How Shabby Apple Helps Women (Besides Making them Look Stylish)

VITAMIN W is giving away a Shabby Apple dress to one of our readers! To qualify, subscribe to our newsletter by January 28th, 2014. We will announce the winner on January 29th.


by Amy-Willard Cross

Shabby Apple founder Athelia Woolley LeSueur describes her business as a Feminist Fashion company.

But how can fashion be feminist? According to Woolley LeSueur, by not objectifying or sexualizing women’s bodies, by making women feel positive about themselves, by running a company that treats employees well, and giving back to women in the developing world.

Like many people who start a company, Woolley LeSueur saw a need in the market and decided to fill it. “I’m short and curvy. I felt like a lot of fashion was inappropriate to meet your boyfriend’s family or for a business event.  I felt self-conscious wearing some things.”  Many clothes out there are too body conscious which makes some people feel self-conscious.  Shabby Apple’s clothing is vintage-inspired and doesn’t have cleavage down to there or hems up to you-know-where. Certainly, Miley Cyrus or Lady Gaga won't be showing off a Shabby Apple dress any time soon.  The modesty might also come from the founder’s Mormon background.

Woolley LeSueur imagined that there were other women like her who wanted to feel confident in what they wore—not inadequate.  “Most fashion makes women feel like they should be a super-model.”  So if you’re not, you may not feel great—and she thinks women should feel good when they put on a dress.  Apparently, many people agree, as Shabby Apple has a fan base in the hundreds of thousands.  The company has a motto: women are beautiful and powerful when they are comfortable and polished.  And if you want help choosing your togs, there are even stylists on call.

Besides making women feel good about themselves, Shabby Apple is almost entirely woman-owned and operated.  When founding the company in 2006, Woolley LeSueur drafted a business plan that would “help beautify and empower women”.  The company has three pillars:

1. design vintage inspired clothing

2. empower women in the workplace

3. help women worldwide. 

Employees have a six week paid maternity leave and the option to work flexible schedules. At one time, eight people took advantage of flex time; now only three are off-the-clock.  

In addition, Shabby Apple donates five percent of net proceeds* to nonprofits which help women. It has given to Unitus which grants micro-loans to women and Accion, which also promotes women’s economic development.  The current beneficiary is the Maya Relief Foundation, that helps people, “work their way out of poverty, improve their health, and insure a better future for their children and their communities.”

Not too many dresses do that.

*net proceeds refers to profits after all expenses are accounted for.