Get Your Style Straight

This I Wear | Into Mind WorkbookFinding your personal style is perhaps a lifelong journey, but working through Into Mind’s “Personal Style & The Perfect Wardrobe” workbook was only 5 months long, though it was 4.5 months longer than I expected it would take me.

When this minimalist wardrobe workbook was first released in fall of 2014, I purchased it and shared excitedly about the journey I was going to embark on. But I didn’t realize then that it would take me so long to complete. Nor did I realize it would be so hard. However, now that I’m at a happy place with it, I can tell you that it was worth it.

Some quick context: Anuschka Rees founded and writes a popular blog about creating a minimalist wardrobe, Into Mind. Her posts are expert lessons in garment quality, intentional living, creating a signature look, and so much more. The workbook is no less intensive – each section is an in-depth and reflective exercise to get you closer to finding your personal style and how to manifest it in your wardrobe, but it requires focus and time.

Initially, I found the workbook overwhelming, and I frequently found myself skipping pages after the initial closet dissection and preference finding sections. Yet the further I got into it and the more times I kept coming back to it, I found it easier to answer the questions. In fact, by the time I really had let it settle in (months later), I suddenly had a very focused Pinterest inspiration board that represents my style aspirations, and it felt really easy to explain my style. In “Section 6: Style Concept”, I felt proud to be able to write a single sentence summarizing my style, define the color palette, and identify the essential elements. That might sound silly, but it felt like an achievement.

That said, I don’t think you need to fill out every one of the 85 pages. I also think you should give yourself a long span of time to work on it, knowing that you’ll want to do some work, and then go back to it later to see if your answers hold up.

I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in experimenting with the capsule wardrobe idea that is so popular these days. I would also recommend this to anyone who like me has a disconnect between what they like and what’s in their closet: perhaps you know what you like but still can’t understand why it’s so hard to get dressed in the morning, or you keep buying the same “wrong” thing over and over without realizing it. Or perhaps you have an overflowing closet with many personalities and you’re trying to find the one that feels most right at this point in your life.

If you’re trying to make a wardrobe change and you’re willing to put in the time, I say go for it! Buy the workbook, put a nice printed copy in a binder, and get out your colored pencils and old issues of Vogue. And please tell me how it goes if you try it too.

P.S. Just to be super clear, I paid full-price for the workbook and do not receive any commission if you purchase it. I just think it’s a great tool!

On an unrelated note, I will likely not be posting next week as I’ll be traveling to visit family. See you back here the following week!

Mercury-Inspired Mending

This I Wear | Mercury Mending

Last week, my office was hit with an IT meltdown of epic proportions. It was so epic in fact that I immediately hopped on Google and inquired if Mercury was retrograde. It turned out that not only was Mercury retrograde, but it was actually the first day of this latest period. Since the IT meltdown continues into this week, it’s tempting to avoid certain tasks – like writing, using a computer, or negotiating a lease renewal with your landlord.

I won’t get into the details of Mercury retrograde if you’re unfamiliar with this extremely popular astrological cycle that wins over many a skeptic. However, if you’ve noticed that your technology is on the fritz and your communications with others are a little murky, well, then you already know what it is.

Regardless of whether you believe it, a colleague shared the silver lining of all this with me. Apparently, it is a great time to finish projects rather than start something new. Her way of tying up loose ends was to take on her pile of mending. So instead of venturing out into the cold on a winter weekend day, she stayed in and hand-washed, repaired rips, sewed buttons back on, and finished all of the little things needed to keep the things she loved looking their best. And that, despite the chaos in the heavens, is just a lovely thing to do.

Visit my pinterest board for some mending and repurposing advice or share your favorite resources here. Stay warm, good luck and enjoy putting your sewing kit to good use, wearing freshly fixed clothes, and dropping off those heels that needed polishing and repair to your favorite cobbler!

Water

This I Wear | Water

“Water is the same as the blood in our bodies; stagnation brings on death.” – David James Duncan, DamNation

When I watched the documentary DamNation a few weeks ago, I found myself trying to hide tears from my boyfriend who was sitting next to me on the couch, because I couldn’t really justify why anyone would get emotional about a movie on dams. But there is something undeniably powerful about water. And tears are water after all.

The film, if you haven’t seen it yet, is a moving and stunningly beautiful look at how dams in the US were built to create progress, but now they literally are holding us back and causing more harm than good. From Washington to Maine, the dams highlighted don’t live up to what they promised and have damaged important ecosystems and the inhabiting wildlife. They have taken away livelihoods and sacred Native American grounds. They have created artificial (and under-used) recreation and drowned priceless natural beauty in water.

So by the point in the film when you see a dam exploding open and the water gushing forth, it becomes very easy to get a little gushy yourself. The author David James Duncan so perfectly captured the feeling at that moment in the film of why this liberation feels so vital: “Water is the same as the blood in our bodies; stagnation brings on death.” The release of the water instantly feels like a return to life.

I have never been interested in politics in my life, and I am too embarrassed to tell you the last time I voted, though I can confirm that at present I am registered to vote. But this film was just one more little watery gurgle that now is not the time for inaction or passivity.

Last summer, I realized that at the root of my interest in sustainability is a desire to live a life of kindness and compassion, for other people, for other living things on the earth, and for nature itself. It just so happens I’ve found my outlet to contribute to this through my work and lifestyle centered on sustainability. It’s just made sense to me. And like a healthy river, the fresh flow of life is always expanding my understanding of this.

This year, I am so excited to see where THIS I WEAR is headed. We’ll be turning three over the summer, and I’ve already got a few months’ worth of post ideas lined up. I am taking my cue from water and going with the flow, perhaps headed into uncharted waters but always embracing the vitality and direction the flow offers.

In fashion, we are more connected to water than we think: it ensures the growth of the natural fibers we weave into fabric and allows the colors we love to adhere. It cleans our clothes when they are dirty, and often carries away bits and pieces of our clothes into the oceans.

I hope you’ll be inspired by this flow and the opportunity to bring new life where there has been stagnation, to move beyond just changing the way we shop and dress but reconsidering how we live. This is the year we get closer to a more sustainable vision for fashion, and it’s going to take everyone to get us there. Luckily, we are not alone.

“Here is the river flowing, so great and so fast. There will be those that are so afraid that they’ll try to hold onto the shore. They are being torn apart and will suffer greatly. Know that the river has its destination. Let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river and keep our heads above water. See who else is there with you.” – Hopi Proverb

Want more? Patagonia’s campaign connected to the film, “Crackdown on Deadbeat Dams”, is in its final push, so watch the film on Netflix and then head over to Change.org to sign the petition if you feel moved to act.

[Images, left to right: still from DamNation by Travis Rummel, Charlize Theron for Vogue by Annie Leibovitz]

My Closet: The Hiking Boots

This I Wear | My Closet: The Hiking Boots

Are you surviving the fresh start of the new year? I hope we’ll all go a little easy on ourselves, especially with New Years resolutions. Though even without specific goals, the idea of a blank slate can be intimidating. Who will we be this year?

Waking up after no sleep, groggily making tea, brushing teeth, going through the motions, just like last year, I am back in my morning routine. But even in these seemingly thoughtless moments, I sense something bigger off in the distance that my groggy self says to look into or merely acknowledge later. Later. Big dreams have no place in small moments, we tell ourselves.

A pair of brand new snow boots I couldn’t decide whether to keep or return (am I someone who wears fuzzy things?) that was made for icy days like this. I can’t decide. I slip on my hiking boots instead, remembering how they kept my feet dry in shallow pools of water trekked through – yet unworn since the final hiking trip of summer. I’m already late and this back and forth will make my miss the train. I keep the hiking boots on.

Out the door, and I’m walking down the street. I catch a glimpse of my feet. Lightness. Strength. I walked at least fifty miles in these boots in 2014. Fifty miles, and probably more. I know who I will be this year, I had just forgotten for a moment. And though the words escape me, the way I feel in these boots is exactly the way I want to be this year.

Who knew that these boots had that kind of magic?

Who will you be this year? How will you remind yourself, even in the small moments? What will pull you back in when you’ve drifted from your path?

Onward

This I Wear | Onward

I love the fresh start of a new year, and this year in particular, there were so many things that I was glad to leave behind – probably more things than I could say that about in quite awhile and many of which left me exhausted enough to where writing wasn’t in the cards for the last few weeks! Gratitude, possibly the most overused word of 2014, seems like a burden more than a blessing after such a strange year for me. But actually once I gave it a moment of thought, I realized I was grateful for something this year. Not little “write a thank you note” level of grateful, but more like exploding fireworks levels of grateful.

What could inspire such levels of gratitude?

Well, this year, I’m grateful for what others might mistakenly call competition.

As I look back over 2014, I am filled with gratitude for something that I don’t talk about enough here: the other amazing writers/thinkers/doers that are making sustainable and ethical fashion and more thoughtful living and consuming an accessible and easier way of being for truly everyone.

I’ve written about it before, but for a long time I felt alone in this – looking for sustainable and responsible alternatives to what I was finding in stores as well as thinking differently about buying things. There have been other small movements – trends in buying secondhand and vintage clothes, the DIY movement, etc – but I’ve been waiting for the movement that emphasized quality and responsibility without compromising on aesthetics. The movement that was more about a lifestyle change than a small shift.

And looking back over this year, I feel like it’s arrived.

So for my moment of gratitude for 2014, I want to personally thank the people whom I think are doing an amazing job in this area – some of whom I know personally, and others I have only admired from afar; some of whom I agree with completely, and others that bring a different perspective but share a similar vision. These are my go-to visionaries and I am so grateful for what they’re adding to the conversation.

Susie, Style Bubble – for introducing ideas of sustainability in a brand new way to her fashion-focused audience. While the ideas might not seem revolutionary to those of us who have been exposed to sustainability for awhile now, Susie’s coverage of these ideas feels truly groundbreaking given her high fashion audience and her voice in the industry. I’ve become a huge fan over the last year.
Vanessa Friedman, NYTimes – for being bold enough to use an incredibly powerful position to shake some shit up in the fashion industry and question fashion’s seemingly untouchable modus operandi.
Bruno Pieters, Honest By – for being the best example of what real transparency is, and bringing authenticity to a historically inauthentic industry
Natalie, Alabama Chanin – for teaching everyone what’s actually possible for a fashion company to do. From fair wages to growing your own organic cotton, it might sound easier than it is in practice, but Natalie has shown us it’s not as impossible as it seems.
Danielle Vermeer – for her incredible passion for connecting people in sustainability
Anuschka, Into Mind – for breaking minimalism down for us so that simplicity is suddenly accessible
Courtney, Be More with Less (whom I recently discovered) – for showing that minimalism isn’t about stripping away everything, but bringing more meaning to what you have
The Ethical Writers Coalition – for taking the competition out of fashion blogging and showing that making eco-fashion the only kind of fashion is going to be a group effort.
Rita, The American Edit – for using her background in manufacturing to introduce us to the brands and people who are actually doing “Made in US” the right way. I’m not a “Made In USA” adherent but I really appreciate Rita’s perspective and wisdom.
Shannon Whitehead – honestly is there anything this woman is NOT doing? From teaching startups how to manufacture responsibly in the US to teaching us all more about sustainability in fashion, Shannon is killing IT on the ethical fashion education front and we’re all reaping the rewards.

This is a big list, but I would encourage all of you to check out these individuals and their work and be inspired. I think fashion is seen as a competitive field, and maybe blogging is too. But when I think about sustainability and the shared vision of a world that will be here and livable for future generations, there is no place for competition, only collaboration.

And I am so incredibly grateful and inspired by the people who each day use their voices and influence to promote a different vision, a different world where people are more happy, more content, living in sync and with respect for our earth, and not drowning in stuff.

Photo Sources (clockwise from top left): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

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