Tagged: how to shop

Find the Perfect Gift

This I Wear  | Find the Perfect Holiday Gift

While Black Friday is not my jam, I totally get that is a tempting way to kick off a season of holiday shopping. I’ve already started my holiday shopping list, and I’m on the search for the perfect gifts for my friends and family. The lure of a good sale means it might start sooner rather than later. Even if you haven’t thought much about holiday giving yet, I’m going to guess that Black Friday and its friends (Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday) are on your radar. (Wait, is there something on Sunday or is it truly a day of rest?)

So before we start whipping out cash, I thought I’d come up with a little (intentional) holiday shopping guide to help you stay focused and mindful when shopping this season. And not so coincidentally, I think it will help you buy the best gifts yet!

Here’s how to do it:

1. Make a list. Yeah, yeah, I know this sounds boring, but making a list ahead of time, especially when you’re shopping for gifts for others, is a great idea. I LOVE gift giving and I find my list making process is actually more of a brainstorming session. I typically take a few minutes per person on my list to think about what might bring a smile to him or her. Sometimes this is buying something new, but often giving them something of my own, my time or an experience emerges as the best gift. The thinking about what would bring them joy makes the process so much more fun AND it helps keep me focused if and when I do shop.

Quick tips: I actually make my list in a Google doc! This makes it easy if I do spontaneous shopping since I can access the doc on my phone and remember who and what I’m shopping for. And most recently, I’ve started a “secret” board on Pinterest where I save gift ideas for specific people year-round. That way, I already have a load of ideas by the time I need a gift.

2. You have to love it! This is my year-round rule taught to me at a formative age by my Aunt Lynn. Just because something is on sale is not a reason to “love” it. Take a step back or walk away for a moment to really envision whether this is the right thing (the thing you’ll keep and care for as long as possible) for you or a loved one and not just more stuff.

3. Shop small. Buying from a local craft fair, a small business, an Etsy shop, or even a used bookstore is an opportunity to have a conversation with the person most connected to what you’re buying. When you get a chance to ask questions and hear the story of what you’re purchasing, you’re able to share that story with the gift recipient. And I think we all know that the things that have a memorable story usually end up as our most prized treasures.

4. No more stuff. Just to reiterate this because I’ve already touched on it, but how can we steer clear of just more things that pile up in our homes? And it’s actually related to that Gifting 101 question: is this something I personally like or is this something they will truly use and enjoy? Keep the other person in mind and give them something they’ll really use, rather than just something you like. Don’t know what they love? Don’t guess! Gift certificates are awesome to avoid the stuff trap, and a great bottle of locally brewed hard cider or some homemade Christmas cookies can be even better.

5. Enjoy shopping. Yes, you read that right! If you decide to shop, I want you to have fun! Shopping for others can be such a joyful experience. Don’t let the holiday shopping madness get you down. Take things at your own pace, make a day of it, stop for a cup of hot chocolate and give yourself time to be thoughtful about gifts. The more thoughtfulness and love that goes into what you buy (whether that gift is the perfect responsibly made thing or whatever), the more likely it is that your recipient will love it as much as you do. And I think you could argue that something that is well-loved, used and kept for the long haul is better at this point than an artisan-made thingamabob that is never touched.

What are your holiday shopping tips? Share them here! And if you’re the enlightened Buddha thinking you are so beyond shopping, I highly recommend checking out The Center for the New American Dream’s “Simplify the Holidays” campaign. I’m super digging their calendar with daily suggestions on celebrating the holidays without the stuff.

[Image via here / original here ]

In and Out: October 2014

This I Wear | In and Out October 2014

I recently went on a shopping “spree”, which for me means I bought three very well-researched items in one afternoon. It felt extravagant. As I walked home with my unusually “full” bag of goodies, I had the idea of sharing what truly comes in and out of my wardrobe and apartment in a given month to be even more transparent about my relationship with stuff.

My list would include anything I acquire that is for me and anything that I give away, whether by sharing, donation, recycling, etc. I use the word “acquire” to make sure to capture everything, whether it’s gifted to me or bought or found. The exceptions: the gifts I’ve purchased for others because they go instantly in and out (and I don’t want to give away surprises) and groceries or perishables because they don’t stick around for long either.

This felt really intriguing and rebellious. I can appreciate good “wish” and “want” lists, but they feel so unconnected to reality. A wishlist just creates in us a constant sense of envy and feeling like we have to catch up. But the nature of a wishlist is that it is things not owned yet – it doesn’t necessarily represent what a blogger can afford or that they’re willing to put their money where their link is. But what are they willing to really get behind enough to purchase?

At the other end of the spectrum is that terrifying trend of shopping “hauls” where people just buy loads of stuff and then show it all off. The emphasis is on quantity and the search for a deal. It is possibly one of the scariest things you can watch on YouTube.

And finally, nowhere to be found is talk of  what people dispose.

So I thought I’d just do a coming clean post to share what I stand behind, where I’m imperfect, and how I acquire and share, even down to the price. I hope you’ll not only tell me what you think but consider making one of these lists for yourself over the course of a month. It’s amazing to see how much comes in and out of our lives.

Bare Minerals Mascara, $18.
– Alternative Apparel Ecofleece sweatpants, $55. (*Though I wish they were more specific about the eco fibers in this blend.)
Fabriano EcoQua spiral bound squared notebook, $4.40. I am obsessed with these and buy a new one every few months when I’ve filled up the previous one. I just learned from their website that they also print Euros and have lots of cool responsible practices.
– Two pairs of sunglasses: Persol, $70, Cole Haan, $20 (bought at a discount department store). I tried on every pair at Warby Parker, but I ended up returning the pair I purchased because I just didn’t love them. Instead I had fun shopping for the first time in forever while out with a friend and got these two, which I love wearing.
Mercado Global clutch. It was a gift from their recent fundraiser event, but I made a donation after because honestly I know how much work goes into these artisan-made bags and I couldn’t accept it for “free”.
– Four sweaters and t-shirt dress from EILEEN FISHER that are mostly organic cotton and organic linen, purchased through the employee benefit program. At least one or two sweaters will become gifts, but this organic cotton sweater is definitely staying with me and I’ve already been wearing it nonstop.
– Signed copy of “Worn Stories” by Emily Spivack, $25, at the one and only Strand Bookstore.

– A big bag of donations to Goodwill, accumulated over many months, which included two pairs of jeans, a few accessories, two pairs of shoes, and odds and ends.
– A few tops and cold weather clothing given to visiting family members who never bring enough layers when they come North!

P.S. In doing this exercise, I literally sat down with my credit card bill and went through where my money went this month. And while I’m really excited about all of the above – no shoppers remorse here – I felt all warm and fuzzy when I thought about two purchases this month that not surprisingly had nothing to do with owning anything. One was a spontaneous after work cup of hot chocolate at the coziest café, which I enjoyed solo and could feel my heart fill with happiness. The second was a proper afternoon tea with some of my favorite people on a recent Sunday, having real conversations over cucumber sandwiches. Pure heaven. I will throw my money at those experiences any day of the week.

My Closet: The Lone Blue Jeans

This I Wear | The Lone Blue Jeans

I only have one pair of blue jeans that I wear regularly. There were two other pairs I had been clinging to – one very old and worn, the other fairly new but never loved – that I finally pulled out of the drawer and put in my donation pile where they are currently still sitting. (We’ll see if they stay there.) And then there was that pair that came and went.

I wear my blue jeans at least twice a week, except in the summer. And I’ve done so for the two years since I bought them for less than $35 at a charity sale where clothes were donated nearly new from movie wardrobes (thank you sister in the movie industry!). They were a pair of fancy J Brand skinny jeans and fit perfectly even though I had no real or easy way of trying them on before purchase. This pair of jeans and I have been through a lot together since we found each other – the good (our first “couples” photo) and the bad (a very rough Northeastern winter).

The tricky thing about having only one pair of blue jeans, though, is that they own you a bit too much. You’re so overly dependent on them to solve everything for you that if something happens to them, you’d be lost. Clothing should have power but not that much.

And this is the point that is sadly funny to me. I started writing this post last week, only to put on my one lovely pair of blue jeans over the weekend to find a sizable rip in the lower butt area. So this became a story of both learning how to repair ripped jeans on my own, and also a story of needing to expedite a second pair of jeans, so I can make the original pair last longer by alternating wears.

Before this rip, part of me worried that if I got a new pair, would I still love and depend on the existing one quite so much? I don’t want to foolishly give in to “new-ness”.

But after carefully ironing on an adhesive patch and then hand-sewing the ripped area for extra reinforcement (with the help of Youtube videos on “how to repair denim”), I got a good close look at my jeans and those two years of wear are showing from the seams to the color. So I have officially decided that having two pairs of blue jeans is not an extravagance; it’s just a reflection of my lifestyle and how often I wear jeans. I’m not suddenly not a minimalist if I own two pairs of blue jeans. (Thanks Kate Arends for confirming that!)

I may have also been putting off this inevitable moment because my philosophy on shopping for jeans is that you can’t just go shopping, looking for anything and just stumble on the perfect pair of jeans. You have to go jeans shopping and you can’t look at anything else. Seriously. Because buying jeans requires trying on as many as possible to find the right fit because you never know what might be the perfect rise, fade, cut, etc. No distractions from dresses or cute earrings allowed. That kind of shopping almost needs to be scheduled on your calendar. It requires commitment. It also sounds exhausting since my shopping stamina is close to non-existent.

I’m trying to make this an easy decision though, and I’ve been thinking about investing in a pair of Imogene + Willie jeans, made in Nashville and definitely made to last. One of my favorite parts about the company is they have a limited number of cuts and fabrics, so the decision is much more simple than going to a department or denim store with a million styles. Yet at $200+, they are nearly six times more expensive than the pair I wear now.

And while that’s a big difference, I’m probably going to buy a pair for two reasons. First, if you think about $200 for a pair of jeans in terms of cost per wear, it is not an unreasonable amount of money. Secondly, more and more, I feel that buying clothes from responsible and thoughtful companies, especially smaller ones, is as much an investment in their success as it is an investment in my wardrobe. I’m not just paying them for my jeans but I’m thanking them for giving people great jobs, quality jeans, and a role model of how to do business responsibly and with kindness. And it just so happens that I’d get to have a beautiful pair of jeans for expressing my gratitude. It feels like I’m paying it forward and that feels pretty good.

I’ll report back once I’ve found the lucky new pair.

What are your thoughts on denim? How do you shop for jeans? How many pairs do you have? How many pairs of those do you actually wear?

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.

Wardrobe Blues

This I Wear | Wardrobe Blues

I am not a morning person. I can be, but it is not my default setting. But for the past few months, I have become more unpleasant because instead of the total quiet I typically require to adjust to the new day, I’ve filled my morning air with expletives as I attempt to find a decent outfit in my wardrobe.

Granted, getting dressed when it’s yet another cold day becomes repetitive. However, the real struggle is feeling like myself when I put on my clothes. Even more of a challenge is feeling beautiful in those clothes.

This is not the story I intended to tell when I began my blog a year and a half ago. And I’m slightly embarrassed how often I feel compelled to write on this topic, but I thought I’d share where I’m at, because I have a feeling that I’m not the only one.

Right now, I have a list of several key pieces that are missing from my wardrobe and/or pieces that would make a big difference. They include:
– leather work-appropriate handbag
– black fitted blazer
– white blouse
– white jeans
– black ballet flats
– sandals to replace these (RIP after the India trip)

And beyond the specifics, I’m keeping my eye out for:
– feminine skirts
– easy dresses that keep me looking put together
– fun colorful and/or printed shoes since most of my wardrobe is black and gray (and will stay that way because of where I work)

But each of these items feels overwhelming, not just because of the cost or how picky I am with design and fit, but simply finding an option that works within my values. I have yet to find a store or brand that fits me perfectly AND meets my standards for values and quality.

When I first wrote the list of “would-helps” for my wardrobe many months ago, the top priority was a work backpack since my hiking-friendly backpack kept my back comfortable during the commute but also helped me look like a college student at work. It took me approximately six months to make a decision. Six months! I ended up going with the “perfect” Tumi backpack that fits like a glove on my petite frame (and will therefore keep my spine healthy!) and is built to last. But it took a long time for me to get there, because I kept thinking there must be a better option out there. And in the meantime, I did little work to fix other wardrobe gaps and instead just cleaned out more.

The problem? I’ve been searching for perfect, and I’m doing it with incomplete information since the trend in “ethical fashion” is e-commerce rather than your neighborhood boutiques. Taking the tactile and trying-on opportunities out of shopping makes decision-making a lot more difficult.

But what about “good enough”?

A recent book I read (which I can’t remember) talked about the personality types that have to know ALL the available options before making a choice. And because they’ve exhausted themselves with choices, they are less likely to get as much joy as others from their final decision, even if it’s a well-researched one. I am absolutely that type. And however genuinely thrilled I am every time I look at my backpack, I wonder why I torture myself in searching for perfect.

And “perfect” has started to feel a little risky. When you love something SO much, it’s suddenly easy to be unprepared when unexpected things happen. The perfect pair of pants that rip beyond repair? Not only did they prove to be imperfect but since you were so dependent on them, you have nothing else to wear while they wait to be fixed or replaced. I want to love everything in my closet, but I certainly don’t want my stuff to own me.

Truly, I wish making a sustainable/ethical buying decision was easy, but factoring in cost and taste constraints seems to make my own decisions more like a game of pros/cons and ultimately indecision.

Yes, it’s been hard, but I’ve already learned a few things:
– Trying things on is essential. You’ll never know what works until you put something on your body and see if the magic is there. Style takes time to find and it isn’t permanent.
– Shopping locally and from small batch designers is one of the easiest places to start.
– Start small: aim for one aspect of ethical fashion and if you get more, it’s the icing on the cake. This can include everything from local production (smaller footprint and supporting local economy) to respect for workers to organic and sustainable fibers. It’s up to you how you prioritize them.
– As many clothes as I’ve pulled out of my wardrobe and donated/shared/consigned/recycled, I don’t miss any of them, so I know I’m on the right path.

In the meantime, I’ve become totally obsessed with others’ quest to find their style. I’ve been particularly loving this post by Breanna Rose and this whole series by Madelynn Hackwith Furlong on her blog, Wide-Eyed Legless. Knowing that others are in the same boat makes the struggle a lot easier.

What are your searching for? I hope you’ll share with me what’s on your list too.

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