This 2018, I went a little crazy on the product testing. Ever since I started writing gift guides, I get emails from all kinds of cool brands offering samples for me to consider. It’s hard to turn down—plus, I’m sick of reading gift guides where the writers clearly haven’t tested the products themselves. I’ve made it my goal not to recommend anything I haven’t tried and enjoyed enough to buy.
After I test products, I mostly end up giving them away as gifts, or donating them to local charities—but some products were so good I had to keep them for myself. The extensive list that follows are those products: out of over 200 products I tested in 2018, these are the ones I still use, would or have bought myself again, and recommend most highly.
Best Jacket: Lysee Open Denim Jacket
This Lysee Open Denim Jacket is actually so soft that it feels more like wearing a secret sweatshirt — just my style. I get a lot of compliments on it, and it’s more comfortable than any denim jacket I’ve owned. You can also dress it up for a blazer effect.
Best Workout Leggings: Evicci Inspired Leggings
While Evicci Inspired Leggings are a little on the pricey side, they have become my favorites. They have deep pockets, a cotton crotch to prevent infections from festering, and they are comfy and cute enough to go from the cafe to the gym.
Best Sports Bra/Everyday Bra: Boody Eco Wear Shaper Bra
I love everything Boody makes. Their basics are ethically-manufactured, and have a totally reasonable price point that wears high-quality. Their shirts and bras make me feel as close to naked as possible, and the Boody Eco Wear Shaper Bra has become my everyday favorite for feeling just a little lifted and shaped, while still totally comfy. I have small breasts, so I can’t vouch for larger sizes, but if you’re also lightly endowed, this bra can take you from work to the gym in total comfort.
Best Socks: Bombas Socks
While Boody also makes some stellar socks to wear with boots, Bombas Socks are the best, and come in a bunch of adorable colors. They hug your feet in a way that seems targeted for pleasure, and even better, for every pair you buy, a pair of ethically-made socks are donated.
Most Comfortable Shoes: Native Shoes
I wasn’t sure about the oddly lightweight Native Shoes, until I wore them and felt I was walking on a foot massage. I don’t know how they do it, but their shoes are even more comfortable than TOMS Avalons (my other favorites). Another honorable mention in the more fancy-footwear category goes to Melissa shoes for fun-but-comfortable platforms & sandals, and Will’s Vegan Shoes for boots.
Best Sweatpants & Sweatshirts: Alternative Apparel
Another ethically-manufactured yet reasonably-priced brand, Alternative Apparel has become my go-to for the coziest sweatpants and sweatshirts in town. Be sure to sign up for their email list — they have near-constant 40% off sales they’ll alert you to, making a reasonably-priced brand even cheaper.
Most Comfortable Underwear: MeUndies
Personally, I try to avoid underwear whenever possible— I prefer to let things breathe! But sometimes you have to wear it, in which case I recommend MeUndies; the softest, most comfortable underwear I’ve found. Like all the clothing I’m recommending, this brand is ethically-manufactured.
Best Purse: Svala Cork Tote Bag
I get a lot of compliments on this Svala Cork Tote Bag, which is made of biodegradable cork, and which I can testify both holds a lot of stuff and holds up to a fair amount of abuse. I was worried cork wouldn’t wear well and might get dirty easily, but not so: this ethically-made bag by a small, female vegan designer is in it for the long-haul.
Best Fanny Pack: HFS Collective Pocket Belt Bag
If you’ve been considering a fanny pack but have so far been too proud to lean in, then might I suggest you liberate yourself with this ethically-made vegan leather fanny pack — ehem, Pocket Belt Bag. The waist strap detaches so that you can also use it as a clutch or large wallet. Cute enough for a night out.
Best Travel Pack: Tortuga Setout Divide Backpack
This Tortuga Setout Divide Backpack has taken me around the world, and stands up to a fair amount of abuse. With lots of separate compartments, It’s intuitively designed for easy access to your laptop, and stands up to wet weather. For a small day pack, an honorable mention goes to Joggo backpacks, which I’ve found both cute and practical for daily use. For every bag you buy, they give back to a child refugee in need.
Best Vegan Leather Bag: Pixie Mood Backpack
I love my blue Pixie Mood Backpack, and based on the many compliments it gets, it seems like everyone else does too. This brand makes some of the nicest vegan leather products around, in interesting colors you don’t find elsewhere, including ombre shades.
Most Game Changing Product: THINX
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m never wearing anything but THINX on my period again. This game-changing product came out with a ton of new designs this year, including a cotton version, and I find this to be one of the products that has made the biggest difference in my daily (or should I say monthly) life. Worth the investment in at least five pairs, no question.
Best Luggage: Andiamo Luggage
I came to love this Andiamo Luggage not just for how smoothly it rolls but for how dependably — and almost absurdly — it got me compliments from strangers every time I travel (and I just have the black one, not even the cool blue one pictured above). Even flight attendants notice this bag. It’s a good carry-on size, and though sometimes I wish it were expendable and fit even more, this is a suitcase with plenty of pockets that wears and walks well, and will definitely make you feel like a professional jetsetter.
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