I mentioned recently that I’ve got a bit of a commute now, and I have developed this whole organized system of how I read all of my favorite blogs. And I can’t get enough. Here are some recent favorites:
The year is 2000. I am in London on my first international trip with my whole family during my eighth grade spring break. I got my braces off in time for my passport photo and online shopping wasn’t what it is today, so my sister and I are feeling pretty cool as we shop UK-exclusive stores our friends will envy (well, once they find out they exist).
As this was in my pre-itinerary-making days, I just showed up where I was told to go. And my mom had an ambitious itinerary for us. She hadn’t traveled much internationally, and she seemed to be on a mission to see everything. This turned out to include churches, castles, museums, hot tickets to a performance of “CATS”, and most importantly, the iconic department store, Liberty of London.
I had no idea what Liberty of London was at the time. Since my mom is a quilter, she wanted her trip souvenir to be a few pieces of Liberty’s famous print fabrics for her next quilt project. Naturally, I thought that meant it would be a pretty boring shopping experience since my impression of quilting was that it was not so cool (though I have since changed this opinion!). But as soon as I saw the Tudor-style façade and stepped into the perfect world of unexpected and quirky design inside, I knew my mom was on to something. And sure enough, I became obsessed.
For so long, it was impossible to get Liberty prints stateside, so any sort of Liberty find was met with true teenage girl levels of enthusiasm. Now, the prints are ubiquitous; Collaborations with everyone from Target to J.Crew to Nike means the masses are wearing Liberty of London, and it’s likely they have no idea what kind of history they’re wearing. In fact, Liberty has been around since the 1880s and has been selling its iconic prints since then, typically on the lightest, finest cotton fabric I’ve ever felt, which is their signature Tana Lawn.
But while every hipster might be wearing these florals today, my mom was digging these prints back when most of those kids weren’t even born. So for me, Liberty has become inextricably linked with my mom. And when I scored this silk Liberty scarf in New York City of all places, I couldn’t help but feel the same teenage girl level of enthusiasm I felt when I first walked into Liberty at the age of 14, nerdy and naïve, only to be introduced by my unexpectedly design-forward mom to a whole new world of textiles, pattern and history.
So I’m not worried that Liberty prints are on trend now. Instead, I’m using it to my advantage to find pieces I know I’ll keep longer than the trend-seekers, because they mean something to me. Because when I wear my Liberty scarf, I can’t help but think of my mom, who informed my own taste and passion for design in ways that I’ve never fully given her credit for. And that will keep me wearing these prints for much longer than a season.
Nothing says cool like a scarf. For a little styling help, try Liberty’s own scarf-styling videos for the most creative tying/knotting/wrapping ideas I’ve ever seen. Start with this Youtube playlist, but a quick search will lead you to the other 20 or so tutorials.
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!
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!
Whenever I put my sneakers on, my energy is amazing. Suddenly, I’m dancing in the kitchen, and I haven’t even made it out the door yet for my bike ride. After a yoga session, I can’t stop moving long enough to change out of my workout clothes. But it took a stress-related injury to get me into a regular exercise routine five years ago. And it finally stuck because of one revelation: As soon as I’m wearing workout clothes, I don’t just get over my dislike of sweating, but I want to sweat! I feel a sudden rush of power, and I have to move. Sweating in a dress: not ok. Sweating in spandex: truly enjoyable. I’ve found that what I wear has a huge impact on whether on not I want to work out.
As New Year’s resolutions for fitness fall by the wayside in February, I’d like to propose my own secret to reaching fitness goals: take the same care in picking out and caring for your activewear as you do for your everyday wardrobe. Since I was my only documented success story, I asked my friend Shalena, who has been transformed by a recent but intense running and strength training routine, how her clothes affect her workouts. And I think it’s safe to conclude, the secret is in the gear. Read on for Shalena’s story and her tips for balancing functionality with style.
How did you get into running?
I tried running on a few occasions over the past three years. Each time I attempted to run, I ended up getting injured. I went to a podiatrist, and he tried to give me orthotics and said I’m not built for running. I have flat feet, I’m knock-kneed, and I have big hips. So my alignment isn’t necessarily ideal for a runner. I just thought I’d keep going at it and that I’d eventually become a runner. It was at the end of July that I became serious about it. I started off with the “Couch to 5K” program app on my phone, and then I joined a running group. That was the first time I had ever run more than a mile, and I’ve never been injured since. Previously they said I overpronate and should probably get stability shoes to correct that. But the last time I went to get fitted for shoes, I actually had corrected my stride, and I don’t overpronate anymore. Now I can run like most runners, even though I still have fairly flat feet, though I’m developing arches too. All of those things corrected themselves over time with me just being patient.
Why stick with running if there were so many obstacles?
I think I wanted to focus on it because it had so many obstacles. I’ve never been really athletic. I played tennis for a little bit when I was a kid, I dabbled in dance for a few years, and I did martial arts for a bit. All of those things were fairly easy for me. Running was the only thing I couldn’t accomplish, so I wanted to work harder at it.
What do you wear when you work out? How much thought goes into it?
A lot of thought. I like to run outdoors, so while the weather might determine what I wear, I like to wear bright colors just to make me feel good. Even if I’m wearing black tights, I will wear colorful shoes and a colorful t-shirt or hoodie. I like to have bright colors, because they make me feel happy.
Then if I’m at the gym, and this sounds silly, if I’m doing legwork, I make sure I wear shorts, because I like to see my muscles working. If it’s arm day, I’ll wear no sleeves, so I can see my arms working. It’s a confidence booster, because I can see the transition of my body over time.
Does the outfit make a difference when you’re working out?
It does. I actually accessorize more with my workout outfits than I do with my regular outfits. Aside from the colorful accents on my outfits, I make sure I have really colorful headphones that are also functional. My husband calls my little pouch a fanny pack, but it makes me feel comfortable to know I have everything I need. And it’s kind of 80s, so I can dig that. Or I’ll put my phone in an armband, which has to be comfortable and sleek. I bought a new phone holder that is thinner, neon and reflective, which is important when I’m running at night. They’re functional but also really cute.
Beyond functionality, does what you wear when you exercise impact your confidence?
I don’t wear loose clothing at all when I work out. It’s one of the few times I feel good about showing off my body since I worked so hard for it. It’s not like I’m wearing sports bras and booty shorts, though actually it is a goal of mine to run a race in a sports bra and booty shorts. But it’s one of the times that I’m super-feminine and more fitted, because I worked so hard for the body I have now.
What is your go-to piece?
I have these shorts that hit at the perfect spot where you can see every muscle in my legs. I was so insecure about my legs growing up, because people used to say I had little chubby boy legs since there was absolutely no shape to them. I was so ashamed of them that I would wear oversized basketball shorts in gym class, and it made me look even more like a little boy. Now that I’ve been running, I have so much shape to my legs that I love wearing my shorts.
What is your advice for others if they’re struggling to stay active?
I’ve worked out whenever I can fit it into my schedule. I work two jobs, I’m finishing up school, and I have a husband and friends. When I’m getting up in the morning [to exercise], I lay out my clothes first thing, because it’s so much easier once you see your clothes. You can’t hide from them. They’re kind of taunting you. I always have my staple piece closest to my bed, because if I feel good wearing it, then I want to put it on, even when I don’t feel great.
Do you treat your workout clothes differently than the rest of your wardrobe? Do you keep them as long?
I take good care of my workout outfits. They’re really cute! They’re almost like your favorite pair of jeans. I air-dry them for fear that the dryer is going to ruin them. Also between washes, so I don’t have to go to the laundry everyday, I hand wash them. And if I have favorite tops in a big pile of dirty laundry, I’ll wash the tops separately. I treat them with even more care than I do the rest of my clothes, especially because they can lose a lot of their functional properties when you don’t take care of them. For instance, a lot of the pants I wear wick away the sweat, but if you wash them a lot, that property can disappear. So to preserve that, I really do take care of them by hand washing as needed.
Is it worth it to invest in activewear if you’re just going to sweat in them?
It’s the kind of thing I would invest in upfront. I had a pair of cheap shorts that lasted a long time, but when they go, they really go. You don’t want to be in the middle of a really intense workout and not feel like you are supported where you need to be supported. I make sure my pants are fitted, so I feel like I’m not jiggling everywhere, which can be painful. I switch out my sports bras every two months, because they lose their elasticity. I change my sneakers every 300 miles, and I have an app on my phone, which tracks my sneaker use. That investment upfront makes a difference with how long you keep your clothes.
What do you do with your sneakers once you are done with them?
I switch from using them for running to using them as an everyday shoe. I keep them for years and years at a time. Even though I won’t run in them after three months, I keep them because they’re really cute, and I’ll pair them with my everyday outfits.
Any final advice?
What helped me get motivated to workout was also the process of going shopping for clothes. I’m not a shopper, but to be able to try on things that you may not have fit into a month or two ago, is a confidence booster. You don’t have to purchase the clothes, but to try them on to see how they fit is an awesome experience. I don’t like to shop for everyday clothes – it’s too much pressure. But there are so many workout clothes that are cute and fashionable, it can really motivating.