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?
A few weeks ago, I had a hunch that if I put out the idea of my ideal sandal to The Internet, it might magically send the sandals I had been looking for my way. It was a crazy idea that somehow a pair of properly made, high quality, non-disposable shoes might enter my life and save me from my minimalist lifestyle-induced problem of having only one pair of sandals that were on the brink of death.
So if you’re looking at the above photo and asking yourself “how is it possible that she had these shoes made from a sketch in the three weeks since she posted the illustration?” you would be asking a very reasonable question. Except that these shoes were bought straight off the rack. And very fortunately in this case, on the sale rack.
After I wrote that original post, I ended up purchasing a pair online from a reputable brand that were way too big and way too much “foot exposure” for work, so I headed back to the department store in person to return them. Now shoeless again and needing to kill some time, I popped over to the sale racks that seemed overflowing with shoes. In that moment, I realized that I never go to department stores – there were so many options in one place – for better or worse. But I also had no expectation of finding anything.
I did a once over and then was somehow compelled to walk through again. That’s when I found these shoes. It was the exact shoe that Mike had helped me draw out a few weeks ago. And on top of that, they were the last pair in the store and they were in my size.
I looked around expecting that someone was playing a joke on me. As if the people in the store follow my blog (pfff!) and they had planted this shoe here for me. But this was a fancy department store, and there are no jokes there.
After 20 minutes of walking around with them on and searching the Internet to learn more about the brand, I decided to embrace that this was serendipity.
So how do these actual shoes stack up against the criteria I laid out in my “Ideal” post? Actually, pretty good.
– Timeless, work-appropriate design – Yes! In fact, these are made by a very traditional British brand known for their men’s shoes, so they do simple, classic design really well.
– Vegetable tanned leather – Yes! I actually sent an email to the company’s customer service once I got home with the shoes to get the full details since I couldn’t find the pair anywhere online. And yes, the leather is vegetable-tanned, though I had no way of knowing this in-store.
– Stitched insole + Leather sole – Yes! These shoes are sewn, rather than having the pieces of the shoe glued together. This means more durability and less toxic glues for the makers. It also means very durable construction, and the leather sole lends itself to infinite repairability.
– Conflict Mineral Free Hardware – Not sure. I did not ask this question and actually I’m not sure how many brands could answer this. So for now, this remains unanswered.
– Comfortable – Yes! I’m not sure how or why, but these just feel great on my feet and I knew it instantly.
A little something extra:
– Made in Italy – While this is a historical British brand (who knew that Northampton has a tradition of shoemaking?), the customer service representative confirmed that the brand makes all of their women’s shoes in Italy (the men’s shoes are still made in England). Ok, it would have been cool if they had been made in this historic town known for shoemaking, but Italy has some higher standards than other countries, and they have a tradition of making leather products that count on highly skilled labor.
And with that, I promise not to talk about shoes again for a really long time.
If you’re feeling lucky, tell the Internet what you really really want in the comments section and maybe your dream _____ will find you too.
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.
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.
Summertime should be spent out on the beach or eating popsicles on your stoop. But I have a confession that I’ve been very distracted lately by my search for the perfect summer sandal. In fact, I admittedly have spent an excessive amount of time online and in real life looking for a new pair of sandals, mostly out of fear that my favorite pair is going to break beyond repair any day now.
The silly thing about it is that I’m not being indecisive. It’s just that I know exactly what I want.
So the lightbulb came on that maybe if I told the Internet what I wanted, it might miraculously find me. It also occurred to me that this might also be a helpful visual guide for you if you’re curious about what qualities to keep in mind when shopping for a well-made, ethically produced shoe.
I’m not a shoemaker, so I’m not 100% certain that all of these fantastic qualities can exist in a single sandal. But I’ve done a little homework and I think this is a great place to start. But I’d also like to know: what ideal qualities would you look for in the perfect shoe?
We are quickly approaching the end of 2013, and there is something about the holiday season that feels simultaneously fast and slow. On one hand, I have just a few more days to find perfect gifts for the people I love AND get all of my work done so I can take off a couple weeks. On the other hand, as soon as Thanksgiving is over, I always find myself immediately slipping into a reflective state, slowing down and thinking about the year past.
This year was filled with big changes, some of which I shared here and others that made me so busy that this blog has been quite quiet. But I have tried to be really open about my own struggles with rediscovering my personal style. And as I’ve slipped into that year-end reflective state, I know that the top of my list in 2014 will be letting my style evolve a little more. Because, honestly, I haven’t really felt comfortable in my clothes AT ALL this year.
Fortunately, I know I’m not the only one with a changing sense of style.
I’ve loved articles this year from Garance Dore and Jess Lively on what they’ve learned from wardrobe mistakes and their own journeys to filling their closets with clothes that truly represent their personal styles.
I’ve been trying to do this on my own, but I decided to speed the process up a little bit and hire a professional. Luckily, I was inspired by an article by Jee on Oh How Civilized and set up an in-home appointment with a personal stylist. Beyond looking through what I already had, we made a list of what I needed to look for.
And at the top of the list, which I knew already, was a pair of black boots.
The shoe industry is not pretty. I’ve never had a great passion for shoes and I’m extremely concerned with comfort, but as I’ve learned about the toxic glues and solvents present in many factories, I’ve felt really hesitant to buy shoes since I’m not sure what I’m buying into. I also happen to own a pair of black booties that I saved up to buy and are in perfect condition but absolutely murder my feet. So perhaps subconsciously, I’ve been punishing myself for at least two years by not letting myself buy a new pair of black boots that I can actually wear.
But it became clear that a new pair of black boots would be a game-changer and totally take my existing outfits up a notch. Not an easy task, however, as I was looking to hit at least two of Garance’s rules:
1. Perfect piece = eternal joy
2. Quality = longevity
So what’s a conscious shopper to do? Buy the best quality pair of shoes you can afford. Seriously.
Here’s why: Your shoes can be repaired almost endlessly if they are of good quality. You will likely wear this pair of shoes multiple times a week (if not every day). You do not want to have to buy a lot of shoes and therefore support more factories that may or may not have healthy working conditions. And also quite important is that you do not want to end up an old lady with bunions.
In my case, a serendipitous text from my sister told me that one of my favorite brands, Rag + Bone, was having a sample sale. I like them because they do a fair amount of domestic production, the clothing is a perfect fit for my body, and the quality is high. It turns out the same is true for their shoes (minus the domestic production). I bought this pair for $200, which is objectively a lot of money but based on how many times I will wear them, the cost is relatively little. (See Zady’s article on measuring cost-per-wear)
But the work isn’t over. In the new year, I’ve got a list of new pieces I’ll be looking for and I can’t wait to share what I find (and how I find them) with you.
In the meantime, I’ve been turning to Pinterest as a helpful visual reminder of what I want my closet to look like, so I can make compare a potential purchase with that ideal style. Follow my evolving style on my latest board.
What’s the linchpin item missing from your closet? Share below or tweet @ThisIWear and tell us what you’re looking for.