I often say my favorite part about thrifting is the chance it offers me to learn more about designers who would otherwise be out of my price range. I actually first learned about the designer Ulla Johnson on Instagram. A happy result of a newfound interest in #sustainablefashion! However, when I Googled where to shop her pieces, I was crushed to learn her silk dresses ran in the $500 price range. Even her blouses were about $300!! I think it was around then I fell in love with eBay, Poshmark, and online consignment retail in general. Instead of scavenging for whatever treasures I happened upon, my thrifting took on a more x-marks-the-spot flavor. (FYI I haven't shopped from the Real Real yet, but I've heard excellent things, have browsed extensively, and noticed they have a supreme selection of Ulla Johnson pieces!)
My tailored online searches do sometimes help me find Ulla's pieces on sale on sites like ShopBop. (I just bought her popcorn Baranco tote for summer for 60% off here!) But I was thrilled when, on one of said searches, I found the embroidered Ulla Johnson peasant blouse I'm wearing in this post (above). (Only $75 on eBay. It's also a size 2, but I gambled on it anyway. Because peasant blouses are cut generously, it fits me fine! I also own Ulla pieces in sizes 4-10! Size doesn't matter. Fit is king!) The score reaped even more rewards after I posted it to my Instagram stories: one of my Romanian friends messaged me to tell me I was actually wearing a traditional Romanian blouse!
"Really?" I wondered, privately questioning how Mircea could know that. Wasn't the top simply an embroidered shirt? Wrong! So wrong! My pretty blouse was far, far, far from "simple" as it turns out. "Google 'la blouse roumaine'," my friend urged me. So I did only to learn, much to my delight, how truly layered and textured the history of my old, thrifted shirt really is...
Henri Matisse "La Blouse Roumaniane" painted in 1940
I believe fashion is art. It can express many things. Even a simple pair of blue jeans and a white t-shirt expresses a state of mind. Even a NorthFace jacket and Uggs does the same, even if it's not the most original look. However, I don't mean to criticize the desire to conform. (When I was younger, I used to bitterly resent conservatively dressed people, because of the odd looks and comments my outfits garnered outside of the Lower East Side. Now I shrug my shoulders, because the LES, I know now, is a state of mind.) As far as conformity goes, in this year and in my region of the world, NorthFace jackets and Uggs are as ubiquitous as Romanian blouses once were in another part of the world. It could even be argued that the uniform of a warm black jacket and comfortable shoes is worn just as much to express age and social status just as the Romanian blouse was embroidered with flowers and images to do the same. Whether you think your outfit is fashion or not is beside the point: your clothes speak. If your outfit expresses a desire for comfort, that's up to the individual to choose function over form, but I do think people who wear fantastical colors and shapes and do so fabulously are a lot more fun (for me) to look at and promise to tell a heckuva lot more fantastical tales.
For example, there is no NorthFace jacket that inspired an artist as the Romanian blouse has done. In fact, the blouse has experienced a modern revival outside Romania because of a famous painting in 1940 by Matisse called "La Blouse Roumaine", which is why my top now exists and how this top I'm wearing is now deliciously referred to in the fashion world. The painting then inspired Yves Saint Laurent in 1981 to explore traditional Romanian costumes in a now landmark fashion show, from reincarnations of long, luscious skirts to crowns of gleaming braids, and, finally, the peasant blouse whose colors and embroidery not only express the wearer's status but are also distinctive markers of different regions of the country. Later on, designers such as Tom Ford and Phillippe Guilet drew inspiration from the same source. Now, Ulla Johnson is offering her own take on the traditional garment.
Why do you think so many designers have been inspired by this blouse? Do you own one?
In the end, what struck me in my reserach was how not one but FOUR Romanian and French writers, artists, and poets are said to have inspired Matisse's paintings and sketches of the Romanian blouse, as much as the gift to Matisse of an "IA", which is how the Romanian blouse is referred to in the community, by Romanian artist Theodor Pallady did. Some might look and see a blouse, but now I see Anna de Noailles' love poems, I see Matisse's endless sketches of soft female forms reclining in a nimbus of color and light, I see an online community devoted to stories around the Romanian IA or la blouse roumaine. Most of all, I now see these luminous words of Matisse's, discovered only now through my research into this beautiful piece, "“Color helps to express light, not the physical phenomenon, but the only light that really exists, that in the artist’s brain."
To me, fashion is color, a walking bit of art that reflects my own light and those of the souls around me. Secondhand or new, designer or not, I will clothe myself with color and light and silk and dreams, even if *dramatic sigh* I alone must take up and wear all the world's beautiful castoffs to do so. #thriftersoftheworldunite
We're settling in nicely after moving mid-January, and I'm so excited for the spring I decided to bring the spring to me in this petal pink outfit! I wouldn't usually wear pink on pink but I think it works here. One nice thing about moving: your clothes get thrown together in different ways, and you notice new combinations. I bought this petal pink Sézane coat on eBay last year and only noticed yesterday that it perfectly matches this blush Free People beanie I've had for years and this soft pink secondhand Tory Burch tote from Greene Street Consignment!) Would you wear pink on pink?
About a month ago, we moved for what felt like the bajillionth, gazillionth time since we became a family six short years ago. Our family having survived these many, many, many, many moves in one piece (more or less), I told myself I was a pro now! I was sure I could make this next (and hopefully last) move easily, efficiently... so basically in my dreams.
It was A MOVE. You know what they say: pride comes before a move... or is it a fall? Fall or move, it felt the same-- i.e. chaotic, endless with a nice thump on the tuckus at the end. By definition, moving is always going to be a no-good, 100% horrendous time. There's nothing you can do about that, but, afterwards, I did discover there IS something you can do about the stress that comes along with wintertime. You don't have to give in to winter stress! As for moving stress, in some ways, it was kind of a relief to finally surrender to the total horror of moving house with two toddlers, a puppy, a cat, and a 150 lb Newfoundland. Instead of adding pressure to do human things like wear clean clothes or eat square meals, I acknowledged there might sometimes be factors outside my control. Actually, the ordeal sort of reminded me of finals. I'm not quite sure what I learned that was of much use in college-- I was a Comp Lit major so I can parse the heck out of some gnarly semiotics or what have you-- but I do feel like finals week taught me one solid life lesson: you can survive anything if you just keep slogging to the other side and worry about washing your hair later.
I'm happy to report we're on the other side of this move! We're unpacked, the cable is hooked up, the kids are watching Super Why, and my hair is clean again! And I have learned another important life lesson: that while moving is inevitably horrible and there's nothing you can do about it, THERE IS SO MUCH YOU CAN DO TO FEEL 100% BETTER ABOUT YOURSELF IN THE WINTERTIME! Below are five things I did that helped me recover my sanity and my skin after a solid month of winter, moving, and being a full-time stay-at-home mommy/ zookeeper! I have been so excited at how much improvement I've seen in my skin and my outlook after a month of making these changes. What are some of your winter remedies for dry skin and the stress of bad weather?
1. Drink Water Inside and Out
This one's pretty basic, but it makes all the difference in the world. We're all familiar with the advice to drink your body weight in H2O, so I added this twist to help it stick in my head: drink a bunch of water whenever you can but also keep your humidifier going whenever you can as well. When you're asleep, place one beside your bed. When you're working, put it on your desk.... in fact let me go fetch mine right now! I love it. It's so easy to fill and cart around and it's purty. You can find it on Amazon. (This one even comes with a selection of essential oils for $34.95 including the humidifier/ diffuser.) BRB!
Okay, I'm back. I thought about it, and I have to admit maybe learned one thing of practical value in college. I took a Buddhist literature class my first year, and while I can't remember a single text that we read-- although maybe that's where I encountered Basho first and fell in love with Japanese poetry. You can read some of my haibun here!-- I did find out there was a Sri Lankan Buddhist Monastery in West Virginia pretty close to UVA, and I went to visit it one weekend for free. I learned to meditate there, but the beauty of meditation is you can learn/ do it anywhere at any time. The meditation the monk taught me was a simple one that I also use to help me count laps in the pool. Here it is: breathe in and count 1, breath out and count 2, breathe in (3), breathe out (4), and so on and so forth until you reach 10 and then you begin again. If you want something more guided, there are so many great apps with meditation exercises. They always put me to sleep, and I tend to meditate in the morning, so I've kept to my simple version. I don't manage to meditate every day, but even doing it occasionally for ten minutes here or there makes a dramatic difference in my outlook.
3. Work Out in the Morning
On a less esoteric note, I have to admit I picked up this bit of excellent advice, because I saw that Pete Davidson was dating Kate Beckinsale, an actress I haven't paid any attention to in many a moon. When I Googled her, I was blown away by how fit she looks! Her Instagram is also hilarious, so I hope that means they're soulmates and never break up. (They probably already broke up, didn't they. PLEASE DON'T AT ME. LET ME LIVE IN MY DREAM WORLD!) At any rate, Kate recommends morning workouts both for fitness and as a way to guard against anxiety and depression, both of which I struggle with to some degree every winter. (I think I might have SAD, but I've never been diagnosed.)
"Sweat," Kate Beckinsale claims, echoing one of my favorite authors Isak Dinsesen, "is nature's anti-depressant." I still don't think I would have taken this excellent advice if I hadn't found out my local gym offers morning daycare hours. I've been dropping my daughter off at school, grabbing coffee with my husband, dropping him at work, and then hitting the gym, and instead of exhausted by this grueling morning routine, I feel transformed. Instead of only feeling better in the evenings after my husband gets home from work and I squeeze in a workout, I am now 1000% more cheerful and energized the entire day long. Basically, me and Kate Beckinsale (and Isak Dinesen) can't recommend it enough. Sweat!
For anyone who's read this post to this point (Bless you. Thank you!), you might have picked up that I'm a bigtime reader. There are two side effects to this behavior: I'm constantly recommending books and authors (see points 2 & 3 above) but I'm also constantly frowning. For some reason, when I read, I frown. Ever since I was about 20, I've been fighting the curse of the 11. As much as I hate frown lines, the idea of Botox freaks me out, although I don't judge anyone for any cosmetic procedure they want to do to feel better about themselves. So for years, I remained stuck between Kim Kardashian's remedy-- resting bitch face ad eternitum-- or Botox, which carries the side effect of DEATH. So I did nothing besides massaging my forehead a lot and wearing bangs and felt kind of bad about it, and then I finally tried Frownies, and the temporary lines that were starting to become a permanent part of my look vanished! VANISHED! This stuff is magic. I also find fine lines are more prominent in winter, so I'm excited I don't have to wait until the air grows more humid for some relief this year.
5. Keep On Top of Moisturizing Creams and Masks
This isn't just a superficial suggestion: I've noticed the smells of my Jurlique rosewater spray or my favorite Bliss honey mask really perks me up and improve my mood in the gray, scentless winter especially. They might even provide the same effect as adding color to my wardrobe. Light floral scents and colors really trick my system in the winter! I'm currently really loving Edible Beauty's Ageless Goddess Serum, everything Jurlique does with roses, and Bliss's cruelty-free masks from their glycolic peel to their gentler honey mask. Check out this post for a simple nighttime routine that's easy to keep up. Mind you, I don't have sensitive skin, though, so I can try anything. For example, I love both olive oil or coconut oil for my hair and skin in the winter, although I recommend only using olive oil at home as it doesn't absorb the way coconut oil does.
What are your favorite winter moisturizers? Do you change your beauty routine in the winter same as me? Any tips or tricks for chilling out while keeping warm in the winter?
I loved checking out all of Meghan Markle's outfits on her recent trip through Australasia! What about you guys? Not only am I a fan of Meghan's modern and sophisticated, yet still romantic style, but it was even more delightful to see her sporting looks from several sustainable designers like Outland Denim, Veja, Reformation, Maggie Marilyn, and others! In fact, I was so enthused, I nearly wrote a post featuring Meghan's looks with Meghan wearing them. Luckily, before I made that blogging faux pas, I remembered something I'd read in My Blogging Secrets by Amber McNaught (a book on blogging that I highly recommend): you can get in a lot of trouble using other people's pictures! I thought about a solution and realized I had a bunch of similar items in my closet but had never thought of putting them together before. I had so much fun recreating three of her looks-- the fourth was a dress similar to one she wore on the Australian leg of her trip and that I wore often this summer. (For all her looks, check out this Vogue tribute to her trip!) Which one do you think worked out best?
Meghan wore this look with a blazer by her pal Serena Williams when she first arrived in Australia. Her jeans are by sustainable brand Outland Denim.
Vintage Ralph Lauren Blazer from Shop Linda's Stuff. (Only $18!!!)
Vintage Chanel Backpack from Tradesy.
JBrand Maria high rise jeans available now at Bloomingdales.
Scotch & Soda tie-neck blouse (sustainable designer) from Bloomingdales last year. Similar Maje blouse here.
Meghan wore her Veja sneaks on a boatride. (Veja sneaks are not only gorgeous but made of fairly sourced materials!) Here's her same pair in size 5 available at Poshmark.
My Veja sneakers are from Amour Vert a few years back.
JBrand Maria high rise skinny jeans now available at Bloomingdales (and sooo comfortable!).
Wrap top from Reformation at Nordstrom.
Pre-owned Tory Burch tote from Shop Greene Street.
This is probably my favorite look from Meghan's trip! I wish we'd had more light to shoot this nighttime look, but c'est la vie... it's getting darker earlier and earlier! I'll definitely be wearing this look again and will try to get a better shot. Her white sheath dress is by Karen Gee, and she immediately crashed the website after she wore it. I think it's a nice classic piece every woman should have, for sure!
My Vince white sheath dress was pre-owned from Second Time Around.
Miu Miu trench coat pre-owned from luxury consignment at Shop Linda's Stuff.
Nude Aldo heels from several years back.
Vintage Chanel double flap purse from Tradesy.
My second favorite look of Meghan's featured a dress by Reformation. Above is a dress by Sézane I wore quite often this summer! Sézane is a nearly sustainable designer. I don't see anything about it explicitly on their website, but they do go out of their way to value their seamstresses, and I love that their clothes always arrive wrapped in muslin instead of plastic! Not to mention, I love their clothes in general. Check out their fall lookbook here!
Sezane dress and shoes from this summer.
Straw circle tote from sustainable, online-only boutique www.shopbaiae.com.
Sunglasses from Sunday Somewhere.
On a related note, following the acclaim, the Duchess of Sussex is now receiving criticism for how expensive her many (glorious) outfits were. I think people are forgetting she was a blogger and actress before she was a royal, so I bet quite a lot of people are giving her clothes. Unless that isn't allowed anymore? Hmm, anyone know the law for royals? I can't imagine it's the same as for politicos as there's no question of election shenanigans after all. I do know that her checked blazer, the one I'm imitating in this first look, was designed by her friend Serena Williams! And that immediately after she wore that white sheath dress she crashed the designer's website! Plus, we all know the Royals are, well, royally rich. Not to mention, I'm sure she has plenty of money of her own after having had a successful acting career, right? And boy, does she continue to work hard for the money! I was frankly exhausted watching her make her way through Australia, attending one event after another, always with a beautiful, warm, sincere smile plastered on her face. The thought alone of how much that poor woman had to smile gave me a headache. Let the hard-working, rich lady enjoy her pretty frocks, I say! Jeez! I'm enjoying watching her wear them!
What do you think? As a role model, is it on her to dress sensibly or are you enjoying the princess fantasy as much as I am? Actually, what I love most about Meghan Markle's style is that all her looks are so wearable, comfortable-looking even, yet somehow still elegant! She really is my favorite style icon at the moment! Which of her looks from her trip did you like the most? As for my post, which of Markle's looks from above do you think you might be able to build from your own closet as I did or which look do you think you could imagine yourself wearing?
Is there anything better than a pretty but comfortable dress that can be worn multiple ways?
1. Sun dress
Above, I've paired this sustainably made wrap dress with a slip and a structured bag by Cult Gaia. (See the bottom of the post for links to shop.) Perfect for a barbecue with friends and my feisty Super Girl sidekick!
2. Pool Coverup
Paired with a Vitamin A bikini and a simple bandana to pull back the mommy hair, it becomes a cozy but pretty piece to wear poolside while the kids run around and play. I can imagine wearing this dress to so many other occasions, too. I bet I could dress it up for a party as well or dress it down for a schoolrun.
Either way, I know I'll easily wear it 30 times or more. That's the number of times you need to wear a garment to help make sure it's sustainable. Do you ask yourself whether you'll get thirty wears out of a piece before you purchase it? I've also already worn this bandana several times as you can see here from this denim on denim look for a day at the beach, and I'm in love with the comfortable espadrilles I'm wearing in both looks here. What are your favorite summer basics?
I don't know when I first realized how wonderful a bargain thrifting was; or how much more fun it was to look for buried treasure in racks of musty garments and boxes of half-heeled shoes. It's been a part of my life for nearly as long as NYC has been: so forever, off and on. I can't remember who took me thrifting just before my freshman year of high school, either, although I do remember the thrill of my very first score: a blue velvet jacket with a mandarin collar and frog buttons-- not actual frogs, but the silky Chinese, buttony kind. I also remember wearing the jacket to my red belt high school in the south, and I remember that I sort of knew what I was doing, too.
That is: I knew what a revolutionary act it was to wear old vintage blue velvet in the land of uniform khaki. I also knew they were voting for superlatives that day. I was not completely flabbergasted when I was voted "Most Unique", probably, mostly on account of that jacket alone. It wasn't exactly a compliment, either, though it was for boys-- the boys that won that category usually also won "Most Popular" or "Funniest" while the girls were considered simply odd. However, it wasn't exactly the worst thing ever to be singled out for something in a school of 3,000 souls. At any rate, whether insult or compliment, the power to use fashion to express a feeling or an attitude hooked me, although for a while I did merge myself with the khaki sea around me, tired of fighting the tide. Still, I did eventually grow up and get out, and ever since, thrifting has been a major hobby of mine. I would now consider myself more of an expert treasure-hunter than a lucky duck. Instead of happening onto the buried loot, I know how to zoom in on where x marks the spot. However, I know a lot of people are intimidated by all the options out there, so here are some of my tips from a misspent youth for thrifting success!
1. If you are overwhelmed by thrifting, ask yourself this basic question first:
Let's call this: square one. What's your favorite color? If you gravitate towards racks with colors that vibe with you-- dove-gray lavender or brilliant lemon or sparkly emerald or prismatic purple-- I assure you, you will find something you love. I 100% guarantee you will pull something off the rack that will delight your soul and your wallet. (And, since it's secondhand, it's pretty nifty for the planet as well.) The odds will be even more in your favor if you add my next tip to the equation.
2. Find a Fancy Neighborhood and Check Out the Thriftstores There!
The best thrifting I've ever found has been in the wealthiest neighborhoods. A lot of people have the terrible habit of wearing things ONCE. ONCE. And then tossing them. It's unfortunately become a habit for people in any socio-economic strata, which is its own issue for another post, but sustainable issues aside, because of this habit, you can find amazing designer steals in neighborhood's where people buy designer clothes. I tend to hit a handful of favorite spots over and over-- Housing Works on Crosby Street or their branch in Park Slope on 5th Avenue or Bring N Buy in Ridgefield, CT or Greene Street in Chestnut Hill. Using this tip, I have found Burberry coats and Jimmy Choo Mary Janes and Theory leather jackets and cashmere sweaters and designer denim galore in spots like that. I even found the spot where the Vogue accessories director was dumping their closet for a bit-- I scored some Jimmy Choo gladiator sandals off that one! However, not everyone lives near or in or close to a fancy neighborhood. If you can't drive or Uber to a hot spot or if you're encumbered with babies and can't peruse the racks for hours, then check out my next tip.
3. Repeat after me: eBay is LIFE!!!
EBay can be pretty overwhelming, I know. I avoided the site for years. The key to success here is a simple two-pronged approach: you either a. search for something extremely specific like a maxi Reformation dress in size 6 or that pale lemon Christy Dawn dress you've been eyeing on Instagram or you b. check in with specific shops on eBay. My favorite eBay shop is called Linda's Stuff. Amazing selection and the prices hover around $24-- even for whisper thin Ulla Johnson tops or that aforementioned Reformation maxi dress.
Do you enjoy thrifting? If so, what are some of your treasure hunting tips? I'm always honing my hunting technique. If you don't enjoy thrifting, I'd love to here from you as well. Also, what's the best thing you've ever found thrifting? Check out my Pinterest board for a few ideas as well!
1. It Can Be
I think most of us with even a modicum of interest in the slow fashion world know about Reformation now (both the dresses pictured above are from Reformation and are both are secondhand), so I'll leave these pictures here, because the proof is in the pudding and Reformation dresses celebrate my curves like no other brand. Reformation can be pricy, which leads me to my next point, but first, something else I love about Reformation is their push not only to sell vintage clothes on their own site but the way they partnered with DePop to sell their OWN CLOTHES secondhand on another site. They're really the rare company whose ethics and aesthetics match up. (Quoting journalist Rosalind Jana in that last line.)
2. Sustainable Fashion is Expensive
Image care of Pretty Little Fawn by Courtney Halverson
Not only are there a plethora of secondhand options from the very cheap on eBay or Depop to the pricier ones on Tradesy or treasures to be found in carefully curate vintage shops, but there now exist more and more mid-price retailers like Sézane, who go out of their way to craft high quality pieces at pretty affordable prices considering. (My Sézane and Rouje embroidered blouses that come in at around $115 are as nice as Ulla Johnson, which retails for more like $300.)
People Tree UK and Everlane are two other retailers in the same midway to expensive price range, and Everlane has even run "name your own price" sales! I think paying about $100 for a dress isn't too crazy, once you start factoring in what it costs to make cloth ethically and to treat the person making the actual dress just as ethically as the cloth. Not to mention that special care is reflected in the splendid quality of the garment. My sustainably made clothes are genuinely my nicer clothes, no two ways about it. I am not such a good person that I would reach for them as often as I do over more expensive (but probably thrifted tbh) clothes if they weren't!
3. Sustainable Fashion Is Minimalistic/ Boring
Kate Arnell Wearing a People Tree Dress. Click on the image to visit People Tree's blog.
I do think minimalism and sustainability go hand in hand, but there are different ways to approach the minimalist philosophy. For my part, I appreciated the idea that we should value collections that bring value to our lives but eschew a mindset that mindlessly collects objects which you don't actually need or want. While I do have an enormous collection of vintage and thrifted pieces with some new designer brands thrown in and a growing presence of sustainably made pieces, I still consider myself a minimalist, because I try hard not to waste money or energy on thing I don't need or want or that don't bring me as much immense joy as I feel when I immerse myself in my collection of clothes or books. My clothes closet, which is currently housed in my office, is such a special space that the entire family, barring the dog, likes to go in there and nap or rest!
4. Sustainable Fashion Is A Fad
Check out the gorgeous Natalie Kay (above) if you want an expert take on the current state of sustainable fashion affairs. You can follow her here or on Instagram @sustainablychic.
There's a great piece at Mochni arguing that one day (soon) sustainable fashion will one day simply be called "fashion". It makes three strong excellent points about why. You can read it here.
5. Sustainable Fashion Can't Catch On
On Instagram @dearlybethany spent 365 days showcasing fair fashion outfits that managed to be minimalist, chic, and still very pretty. Check her out for some fashionably sustainable inspiration!
Before I bought my last pair of jeans, a pair of Levi's famous wedgie icon jeans with an unfinished hem, I researched the company, and I was SO excited to discover that such a big company is making such big changes! You can read more about that here.
It's happening, folks!!!! I don't know about you, but I find it thrilling to be part of a brighter future for our children and our planet.
What are some of your favorite sustainable brands? Do you like thrifting or does the thought turn you off? What bothers you about it? Is it the fact clothes are pre-owned or is it the hunt that dissuades you?
In both pictures (of me) above, I'm wearing:
A secondhand, two-piece Reformation dress from Tradesy and an apron Reformation dress from Tradesy (while sitting outside the Reformation store no less! The cheek, ha!)
My Louis Vuitton tote was also gently pre-loved from Tradesy.
I pinned some similar cute two pieces below or follow me on Pinterest @IsabellaDavidVintage.
A Gottex hat from Bloomingdales available here .
Wearing an older pair Rebecca Minkoff espadrilles.
There are some gorgeous, handcrafted ones from Spain available on Amazon here.
I also love delicate ones from Sézane here.
In my research into the sudden popularity of bamboo bags, I was surprised to learn that the term "It Bag" is such a recent one. Its coinage is as fresh as the 90s, when it was first being used to describe high-priced designer bags like those signature bags by Chanel or Fendi or Gucci. The concept of branded bags came about even earlier, though, back in the 1940s when the designer Roberta di Camerino created the first instantly recognizable bag, using artisan-made hardware and distinctive textiles. However, the It Bag didn't explode until the 90s for whatever reason. Maybe it was, as Wikipedia drily claims, because there was suddenly, simply this huge market for handbags.
That explanation leaves me with more questions than answers, personally.
Think about it: the market still exists. The fashion industry is a 1.2 trillion dollar annual industry, but by 2011 the concept of the It Bag was in decline.
Did the It Bag disappear because bargains became fashionable or because fashion is changing too quickly to make a huge investment in one expensive, transitory piece worthwhile? (Also, here is a great piece by Celia Walden on why she's glad the It Bag is over.) Or are It Bags over because It People are in now? Never mind It Bags. What does the "It Bag" mean now in an era where it's not only handbags that are branded but people themselves through their very own social media pages?
That's probably too deep a question for a slow fashion diary blog to address in 300-500 words. However, it did delight me to spot a different kind of "it bag" on many, many Instagram feeds. That same site that encourages people to brand themselves like fancy handbags. Now, it's not a humble bamboo bag you might suddenly notice every fashionably minded person sporting. Baskets in general are suddenly as ubiquitous as the Coachella wheel-- the sight of which, like fringe paired with cowboy boots, western belts, and a joyous grin, now signals spring as surely as cherry blossoms.
But let's put my seething envy for all the people who got to see Beyoncé live at Coachella aside and get back to bamboo.
Bamboo is potentially the most renewable resource for fabrics, even more so than hemp. What does put hemp ahead in the race for title to the future's most sustainable fabric is that rendering bamboo into cloth is still often requires the use of lots and lots of chemicals. Again, though, that means the news about bamboo "it bags" is good!
1. Bamboo bags are made with the Earth's most easily renewable, least-water consuming crop.
2. And, even better, unlike bamboo cloth, bamboo bags take no (or at least) very few chemicals to transform into a chic piece of arm candy.
I've linked to a few, beautiful bamboo and other fair trade, 70s-inspired options on my Pinterest page (see below).
Do you own a bamboo bag or a cute basket that can be used for shopping or paired as an accessory? When you think about it, straw baskets and bamboo bags and patched, cloth textile bags are actually the original Birkin bags! What do you think of this 70s-era trend? Do you think you'll buy one for summer?
My sandals are (old) BCBG ones. Similar here.
My wrap skirt is available here.
My Free People sweater is sold out but a similar one is available here.
My bamboo bag is a reproduction of a classic Japanese picnic basket! It's available here.
FYI Cult Gaia, who originally made the bamboo bags such desirable Eco It Objects just made their first (stupendously gorgeous) clothing collection out of deadstock! AND they're committed to treating workers fairly! Check them out!
One of my favorite recent trends is the revival of the maxi dress from the 70s, which was in itself a throwback to the 30s when hemlines dipped low again after briefly hitting their first high EVER in the 20s.... Really what is more vintage than a maxi dress? It's the feminine silhouette from time immemorial. And modesty aside, I see why: it's comfortable and pretty and so easy to throw on. This one pictured above is a second Self-Portrait dress from Tradesy paired with sustainably made Swedish Hasbeens boots and a vintage cashmere shawl from Millay Vintage, named Best in Philadelphia! It works well for any season, and that's another reason I love it. I bought it this spring but wore it again through the fall and now into the winter.
What's your favorite maxi dress style? I definitely need a little extra confidence on the days when I wear this more fitted, textured version.
As I mention in my blog's sidebar, my sister, a scientist and professor currently working for the Army Corps of Engineers, inspired me to learn more about sustainability and climate change. However, to be frank, at first I was too frightened to delve into the situation. It felt as if, just by opening the covers of books like The Sixth Extinction, I could hear a sepulchral voice shouting from a street corner, "The end of the world is nigh! Repent, ye sinners!"
For my part, I've been easing myself into the world of sustainability via ethical fashion and, to my surprise, the more I learn about the world of sustainability as a whole, the more optimistic I feel about the future and our power to change the world, our world, for the better. Here are me and my sister's five picks geared towards others who want to strike a similar balance between activism and optimism:
1. The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
Our first pick is pretty obvious*. Published in 2014, it was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and named one of the New York Times Book Reviews best books of the year. I haven't read it yet myself, but I know Stanford is now asking incoming Freshmen to read it. For all those reasons, it's high on my TBR list. For those with less time, my sister mentions that Kolbert has also written a more feel-good(ish) essay about a Danish community's victory over carbon emissions. You can read it here: www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/07/07/the-island-in-the-wind.
*The Sixth Extinction is available on kindle for $9.99, although for some reason it's listed as an e-textbook.
2. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate by Naomi Klein
Ugh, I haven't read this one, either. My sister gave me a copy. I started reading it and became terrified when Naomi Klein began scolding people (like me) for looking away. However, we don't have the luxury to look away any longer, not with category 5 hurricanes becoming more commonplace. Not to mention the devastating effects of climate change staring us in the face. (On a related note, please consider giving a few dollars to Puerto Rico. Donors are experiencing fatigue after Texas and Florida and people haven't been as galvanized to help Puerto Rico, which suffered mind-boggling destruction).
Again, on a happier note, as I've been around the people who are dealing, I've become more and more optimistic, not less so. So I feel like I can deal now! I can read this book now. (I'll still be starting with number one on this list first, however.)
*If this pick, still strikes you as too scary, my sister also suggested Climate/ Energy: Hot: Living the Next 50 Years on Planet Earth by Mark Hertsgaard. She describes it as "hopeful" and a "solutions-driven book on climate change."
3. To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World by Lucy Siegle
My third pick is one I have read* and can only describe as life-changing. Lucy Siegle presents an expose of the fashion world's environmental devastation and its all-too-ubiquituous ill treatment of workers along with a vision of how green truly can be the new black. She's the Observer's "Ethical Living" columnist, and her book reads like a well-informed friend describing both a horrifying reality alongside an inspiring alternative.
Siegle believes ethical fashionistas can exist, and I know from personal experience beginning to shop ethically has NOT meant giving up on style. I have not had to don sackcloth and ashes but rather have changed my mindset and my expectations from the fashion world and for myself. I buy far fewer things now, yes, but those things are far more beautiful. The more I learn about what goes into creating a garment, the more I treasure what I have as well. See my post on not shopping for a month for more on the subject.
*Some other books on this subject on my TBR list are Wear No Evil by Greta Eagan and Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline.
4. American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half Its Food and What We Can Do About It by Jonathan Bloom
Another rec from my sister. I'm eager to read this one myself as this topic is a cultural fight in my own household. I'm French-American and the French half of me dominates when it comes to food as in: "Why throw food out just because it's past its expiration date? Especially if it smells all right?"
My American husband will proceed to look at me like I'm nuts. "You eat rotten cheese if you want."
"Aargh! But it's not rotten!" I'll shout, frustrated that he's being so obtuse. However, nothing I said convinced him one iota, until I pointed out that France had become the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying perfectly good food.
Now, he at least doesn't throw my food out, although I still can't quite convince him to ignore expiration dates and smell the food himself. I can't wait to read more about this difference in mentalities and where it comes from.
5. Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet by Bill McKibben
Okay, if you've read this far, you're probably pretty tough and you can take this one. Bill McKibben was one of the first to warn about global warming over twenty years ago. Now he claims, not only is global warming upon us but the Earth has been so fundamentally changed it might as well be referred to by a new name: Eaarth. "Our hope depends, McKibben argues, on scaling back — on building the kind of societies and economies that can hunker down, concentrate on essentials, and create the type of community (in the neighborhood, but also on the Internet) that will allow us to weather trouble on an unprecedented scale. Change — fundamental change — is our best hope on a planet suddenly and violently out of balance."
Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What To Do About It by Robert Glennon
-An easy-to-read, hopeful book about water crisis.
Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner.
-A famous book, written in the '80s about water. Very controversial in tone.
Water: Adapting to a New Normal by S. Postel
-There's also a shorter essay by this author that you can read here: www.scribd.com/document/63678768/WATER-Adapting-to-a-New-Normal-by-Sandra-Postel
The Last Drop by M. Specter
Omnivores Dilemma and Botany of Desire by Micahel Pollan
-Also Pollan wrote a really great essay in the New York Times to then president-elect Obama: michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/farmer-in-chief/
Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal by Tristram Stuart
-He also gave a Ted Talk:
On the Climate/ Energy/ Sustainable Living
Hot: Living the Next 50 Years on Planet Earth by Mark Hertsgaard
Farewell, My Subaru by Doug Fine
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Sleeping Naked is Green: How An Eco-Cynic Unplugged Her Fridge, Sold Her Car, and Found Love in 366 Days by Vanessa Farquharson
The Sustainability Revolution by Andres R. Edwards and David W. Orr
A Slow Fashion Diary