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.

The suitcase experiment: How I accidentally learned to live with less

I’m moving again. In the past year or so, I’ve moved from New York to New Orleans, traveled within the US and to two new continents (including living in India for a few months), and returned to the US only to continue living out of a suitcase, knowing that it still wasn’t time to settle down.

Inspired by author Elizabeth Cline’s closet inventory in her book Overdressed, I took stock of what is in the suitcase I’ve been somewhat living out of for the last five months:

– 8 sweaters
– 11 knit shirts
– 7 blouses
– 3 dresses
– 2 pairs of jeans
– 8 skirts
– 2 pairs of shorts (Hey, it’s New Orleans!)
– 2 coats
– Miscellaneous active wear, pajamas, underthings, and accessories

Somehow, I’ve been living off of under 60 total pieces – nowhere near Elizabeth’s total. And while I might be closer to her number if I counted up all of the clothes I have in storage, I’ve realized one amazing thing: I can live with less.

Let’s get one thing straight, though: At times, living with such a small portion of my wardrobe has felt impossible. I struggled many days to (more literally) find something to wear with most difficulty happening on special occasions or an unexpected event, including weather changes.

But I also was able to realize a few things:
We aren’t wearing most of what we own anyway. Even within my small suitcase, I never wore HALF of the clothes. Other pieces, however, were worn almost daily.

It is the favorite pieces that help us feel most like ourselves, especially in times of flux. It is hard to live with uncertainty, but the uncertainty will force you to look for things you can trust. In this (suit)case, I felt most like myself wearing my favorite gray sweater and a reliable pair of jeans. When things were unpredictable around me, I felt more need than ever for my clothes to feel like me. The predictability of my accidental daily uniform became a great source of comfort. There’s a reason to stick with what you know works.

Our big closets are keeping us from being creative. Most of us have a color palette in our wardrobe even if we don’t realize it, which makes our clothes infinitely mix-and-match-able. It was a lot easier to to create new outfits with a small portion of my wardrobe that I knew I loved and which coincidentally all worked together than to get creative with an overflowing closet.

A clothing diet is surprisingly easy to stick to. Without a place to put clothes or much money to spend, I just stopped shopping. And now, when out of necessity I add a new piece to my wardrobe, it feels insanely special. But this is not of the addictive “I need to feel this all the time” quality that could lead to binge shopping, but really more of a wake-up call to make sure ALL of my clothes are pieces that I get really excited about and could become part of my daily uniform. And the “thrill” of going shopping? Well, it’s almost totally gone, and it is liberating.

Despite having successfully made it through more than a year of constant transition, I am so excited to put my clothes on hangers and to be able to take better care of my favorite pieces again. Yet no matter how spacious my new closet will be, I think this accidental experiment in living with less has taught me too many lessons to forget the freedom that comes from being able to fit everything you wear into just one single suitcase.

Over the next couple weeks, I will be relocating to a new city and state! And while I change locales, THIS I WEAR is going to be growing too with lots of new and exciting developments. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram to stay in touch!

 

Related No.4

I took a break from sharing my favorite readings and links around the internet as the new year had everyone off on a slow start. But I’m so happy to see new and exciting discussions on different aspects of ethical fashion popping up and also insanely grateful for the inspiration.

Here are a few things I’m loving lately:

1. Get Inspired by unexpected fashion. I recently attended the 4th Annual Recycled Fashion Show (pictured above) hosted by Bridge House New Orleans. Not only was it fun, but it put a whole new spin on thrift shop style and benefited a very worthy cause.
2.Watch Beth Doane talk about the dirty side of the fashion industry in this TEDxEMU video.
3. Attend Redress Raleigh’s Eco Fashion and Textiles conference from March 22-24 to see local players and industry gamechangers discuss how sustainability and social consciousness is finding its way into the apparel industry.
4. Learn how to properly sew on a button in this adorably quirky video by Eileen Fisher.
5. Love Given Goods, an online store where everything (yes, everything) gives back in one way or another. They’ve truly done a spot-on job of sourcing well-designed products from a wide range of young and growing brands. And well, they’re simply nice people too!

Closet Tour: Kyle Berner, Feelgoodz

This I Wear | Closet Tour: Kyle Berner, Feelgoodz

I first learned of Kyle Berner and his socially conscious flip-flop brand, Feelgoodz, through a recent GOOD article. After I got over the excitement that he was a fellow New Orleans native, I totally identified with the boldness of traveling in South Asia with a single pair of shoes (visiting a temple where you have to leave your shoes outside becomes much riskier!). But once I spoke with Kyle, I learned that having just one pair of shoes isn’t a far stretch from his at-home wardrobe. While none of this was too surprising given that Kyle’s laid-back style and personality is closely tied with the feeling of Feelgoodz, I did start to wonder if he’s onto something: what if we all owned just five t-shirts?

Of what you’re wearing today, what’s the most special piece to you?

My t-shirt. People make fun of me and say that I own a total of five t-shirts and I just rotate them out, which – while I do have more than five t-shirts – I do have 5-7 core t-shirts and they all just happen to be black. And I’m wearing one of those core ones today.

Name three favorite items from your wardrobe that mean something to you or represent your style.

I always say it’s my black American Apparel tee, my jeans, and my Feelgoodz. If you were to see me on any given day, that’s probably what I’m wearing. I literally have two pairs of jeans, but I wear them incessantly.

Once something has ended up in your closet, how long does it stay there for?

Until I just cannot wear it anymore because it’s filled with holes or ripped. I find the things I like and I just stick to it. I know what works for me; so the things that I love, I will wear to pieces. That’s probably why a lot of my friends tell me that I have a total of five t-shirts. I just wear things over and over again.

Kind of like a uniform? Like the Kyle uniform?

Kind of like the Kyle uniform.

If someone looked into your closet, what would they learn about you?

That I like to keep it easy. I’m the epitome of casual. When [someone] gets to know me but maybe has never seen me before, they will not be surprised about what I’m wearing just based upon who I am.

What influenced that?

When I was a child, I didn’t even like to wear shoes. I would go around barefoot for as long as I could. And anytime I’d get new t-shirts, I’d make my mom cut the tags out of the back because they were itchy. I’ve just always wanted to be comfortable and to wear clothes where I felt that I could breathe. I’ve always been the kind of guy that if I feel like I’m confined in any way, that Kyle Berner as a person is compromised.

Does your personal laid-back style influence the brand’s style as well?

I’ve always been a flip-flop sort of guy. It was not difficult for me at all to absolutely love Feelgoodz.

As far as adding new things to your wardrobe, how often do you shop?

I have a favorite t-shirt shop in New Orleans called Dirty Coast. I’ll go there maybe once every six months and buy half a dozen shirts. Other than that, if I’m shopping, it’s by accident. It’s usually like, “Oh my gosh, my jeans ripped and I need a new pair”. So I’ll go in, I know exactly what I’m going to get, I get it, and then I’ll leave. The thought of perusing around a mall sounds like torture.

Unless I’m in some international market, like in Thailand. Like that’s a shopping experience, but it’s so different. It’s a cultural experience more than a shopping experience.

What’s your favorite souvenir you’ve picked up in your travels?

Something that I can either wear or carry with me at all times. So it has to be something small, lightweight, and easy to fit in my pocket or backpack or wear on my wrist. My favorite thing that I ever got was a black wristband that was written in Thai that one of my former students from Thailand gave to me, and I started wearing it in 2007. I didn’t take it off until it literally fell off – like I literally did not take it off until it broke a couple of months ago.

Has your work influenced your style or shopping habits in any way?

It has always made sense to me that if I’m going to sell a product, like flip-flops for example, let me do it in the most responsible way possible and in a way that isn’t exploiting anyone. That just felt natural to me. But since starting the company, Feelgoodz is extremely looped into the conscious market. So as a result of learning about the amazing companies that exist in this space, when I go out to buy something else, I first consider a Rolodex of companies that I’ve come across first, as long as it’s within budgetary reason. But I do that now – that’s a shift. I didn’t always do that, but then I started Feelgoodz and became linked with all these other awesome companies.

Last question! How many days of the year do you wear Feelgoodz flip-flops?

Out of 365, I would say probably 325. If I’m in my apartment, I’m not wearing any shoes. But it’s the vast majority of days that I’m wearing Feelgoodz.

Thanks to Kyle Berner and Jennifer DeSimone of Feelgoodz for making this interview happen. To learn more about Feelgoodz and to make sure you’re in the loop when they launch their brand-new seasonal footwear line, visit their website or follow them on Twitter or Facebook.

(Photos courtesy of Kyle Berner)

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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