Category: My Closet

My Closet: Summer Shoes + Saving Up for Fashion

This I Wear | Summer Shoes + Saving Up For Fashion

Vanessa Friedman is the new fashion critic at the New York Times. This spring, she spoke at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, and she declared that sustainable fashion is an oxymoron. Instead, she said, we should talk about the sustainable wardrobe.

She gave the example of her grandmother, who worked hard to save up for the precious clothes she had and then took great care in making the clothes last as long as possible.

This was slow fashion. It was careful conscious investments over time. Now, we all think we must all have everything we want immediately at our fingertips (or at least at our doorstep through overnight expedited shipping).

But what if we changed this sense of time?

Recently, I was tempted to buy an expensive pair of shoes (not surprising given last week’s post), but I couldn’t bear the thought of actually paying that much money for a pair of shoes. Then, a close friend asked me if I’d work a catering gig for her growing business, and she would even pay me.

Suddenly I started to think a different way: what if I could buy the shoes as long as I saved up for them? The money for me was outside of my budget, which is based on what I earn from my 9-5 job. The additional perks were, of course, that the longer, slower process would give me time to make sure I really wanted the shoes, and the hard work of earning them would make me take that much more care once I owned them.

We all have different limits of how much we are willing and able to spend on our wardrobes. Sometimes, for reasons out of our control, we need whatever is fast and easy, which sometimes means cheap and often means imperfect. But how can we make those instances the exception rather than the norm? What if each piece in our wardrobe had a slow lead time to when we actually swipe our cards and take our prize home? Would we buy less? Would we buy better?

After all of the hard work and with money in hand, I decided I still could not spend that much on a pair of shoes. Instead, I opted for a beautiful pair of flats that were still an investment but half the price of the original pair. It was not fast, easy, or cheap. It did not solve all of my wardrobe problems. But slowly, I’m investing through thoughtful purchases. And hopefully that brings me a little closer to a sustainable wardrobe.

Watch Vanessa Friedman’s talk here.

Do you think “Sustainable Fashion” is an oxymoron? What word or phrase would you use instead? I’ve got a glossary of terms in the works, so please share if you’d got a favorite phrase or one that needs more clarity.

My Closet: Shared Earrings + Shared Time

This I Wear | Shared EarringsThree trips later, and I’m back here with you. I thought I could squeeze in a post last week, but reality convinced me otherwise…but not until the last minute.

In truth, I knew I had these three trips for a while: personal, work, then personal again. And because of so many days out of my usual routine, I debated over whether to take the extra vacation day off or to let my visiting mom hang out with my brother while I did “work”. What finally helped me make my decision was a random piece of advice embarrassingly gleaned from a women’s magazine article on self-help books. The advice: if you are having trouble making a decision, use the 10-10-10 rule – if I make this decision, how will I feel 10 minutes from now? 10 months from now? 10 years from now?

Knowing that 10 years from now, I’d be glad I spent the day with my mom made the decision easy. So instead of sitting at my desk, I spent last Thursday at Wave Hill, a beautiful garden I knew she would enjoy. I spent the afternoon with my mom and brother, instagramming way too many photos of stunning flowers (and so many cactus!) and quizzing my mom on her floral knowledge. It was perfect.

While together, she surprised me with a belated Easter gift that had obviously been too precious to mail. It was one pair of tiny diamond earrings of two that she had recently re-made for my sister and me. Two of the diamonds were dubiously and naively bought from a coworker’s brother when my mom was in her early twenties, and the other two were a nearly identical set bought for her a few years later by my dad’s mother while on vacation in Vegas. I’m not sure which set (or whether a mix) of the two original sets I have, which makes them a little more mysterious.

Before my mom came up for a visit, I was thinking of the million things I wanted to do with her while she was here, mostly all the things I needed to ask her advice on in person (How do I repair this pair of pants? How would you arrange this furniture? Can you remind me again how to quilt? And how do I gain closure on a recent heartbreaking experience?). But while all of those were questions to be asked, there’s never enough time to get all of the answers. Time always runs out, and I have siblings I have to share her with.

But just like these earrings that were too priceless to mail, the time spent face to face is truly irreplaceable, especially those rare moments of silence that you just can’t share over the phone. The best time is not always the time spent talking but the time spent sharing the same air, seeing the same surroundings and hearing the same distant sounds.

In fact, like any of the beautiful things that my mom has passed on to me or that we’ve collected together, even in their perceived silence, they are speaking so loudly and clearly to me.

It turns out I’m not the only one wearing something from my mom. The Of A Kind ladies strike again and shared these spot-on stories by Leanne Shapton on women who wear things from their mothers. View it on NYTimes.com.

My Closet: The Bamboo Scarf

This I Wear | My Closet: Bamboo Scarf

As a college student, I worked in a beautiful boutique in Washington, D.C. And as a college student, I was rarely able to afford the beautiful things we sold, even with an employee discount. Each item I bought usually was preceded by longing stares for weeks with crossed fingers in hopes that a customer wouldn’t buy the last one before my next pay day.

This scarf dates back to my time spent in the shop. I was still in my early stages of finding my passion for environmental issues, and anything that was labeled “eco” was an instant point of obsession. Not only was this scarf promoted as a “green” product, since bamboo grows quickly with no fertilizers or pesticides, but it had the luxurious shine and feel of silk. So I bought it, and I loved it.

During the following year as I researched alternative textile fibers for my thesis, I found that it is true that bamboo does quickly replenish itself and grow without the need for chemicals. However, I also discovered that the process of converting bamboo into a textile fiber was filled with chemicals to make it into what we know as rayon or viscose (Note: Rayon/Viscose can be made from a number of wood-based fibers). Could the good outweigh the bad in this case?

Actually, no. According to Patagonia’s fantastic guide to bamboo, “The solvent used for this process is carbon disulfide, a toxic chemical that is a known human reproductive hazard. It can endanger factory workers and pollute the environment via air emissions and wastewater. The recovery of this solvent in most viscose factories is around 50%, which means that the other half goes into the environment.” My scarf might have been made all the way in Nepal, but I certainly don’t want the Nepalese drinking water contaminated with these chemicals.

It quickly became clear that my scarf and a lot of the bamboo textiles appearing on the market at the time were by-products of green-washing. Or, at my more optimistic moments, I perhaps attributed it to just a long chain of unintentional ignorance that made its way down the chain to me, the consumer. But mostly I just felt swindled. How could I have so blindly trusted this fabric that had seemed almost too good to be true? This scarf was an imposter.

Yet I continue to keep this scarf around. It serves as a reminder that I have to keep asking questions. It reminds me that there are a lot of things that we just don’t know yet – as businesses, scientists, shoppers and just plain human beings. Luckily, we’re getting better information all the time, especially when we pursue it. And if this scarf did go through all those scary chemicals to become the silky fabric that keeps me warm, I have a responsibility to keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t cause any more trouble than it already has.

My Closet: Denim Shirts & Unexpected Love

This I Wear | My Closet: Denim Shirts & Unexpected Love

It’s a classic meet-cute: you’re in a store, you look around and suddenly you lock eyes. The two of you cannot stop looking at each other. You think “should I or shouldn’t it?” You feel butterflies, but you go for it anyway. You make the move, and it’s clear from that day forward: it was love at first sight.

Quick: name all the items in your closet where it was instantaneous love. It’s probably pretty easy. And if you go by my shopping motto (if you don’t absolutely love it, don’t buy it), then most of your closet is made up of those “love at first sight” pieces.

But what about those pieces that you don’t fall in love with immediately? The sneaky ones that you were on the fence about or bought in a pinch, but over time, you realize you are wearing them everyday? But one day, you wake up and realize “I’m in love”, even though you never saw it coming. Don’t we all wish we could predict these unexpected love affairs?

If my shopping motto is “if you don’t love it, don’t buy it”, my Valentine’s Day motto is “everyday should be Valentine’s Day”, which I learned from a particularly insightful friend years ago that has both caused me never to feel inclined to celebrate Valentine’s Day and reminded me to show love everyday.

And every day, I love denim shirts.

When denim shirts first became popular around 2010, I was really skeptical. I thought it was overly hipster. I thought it would never catch on. And I definitely thought I would never wear one. A few years later, I am now the proud of owner of TWO denim shirts and a frequent wearer of (*gasp*) denim on denim. How did I never see this coming, when today, it is practically my uniform?

On the day I bought my first denim shirt in 2010, I was in an H&M with a friend who was in from out of town and her friend. I was having trouble keeping up with their shopping and wandered off on my own. There was no meet-cute, but instead a few skeptical glances exchanged, lots of internal monologue, and finally the reach to grab it of the rack. When I rejoined with my friend in the long line for the fitting room, I was so unsure of my denim shirt idea that I actually remember not wanting her to see what I had picked up. I was totally embarrassed of trying out this trend. So instead, I abandoned her in the fitting room line and bought the shirt WITHOUT TRYING IT ON (this is just not how I operate). The whole scenario was filled with shame, confusion, and impulsivity.

But to everyone’s surprise, including my own (and probably H&M’s), I am still living in that shirt nearly 4 years later, since I still love it and it has lasted against all odds. Truly it has been an unexpected love that shows no signs of slowing down, but instead has constantly reinvented itself.

For all of us searching for love in our closets, I can only say that I have yet to solve the mystery of how to let ourselves grow into styles, to take risks, and to follow our seemingly irrational gut, especially when I believe so strongly in shopping intentionally. Only time will tell if I will be still looking like a Canadian cowboy by the time I close this case.

Share your unexpected loves in the comments below or tweet @ThisIWear.

My Closet: Black Boots and New Style

This I Wear | My Closet: Black Boots + New Style

We are quickly approaching the end of 2013, and there is something about the holiday season that feels simultaneously fast and slow. On one hand, I have just a few more days to find perfect gifts for the people I love AND get all of my work done so I can take off a couple weeks. On the other hand, as soon as Thanksgiving is over, I always find myself immediately slipping into a reflective state, slowing down and thinking about the year past.

This year was filled with big changes, some of which I shared here and others that made me so busy that this blog has been quite quiet. But I have tried to be really open about my own struggles with rediscovering my personal style. And as I’ve slipped into that year-end reflective state, I know that the top of my list in 2014 will be letting my style evolve a little more. Because, honestly, I haven’t really felt comfortable in my clothes AT ALL this year.

Fortunately, I know I’m not the only one with a changing sense of style.

I’ve loved articles this year from Garance Dore and Jess Lively on what they’ve learned from wardrobe mistakes and their own journeys to filling their closets with clothes that truly represent their personal styles.

I’ve been trying to do this on my own, but I decided to speed the process up a little bit and hire a professional. Luckily, I was inspired by an article by Jee on Oh How Civilized and set up an in-home appointment with a personal stylist. Beyond looking through what I already had, we made a list of what I needed to look for.

And at the top of the list, which I knew already, was a pair of black boots.

The shoe industry is not pretty. I’ve never had a great passion for shoes and I’m extremely concerned with comfort, but as I’ve learned about the toxic glues and solvents present in many factories, I’ve felt really hesitant to buy shoes since I’m not sure what I’m buying into. I also happen to own a pair of black booties that I saved up to buy and are in perfect condition but absolutely murder my feet. So perhaps subconsciously, I’ve been punishing myself for at least two years by not letting myself buy a new pair of black boots that I can actually wear.

But it became clear that a new pair of black boots would be a game-changer and totally take my existing outfits up a notch. Not an easy task, however, as I was looking to hit at least two of Garance’s rules:

1. Perfect piece = eternal joy
2. Quality = longevity

So what’s a conscious shopper to do? Buy the best quality pair of shoes you can afford. Seriously.

Here’s why: Your shoes can be repaired almost endlessly if they are of good quality. You will likely wear this pair of shoes multiple times a week (if not every day). You do not want to have to buy a lot of shoes and therefore support more factories that may or may not have healthy working conditions. And also quite important is that you do not want to end up an old lady with bunions.

In my case, a serendipitous text from my sister told me that one of my favorite brands, Rag + Bone, was having a sample sale. I like them because they do a fair amount of domestic production, the clothing is a perfect fit for my body, and the quality is high. It turns out the same is true for their shoes (minus the domestic production). I bought this pair for $200, which is objectively a lot of money but based on how many times I will wear them, the cost is relatively little. (See Zady’s article on measuring cost-per-wear)

But the work isn’t over. In the new year, I’ve got a list of new pieces I’ll be looking for and I can’t wait to share what I find (and how I find them) with you.

In the meantime, I’ve been turning to Pinterest as a helpful visual reminder of what I want my closet to look like, so I can make compare a potential purchase with that ideal style. Follow my evolving style on my latest board.

What’s the linchpin item missing from your closet? Share below or tweet @ThisIWear and tell us what you’re looking for.

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