August Break

This I Wear | August Break

Dear readers, though it feels as though summer just began yesterday, we are nearing the end of July already! It is time for play, being outside, eating watermelon, and doing nothing but sitting still when the heat is just too much. And that is exactly what I do each August when I take a little break from writing here to enjoy the warm weather.

While I strongly advocate that you too take some time away from your screen, I have a few ideas if you are looking for entertainment in the meantime:

01. Listen to the podcast “A Few Things with Claire and Erica”, the two friends behind the amazing site, Of A Kind. Their newsletter filled with spot-on recommendations was so wildly successfully that they’ve turned it into a weekly radio show with special guests. I love last week’s episode with tips on how to not just “throw away” your stuff if you’ve been inspired by the Marie Kondo craze. I also love love the episode on your 20s vs your 30s – it’s just too good.

02. Sign up for the Tradlands newsletter. I love a good, curated article list as much as I love an ethically made button down shirt. Sadie at Tradlands offers both to her email subscribers, and I currently can’t get enough.

03. Join me in counting down the days until Matt & Nat’s Fall ’15 handbags are released, and we finally get the beautiful red (vegan, ethically made) handbag of our dreams. See the sneak peek on Pinterest!

04. Find a hammock and settle in to read these two stunning articles that will have you questioning if any of us really know what we’re buying when we shop: “Online Grocery Shopping” via NYTimes and “The Myth of the Ethical Shopper” via HuffPo.

05. Revisit some oldies-but-goodies from the THIS I WEAR archives. Here are a few of my favorites:
I’m not a Fashion Omnivore
The Myth of Dry Cleaning
Sashiko: Finding Beauty in Mending
3 tips for recognizing quality clothing
Style Story: Yvette (my epic interview with my mom!)
The Black Silk Tunic & My Alter Ego

I also have a small favor to ask of you. I’d love to hear from you by email or in the Comments section below to know what you’d like more of here once I’m back next month. Are you wanting more style interviews, ethical brand recommendations, natural/organic beauty products, ethical home décor, tips on mending and investing in your clothes, sustainability career advice, or just good old stories of what I’m up to? Perhaps you are just hoping for a hit list of other bloggers, brands and communities to learn more about responsible fashion? Let me know.

See you in September!

Lipstick & Loss

This I Wear | Style Lessons from My Grandma

Just two weeks ago, my grandmother passed away unexpectedly (and not the same grandmother who was unwell earlier this year). When I got the news, it was as if all of my memories of her suddenly filled a book in my mind that slammed shut. It felt as though only the strongest memories were inscribed in the half-a-second it took me to understand what had happened, and the little details that I remembered of her started to slip away. To capture them, I started writing.

I wanted to remember the taste of her stuffed bell peppers and macaroni and cheese, her insatiable appetite for ice cream and all things sweet, her stubbornness and sense of independence, her love of camellias and roses, how she’d chase me with $20 when I visited just to say “thank you” for spending time with her, and how proud she was of me. She introduced me to Martha Stewart and the idea of always having things look “just so” and offered her own example of somehow being able to make things perfect effortlessly. How she did it and raised seven children, I will never really know, though I will say that except in her later years, I rarely saw her sit down.

Mere, as we called her, means “mother” in French, the heritage of my mother’s side of the family. And she did all of the motherly things you can imagine – feed us until we nearly burst, rub our backs and hug us tight, and make sure we knew she appreciated her time with us.

On the way to the airport to fly back to New York after my visit with family for the funeral, we stopped at my grandfather’s home. My aunt offered my mom some of Mere’s makeup. My mom said she’d take the lipsticks.

When I discovered these in the car as we continued on our way to the airport, I told my mom I had to photograph them and asked her to pick a parking spot with good natural light. I think my mom thought I was crazy but was willing to humor me as we dug in the trunk of her car for props to create a makeshift backdrop. Lipsticks, as any woman knows, are incredibly personal. Each of us leaves our signature mark and shape on our lipsticks through use. My grandmother, it turns out, was a rounded, yet slightly angled lipstick shape. (I, on the other hand, am a very sharp angle…)

The lipsticks reminded me of all of her fashion rules, of which she had many. She truly took as much pride in her appearance as she did in her home and in her family. Here are just a few of her rules, almost all of which I must admit I break frequently:

1. Your shoes and bag must always match. Never, heaven forbid, should you wear black shoes with a brown bag or even brown pants. This is strictly prohibited. Black with black, brown with brown, and navy with navy.

2. Never leave your house without looking your best. You never know whom you will run into! Make sure to pass this sense of pride on to the people around you.

3. Know what looks good on you and stick with it. In the years I knew her, she almost exclusively wore separates, especially structured jackets, rather than dresses. Know what works on you and own it.

4. Get the fit right. Find a good tailor (such as your daughters) and make it fit your body type.

5. If you love something, buy multiples. In fact, you can never have enough ¾ sleeved white boat neck shirts, even if your stuffed closet tells you otherwise.

I agree with each of these rules to varying degrees, but they undoubtedly play a significant part in my memories of her. I think she would have been very proud to see how well we all looked as we came together to celebrate her.

Indigo in Brooklyn

This I Wear | Indigo Dyeing

My only critique of the indigo dyeing class that I took this past Saturday was that the soundtrack to the class was not Miles Davis “Kind of Blue”, which I am listening to now as I write this. Otherwise, my class at Buaisou Brooklyn was perfect.

Even if you aren’t familiar with natural dyes, chances are you know indigo. It is the original source of the color of your denim. It can be found across cultures and regions of the world. But the truth today is that most of the indigo color that we see is from synthetic (petroleum-based) indigo dye, which was invented just to keep up with our insatiable demand for the deep blue hue.

Indigo is a pretty special plant. While I mistakenly thought it was the root that is used for the dye, it’s actually the leaves, which are fermented. Unlike other natural dyes, indigo also requires no mordant, i.e. a substance added to fix the dye so it doesn’t come out in the wash. It’s no wonder that there is a unique culture that surrounds this plant and its age-old history.

Buaisou is a relative newcomer in the indigo world, created to preserve the indigo culture in Japan and its historic cultivation on an island in the south of the archipelago. They now own a farm in a region that used to be overflowing with indigo farmers, and they travel the world leading dyeing workshops.

In Brooklyn, though, workshops are available weekly, and I joined one after my boyfriend signed us up (he’s awesome like that). Even with a pizza-induced food coma from nearby Roberta’s, the class was so much fun. After a brief intro, each student is given two pieces of plain cloth to dye and total artistic freedom. If that sounds intimidating, it’s not. You literally cannot mess up, so it’s perfect for beginners and more experienced creatives. The only other choice you have to make is if you want to wear gloves when you submerge your pieces in the dye vat or whether you want the street cred of blue hands.

Natural dyes are a tricky subject when it comes to sustainability. The critics would caution that because they are natural does not mean they are organic and free from pesticides, and that devoting good farmland to cultivation of plants grown for dyeing isn’t sustainable because we need to produce food on that land to feed a growing world population. Natural dye advocates argue that natural dyestuffs can be byproducts of food production (example, onion skins and other vegetable waste) and lessen our dependence on petroleum-based dyes. Both sides have their merits.

Indigo is a special story and many of its advocates, including Buaisou, focus on cultural preservation as the art dies away with aging farmers and master dyers.

I believe that indigo production and use at this small artisan level can be sustainable and is most definitely worth saving. Perhaps you’ll try it for yourself to learn more and decide.

Check out Buasiou’s Brooklyn class schedule here. You can also check the site to see if they are hosting a workshop in your city. And as you can probably guess, their Instagram accounts are stunningly beautiful – follow @buaisou_japan and @buaisou_brooklyn.

New Reads for Summer

This I Wear | Summer Reads 2015

Last summer, I set my expectations too high. I planned to read three books but only succeeded in reading one of them. Dan Barber’s Third Plate was too big to carry in my bag during my commute, so I gave up. Fashion and Sustainability read too much like a textbook, and I lost interest. But I successfully read Let My People Go Surfing and luckily that one was fantastic and a very easy read.

Despite a small sense of failure on my reading last summer, Summer Reading remains my favorite hot weather tradition. This year, I’m making failure impossible and recommending a book I’m already nearing the end of and one that everyone but me may have read already.

Women In Clothes by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton
This is not the book you throw in your bag for some subway-commuter reading because there’s a lot of pages.. Yet it is such a delightful read that you will find yourself stealing away small moments just to read a few pages. In fact, I read the majority of it so voraciously that when I realized I was nearing the end, I made myself slow down to make it last longer. The book itself is the result of surveys to hundreds of real women plus interviews, photo stories and random encounters, all on one topic: women and their relationship with clothes. It is a storytelling masterpiece in many small snippets and bits, and if you like my blog, you will LOVE this collection of stories.

What’s truly wonderful about the book is that it’s impossible not to identify with at least some of the women, which also makes it easy to laugh when an interview subject says something that hits truly close to home. The book is also not about sustainability or minimalism, yet the topics come up in beautifully surprising ways from stories of trying to develop a personal uniform, learning about where clothes come from, understanding quality, and our emotional connection to clothes. I think I may in fact give this book to every woman in my life this coming Christmas, because there is something about it that so deeply expresses how clothing and fashion relate to how we view ourselves as women across many different cultures, ages, and orientations. Did I mention that I love it?

And if you read it and want to take the survey yourself, it’s still accessible by clicking here.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Perhaps all of you have read this book already, but I have been holding out for the sole reason of hoping a friend would let me borrow her copy, since I knew people were buying it in droves. I happen to love organizing, and I’m asked repeatedly if I would consider doing it professionally (not at this time, but I’d love to work with you on a one-time project – email me!). But there is always something new to learn and from what I’ve heard, Marie’s process of helping people find joy in what they do keep seems totally refreshing and inspiring. I think I also have a fear that she is advising everyone to throw things in the trash as I’ve been reading news stories of the sheer volume of now-orphaned “stuff” as a result of this book. I’m also very curious if she has tips for people on how to avoid buying more things once they’ve tossed everything out, since that is important too.

So those are the two books I’ve got lined up for the summer. I hope you’ll share your recommendations in the Comments, especially for some light summery fiction (nothing too intense please!), since I’m almost always in the non-fiction section. Happy reading!

Trend or Timeless: Skinny Jeans

This I Wear | Trend or Timeless: Skinny Jeans

It was not that many years ago when I bought my first pair of skinny jeans. I remember them and miss them so intensely. They were black, slightly stretchy Gap jeans, and they had brass zippers at each ankle that went up the calf. I remember them down to the thoughts that went through my head in the dressing room as I was deciding whether or not I was someone who could do skinny jeans. Not because of my body type but because of my fear of being trapped in them.

“Well, at least these have a zipper, so if you start feeling claustrophobic in them, you can unzip the legs while you break free,” I assured myself.

And I did use that as an escape route on multiple occasions, often if I wore them when it was too hot. By the time I got up the stairs to my apartment, perhaps I’d be sweating so profusely, I’d unzip the side zips before I attempted to peel myself out of them. I never knew if I was really going to make it out alive.

Oh how I loved them as did my two roommates at the time, since we all had the same pair. But I wore them to death, and so we parted ways after I squatted down to pick something up and the crotch ripped. It was time.

Embarrassing moment aside, I’ve been on the skinny jean train since then. If it wasn’t for skinny jeans, I might never have met my other dear friend, the thong.

But with everyone pushing boyfriend jeans on me for what has been a surprising number of seasons when you really think about it, I wonder how long the skinny will reign? At this point, I feel like they’ve been around for ever, but of course it is all relative in the world of fashion.

What do you think? Will the skinny jean join other classics and be considered timeless style? Or will it go down as just another trend? How long can something does something have to be in style to become timeless? (Or is that irrelevant?) Also, what kind of denim are you wearing these days?

Happy Fourth of July to all and I hope you’ll be wearing the most American of pants, the noble jean, as you celebrate this weekend!

[Photos, left to right: here, here, and here]

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...