July 23, 2016

Book Review: "Wear No Evil" by Greta Eagan

Hi everyone! Today I have a little something different for you... It's a review of one of my new favorite books: Greta Eagan's Wear No Evil.

This is an excellent style manual for anyone looking to improve the ethicality of their wardrobe. Rather than just focusing on the problems we're facing in today's fashion world, Eagan presents a personalized approach to making eco-conscious, socially responsible choices within your own style guidelines and budget. In addition to outlining the various social and environmental initiatives surrounding eco-fashion, she explains how to assess the sustainability of a given garment according to your own set of standards. Her book is chock full of useful charts (a total treat for my inner nerd!) featuring standard wardrobe staples and their ethical alternatives, so you can work within your budget and replace items at your own pace.

Whether you're ready to jump in whole-hog or just curious enough to get your feet wet, Eagan's book is a can't-miss for anyone interested in the future of clothing production and style.

July 9, 2016

Summer Playlist 2016

Hello! And apologies for going MIA for more than a month here. Between several out-of-town guests, overdue catch-ups with local friends, and planning a few summer getaways of my own, I've been, well, too social to look after my social media! But that's really the circumstance we're all striving for here, right?

At long last, I finally sat down to research some new tunes, and once again Spotify's Discover Weekly playlists did not let me down. Tucked between a smattering of new-to-me songs by familiar favorites, Scavenger Hunt and Lady Lamb are among these newer intrigues. And although I've featured them before, I had to toss in some extra selections from each of Wet, B├śRNS, and the bird and the bee, since I can't seem to get enough of them.

That said, my fascination with these tracks simply pales in comparison to Andy Hull & Robert McDowell's breathtaking tracks from Swiss Army Man (which itself was equivalently life-changing, by the way -- GO SEE IT. NOW.) The entire soundtrack, which features Paul Dano & Daniel Radcliffe throughout, has had a Hamilton-esque effect on my commuting soundtrack preferences; somehow whenever it's over I just want to listen to it again -- and about twenty more times after that. I hope you find a similar sense of joy in these selections, which in essence form the framework of the playlist itself.

Something about the euphoric energy of "Montage" reminded me of MIKA's 2007 joy-ballad "Grace Kelly," so that explains his somewhat random presence here. It also doesn't hurt that I've recently gone head-over-heels for The Good Wife, which features one of his older songs in an immensely satisfying way. It was fun digging through his Spotify archives and seeing what he's been up to since then -- after all, the last time he featured heavily in my life, he was blaring through parents' minivan speakers on the way to musical rehearsal.

My god, that was almost a decade ago. What?!

Happy Summer, everyone!

June 1, 2016

The Secret to Creative Thinking

Typically I aim to keep personal "feeling reflections" on this blog to a minimum. But every once in a while, personal style is interrupted with personal life. The first sign of it is writer's block. Usually there's something inspiring me, but on days like these, my mind is pure static. Then something starts to nag at me -- a mosquito of a feeling vying noisily for my attention -- and I know there's nothing to do but to sit with it, pause all hope of creativity, and let the beast have its way with my brain. It's a tricky business; when writing is the preferred method of arranging your thoughts, the sensation of not being able to write is agitating. But I thought I'd let myself run with it.

To begin with, summer came stampeding through NYC this week, and boy was no one kidding about the heat here. Already 88 degrees and with enough humidity to envelop every square inch of me in a permanent sweat... I've had to break out my summer capsule items nearly a month ahead of schedule, and I've abandoned the notion that my relationship with shorts was over. Apart from the sticky hours spent outside my apartment, last weekend saw me in exactly three positions: partially-submerged in the fridge, foraging for something frosty; spread-eagled before my bedroom fan, reaching for the coolest corner of the bedsheets, and draped over our living room couch with the only adequate match for such prematurely sultry nights: John Hamm in Mad Men.

It's humorous in theory, but in reality I'm facing a seasonal demon. Whether it's a heatwave or a cold front, as soon as my body temperature goes out of whack, I lose all sense of personal motivation. And this particular cycle comes at the end of a list of ever-growing obstacle-excuses: I just moved to a new city, It's the holidays, It's the new year, I'm moving to a new apartment, I'm decorating the new apartment, I have guests in town, I need a haircut... While it's true I've felt a sense of excitement, possibility, and genuine contentment since coming to New York, I've been overlooking some anxieties and uncertainties which accompany those positive feelings. I understand how important it is to forgive ourselves when we're in the midst of a stressful, new life transition -- but how do we tell when it's time to snap out of it, put our helmet back on, and face the fray?

Spending time alone and in pursuit of my own agenda has always brought me great joy -- a fact I used to regard as incontestable proof I was born to be a writer. I could spend hours reading books, writing nonsense, coloring, organizing papers, daydreaming scenes, taking inventory, making lists, placing and rearranging belongings... At the end of the day, it didn't matter whether I'd produced something interesting or not, just that I had enjoyed the process of letting my brain wander. These days (like most people), I'm prone to gauging that joy off more external measurements -- dollar signs, work hours, and heart icons. In theory, we all know such measuring is frivolous. Yet we nevertheless hold ourselves to these standards. Then we blame and we expect and we feel wanting from it. And we sprawl on the couch and lose ourselves in Mad Men over it. And rarely do we ever try to examine it further.

So I sat myself in front of my laptop (in front of my fan...), willing myself to open my mind -- to ask whatever questions I've been afraid to ask, to confront this thing that had purloined my creative motivation -- in hopes that I might not miss the lesson this time. Suddenly, as I stared at the end of my last paragraph, willing a conclusive moral to appear, I realized the answer was staring me in the face: I'd just written the post I thought I was incapable of writing today. My creativity was sparked not by defeating, but by simply engaging with my idleness.
It occurred to me that I couldn't exploit this same insight every time I hit a creative block. But by accepting my moment of inactivity, I resurrected a creative amulet: inquiry. I began to ponder how this could be applied to other moments of creative idleness. If we are lazy to paint, might we challenge ourselves to paint "Laziness"? If we are fatigued in our rehearsal, might we let a floppy limb manifest itself in a character's physicality? If we are uninspired to cook, might we simply ponder the ingredients until curiosity tells us what's for dinner?

Next time I'm staring into a whirring fan in search of artistic purpose, I have a better idea what to do. I'll take a breath of that air, let it vaporize a question in my brain, and set about answering exploring the question. And that's all. For the first moment, that will be enough.

This is the great secret, I think.

May 13, 2016

La Sylphide de Radiateur

While I haven't created an actual outfit post in some time now, I snapped these pics on my phone before venturing out into last week's sunshine and figured I might as well share them. I do wish the temperate May weather we're having would last forever, but if summer means more hours spent in this maxi dress, I think I'll survive quite happily.

The bohemian look has always been present in my closet -- peasant shirts in middle school, hippie skirts in high school, and Birkenstocks forever -- but it's only recently that I've pursued the style this shamelessly. Maybe that has something to do with adopting a more eco-friendly lifestyle to match (or at least striving to do so.) Put it this way: I never thought the day would come when I'd pick up a dress from Whole Foods and think, "This might actually be perfect..." But true story, friends. Apparently the more distance you put between yourself and the West Coast, the more "granola" you crave.

This floral maxi is from my spring capsule wardrobe, which I introduced in last week's post & accompanying video. Overall, my selections are faring well weather-wise and keeping me creatively satisfied. The choice to separate my work clothes from my other-activities pieces was wise, as I'm quickly wearing out what was already a mess and considering my day-off options with more anticipation/excitement.

For summer, I'm looking into repairing my Birkenstocks, which are now about a decade old and badly in need of a new footbed. If they can't be mended, I might be making my first brand-new clothing purchase since September. Typing that feels crazy, but turning this secondhand shopping goal into a reality has actually been way easier than I thought it would. Home products are harder. Like when you really need a new casserole dish (and only one new casserole dish) and Macy's makes it more affordable to buy a four-piece set complete with plastic lids than the glass container you really need. Thanks, America. Here's a slow clap for your magnanimity.

Which reminds me: does anyone have recommendations for US-made, fair-trade, and/or eco-friendly bras?

Love to you all.

May 5, 2016

Spring Capsule 2016 - Lookbook Video

After a full day's worth of editing and one gnarly morning spent battling iMovie (helloooooo too many projects on my hard drive!) I am pleased to present my second YouTube video and a project I've been looking forward to tackling for some time now: a lookbook for my latest seasonal capsule wardrobe!

I've seen many lookbooks across the stretches of the internet, but none have captivated my attention quite like those of blogger/vlogger (and my new fashion crush) Mademoiselle. Her lovely style is made only more adorable to me by her chic Aussie accent -- and keep your eye out for flashes of her (matching) kitten and puppy in her videos! So cute! More to the point, she developed a clever way of presenting her capsules, which I was eager to try my hand at. Hopefully, if she ever comes across this post, she'll take the imitation for genuine worshipful flattery, rather than simple copycattery.

Some side notes on this capsule:

In its development, rather than set a definitive number of pieces, I chose two style icons (which I won't identify here, for fear that I've totally missed the mark on embodying their respective "styles," and you'll tease me for it) and selected pieces based on what I thought they'd wear. The majority of these clothes were pulled from what I currently had on hand, however I did bring in a few additions to keep it fresh. Standing by my decision not to buy new this year, these additions were either purchased secondhand or acquired at a recent clothes swap.

In the past, I've maintained one capsule from which I pulled both work and "playtime" outfits. This worked well enough for my Seattle-casual admin job, but with this year's change of climate, occupation, and budget, I've decided to create a separate, smaller* capsule of work-only clothes. This is where most of my denim, cotton dresses, and earth-Mama shoes have gone to die a slow and painful death (at the hands of merciless wrestle-happy children.) However, I've allowed myself a few crossovers, such as my favorite combat boots and striped tee. What you see here covers weekends, personal errands, date nights, formal events, auditions, and admin work performed beyond the reach of jam hands.

Finally, despite my better judgment, I went ahead and put a few items in storage. Partially for obvious reasons -- I have no need for a down coat at this point, and it's too cold for cut-offs yet -- but also because I still own too many things to justify having them all out at once. If some of the idea behind a capsule wardrobe is truly "wear out" your clothes, then I need to focus on a chunk at a time. For full transparency, I probably have about 20 items in storage right now. If they aren't incorporated by next fall, then out of my life they'll go. You'll see several of these pieces in a month or two, once summer hits. Probably in a follow-up video!

As always, thanks for reading (and watching!) If you're enjoying the videos, let me know in the comments and I'll keep 'em coming. This one was a delight to make!

*15 pieces, in case you were curious.