Friday, April 28, 2017

To Bend or To Break?

That is the question. And of course, I mean The Rules.

I've long dabbled in personal style, which is kind of like fashion but without adherence to trends. I suppose that I've just never been one who colors in the lines because I'm told to. Sure, I'll crayola nicely if that fits what I'm going for, but never explicitly "just because". Creative expression is just far too big for that, and innovation demands risk.

On learning that I deal in vintage clothing, many men over the years have asked me if I buy/sell menswear-- my reply has always been that I don't, but would someday like to. Perhaps most women wouldn't have an interest there, but I've long had a unique relationship with suits, velvet smoking jackets and wingtips: Most who know him, would say that my instincts towards style come from my Dad. Through him, I've been around the menswear block a time or two, spending quite a bit of my growing up years wandering through racks of jackets and ties while he browsed. Perhaps that's also where I've gotten my aversion to conventional shopping-- I pretty much never shop in malls or chain stores. Mostly this is because I discovered that I could find basically the same thing at Goodwill or an Estate sale. Really the only time I'll pay full price these days is for handmade or fair trade-- which proves to be more unique, more cost effective, ethically responsible and better quality in the long run.

Somehow in all those years of menswear exposure though, I've only recently started thinking of  men's fashion in the same way that I do women's-- that if there are Rules, they should at least be bent a little. These recent thoughts stemmed naturally from now having a man in my life, one who blessedly has a style of his own. We were having a conversation about his wedding attire, and I mused about whether a short sleeve dress shirt could be worn under a suit jacket (because I really like his half sleeve tattoos and think it might be nice to see them in some of the pictures).  The truth, as always with clothing, is "of course you can!". But is it good, beneficial, pleasing to the individual in question? That's the real issue that remains to be seen.

Sidebar disclaimer: I've always found the practice of women dressing men, to be distasteful. Just as it's distasteful for men to dress women. To each their own. Though I'm excited about his choices, Jon's attire for the wedding has indeed been his choice. I always want to honor that in him. :)

After some quick Googling, I came across several sources arguing a resounding "No." to the short sleeves topic (well la-ti-da!), and one on the opposite side, titled, "Don't Fear the Short-Sleeved Shirt". Wow, this sounds like a serious phobia that needs cracking!

The negative sources were mostly menswear forum posts about the topic-- at least someone asked the question, so I'm not alone! Most of the responses were snobbishly negative and sounded a lot to me like, "never wear white after Labor Day". Give me a break. Somehow I thought menswear wouldn't be quite as chock full of silly faux paux rules as women's, but it seems I was wrong.

For most of my life I've had to weather morning comments like "are you really wearing that?", or "but those don't match". But once I walked out into the real world, I found that there are others who get it, or at the very least found my style refreshing. There are also those that don't get it, and that's okay. At the end of the day, who are we getting dressed for? Why do we wear what we do?

The sad truth is that often meaningless "because that's the way it is" statements rule our culture. I think perhaps (in style and other things) we need to delve deeper into the why. Some of those guidelines do have substance and worth, but others don't. As I always seem to come back to: balance is everything.

D e t a i l s
{ jacket } - thrifted
blouse } - vintage, for sale at Novel Nellie
{ skirt } - vintage, coming soon to Novel Nellie
{ heels } - vintage, thrifted

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Note To Self

I just came across one of my journal entries from January, that proclaimed this to be the year (for me) of Sharing.  This morning when I read that, and my thoughts around it, I felt so frustrated with myself-- basically because I've not done a great job of focusing on that ideal, and the year is almost halfway over!

Perhaps I'm also feeling frustrated for a myriad of other reasons (read: I am), but I thought I should address that goal here to keep myself a bit more accountable to it.  As I've chronicled here at least a handful of times, I am not great at sharing certain parts of myself with the world around me.  Don't get me wrong, I'm the first to share my areas of suffering one on one or in a small group, or to be honest about my shortcomings, but I am decidedly challenged at sharing my gifts.  Heck, I'm bad at even letting them out into the light at all.  Over the past few years, I have identified, called out and tried to zero in on this problem, and little by little I have started to make progress.

There was that musical that I forced myself to audition for, times that I've given artwork as gifts, and even deciding to design all of the paper goods for my wedding in May (I'll definitely do a post on that after the fact!) I used to even stop myself from simply humming/singing softly to myself in the presence of other people-- sounds silly, but it was mostly for the fear that someone would think I was trying to get attention.  I've allowed myself to be crippled by those fears and lies in more areas than I'd like to admit, but I've found that putting myself out there to be so beneficial!

But for the past six months or so, I've grown a little lax in that area of growth.  Perhaps it's because I've been a little distracted by the mountain of responsibilities that I've gained in several areas over that time, or by the ins and outs of maintaining a long distance engagement-- but whatever the reason, I am so glad that I stumbled on that January journal entry again, so that I could read my own words.

There is such power in reading our own words. 

It's very much like recovering a Note To Self-- you know, "remember to wear sunscreen", or in my case "please remember what a shame and waste it is to hide".  And so, I have been reminded by the wisdom of my January self, that God is calling me to grow better at sharing in this season: my gifts, my ideas, my passions, and to do so without holding back.

Ha, and so I am here, sharing. ;)

D e t a i l s
{dress} - Dee & Ray, thrifted via Poshmark
{shirt} - J.Crew, thrifted via Goodwill
{necklace} - handmade, Seven Finches
{coat} - vintage, Novel Nellie
{boots} - Frye

Friday, April 7, 2017

Truth + Gratitude

As a human, I experience some days that just blindside me before I'm even dressed. Usually, these days are not experienced at the hands of tangible tragedy, emergency, or unforeseen circumstance.  Usually, they are simply at the hands of the mish-mosh of thoughts and feelings in my head. 

But this post is really not about the down morning I have had-- better, it is about how I found myself sitting here, about an hour later, feeling ready to face the day!  Over the years, I have built up a tactical fortress of go-to methods for dealing with these bouts of the feelz.

Sidebar for those of you who don't get the feelz: though I am technically a "feeler" (wooo, MBTI), it is only by a couple of points.  Often, I think we make the mistake of looking at people as one or the other, instead of "somewhere on the spectrum" of thinking and feeling.  I, my friends, am smack dab in the center-- so if you are a "thinker", you stay right here.  You experience this stuff too!  Perhaps instead of "feelz" for you, though, it's anxiety or overthinking.  Right?  Well, lucky little me, I experience some of both.

So back to that tactical weaponry.  It boils down to this: remembering what is true, amidst untrue thoughts.

For myself, my greatest ally in doing that is my faith, and quite literally, The Creator of The Universe.  Still, even with the Big Guy on my side, the main challenge is in remembering what he has said is true about life, about me and about himself-- in short, The Bible.

Many days, I go straight to my little pocket sized scripture, or my YouVersion Bible app.  Let's be honest though, sometimes we are too crippled by our mood to take the initiative to do so-- this morning was one such morning for me.  These moments are when I am most thankful for fellow creative believers, and the Truth-injected media that is readily available to us!  These are my top go-to sources of scriptural Truth (not necessarily in this order), when I'm feeling too *bleh* to move (literally or metaphorically).

Ooo, aptly named, right?  I discovered SRT several years ago as a bible plan option on the YouVersion Bible App, and pretty quickly began reading directly on their website (this is pre-SRT app).  Having that daily rhythm of both reading scriptural Truth, and having a place to process my thoughts, or read the reflections of other women, was awesome!  Still to this day, I try to start my mornings with SRT-- and when I do, I have to say that my day is definitely begins with more gratitude and a more peaceful spirit.

PS - There is also a He Reads Truth for the gents!

My main source of this is Spotify, where I've built different playlists over time.  One of which is a list that I call Contemplative, that is where I go when I "just can't even"-- that happened this morning.  In all seriousness though, there is nothing like hearing truth aloud, and music that proclaims Biblical Truth is a wonderful way to experience that, and to remind our hearts and minds of what is true.  These are some lyrics from a song that really struck, and brought me out of the fog this morning:

Prayer is both an opportunity to communicate directly with God, and more of that hearing/seeing scriptural truth concept-- praying aloud or in written form really helps solidify the reality of God's Truth in a tangible way!  Sometimes you just have to talk/write it out. If that sounds silly, I dare you to try it in earnest the next time you are feeling glum! I usually end up potently reminded of the gratitude that I have for everything I've been given in this life, despite my struggles. :)

Despite the fact that these are my personal go-to's, I'm sure there are many other forms of effective weaponry against spiritual/emotional/mental turmoil-- I'd definitely still learning what works best, but am confident that it's always recalling Truth in some way. Truth gets to the core of things in a way that chocolate, that favorite old movie, or puppy kisses just can't-- except maybe the puppies. ;)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Contentment + Change

Last night the sky opened up and dropped layers of white into my March 13th. Something about the cozy brightness of it this morning, awakened a section of my brain that's been sleeping lately-- the part that writes.

The current season that I am in has been one of the shortest in recent memory, one of those periods of time with a marked end date.  And new beginning.  It's been a remarkable season, both of dreams and challenges, and gained perspective that I didn't expect.  Lately I have been making lists, checking spreadsheets, planning, traveling, unpacking, writing checks, packing, generally dropping balls, and not really living life the peace-filled way that I love to.

I know that this season of excitement and activity, leads to a season of peace and building, but I am not there yet.  So this morning the white-blanketed landscape drew me in, and told me to rest, unpack and frame the memories that I have been sprinting past in this season, that are truly worth documenting.

First, going from a seven year single streak to being engaged within five months of meeting, has been amazing!  Hear me when I say that I know that's not for everyone, but that it was specifically designed for my heart by God.  This has given me a great deal of perspective, both for those single (regardless of age or season) and those who are married.  I used to understand almost nothing about "coupledom", living totally in a world of dinner with my lady friends and trying to figure out what work God had for me here on earth.  In truth, I probably was a little insensitive to married people, out of sheer ignorance.  How glad I am, though, that I am bringing my single experience into my married life! That I'll have fully experienced both.  Perhaps we (in our culture and in the Church) don't do the best job of valuing that single season before marital intimacy, but I cannot underscore it enough.

If both Jon and I had not been single for a good chunk of time before meeting each other, I'm not sure it would have worked-- and even if it had, we would have both been less health-seeking individuals who would have hurt each other more. There are so many things that I have learned about myself, and ways in which God has grown my character these last seven years, that would have been much harder to learn within the context of marriage. Singleness, while lonely feeling at times, is the most effective environment for building a foundation of emotional and spiritual health, in my opinion-- you can't point fingers, or blame anyone but yourself. In singleness, we are forced to look at ourselves.  This song comes to mind. ;)

When both people have been through this, even to the point of surrendering entitlement to a spouse, the growth and submission to Christ that happens is beautiful.  Because this is the nature of the relationship I am in, even seven months in, both Jon and I are completely overwhelmed by how good God was to plan this the way he did.  Because we both were forced to develop positive autonomy that led to self awareness, we appreciate the mutual support, encouragement, challenge and insight of our love that much more.  We don't need to be completed, but our partnership makes us both better-- in our hearts, in our work and in our relationships with others.

My current challenge (because there always is one) is in saying goodbye to some really great things at the end of May.  When we gain, there is always loss involved.  I only wish that this season allowed more time in a given week to process those things-- less other responsibilities vying for my attention.  Time to savor the amazing female friendships I have enjoyed here over the past seven years (including with my Mom!), to let those people know fully how much I value and want to continue my friendships with them.  Finding the balance between my excitement for my future with Jon in a new city, and full expression of how much I will miss my sweet community here, is hard.  All wonderful things, but you just can't have everything.

All in all, I count myself ridiculously blessed.  If anything, that seems to be the theme of this season: contentment. 

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." - Philippians 4:11-13

Monday, January 23, 2017

Show > Tell

Arriving home last night, from the weekend cap to a two-week-long series of travel, has left me both tired and inspired.  There's something about the chaos that's left in the wake of leaving home, that when returned to, serves as a prompt for fresh starts-- for creating anew. 

That's the mental space that I find myself in today, and it is good.  For two weeks, I have had only my iPad and iPhone to work off of-- while that forced me to be creative, grow in patience and to do without, it has also made returning to my normal resources extremely sweet and gratitude-filled.  Funny how that works, isn't it? I am thankful for this laptop that I currently peck away on, in a way that I wasn't two weeks ago.  How amazing, the way that God uses scarcity to strip away our entitlement.  

Ha!  I may have just called having only iDevices, scarcity.  Clearly, I am not done growing yet.

Boy has it been awhile since I shared an outfit post!  As I gradually lean more towards writing about ethical style, I'm very excited to share that through what I'm actually wearing!

So often when I have conversations with people about dressing more consciously, they seem to see it as a daunting change to make-- this couldn't be further from the truth!  My experience with ethical consumerism has been so positive that I can't help but share it.  I have realized, though, that ethical style is much more effectively shown than simply told. Hence sharing examples like this one, of ethically sourced outfits that I wear in everyday life. I have been so excited to share this scarf specifically, because Jon's parents (so thoughtfully) gave it to me as a gift over Christmas-- and it's Fair Trade!  How they knew that this was important to me, I'll never know, but I was blown away by the sincerity and care reflected in such a gift! :)

Just a note that I want to stress: very much like the post I just wrote about how to start going ethical in the New Year, I totally still own garments that I've bought in the past, or that were given to me as gifts, that don't pass as ethically sourced!  The Cole Haan boots in this picture are a perfect example.  Ethical consumerism is, in my opinion, about the decisions we make now, not about creating more waste out of an item that you actually wear.  I talk more about this here, if you are interested!

D e t a i l s
{scarf} - gift, Grace & Lace
{thermal} - thrifted
{wool skirt} - vintage 40's, via Comet Vintage
{shoes} - Cole Haan, gift
{tights} - Target

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

First Steps to An Ethical New Year


Is "ethical fashion" something you have caught wind of, or have known about, but can't wrap your mind around what that change in your life would look like?  If that's you, feeling stuck in making the switch this new year, I'd love to lend some personal advice on how to take the first steps. 

1. Choose. Whether going dairy free, implementing weekly exercise, or starting a job search, we all know that making any sort of positive change in life requires a choice. As for myself, I seem to be far more successful at starting and sustaining a change if I've made a decision to do it.  Don’t sit on the fence in an apathetic culture that constantly RSVP’s Maybe to Facebook invites.

Tip:  If you want to be successful at changing your consumer choices, share your decision with friends and family! Accountability goes a long way in motivating us towards our goals, especially when we know that it's written plain as day on our Instagram. ;)

2. Inspire. Yourself, that is! It takes very little time these days to search and find tons of gorgeous Fair Trade, vintage, handmade and other ethically produced products on the Internet.  Even if you aren't in a place to buy anything new at present, I totally encourage browsing in order to expand your horizons about what's available! Following ethical bloggers is also a great way to see how stylish responsible consumerism can be! If you have some feelings of separation anxiety from your favorite brands, they will quickly melt away when you see the unique and quality crafted, ethical items that are available!

Tip: Start a Pinterest board for the gorgeous ethically made items that you might invest in down the road-- believe me, it makes Target and Modcloth seem much less tempting.

3. Clean. Now, don't misunderstand. I believe that ethical style means moving forward, not looking back.  That said, when sweaters at H&M are $8 a pop, some of us may have been guilty of getting twelve different colors (when we actually only wear three). Do not, by any means, feel like you need to get rid of already purchased items that are quality and/or that you wear often-- you'll notice in my posts, that I have kept certain items purchased unethically long ago, because they are high quality staples in my wardrobe. That dress that you always try on but never wear, though? Maybe that one needs to go, to make space for something better.

Tip: Know that by recycling things you don't wear, to places like Goodwill or independent thrift shops, you are making another form of ethical consumerism possible: Thrifting! That perfect red J.Crew cardigan that you found at Savers for $7  last year would not have been there, if Jane hadn't admitted that she never wears red. Donate and thrift, thrift and donate-- it's a pretty amazing, sustainable cycle. :)

4. Save. Time and money, that is. Are some Fair Trade, vintage and handmade garments going to be more expensive than Walmart? Yes, but most are actually on par, or cheaper than popular stores like Banana Republic, Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters. What's more, ethically made products often have far more attention to detail and high quality craftsmanship than their non-ethical counterparts.

One thing has surprised me more than anything, that ethical style is extremely fun! Not only can you be rest assured that your dollar is doing good, but shopping thrifted, handmade, vintage and small, ethically produced brands generally ensures that your wardrobe will consist of unique items that can't be found in your average shopping mall.

Have you successfully made the switch to shopping ethical? I'd love to hear if there are any tips you would share, or how you've maintained the decision to be an advocate of slow fashion. :)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Inspiration {Main Bocher}

Over my very dear friend Sabrina’s birthday, I had the opportunity to spend a few delightful hours at the Chicago History Museum. Admitting that I've never been there feels like sacrilege, but it's the truth.  Of the many beautiful and interesting exhibits, one (very predictable) display caught my interest: the work and life of America’s first couturier, Main Boucher.

Sidebar: After typing that sentence, I find it imperative to note that I have never written the word “couturier” in my life, and generally do not give a hoot about "couture fashion".  Main Boucher, however, has proven to be an exception (forcing me to, yet again, face the anti-conformist hypocrisies that I sometimes am guilty of believing) .  Truly an artist of many media, what I found most striking about Boucher, were actually his drawings and paintings.  As a struggling, multi-faceted artist myself, I often feel the burden of focus-- how does one choose a favorite child, or give enough time to only one creative outlet? Seeing the variety of Boucher’s work was so encouraging, in reminding me that a successful creative is one that focuses on expression regardless of medium, and is at peace with fluidity.

On a more practical note, it was quite fun to see that some of Boucher’s beautiful gowns actually resemble ones that I have in the shop! It's a bittersweet realization, as I imagine many people swoon and idealize these museum dresses, but fail to see the value and identical quality of vintage specimens that they could purchase from any number of sources-- people are peculiar, but such is life.  I must say, one of my favorite details of the exhibit (that I didn't capture well in the photos) was the way the curators stylistically taped the feet of the manikins to symbolize shoes!  Very clever, indeed! 

Something that I and both of the ladies I went with, mused over, was what amazing fun it would be to work on some of the exhibits we saw!  The artistry involved was undeniable. All in all, I definitely left the museum a bit starry eyed, brimming over with renewed enthusiasm for my own creative pursuits. Isn't it amazing how God can use such unassuming things to refresh our hearts?  Over and over, I hear him whispering freedom to me-- that that is his main desire for me, and for all people. That fear (whatever of) would not cripple or hold us back, because he can make good even out of failure-- so how can we justify fear of failure?  We cannot.  I cannot.  And so, all that we can do is to choose freedom. Freedom in our individual forms of expression, to use them from a place of joy and pure wholehearted-ness. Freedom to disregard what others might think of us, and to let things happen.