Spring Dresses

On Saturday, I stepped out to Global Gifts with a friend to check out their World Fair Trade Day event. Global Gifts doesn’t typically carry clothing, but imagine my joy when I discovered they were having a special trunk sale with items from Mata Traders and Global Mamas! They had some tops and skirts, but I homed right in on the dresses. I am a sucker for dresses, especially in the spring and summer.

Fair Trade Spring Dresses

1: Flights of Floral Dress – Mata Traders
2: Keyhole Cutout Dress – Mata Traders
3: Retro Shirt Dress – Global Mamas

I’ve written previously about the Mata Traders dress I purchased last year, which I really like but required a lot of alterations to fit well. I was excited to try on some of their other styles to see what the fit was like.

The Flights of Floral dress fit me very well. The yellow and gray print that they had in the store was cute, but I wasn’t feeling it for myself personally—I felt kind of washed out in it. The red and purple version available online might make me feel more vibrant.

I was really excited about the print and style of the Keyhole Cutout dress. Unfortunately, it had the same fit issues that I had with the dress I already own. I think it would possibly fit someone longer-waisted or larger-chested, but for me the proportions were just too far off the mark. They do offer a peplum skirt in the same print, though, which would be just as fun to wear and easier to alter if the fit wasn’t perfect.

I also tried on a retro-style dress from Global Mamas. This photo is a little misleading; in person the blue and green were much closer in shade and the whole print had less contrast overall. It was cute and seemed to be proportional; however I was thwarted by their smallest size still being too big. My only World Fair Trade Day purchases ended up being a birthday card for my boss from Sanctuary Spring and a jar of Swazi Fire Sauce from Eswatini Kitchen.

So why am I telling you a story about dresses that didn’t fit? I think it’s important to be honest about the challenges of ethical shopping. Finding a dress that fits your shape and style and budget can be tough, and then to add your values into the mix? It’s tricky.

But is it worth it? Absolutely. We may not be able to be perfect all the time, but when I think about the experience of a woman sewing dresses for a fair trade company like Mata Traders versus the experience of a woman stitching in an unsafe and underpaying sweatshop, it is 100% worth the extra time to make the best effort I can to support companies who treat people well.

Everybody’s shape is different, so if you’re in the market for a spring dress, definitely check out the links above and see if they work for you. Have you found any great ethical dresses this spring? Share your successes (and failures) in the comments!


  1. I was sent the keyhole dress to post about, but it is quite ill fitting at the neckline and I’d rather not have to pay for expensive alterations, so I’m stuck on what to do. I think the main issue is that the cotton, while beautiful, doesn’t allow for any variation in body type. I wish they’d start using knit; I almost always stick to knits when I buy things for myself because they just lay better. I’m also right between sizes, so there’s no way to have a perfect fit without alterations.

    I agree with you that the frustration, while understandable, shouldn’t keep us from purchasing ethical items. It’s just a matter of adjusting our expectations, I think.

    • Julia

      Yeah, you can even see on the website that it doesn’t fit the model very well. I love the look of a crisp, tailored cotton dress, and I’ve seen it done well. I think they just need to reevaluate the patterns they’re using or something.

      When I was trying on the keyhole dress I figured out where I needed to take it in for it to fit me, and it was actually the top shoulder seams. Folding them over to make the bodice shorter overall actually looked like it would solve the problems. Maybe the same fix would work for you?

      (Also, I’m like 10 posts behind on your blog but I love the photos you’re taking outside!)

      • The issue with taking in the top seams is that the sleeves would have to be totally reworked because of the way they’re attached to the garment. I think I’m going to take a seam ripper to the neckline where it attaches to the zipper in the back and just take it in a bit; not perfect, but doable (if I could find where I put my seam ripper). The maxi dress actually has a cool cut, though, and I won’t have to do alterations.

        I’m glad you like the pictures! It takes a bit more time to get the focus right, but after this long winter, it’s nice to go outside. – Leah

  2. I am so glad you wrote about this! Finding ethical clothing that fits well is def one of the harder things to do. Especially online when you can’t feel the material or try it on. I am still learning and figuring out which companies have clothes that fit me the best. Kinda trial and error, I think. I want to try Threads 4 Thought next because some of their line is at Whole Foods and it would be easy to return if it does not fit!

    • Julia

      I completely agree that buying clothing online is a big challenge—I’ve ordered a lot of things that look cute and when you get them the fit is totally different than what you expected. Size charts just aren’t the same as trying it on in person! I’ve seen some of the Threads 4 Thought clothing at Whole Foods, I’ll have to look more into them.

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