Category: My Closet

My Closet: The Striped Tote + Paris By Foot

This I Wear | The Striped Tote + Paris By Foot
It’s August. Everyone has travel on the mind. A real vacation is not in the cards for me this year, but I am thinking about journeys lately. And this reminded me of a trip to Paris with my mom to visit my sister during an internship in Paris.

In America, so many of our cities are experienced by car. But in Paris, as in many European cities, the best way to get around is by foot: you walk, you eat some pastries, you walk more, you marvel over old churches and unexpected cobblestone streets, you walk a little more, and then you eat more fromage.

Neighborhoods change, people change, and atmospheres change as you walk. It is a journey in itself to experience the city by foot.

And it was my sister’s journey to Paris, one that she had dreamed of for so long, that I was most intrigued to see. I had heard stories of her suddenly being interested in salsa dancing late into the night and drinking wine by the river. Was this really my little sister!? But of course a foreign country and a city full of life is the perfect place to experience different sides of ourselves and different legs of our own journeys.

On one such meandering walk, my mom, sister and I stumbled upon a beautiful shop filled with stripes. Though stripes are easily associated with the French (the infamous sailor shirt!), these were more colorful and from the Catalan region of France. Inside, the variations were overwhelming. Colors that I never would have joined together suddenly had me questioning everything I believed about color. It was beautiful and overwhelming. I couldn’t leave without something, so I settled on a simple striped canvas tote. I had no idea that I would still be carrying it nearly everyday in the two years since the trip.

When we carry something so frequently, it takes on new meanings. My friend Carmen was delighted that the company’s name (Artiga) was so similar to her own last name. I often think of my favorite blogger oh joy! when I see it, because I know she loves a good stripe too.

But, at the end of the day, it is still the bag that was part of my journey with my mom and sister in a new place and a chance to be a part of my sister’s experience, one that I knew was so important to her. And I’m glad that despite all the wear and tear this bag has experienced, it’s still on its journey with me too.

P.S. I cannot find the name of the shop in Paris. But if you’re in NYC and interested in these famous fabrics, try Les Toiles du Soleil for the real deal fabric woven in France from a 150-year old company!

My Closet: “Twirly” Skirts + Being a Grownup

This I Wear | Twirly Skirts + Being a Grownup
Being an adult is rough: making big decisions that you always imagined you could make “later”, being responsible for yourself (and sometimes others), and generally just trying to find a balance between work and fun. Not. Easy.

But flash way way back to childhood (but not middle school, because no one had a good time during that). I’m thinking kindergarten graduations, family gatherings, eating tons of sugar, kiddie pools, and being totally uncensored.

My favorite thing to wear during my early childhood was something I called “twirly skirts,” simple circle skirts in corduroy with iron-on decals, like cherries, that my mom let me pick out. My mom made a lot of clothing for me growing up – some that I wore, some that I didn’t – but with one simple pattern, she made me a handful of these skirts, possibly to appease me as I refused to wear pants, which I then considered to be universally “ugly.”

The best part of these skirts? When you spun around, the skirts would spin up like a ballerina’s tutu (or somewhat reminiscent of the whirling dervishes, but I wasn’t aiming for that). I only remember how fun they were to wear, but I wonder if my mom was chasing me around telling me to stop flashing everyone. But that’s just it! You’re totally uncensored at age four or five. You don’t care as long as you’re having fun.

Flash forward to 2011. I was in a Forever21 for some unknown reason, and I bought this bright coral pleated mini-skirt that instantly took me back to the good old days. I don’t twirl publicly in it, and in fact I’m usually sweating in it, because it’s polyester (just one more reason not to shop at Forever21). But I love it. It reminds me of playgrounds, dancing in family home movies, and appreciating simple things.

Do I wish it didn’t come from Forever21? Yes, but I bought it, and I’m taking responsibility for that with no intention of tossing it out anytime soon.

Being an adult is serious. But playing with your personal style should be fun. Whether it’s a flashback to who you were or dressing as who you want to become, our clothes tell the story of where we’ve been and where we’re going. And luckily, we can pick and choose the stories we want to tell.

What was your favorite thing to wear when you were a kid? Comment or tweet @ThisIWear to share what clothes you lived in when you were little.

My Closet: The Liberty of London Scarf

This I Wear | My Closet: Liberty Scarf + My Mom

The year is 2000. I am in London on my first international trip with my whole family during my eighth grade spring break. I got my braces off in time for my passport photo and online shopping wasn’t what it is today, so my sister and I are feeling pretty cool as we shop UK-exclusive stores our friends will envy (well, once they find out they exist).

As this was in my pre-itinerary-making days, I just showed up where I was told to go. And my mom had an ambitious itinerary for us. She hadn’t traveled much internationally, and she seemed to be on a mission to see everything. This turned out to include churches, castles, museums, hot tickets to a performance of “CATS”, and most importantly, the iconic department store, Liberty of London.

I had no idea what Liberty of London was at the time. Since my mom is a quilter, she wanted her trip souvenir to be a few pieces of Liberty’s famous print fabrics for her next quilt project. Naturally, I thought that meant it would be a pretty boring shopping experience since my impression of quilting was that it was not so cool (though I have since changed this opinion!). But as soon as I saw the Tudor-style façade and stepped into the perfect world of unexpected and quirky design inside, I knew my mom was on to something. And sure enough, I became obsessed.

For so long, it was impossible to get Liberty prints stateside, so any sort of Liberty find was met with true teenage girl levels of enthusiasm. Now, the prints are ubiquitous; Collaborations with everyone from Target to J.Crew to Nike means the masses are wearing Liberty of London, and it’s likely they have no idea what kind of history they’re wearing. In fact, Liberty has been around since the 1880s and has been selling its iconic prints since then, typically on the lightest, finest cotton fabric I’ve ever felt, which is their signature Tana Lawn.

But while every hipster might be wearing these florals today, my mom was digging these prints back when most of those kids weren’t even born. So for me, Liberty has become inextricably linked with my mom. And when I scored this silk Liberty scarf in New York City of all places, I couldn’t help but feel the same teenage girl level of enthusiasm I felt when I first walked into Liberty at the age of 14, nerdy and naïve, only to be introduced by my unexpectedly design-forward mom to a whole new world of textiles, pattern and history.

So I’m not worried that Liberty prints are on trend now. Instead, I’m using it to my advantage to find pieces I know I’ll keep longer than the trend-seekers, because they mean something to me. Because when I wear my Liberty scarf, I can’t help but think of my mom, who informed my own taste and passion for design in ways that I’ve never fully given her credit for. And that will keep me wearing these prints for much longer than a season.

Nothing says cool like a scarf. For a little styling help, try Liberty’s own scarf-styling videos for the most creative tying/knotting/wrapping ideas I’ve ever seen. Start with this Youtube playlist, but a quick search will lead you to the other 20 or so tutorials.

My Closet: The Emerald Skirt + Infinite Alterations

This I Wear | The Emerald Skirt + Infinite Alterations

When I was really little, my favorite color was supposedly pink. As my grandmother will tell you repeatedly, I was sort of aggressive about it, insisting that my cherub-faced little sister had to like blue as pink was off-limits. I have no idea when the transition occurred, but I remember loving blue as a kid, sticking with the cool hue for nearly everything I owned. But as of a few years ago, I subconsciously made the switch from blue to green. And I don’t just like green; I love green. Say what you will that I’ve been brainwashed by Pantone’s “Color of the Year” (Emerald for 2013) and Meryl Streep’s rant on cerulean in The Devil Wears Prada about how colors trickle down from a small group of industry leaders, but I think my choice to love green was my own.

In my green collection, I have an emerald-hued skirt, bought some unknown number of years ago for its gorgeous color, lightweight textured wool fabric, and quality construction. But as much as I loved the skirt, it didn’t quite suit me at first. The original longer length overwhelmed my petite stature; so after a few attempts at pulling it off as a knee-length skirt, I enlisted my personal seamstress, my mom, to chop a few inches off the bottom. Perfection…until I lost a little weight. Another visit home included some strategic re-positioning of buttons to take in the waist. Again, perfect…until I lost a few more pounds. But this time, I was already at home, having relocated closer to my family. So a short afternoon with my mom, and the skirt’s fit was perfect again (along with that of many other garments as well).

This skirt is perhaps my wardrobe’s best example of a piece evolving with me. It’s been through as many changes as I have; each new “alteration” was a trial-and-error process to find the “perfect” fit, only to realize that my needs and wants will always be evolving and so “perfect” is never permanent. Instead, the goal was to figure out how to make my clothes, and specifically this skirt, meet me where I was at that moment in my life, in my weight, and in my taste.

Right now, the skirt hugs in all the right places and draws me in with its vibrant color. But perhaps my favorite color will change again, or perhaps my body or style will first. At that point, I’ll be sad that I am no longer a short drive away from my mom or the rest of my family who have helped me in each of my life’s “alterations.” Instead, the skirt might be hemmed or re-sized by someone new, or maybe I’ll boldly take a stab at tailoring my own clothes. But one thing is for sure, this skirt isn’t done evolving, and I’m not done either. And as long as I don’t forget to remember how me (or this skirt) reached this moment today or that change is just part of the process, I think we’ll both be just fine.

Do you have a piece you’ve altered or changed many times? Comment below or tweet a photo to @ThisIWear #InfiniteAlterations to share your piece’s story.

My Closet: Lucky Charms

This I Wear | Lucky Charms

I am incredibly lucky. As a St. Patrick’s Day baby with a classic Irish last name, I know a thing or two about luck (and fortunately, the good kind). Luck is not something to be relied on; it isn’t very predictable, and it isn’t always instantly recognizable. Luck is best left to be something to be thankful for when looking back or hoped for if looking forward. But in the present moment, thoughts of luck can be comforting. And when I say “luck,” I mean gratitude for where we’ve been, hope for something big or small to get us where we are going, and a willingness to be open in the meantime. Those thoughts of luck can be much closer with a familiar lucky charm on hand. And when a lucky charm is wearable, it is even easier to keep hopes for luck near.

I have three lucky charms, but the real power comes when I wear them together. The first is the simple gold necklace I wear everyday. My mom and I picked out the necklace together as my college graduation gift during a trip with my sister to Hong Kong. Even I was unsure how often I would wear the double-sided pendant, but nearly every single day, I wear the necklace with intention with the Chinese character for “longevity” facing in, since I believe longevity comes from taking care of ourselves, and the Chinese double happiness facing out, because happiness comes from what we offer out to the world. As I put the necklace on recently before an important meeting, I rubbed it for good luck as I so often do, reminding myself to make my mom proud, since her support has helped me reach where I am in life to have such an important meeting.

My other lucky charms are new to me but by no means new, precisely the source of their luck. I never knew my great-grandmother but wearing a pair of her earrings, which she had passed on to my mother when her ears were first pierced decades ago and which my mom recently passed on to me, makes me feel close to her. I certainly never knew the original owner of the Victorian signet ring I recently purchased, but I can’t help but imagine its past: Was it a gift to her? Did it bring her any luck? Was it worn on any special occasions? (And how were her fingers so much tinier than mine?) I imagine the nerves of my great grandmother or my mother as they got their ears pierced, or perhaps the nerves my ring’s earlier owners felt as they went through life wearing the pieces of jewelry I now wear. And while I know with no certainty, I think they made out just fine.

The concept of a lucky charm seems silly on the surface. We are ascribing power to an inanimate object. But the real power of a lucky charm is not in the item itself, but in what it reminds us of. My lucky charms have never caused miracles, but they have given me the confidence I needed in times spent outside of my comfort zone. Whenever I’m unsure of myself, I look at my lucky charms and they remind me of who I am, where I come from, how I got here, and, perhaps most importantly, who helped me to get here. My triad of lucky charms calms my nerves and reminds me to be bold not just for myself, but out of gratitude for all of the people who helped me reach this moment of infinite possibilities. And when you feel like there’s a crowd like that behind you, you can’t help but be bold.

Comment below, tweet @ThisIWear, or email me to share stories of your lucky charms, perhaps to be featured in a future post!


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