bike ride in the snow. Hope you are doing well. December is my favorite month of the year, full of events and opportunities not only to see people you love, but to meet new people too! I’ve been participating in a few pop-ups in London and Cambridge with other ethical and sustainable brands, and it’s just great to connect with like minded people both on a personal and a professional level.

So you and your best friend Lara set up AmaElla – how did it all begin?

It all began when Lara and I were seeking cotton lingerie that was flattering. We were surprised by the lack of options, even more when it comes to organic cotton, so we decided to create our own which is how AmaElla began.

What did you and Lara do before going into business together?

Lara was working in marketing and I was working as a buyer for a fast-fashion company. We actually met whilst studying for a Masters in Marketing in Madrid.

How are you finding working together? What are the best and worst parts of going into business with you best friend?

Understandably, we often get asked this question because usually people suggest not to go into business with your best friend. However, Lara and I are fortunate in the sense that our business personalities fit like two perfect jigsaw pieces. Our combined skills and knowledge allow us to remain firm and professional yet maintain an environment that’s supportive and friendly.

The best part is probably the fact that you know each other. This allows for honest and open communication, as you are not afraid of how the other might react.

The most challenging part is that it is difficult to put emotions aside, we have that best friend connection. It feels sometimes like working with your sister.

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Tell us more about AmaElla and why you wanted to start a lingerie and nightwear brand with a social purpose?

After more than six years as a buyer in the fashion industry, I could no longer stand the malpractices of the sector. Impossible lead-time and margin rates to achieve, sometimes with suppliers I couldn’t visit. Something didn’t feel right to me, especially in the last company I worked for which was all about fast-fashion clichés: bad quality, terrible fitting, new products to be launched every week, suppliers crying on the phone to be paid. It felt so wrong that I became sick of it. Working against my values was not possible anymore and I wanted to make a positive contribution to this planet and society.

What are the biggest environmental issues in the lingerie and nightwear industry?

The production and materials appear to be the biggest concern. Most garments are not produced ethically/sustainably. Regarding the materials, around 90% of the existing lingerie offer is made from synthetic materials, derivatives from petrol with high environmental impact. Additionally, there are a lot of chemicals used to treat, dye and print the fabric. Lastly, there is a trend of poor quality garments that don’t last, which generates significant amounts of waste. Poor quality lingerie and nightwear easily rips and tears and this results in them ending up in the bins… and then of course in the landfills, suffocating our planet!

 

Around 90% of the existing lingerie offer is made from synthetic materials, derivatives from petrol with high environmental impact.

 

What about the social issues?

Unfortunately the fashion industry is highly labour intensive and has probably one of the most complex and opaque manufacturing supply chains. We are constantly seeing issues related to workers’ rights. No one single country of the garment-manufacturing hub complies with the whole International Labour Standards Criteria. Critical issues include unregulated employment leading to informal economies, low wages that leave workers trapped on the poverty loop, poor health and safety conditions, modern slavery, child labour, and lack of freedom of association. These are very complex problems that require a joint effort from consumers, brands, manufacturers, governments and industry organisations.

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Can you tell us more about your organic cotton?

We love cotton because it is fresh and breathable, the best material for your skin. However, unfortunately, cotton is the most polluting crop on earth. Therefore, we exclusively use certified organic cotton that has proven benefits for people and a significantly lower environmental impact. Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the leading textile processing standard for organic fibres. Every step of the supply chain is checked, from harvesting through production, processing, manufacturing and labelling. Environmental management and social responsibility of producers is also considered.

All processors, manufacturers and traders are inspected once a year. This certification is performed by independent accredited bodies, which is the basis of their monitoring system to guarantee the integrity and credibility of GOTS certified textiles. The GOTS cotton used for our lingerie is grown in Turkey and is knitted in Austria. The GOTS and Fairtrade cotton used for our nightwear is grown and woven in India.

Organic cotton aligns with our mission: it is free from toxic chemicals and is skin-friendly. 

Lastly, we are fully committed to quality. We make nightwear and lingerie that doesn’t age easily, our lingerie looks like new even after 50 washes!

And your non-profit social enterprise partner ensuring ethical manufacturing?

One of our partners is a non-for-profit factory, based in the North of London. They have been recognised as a centre of excellence and they are the England’s leading provider for the Fashion and Textiles Apprenticeship program. They train unemployed women who want to change their career path.

They have a small skilled team and we know each of them, working together on patterns, sampling and production.

It’s important for us to be close to our factories and able to visit them on a regular basis.

To those that have never spent more than a few pounds on a pair of knickers, can you talk to us about the true cost of our underwear?

There is such a great deal of damage that is brought onto people and our environment that frankly, it’s just so saddening! I absolutely recommend the movie The True Cost to whomever has not watched it yet because it is really eye-opening. Cheap knickers mean that somewhere along the production chain sacrifices and compromises had to be made to meet that challenging price point. Whether that compromise is on quality, on the wellbeing of employees or the environment… you may never know. But compromises have had to be made. And by buying those knickers for only a few pounds you are supporting this cycle of fast fashion. This is a brutally important message and we try to educate our readers about it through our blogs and social media posts. As a matter of fact, we wrote a blog about exactly this question. If you wish, you can read it here.

 

Cheap knickers mean that somewhere along the production chain sacrifices and compromises had to be made to meet that challenging price point. Whether that compromise is on quality, on the wellbeing of employees or the environment…

 

What plans do you have for AmaElla for the future?

We would like to be able to establish the company culture that reflects our idea of a great business. Mostly, we aim at scaling up and expanding to have a greater positive social and environmental impact.

Finally, what are your top tips for shopping with people and planet in mind?

Transparency and curiosity are your best friends. Shopping is a moral choice and it’s in our hands to make the right purchases. Any company that is pure and ethical to the core will show you happily and freely that they are. Don’t settle for whatever those tiny white labels say on a shirt, search the brands and fearlessly ask them questions. You will find that brands without ethical standards will provide you with empty answers whilst the ethical brands will make you think twice before buying a £5 shirt.

Thank you Julie!

Photos were taken at Sports Philosophy’s Winter Wellness Day, see more here.

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Dress Exercise Live Previous Classes

Winter Wellness Day: Barre, brunch and ethical fashion brands

On Saturday 2nd December I took part in Sports Philosophy‘s Winter Wellness Day fundraising for their charity Freedom For Children Foundation. This was part of a project to fund a school bus in Myanmar, enabling children to get the education they need to lift themselves out of poverty.

Funding a school truck

Freedom for Children Foundation are supporting the myME Project in Myanmar which aims to improve children’s access to education, enabling them to get better jobs and move out of poverty. Currently, over 500,000 students drop out of the formal education in Myanmar each year. Too often parents take their kids out of school to help out on local farms or send them to nearby cities to work. MyME provide practical education and vocational skills to child labourers at their workplace in collaboration with the business owners, often teashops, to improve literacy and develop basic computer skills. Whilst this doesn’t end child labour, it does enable children to get the education they need to find a job with higher pay and fairer and safer working conditions. By helping them to move out of poverty, myME hope that future generations will not be taken out of education to work, reducing child labour.

42 Acres Shoreditch

The event took place at the incredible 42 Acres space in Shoreditch. It is a truly beautiful venue, with gorgeous, large arched windows, natural furnishings and plants aplenty – by far the most aesthetically pleasing place I’ve ever taught at, feeling like a sanctuary for wellness within the city! As well as an events venue, it also acts as a conscious co-working space designed to provide a healthy, happy working environment for individuals and organisations alike. 42 Acres also have a focus on sustainability, procuring products and services that are both environmentally and socially conscious. I am hoping to return in 2018 for more events and would absolutely love to visit their Somerset retreat – thoroughly recommend attending an event or co-working in the Shoreditch location!

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My barre class

As part of the event, I lead a mat-based barre class. I teach Chiara Pellegrino’s BarreBodyLondon method which combines ballet, Pilates, yoga and resistance training movements for a full body workout that you’ll definitely feel the next day! For this class, we used our own body weight and Manuka Life eco bands to sculpt and tone all major muscle groups. It was amazing to have a full class of super strong ladies who brought great energy on this early Saturday morning – perhaps powered by the couple of cheesy Christmas songs I snuck into the playlist!  I loved seeing some of my regulars and close friends as well as lots of new faces – a big thank you to all that joined!

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Ethical brand Q&A

After my class came a Q&A session with companies conscious of their ethics. The speaker line-up included Sports Philosophy founder Stella Heng, AmaElla co-founder Julie Kervadec, Rêve En Vert co-founder Cora Hilts and Araminta Marketing founder Minty Sheridan. Talking ethical fashion, they covered the issues in the industry, how to shop more ethically and how to build your own business.

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Brunch

Then it was on to a mouth-watering brunch spread (I’m drooling just look at the photos!). From granola and smoothies to mini open sandwiches and vegan cakes, it was an absolute feast. Stella and team – you did an excellent job!

Ethical brand pop-up shop

And whilst munching on the delicious, nutritious brunch buffet, we were also able to browse the ethical brand pop-up shop. Stocking Sports Philosophy, Rêve En Vert, AmaElla and Lola’s Apothecary, it made the perfect place to pick up a conscious Christmas gift for a loved one. Or in my case, a gift for myself – I couldn’t help it, the AmaElla lingerie is so beautifully elegant and I’d been considering getting a set for a while.

AmaElla is a small organic cotton lingerie and nightwear brand based in Cambridge, founded by best friends Julie and Lara. Spotting a gap in the market for delicate, sexy and ethically-made underwear, AmaElla was launched. With a focus on fair and safe working conditions throughout the supply chain, they work with two manufacturers – one in the UK and one in Portugal. The UK partner is a non-profit social enterprise training young women, and their Portuguese partner only employs women in the local area to maintain the rich textile heritage of the community. They also care deeply about the health of society and of the environment, so all of their products are made from Global Organic Textiles Standard (GOTS) certified cotton. GOTS cotton is requires significantly less water and is free from harmful chemicals and pesticides unlike regular cotton.

Sports Philosophy is an Activewear brand aiming to end child labour. When founding the company, Stella and partner in business and in life Matthias also set up their charity Freedom for Children Foundation to fight child labour across the world. A percentage of the profits from the Activewear company are donated to the foundation, which works to develop community-led solutions relieving poverty and allowing children to gain an education instead of having to work. The brand also aims to offer high-quality workout wear to last the test of time, with just one collection released each year. As an ambassador for this wonderful brand, I have an exclusive discount code to give you 15% off: ZARA01SP – enjoy!

Rêve En Vert is a platform for sustainable luxury, offering long-lasting fashion you can feel good about. Having struggled to find fashion and lifestyle pieces that combine aesthetics with ethics in their own lives, Cora Hilts and Natasha Tucker decided to provide a solution for others experiencing the same problem. They refuse to compromise on style for sustainability, so everything they stock has been carefully curated to meet both their social, environmental and visual standards.

Lola’s Apothecary handcraft delicate, luxury beauty products with natural, botanical ingredients in their farm kitchen in the Devonshire countryside. Focused on high-quality skincare, their essential oil based products are free from artificial preservatives, synthetic fragrances, mineral oils, sulphates, parabens and other undesirable chemicals. Each fragrance has been developed to suit your mood, from calm and clarity to energy and romance. Many of their bottles contain pretty petals or springs for a beautiful, elegant appearance making a gorgeous gift for a loved one.

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Dress Live

A gift guide for conscious consumers

(Photo credit: Trouva)

This December, treat your loved ones to something special that has been mindfully made, considerate of people and planet. To help you find something you know they’ll get great use out of, I’ve rounded up a selection of consciously crafted gift ideas to inspire you in your search – I hope it helps!

 

For fashion lovers:

 

 

For houseproud entertainers:

 

For beauty queens:

 

For male grooming:

 

For zero-waste warriors:

 

 

For wellness seekers:

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Dress Exercise

Searching for sustainable sportswear: 5 ethical Activewear brands

Sports and sustainability are my two favourite things (after eating chocolate in bed that is!). Since I started teaching barre last year, my requirement for Activewear that isn’t soaked in sweat has increased somewhat. So I’ve been on a quest to find more sustainable sportswear, scouring the net for companies that care about their people, the environment, and the communities in which they operate. Here’s a round up of my five favourite conscious Activewear brand discoveries and how they’re tackling sustainability throughout their supply chain…

 

Sports Philosophy

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Sports Philosophy are committed to fighting child labour across the world. Aiming to be the first truly ethical Activewear brand, they work to understand and eliminate child labour through their own charity the Freedom For Children Foundation.  The Foundation hires impact consultants for research in areas where child labour is rife. This includes connecting with families, local authorities and local businesses all affected by child labour to identify the root cause and help develop community-led solutions.

Launched by Stella and Matthias in the summer of 2015, they align their work to their three key principles: look good, feel good, do good! They wanted to prove that activewear can combine ethics and aesthetics, and that more sustainable options don’t have to compromise on style. Their latest collection features beautiful laser cut sports bras, a little bit of mesh and a lot of magenta. I am particularly fond of the prism leggings and the peek-a-boo vest (which I’ve worn for both a workout and a night out!).

I’ll be writing a profile on the brand and charity soon as I recently met up with co-founder Stella to find out more, so keep an eye out on my page. If you can’t wait to find out more, visit their website and use the following discount code for 15% off: ZARA01SP

https://www.sportsphilosophy.com

 

Sundried

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Sundried offer sustainable activewear trialled and tested by athletes across the world. Their focus lies predominantly on the environment, aiming to reduce their carbon footprint throughout all areas of their business. For example, they only use fabrics from the countries in which their items are produced. They have two factories, one in Italy, the other in Portugal, so only materials from Portugal are used at the Portuguese factory, and materials from Italy in the Italian one. Sundried have also partnered with the Low Carbon Innovation Fund to contribute to a low carbon economy. They conduct a full lifecycle analysis on each piece of clothing, covering design, manufacture, distribution, use, and disposal, to ensure the carbon footprint of each product has been fully assessed.

What about the conditions throughout their supply chain you might be asking?  Sundried carefully select the factories they work with, making regular visits to ensure their standards are being met. Their production manager spends a considerable amount of time in their Portuguese factory and knows all of the workers personally. Sundried have also created the concept of Every Hour On the Hour (EHOH), when employees spend 5 minutes of every hour at work exercising to stay fit, healthy and productive in a world where we are too often glued to our desks.

Sundried also work closely with their charity partner Water for Kids. With every purchase, they provide a unique code enabling customers to see where the donation from their purchase is going, from bricks to build dams, to rainwater harvesting for schools.

To find out more and browse their latest collection visit the website and use this exclusive discount code for 50% off: ZARA

https://www.sundried.com

 

Starseeds

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Photo source: Living lightly in Ireland

Inspired by yoga and wellbeing practices, Starseeds aims to find a balance between style and ethics. Using natural and organic fabrics from across the world, including certified organic cotton from Germany and bamboo yarn from China, they provide Activewear that is good for you and for the environment. Starseeds also use an innovative material from Taiwan that is made of leftover coffee, making waste into something wanted!

Whilst their materials are sourced across the world, they work with five main factories in Portugal and Poland. These factories were carefully selected and are visited regularly to ensure good working conditions are maintained. In addition to the sense they got of each factory during their initial visits, a major factor in the selection process was the turnover of employees. Frequent turnover usually indicates employees aren’t happy and so leave in search for better opportunities. The factories they work with have a number of long-standing employees, including those of retirement age who work to keep busy with reduced and flexible hours.

https://starseeds.eu/

 

VYAYAMA

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Photo Source: Mochni

VYAYAMA, pronounced ‘vai-ah’mah’, design natural Activewear with quality, beauty and joy in mind. Aiming to provide an alternative to the synthetic fabrics often used, they use an innovative TENCEL® fabric crafted in Europe from eucalyptus. Described as smooth, sliming and supportive it is kind to both your skin and the earth, with moisture management qualities helping you to stay cool and comfortable. Taking a year to develop with their fabric team in Portugal, it is Eco-Awarded and Certified Non-Toxic by the European Oeko-tex Standard 100.

VYAYAMA also ensure environmentally-friendly practices throughout the production process, including the use of internal water treatments to prevent dyes from breaching production facility walls. They also knit their custom fabric in the same area as their garment production, reducing transportation and associated emissions.

Find out more by visiting their website and get 30% off with discount code ZaraW30

https://www.vyayama.com

 

Jilla Active

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Photo Source: Pure London

Jilla Active create Activewear with a focus on comfort and quality, aiming to ensure pieces are versatile and timeless to maximise their use. Formed of soft fibres, they make Activewear you want to wear all day every day! They love bamboo as it has a lower environmental footprint than other fabrics, with yields the same volume as cotton from just 10% of the land area. They’re also introducing fully biodegradable garment bags for their latest AW17 collection and are seeking to ensure every element of their packaging can be reused or recycled.

They work with one family run factory in China that meets internationally-recognised standards by WRAP and SEDEX.  Olivia, founder and designer, makes regular visits and works alongside the production team to ensure quality. She’ll be visiting the trade fair in Shanghai in October to search for recycled and organics yarns.

https://www.jillaactive.com

 

What are your favourite sustainability-conscious brands? What are the most important factors to you when shopping for activewear? Let me know by commenting below!

Categories
Dress Exercise

Consciously curating your collection of activewear

When we think about a capsule wardrobe, we wouldn’t usually include our activewear. It makes sense, I mean you wouldn’t pair a neon yellow sports bra with your black tailored work trousers (or maybe you would? I guess it depends on your personal style…). But this means we often neglect to consider the sustainability of our workout wear. The all-encompassing textiles industry is one of the most resource intensive and environmentally polluting industries globally. With the fitness and wellness industries booming, more and more people are investing in activewear (Quartz, 2017; Telegraph, 2016), therefore it’s crucial we all become more conscious about our collection of sportswear.

Well, where to begin? What should you consider? Whether you’re thinking of buying something new or reviewing what you already own, here are some of the key questions to ask yourself…

Does it fit you well?

Usability is essential when assessing any area of your wardrobe, especially when it comes to what you’ll wear for exercise. We workout to both look and feel good. If your exercise clothes don’t work for you, you might feel less confident when stepping into the studio and therefore less likely to give your training session everything you’ve got because you’re pre-occupied with your top hugging your tummy too tightly or your leggings slipping down your behind. WRAP has found 30% of clothing in the average wardrobe hasn’t been worn for a year, often because it doesn’t fit anymore. If you’re not using an item because it doesn’t fit quite right, why let it take up precious space in your home?  Only purchase activewear that makes you feel as a great as you do after an amazing workout.

 

How often will you wear it?

Think about your personal style. We’ve all got caught up in fast fashion trends before, seeing our favourite influencers wearing the same print or cut clothing and wanting to be part of it, then a month or two later wondering why we went for something so wacky. Assess why you want the piece you’re considering purchasing. Is it part of a short-lived trend that you’ll regret buying into in a few months time? Think about the items you own that you do and don’t wear regularly. Which pile will this new piece fit into? Do you have other items that will compliment it? Style is about longevity, so pick pieces you know you’ll wear for years of sweaty, stretchy sessions to come.

 

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Photo source: Cassey Ho

 

How long will it last?

What material is it made from? Does it feel durable? Breathable? Supportive? Are there already bobbles before it’s been bought? Does the stitching look strong enough? There’s nothing worse than diving deep into a squat and hearing your leggings rip, revealing all! Assess the quality of the item, choosing quality over quantity every time.

 

Does the brand ethos align with your values?

Dig a little deeper into the company that made your clothes. What can you find out about their sustainability strategy? Are they socially or environmentally conscious? See if their values align with your own. If it’s the way in which workers are treated that you care about the most, then find out what the company does to ensure fair and safe labour conditions throughout their supply chain. Our perhaps you’re passionate about waste, do they use any recycled fibres in their product? If you can’t find out what you want to know on their website, email or call their head office to find out more. Even if you don’t get the answer you’re looking for, that call or email might trigger internal discussions that get you the answer you want in the future. You are what you wear, only buy into brands that share your beliefs.  

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Photo source: Blair McKarnin

 

Do you need it?

So it fits you well, it matches your personal style, the quality seems high and you love the company’s ethos, but you already have 3 pairs of leggings with a similar print and mesh bottom. Now it’s time to be strict on yourself – how many pairs of leggings do you really need? Say you exercise on average 4 times, and you get really sweaty 2 of those 4 times. Perhaps you need 2 pairs of leggings for the week. Then possibly a spare pair or two in case you can’t wash and dry them in time, or they get an unfixable tear. That’s 4 pairs of leggings you’ll need at the very most. We’re all guilty of owning more than we need. In the UK, a study by Oxfam and M&S (2016) found adults wear just 44% of clothing they own regularly. That’s a waste of resources, money, time and space! Reducing the number of items you have and working towards a more minimalist wardrobe is great for both space saving and avoiding morning outfit stress!

 

Keep an eye out for my next blog post on my sustainable sportswear discoveries coming soon!

Categories
Dress

Non-toxic nails with Kure Bazaar

 

Kure Bazaar are focused on their good nail philosophy: providing nail polish that is natural but effective for smooth, strong and healthy nails with a pop of colour.

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Dress Eat

Vintage shopping & veggie dining in Manchester’s Northern Quarter

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Photo source: Manchester evening news 

On a trip up to Derbyshire for my Granny’s 90th, Ollie and I spent half a day mooching around Manchester city centre. After searching online for independent shops, we found there is a great vintage scene with lots of shops on Oldham Street. Our favourite was We are Cow, who have another shop in Leeds and are on ASOS Marketplace. They sell vintage clothing as it is or reworked by their in-house seamstresses.

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Dress

Wool week: the benefits of wool

Photo source: Pinterest 

Through my writing for the ethical fashion brand BIBICO‘s blog, I’ve discovered many benefits of wool I hadn’t previously known; and what better time to share these with you than national wool week?!

Now of course there are some issues surrounding the raising of sheep for wool, and much of the wool we use comes from sheep reared for meat which has ethical implications, but there are also many sustainability-related benefits of the natural fibre which are worth exploring.

Categories
Dress Live

Smart Sustainable Sale Shopping

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Now I know how tempting it is to splash out in the sales, but you have to be cautious not get carried away by the marked down price tag. Think carefully before you whack out your wallet- do you really need the item? How often will you wear/use it? Is it good quality? What conditions was it made in? Do you agree with the company’s ethos and operating processes? Even if it’s made by a sustainability-conscious company, having items you don’t use is a waste of your money, as well as the materials and labour that went into producing the product. So take your time and really think about it.

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Dress

How to look stylish and be sustainable this wedding season

 

Photo source: Reformation

The key to a stylish and sustainable wardrobe is careful and considered investment. Follow Livia Firth’s #30wears rule; if you won’t wear it 30 times, don’t get it! Now for wedding outfits, 30 wears may seem like a lot. Say you went to 3 weddings a year, that’s 10 years of weddings. So am I telling you to make sure you stay the same dress size for 10 years and wear the same outfit to every wedding you go to? No, of course not! I’m saying you should try to find items you can wear for multiple occasions. Can you wear any of the pieces to work, for a night out, or on holiday? Here are a few tips to help you find items this wedding season that you’ll wear over and over again…