Category: Inside Story

Summer Packing 101: A Weekend Getaway in Nashville

This I Wear | Nashville Getaway
Suki Mulberg Altamirano wears many hats (including one very adorable straw one featured below!), but one of her coolest hats is as co-founder of STYLEVISA, which features the perfect home and personal accessories from designers and makers all over the world (I love the “shop by country” feature!). If our closets reveal a lot about us, I figured our suitcases are an even more concentrated story of who we are. I invited Suki to share what’s in her travel bag this summer to learn a little bit more about her style but also to pick up a few packing tips from a seasoned traveler. Below, she highlights her must-haves and gives us a little insight into the stories in her suitcase.

I’m always up for a good road trip, and summer is one of my favorite times of the year to explore new places. Next weekend, I’ll be heading on a quick getaway to Nashville, a city I can’t wait to check out. I’m a big fan of The Black Keys, which initially enticed me to learn more about Nashville’s new wave music scene. Besides heading out for some live music, a few items on my to-do list are exploring Nashville’s diverse neighborhoods and the local arts scene and just enjoying the unique vibe! Here’s a look at what I’m packing, a mixture of easy pieces for laidback summer days and year-round travel staples.

My Trusty Ray-Ban Sunglasses
I’ve had these classic Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses for years and rarely leave home without them. They really do make every outfit look cooler. From carrying them during daily life in New York City, San Francisco and now Louisville to packing them for trips to Mexico City and the beaches of Bermuda, I’m always impressed by how long they’ve lasted!

Quick Fix Sticks for Speedy Solutions
These are from a clever brand, Solutions That Stick, which invents all kinds of fashion first aid products. This fashion tape is great when you’re on the road. It packs flat and has a ton of uses, especially if you’re in a pinch. I use it to mend hemlines, keep shirts in place, fix buttons, hide rips or stop slipping straps.

Artisan-Made Nakate Songa Necklace
I really like how this necklace mixes a bold, ethnic shape with a soft pastel color palette. It’s a new handmade design that we just introduced on STYLEVISA from a brand called Nakate. They connect Ugandan professionals and artisans with women in rural villages, using local talent to cultivate African growth and development. When I wear their designs, it feels special knowing they originated in a small Ugandan village.

Summer-Perfect Straw Fedora Hat
This is my second season with this hat, and I love it! The natural straw material keeps it lightweight, and it cures a bad hair day instantly. I really like using hats year-round because they serve a double purpose: adding a unique style while protecting you from the elements. This fedora is my summer favorite, because it looks great and also provides sun protection – perfect to use while touring Nashville neighborhoods in the warm summer weather.

Lightweight Drapey Shirt
I tend to stick to neutral colors in summer and have an affinity for drapey, feminine shirts. For Nashville, I’m packing this ivory shirt with delicate details that has an artsy vibe reminiscent of the city. I like its simple, natural style and the lightweight fabric is great for keeping cool.

AYRES Beauty Miniatures
My mother started me on the habit of collecting miniature beauty products and saving them for travels. AYRES’ Pampas Sunrise mini body products will be coming with me next week. Their body butter has an amazing texture and a light citrusy aroma with essential oils like lime, mandarin and lemongrass. It puts me in a summer mood.

A Travel-Ready Handmade Leather Journal
I think it’s handy to have a place to jot down favorite spots and things you want to remember to do when you’re on the road. I use this leather journal to keep notes like these and also a list of recommendations I’ve received from friends. I like the rugged look of this leather journal, which is handmade the old fashioned way by experienced leather artisans in Los Angeles.

Suki Mulberg AltamiranoSuki Mulberg Altamirano lives in Louisville, KY. She is co-founder of STYLEVISA (along with her husband Eduardo) and Founder of Lexington PR. When she’s not planning her next trip, she can be found exploring the Louisville food scene, visiting local distilleries on the Bourbon Trail and if the season is right, at a horse race or two! Follow her @STYLEVISA or @SukiMulberg (and on Instagram too). Thanks, Suki!

[Photos by Suki Mulberg Altamirano]

Do Your Best Now, Then Do Better

This I Wear | Do Best Now, Then Do Better

I’ve been thinking about the words above since designer SwissMiss shared the quote on her blog recently.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

So often, we are overwhelmed by decision making: too many (or too few) choices, too many priorities to balance,  and feeling like we have to have ALL possible information before we decide. But sometimes putting off a decision is not an option. Sometimes we have to make a choice now, even when the perfect choice hasn’t yet been discovered (or doesn’t yet exist).

This applies to so much in our lives. It applies here to helping us decide how to apply our values to what we wear each day. It applies to the trial and error that I’ve gone through to create and grow this site. And it definitely applies to all the big life decisions I’ve been making lately. I’m sure you can come up with a few more situations too.

And when it comes to deciding how we shop, I hope we’ll go easy on ourselves. Don’t take the easy road (i.e. another $10 dress that will fall apart after one wash), but don’t go naked just because your wardrobe isn’t up to your standards and values just yet. Yep, I said naked.

Shop with intention. Ask questions. Find and take care of things you love.

And as you and I both learn more, we can do better by the people and environment impacted by the clothes we wear and the lives we lead. And I promise to post more too!

P.S. The skydiving photo was from a friend’s birthday jump almost exactly a year ago today. Here’s to living fully. Happy early birthday, Molly O!

A Summer of Fashionable Reading

This I Wear | A Summer of Fashionable Reading
Vacation booked? Check. Bathing suit? Check. Beach reads? Well, these sort of work for whatever your plans are – whether it’s a poolside lounge chair or a park bench. I take summer reading pretty seriously, and just in case you do too, I thought I’d share my picks.

Below are a few I’ve read (and there’s more here) and a few I hope to read, all focused on various aspects of style and sustainability. I hope you’ll share your recommendations too.

What I’ve Read
DV by Diana Vreeland – The autobiography of an eccentric woman who made a big impact on the fashion industry, eventually running Vogue magazine. Best part: great one-liners from a woman who saw it all and knew everyone.

The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli – This book traces a t-shirt from its origins on a cotton farm to all the possibilities of where it could end up. My favorite chapter is on the secondhand clothing trade in Africa. If you can’t travel this summer, at least you can hear the adventures your clothing has had and will have!

What I’m Reading
You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Reveal About You by Dr. Jennifer Baumgauter – A psychologist’s take on what your closet says about you. Totally at the top of my list, and I can’t tell if it’s because I’m being nosy about other people’s clothing hang-ups or because I’m looking to self-diagnose.

Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finley – A little history lesson on where our colors come from, whether in our paintings or dyed in the fabrics we wear. This one seems to be the perfect mix of science, history and storytelling.

The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability – Designing for Abundance by William McDonough and Michael Braungart – Calling all design thinking geeks, environmentalists, and people who think most things could be done better, this book by the authors of Crade to Cradle wonders, what if the things we made didn’t just avoid harming our world, but in fact, improved it? Cue mind explosion. I’m psyched and ready for the challenge.

And just in case the gents were feeling left out, my resident menswear guru recommends checking out F**k Yeah Menswear, which may be best read when you need a good laugh or when you catch yourself buying one too many brands your grandfather would’ve worn or another pair of pants with a menagerie of animals embroidered on them.

Happy reading!

Cheap Will Never Look As Good as Ethical Fashion Feels

This I Wear | Organic Cotton Label
When it comes to current media stories about ethics within the apparel industry, the overall message seems to be that everyone outside of the industry just woke up and realized that there is a person at the other end of his or her t-shirt. In fact, there were over a thousand people who were at the other end of our t-shirts that are no longer with us because of a lot of unacceptable decisions.

Any woman will tell you the power of the perfect outfit to inspire feelings of confidence in times of insecurity. Every artisan group will tell you the power of putting a face or a name of a maker to an item when it comes to selling their products in far away countries. And nearly every week, I share stories here of things from my closet that are inseparable from certain feelings and memories.

But not every piece of clothing I own generates feelings, and I bet it’s the same for your closet too. The athletic socks I wear during a workout, the old t-shirt I sleep in, the jeans that aren’t my favorite but I still wear occasionally – these are the items in our wardrobes that we hardly notice. But at the other end of each of these feeling-less pieces was someone sitting at a sewing machine and making them for us.

I struggle regularly to make sure all of my clothing purchases meet my high standards for ethical production. I walk in stores and walk out empty handed all the time now. And it is undeniably frustrating. I want clothes that are ethically and sustainably produced, but I want to feel amazing in them and I would love to avoid credit card debt in the process. And as frustrating as it is for me, after all the research I do on this subject all of the time, I can’t imagine what it’s like for the average consumer.

But among all the sadness of the recent Bangladesh tragedy and the frustration of a fruitless search for ethical clothing, I found myself feeling an unexpected but desperately needed sense of optimism and relief after receiving a package in the mail containing an organic cotton tank top, a responsibly-dyed silk blouse, and a domestically-produced knit skirt. Trying each piece on, one after the other, I was overwhelmed with feeling: “it is possible!” my gut was screaming out! I can have an “ethical wardrobe.” I know ethical fashion is the right choice objectively, but I had no idea that it could feel so good.

And you can feel this too. It’s not easy….yet. But the more that we demand it and the more that we listen to our guts that faceless companies with cheap prices and feeling-less uninspired fashion are taking us further away from creating a world we are proud to live in, the easier and more fun it’s going to be for us to shop, even if the way we shop is going to change.

I love sharing stories on This I Wear but as my own struggles have shown me, some practical help for finding ethically-produced clothing is necessary too. Stay tuned for new series on where and how to shop for stylish, budget-friendly ethical fashion.

And please comment below, tweet @ThisIWear, or email me to tell me what’s keeping you from shopping ethically and sustainably so we can find some solutions together.

Book Review: Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Fast Fashion

This I Wear | Book Review: Overdressed
The biggest perk of a public transit commute is the opportunity to read more than you ever thought possible. And I have been speed-walking to the train and reading about anything and everything but fashion, because, to be candid, I needed a little fashion break.

But I found that the more I didn’t read about fashion, the more I saw it pop up in the most unexpected places (which reminds me of another book). At the risk of you judging my reading list, I recently finished “The Lady’s Maid: My Life in Service” and couldn’t help but focus on how Lady Astor would wear and re-wear and re-fashion clothes into something fresh all the time, even with endless amounts of money, mostly because that’s just what people did at that time. And as I read Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project,” I became surprisingly interested to learn about her own shopping and closet clearing habits and how she believes they affect her (and everyone’s) happiness.

But to really delve into understanding what our culture’s current relationship is to its clothes and to shopping, “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Fast Fashion” by Elizabeth Cline is a must-read. I literally have pages and pages of notes I took from this book, because I was blown away by the knowledge she was laying down.

Here’s a few jaw-dropping statistics directly from the book:

  • “The United States now makes 2% of the clothing its consumers purchase, down from about 50% in 1990.”
  • As recently as 1995, “apparel importers were often able to get their labor costs down to less than 1% of the retail price of their clothes.”
  • “Every year, Americans throw away 12.7 millions tons, or 68 pounds of textiles per person…1.6 million tons of this waste could be recycled or reused.”
  • “The natural resources that go into fiber production every year now demand approximately 145 million tons of coal and somewhere between 1.5 trillion and 2 trillion gallons of water.”
  • “By one estimate, used clothing is now the United States’ number one export by volume.”
  • China has “more than 40,000 clothing manufacturers and 15 million garment industry jobs. Compare that to the 1.45 million garment and textile industry jobs the United States had at peak employment some 40 years ago.”

Cline isn’t writing for the educated ethical fashion consumer. She writes for people who like her have struggled with overflowing closets, the thrill of a sale, and a limited budget. And I appreciate that she shares her own struggle in the book. In some ways, “Overdressed” is Cline’s own Happiness Project: an attempt to clean up her closet, find clothing that made her feel good, and bring some meaning to her wardrobe.

So who should read this book? The reader who identifies with Cline’s quest:

  • “I owned more clothing than I did anything else and probably knew the least about it of anything I bought.”
  • “If I wanted to buy well-made, fashionable, moderately priced clothing, I wasn’t sure where to look.”
  • “I intentionally avoid buying plastic products such as bottled water because they are oil-dependent and not biodegradable, yet here I was with a closet full of the stuff.” (i.e. polyester)
  • “When we entirely gave up homemade and custom clothing, we lost a lot of variation, quality, and detail in our wardrobes, and the right fit along with it.”

So please read it, if only because I really want to talk about it more and I need someone to talk with about it.

What are you reading lately? Comment below or tweet @ThisIWear to share your current reads.

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