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)

Tidy Unraveling

I’m back in Chicago, and while it’s nice to be in my little apartment again, near many of my good friends and close to my dear M., I do miss the feeling of being on vacation, even if vacation is just a week in my family home. Returning to work reminds me that I am ready for a career change; I’m still a little worker bee in appearance, but 90% of the time I am at my desk my mind is very much elsewhere. If I’m not worrying over the things I need to do to build my editing career or trying to drag myself back into fiction writing, I’m mulling over the hundreds and hundreds of clothing items that I want to bring to life. I have too many ideas, too much fabric, and not enough time.

So, to represent the slow and steady unraveling of my mind, my poor mind that is currently imprisoned in a mind-numbing desk job for forty hours a week, I brought my new thrift store purchase (the lacey sweater introduced in my last post) out to play. Unfortunately, my regular (and reluctant) photographer was not around, so I made do with the self-timer on my camera:

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I rolled up the sleeves of the sweater and tucked the front half into my skirt to decrease some of the volume and to bare a little skin (gotta enjoy the sun while it lasts!). Since the sweater is so lacey, I wore a black crop top underneath it. I actually made the crop top myself, out of a stretchy faux leatherhence the slight sheen in the second photo. If you’re interested in construction notes, I think I used the bodice from the free “Sonja Dress” pattern, available on Burdastyle’s website and created by Salme Patterns, but I’m not 100% sure as I made this top a very long time ago. The crop top looks nice from afar, but when you inspect it, it is obvious that I was a very ignorant sewer (not that I am that much more experienced now…). For example, the hem is bound with a woven bias tape. So even though the fabric is stretchy, the hem has lost all of its elasticity thanks to my weird design choice. And if I seam ripper the hem out, then there will be weird holes in the top, because faux leather is not forgiving… If I had added a zipper to the crop top, the hem binding wouldn’t be an issue, but of course I did not. Which means I can barely stretch the hem over my chest. Putting the garment on or taking it off is a real fun time.

I wanted to create some contrast with the delicate and gothic look of my top half, so I pulled out my trusty red pleated skirt to add some polish. I’ve never gone over the construction of my skirt on this blog, which is a shame because I want to give it the spotlight it deserves. The red fabric I used is an “eco twill,” which is made from a combination of recycled polyester and organic cotton. The fabric is heavyweight and was rather stiff when I first washed it, but it has softened over time. For a pattern, I used the skirt portion of Burdastyle’s “Princess Dress” (#121, 11/2012). The skirt pattern was pretty simple, although even after I took out four inches from the hem (I am short), it still used a lot of fabric (pleats seem to do that…). But I had to draft my own waistband, and I decided to use a simple rectangle. After a whole lot of trial and error, I’ve come to realize that my waistbands need to be a little curved in order to sit on my waist nicely. However, if I am feeling lazy or am restricted by time (both of which are often the case), I go with the simple, flat, rectangle waistband anyway… I am definitely still an amateur when it comes to sewing. But the invisible zipper insertion for this skirt went surprisingly well given how new that technique was to me at the time; the zipper isn’t completely invisible but it’s close enough that I’m not embarrassed to wear it out. The skirt also has pockets! Pockets triple the likelihood that I will regularly wear X garment.

Anyways, back to the focus of this post, which is my new (old) sweater. I love it! It’s rather oversized so, combined with the pleated skirt, this is a more voluminous silhouette than I’m used to sporting, but I think the sweater’s laciness balances everything out and I’ve actually found that I enjoy the “largeness” of this outfit.

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Here’s a shot of my shoulder (and side of my face…), so you can see the lace up close. I’m also wearing vintage clip-ons here (which I scored for $5 in Park Slope)!

There’s a second reason why the sweater’s delicate nature appeals to me. As I was paying for it, the cashier marveled at how none of the little threads had been torn. However, when I began to hand wash it I discovered there were indeed a few unraveling bits. I was a little disappointed, and tied off all of the loose threads that I could find, but I’m certain that there will be more breakage in this top’s near future seeing as I plan to wear it often and I am not the most graceful person. The more I consider it though, the more I think a slow unraveling will result in an even more beautiful and interesting garment. Now I am actually excited for the process to continue!

So concludes my adventures playing with thrift store purchases! I hope everyone had a lovely weekend full of joy and compassion. These past few days have been a little rough for me since M. and one of his closest friends had a very large falling out and I’ve been doing my best to support my healing partner. It’s been a reminder to me that we are all flawed human beings and we all make mistakes; what’s most important is that we acknowledge our mistakes and that we do our best to listen to one another. Ultimately, as a human species, we are all in this together.

Much love to all of you,
S. (a.k.a. A Misplaced Pen)

Charitable Fashion

It’s been a hectic three weeks, my friends. My new roommate and I had a small apartment fire (everyone and everything are fine, although we had to clean off a lot of soot after the fire was put out), then I almost chucked our new air conditioner out of the window (be communicative and coordinated when working with a partner to install an air conditioner!), and now I’ve just applied for a new job (which has involved lots of anxiety flare-ups)!

It is definitely about time for a vacation. So I’m back in Brooklyn this week, and while part of my “vacation” has been devoted to a few work- and career-related tasks, I’ve also been eating, drinking, and (window) shopping quite a bit! It’s been nice.

Speaking of shopping…there are a lot of things I love about living in Chicago, but it’s hard to beat New York’s fashion scene. And one of the things New York excels at is the sheer abundance of fashion. Interesting and unique clothing / shoe / accessory stores are everywhere, which can be overwhelming. It used to be overwhelming for me. I like to shop, but I am the kind of person who takes her time and mulls over each item, and when there are several hundred stores at my fingertips, there are a lot of items to mull over.

But ever since I’ve made a commitment to support ethical and sustainable fashion, I’ve realized that I feel much less anxious when I go shopping. And that’s because I know my options are limited. If there is only one eco-friendly and/or ethical store in this neighborhood, then that’s where I’m headed, end of story! It’s surprisingly freeing to know that if this place doesn’t have what I’m looking for, then I’m done for the day and it’s time to put my energy elsewhere.

That’s what I was thinking about as I was walking through Soho after a dessert date with one of my best friends. I was happy not to be overwhelmed by all of the high end and high street stores that were surrounding me, but I also really wanted to get my shopping fix in. Soho used to be my go-to shopping destination, and walking through the neighborhood brought waves of nostalgia for my uninformed, consumerist past. Unfortunately, the only ethically and environmentally conscious clothing store in the area that I could think of was Reformation, and they are a bit out of my price range (although they are having a sale right now…). And then I remembered Housing Works Thrift Shop!

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The adorable house logo, calling out to me as trumpets sound in the distance.

I was ecstatic! Housing Works is an amazing, New York-based organization that provides a variety of services (including housing and healthcare) to New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS. To help raise revenue, they run several thrift stores, including a used book store that my Mom used to bring my brother and me to when we were younger (it’s the perfect place for a cash-strapped parent raising a voracious bookworm). The Housing Works thrift stores stock a lot of designer goods and are very well curated. So, what better place to search for some new duds?

I had twenty minutes until the Soho store closed, so I started flipping through the racks and staring at the shoe selection. Unfortunately, everything seemed to be not my size, not my style, or not my budget. I started to lose hope when, in the rack of black clothes, I spotted something lacey, long, and oversized. The tag said $5.00. I grabbed it, brought it into the dressing room, and tried it on. It was everything the inner goth punk kid in me dreamed of! (Photos and outfits to come!)

I headed to the cash register, ready to fork over my money, when I spotted a choker in the display case. It was a style of choker that had been on my wishlist for literally a year; I had actually been saving for an ethically made version of it that was over $150.00. Price tag of the Housing Works choker? Ten dollars. Even better, it matched a pair of vintage clip-on earrings that I had bought earlier this week!

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The choker! And the matching(ish) clip-ons! (Apologies for the crappy flash, it’s 3:30 am…)

Oh, my heart, it jumped for joy as I brought everything over to the cashier. Even he paused to appreciate my finds! (The cashier actually took so much time to stare admiringly at what I was buying that his co-worker thought he was searching for the price tag on the shirt, ha ha!) I’m so happy that I took the time to both satiate my inner shopping fiend and support a good cause. Yay, sustainable shopping!

Now here’s some self-indulgent outfit of the day photos:

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Contemplative bathroom selfie. That light is soo interesting…

 

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Dressing room selfie. I love me some suspenders. And you can see the lacey shirt in the background!

(Psst, my outfit has some sustainable elements too. The black v-neck is from Pact, a brand that sells organic and fair trade cotton basics; their boyshorts are super comfy, I wear them all the time! And the clip-ons [these are the ones that match the choker] are from an antiques store in Park Slope, Brooklyn, called Antique Raiders. Check them out sometime, the store owners were very nice and the merch is quite affordable.)

So, that’s been my day of ethically conscious shopping!

By the way, I have some reading to recommend. It’s an article, so it’s not going to take too much of your time, but it’ll be depressing. It’s worth it though. Because it’s about our planet, and it highlights all of the reasons why I want to lessen my environmental impact. In this article, the author makes it abundantly clear that we need to start healing our beloved Earth, because climate change is already noticeably affecting weather patterns, ocean temperatures, and animal migration. After reading it, I felt terrified and somewhat hopeless. But then I remembered that it is not actually too late. Not yet. But if we cease our efforts to stop climate change now, then we won’t have any chance on this earth at all.

So, whatever you can do to lessen your environmental impact, do it. Meat consumption creates a huge burden on the environment, so if you are a meat eater, try to have at least one day a week when you only eat vegetarian items. Reduce unnecessary consumerism: take the time to consider whether or not you will use the product in question enough times to justify its purchase. Donate unwanted, gently used items instead of throwing them away. Use reusable bags when you do make purchases. For better or worse, money is power, so spend your money on things that won’t further destroy our planet.

And, as the article suggests, use your political power. Consumers don’t just have power in the market. If you can contact your local representative directly and let that person know how much the environment means to you, whether it means expressing your opposition to an oil pipeline or applauding your government for installing solar panels, do it. Because if enough voices band together, ultimately government officials must respect the will of the people.

Okay, end rant. It’s definitely time for bed. I hope that you’re all having a good weekend, and that you’re loving yourselves and your planet in the best ways you can!

❤ 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.

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:

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So humid. So bright.
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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.

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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:

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Almost…

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:

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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!

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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.

Love and Pride

It’s the Pride Parade in Chicago today! As much as I want to show my support, I’ve overexerted myself this week. So, instead of braving the crowds, I slept in this morning. But when I ventured out in the evening, I wore the most colorful outfit I could muster, just to show my solidarity and pride.

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Glittery purple dress sewn by me. 🙂

Love is love, regardless of whether it exists between a man and a woman, between two women, between two men, or between any combination of genders. I hope all of you feel loved and show love today. Happy Pride Month!

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❤ S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

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:

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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.

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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:

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Smile…
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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.)

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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.

Ethical Fashion Eye Candy

One of my favorite things to do is window shop, but if I do that in the well-known high street stores like H&M and Zara, I become tempted to start purchasing. And many of those high street stores do not adhere to my values of ethical manufacturing and environmentally-friendly materials and practices.

Unfortunately, if you’re not willing or able to spend a little extra time doing research, it might seem like all of the fair trade and eco-friendly clothing options out there involve lots of rope sandals and patchwork and rainbows. If you want those features in your wardrobe, that is wonderful. Love what you love! 🙂 But my own style aspirations skew in a different direction.

So, for those of you who are in my boat and would like to have some more contemporary and ethical styles to fawn over (and perhaps purchase), I’ve done some of the legwork for you and bookmarked a few conscientious companies that have a killer fashion sense. Now, when I feel the need to window shop, I’ll navigate to those websites instead. And if I decide I want to actually buy something, I don’t need to worry about my purchase having a huge negative impact on the environment or on another human being.

Below are some ethical and eco-friendly fashion companies that have quite the eye candy in their inventory:

Clothing, Accessories, Shoes:

  • Ethica. This online boutique gathers conscientious contemporary designers into one well-designed, easily navigable website. Each item listing has details on why the product is environmentally friendly or ethically produced. Most full-priced pieces run well over $200, so this is more of an aspirational website for me, but check out the sale section for some significant markdowns. Speaking of aspirational, I’m currently crushing on the AwaveAwake apron maxi dress; that beautiful pink-orange color is partially the result of mangoes! Mangoes! Delicious in more ways than one.
  • Reformation. So many of their clothes make me want to swoon, and everything is beautifully photographed and copywritten. I love how they are upfront about the amount of boob coverage (or lack thereof) given by each item. They are also very transparent about the resources each product uses up in its manufacturing. You can find pieces in the $100 or less range here, which is great for whenever browsing isn’t enough of a fashion fix.
  • Osborn Shoes. These shoes often feature recycled materials and are made by artisans in weaving cooperatives. Their website could be better designed (who am I to criticize though…), but the product is what matters. I love the almond toe and high vamp of Osborn’s style of flat.
  • Modavanti. A bit of a one-stop shop for all things conscientiously produced. The website aesthetic occasionally irks me here too (it looks just a tad too outdated, I can’t make sense of the typeface choices on the front page), but I’ve discovered enough interesting brands through here that I’ll keep returning. I’m really loving the upcycled jewelry by Soko right now. Modavanti is also one of the few websites I’ve found that carry stylish eco-friendly and ethical clothing geared towards men as well as women.
  • Proud Mary. The focus of this brand is beautifully woven fabrics, and beautiful they are. The store carries a variety of items, from pillows to shoes to bags, all made from the aforementioned textiles.
  • Only Hearts. Everything revolves around lingerie here. While I’m not usually a fan of lacey underthings (too high maintenance), I subscribe to the notion that underwear can also serve as outerwear; it’s all about the styling. 😉 Everything is made in New York City and they have an organic cotton collection.
  • Brother Vellies. These are beautifully made shoes for men, women, and children. Most of them are on the extremely pricey side (yet another site that I use only for aspirational browsing…), but they look made to last and use byproducts from government-mandated culling or from the food industry. While leather is certainly not the most environmentally-friendly product, I have not quite weaned myself off of it yet; and if I’m going to buy new leather, I might as well buy an investment piece that will give me many years of wear.
  • Groceries Apparel. This brand manufactures clothes with simple, stylish silhouettes using eco-friendly materials at a California factory. I really appreciate how they’ve installed pockets into their skirts and dresses (why don’t big name clothing manufacturers understand my need for pockets?!). Their site could be a bit more user-friendly though; the navigation doesn’t feel intuitive and the font is a bit too small. It feels like they dove into the deepest end of the “beautiful website” spectrum and sacrificed a lot of practicality. (Hmm, I guess I’ve become a web design critic now….) Hopefully they’ll do a little site renovation soon because I think Groceries’s designs are worth keeping track of.
  • ALAS. If you’re looking for pretty and adorable pajamas, or you like beautiful color combinations, or both, I think you’ll enjoy scrolling through Alas’s collection of organic cotton clothing. Almost all of the items are marketed as sleep or loungewear, but I think many of them could work as part of one’s daily wardrobe too (like the Mountain Stripe Raglan Tee). There’s a (small) men’s selection too! Unfortunately for me, this brand is based in Australia, and the prospect of heavy shipping fees is preventing me from clicking that checkout button.
  • Nudie Jeans. Organic and fair trade denim, yay! It looks like most, if not all, of the clothes currently produced by Nudie Jeans are tailored for the stereotypical male figure, so I guess I’ll have to do a little more hunting for ethical denim that can accommodate my hips. Doesn’t mean I can’t ogle the organic denim deliciousness though. And the Brandon Seaweed Shirt is quite beautiful; if it ever goes on sale, I might have to purchase it for myself. M. actually owns a pair of Nudie Jeans and he really likes them, plus they are very flattering to his lower half, so they’re doing great in my book!

Beauty:

  • Rituel de Fille. I don’t usually wear makeup, and when I do I only use lipstick and a smidge of eyeshadow. And this brand has beautiful colors of both, which are all 99% natural. I’m particularly pining after the Viscera eyeshadow, it’s so wonderfully dramatic. They also have a great brand cohesiveness: the names, the names! And their model photos are gorgeously shot.

Home:

  • Proud Mary. Pom pom pillows, yesss! (Also in the Clothing, Accessories, Shoes category).
  • Modavanti. Vases, candles, and other miscellany. (Also in the Clothing, Accessories, Shoes category).
  • Bambeco. If I ever manage to afford my own property and settle down somewhere, I’d want one of Bambeco’s canopy beds to grace my bedroom. Made from reclaimed wood here in the U.S.A., I can just picture it decked out in thrifted linens that flutter in a soft breeze. In the meantime I’ll settle with some of their kitchenware. M. gifted me their recycled stainless steel cocktail shaker at the end of last year and it’s a beautiful, sturdy piece. Which reminds me, I need to find more excuses to use it!

I’m going to set up a simpler version of this list as an easy to find link at the top of my homepage, which will be updated as I encounter more interesting brands or boutiques on the great wide web. If I order from any of these sites, I’ll also be sure to let you know how it goes. In the meantime, if you have experience with any of these companies or have your own list of favorite swoon-worthy conscientious brands, I’d love to read your comments below!

Love,
—S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

P.S: Some of the above websites were first mentioned in this post on ethical holiday shopping.

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:

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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!

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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!

Love,
— 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.

Upping My Casual Look

For most of my adolescence, when I wasn’t wearing fuzzy fuchsia sweatpants or neon yellow fleece sweatshirts (because the teenage years are the best time to make awful sartorial choices), I was a jeans and t-shirt kind of gal. That was my uniform; it was not stylish but it was comfortable, and I was already too worried about the body underneath those clothes to worry any more about the clothes themselves.

After I recognized that I enjoy experimenting with my outfits and, most importantly, found the courage to do so, I entered skirts, button-ups, dresses, and suspenders into my everyday casual wardrobe.

But lately, in the sloth-provoking winter, I’ve been slipping back into my jeans and t-shirt comfort zone. Now, I don’t think there is anything wrong with wearing what you find comfortable or with the jeans and tee combination. But I find my confidence and my sense of self-efficacy increase when I up my sartorial game. And jeans and a tee is not upping the game for me (unless one of those pieces is particularly interesting or “on trend,” which is not usually the case in my current wardrobe).

Enter the jean jacket and pencil skirt. The former is comfortable, but more interesting than a plain pair of blue jeans. The latter usually adds sophistication or composure to a look and can be comfortable with the right amount of stretch. Throw in a striped crop top and some vintage clip-on earrings, swipe on some orangey-red lipstick, and I’m ready to take on the weekend!

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Doing my best “oh me? I always look this way” pose.

The jean jacket comes from Crossroads Trading Co., a chain of resale shops that buy and sell used, “on trend” clothing, shoes, and bags. I’m always amazed by the gems I find. While they’re a little pricier than your stereotypical thrift store, most clothing items are around $20, they’re well-organized, and they cater to a more contemporary closet. Whenever I get the urge to shop the high street retailers, I try to divert myself into a Crossroads Trading store instead. At least when I shop at the latter I’m preventing more fashion industry waste, and I’m not throwing money directly into the hands of large retailers that don’t care about the environment or ethics. Here, I rolled up the sleeves of the jacket to give my outfit just a little more polish. (Also the sleeve length was a little long for my short frame.)

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I stuck some enamel pins from Laura Berger (mentioned in this post) onto the jean jacket collar, for some lovely quirkiness.

The clip-on earrings are from Vintage Underground, an amazing treasure trove of a store in Wicker Park. I’ve always had an aversion to getting my ears pierced, partly out of fear of pain and partly out of distaste for putting holes into my flesh. (No negative judgment on anyone with piercings; the idea of it on my own body just freaks me out.) So I was on a perpetual hunt for interesting and high-quality clip-on earrings, until I discovered Vintage Underground. As the name suggests, their wares are all vintage, and they have knowledgeable and friendly staff who are willing to help you if you are searching for something specific (or help you narrow down your choices if you are overwhelmed by the merchandise, as I often am). The owner is often behind the cash register, examining and polishing inventory. I love buying vintage costume jewelry because I always feel assured of the quality; after all, the piece has lasted several decades! Sadly, every time I shop from Vintage Underground I forget to ask someone there about the history of what I’ve purchased. Next time!

I also paired my Oliberté purchase (first mentioned in this post) with this look, to provide even more comfort.

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Apologies for the glare from the flash, this is the best photo I had!

The pair I bought (“Kinsha”) is made of suede. I waterproofed them by rubbing them with lanolin, which is all-natural and easily found in your local pharmacy (it’s typically sold as a solution for breastfeeding mothers’ cracked nipples!). The lanolin works very well to protect my feet in the rain, but I think I spread it on unevenly, because my shoes do seem to have some dark splotches on them that weren’t there before. The sneakers themselves are very comfortable, with a thick rubber sole that is delightfully squishy. Sadly, they are a little big on me (I’m a size 7 and I bought a size 7/37). I usually knot the laces as tight as they can go and that works, but I do wish they were more true to size. I also have mixed feelings about the style of the shoes. They are very well-made but they are a tad too “rugged” looking for my taste. I’ll wear the Kinshas for my day-to-day traipsing, but I’m still on the hunt for ethically made, sleek-looking comfortable shoes.

Full disclosure: these photos were taken near the end of 2015… I’ve been extremely busy lately, so I didn’t have time to take and organize photos of my more recent outfits. Working a full-time job while trying to launch a freelance career is time-consuming (I have over five hundred pages of editing under my belt at this point). Also the number of personal side projects that I have is ridiculous. Maybe one day I’ll blog consistently…Sigh.

Till 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.