Summertime Dressing

Currently, all of my sewing supplies are sitting in plastic bins and cardboard boxes, waiting for me to clear some space in my new bedroom. My vintage sewing machine* looks so sad and neglected next to my hamper of dirty laundry.

So I don’t know when I’m going to get back to sewing again, even though my hands and mind are itching to test some ideas that have been floating around in my head and in my inspiration pool. Fortunately, during the month before my move I had anticipated this situation and let out some of my soon-to-be pent-up creative steam by constructing a quick and easy new outfit. I took my new ensemble out for a spin during a very humid day last month:

DSC01112 (2)
So humid. So bright.
DSC01207 (2)
Hanging out by the highway, like all of the cool kids do.

The two-piece construction kept my midriff cool, and the skirt is a wrap skirt so my legs got to breathe with every step.

How simple was the sewing process for this outfit? I didn’t make any precise measurements (unless you count holding the fabric up to my waist and marking where I should cut as “precise”) or use any pattern pieces (except for the pockets of the skirt)! The top is constructed from one rectangle (with two bust darts) for the front and two triangles for the sides/back. The skirt is four rectangles (one for the back of the skirt, two for the sides, and a long and lean one for the waistband) plus the aforementioned pocket pieces (inserted into the side seams). And both the top and the skirt fasten with the help of ties and snaps, so no zipper insertion was needed! The trickiest part was actually attaching the shoulder straps to the top. I used red bias tape, which I tried to align with the red lines on the fabric; that required a bit of patience and a couple of do-overs.

DSC01208 (2)
I’m so happy about how easy this was that I can’t keep a straight face!

I really like the outcome, and I made it myself so I know no sweatshops were involved in the sewing of this outfit! To up the DIY aspect of my ensemble, I even wore a piece of leftover lace ribbon as a choker.

DSC01109 (3)
My usual photographer was not available at that moment, #selfie.

I can’t wait to sew again, but for now I’ll console myself by donning old me-made pieces like the two above. 🙂

—S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

*It’s a c. 1970s or 1980s Husqvarna[!] that was free because a stranger kindly abandoned it to me!**

**Although I can understand why she did so because it’s a very finicky machine in its old age…


Slowing Down

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that (1) I’ve recently been taxing myself to the point of exhaustion by working as both a freelance editor and a nine-to-fiver; and (2) my partner M. and I have been together for three years now and our third anniversary occurred fairly recently. Well, M. and I had to delay our “fancy” anniversary celebration by almost a month because I was finishing up my fifth freelance assignment. I finished the assignment (thank goodness), so we were finally able to spend some time together, slow down, and appreciate each other.

As part of the celebration, we decided to take most of a whole weekend for ourselves (usually we’d spend Friday night alone and then spend Saturday night with friends). I’m glad we decided to be “selfish,” because we both realized how much we missed having a relaxing evening together. Not having work on the brain is an amazing feeling.

We spent our Friday evening at Tuscany on Taylor, an Italian restaurant in the University Village/Little Italy neighborhood of Chicago. While it’s not the best Italian restaurant I’ve ever been to, Tuscany on Taylor is usually delicious for the price point, exudes a relaxed atmosphere that Michael and I both appreciate, and focuses on seafood (I love seafood). M. and I split bruschetta and truffle fries as our appetizers. The bruschetta was mediocre, but the truffle fries hit the right spot. For the main course, we each ordered seafood pasta dishes, which were the stars of the evening. Mine (on the left) was off of the “daily specials” menu, so I don’t remember exactly what it was called. M. ordered the penne e capesante (penne with scallops, red pepper, and extra virgin olive oil):

We left the restaurant quite full and happy.

On Saturday evening, we dined at Parson’s Chicken and Fish, in the Logan Square neighborhood. They are not quite a “fancy” establishment, but I think their fried chicken may be the best I’ve ever had. M. and I shared a plate of hush puppies and an entire skillet of chicken, a decision that we both regretted (but not really) because we usually split a skillet among four people…

Unfortunately, I don’t have photos of the fried chicken, so a close-up of the hush puppies will have to do:

I am so hungry for these right now.

For our date night at Parson’s, I wore a striped navy blue dress, which I made specifically to wear on my anniversary with M. (although I hadn’t expected our celebrations to be so delayed when I began constructing the dress). I paired it with mock garter fishnet tights, which, in tandem with the pinstripe-y nature of the dress’s fabric, gave me a bit of a late 1920s gangster vibe:



To make this dress, I altered some Burdastyle patterns, specifically the “Open Back Dress” and the “Fitted Skirt.” I paired the bodice of the dress pattern with the fitted skirt pattern, changed the neckline of the dress bodice into a halter with a tie, and attached a slanted ruffle and a horizontal ruffle to the skirt. Ruffles and frills are trending in the fashion world this year, didja know? (Although one of those ruffles was actually added to hide some puckered seaming issues…ahem.)

Here’s a close-up of the neckline, where I almost succeeded in lining up the stripes:

DSC01065 (2)

Overall, I was really happy with the bodice, especially the back, which I made almost no modifications to (I regret not getting M. to take a photo of the backless glory of this dress; backless dresses are my new favorite clothing item for the summer!). But the skirt needed a lot more work to fit me well, and I’m not completely sold on how the bodice and the skirt look together. The flounces are fun, but I think the bodice was too simple in comparison. Despite these notes, I do like the dress as a whole, and I’ll definitely wear it again. I just don’t think I’ll make another version of it. I will definitely reuse my modified bodice and skirt patterns, but separately from one another.

Some huge pluses: I did learn a lot from sewing this dress, and it’s the most eco-friendly garment I’ve ever completed because…*cue drumroll*…it’s made from a thrifted bedsheet! A twin-sized, made in the U. S. of A., 50% cotton and 50% polyester bedsheet, to be exact. I think I paid less than $4.00 for it. And I have leftovers! While bedsheets can be a hit or a miss when it comes to making garments, this particular fabric is sturdy, sewed up nicely, and is just stiff enough for the flounces to stand away from the body a bit (which is what I initially wanted). So, if you’re a fellow sewing hobbyist (I dare not call myself a seamstress at this point, as my skills are still sorely lacking), and you’re looking for ways to beef up your fabric stash while being environmentally conscious, may I suggest browsing your local thrift store’s linens section? Just make sure to really feel the fabric before you make a purchase and get a sense of the weight and the drape, to see if it’s right for your project (or garment sewing in general).

Back to M.’s and my evening! After dining at Parson’s, we lined up on a busy sidewalk in Wicker Park and waited for our opportunity to get inside the Violet Hour. The Violet Hour is a beautiful cocktail lounge that is modeled after the speakeasy of yore. Their cocktails are reasonably priced for the quality (about $13 a drink) and the interior is cozy and elegant. They also change up their exterior fairly often, and it’s always fun to see what they settle on for a new mural. This time it was an “advertisement” for a long-gone restaurant:


Once inside, we settled into the high-backed chairs, ordered our drinks, admired the chandeliers, and enjoyed the Violet Hour’s no cell phone policy. Instead of spending an hour looking at pictures of cute animals on the Internet (a regular occurrence between the two of us), we asked each other questions that we had never asked before and reminisced about parts of our pasts (together and separate) that we have fond memories of. And we took silly photos together (because we couldn’t completely resist the lure of technology). It was a great end to our weekend of slowing down.

I hope you have an opportunity to wind down and spend some time with a loved one this week. Cheers!

DSC01081 (2)

—S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way to write about any organizations or businesses that I have mentioned. This post expresses my honest opinions.

A [Fashionably] Long Weekend

This weekend has been rough, and this week is going to be rougher. Reasons being:

(1) A couple of days ago, in conversation with M., a topic of discussion rose up that sent me into a depression for a couple of days—it was an extremely unexpected and stark reminder of why our future together is so uncertain, and it came at a time when I was already at my limit for being stressed out. M. and I talked about it, mistakes were acknowledged (honesty, one of the reasons why I love the man), and I found my footing again, but, needless to say, I am still emotionally exhausted.

(2) I’m trying to finish another freelance assignment, my fifth (!) since I started getting into the freelance world (and I’m still working a full-time gig on top of that). I have to get through one hundred pages by Sunday and my current pace is about a page an hour. Not sustainable (or profitable, considering I’m paid a flat project fee). I’m definitely still on a learning curve.

(3) I haven’t slept more than five hours a night for the past three or four days. And while I am used to being sleep-deprived (it’s one of my worst habits), I’m not used to being sleep-deprived AND effectively working two jobs. One of the reasons why I am sleep-deprived is because I need the extra time to work, but my ability to work is impacted by the amount of sleep I get. So it’s a never-ending cycle…Additionally, when I am sleep-deprived my self-discipline flies out the window, leading me to spend time writing a blog post instead of working (ahem…).

This past weekend didn’t simply feel long though; it was actually longer than usual for us here in the United States, Monday being a federal holiday and thus an extra day away from (my full-time) work for me. Although I spent most of my holiday hours at home, dealing with the stress of freelancing and then the stress of relationship woes, M. and I did make sure to carve out a few hours for some bonding together.

On Friday night, we had a delicious dinner at the trendy Pl-zen (in Pilsen 🙂 ). For my outfit, I stuck to the simple t-shirt and jeans formula, but added a little interest through my accessories:

DSC00995 (2)
Glamour shot! in a trash-filled alleyway on our way to the restaurant…

I’m wearing three thrift store finds here, something I’m proud of! My t-shirt was purchased from Village Discount Outlet (VDO), a local thrift store chain, and is a soft linen-cotton blend. The bright red pumps, with their awesome 80s vibe, are also from VDO. And, finally, the navy cross-body bag is from Encore Resale, a thrift store in Hyde Park.

To add some “quirk,” I wore furry burgundy earrings (made by me!) and patterned socks from a Japanese brand called Tabio.

My socks have socks on them! Can you tell? And those are M.’s feet and legs to the left; he is wearing vintage burgundy leather shoes and his organic cotton Nudie Denim skinny jeans. We’re an ethical fashion power couple!

On Saturday afternoon, we took a walk down 18th street and wound up at the edge of University Village, by a nice little underpass (and a randomly placed extension cord). I kept my look casual that day too, and as before I added interest through my accessories:

Then look away! I am blogger, hear me pose.

My black top (which I knotted in the back to reduce billowiness) is from Crossroads Trading, and the purple shorts were a gift from my Mom. I brought out the furry earrings and the navy cross-body again and maintained the blue + red color scheme by adding my navy leather loafers (first mentioned here) and a maroon snapback (which I bought from a big fashion retailer back when I didn’t think about where my clothing was made).

Oh, and the circles on my knees? They’re tights! Apologies to the woman who commented to her friend, “That woman has patches on her knees, that’s creative,” as I walked past her down the street. I have misled you, ma’am. They are not patches, nor did I come up with this concept; it was the brainchild of a better designer than me. (Hansel from Basel, to be precise. I hope they are an ethical company, but I haven’t been able to find any information to confirm or deny. To be on the safe side I should probably wean myself off of purchasing from them, but I haven’t yet because, if you haven’t figured this out by now, I have a huuuuuge love of interesting socks and tights.)

A closer look at the tights. And yes, M. is wearing the same jeans and shoes again. He likes to reuse too!

It’s been a while since I’ve brought out my collection of quirky socks and hosiery, and I’m glad I did! I love wearing and experimenting with unusual pieces. Sometimes I like to build an outfit around a stand-out accessory; it’s both challenging and rewarding!

Well, here ends my life and fashion update, I need to get back to the grind now. Cue more sleep deprivation, yay!

I’ll leave you with a parting image of myself shielding my face from the sun along some old railroad tracks we found, because why not:

I hope all of you have a lovely week!

Much love,
—S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way to write about the businesses I have mentioned. This post expresses my honest opinions.

An Escape to the Beach

Earlier this month I left the cold, rainy, and snowy weather of Chicago to join M. and his coworkers on a company trip to Puerto Morelos, Mexico. The head of M.’s company had generously paid for all of the employees to spend a few days at a resort, and I figured I would tag along because when else would I have an excuse to do this sort of thing for myself? Unfortunately, the trip wasn’t entirely free for me, but it was nicely subsidized. As someone who has worked for a nonprofit for the past four years, I was very happy to experience some private sector perks.

We spent most of the daylight hours by the beach, lounging oceanside and enjoying this wonderful view:

DSC00454 (2)
The color is slightly enhanced (shh, don’t tell) because my camera was too blinded by the sun to bring out all of those vibrant blues.

The resort was Rainforest Alliance certified, which gave me even more incentive to ensure that my vacation outfits were as eco-friendly and ethically sourced as possible.

At the beach, I sported a pair of sunglasses I bought at Buffalo Exchange (a trendy clothing resale chain that I visit as often as Crossroads Trading) and a bright purple one-piece made from recycled nylon by a brand called Eco Swim by Aqua Green. I had discovered the latter during a desperate search for a replacement for my Speedo, which had served me well for many years but was not conscientiously sourced and is now awfully sun-faded. I kept typing “recycled” into the search bar of my go-to shopping websites to see if there were any stylish and environmentally-friendly options out there. I was hoping for something not too matronly that would keep everything in place while I swim. I got one acceptable search result on one outlet site, and the swimsuit has worked out well so far!

DSC00538 (2)
My best selfie attempt.

For dinner, M. and I had to fancy it up a bit as we were sure the restaurants on the premises would not have appreciated us sitting down to eat in our bathing suits. A couple of weeks before the trip, I had realized that I didn’t have any formal outfits that fit well and have pockets (because women need pockets too). So I spent a couple of hours at Buffalo Exchange (I’m a slow shopper…), where I not only picked up the above sunglasses, but also scored a navy Diane von Furstenberg pencil skirt for $12 and a lace-trimmed yellow and black Sandro top for $15. That’s two clothing items given a new life, and I get to benefit from the high quality of the pieces (both of which would have retailed for well over $100 each) without paying exorbitant amounts. I was particularly drawn to the skirt because it has stretch, a two-way zipper, and large cargo-style pockets that are both practical and an intriguing design feature. As another bonus, the skirt was made here in the United States!

For our first night at the resort, I paired the DVF skirt and Sandro top with some geometric lace tights and a pair of Italian-made, studded leather loafers. I topped this ensemble off with a pair of sparkly earrings that I had “cobbled” together by attaching a couple of crystal-and-chain pendants to clip-on earring findings (taking about all of two minutes):

For our second night out, I wore the DVF skirt again, but this time I paired it with an old Motel Rocks mesh crop top (because the best way to minimize your environmental footprint is to use things you already own!), fishnets, those same blue loafers, and a pair of vintage crystal clip-on earrings from Vintage Underground (one of my favorite mom-and-pop stores in Chicago, first mentioned here):

I felt comfortable and stylish in both outfits, and I know I’ll continue to get plenty of use out of the two new-to-me items that I bought for this trip.

Overall, it was a pleasure for M. and I to spend time together without the stresses of work and social obligations in the background. Our stay was only four days (and most of the first and the last days were lost to traveling from or to the airport) so we decided not to venture out of the resort, but there was plenty to see on the premises too. Not only did we enjoy the beautiful environment and general friendliness of everyone around us, there was also plenty of entertaining wildlife crawling, flying, or swimming nearby. I spent half an hour standing in the pool of water by the gazebo staring at the little tropical fish that had gathered there to take in the shade.

To me, this was all a breathtaking reminder why I am striving to live in an environmentally friendly and ethically conscientious way. The beauty I witnessed during this vacation isn’t guaranteed. I want to ensure that many years down the line all of this vibrant flora and fauna will still be there to greet me. Puerto Morelos, I hope to see you and all your loveliness again soon!

— S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way to post about the businesses I have mentioned. This post expresses my honest opinions.

A Bounty of Handmade

This post is a little late in coming; I had planned to have this up a week ago, but there are always distractions and obligations (more on that in my next post, hopefully)!

This year, Renegade Craft Fair was a grand success for me. In the past, my visits to Renegade were always tinged by disappointment because I felt as if I hadn’t found what I was looking for. This feeling was partly fueled by a reluctance to invest in more expensive items, since I was so used to shopping in stores that emphasize cheap and ready-to-wear fashion. But, this year, I ticked off all the boxes on my checklist and then some. I think that my explicit commitment to a more conscientious wardrobe has already made me a smarter shopper. The money that I used to spend on “fast fashion” brands like Forever 21 or Zara is now being set aside for me to invest in fewer but higher quality pieces. I also have a better sense of what looks good on me and what I like to wear, so I can be more picky about what I buy.

For example, I used to be a fan of cheap jewelry. If the piece didn’t quite fit the look I was going for that was okay because it was five dollars. This year, I wanted a skull ring. But instead of trawling the aisles of fast fashion retailers for something close enough that probably would have fallen apart after a month, I saved my money and waited until this gathering of independent makers (including many jewelers) rolled around. And Renegade Craft Fair did not disappoint:

The skull ring is from Tough and Pretty, a husband and wife team located in Chicago. It is actually the second piece I bought from them during Renegade. (Story time!) I had been running errands on Saturday near the craft fair and happened to pass by Tough and Pretty’s booth. Even though I was on a tight schedule, I was so intrigued that I popped in and took a gander. Everything they had on display was beautiful, looked sturdy, and appealed to my sense of style. I wanted to stay, but couldn’t, so I grabbed a business card and ran off with the intention of returning the next day.

Twenty minutes or so later, I was back. I couldn’t stop thinking about the jewelry and I figured I would regret it if I didn’t make a selection that day. As I made my purchase, the man behind the booth (I believe he was Mike, the husband of the team) and I had a brief conversation about check versus card versus cash. I found out that Tough and Pretty’s owners have been making jewelry since the mid- to late-nineties, which was apparently a time when most people paid by check!

I returned to Renegade on Sunday with a group of friends, and had to stop by Tough and Pretty again. I wanted to show my friends the jewelry that had caught my eye. I had already worn my new ring for a whole day and was in love. The only issue was a slight nub in the band that dug into my finger a little. At the booth, Mike remembered me from the day before and asked how I liked my new ring. I mentioned the nub and wondered if there was a way to fix it. Mike explained it was a result of the casting process, then he and Rachelle promptly got to work filing the problem area away. I had my new and improved ring back within a few minutes! I thanked him and my friends and I continued on through the rest of Renegade.

Except I couldn’t leave without stopping there again…After making an entire round of the craft fair, I hadn’t seen any jewelry that captured my attention as much as Tough and Pretty’s. Even the name exemplifies everything I want in my wardrobe. So I had to pop by the booth a fourth time to add another piece to my collection. Which is when I got the single skull ring!

Look at how intricate the casting is!
Look at how intricate the casting is!

I’m still enamored with both of my new pieces. (I’d put up a photo of my other ring but the lighting in my room isn’t great right now.) They won’t fall apart on me, like the cheap jewelry of my fashion youth, and the detail on them is impeccable. The customer service couldn’t be beat either. Part of me didn’t want to mention Tough and Pretty in my blog so I could keep them as my jewelry secret…but I’m not quite that selfish. I only hope I can splurge on one of their more elaborate pieces one day!

I also stopped by the booth of one of my favorite Chicago artists / printmakers, Laura Berger. Her artwork has this beautiful, secular spirituality about it. In her pieces, I see a whimsical celebration of the body, community, and love. There isn’t a denial of the darkness in life, only a reminder that there is light too (a reminder that I occasionally need). She had these “warrior” pins at her booth, and I promptly bought one for myself:

IMG_4156 (2)

I like how confident and tough she looks, holding fast onto her arrow and staring straight at the onlooker, unashamed of wearing only the skin she was born in. I’ve taken to wearing the pin with a plain black or white t-shirt. It’s my little reminder of my own strength as a woman and of the strength of all women.

To end this post, here are a couple of shots of my Renegade Craft Fair outfit. My t-shirt is from Pact, a clothing company that emphasizes the use of organic and fair trade cotton. My necklace and skirt were made by me.

I was excited about this outfit because I thought I was wearing a variety of environmentally-friendly pieces, but some research into the brand of shoes I am wearing in these photos suggests I have succumbed to the “greenwashing” that is rampant in marketing nowadays. I plan to have another post on this phenomenon. Until then, a brief definition of greenwashing would be a means by which a brand packages or markets a product such that a consumer is led to believe the product is environmentally-friendly or all-natural when in reality it may not be (for example, the use of green coloring and the words “natural ingredients” in the packaging).

While I am a little sad about my shoes, I am still happy about the fact that I supported some local independent business owners during Renegade, that most of my outfit was still environmentally and ethically conscientious, and that I have some wonderful handmade jewelry in my collection. I hope this post inspires you to check out your local independent makers or to start making pieces of your own!

‘Til next time,
— S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way to post about the businesses I have mentioned. This post expresses my honest opinions. 

Renegade Craft Fair

Flyer courtesy of Renegade Craft Fair's website.
Flyer courtesy of Renegade Craft Fair’s website.

I’ll keep it short and sweet this time, to give you a break from all of the essay-length pieces that I’ve been putting up! The Renegade Craft Fair is this Saturday and Sunday, an event I am very excited about. I’ve gone for the past two or three years in a row (maybe more?) and I always come away hopeful and inspired.

The point of the fair is to showcase the wares of independent artists and craftspeople. One of the ways in which I hope to build a more conscientious wardrobe is to buy from more local and small businesses. I figure that products made by hand in my regional area will create less waste than large batch manufactured goods, and I can also rest assured that the products I buy were not made in sweatshops. Renegade Craft Fair puts all of these independent businesses in one location for just a little bit, and I can shop even more conveniently. (This year I am on the hunt for a ring.)

While the above dates and location are applicable only to those in the Chicago area, if you live in a major city there will probably be another iteration of Renegade near you. And if you’re not a fan of this particular fair or don’t live in a major city, try searching around to see if there are other events showcasing your local artisans and small businesses.

That’s it from me. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

— S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

(Just to be clear, no one is paying me to talk about Renegade Craft Fair. But if I’m going to talk about a business/brand/etc. on this blog, it might as well be something that aligns with my sense of ethics!) 

Building a More Conscientious Wardrobe

“Let’s use the paper towels!” I exclaimed, excited that I had finally thought of a suitable material for my vision. My brother and I grabbed a couple of sheets off the roll and sat down at our blue plastic crafts table, armed with markers and a cup of water. A few minutes later, the paper towels were covered in a purple, pink, and green tie-dye pattern. I began eagerly cutting and tying before they were completely dry. At the end of it all, our Barbie dolls had new bikinis and skirts and our fingertips had some psychedelic new coloring.

Scenes like the above were a regular occurrence in my childhood. And as I grew older I continued to admire bold and bright designs and itch with the desire to replicate them. Unfortunately, my teen years were full of self-doubt and confidence issues, and I didn’t trust my own fashion sensibilities enough to dress as I wished.

Then, during high school, I began to follow Style Bubble. Blogger Susie Lau’s wardrobe choices were awe-inspiring; I couldn’t believe she had the audacity to walk around in some of the outfits she photographed. Her posts were also thoughtful and educational. And I was ecstatic to see a popular fashion blogger who looked like me. Finally, I had found a fashion idol. As I explored her blog, found the rest of the online fashion world, and entered college, I started growing more confident in my own stylistic choices. With the eventual help of my paychecks, I’ve amassed an interesting collection of colors and textures in my closet and done quite a bit of outfit experimentation.

Now that I am in my twenties, I am not quite past the experimentation stage but I have a greater understanding of what my style is and what I like to wear. Unfortunately, not all of the items in my closet are compatible with my current sense of self. Part of the problem is that I still have a lot of pieces from when I was a cash-strapped teen / college student. While some of them are beloved, most of them were bought because they were cheap and looked “good enough,” which was really a euphemism for “not great but I want something new to play around with.” I can ignore whether or not something is truly flattering if it has an interesting design or story behind it, but if it is neither flattering nor interesting, what value does it have?

Now, one of my long-standing goals is to make drastic changes to my wardrobe. I see this as a self-improvement project. Fashion is a means through which I express myself, and I want to continue refining that expression. I want to put more thought into the way my wardrobe flows together and only wear or purchase things that complement me or tell a story. And, most importantly, I want to consider the environmental and ethical practices of the companies that I shop from. One of the other reasons why I no longer buy items just because they are “cheap” is that oftentimes the stores that carry them are known for horrible labor practices. I want to spend my hard-earned money in support of policies that I admire and believe in. I want my clothes to be made by workers who are treated fairly, in a way that is friendly to the environment. And, if I only buy items that I know I will love and wear often, I will hopefully reduce my wasteful consumption.

An easy way for me to ensure that my wardrobe was made in a cruelty-free, environmentally considerate environment is to make parts of it myself. I’ve always approached fashion from a DIY perspective, as my old Barbie dolls can attest. This has been partly out of necessity, as I do not come from an even remotely wealthy background, and partly out of a love of creative pursuits. It has taken me a while to refine my DIY skills. But, with the help of a free sewing machine (thank you, former resident of my significant other’s apartment!), I’ve been able to create a few pieces that have become wardrobe staples. I recently wore a couple of these homemade pieces on an outing with M. and he helped take photos of me around the Loop / West Loop areas:

IMG_3995IMG_3993IMG_3999I wanted to share these photos because both of the main pieces of my outfit are made from recycled materials. The gingham top used to be an oversized sleeveless shirt that a friend had bought me in high school. I had only worn it once, but instead of getting rid of it I decided that I could make it into something I would wear, and wear often. So I chopped it off a few inches below my waist, sewed a casing in the hem, and then threaded elastic into it. Ta-da, a fitted crop top! The skirt was sewn by yours truly, using the aforementioned free sewing machine, a pleated skirt pattern, and a red medium- to heavyweight fabric that is made of cotton and recycled polyester. I am always particularly eager to make my own skirts because I can then add large pockets, a feature that is sorely lacking in most women’s fashion.

(Please ignore the weird poof in my skirt in the first photo, one of the pleats got a little mischievous. Also that last shot was taken at Big Monster Toys, a design studio in the West Loop. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to check out the interior.)

Frankly, my goal to build a more conscientious wardrobe will be challenging for me. I like shopping, and I especially like deals. My Mom and I often bond over our search for deeply discounted merchandise from well-known and designer brands. I may not always be able to resist an “on sale” item in favor of an ethical purchase. For instance, for the sake of transparency, the bag that I am holding in one of those photos is from a brand that I doubt makes huge efforts to be sustainable. Same goes for my shoes. I have yet to find a good solution for purchasing more eco-friendly leather goods, as faux leather options come with their own sets of issues.

So, this entry begins the new phase of this blog, which I have been hinting at in previous posts. I want to share my style exploits with you, dear reader, both as a way to keep myself on track with my goals and to show that an ethical and eco-friendly wardrobe can also be fashionable. My personal essay-type posts will now exist alongside style and outfit posts; my hope is that the ratio will be 1:1, although that will likely vary depending on my social and work schedules. I intend for the outfit posts to be thoughtful and transparent, just as I hope my essay-type posts are.

I’m excited to be making these changes! And I can’t wait to keep sharing them with you.

— S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)