Style Story: Yvette

This I Wear | Style Story: My Mom

This past Christmas Day, my mom and I found an hour to sit down for a style interview. While she wore her Christmas apron and things cooked away in the kitchen, I asked so many questions about her style that really revealed more questions I had about who she was before I was born.

With family, we often take for granted that we know them so well! My mom and I share a birthday (it’s today!) and have always been very close, but there were still stories she shared, especially about her time growing up in New Orleans, that I had never heard before. While I had to trim A LOT out to post it here, I hope our conversation will inspire you to do the same with someone you love.

Happy birthday, Mom! I’m so glad I get to spend our day together this year.

Here’s the interview…

Name 2-3 of your favorite items from your wardrobe.
Two of them would be scarves. The one that I brought back from Hong Kong for my mother. I bought it, thinking of myself, but then I thought, “Well, she would probably like this too.” And then after a few years, she gave it to me saying she had never worn it, why didn’t I take it back, and I was glad to get it.

Do you wear it often?
It’s a big scarf, so it really takes the place of a jacket. Same as that Hermes scarf, that would be another one.

What Hermes scarf?
The one that I got for $9 at the consignment store.

I went to that little consignment store in Covington, which has since closed. I saw this scarf on the counter, and I liked the colors in it. And the lady said, “Oh, I just got that in. I’m going to look it up and price it.” So then I found a few things and went back to the counter, and when I looked at the scarf again, I saw the Hermes signature on it. I’m just staring and holding my breath and asked “Did you get a chance to price this scarf out yet?” “Oh, let me see. $9.” [laughing] I said, “Okay, put this with the other things that I’m getting today.” And I went back to work and looked it up on eBay, and they were going for $325! So all those people at work are after me, “Well, you’re going to sell it, right?” I said, “Absolutely not.” I would never go out and pay $300 for an Hermes scarf, but if I could get one for $9, I’m going to wear it and enjoy it. So they all think I’m crazy.

Any other favorite items?
Well, the problem is, the things that I really love like that, I almost tend to protect. It’s a shame to do it, because I do enjoy wearing them so much.

I feel like I want to dress for the way I want people to perceive me. So for work, I want them to perceive me as a professional woman. I would say one piece would be that black-and-white houndstooth wool jacket that I have that I mix with different black skirts or pants. It makes me feel really good when I wear it. It makes me feel accomplished, like I look good, more confident.

When you look back, is there a favorite outfit that you used to have that you wish you still had now or that you have fond memories of?
I was just thinking of this Madras outfit I had. It was a blouse and a matching skirt. Usually, you think of Madras as being brighter colors, but this was a very pale, bland yellow and off-white. I think I remember it because the comment that [our neighbor] Jeannie made when I was wearing it, saying, “Oh, I can’t believe you found [panty] hose to match that outfit.” And I said, “Jeannie, I’m not wearing stockings. My legs are just that pale.” But it was just a comfortable outfit.

I don’t know why, out of all the outfits I’ve ever had, that would pop into my head, except like I said, because there was something associated with it. I wore it to see President Reagan when he came to Lafreniere Park on a field trip with [my sons].

When did you learn to sew?
I was around eight, I think, when I first played, at least, on my mom’s sewing machine, and maybe nine or ten when [my sister] Lynn and I took sewing lessons at the Singer Sewing Center together. I made a shirtwaist dress. Lynn never finished hers, but I actually wore mine.

How has your style changed over different life eras?
All I remember from high school are those gray wool pleated skirts and the white blouses. I do remember early high school, ninth grade or so, we were still sewing, and that’s when bell bottom pants were in. My grandparents were taking me on vacation with them over to the Gulf coast, and I made a pair to wear for the trip.

I remember also ninth grade or so, my parents used to buy us an outfit for Christmas. And that year, we went shopping and bought a dress with a coat, really kind of Jackie O. looking, you know? In those days, number one, you wore stockings, and there were no pantyhose. To get rid of lumps, you wore a girdle. So my mother had me in a girdle.

After graduating from uniforms, what did you wear in college once you had to figure out what to wear every day?
We would go to All American Jeans because there were no women’s jeans at the time, only men’s jeans. They were all hip hugger style, so you didn’t have to worry for a man’s shape versus a woman’s shape having the waist so much smaller. My friend, Mary, made me a macramé belt in blue and pink, so I wore my macramé belt with my hip hugger blue jeans and a polo shirt for class.

But then after you dad and I got married and I was working, I really admired my mother-on-law’s clothes.

At that time in your life, did you feel stylish?
Yes, I did. And you can see how a lot of people dress, a lot of people just don’t have clothes sense, it seems like, or they look sloppy. I just liked to always feel like I was put together; things match or went together, that it was intentional.

Do you feel someone taught you how to do that or it was just something you knew?
Probably just watching [my mom] and [mother-in-law].

Did your mom have style?
I remember being in high school, and we went to D.C. when my dad had to go for work. We drove up there in the station wagon, me, [my sisters] Cindy and Lynn, and my parents. Mom had made this pink shift dress because she had to go to some evening thing with Dad. Just an A-line shift and pink marabou feathers around the bottom.

But they put it in a garment bag on top of the car to travel, and it didn’t get wet or anything, although it was snowing. It just got dirty, just from air going through it or something, with streaks of black.

Poor thing after all that work! I don’t remember what she did, if she found somebody to clean it for her. But nice and something special for an occasion that she would look dressy in.

Did she care about her appearance?
Oh, definitely. Her mother used to wear housedresses all the time, with the stockings rolled below her knees, [wearing] a lot of the dresses like you would see from the 30s, where the belt matched the dress.

So I don’t know where my mother got her style so much. Not that my grandmother didn’t look nice, but I think my mother went a little farther and cared more about how she looked. My dad never went out without a jacket and a tie. He always dressed up to go to church. So it’s not just her, the whole family would look nice and dress up for an occasion.

Is that the difference between the time periods though?
I think so. My dad told me that about his father who never went out without a coat and tie. That was a sign of the times. So things have gotten more casual. People are not dressing up so much, so I guess I’m really a throwback, but I like doing it. I feel better about myself when I’m nicely dressed, so I’ll keep doing it.

I remember Patty, who lived next-door, and she kept a lipstick in a drawer by the front door. Whenever that doorbell rang, she would whip that lipstick out before she would open the door.

Do you have something you can’t leave the house without wearing like that?
Earrings and mascara; definitely mascara because I have no eyelashes. I need to go put some makeup on right now, even though I can’t see myself. Because I know I’m not wearing makeup, I feel like I’m missing something. Not the real me.

What would you say have been the significant life moments that have influenced your style?
Going to work in a professional office in downtown New Orleans.

In that time period when you were transitioning back to an office (after running your own business), you were also in the divorce process. Do you feel like that significantly impacted your style?
Yes, I think it did, because actually, when I finally said I’ve had enough, I felt empowered. For so long I had just kind of blended into the background. Just don’t make waves. At the point I stood up and said, “No, I’m not living like this anymore. Yeah, I’m ready for a change.” I guess that’s why I like that power business suit kind of a look, you know? Obviously, you can choose what statements you’re trying to make when you select your clothes.

How has cost influenced how you shop? On the one hand, if you know how to sew, you kind of know what things are worth or that you could make it yourself.
You know I’ve always let cost dictate a lot of my wardrobe too, which is probably why I sew a lot. But I always managed to find nice clothes at a price I was willing to pay. So I tend to invest money in something like a well-tailored jacket as opposed to a skirt because I could whip up a skirt. I would invest in pants that fit well because I know that’s difficult to accomplish.

But cost matters, as I said, because I like variety. I don’t like to invest too much in one piece. I won’t buy a $300 coat; I’ll wait till it’s on sale for $125 because I know they do go down too. Everything eventually is marked down, or if I miss it, I miss it.

What’s one thing, regardless of cost, that you wish that you could add to your closet?
I tend to stay away from everyday clothing that has to be dry cleaned, because I just don’t like to pay for dry cleaning. So I would add things that were dry clean only. Maybe some cashmere sweaters, something I really liked. They’re beautiful, but I can buy merino wool for much less. I’ve always shopped price.

Who taught you that?
Well, even growing up, we just didn’t have that much money. Then after I was married, it was still the same situation. There wasn’t that much money to invest in clothes, or maybe just because the bargain mentality, that it’s got to be a bargain for me to buy it.

You maybe mentioned it already, but what was one of the best deals you ever got?
Yeah, definitely, that scarf.

Is that part of the appeal of that scarf, that it was such an insane deal?
Part of the appeal of that scarf was that it’s the Courtyard at Versailles, so it was the memory attached to that trip that we took, so that was a large part of it too. Maybe if it had been something else, it wouldn’t have been quite as attractive, but that’s all built into that too. The memory.

Thank you.
You’re welcome.

Here’s my challenge to you now: ask someone you love to sit down with you and let you interview them. Consider recording it (I use iPhone voice memos!) so you can share with other family or just listen again later. If you want help holding yourself accountable, share in the comments below who you want to interview and by when! I promise it’s worth it.


Buzz Word: Transparency

This I Wear | Buzz Word: Transparency

It is ironic that “transparency” has become, well, not so transparent as the fashion industry isn’t being very upfront in how it is defining the word. And in honor of transparency’s definition – “frankness, openness, candor” – I’m going to try to stick to those qualities as I explain this dilemma.

Frankness. Transparency is interesting. It inspires a level of trust and it feels new and fresh, especially in an industry that is so mysterious. It’s not just fashion that has a burgeoning fixation on the idea of transparency. I’ve been listening to the podcast “StartUp”, which is exciting and innovative because never before has anyone been so honest and open about the process of starting a company. It’s easy to understand why this hasn’t been done before. It makes you really vulnerable to share the proud moments and the not-so-proud moments. From a listener’s perspective, it feels like there is nothing withheld. But that’s not true – there is editing, there is waiting for the right time to share sensitive information, and there is strategy, even if it’s all well-intentioned.

Openness. The fixation on transparency is likely a result of the Internet age, where we expect all information to be available at all times. We don’t expect privacy in our own lives, and we have the same “open book” expectations of companies now. This is a great thing, but we need to acknowledge that transparency, in the context of the fashion industry, can mean vastly different things. Companies who claim transparency might be open about some aspects of their business but have no intention of sharing other aspects.

Candor. Transparency could very easily become a meaningless buzzword like “heritage” or “natural”, but there’s still time to stop it from the clutches of marketing. And we should infuse it with real meaning because a movement towards greater transparency in the fashion industry is a win for everyone.

So how is the fashion industry defining transparency?

I think it boils down to four key concepts:

1. Transparency of Pricing – Yes, Everlane claims to be transparent on where their products are made, but what they were really founded on was transparency of pricing. Their claim to fame is that you aren’t paying the markup of traditional retail, and they transparently transfer the savings to you. Later, Honest By used this idea of transparency of pricing to share the exact cost of every button, zipper and fabric that went into the product as well as how much was paid in wages. The idea is to truly show what the item is worth and what it costs to make a responsible high quality product with fair wages.

2. Transparency of Supply Chain – Nike does this best with an interactive map of all of their suppliers (pictured above), so anyone can access the name, address, and details (such as number of workers) for any Nike supplier. This invites activist organizations to hold Nike accountable to its promises of social responsibility and encourages collaboration on factory initiatives with other brands working in the same factories.

3. Transparency of Materials/Ingredients – While this isn’t as common in the fashion industry, there are some great examples in the growing safe beauty product movement around disclosing all ingredients. Beautycounter was founded on this idea, and brands like Tata Harper allow you to trace the ingredients of your product back to the farm. In the apparel industry, Icebreaker allows you to put in the “Baacode” of your purchased garment to trace where the merino wool was sourced and under what conditions. I think this category will grow rapidly in the fashion industry as well as demands for disclosing chemicals used in the dyeing and finishing processes increases.

4. Transparency of Values – This is where it gets murky. There are a lot of great companies founded on strong values that ask for your trust based on those values. Companies like vegan handbag company Matt & Nat or artisan-made shoe company Nisolo claim transparency as one of their core values. While they don’t have complex supply chain maps like Nike or a breakdown of how much they paid workers, there is a clear message that the company is trying to work in the most responsible way possible and will share as much with you as their small staff can possibly do in their limited time. It’s just not always clear how they are sharing it. But there are other brands in this category that maybe we shouldn’t be trusting, so we have to go with our gut a bit here.

Now that your head is spinning you might ask: If transparency is this complicated, why push for it?

Because transparency isn’t just good because you as the consumer know your product was made in a way that you feel ok about. Transparency done well has the opportunity to change the way fashion companies do business – from how brands could collaborate together on worker safety and factory remediation to how a brand makes both financial and responsibility decisions. It’s a win-win for all when companies get a little vulnerable with their peers, partners and customers. Smart people like the founders behind Project Just are on this already, and there’s room for more innovators too.

How do you define transparency? What do you expect from a brand who claims to be transparent? Share your ideas in the comments and include any brands that you think are doing transparency the right way.

Pictured: Screenshot of Nike’s Global Manufacturing Map.

It’s Not Your Sweater’s Fault Winter Is Terrible

This I Wear | Don't Give Up On Winter Just Yet

It’s always at the end of a season that I start to hate everything in my closet. Nothing feels new or exciting! I’m so over it all. And winter is the worst season for this feeling, of course, because I’m as tired of the cold as I am of every sweater in my closet.

But we are resilient! We can turn moments of desperation into moments of great creativity! As I remember New York still being cold in April of last year, I know I’m going to have to put up with my winter weather clothing for longer than I would like. To make this easier and more exciting for us all, here is a little DIY guide on embellishing a sweater from our costumer-in-residence, Lisa. Whether you just need a little extra sparkle or you’re hiding a hole or stain, a few beads and sequins can make an old sweater new again.

Here’s the how-to from Lisa:

Materials and Tools
A vintage, thrifted or well-loved sweater
Small seed beads
Short bugle beads (like these vintage ones!)
Beading needles

This I Wear | Sweater DIY

(1) First, lay out your sweater flat, and start playing with the design of your beads and sequins. For my pattern, I chose something relatively easy. Starting with my sequins – I chose metallic blue sequins with a center hole – I placed 4 sequins on each side of my cardigan’s neckline, about an inch apart. Then I chose how my bugle beads (the long, skinny beads) will be arranged around the center sequin. I chose to go with 5 silver bugle beads fanning out from the middle of the sequin.

(2) Thread your beading needle and knot the two ends together. With thread folded on the double, start sewing on the backside of the sweater by making a stitch horizontally through the sweater immediately behind where your first sequin will be: start from the back so that your knot is on the inside of the sweater and make a small stitch to the front of the sweater and back in. This gives a good foundation for stitching and means the knot will not pull through.

(3) Now point your needle through the center of the sequin and pull through to the front of the sweater. Add 1 small seed bead to your needle and let it slide down the thread to meet the sequin. Without going through the seed bead, go back through the hole of the sequin to the backside of the sweater.

(4) Next, start attaching the bugle beads. Push your needle back up through the front side of the sweater where you’d like the bead to go. Then slide a bead on the needle and go immediately back through to the inside side of the sweater. Repeat until all the bugle beads in this cluster are secured.

(5) To complete a cluster (or once you’ve run out of thread), tie off your thread by stitching horizontally on the inside of the sweater and (6) double knotting the thread. Cut the thread, leaving ¼” of extra thread above the knot.

Repeat all steps until the neckline (or anywhere else you choose) has been fully embellished, completing one cluster of beads and sequins at a time. The pattern does not have to be perfect, as mine clearly displays, to turn out beautifully. These steps work well for anything you are looking to embellish, from clutches to collars to sleeve cuffs.

Here’s to hoping you and your sweater survive this winter together!

Launch a Sustainable Fashion Company with Factory45

This I Wear | Announcing Factory45

It’s a two post sort of week, and for a very good reason. I’m really excited to share that Factory45, an online accelerator program for budding entrepreneurs who want to start a sustainable apparel company, is now accepting applications through March 2nd.

Factory45 was founded by Shannon Whitehead to help entrepreneurs with an idea for an apparel company and a passion for ethical, made-in-USA, sustainable fashion bring their idea to life and to market. The 4-month long online program connects participants to suppliers and manufacturers and teaches them how to raise capital to fund production.

It’s ideal for those who have a great idea for any type of sewn product but haven’t yet worked out all the logistics of sourcing, producing and financing.

I know each one of us has had to compromise on our values when we’ve made a fashion purchase. Finding something you love to wear that is also ethically produced, both in terms of human rights and the environment, is not easy just yet. But why wait any longer for someone else to do the work for you? If you’ve got a great idea for a product you want to see made ethically, maybe this program is just the boost you need to take action.

That’s not to say that applying to (and being accepted into) the Factory45 program isn’t a commitment. For the 4-month program and lifetime access, you’ll be investing just under $3000 in your idea. But if you’ve ever tried to go from an idea to a finished product (and do it sustainably!), you’ll know this program is going to pay for itself. And luckily, Shannon outlines every tiny detail of the program, including the curriculum, upfront so you know exactly what you’re signing up for and what you can expect from the program.

If you’re serious (or at least curious) about the Factory45 program, head to the website and start perusing. Just don’t forget to apply by March 2nd! As soon as I get the right idea, I might be joining you as well!

Full Disclosure: The above links to Factory45 are affiliate links. If you apply to and end up joining the program, I may receive a commission. If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know honesty is the name of my game and I only make endorsements that I truly believe in! (Ask Shannon about the fan mail I’ve sent her!) My promise: I will always let you know when I use an affiliate link and I will always use any money earned to keep this site going.

[Photo courtesy of Factory45]

My Closet: The Mardi Gras Bunny

This I Wear | The Mardi Gras Bunny

My grandmother has been unwell. I flew down to Dallas to visit her last weekend – hence the skipped week here. I could have posted last week, since I was just away for a few days, but my gut knew I would be exhausted when I came back, which I was.

The morning after I returned home, I woke up and instinctively put on the bunny pendant that my grandmother and grandfather gave me as a little girl. I think I was around five years old when I received it from what I’ve been told. I never understood why I had it when I was growing up, because my little sister was obsessed with bunnies. I actually still don’t know why it’s mine.

The bunny was designed by a well-known New Orleans-based jewelry artist, Mignon Faget, and it was given out as a Krewe gift one year for Mardi Gras. A krewe is a dues-paying “club”, and it often involves a ball and sometimes a parade during Mardi Gras season in New Orleans. My grandfather had been part of a krewe, and received the gift of the bunny likely at a ball, and then passed it on to me.

For years, it was on a pale pink thin ribbon. Now it lives on a silver chain, and I occasionally wear it. Yet wearing it each day since I returned, I feel like I’m sending my grandmother strength and love, even if my mind is required elsewhere.

It’s not easy to see someone you love unwell. My grandmother danced me to sleep when I was little, paid for my piano lessons from kindergarten through high school, and bought me Limited Too chenille sweaters and plaid kilts at the height of the Clueless popularity when they were too expensive for my parents to afford. She taught me to love dressing up and that lemon juice and sunshine is all you need for some blonde highlights (which my mom did not appreciate).

I’m hoping there’s still time for me to learn more from her. For now, I’m sending her love and hope you’ll send her some well wishes too! And coincidentally, yesterday was Mardi Gras.

Do you have a favorite thing that keeps you connected and close to a family member or friend? I want to hear your story too! Share in the comments or tweet @ThisIWear.

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