The True Cost and the Value of Compassion

I watched The True Cost earlier this year. If you haven’t heard of The True Cost, it’s a 2015 documentary about the fast-fashion industry, conceived of and filmed after the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh. The filmmakers interview survivors of the collapse, factory workers, activists, farmers, founders of several fashion brands, and factory owners.

It’s a hard movie to watch. The images are devastating and the truths in it are hard to swallow. But whether or not you agree with every single point that is made in this documentary, the larger point remains: we have to acknowledge that we are aiding and abetting in the destruction of millions of lives when we purchase from massive retailers that emphasize excess consumption over human rights.

Fashion is an industry that affects us all. Even if you don’t care one bit about the latest trends, you still wear clothing. And, especially after recent elections and world events, I think we need to reexamine many of our daily actions, including our spending trends. I believe that in order to be better citizens, we all have to be better consumers.

The way fashion operates right now is not sustainable. The cheaper it is to produce clothes overseas, the more our environment suffers from the production of what are essentially throwaway goods: synthetic fabrics from cheaply produced, low-quality clothing pile up in our landfills, and toxic chemical dyes leak into our water and soil. The less we value the work that goes into our clothing, the more our local economies suffer from a culture of consumption that doesn’t concern itself with the people making the goods we purchase: the products on the shelves are conceptually detached from the humans who created those products with their own hands, with their own blood, sweat, and tears, so it becomes easy to ignore what those fellow humans are enduring in the production of these objects, and it becomes easy to forget the need for better environmental and labor regulations. We are all struggling against a larger force of greed.

One of the most consistent arguments that I’ve heard against being a more ethical consumer is that ecofriendly and fair trade brands can be prohibitively expensive. I would say that is not true. (For examples of affordable brands, see the companies tagged as $-$$ in my list of ethical and ecofriendly brands.) I think this “prohibitively expensive” argument stems from the fact that, as consumers, we’ve been trained to value a low price tag above all else. For many of us, a $5 t-shirt is normal. Some people might say they would never pay more than that for a t-shirt. But why is this? It’s because that’s what’s been made normal. Fast-fashion stores thrive on constant, sustained shopping. In order to get the customer to return a few times a month, even a few times a week, trends have to be constantly changing and advertising has to suggest that you are only desirable if you wear the latest trends or if you have a constantly changing wardrobe. And so the customer returns every month, every week, every few days, in order to be this desirable person. And so the stores have more incentive to churn out massive quantities of cheap clothing. And the more we are surrounded by $5 t-shirts, the less we wonder how these items came to be so cheap, and the more we become accustomed to ignoring the human rights violations that make the $5 t-shirt possible.

I think it’s important to start looking at clothes differently. Even if buying ethically made or sourced clothing is a little more expensive than what we have become accustomed to, if we can each reduce the quantity that we buy, then our wallets will still be full and our consciences will be lighter. If we make a point of buying less and buying ethically, brands will have to change their practices to meet the demand.

There are also means of being an ethical consumer that are still “cheap.” If the idea of paying more than $5 for a t-shirt is still difficult to handle or truly financially impossible, you can go to a neighborhood thrift store or consignment shop (ones I like are Crossroads Trading, Buffalo Exchange, Housing Works, or Beacon’s Closet, the latter two of which are pricier but have online stores or auctions). If your clothes and shoes are getting worn out, find a neighborhood tailor or cobbler. Organize clothing swaps with friends or go online to find a clothing swap nearby. Save up to buy higher quality garments and shoes that will last longer, so that you feel less of a need or desire to purchase “throwaway” goods. Wait for sales (most brands have at least one in the summer and one in the winter).

For the past two years, I’ve been on my own sustainable and ethical consumerism journey. I’ve been trying my hardest to avoid the fast fashion retailers (H&M, Forever 21, Old Navy, Gap, Urban Outfitters, etc.) for the past year and a half. Ethical consumerism requires some willpower, but once you start forcing yourself to do it, it becomes second nature. And I fight the occasional urge to browse the fast-fashion racks by reminding myself of the Rana Plaza collapse and of the sisterhood I share with these factory workers (most of them women) overseas. If I really need that physical shopping fix, there’s always my local thrift store.

I’ll leave you with an illuminating quote from Livia Firth, who is featured in one of the segments in The True Cost: “Is it really democratic to buy a tee for $5, a pair of jeans for $20? Or are they taking us for a ride? Because they’re making us believe that we are rich or wealthy because we can buy a lot. But in fact, they are making us poorer. And the only person who is becoming richer is the owner of the fast-fashion brand.”

❤ S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

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Love, Hope, and Strength

 

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I went to the Women’s March in Chicago on Saturday. It was inspiring. Women’s rights are being threatened by the current US President and his administration (and when I say women, I include trans women and women of color, because I have not forgotten your existences and you are my fellow women too), and I was glad to know that there are so many people out there who are willing to make it clear that the current administration’s policies are wrong. I was excited by all of the people and messages that I saw. And I have at least two friends who, after witnessing the march, are inspired to start taking more political actions after having been politically inactive for years.

I’m not going to stop fighting to protect my body and my rights as a human being. And I’ll keep fighting for your body and your rights as a human being, whether or not we agree on all issues.

I hope all of you out there stay safe and continue to practice love and compassion, both for yourself and for others.

❤ S. (aka AMisplacedPen)

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Blue Velvet

Last month, I officially left my early twenties. I have a lot of mixed feelings about how my mid- to late twenties are looking given all of the events of last year. A part of me wants to ignore the outside world and curl up into a ball. But I’m determined not to give into that impulse, especially since I’ve resolved to be community focused in the upcoming year. Once in a while though, everyone needs a day off. And what better reason to take a day off than your own birthday?

I ended up having three different celebrations, one with my family, one with my friends in NYC, and one with M. in Chicago. For my night out with M., I really wanted to make a new birthday outfit. Then, four days before our special date night, I realized my attempts to make a velvet dress were not going well… The bodice that I had sewn together was fitting poorly, I was exhausted from work and wasn’t sure I’d have enough time to fix the fit, and I wasn’t as enthusiastic about the pattern as I thought I’d be. The fabric was so beautiful though, I didn’t want to just give up…

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The fabric in question. Look at it call out to you!

Fortunately, I still had enough velvet material left for a skirt, and while I was back home in NYC I had made a trip to M&J Trimming and bought some beautiful Belgian elastic with a fleur-de-lis pattern on it, thinking it would make a lovely waistband. A quick and easy gathered skirt was my best bet. The velvet is striking enough by itself, so I knew even with the simple shape the skirt would still have high visual impact. I cut out two rectangles from my remaining velvet, added pockets in the side seams, and then, in place of a serger, used the zigzag stitch on my geriatric sewing machine to attach the Belgian elastic to the gathered rectangles of velvet. Add a few choice accessories, and viola! I felt rather “high fashion”:

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My photographer was not very pleased to be standing for ten minutes in a cold stairwell to take these photos for me…My expression here probably reflects how he felt during the photoshoot.
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Is it just me or is this photo blurry? Perhaps this will be my excuse for getting a new camera…And a tripod to replace my reluctant photographer. 😉

This outfit ended up being an extravaganza of ethical and eco fashion, which made me doubly excited to wear it out. My shoes, bag, and sunglasses are all from various consignment shops. The sheer turtleneck top I’m wearing was made in the U.S.A. My rhinestone clip-on earrings are from Vintage Underground. The rhinestone bracelet on my left wrist is from a thrift store that uses its profits to provide services for disenfranchised men. The watch I’m wearing is almost entirely biodegradable because it’s made (mostly) from wood!

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Some of the aforementioned accessories.

Last, but not least, the silver lipstick I am wearing is Perfect Foil, from Portland Black Lipstick Company. The lipstick is made in the United States from natural materials, and the parent company is a small business founded and run by a woman (a very nice woman, who sent me a personal email to confirm my online order!). I’ve tried two of Portland Black Lipstick’s colors so far, and Perfect Foil is a little bit drier than the other one, but that’s to be expected of such an intense metallic pigment. And even with the intense pigmentation, my lips didn’t feel too thirsty over the night.

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Look how shiny! (If you’re wondering why the texture looks rough, I used a lip brush to apply the color so there’s some weird nooks and crannies in the lipstick surface now…)

To match my outfit’s ethically conscientious attitude, M. and I started my birthday night at Lula Café for dinner. Lula Café has existed for almost two decades and makes a point of using as many local ingredients as possible. For my entrée, I had duck breast with truffle au jus and red rice risotto. It was sublime!

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Then we made our way to The Drifter for drinks and a show. The Drifter is a cozy bar set in a historic space and run by a woman named Liz Pearce. Fun tidbit: it’s actually not as common as you’d think for bars and restaurants to be owned or run by women (like many other lucrative industries, the food and beverage industries are very male-dominated…).

The Drifter appealed to me with their amazing cocktails and cabaret acts throughout the night, including a couple of burlesque performances. Burlesque fascinates me; I waver back and forth between looking at it as male-targeted titillation and thinking of it as empowering performance. It’s easy for me to forget that both of these views are gross simplifications; as with almost everything, there is nuance to be had. While M. and I were at The Drifter, we caught two burlesque acts, both of which were hilarious (one involved the performer’s buttocks moving to the rhythm of Mozart!). While I was sure that some of the people in the crowd were only at the bar to gawk at bared female bodies, the combination of humor and self-assurance that I saw in the women who were performing was definitely empowering to me. I came away with a lot of admiration and a desire to learn burlesque myself!

All in all, I had a really lovely evening. It was a good time to refresh in preparation for the years ahead. Tomorrow is going to be a long day, and I’ll need all the strength I can muster to keep fighting the good fight.

Wishing all of you equality, love, and peace.

❤ S. (aka AMisplacedPen)

Entering the New Year with Silver Nail Polish and Some Resolutions

It’s been a long couple of months. There was the election. Then there was my struggle to settle into my new job (did I mention I have a new job?), which I love but requires me to work at a faster and more intensive pace than I am used to. Then there was more about the election. But now I am back home in New York, surrounded by family and wonderful homecooked meals, and I thought it would be a good time to treat myself.

I don’t usually wear nail polish, for two reasons:

  1. I often feel too lazy.
  2. I try to cook at least two or three times a week and I don’t want to worry about flecks of toxic nail polish getting into my food.

But I’ve recently felt a craving for all things silver, including beauty products. And then I came across this little vial, and I had to have it:

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This nail polish is the Greenwich color, from the tenoverten brand. One reason I overcame my inhibition against buying nail polish is that tenoverten nail polishes are eight-free, cruelty-free, and vegan. Eight-free meaning that the nail polish is free of formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, and triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), which are potentially toxic components of many other nail polishes. The polish is also made in the U.S.

I’m not adept at painting my nails, but the polish was a pleasure to work with. It applied smoothly, and I got an opaque coating with only two layers (although one layer creates a great, subtle shimmery effect). I’ve had the polish on for a couple of days now, and I noticed two tiny chips, but I didn’t apply any base coat or topcoat. It’s possible that staying power might be heightened with some extra coating.

Below are a few photos of the polish in action (the first photo was taken with a white light flash, the last two were taken with a warm light flash):

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I love this polish. The silver color feels and looks luxurious (when I sent M. a photo of my nails, he actually said “v luxe”), and I appreciate the little luxuries more than ever right now.

To go with this shiny new nail coating, I have a shiny new resolution. I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, mainly because I tend to forget or break mine, but I’m keeping it simple this year.

My resolution for 2017: Remember my communities.

I belong to communities of strong women: women like my mother, who worked night shifts as a waitress for most of my childhood and adolescence, yet woke up early every morning to prepare breakfast for her children and ensure that they went off to school properly fed and on time. I belong to communities of people of color: people like members of the tribes who stood at Standing Rock through harsh weather and abusive treatment to protect the water that nourishes them and those they love. I belong to communities of human beings: human beings who all feel anger, sadness, fear, happiness, and love, no matter their ethnicity, race, or gender.

If I feel too afraid and downtrodden to take action against strife that I have witnessed or heard about, I will remember my communities. I will regroup and gather my strength and go back into the world to take a stand for that which is good for my fellow human beings. I will be fueled by compassion.

I’ve already started on this resolution, which gives me hope that I will not break it in 2017. I have started eating less meat (specifically, in the past month, I have reduced my meat consumption by 75%), because that is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to reduce climate change. I have changed my consumer habits to focus on buying local, fair trade, recycled, American-made, and organic, because the people who are behind the products matter. I have, for the first time in my life, contacted my alderman about an issue in my neighborhood, and I plan to contact my senators to ask them not to vote for Jeff Sessions or Scott Pruitt in their confirmation hearings, because my voice matters.

I am still afraid for what the coming years will bring. But I am also determined to keep moving forward. I am determined to keep striving for a more just world.

And an armor of silvery nails can’t hurt.

Wishing you all a safe and happy New Year,
❤ S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

Bringing Out My Inner Bargain Hunter

My mind tends to treat Black Friday like its own holiday; when I began to get my own paycheck, I really grew to (1) love shopping, and (2) love deals, and it was fun to have one day a year that really emphasized both. However, when I realized the gigantic fast fashion retailers are not always the most ethical or ecofriendly corporations, I committed myself to buying local, independent, and ethically manufactured.

So today I spent a few hours outdoors browsing the wares of local Chicago businesses, wearing an ethically produced outfit!

Outfit details: The socks are from Sockdreams, and are made in the USA from recycled cotton. The dress/tunic is sewn by me, using a linen-rayon blend fabric and this Burdastyle pattern. I modified the pattern by excluding the sleeves, using different colors for the back and front, removing the buttons and sewing up the button placket seam, and bias-binding any hems/edges. The black long sleeve shirt is something I bought a looong time ago.

(Apologies for the terrible photos, I didn’t have much time or space, unfortunately…)

I had a great time browsing stores in the neighborhoods around me, and bought a nice handmade mug for my Mom at Wolfbait and B-Girls, which had a great Black Friday event where they donated 20% of their proceeds from this day to charities of the customer’s choice.

But now that I am home, most of my evening has been spent wide-eyed over the sales that a few of my favorite Internet-based, ethically and environmentally conscious brands are having. I am super excited to support these businesses as well as my local stores, and I hope you are too. I’ve compiled a list of sales that I am aware of, organized alphabetically for your convenience. So, without further ado, here’s what’s going on:

A

  • Alas: $20 off for new subscribers to their newsletter, until 11/28. Organic sleepwear and athletic wear screenprinted with eye-catching geometric patterns.
  • Amour Vert: 20% off through 11/28, with code GREENFRIDAY. Five trees are planted with every item purchased, until the promotion ends.  Simple silhouettes with unique and eyecatching details, some made in the USA.
  • Apolis: Up to 30% off through 11/28 (head to the sale section). Well-made, utilitarian clothing marketed toward men.

B

  • Bambeco: 30% off sitewide with code CYBER2016, through 11/27. Sustainably and ethically crafted home goods.
  • Baserange: Free shipping on all orders above 150 until 11/30. Luxe underwear and loungwear.
  • Beacon’s Closet: Gift card discounts, on 11/28 only. Details here. Well-curated secondhand clothing and accessories.
  • Beklina: 20% off sitewide with code black2020. Unique items, many responsibly produced.
  • Beyond Yoga: 30% off using code BLACKOUT, through 11/27. Yogawear that can double as streetwear, made in the USA.
  • Brave Gentleman: 30% off footwear, free domestic shipping on orders $400 and up, with code BLACKFRIDAY. Footwear and clothing made with animal-free materials.

D

  • Deadwood: 30% off all weekend. Recycled leather goods, known for their leather jackets.

E

  • Ecoalf: 30% off selected products until 11/28. Outerwear and accessories made from sustainable/recycled materials.
  • Edge of Ember: 30% off non-sale items with code GIVETHANKS, through 11/28. Luxe geometric jewelry.
  • Ethica: Sale on selected items until 11/29. A well-curated boutique with clothing, accessories, and beauty marketed toward women.

F

  • Fibre Athletics: Everything is on sale through 11/28. Ecofriendly athletic wear, made in the USA.
  • First Rite: Save 25% through 11/28 with code GiveThanks. Striking, minimalist clothing marketed toward women.

G

  • Groceries: 25% off through 11/28 with code THANKFUL. Simple basics crafted in Los Angeles, some are specially vegetable dyed. Free shipping on all orders.

I

  • Independence: 20% off through 11/28. Utilitarian clothing and home goods, many made in the USA.

K

  • Kayu: 25% off your purchase with code gobble, until 11/28. Striking clutches and bags made from straw and shell.

M

  • Make It Good: 25% off through 11/28 with code DEALSFOURDAYS. Screenprinted apparel marketed toward women.
  • Miakoda: 40% off everything with code SUPERSALE, through 11/28. Beautiful, simple undergarments and athleticwear, marketed toward women.

N

  • Nau: 25% off and free shipping with code SAVE25, through midnight 11/28. Utilitarian outerwear and accessories made from sustainable materials.
  • Nell & Mary: 25% off through 11/28 with code DEALSFOURDAYS. Striking, screenprinted bags and home goods.
  • Nudie Jeans: 30% off seasonal items (follow the links near the bottom of the home page). Organic, fair trade denim and other clothing, marketed toward men.

O

  • Oak Street Bootmakers: 20% off sitewide through 11/28.  Made in Chicago leather boots and shoes, marketed toward men.
  • Oliberté: 30% off everything until 11/27 at midnight. Leather shoes and accessories from a fair trade-certified factory in Ethiopia.
  • Only Hearts: Spend certain amounts and get a gift card (details on their home page), through 11/27. Beautiful lingerie, marketed toward women.
  • Outerknown: 30% off sitewide, “for a limited time.” Hardwearing clothing with a utilitarian bent.

P

  • Pact: Save 30-70% sitewide, through 11/27. Underwear and basics made from organic, fair trade cotton.
  • Proud Mary: 30% of sales through 11/27 will be donated to NRDC and She Should Run. Clothing and accessories made from beautiful textiles, marketed toward women.

R

  • Reformation: 30% off everything, through 11/28. Flattering, made-in-USA silhouettes, marketed toward women. Items are going fast (a couple of tops I coveted last night were gone in my size by this morning…).

S

  • Sock Dreams: 20% off sitewide with code GETYOURSOCKS, through 11/29. Sock store based in Portland, with its own line of ecofriendly, made in USA socks.
  • Soko: 25% off sitewide through 11/27. Free shipping to the US until 1/1/2017. Simple and stunning brass jewelry.
  • Study NY: Web orders from now until 12/25 will be shipped with a free notebook made from scrap fabric. Bold, oversized silhouettes marketed toward women.
  • Swords-Smith: 30% off with code ENJOY30 through 11/28. Unique clothing and accessories, some made responsibly.

T

  • thread & paper: 15% off through 12/2, with code THANKFUL. Backpacks, tote bags, and pouches made from leather, felt, screenprinted canvas, and/or waxed canvas.
  • Tree Hopper Toys: 25% off and a free ornament with code THANKFUL (not sure when this ends). Handmade wooden toys, puzzles, and decorations.

U

  • Upstate: 30% off with code wavy gravy through 11/27. 10% of web sales this month will go to Planned Parenthood, Earth Justice, and Standing Rock. Unique, shibori-dyed clothing and home goods, clothing marketed toward women.

W

  • Wallis Evera: 30% off. Clothing suitable for the office, made in Canada with sustainable hemp blend fabrics, marketed toward women.

For a more detailed and comprehensive list of ethical and ecofriendly brands (with information on pricing, sustainability, and ethical practices), please check out these lists:

Ethical/Ecofriendly Clothing & Accessories
Ethical/Ecofriendly Home Goods, Beauty, Etc.
Ethical/Ecofriendly Stores, by City

And if you want holiday shopping ideas, check out my previous post. In the end, sales come and go, but responsible company practices are year-round. 🙂

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

❤ S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

Ethical Shopping – A Gift Giving Guide

If you’re like me and trying to be a more ethical consumer, shopping during the holidays can become overwhelming or frustrating. It’s hard enough finding ethically and environmentally conscientious items when shopping for myself, but when I have to consider the tastes of someone else, my brain suddenly becomes stuck!

Well, to keep you from feeling the same way, I’ve done a little bit of the work for you. Below are some of my top ethical / ecofriendly gift ideas for any upcoming birthdays and present-oriented holidays. I’ve created a few categories and listed a couple of items for each one. Each category contains at least one “affordable” option ($10 – $60) and one “indulgent” option ($60 – $200). I tried to keep most items gender neutral in tone. I hope this helps you during the holiday grind!

For the animal lover/pet owner:

  • Affordable: Love Thy Beast’s pet toys are made in the U.S.A. from natural or ecofriendly materials. Try their dust “bugs” (filled with catnip) for a cat or their sir fox a lot plush toy for a dog; they’re both adorable!
  • Affordable: Bambeco’s made-in-USA wine charms feature a gorilla, sea turtle, whale, rhino, and elephant, and would make a great gift for the wine and animal lover! If your recipient isn’t a wine drinker, there are also ornament sets, one featuring the same five animals and another featuring a different variety of critters.
  • Indulgent: This beautiful black ombre collar, from Found my Animal, is made in the U.S.A. from hand-dyed rope and vegetable-tanned leather; someone’s lucky pet will be the most stylish creature on the block! Buy the matching leash for a even more stylish set! Bonus: The boutique that sells these collars, Zady, offers free shipping and returns within the U.S.

For the athletic/sporty type:

  • Affordable: American Apparel’s Nylon Pack Cloth gym bag isn’t manufactured with ecofriendly materials, but it is made in the U.S.A. and would be a practical gift for the gym/pool/barre/yoga studio frequenter. Choose a unique colorway, like emerald+silver, to distinguish it in the locker room.
  • Indulgent: Fibre Athletics’s Pursuit Top (available for both men and women) is made in Chicago using recycled polyester and has a slim fit, hidden pockets for when you want to be unencumbered, flatlock seams for comfort, and moisture wicking so that you’ll be sure to stay comfortably dry.

For the baker/cook:

  • Affordable: Nell & Mary’s tea towels are made in Portland, Oregon, using organic cotton, and will help keep the kitchen nice and clean. I particularly like the tropical fruit tea towel in salmon.
  • Affordable: Yellow 108’s limited edition apron is made from salvaged and recycled materials in Los Angeles. Its stylish exterior will protect your favorite baker or cook from the messes of the kitchen!
  • Indulgent: Bambeco’s reclaimed wood and salvaged leather cookbook/iPad holder would look beautiful on any kitchen counter and keeps a favorite recipe propped up and within view.

For the beauty obsessed:

  • Affordable: Rue de Marli’s No. 27 Body Lotion is a nourishing lotion that is made in Canada using natural ingredients. The company has its beginnings in an old bookstore, where the company’s founder became inspired after learning that Marie Antoinette had opened the France’s first parfumerie.
  • Affordable: Flynn and King’s Groom hair treatment is a nourishing serum for the scalp and hair that is made in the U.S.A. using argan and rosehip oils.
  • Indulgent: Rituel de Fille’s Rare Light Luminizer collection offers three different shades that can be applied anywhere on the face or body to add an intriguing glow. According to their about page, all of Rituel de Fille’s offerings are 99% natural. (Psst: They also have amazing eyeshadow and lipstick colors.)

For the DIYer:

  • Affordable: This bookbinding kit will bring out the DIYer’s creativity even after the kit is put together: the resulting blank 60-page journal can be used to jot down ideas for the next DIY project.
  • Indulgent: This recycled cardboard boombox kit will surely provide hours of DIY entertainment. Once the “boombox” is built, it plugs into your phone to deliver music through its German engineered speakers. And because the boombox is cardboard, the recipient can customize the exterior!

For the foodie:

  • Affordable: Raaka’s organic gourmet chocolate bar gift set is made in Brooklyn and includes the flavors smoked chai, mint and nibs, pink sea salt, and coconut milk. Taste buds are guaranteed to be tantalized.
  • Indulgent: Bambeco’s Quattro Stagioni gift set contains four tins of small-batch Italian olive oil in plain, lemon, chili, and basil flavors. Delicious and perfect for dipping some bread into, tossing into a salad, etc.

For the globetrotter:

  • Affordable: Apolis’s leather luggage tag is made in the U.S.A. using vegetable-tanned leather. It features a snap to keep your contact information secure, a buckled strap to keep the tag firmly on your bags, and a beautiful set of natural colorways that will make your cargo stand out in the luggage carousel.
  • Indulgent: Bambeco’s mini cork globe would make a nice decoration for the bookshelf or desk and allow your favorite globetrotter to mark all of the locations they’ve set foot in!

For the homebody:

  • Affordable: Sockdreams’s marled slouch socks are made in the USA from recycled yarn and are perfect for lounging around the house during the cooler months. Bonus: you get free shipping within the U.S.! If you want to make the gift more personal and also get a little crafty, turn the socks into slipper socks using puffy fabric paint and Sockdreams’s own tutorial!
  • Affordable: Nell & Mary’s small lumbar pillow is made in Portland, Oregon, using organic cotton and recycled plastic bottles (for the insert). The sideways rain print will go with a variety of decors, and this cushy pillow will be much appreciated on days when the elements keep the recipient indoors.
  • Indulgent: Lina Rennell’s sheared “fur” throw is made in California from organic cotton and imitates the look and feel of shorn fur without actually being fur. It’s plush and soft, perfect for the person who likes to spend the weekend in bed with a book or a good movie.
  • Indulgent: If you/your recipient are not into the faux fur look, In2Green’s Chunky Cable throw, in aluminum, is another beautiful blanket option that is still soft and luxurious but a little more understated. It’s made in the USA from recycled cotton and polyester!

For the jewelry lover:

  • Affordable: Craighill’s made-in-Ohio Wilson Keyring technically isn’t jewelry, but this brass keyring is so lovely in its simplicity that I couldn’t help but include it here.
  • Affordable: We Dream in Color’s recycled glass beaded bracelet is made in Massachusetts and will add boldness to any look. The goat’s headshaped brass hook closure is an eye-catching detail.
  • Affordable: Soko’s Kazi Cuff features a really unique way to make a quiet but impactful statement. The cuff is personalized, not just with the recipient’s initials, but also with the initials of a woman who has made her mark in Kenya. If personalization isn’t your (or your recipient’s) thing, Soko has plenty of other impactful jewelry in their storeimpactful because this company connects independent artisans to a global market they might never have accessed otherwise. (Check out the Talon and Cord Lariat for a more on-trend gift idea.)
  • Indulgent: Natalie Frigo’s large claw and black lucite necklace looks simple in construction but is sure to make a statement with its long length and large focal point (it’s certainly in my “covet” list for those reasons). It’s made in NYC from recycled brass and vintage lucite.

For the little ones:

  • Affordable: Pact has a great selection of adorable bibs, onesies, beanies, and teeny tiny socks, all made from fair trade, organic cotton.
  • Affordable: Tree Hopper Toys’s Whoa Bots are made near Chicago from sustainably-harvested wood. Each set comes with eight bots, but if you really want to increase the fun factor, buy two or three sets and watch how many configurations the kiddo can put them into. As a plus, with their simple silhouette and neutral colors, the bots can double as a fun display piece.
  • Affordable: For a fun weekend project, this build your own birdhouse kit requires no glue or screws and is made in Athens, Georgia.
  • Indulgent: This reclaimed wood tree swing for one is handmade in Pennsylvania and will provide hours of fun and relaxation for the young and old.

For the outdoorsy type:

  • Affordable: Tree Hopper Toys’s Log Cabin 3D Puzzle brings the outdoors, indoors! Whenever your recipient can’t make it out to the hiking trail, this little cabin, perched on a table or bookshelf, will provide a moment of solace. The cabin, made from sustainably harvested wood, can also be personalized with the recipient’s name (which will be printed/etched into the sign on the cabin’s door)!
  • Affordable: Nell & Mary’s dopp kit, in the cross stitch colorway, features an organic cotton exterior and a water resistant interior, perfect for storing the toiletry basics while camping or hiking!
  • Indulgent: Yellow 108’s limited edition Wander Blanket and Strap is made in Los Angeles using salvaged wool and leather. The green plaid colorway evokes the woods and mountain trails, and the handy carrying strap makes for easy carrying while hiking or while heading to the beach.

For the plant lover:

  • Affordable: This adorable, made-in-Brooklyn terracotta cat plant waterer will keep the recipient’s plants nice and hydrated.
  • Affordable: This beautiful lavender growing kit is made in the U.S.A., the pot is constructed from bamboo, and the lid serves as a drainage dish!
  • Affordable: 1% Talent’s unisex, hand-screenprinted Happy Plant Pocket tee would be great for the gardener or plant lover who wants the world to know how much s/he appreciates our green friends!
  • Indulgent: Group Partner’s made-in-Brooklyn planter has a bold and charming theme, boobs! (There’s also a male form here.) If the gift recipient isn’t one to display the human form in the living room or on the front porch, there’s also a planter with a silly face theme.

For the significant other:

  • Affordable: Pact underwear. Yes, giving your significant other underwear may seem a bit cliché, but wait until you take a peek at Pact’s offerings (men’s here, women’s here). All of their underwear is made with fair trade, organic cotton, which is super soft. I swear by their boyshorts. This is not the traditional sexy lingerie gift; this is a gift all about comfort and relaxation. (Well, actually, it is kind of sexy because that underwear still looks goood.) ($ – $$)
  • Indulgent: But…if you want to go the traditional sexy lingerie route, Only Hearts does ethically made lingerie very well. Make sure your recipient will actually like what’s in the box though; if you know your partner isn’t the lacy underthings type of person, Only Hearts does have a lovely selection of pajamas and organic cotton offerings too. Unfortunately, Only Hearts’s offerings are only marketed toward women. If you are looking for an indulgent option for the more stereotypically masculine, I’d suggest the Flint and Tinder Heritage Boxer Briefs Three-Pack, which is made in America from long staple supima cotton.

For the style guru:

  • Affordable: Oak Street Bootmakers’s horsehair shoe brush. This brush is made in Chicago out of natural materials, and is perfect for a shoe lover or a person who is very fastidious about appearances.
  • Affordable: Baggu’s copper-colored small leather pouch. Baggu’s leather goods are currently all made in the U.S.A., and the simple shape of the pouch combined with the brightness of metallic copper make for a stunning and utilitarian piece. Use it for coins, cards, buttons, you name it. If your recipient isn’t into metallics, there are more subdued colorways, like black or sea glass.
  • Indulgent: Est Wst’s Kullu Scarf. The slate colorway will go with so many different outfits, works with both masculine and feminine styles of dress, and has a simple but striking pattern. And the purchase of this scarf helps at-risk women in Nepal support themselves and their children!
  • Indulgent: thread & paper’s waxed cotton canvas tote is made in the U.S.A. using organic cotton canvas. This simple black tote is both hardwearing and visually intriguing thanks to the waxed coating, and would make a great daily use bag for a stylish loved one.

For the tea/coffee drinker:

  • Affordable: CoffeeSock’s organic cotton coffee filter is made in Texas and can be reused up to a year. Save the recipient a trip to the store during the cold winter months when the disposable coffee filters run out!
  • Affordable: Bambeco’s Milano porcelain teapot is made in Portugal at a factory with environmentally conscious practices and would be a striking addition to a tea lover’s table. Get the matching tea cups for a really generous gift!
  • Indulgent: La Chuparosa’s Xolo Mug is a beautifully sculpted dog-shaped mug that is made by hand in California. It would look just as good in a display case as it would holding hot tea on the kitchen table.

For the writer:

  • Affordable: Michael Roger’s made-in-USA spiral bound notebook is manufactured from recycled paper, with a unique shadow puppet print. An intriguing cover to hide (or enhance) your recipient’s intriguing thoughts. 😉
  • Affordable: Midori’s beautiful, refillable, made-in-Japan brass ballpoint pen is small, with a ring on the end that you can loop a string through, for easy carrying.
  • Indulgent: One of a kind naked wire people bookmarks, which are handmade in Seattle. Why? Because writers need to read too! And isn’t writing about celebrating the human form? Oh wait, I might be thinking of something else…

If you’d like even more ideas, I’ve updated my Guide to Ethical Shopping page. There are now three separate pages that branch off from the main page: one for online retailers selling clothing and accessories, one for online retailers selling beauty, home goods, and other miscellany, and one for physical store locations. I’ve even created a color-coded key! Curating a list of ethically and environmentally conscientious stores has been a labor of love—I’ve been working on this list for over a month! My hope is that it will be a simple and quick resource for those of you who are interested in ethical consumerism. Please feel free to pass the link to this guide along (https://amisplacedpen.wordpress.com/ethical-shopping-cheat-sheet/)!

I’ll continue to update the shopping guide over time (two of the pages are still being revised as I post this!), and I’d welcome any suggestions for things to add to my list. I actually bought a few things from some of these retailers recently, so keep an eye out for some review posts in the near future!

Love,
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.

Lavender in the Fall, and a Quick Update

I’ve been rather politically oriented in my last couple of posts, but I’m returning to form here, for the moment. Amid all of this chaos, fashion is still a great solace to me, and I’m committed to maintaining my ethical fashion goals.

For the past few months I’ve been itching to get my hands on a fitted mock neck sweater, and during my latest trip to the thrift store, I found this lavender gem. While this piece isn’t exactly what I’ve been looking for, for $1.00 it was certainly close enough!

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I wore the above outfit to get a cocktail with friends during a spell of strangely warm weather in Chicago (I’m sure there are many more spots of unusually warm weather to come…). I paired the lavender top with a pair of skinny jeans and a high ponytail, but when I was staring at the whole combination it looked a little too “preppy” for me. So I added some edginess by creating deep cuffs with the legs of my jeans and throwing some fishnet socks and my studded navy loafers into the mix.

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The clip-on earrings I’m wearing in this photo were made by me! I whipped these babies up in about fifteen minutes using silver tassels I had on hand and a mix of wooden beads and jade glass beads. Unfortunately, during all of the chaos of the past couple of months, I’ve lost track of their whereabouts… I’ll have to do some wading through the mess that is my bedroom.

By the way, I have a new job! I’ve moved into the editing department within the company I’ve been working for! I’m technically starting out at entry level again, but I already feel much happier and more fulfilled doing something that I love.

And, I have a new freelance assignment! I took an editing class a couple of years ago when I began seriously contemplating editing as a career, and I now work in the same department as my former editing teacher! Unfortunately, he is retiring, and he decided to recommend me to one of his former clients. So now I’m editing a research paper and learning a lot about statistical terms. That’s been occupying a lot of my brain space whenever the election isn’t.

Last, but not least, I’ve made a couple of other environmentally and ethically conscientious purchases that I can’t wait to share with you, and I have a new page for my site that is in the works. Stay tuned!

With all of my love,
S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

Hatred is not the way forward.

Donald Trump has been elected to the U.S. presidential office.

If you have read my previous post, you’ll know how I feel about this result. Needless to say, I am frustrated, sickened, and scared.

There are many people who feel just as scared and just as frustrated. In the past twelve hours, I have seen social media flooded with cries of “you betrayed our country by voting for X” and “if you voted for X candidate, defriend me immediately.” There is a lot of hatred and blame being thrown around.

But there are good ways of attributing blame, and there are bad ways. My nation, our nation, has systemic issues. Actions and political feelings don’t happen overnightthey are fostered by years of cultural pressures. The votes that were cast for Trump were not cast on a whim. If there is anyone or anything to blame, it is the greed, racism, and sexism that still pervade American society today. And nothing will change if we don’t tackle the roots of all of the issues that led to Trump’s election. Hatred only fractures us. And pointing fingers without acknowledging that there are also larger forces at work does nothing for progress.

So, I am determined not to fall into the pitfalls of despair or hatred. I am determined to keep moving forward.

There is a lot of work to be done. Let us remember our collective humanity. Let us continue standing up for the rights of our fellow human beings, regardless of citizenship, gender, sexuality, class, or race, and work towards positive change together.

I love you all. Stay safe.

S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

Rape culture needs to end.

(Trigger warning: I discuss my own experiences with sexual assault and harassment, as well as rape culture in general.)

I’ve been wavering back and forth about whether I should post this piece. I’ve had it saved in my drafts section for a week, wondering whether I would be exposing myself to harassment, anger, or, worse, apathy if I posted it. Wondering whether I should just focus on the fashion and style aspects of blogging because, frankly, I might lose traffic or followers for discussing something both so political and so personal. Wondering whether I’d feel safe, even with the anonymity I’ve preserved for myself.

But, one week ago, the Washington Post brought to light a 2005 video featuring a conversation with U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump. In the video, Trump alludes to performing acts of sexual harassment and assault. And I, in good conscience, cannot let this go unaddressed in my blog.

In the video, Trump talks about kissing women without regard for their consent or desire (“I just start kissing them. […] Just kiss. Don’t even wait.”) and even states that he can grab women by the genitalia, that he “can do anything” because he is “a star.” The thing is, Trump is describing sexual assault. Stardom does not grant anyone the right to anyone else’s body. Trump has admitted to acts of sexual violence on tape. And, yet, he is still a presidential nominee.

This is not even the first time Trump has spoken in misogynistic terms about women. Watch any video in which he discusses Hillary Clinton. Watch any video in which he discusses any woman. Read all of the articles about women he’s interacted with throughout his life. Look up and read about the child rape case being brought against him (which, as far as I can tell, has not been proven to be a media hoax).

Trump is an anomaly, in many ways, but he is also a symptom of and a mouthpiece for the lessons that American society, explicitly and implicitly, teaches to its citizens.

Sexism still runs rampant in the media, in classrooms, in the workplace, in every waking moment of our existences. The reinforcement of sexism begins at birth with the marketing of pink clothes adorned with phrases like “Pretty like Mommy” for girls and blue clothes adorned with phrases like “Tough Stuff” for boys, which suggest that the most important thing for girls is to be aesthetically pleasing and the most important thing for boys is to be “strong” and inflexible. It is perpetuated in schools with the implementation of sexist dress codes, which suggest that female bodies are inherently sexual, that males are easily distracted and disturbed by the female body, and that females must be afraid and ashamed of “provoking” male attention. It continues into adulthood, with women with full-time jobs, on average, making twenty percent less than their male counterparts, suggesting women are still worth less even though they can and do perform the exact same jobs. It continues into news and entertainment, with mainstream media relentlessly judging famous women’s clothing choices while displaying general nonchalance toward the wardrobes of famous men. Hillary Clinton’s clothing is remarked on every time she makes an appearance; even she is made to reinforce the sexist idea that women must be aesthetically evaluated. When was the last time that Trump’s clothing choices were critiqued by mainstream media?

All of these messages ultimately suggest that women are inferior, and that women are inherently and simply sex objects, made for visual and sexual consumption.

All of these messages perpetuate rape culture.

If you’ve never heard of the term “rape culture,” the Oxford Dictionary definition is “A society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse.” When a society repeatedly suggests (through the words and actions of powerful figures and mainstream media) that a woman is not worth as much as a man, that society also suggests that a woman’s word is worth less than a man’s. That a woman’s body is worth less than a man’s. That society doubts the accounts of women who fight in court against their rapists and attackers. That society believes that a man’s athletic pursuits and college career are more important than justice for his rape victim. That society allows a man who is so clearly a misogynist, who so clearly believes he has a right to women’s bodies, to run for president.

I reside within that society. And I have been the victim and survivor of attempted rape, twice.

When I confronted the perpetrator of the second attempt, I was told by him that “You wanted it.”

This is rape culture.

Even when I was too young to know the term for it, it was always there.

When I was still in elementary school and riding the subway home, sitting between my mother and my younger brother, a man pulled his penis out right in front of me. My mother told me to avert my eyes; the subway car was crowded and we couldn’t move to another seat. I had to sit there with this man’s weapon of harassment so close to my face for several agonizing stops, until he finally left the car. He seemed so calm, so nonchalant about this act, but even at my young age I knew to be scared.

When I was in middle school, a man followed me home from my school in Park Slope. He masturbated while walking behind me, until I ran inside my house, told my mother someone had been following me, and she stormed outside and chased him away. I was old enough to have a vague understanding of what that man had been doing, but I clearly remember making a choice that day not to think about the implications, because I knew that if I thought about it I would be frightened, and ashamed, and disgusted.

When I was in high school, a teenage boy approached me on the subway and asked me to read his poetry. He then sat down next to me and started stroking my hair, leaning into me. I was both flattered and terrified. I felt as if I was supposed to like his attention but I had not asked for this. He was too close, I was alone, and I didn’t know him.

In my early twenties, a man I had been dating asked me if he could just “stick it in, just a little” when we were lying in his bed. When I tried to tell him I wasn’t ready, before I could even get half of my sentence out he said “I don’t care about your history, let’s just do this.” As if I wouldn’t say no, as if my words and level of desire weren’t relevant, as if entering his bed was consent enough.*

Our society tends to doubt the victim of sexual assault or sexual harassment, to blame her or him. “Did you say no?” “What were you wearing?” “Maybe don’t get so drunk next time.” “Don’t put yourself in that situation.” “Be more careful.” I have heard some men suggest that us women should “start dressing more like men” or “stop walking home alone,” because of course it’s our fault that we are attacked and that we so often receive unwanted attention. It’s so much easier to blame the victim. If it’s the victim’s fault, if she was dressing too “slutty” or partying too hard, then maybe it happened for a reason, and it’s preventable, and as long as the rest of us behave in the “right” way we’ll never have to be victims ourselves.

But what about all of those times I was wearing a puffy oversized jacket and no makeup and I still got catcalled? Should I just walk around wearing a refrigerator box?

When I go out for drinks, I don’t expect or want to be sexually assaulted. When I wear something skin-baring, I don’t do it so I can be ogled or harassed. I have the right to my own body and the freedom to wear what I like, to wear what feels good or makes me feel good. I wear something because it’s comfortable, or it’s hot out, or it’s cold out. I wear what I wear because I, and I alone, determine what is best for my own body.

A couple of months ago, a friend from back in Brooklyn told me that a man had been following her around in her own neighborhood, making kissing noises at her from his car. She tried to file a police report against this stalker, but when the police station receptionist heard her story, he laughed and said “So, he was just being a pervert?”

“Just” being a pervert. Why is it so easy to dismiss an account of someone being sexually harassed? We can be shocked and scared by accounts of abuse, rape, murder, etc., but why are we not shocked and scared when we hear accounts of behaviors that are precursors to sexual violence? If this man already believes that he has the right to continually follow a woman around and verbally solicit her, even when she clearly doesn’t want the attention, how far of a leap is it, really, for this man to also start thinking he has a right to that woman’s body?

Three times in one week. Three times in one week that my friend has been followed and/or harassed in her neighborhood. By three different men. When will this stop?

I am angry, because we should be better than this. I am scared, because my friend and I are women in a world that still deems us less than a man. I am furious and terrified, because a man who believes he has the right to comment on and touch women without their consent may end up running the country that I and my loved ones and so many other women reside in.

Trump is representative of all of the misogynistic, sexist, racist, and xenophobic tendencies that exist within the systems of American society. He is giving voice to all of these impulses that have been here all along. The fact that our society, my society, is racist and sexist can no longer be denied.

The next step must be reform; it must be change. We must teach our children that consent matters, that women are individual human beings worthy of the same rights as everyone else, that feminism means equality for all. We must begin to build a more equal system.

Our sexist society does not just negatively impact women; it negatively impacts men too. Men are often made to feel ashamed when a woman rejects their advances; why? Wouldn’t it be better for men if their self-worth was not tied to their number of sexual partners or their desirability to women? If I do not want to sleep with you, I am not saying no in order to hurt your ego; I am saying no because I simply am not interested. Why tie the ego in?

Feminism is everyone’s fight. When a large segment of the population is oppressed, no one’s life is truly better for it. How can the entirety of a population thrive if half of that population’s bodies and minds are being policed by politicians and the media? How can we make technological, environmental, medical, and scientific advancements if only half of the population is receiving a decent education and equal pay? How can the next generation of humans be happy and healthy if their mothers are not happy and healthy? How can a hetero- or bisexual male be completely fulfilled in his relationship if his female partner is struggling to feel safe and valued in a world that does not provide her with equal rights? How can anyone with a daughter be okay with the status quo for the rest of the girls and women out there? We are all someone’s daughter.

If you are a cisgendered male, you are likely in a position of privilege and power right now. Be an advocate. Use that privilege and be an ally to this cause.

When you hear a woman talking about how she was sexually harassed, do not question her judgment or her experience. Listen and be aware. Be sympathetic. Be angry for her, not at her. When someone makes a joke or comment that is sexist and disregards the experiences and humanity of women, stand up to that person. Make it clear that joking about rape or roofies is not okay. Make it clear that jokes like that, jokes that make light of the reality of many women’s lived experiences, only perpetuate rape culture.

And if you are the one making those jokes, then think about what the men and women around you hear. If you realize that you yourself have been guilty of being sexist, or guilty of discrimination, humbly admit to your mistake. Learn from it. I have been guilty of sexist thoughts before. We are all still learning.

Let us cultivate respect for one another. Let us find self-worth in our skill sets, our kind acts, our ability to be considerate. Let us come together as equals and allies.

If you can, please vote. Please vote for candidates who will fight for our collective humanity, who will regard women as people and not objects, who will treat all of their constituents with respect.

Please cast your vote for equality, not hatred.

❤ S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

*Note: If I come across as clinical in discussing my experiences, that is a coping mechanism. I adopt this tone because it is easier than letting myself relive the fear and the anger and the absolute terror.

Except I relive those feelings almost every evening. I fill with fear and anxiety every time I walk through a quiet area at night, because I know what can happen. I know that I can be subjected to much worse than what I’ve experienced. After years of therapy, the fear and anxiety have lessened, but they never quite go away. I don’t want this kind of fear to exist anymore, for myself or anyone else. There is enough for humanity to be concerned about.

My Wardrobe Workhorse (a.k.a. One Skirt, So Many Outfits)

During my teenage and young adult years, I had assumed that if I wanted to have an interesting wardrobe or be considered a stylish person I would need to own hundreds and hundreds of clothing itemsit’s easy to feel that way when mainstream fashion media and red carpet stars seem to have completely new wardrobes every season and fast fashion stores like H&M encourage quantity over quality. I’ve let go of my “more is better” belief, but as I was curating my blog photos for this post it still felt taboo for me to show myself wearing something more than once within the same month.

But, if I am trying to cultivate a sustainable wardrobe and showcase my efforts in doing so, I will have to start choosing quality over quantity. One major signifier of quality is rewearability. Plus, I always get excited when I see a garment repeated in a blogger’s outfit posts because I like to see how someone wears the same piece over time; hopefully some of you out there feel the same way.

So, let’s start with my self-made red skirt. Yep, my last post featured it. And this post will feature it again! 🙂 Because I wasn’t kidding when I said that I love this skirt. It is truly a wardrobe workhorse!

Without further ado…

Three Ways to Wear One Skirt:

(1) Try color-blocking!

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Here I’ve paired the skirt with the silk-blend tee that I thrifted from Crossroads Trading Co (first posted here). I really love the resulting combination of yellow, white, black, and red. I feel like I’m channeling a really angry bee in this outfit. I added my pair of maroon faux fur earrings (DIY! and half hidden against my hair…), because bees are a little fuzzy, right?

As an aside, I’d like to take a moment to note that these are the first and only photos of this skirt that I’ve posted where the pleats are actually sitting properly. If only those pleats would sit like that every time! Maybe it’s because I never iron this skirt before wearing it…

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Yay laziness!

(2) Play with contrasting styles of dress:

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Why is my bottom half blurry in this photo? Did my photographer capture a warp in the space-time continuum?

I really like the contrasting silhouettes of such a short and tight top with the poofy and prim pleated skirt. The houndstooth pattern of the top, the fishnets, and the studded navy blue loafers add some punk rock vibes to what might have been a preppy silhouette.

(Apologies if anyone from the punk & punk rock scenes is reading this and believes I have used the terms incorrectly. I’m simply referring to fashion tropes, but feel free to enlighten me to a better use of the terms and/or a different way I could have described my outfit!)

Full disclosure: The houndstooth top is from American Apparel, a company that leaves me with a mixed bag of emotions. I like that they are committed to American manufacturing and they are widely accessible, but I wish they had more environmentally friendly options (like using more linen and organic cotton and less polyester) and their marketing campaign is arguably sexist. Usually I avoid them because I don’t want to support a company that I feel so uncomfortable about. But I couldn’t resist one of their recent summer sales, and I had been itching for an off-the-shoulder top for a very long time. I could have tried to make the top, but this was a case of convenience and price winning out.

(3) Try a tonal ensemble!

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As an adolescent, I was never a huge fan of pink. To me it was “too girly.” Only in the past five years have I realized how sexist that idea is: inherent in my initial dismissal of pink as “too girly” is the idea that being girly is a bad thing, and inherent in that is a very specific (and false) idea of what it means to be a girl. Pink is not inherently a “feminine” color; it was actually once considered more suitable for boys. The meanings associated with one color can change with time, but ultimately a color is, well, just a color.

Once I started letting go of my stereotypes about pink, I realized I actually really like it. I like the attention-getting *pop* of a neon pink and the subtlety of a pastel pink. So when I was trying to find an outfit for my former roommate’s wedding, I realized that this neon pink sweater (thrifted from Goodwill!) and my red skirt would go great together! Add some pink-violet lipstick and my vintage red leather heels and I am a walking display of reds. I’ve always wanted to try tonal ensembles. While what I’ve done here is not quite tonal layering, it’s the closest I’ve ever gotten!

So why does this skirt work so well and get worn so often?

  1. Durability: I put a lot of care into the sewing of this skirt. While there are many things about it that I would do better next time, overall it is a very solidly built piece because I made it intending to wear it for years. The fabric I chose is also very hardwearing: it’s a medium- to heavyweight “eco twill” made from organic cotton and recycled polyester that was probably intended for bags and work clothes. Which means it’s a little heavier than most dress fabrics, but it won’t tear or wear down anytime soon.
  2. Color: The skirt is a solid color, which makes matching it up with other clothing items a lot easier because I don’t have to worry about clashing patterns. While red isn’t typically considered a neutral color, it works with a lot of garments I already own.
  3. Pockets: A lot of ready-made garments that are marketed to women do not come with pockets. And even if they do, the pockets are usually tiny and unusable. But pockets are inherently practical features; they exist to keep things in, oftentimes important things like keys or tissues for allergy season. And I like practicality in my clothing. I also like to have a place to stick my hands if I’m feeling awkward. The pattern for this skirt included pockets in the side seams (woohoo!), but even if it hadn’t, I would have found a way to incorporate them, because I NEED POCKETS. (For more information on the politics of pocket distribution between the genders, check this article out.)
  4. Silhouette: The pleated, knee- to midi-length skirt is a classic silhouette and can be worn well by people of a variety of figures. And, as you saw above, I can rotate this skirt between a variety of formal and casual looks, which means I’m going to keep pulling it out of the closet year after year.
  5. Weight: The skirt is not quite summer weight, but it’s not wool coat weight either. It’s a nice in-between that works in all seasons. In the summer, the skirt’s volume still lets air reach my legs so I don’t suffocate. And in the winter, I can wear tights with it without feeling too restricted.

So, there you have it. My trusty old skirt came back for a few encores, and will likely come back again. I hope you all like her as much as I do!

—S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)