Fringe!

It’s a short post today! I wanted to show off my “new” fringed jeans. I spent over a week on these babies, patiently fraying them with a seam ripper while I watched TV shows or listened to podcasts. Then I cut a rectangle out of the left knee area, because why not? The more loose threads, the merrier.

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Outfit details: Round sunglasses with gold-tone bridge, vintage gold-tone clip-on earrings (from Monarch thrift shop); violet-pink lipstick; sheer turtleneck top (made in the USA); striped crop top; rings (DIY and from Tough & Pretty); fringed jeans (DIYed using old denim); olive suede booties (from Encore Resale thrift store)

This is probably the best photo I have of how fringey the fringe is (please ignore the mess that is my room):

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Friiiiiinge!

These jeans used to be a pair of bootcut jeans from a store that I will not name, as I had bought them many years before I decided to become an ethical consumer. I’ve owned this pair for at least five years now, and I’ve probably worn it less than twenty times. I didn’t like the way the jeans looked on me because they were a little too long and bootcut. To be honest, I had bought them because they were on super sale. But they’re also made of high-quality denim and it seemed like a shame to give them up.

Then I came across Honestly WTF’s DIY tutorial for fraying jeans. She beautifully documents every step of the process. I followed her tutorial fairly faithfully, although, when I was finished, I did use my sewing machine to run a small zig-zag stitch over the unfrayed portion of the hem to ensure that it wouldn’t keep fraying after I put the jeans in the wash.

I stopped the fringe right around my ankles; that way, if I get tired of the fringe, I can lop it off and turn the jeans into an ankle-length pair! I want to make sure that this item of clothing can have a long life in my closet, because reusing what you have is the most sustainable way to consume fashion.

I’m itching to try these jeans out with a pair of heels! The styling possibilities are pretty exciting, and I’ll get to feel fringey goodness swishing around my feet. That’ll have to wait until warmer weather though!

❤ S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

 

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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)

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)

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)

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)

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.

Building a More Conscientious Wardrobe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)