9.11.2017

8 Amazing Resources to Inspire a Simpler Wardrobe

Hello everyone, and thank you for bearing with me through my August sojourn -- which has now unfortunately bled into September! *laughs and cries at the same time*

To be perfectly honest, I have not bothered to create or maintain a sampler wardrobe this month because I have yet to figure out what my day-to-day life looks like. As I am no longer nannying, I've been working on sorting through the kid-friendly-casual portion of my wardrobe to determine whether or not those pieces could still be useful to me. This change has also resulted in my taking on more shifts at the restaurant, which means I need to take stock of my hostwear as well. I'm actually sitting here in yoga pants and a grubby t-shirt because some days I can't even pretend that I know what my life is.

One thing I know for certain: I need to be practical with my time and money right now (aka: use hours off to find my next central source of income), so fall shopping has receded to the back of my brain. It's a bummer, because like most of the blogging world I love autumnal clothing, and a few of my duds are badly in need of replacement. Ain't budgeting grand?

In my absence, though, I wanted to offer a few resources for those of you seeking some fall wardrobe inspiration -- with a minimalist twist, of course! While my brain is craving novelty, I'm nevertheless still firmly on my path toward a sustainable closet. It occurred to me recently that I no longer follow bloggers for outfit inspiration and trends. Rather, I'm focusing on writers who offer perspective into their wardrobe structure and challenge themselves to maintain similarly ethical values. Most of them have been mentioned on Inspirsession before, but I thought it would be useful to document my favorites all in one place. Plus, it gives me an excuse to share this dorky picture I drew:

Recommendations Un-Fancy Into-Mind Paris To Go What I Wore The Minimalists The Vivienne Files The Daily Connoisseur Light By Coco Default

In the off chance you've come here seeking inspiration and/or guidance, please don't hesitate to check out their sites, podcasts, and channels! Each sketch has a link to their particular corner of the internet. Below, you can also read a brief summary as to why I think they're awesome. Enjoy!

Un-Fancy

Caroline basically pioneered the on-trend American capsule, in all its denim-and-white-tee glory. She came onto my radar around 2014, and while she no longer blogs as regularly as she did then, I still find myself checking in on her clean, to-the-point posts and pictures. Everything about her presentation is exactly as she promises -- un-fancy -- and I like that I leave her blog feeling calm, joyful, and content, rather than envious of her living room or breakfast.  Can't miss: Free Capsule Wardrobe Planner

Into-Mind // Anuschka Rees

Anuschka's blog was one of my earliest introductions to the capsule wardrobe process, and it also served as the direct inspiration to Un-Fancy, according to Caroline. Anuschka has provided the most thorough wardrobe-building process I've found to date, and her infographics are out of this world. Since the publishing of her book, The Curated Closet, she posts less often these days, but her archives are well worth a deep dive.  Can't miss: This amazing flow-chart

Paris to Go

Ariana is one of the sassiest writers I've come across on the blogosphere. There's something in how she presents her life that gives me the feeling I'm reading an epic novel -- one woman's journey toward ultimate sustainability. Where Caroline is gentle and forgiving, Ariana is frank and cutthroat. I love the contrast, and I really wish she was my friend.  Can't miss: Any post where she lists all her possessions. You won't believe how little this woman owns.

What I Wore 

Jessica Quirk is OG. Like, had-an-established-blog-before-I-even-knew-the-word OG. Like, her-blog-is-actually-still-on-Tumblr OG. She currently lives in Indiana with two kids and a husband, which is not something I can exactly relate to, but I still use her book, (also entitled What I Wore) and photo archives for outfit-mixing tips. Though I wouldn't consider her process truly sustainable, I love that she mixes her new clothes with thrifted vintage and homemade items.  Can't miss: Her book!

The Minimalists

Ahhh, these guys. If you haven't seen their documentary on Netflix, now is the time to open a new tab on your browser and take care of that. I've been listening to their podcast regularly and really enjoy most of what they have to say about what they call "living a more meaningful life." Their work certainly doesn't center on clothing specifically, but all their topics are worth a listen, 'cause everything's connected, really.  Can't Miss: Podcast #56-Clothing -- and all the ones on budgeting.

The Vivienne Files 

It's not every day you meet a blogger over the age of, well, Had-A-Modcloth-Phase. But this gal not only proudly aligns herself with L.L.Bean and Hermes scarves; she also has a taste for churning out beautiful art-inspired palettes to create functional, minimal wardrobes. And that's fun for all ages, I say.  Can't Miss: Core of Four

The Daily Connoisseur 

If Emily Post merged with Donna Reed and then simmered down to a grownup version of that cool-yet-levelheaded babysitter you admired in your youth, this would be Jennifer L. Scott, author of The Daily Connoisseur book, vlog, and blog. Her concept may seem over the top to some (wear pearls for your baby, vacuum in your silks, dine daily over your best china), but I think a good question lies at the core of the matter: What "someday" are you saving those precious possessions for, anyway?  Can't Miss: Her original video on The Ten Item Wardrobe

Light By Coco

Coco just recently stopped blogging to focus on her real life/job. While that's fair and all, I already miss her a lot. Also, it took me until just now to realize her blog and channel have been emptied of all their content. So I guess this is a rather sheepish way to end my post. (Oops!) You'll just have to take my word for it that she was pretty cool.


7.31.2017

July 2017 Sampler Wardrobe Outfits (D)


One more for the road, guys!

I'm feeling under the weather today, so I'll leave this one short and sweet: black, white, gold, and berry tones. Mmmmm, this palette's got me feeling like royalty...

I promised I'd let you know what's up for the month of August, so let's touch on that: As I'm doing some traveling in the upcoming month, I'm not planning to create a sampler or keep up on croquis panels during that time. Rather I'll be pulling together a vacation-capsule better suited to my travel needs. Hopefully I'll find some time to share that process here on the blog. If not, I'll see you in September!

In the meantime, journey on, sustainablistas.

7.24.2017

July 2017 Sampler Wardrobe Outfits (C)


Remember that song about making new friends but holding on to your old ones? "One is silver and the other is gold," it says. Well, I'm a weirdo and sometimes I think of my clothes as friends. And this week's panel is a pretty good representation of the wide range of "friendships" going on in my closet.

The oldest item in this illustration is actually those denim shorts -- they were purchased by my mom around the time I was born, making them vintage now, I suppose. But they're fairly new to me, as only recently were they gifted to me with permission to revive them as cheeky cutoffs.

The item which has belonged to me personally for the longest time is this wonderful floral print maxi dress, which you've seen featured here before. Nearly eight years after its purchase date, it remains one of my favorite items because it checks so many of my boxes: it's comfortable, it's whimsical, it makes a statement, its made of a durable, natural fabric, it took a hunt to find it, and it was a total steal. (RIP Macy's Clearance Center of Spokane, WA... you bestowed so many gifts upon me.)

The newest item? Those amazing black trousers! I have to stop myself from wearing them to the restaurant too often. My coworkers are no doubt onto my secret, anyways: I'm basically rolling out of my pajamas every morning only to put on something just as comfortable.

Throw in these other pieces and I'm left with a neat little timeline of my personal style from the last decade or so. And you know what excites me about it? This is the good stuff. These are the pieces that have outlasted both the washing machine and my ever-changing fashion sense. It's great to see them working in tandem; histories upon histories, informing one another in their mixed memories and continually building new ones with each new wear.

July is almost over! Stay tuned for my final panel and a word on what to expect on Inspirsession for August.

7.17.2017

July 2017 Sampler Wardrobe Outfits (B)


I'm particularly pleased with the color harmony going on in this mini collection of outfits, mostly because it has that earth-fairy vibe I tend to gravitate toward as soon as it becomes to hot for silk shirts and sweaters. There's something so comforting to me about all those warm browns!

The secret to attaining this modern hippie, Free-People-esque look seems to exist in one concept: TEXTURE! From the folds of this easy-wear cotton dress, to the lace detailing on these weekend crop tanks, to the draping pattern play on that beloved polka-dot standout, texture is decidedly present throughout these figures.

It's this kind of symmetry that makes me a total nerd for minimal wardrobes. Mind you, it took years to actually master maintaining a palette -- even when I was developing seasonal capsules I would agonize over questions like: Should I use navy, or chocolate as my base neutral?! (Trick question; you can use all of them if you want to.) It turns out, as with most things, it took relaxing the rules a bit to finally figure the whole thing out.




7.11.2017

July 2017 Sampler Wardrobe Outfits (A)


Welcome, July! It's hot in the city, but I'm feeling pretty cool in my new looks this month!

For this month's sampler wardrobe, I stuck with 30 pieces but made sure to strive for mixability, particularly in my host wear. To feature all of the July pieces, I realized I'd have to do four sketches instead of three, so that's why you see an extra figure here.

Nanny days call for easy-wash materials, so I aimed for lots of cotton and denim in that category this time around. My weekends lately have involved a great amount of catching up with friends, from both in and out of town, so pieces like this lightweight jumpsuit keep me comfy on long walks while upping the snazz factor. And for hosting? I'm drawn more and more toward black and white. Maybe it's the servers influencing me, but there's something unbeatable about that sophisticated contrast!

Enjoy the sun.


7.01.2017

July 2017 Sampler Wardrobe

Last month's Sampler Wardrobe went better than I even hoped. It finally felt like I got to wear my pieces enough, and in moments of boredom, I simply reminded myself that I'd be diving into a whole new selection of clothing in one month's time. Limiting my wardrobe to just 30 pieces brought both peace of mind in its simplicity, yet creative fertilizer in its mixability.

Naturally, I was feeling pretty pumped to dig through my in-storage items, tucked away on the high shelf of my closet since May 31st. As usual, I dumped everything onto my bed, poured myself a wine glass of ice water (who says you can't stay classy without A/C?) and turned on my favorite playlist.

First, I reviewed each of my thirty June items, chucking some to laundry, some to storage, and a few special favorites back into my July consideration pile.

Then, I promptly snatched up all the pieces I've been dreaming about wearing since the NYC humidity reared its ugly head. (OH HEY, DENIM CUT-OFFS.)

Then I had a lil' squealing fit over a few clothes that I'd momentarily forgotten I even owned. (They don't call it "shopping your closet" for nothing!)

With my June experience fresh in mind, I felt fairly confident in selecting what I'd need for the next (sweaty) 31 days. But I was a bit disappointed to find last year's high-summer duds a bit more worn than I remembered. So there's some chance of this list shifting in one or two places as I replace those threadbare bits. (First I want to make sure I'm not just looking for an excuse to go shopping...)

I also chose to limit my nanny clusters in favor of expanding my weekend ones, as I have some days off this month.

Here's what came together:

JULY 2017  Sampler Wardrobe Selections

  • Work (Host) - 1
    • black & cream print tee blouse
    • off-white tee blouse
    • black a-line skirt
    • black & cream pleated dress
    • black Mary-Jane pumps
  • Work (Host) - 2
    • white black-tie tank bouse
    • periwinkle tunic tank blouse
    • cream & chocolate polka dot dress
    • black high-waist trousers
    • black oxford flats
  • Work (Nanny) - 1
    • pink dotted tank
    • white & black striped banana tee
    • olive cargo skinnies
    • gold sneakers
  • Work (Nanny) - 2
    • fuschia crochet-seam tank
    • chocolate tank dress
    • black lace-pattern shorts
    • olive green sandals
  • Weekend - 1
    • black & cream printed jumpsuit
    • floral print maxi dress
    • strawberry sundress
    • denim jacket
    • black cork wedges 
  • Weekend - 2
    • white cut-off tank blouse
    • pink floral-pattern crop tank
    • ((various camisoles))
    • white & green cardigan
    • white shorts
    • denim cut-offs
    • brown ankle boots

A little note on those "various camisoles" above.

First off, I'm really at a loss for what else to pair with those high-waisted cutoffs in the summertime.

Secondly, I consider camisoles to be something closer to underwear or pajamas, so I don't tend to include them in minimal wardrobe inventories. I've listed them here as one item, however, to remind myself that I need not purchase any tight-fitting tanks -- I have plenty at my disposal when I consider my underwear drawer. And real talk here: NYC humidity has a weird way of making you feel suddenly comfortable wearing stuff from your underwear drawer right out onto its frying-pan streets. So yes, I technically have a couple extra tops to choose from. But who am I to deny mom jorts their summer soulmates??

Happy Sampling!

6.30.2017

June 2017 Sampler Wardrobe Outfits (D)


Friends, Romans, Countrymen... we have reached the end of June. Summer is in full swing, and my goodness, what a creative jolt this month has provided me! Sketching and painting these weekly croquis has simultaneously anxiety-inducing and exhilarating; the process seemed to imbibe me with an artistic focus and confidence I've been lacking as of late. It's a joy to feel that burst of energy again. (Thanks, sunshine!)

This panel is, obviously, the remainding items of my sampler wardrobe (minus the jackets, for which I may need to do an extra painting), but I'm pleased to see that they also harmonize into something of a "basics" category. Due to their simple versatility, most of the pieces above were my June workhorses -- my partner even commented that I wore his retired white dress shirt more often than he ever had to work!

Unfortunately some of these regular-use pieces are beginning to show major signs of wear-and-tear. My low-tops are sporting some nice holes, my favorite black skinny jeans have been patched not once but three times, and my brown ankle boots might even be past hope of a cobbler at this point. It's always a bit sad saying goodbye to beloved clothes, but that's what limiting yourself to a smaller wardrobe is all about: selecting clothes you really love to wear and wearing them out!

Stay tuned for my July selections! I'm so excited to shop my closet tonight...


6.28.2017

June 2017 Sampler Wardobe Outfits (C)


This panel could be a visual history of my love affair with the color red. It's a favorite of my mother's, so naturally I was dressed in this color a lot as a small child. In those days, even the brightest reds suited my towhead locks. As my hair has matured to a duller, odd shade of blondish-brown, however, I've had to adapt my color profile to suitably softer tones.

This dusty peach wrap dress was one of my first departures from pure red and crimson. I find its midtone shade to be wonderfully comforting on days when my skin's at its palest (i.e. all the damn time.) The soft pink hippie dress is lighter than I'd normally go for, but it makes me feel like Clara from The Nutcracker, so I'm hopelessly devoted.

Do I believe everyone should stick to their "color profile" all the time, never venturing beyond what suits their skin tone? No. I think creative dressing frequently has its own agenda. But if you're suddenly feeling uncomfortable in shades that used to bring you joy, it can be helpful to think within those bounds toward a new palette!

6.22.2017

June 2017 Sampler Wardrobe Outfits (B)


As much as I love color, everyone's gotta have some neutrals in their wardrobe!

Many a minimalist dresser has relied on black and white for their staples, and while I've always thought of this approach as somewhat unimaginative, I'm falling for it nevertheless. It really does make getting dressed so easy, and whether I'm thrifting with a girlfriend, showing VIP guests to their table, or sweating it out on the subway with lightsaber-battling children, black & white keep me feeling balanced, sophisticated, and chic.

May I also just say I'm totally in love with this banana shirt? Guys, it's a banana... What even?


6.14.2017

June 2017 Sampler Wardrobe Outfits (A)


Here is the first collection of outfits created from my June Sampler Wardrobe, as defined in my previous post.

From left to right, the illustration shows how I might dress for (a) a day off, (b) a day spent nannying, and (c) a day working at the restaurant. Nine of the thirty clothing selections are detailed here.

This little panel seems to have been inspired by berries -- all those red-violets and blues! I suppose it's only fitting, as I'm eating pounds of them now that summer is practically here. Just call me Violet Beauregarde...

6.11.2017

June Sampler Wardrobe: 30 Items for 30 Days

In my last post, you heard about my self-proscribed overstuffed wardrobe antidote: The Sampler Wardrobe.

Today I'm going to share the contents of my first (public) sampler. These are all the clothes I will be wearing for the entire month of June -- barring exercise and sleepwear, of course.

As I'm not fancy with Photoshop and too lazy to sort through doppelgänger pieces on Polyvore, I've simply provided a list of my thirty selections for now, sorted into their respective activity clusters. Over the course of the month, you'll see an assortment of outfit combinations that will better illustrate the individual pieces and also show you what a sampler wardrobe looks like in action!

JUNE 2017  Sampler Wardrobe Selections

  • Work (Host) - 1
    • black rose-print tank blouse
    • white black-tie blouse
    • black high-waist trousers
    • black velour pencil skirt 
    • black Mary-Jane pumps
  • Work (Host) - 2
    • off-white tee blouse
    • periwinkle tunic tank blouse
    • black military-style jacket 
    • crimson stovepipe trousers
    • black oxford flats
  • Work (Nanny) - 1
    • fuschia crochet-seam tank
    • pink dotted tank
    • indigo bootcut jeans
    • blush wrap dress
    • olive green sandals
  • Work (Nanny) - 2
    • white & black striped banana tee
    • gray marled moto-style cardigan 
    • denim jacket
    • black skinny jeans
    • gray low-top sneakers
  • Weekend - 1
    • white men's dress shirt
    • white crop tee
    • black leather jacket
    • black maxi tank dress
    • black heeled ankle boots 
  • Weekend - 2
    • lavender crewneck tee
    • peach babydoll dress
    • wine a-line skirt
    • lightwash boyfriend jeans
    • brown ankle boots

Remember, when creating clusters for your own sampler wardrobe, make sure you have enough options per activity to last a full laundry cycle. While each cluster can operate separately, ideally they will also blend with (a) their counterpart cluster and (b) across other activities! For instance, while I can't go to work in my crop tee (Weekend 1), I love how it pairs with my black high-waisted trousers (Work Host 1). So I might combine the two for an after-work date night or something.

The rules are yours for the making. The only important thing is that each activity's items work together and you're excited to wear every piece you've selected!

Happy Sampling!

6.01.2017

Introducing The Sampler Wardrobe: A Cure for the Maximalist

Okay, so you've made the commitment to transition to a more sustainable, modestly-sized wardrobe. Good for you! Perhaps you've identified the clothes that spark joy and arranged them in artful folds on your closet shelves. Maybe you've started curating a seasonal capsule. Chances are, if you followed the myriad of instruction on how to declutter your wardrobe, you now have a pile of clothes that you've decided just aren't your style. You'll do your best to find them a new home through donation or sale, and the rest you'll take to textile recycling, because that's the sustainable fashionista you are. The special unicorns among us will float into a land of dreamy, curated bliss, perfectly pleased with their selected pieces and never again at a loss for what to wear.

This is what is promised to us by so many well-meaning bloggers. This is what I too imagined would happen when I started the capsuling process three years ago.

The hiccup in the capsule transition is that the majority of us -- including those who fall in the relatively modest ownership average of 103 wardrobe items -- will end up with the following:
  • a reasonable wardrobe of clothing we love
  • a likewise reasonable donation pile
  • an enormous pile of not-quite-perfect items which are nevertheless still interesting & possibly useful.
For years I found myself obsessing over that final category. Was I supposed to simply bid farewell to the formal dress I hadn't worn in three years -- the one which still fit and, more importantly, still made me happy to twirl around in? Should I stuff my hiking boots in the Goodwill bag and greet my next uphill journey with a pair of hip sneakers? What about the oversized Christmas sweater I saw only once a year, but which somehow found its way onto me seven mornings in a row? Yes, I had a more reasonable sweater in my capsule, but I don't always want to be reasonable, do I? Some days simply call for a bit of extra spice.

Despite my devotion to the capsule system, it was heartbreaking to have to continually subvert my quirky thrift store finds (arguably the pieces that meant more to me) to the more practical items that happened to all fit a singular color palette. From a sustainability standpoint, I was also struggling with the idea of excusing myself from responsibility for my belongings. I'd purchased these clothes for a reason, hadn't I? In most cases, I realized those leftovers sitting in storage weren't unusable or unfashionable -- I was just bored with them. And I wasn't content to let that boredom invite more mindless shopping.

There had to be a better solution, I thought. Something that would force me to get creative with what I already owned yet still allow me to feel stylish and comfortable in my day to day life.

About a month ago, it came to me. Rather than continuing to build the work and weekend capsules which left me bored and overwhelmed by season's end, why not select a smaller sample of pieces from my closet inventory and wear them more frequently for just one month's time?

Part of the joy of styling for me comes from innovation and mixing things up. But the paradox of my creativity has always been that the more options there are (i.e. the more decisions I have to make), the harder it is for my brain to pull something together. The idea of working with a smaller pool of clothing was comforting to me, and the monthly opportunity to swap out what was no longer inspiring reintroduced a creative freedom to my personal styling process. (I also won't pretend I wasn't attracted to the totally ridiculous luxury fashion concept of never repeating an outfit.)

Of course, the method didn't come without drawbacks. When working with less options, it becomes even more important to make sure your pieces coordinate, however wacky they may be. Since I was working within the confines of outfitting myself for three different life modes (nanny work, restaurant work, and weekend activities), I had to ensure that my selections could continually see me through an average week.

Enter The Cluster Method. A few weeks earlier, I'd stumbled across a blog I hadn't heard of before, The Vivienne Files. One of Vivienne's closet-decluttering posts advised using "clusters" to identify one's most versatile pieces. Clusters typically consist of four items: three tops, all of which can be paired with a single bottom piece to create a complete outfit. The idea is, so long as those foundation clusters coordinate, you will never be without something to wear. I applied this method to each of my three wardrobe categories to calculate how many pieces I would need. The result was a wardrobe that I was truly excited to experiment with; one that suited my minimal closet dreams without limiting my creative ability.

If you're struggling to wear everything you own right now, or if you're lacking that creative spark, you may find that this process works for you too! Here's how to get started:
  1. First, take a moment to determine how many clusters you will need. You may want to approach this by considering your laundry habits. Those of us who do bulk laundry loads twice a month will need more items than those who wash their clothes every week. If you don't mind repeating outfits, you may need even fewer pieces.

    Here's how I calculated my cluster total. I ended up with seven total clusters, for a total of 28 pieces. Later, I broke up the third weekend cluster to distribute coats and shoes (for practicality's sake) and some dresses (for variety) across all categories.
      • NANNY: x8 outfits / month
        • = 2 clusters
      • HOST: x8 outfits / month 
        • = 2 clusters 
      • WEEKEND: x12 outfits / month
        • = 3 clusters
  2. Remove all your clothing from hiding -- be sure to check closets, hooks, hampers, racks, drawers, and storage containers. It's important to see everything.
  3. Sort out any items which do not align with the current season. (In summer, for instance, you're unlikely to need winter coats, gloves, or boots.) Find a place to store these items and label them clearly for later retrieval.
  4. From the remaining items, decide what you're intuitively drawn to. Perhaps you're having a love affair with the color teal right now, or maybe you have a bohemian summer vibe that is perfectly encapsulated by hippie dresses. Group each of these pieces an appropriate cluster. (For example, your favorite pair of jeans might cluster well with that printed blouse you can't stop wearing. A flashier statement skirt might stand alone for the time being.)
  5. Now, locate the pieces which will complement these intuition items. (In the instance above, you would select an additional two shirts to pair with your favorite jeans.) If you have a lot of stuff, this will take some time. Treat it like a party: put on some music, and take note of which outfits make you feel excited to go somewhere.
  6. Add as many coats, jackets, and shoes as your lifestyle calls for. These items should pair with most of the other pieces, so you may want to stick to neutrals here. You may also wish to add singlet items, such as dresses, during this time.
  7. Store any unused clothing out of sight -- it's off limits while you focus on making the most of your monthly sampler!

In the upcoming posts, you will see the pieces I've selected for my own sampler wardrobe. Then I will illustrate how they combine to create enough unique outfits for one month of wear. See you on Monday!

 

5.30.2017

The First Steps Toward A More Sustainable Wardrobe


As you begin your journey toward a more sustainable wardrobe, you may start to wonder what the completed product ought to look like. How many clothes will you own? And what kind of garments? Which brands should be present and which ones aren't allowed? How will you know when you're done?

In their discussions on The Minimalists Podcast, hosts Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus frequently describe their sustainable lifestyle as an ongoing process rather than a destination. I believe we can all benefit from adopting this outlook in most regards. However it is slightly easier to apply standards to a closet than an overall lifestyle.

Ideally a wardrobe that is curated and maintained around the goal of sustainability will be:
  1. perfectly sized to the individual's daily lifestyle (not so many clothes that items go unworn, but not so few that laundry becomes a tetris nighmare)
  2. reflective of the individual's ethical standards (fair trade, vegan, secondhand, etc.) and
  3. comprised of the most stylish and high-quality materials available to the individual, to ensure maximum lifespan and wearability of the garments
Of course once these standards have been met, it is up to the owner to abide by them, ensuring they are not shopping unnecessarily and are replacing garments as-needed in accordance with their ethical values.

So. With these points in mind, are you there yet? Are you "done"?

I'll go first: I'm not. Not even close. I may be the brains behind this blog. I may be the one encouraging friends to swap-not-shop and rethink fast fashion impulses, but that does not make me the Patron Saint of Sustainability. If you could open the suitcases beneath my bed, if you knew how long the bag marked "Goodwill" has lingered behind my closet door, if you felt the wince of desire that crossed my face on tantalizing journeys past the shop windows of 5th Avenue, you would know: I'm still working on it.

But I've come far from where I was before. And for those of you who are still in a position of owning too much clothing, struggling to avoid an impulse purchase, or simply lacking confidence in your personal style, listen up, because I'm about to drop on you the most sustainably fashionable action to ever grace your ears. And it's something you can do RIGHT. NOW.

Ready? Here it is:

WEAR. YOUR. CLOTHES.

Wear the clothes you already own. Chances are, they're not bad ones. (You bought them for some reason, right?) Pending on where and when they were purchased, it's likely they're not as worn out as you think they are. My very favorite sweatshirt from eighth grade (which I probably wore every single day of my fourteenth year around the earth) could still serve its intended functions were I to put it on right now: it would keep me covered and it would keep me warm.

Me, in all my totally unstylish teenage dirtbaggery.

The caveat, however, lies in an additional function of clothing. A privileged function. A human-imposed function. The fact is, most of us don't want to wear a sweatshirt selected by our 14-year-old selves. Hurley International and I had our heyday alongside the other posers of junior high, but I've learned my place since then. I'm not a skateboarder, and I doubt I ever will be. This is no longer the type of Rachel I want to pretend to be; this is no longer my style.

When you're struggling with a style change, it can be difficult to be responsible and wear your clothes. What's the first thing we all want to do when we get a new job or pant size?* BUY NEW THINGS! ALL THE NEW THINGS! A CLOSET FULL OF NEW PERSONALITY! If such habits are already in place, it will be difficult to avoid that impulse to shop and face your wardrobe as-is. But I encourage you to try. Even a few weeks of self-styling can provide a tremendous boost to your creativity. Besides, until you give yourself the time to explore, you're liable to continue making the same shopping mistakes -- and then you may never find your style at all.

Once you own up and face the actual contents of your closet, you may discover what I discovered: That you have A LOT of clothes! In order to restyle these garments, you're going to have to familiarize yourself with them. Choose an inventory process that suits your brain. For me, that was diving headfirst into Excel heaven and color coding a week of my life away. For you it might just be scooping everything out of the depths and flinging stuff into smaller piles on your bed. Take some time to reintroduce yourself to these garments. Ask them how life is at the back of the dresser. Then: play. Put on some music and your favorite underwear. Grab two pieces that make zero sense together and figure out a way to make them sing. Snap photos of your favorite creations, and soon your phone will be filled with nonsense like this:


If you're really, truly struggling with wearing what you have (maybe you're having a baby, I don't know), strive to find your garments a new home. Host a clothes swap, visit a consignment store, or donate to a local charity. Avoid undercutting the purpose of minimalism by being wasteful with what you relinquish. There is almost always an alternative option to the landfill.

The most important piece of advice I can offer while you're whittling down your wardrobe and discovering your style is this: Avoid shopping. Better yet, set a sustainable challenge for yourself, like purchasing only from thrift stores or pretending H&M doesn't exist for a year. It might mean spending less time on certain websites, where you're prone to impulse buying. It could entail unsubscribing from retailers' email lists. I really can't stress the importance of letting yourself sit with your wardrobe like this, without incoming purchase distraction to stop you from discovery. Give yourself space to learn how to pair things, what makes you feel confident, and where your shopping mistake minefields lie.

If you follow these steps, the road to sustainability will turn from Mt Everest into a pleasant medium-grade hillside. To summarize:
  1. Wear the clothes you own.

  2. Teach yourself how to style them together.

  3. Don't shop for new ones.

  4. When you must part with something, show it a sustainable farewell.

     

Later this week I'll be sharing a more detailed approach to wardrobe creation for those of us still grappling with piles of still-wearable clothing. Stay tuned!


*Besides celebrate the event with a gargantuan cookie.

5.24.2017

A Catalyst for Change: Organizing Inspirsession

While I may have taken a two-month leave of absence from Inspirsession, it has been on my mind a lot lately. There's the usual musings -- what's currently informing my fashion whims, which closet project have I exhausted my friends with this month -- and, on another level, how this blog might be affected by the current state of our world.

While I can't say that environmentalism figured into my first fashion fascinations, the aim has become increasingly important to me in the past few years. Discovering the capsule wardrobe method, living out of a backpack abroad, moving to NYC, and enduring the election of our current Commander in Grief (or, more specifically, witnessing his immediate disregard for the general state of our planet) have all thrust me away from fast fashion and toward more sustainable, ethical practices. As discussed in my previous post, a year of secondhand shopping proved to me that newness does not equal happiness; I could take just as much pleasure in a pair of used boots as a pair bought fresh off the rack. While it's obvious that I'll never be one of those zen-happy minimalists who selects their daily uniform from a sleek clothing rack, nor will I embrace the earthly modesty of a sac-like hippie dress and market-made sandals, I nevertheless took a sense of personal satisfaction in my efforts to bring mindfulness to my closet.

A few days ago I was having a meal with a friend. For reasons also pertaining to the environment, I am a practicing vegetarian, and when this fact came up in conversation, they admitted they had once been vegetarian as well. It's not in my nature to question other people's dietary choices (in fact, I find the whole topic rather boring), but this person chose to share their reasoning anyway: "You can't do it alone!" They delivered this line matter-of-factly, possibly with a smack of their gums, and as if that was the end of the conversation. Incidentally, it was: I was gobsmacked into silent confusion.

The idea that justice cannot be achieved singlehandedly is a fair presumption. Yes, it takes an army to change politics. Yes, Rome wasn't built in a day. Yes, my single effort to eschew meat wasn't exactly stopping starving polar bears from eating their young. But that a person would choose to air this kind of cynicism as justification for their own misgivings is appalling to me. It made me wonder why they didn't just pledge allegiance to the Great Cheeto himself and set the nearest child on fire. I went home furious about it, and that fury lit the match which eventually came into contact with dynamite: an email from an organizing superwoman, Maggie Moore.

Maggie was hosting a meeting called "Good Guys New York: Organizing for Artists in the Trump Era." The very title terrified me. While I'm undeniably obsessed with organization as it pertains to filing, alphabetizing, and list-making, I'd never so much as considered organizing people. I do not consider myself a "people person." I'm friendly, but introverted. I shiver at the notion of being in charge of other adults. I have been told by leaders that I am not a leader.

Nevertheless, I went. Once there, I dissected my frustration with the comment made by my friend. I confessed the private excitement I felt for all things fashion. I discovered a desire for national change lurking within my wardrobe structure preoccupations. I recognized an outlet for enacting this change. Once more, I married inspiration to obsession.

Inspirsession has served many purposes over the years for me: it has been a personal journal, a gallery, a how-to manual, and a travel blog. But I'm hoping it can become something bigger. Something beyond itself. A catalyst for change in a larger community. It is with great hope I journey onward with my ideas, with a wish that they will continue to solidify and narrow into direct actions. Actions I can offer to you who have chosen to listen, so that we might accomplish together what, as my friend insists, no human can accomplish alone.

3.02.2017

A Year Without New Clothes


This post has been a long time coming, but I wanted to follow up on my year-long experiment of only purchasing used clothing.

When I moved to New York City in autumn of 2016, I made a commitment to live with less. I'd anticipated a smaller apartment, minimum closet space, and less income to spend on "wants." (Ironically, I actually have more of all three of those things. Funny how life works.) Having no idea what my new job might demand attire-wise, and still nursing a pretty strong attraction to all things thrift store, I decided to let myself continue to shop for clothes; but I made two rules for myself:

 

RULES:

1) If I wanted more / different clothing, I had to acquire it secondhand (via thrift / consignment shop, clothes swap, or passed on from a friend.)

2) Exceptional necessities like work uniforms and undergarments could be purchased new, but only from a brand with ethical values.

THE PROCESS 

Between October 2015 and November 2016, I became well-acquainted with New York's thrift shops. I researched ethical brands and poured over library books and blog posts comparing eco-conscious options. I committed myself to improving my capsule wardrobes and added the challenge of vlogging my seasonal collections. This helped remind me (and exemplify to others) just how far a small closet can stretch. When I found myself sighing over dresses and shoes in shop windows, I made notes of their brand, style, and silhouette -- handy keywords for the next time I found myself on Ebay. The fast fashion shops I'd sworn off became research fields; places for me to sample new trends without the pressure of making a purchase. With this information, I could make better-informed investments at my secondhand locales.

A few months in, I was excited to find that my clothes were holding up remarkably well. Even more exciting, between working part time and taking my number-one distraction off the table, I had a truckload of free hours on my hands. The time I might have spent shopping was instead passed at the library and pouring over my borrowed treasures. I learned how to properly launder clothes. I identified my style icons. I educated myself on the history of American clothing production and the emergence of fast fashion. I defined my chosen values under the umbrella of ethical fashion. Over the course of the year, I read the following:*

  • Women in Clothes (Heidi Julavits, Leanne Shapton, and Sheila Heti)
  • The Style Mentors (Elyssa Dimant)
  • The Wow Factor (Jacqui Stafford)
  • How to Get Dressed (Alison Freer) 
  • The Truth About Style (Stacy London)
  • The Imperfect Environmentalist (Sarah Gilbert)
  • The Lost Art of Dress (Linda Pryzbyszewski)
  • You Are What You Wear (Jennifer J. Baumgartner)
  • Wear No Evil (Greta Eagan)   - review here
  • How To Have Style (Isaac Mizrahi)
  • Brooklyn Street Style (Anya Sacharow)
  • The Joy of Less (Francine Jay)
  • The Cool Factor (Andrea Linett)
  • The Curated Closet (Anuschka Rees)  
  • How to be Parisian Wherever You Are (Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Sophie Mas, and Caroline De Maigret)

Maybe educating yourself on personal style isn't the most academically impressive pursuit, but I'm pretty proud of that list. Especially when I consider it kept the fashion-obsessed part of me happy without spending money and polluting the environment.

OBSTACLES 

Of course along with these triumphs came struggles. Below are some of the issues I ran into on my journey, and the ways I dealt with each.

Problem: The Desire to, well, SHOP!

This was, naturally, the trickiest habit to shake. You may be a practical planner or live carefully inside your budget like me, but chances are if you suddenly impose limits on your regular outlets, you'll immediately start craving what you can't have.

Defense: Knowledge of Your Personal Style

Because NYC thrift stores and consignment shops are abundant and fabulous, this wasn't as difficult as it could have been. That said, secondhand shopping is a whole different beast than buying new -- the most obvious difference existing in these three little words: All Sales Final.

It takes adequate knowledge of your personal style -- or real fake-it-til-you-make-it alacrity -- to make secondhand decisions you won't regret. Real talk? I possessed neither of these before beginning this experiment. It took a lot of trial-and-error, plenty of personal examination, and a whole lot of reading (as evidenced above) to develop.

Worth mentioning is the prerequisite openness to exploring this in the first place. If you're the kind of person who opens their closet and is happy with the choice of a black t-shirt and jeans everyday, rock on with your bad self (and do so sustainably, please!) If you make this same selection and secretly sob into your cup of morning coffee, check out one of the books mentioned above (The Style Mentors, You Are What You Wear, and The Curated Closet would be particularly helpful) and invite your inner badass on your next shopping expedition.

For more tips on smart shopping and discovering your personal style, check out these posts:
   Smart Shopping
   7 Savvy Tips for the On-Trend Shopper
   How Purchase-Tracking Can Help Define Your Style and Save You Money

Problem: Boredom

Let's face it: everyone gets bored with their current closet from time to time. I may put on my best smug-bitch face in my capsule videos, but even the most beloved dress can become monotonous after you've worn it five times in one month.

Solution: Experimentation

Accessories offer a quick fix here. These are typically cheap and therefore a low-risk option at secondhand shops. I couldn't believe how the addition of a new-to-me fedora livened up my wardrobe last fall. Hats especially have a strange power to make me feel like a whole 'nother person.

Interestingly, hanging my clothing by color lead me to notice combinations I might previously have overlooked -- especially print pairings.

A more involved and decidedly nerdier trick I developed was creating "cheat sheets" for my capsule wardrobes. Essentially I built an Excel flow-chart; starting with shoes and branching out horizontally with corresponding bottom, top, and outerwear options, then worked my way through the possible results throughout season. Ideally, your wardrobe is fully mixable and you can skip this sort of overthinking by pulling things at random out of your closet and putting them on. The important thing here is to challenge yourself to avoid pairing the same thing over and over. Unless you like that, in which case, again, ROWYBS.

Many bloggers have sworn by the 10x10 challenge. I personally found this project best lends itself to normcore, neutral-palette wardrobes, which aren't really my style. But it's a great place to start!

For more style fun, check out these wardrobe experiments:
   Use Inspiration Photos to Create the Perfect Wardrobe
   Build a Capsule Wardrobe
   Cull Your Closet

Problem: Damage & Disrepair

As mentioned above, this wasn't a huge issue for me. Perhaps that was largely thanks to starting off with a few high-quality garments; merino blend sweaters, leather boots, a steadfast silk dress, and trusty topcoat, for instance. Still, that didn't mean I was exempt from the occasional oil smudge, pitstain, or straight-up bad investment (Ralph Lauren cashmere-blend gloves, I'm looking at you...)

Solution: Mend, Hire, and Make Good Choices

In terms of sustainability, replacement should be a last resort. Ideally, you'll find a way to fix or reuse damaged garments and avoid mindless substitution. After all, the most environmentally-friendly option when it comes to your closet is always wearing what you already own.

Over the course of the year I paid several visits to my sewing box, mending moth holes, busted toes, loose hems, lost buttons, and torn seams. I called on the cobbler to resole my favorite boots (for the third time in their long life), and will soon make another trip to doctor three other pairs. I have yet to find a tailor here in the city, but that's on my list of to-dos this season!

Of course, none of this would have been feasible had I not made quality choices in the first place. Whenever possible, strive to choose items that will be worthy of repair when they finally give out. One of my proudest thrift store investments this year was a pair of gently worn Frye knee boots. These shoes have been known to last a lifetime, and I've been coveting their classic styles for years now. The price point wasn't what I'd spend on just any shoe, but it's been well-worth it. For my work wardrobe, I purchased a like-new Equipment silk blouse, which I launder by hand with Castile soap every second wear. My Rag & Bone wool toggle coat didn't come cheap, even at consignment value, and I'll probably need to dry clean it before storing it this spring. In short, choosing quality over seasonal doesn't always mean cheap and easy, but in the long run, it's likely to save you a lot of time and mental energy. (Who enjoys the agony that comes with replacing a favorite bra or discontinued jeans? NO ONE, THAT'S WHO.)

For more info on fashion ethics and eco-fashion experts, check out this post:
   My Style Journey: Sustainability

CONCLUSION

Hopefully I've shed some light on this process and encouraged some of you to try it for yourself! It was interesting to finally conclude my experiment last November, what with Christmas right around the corner. Admittedly, I did accept new gifts and make a few purchases for some badly-in-need-of-replacement items, such as my work shoes and winter gloves (dammit, Ralph Lauren.) As much as possible, however, I've tried to carry on these practices. Buying secondhand is still my go-to option when I need or want new clothes -- and I do find myself "wanting" less now. I inspect care labels and steer clear of items that contain synthetics (EXCEPT bras, for which I have yet to find an adequate sustainable replacement.) I'm gravitating more toward transparent brands, quality products, and ethical production values.

Whatever sustainable decisions you make, remember: the choice is yours, and the time is now. There's no "more right" way to do this thing; everyone needs to decide what's suitable and productive for their lifestyle. You'll learn unique truths on your own journey, I'm sure. And when you do, I hope you'll return to share them below!

*It's also worth mentioning the book that started me rethinking my shopping habits in the first place, which I read a year prior to starting this project: Elizabeth L. Cline's Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion.

1.04.2017

Reflections on a New Year: 2017


From the sounds of it, 2016 was a rough year for everybody. It might be easier to remember the good in it had our country not just elected a bonafide megalomaniac, and it may simply be part of aging past the mid-twenties, but there's definitely something this January that's shining markedly dimmer than usual.

As I sit here scanning my somewhat littered living room, I feel a twinge of shame at how disorderly I've let my surroundings become this season. It's inevitable that with even a subtle alteration in daily routine -- weird weather, a new job, a house guest -- good habits can quickly fall by the wayside, and in the past few months, I've experienced all three. The amount of times I've grumbled at my boyfriend to clear his ever-multiplying mugs from the coffee table is blatantly undercut today by last night's half-finished glass of wine abandoned in the same place by yours truly.

If I let my brainwaves creep into the next room, I twitch at the pile of clothes hanging over our extra chair, which sits temptingly close to my closet. I grimace at my carry-on bag and its orphan Christmas gift contents, still seeking a proper home. My lungs constrict at the contents of my in-process winter capsule, which have exceeded the bounds of their hanger allotment and now peer up at me from every imaginable surface -- a chorus of fibers awaiting proclamation of their seasonal roles.

It's no great wonder that when our minds and bodies become stressed, distracted, or otherwise overburdened, our physical surroundings mirror those same qualities. This phenomenon is akin to the asshole who suddenly and inexplicably clips you out of their life also happening to have impeccably groomed nails. (See Urban Dictionary; "jerk nails.") Even the soul who strives to maintain only the "useful and beautiful" in their homes (William Morris), can be thrown for a loop when faced with a truckload of not-very-useful, not-very-beautiful life circumstances. With every adorable kitten comes an odoriferous, plastic litter box, so they say.*

The approach of the new year gave me a lot to think about, however, and I'm finding that no matter much energy I put into controlling my surroundings -- maintaining capsule wardrobes, striving to buy only what I truly need -- nothing sticks unless my state of mind is being similarly curated. In the past week, I have had to get rully rully real with my own mental fitness. It would be inaccurate of me to call myself depressed -- I do not pretend to understand the havock that depression, real depression, can wreak on one's state of mind. And while I may cope with a certain amount of general anxiety, I don't assume I fully understand that state of mind either. Nevertheless, I know I have a lot of personal mental hangups to work through, among them negativity, guilt, abandonment & trust issues, playing the victim, and a basic lack of confidence in making my own decisions.

So I've decided to make something of this realization and, as an exchange for focusing on my mental processes, give myself a break in those other realms of order. While I'm sure I am capable of maintaining a minimal closet, I've accepted that I may need a broader range of styles to experiment with until I solidify that smushy sense of self. While I still want to strive for owning only what I need, I accept that having certain items in my life provides a sense of security while I build up that intrinsic trust in myself and others.

If you think I've got it backwards, let me tell you a story.... When I was 10 years old, I still slept with my blanket. You know, the one you get as a baby that gets dragged through every possible bacterium amidst your youthful frolicks, then comes straight into bed with you. Once I turned 11, I started worrying I was too old to sleep with a blanket anymore. I told myself that girls with bras didn't need security blankets. That this was the first step on the path to eventually snuggling with boys instead. So I decided to put my blanket in the drawer of my dresser, so it would remain close, but where my friends couldn't see it. For two years, the blanket went back and forth between the drawer and my bed. I took it out when I needed an extra cushion under my head. Like the night the boy I liked handed me a note that said he only liked me as a friend and, as a matter of fact, had a crush on the girl who sat next to me in art class instead. Or the day I cried in the middle of ballet because I couldn't remember to go left instead of right on the adagio combination and somehow everyone else could. Or perhaps the week I got a fever and just wanted something cool against my cheek. Eventually the blanket found a more permanent home in the drawer. Then one day I sealed it up in a plastic bag, and that was it: I didn't sleep with a blanket anymore.

This is all to say I've considered the inverse scenario, where I discard the security stuff first. I've certainly side-eyed my coloring books and reflected on how it's easier to escape into that meditative, solitary activity than to face the fact that I'm avoiding asking a certain acquaintance to coffee for fear I won't actually have anything interesting to offer them as a friend. One could argue we would all benefit from owning nothing (or letting nothing own us.) Like a school uniform, this would reduce us to our inherent personalities and humors, and nothing more. It may be a chicken and egg scenario: Which comes first, the person or what defines them?  

But after a quarter of a century with your own mind, you start to know yourself. And I know me (even if I don't know it), and that's how I know that purging garbage bags of belongings or adopting another woman's style or cutting sugar out of my life entirely or making a declaration to say only "nice things" is merely a temporary fix. It will not ultimately get me anywhere but into a foreign shell of personality, like accidentally grabbing someone else's jacket from coat check. So I submit this: with the stuff, come the questions. Out of these questions, come the challenges. From the challenges, comes the person.

So, in summary, this year I'm striving to clarify. To engage quickly, but react slowly. To love passionately, but dispute deliberately. To forgive generously, but forget on my own terms. To focus less on analyzing my stuff, and more on investigating myself.

What does this mean for the blog? It means you'll still get the final installment of my capsule wardrobe series (winter), because I don't like to leave projects unfinished, but it also means I have no idea what turns my wardrobe structure may take beyond that. It means I'm still going to reflect on ways to be good to our planet and resist fast fashion. It means I forgot to put up a Christmas playlist this year, and I'm sorry to anyone who actually cares, but I'm starting to forgive my own inconsistencies. It means Inspirsession will continue to be an undefined, mutable space across which I continue to carve out and polish my identity, and one I hope will encourage you to share in the same process.

Thank you, dear readers, for keeping me writing. Happy New Year to all! Here's hoping 2017 makes a lot more sense than her predecessor.


*No one actually says this ever.

1.01.2017

Happy New Year!


Happy 2017, everyone!

While on holiday at my parent's house, I took some time to reevaluate my style for the year ahead. Of course this lead to sorting through all my sentimental pieces... Hopefully some of these items will make their way back into my everyday wardrobe, but for now they have a semi-permanent home in my childhood bedroom. It was fun to style them again -- remembering a few of my old personalities and creating new ones on the way!

Outfit details:

(1) vintage silk slip (my grandmother's) + Express jeans (my brother's) + Converse All-Star high tops (circa 2004)

(2) Mandarin silk jacket (thrifted) + nude leotard + wool skirt + suede pumps (both my grandmother's)

(3) vintage dress (borrowed from a dear friend)

(4) formal dress (brand unknown, worn to an 8th grade dance)

(5) Old Navy overalls + Express crop top + a long-lost scrunchie