Friday, November 21, 2014

The Time The Jersey Dress Betrayed Me (How I Came to Love a Picture That I Hated)

An example of the crazy wind that day...
Photo by Rachel Kaye Photography, 2014

The Time That Jersey Dress Betrayed Me 
(How I Came to Love a Picture That I Hated)

I knew when I felt the wind that I should have prepared myself more thoughtfully. 

It was only a few short weeks ago, and though the ground is now whitewashed as though the sky had something to cover up, Michigan, at that moment, was still resonating with autumnal weather. Thirty-mile-an-hour winds and dark skies encroached upon us as my fiancé and I embarked on a “save the date” wedding session with our wedding photographer, Rachel Kaye—one of two sessions we had planned before our wedding next September.

I, myself, was also photographing a session that day on a windy rooftop in Muskegon, and I had hoped Rachel might join us to capture some industrially romantic snapshots. She happily agreed to meet us on location and I was excited to think about finally having some official engagement style portraits done with my soon-to-be husband.

Prior to arriving, the afternoon had been rushed, but I felt pretty confident about my outfit selection; a grey jersey dress with a cotton moto jacket over tights and black combat-style boots. I curled my hair meticulously, outlined the cupid's bow of my lips in red, and hoped for the best.

I really hadn't been prepared for the windiness of the rooftop. I had expected a breeze, but what was happening near the lake that day on top of the four story building was more of a hurricane. Tears were literally blown from my eyes as I photographed my clients first; the whole time Rachel tagging along and anticipating our own session.

Every single curl was blown away from my head and my hairs were straightened with the cool wind tunnel power of Lake Michigan. The sticky air coating every strand reminded me of childhood motorcycle rides, and running my hands through my mane with popsicle fingers.

When it was time for Ben and I to be photographed, Rachel ran around on the rooftop like a kid at a candy store. “Stand over here and do the 'Rachel Pose'”, she laughed. “Do you guys kiss? Is that, like, something you do?” She had a fun and infectious energy and we felt totally comfortable playing along as we tried to milk the last 45 minutes of precious sunshine left in the day. My hair blew sideways and my nose and cheeks were bitten with the cold wind, but I loved the overall feeling of our setting and I had fun being photographed.

We wrapped up our meeting with a couple of beers and a glass of wine, and concluded that things had felt great. I couldn't wait to see the images and I knew Rachel was going to do a phenomenal job.

The next morning, I logged in to Facebook and was served with a notification.

If you’ve ever struggled with body image or any sort of negative feeling about your physical appearance, there’s something to be said for that trepidation that wells up inside you when your social network alerts you that:

“_________” tagged a photo of you.

At times in my past when I felt less strong, my inner dialogue would go something like this:

“PLEASE let it be from the waist up. Not an underneath angle. I hope it was my good side. Not a close-up of my crooked smile. Dear God.”

I’ve grown since then and usually, I hope for the best and click without giving it too much thought, so that morning, I bravely explored the tagged photo with excitement. Only a moment’s time passed before my heart sunk, because the very first thing my eyes were drawn to in the image was my POOCH.

What I originally saw in the picture with my exclusive tunnel vision

THE pooch. The oddly asymmetrical, saggy, poofy trophy that I won post-partum; the pregnancy parting gift that I’ve tried to give back with diet modifications and 6-day-a-week workouts for years. And then, the fabric of my skirt, which blew sideways in an illusion of elephantitis—my calves appearing wider than they even were (which is pretty wide).

I felt like Sallah in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: why was my jersey dress betraying me? It had suddenly transformed into a hateful Aladdin pantsuit, and that was all I could see when I looked at the photo.

Of course, Rachel had done an amazing job with all of our photos—they were lovely. The problem didn’t lie in the photography, not in the least. Yet, a few days later, as I looked over the entire session at some of the full body photos of me in the grey jersey dress, I couldn’t help but feel a lump in my throat. Runaway tears escaped and I told my fiancé in a shaky voice, “I just thought I would be so much farther by now. All the work. All of the healthy eating. All of the exercise. But all I see is fat.”

He hugged me and told me I was beautiful, but after listening to my self-sabotaging talk for a day or so, grew weary of it. “Look,” he said gently, “I can’t stand to listen to this anymore. You’re offending my sensibilities. When I tell you I see beauty, and you tear yourself down, you are essentially saying that what I see isn’t real.”

That shut me up for a moment.

I’ve heard it all before—every word of enlightenment, every pat on the back, every bit of encouragement. Though I’ve appreciated any and all of it, when the self is hurting, sometimes words of encouragement are like seeds through sieve; they can’t get through.

Perhaps it is because I feel so entitled to a different body some days. I eat moderately and incredibly well, lift weights five days a week and run or perform some other cardio for the same amount, if not more. Though I’ve lost weight since delivering my son, I’ve hovered at my current size for a few years, despite tremendous work. A strong family history of hypothyroidism, including my mother, had led me to years of inconclusive testing, which is still ongoing, but all of those facts are nothing more than dandelion seeds, blowing away from me in a slow haze. I’m still standing here, holding this flower, being myself. I can’t escape it.

And I can’t convince anyone that, I am who I am. They have to just believe me. Trust me that I’m a runner. Take stock in the fact that I eat a whole foods diet. Because my body doesn’t look like it. At least, not to me.

“You look loved,” a good friend of mine told me, regarding the photo in question. At that moment I realized, I had completely ignored my fiancé in every image. I had missed his sweet eyes, his smile, his gaze upon me, and the obvious body language that was speaking in every possible tongue: “I love you, here in this photo.” I felt like the worst, most horrible person on the face of the earth.

I looked at the photos again.

In the cold skyline and the rust-eaten smokestacks I saw something burning beneath the photo session that was so much more than my clinging jersey dress. I stared over and over again at the particular images of my body that I hated the most, letting it sink in. I looked at Ben’s face and his postures. I began to ruminate over the real reason behind my self-harm.

As a person who hasn’t always accepted love easily, I tend to run away from intimacy. Feelings of self-worth, the terror of being exposed, and the fear of abandonment after submitting to love can easily choke out a moment of happiness for me. I began to wonder if that might have more to do with meltdown over the pictures than any particular ensemble I was wearing.

“You have permission to be present in your own life,” a friend had told me that week, prompting a lump in my throat and stinging eyes.

As I gazed upon the picture that had initially triggered my emotional breakdown, I noticed for the first time the colorful bricks behind us, covered in peeling tar. I saw the patterns in the dull, marbled clouds in the backdrop. The tightness of our grip as we held hands, and the way we grinned at each other. Instead of gazing upon my stomach or scanning my full-body image, I interpreted the picture as a whole, finally understanding it—as if it were some type of hieroglyph, or a calculus equation.

In that moment, I was looking through the lens of Rachel’s camera. For that second, I was seeing myself with Ben’s eyes. And in that instant, I perceived the true image before me for what it actually was: a snapshot of love.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Announcing our wedding photographer...Rachel Kaye Photography!

*All photos in this rooftop session courtesy Rachel Kaye Photography, 2014

Finding the right wedding photographer is one of the most stressful aspects of being married, if you ask me. I spent so much time agonizing over that detail of my wedding as a photographer myself--trying to balance our budget with what I wanted to achieve with our pictures. As someone who appreciates a photojournalistic, organic approach to wedding photography, I wanted to find a (dependable) outside-of-the-box artist but I also was working with a limited budget (c'mon, you KNOW I had to be thrifty!). I had been following Rachel's work for a while and felt like it was just what we were looking for!

We feel as though we struck the lotto with Rachel because her prices are very reasonable, and she is so much fun to work with. Right out of the gates upon booking our wedding date, she connected with me and provided me with a slew of great questions that would prepare us to work together (and many of them got me thinking about planning details I hadn't hammered out yet, which was great!).

We recently met up with Rachel for a short "save the date" session that actually piggybacked on a location I was shooting a session at myself, and my fiance and I absolutely love the photos. Rachel did an amazing job with the photography itself, but she was also a blast to work with--fun, energetic, and inspired. As much as Rachel is a free spirit behind the lens, she is a professional in her conduct. We really appreciated her delivery methods, follow through and printing advice as well.

"I get so fired up shooting weddings," she laughed at our first meeting. "I'm usually still worked up the next day!" Her enthusiasm was infectious and Ben and I really appreciated her palpable passion for weddings.

If you're getting married in 2015, you might want to HURRY YOUR BUNS UP and contact her, because she just MIGHT have something available for you! I think I will win bonus points if I suggest considering a July or August date if you WERE thinking about spring and fall previously--why not? If you are getting married in 2016, no sense in waiting around. I have a feeling Rachel will be in very high demand by that point. =)

      Meet Rachel!  

Rachel is a documentary style photographer based out of the West Michigan and Chicago area. Her photos are warm, fun and authentic. Rachel is also a fellow thrifty fashion blogger and the creater of "Slow Your Style"! 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Grand Rapids Street Style: Brooke's Vintage Liz Claiborne Glasses


Brooke's Vintage Liz Claiborne Glasses

Meet Brooke from Rockford, Michigan!

I met Brooke at a punk matinee at Grand Rapid's Tip Top Deluxe this past Sunday! She was sitting at the bar with a friend when I complimented her hair (love this assymetrical cut on her) and asked if she was wearing anything thrifted. Her response? "Everything I'm wearing was a gift to me." She laughed. She had recently cut the sleeves off her jean jacket, and she talked about how she tries to thrift most of her clothes. "Except for these Betsy Johnson boots," she said. "These I bought online. But I only paid $100!" I love Brooke's laid back, layered style! 


 Go ahead, cut the arms off your jean jacket. Don't be scared! I did it recently, too, and I've worn the heck out of mine!
 Vintage glasses are THE BOMB. And I love me some Liz Claiborne.
 Casually layer jeans or jean jackets with gray and black for a cool and casual look.
 Shorts with leggings, tights, and boots=so fall appropriate.

 A good pair of boots is totally worth it. Every time.



Thursday, October 30, 2014

MIXED MEDIA: mixing metals and mixing prints and textures for fall fashion


mixing metals and mixing prints and textures for fall fashion

I had fun mixing houndstooth, tweed, gold, silver, black and brown in a recent outfit (which was primarily thrifted with the exception of my shoes and necklace!).

A little bit of menswear, a little bit of silver and gold, and mixed fall fabrics!

You've seen the zebra bag here before. ;)

b g i k m j h

What do you have cooking for fall? Are you mixing anything up?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Seven Plaid Looks for Fall: Thrifted Fashion

I've been rocking plaid since September but I feel like October is the month to "up the ante". Check out my Pinterest "Love Plaid" board here for more inspiration!

1) Red Buffalo Plaid with Black and a sock bun

See the blog post "Give The Plaid To Me" here

IMG_0253b-22) Long sleeved cotton Madras plaid under a knit sweater

See the blog post "Let Your Tail Hang Out" here

IMG_00063) Plaid shirt dress with cowboy boots

See the blog post "Thrifted Plaid Dress" here
4) Tartan Plaid pleated skirt with white turtleneck and navy tights

See the blog post "Tuck It In" here
5) Stripes with teal, black and classic Tartan plaid

See the blog post "Look What I Found" here
IMG_00496) Red double-breasted plaid blazer with vintage funky print blouse and jeans

See the blog post "A Plaid Thanksgiving" here
IMG_22387) Blue Tattersall plaid blazer with a striped dress and chunky heeled boots

See the blog post "Seven Dollar Stripes and Plaid" here

Monday, October 20, 2014

Clarity in Transparency: Delighting in the Small Once Again With Maura

Image courtesy of

Clarity in Transparency: 
Delighting in the Small Once Again With Maura

 “That’s a pretty color,” Sarah says, swirling her toes in the water gently next to her father’s foot. “Thank you,” Maura replies softly, with happiness. “It’s called ‘Cherries on Fire’.”

     I’m in love with Transparent, a wonderful new 2014 Amazon Original Series featuring an incredible Jeffrey Tambor as a newly transitioned transgendered woman, Maura. Formerly known as a retired male Professor of political science with three children ranging from twenty-somethings to thirty-something, Maura has begun her transition in later life, and the dark, emotive comedy and drama that ensues have been totally captivating me (a person who rarely watches television).
     Why? Well, first and foremost, I find the writing and acting to be totally superb. Secondarily, like any other human connecting with an art form, Transparent hit me in the proverbial “feels”, and it has sparked so many wonderful thoughts inside of me about body image and how we, as humans, journey through life with such amazingly complex senses of self.
     The emotional stress and complexity of transitioning as a transgender person is something that I will never be able to fully understand, because it isn’t my personal journey—but that doesn’t mean I can’t be an ally for my dear transgender friends, and all of the wonderful people I know (and don’t know) who identify on the LGBTQ spectrum. In fact, I’ll soon be offering a very thought-provoking feature and interview from an incredibly eloquent friend on what it is like to transition as a transgender woman, and that experience has been so educational for me. It’s important for me to offer that perspective because it isn’t fair for me to speak for a group of people who can absolutely do it for themselves, and powerfully so.
     Still, whether you are a cisgender individual (someone who identifies with their biological gender) or a transgender individual (someone who feels a deep disconnect with their biological gender and identifies emotionally and otherwise with the opposing gender), you will certainly feel a thousand moments of uncertainty in your lifetime.
     Do I look fat?  
     Do I smell bad?
     Do people find me attractive?
     Do I have a silly sounding voice?
     Are people laughing at me when I walk out of the room?

     If you have had the easier road, like me, of identifying as cisgender, you may have been taking many everyday “luxuries” for granted.
     Think about it for a moment. Let it sink in. For a transgendered man, something as mundane as trimming a beard could become the most rejoiced act of self-care ever cherished (instead of a dreaded chore).  For a transgendered woman, carefully brushing out the tangles from long hair could be blissful, rather than an annoying. For an individual who simply desires, so wholly, to present to the world the physical identity they feel is their own but yet they do not possess, the simple form of the body and its grooming rituals could become a beautiful ceremony. Yet, it could be a beautiful ceremony for anyone of any gender—and why not?
     Concerning the subtle nuances of gender—everything from the assumed power of a male to the soft femininity of a woman; a confidant stance or a delicate gait—it is well know that our society pushes an unfathomable amount of gender appropriation on people every day. So many imposed ideals—“Wear this, not that”, or “Be sexy but not too sexy”, or “You’re not allowed to self-express that way”—create such an unrest among people that all humans (cisgendered and transgendered alike) experience turmoil at times in their lives, as they construct their “looking-glass selves”.    
     No matter our gender, or sexual orientations (two entirely separate entities), we can find moments of joy inside our bodies and senses of self. We just need to slow down—to Maura speed.
      “That’s a pretty color,” Sarah says, swirling her toes in the water gently next to her father’s foot. “Thank you,” Maura replies softly, with happiness. “It’s called ‘Cherries on Fire’.”
     This quote, from Transparent, is at the very end of the half-hour long episode six, “The Wilderness”.
     Maura is relaxing in the hot tub with her oldest daughter, Sarah, processing another difficult day that has been filled with plenty of transitional turmoil (and not just her own). As she takes a drag from her cigarette, she stares into the darkness, and I image she is reflecting on all of the minute victories and hefty barriers that she has already encountered in her transition to womanhood.
     Yet, right from episode one, Maura stops to take joy in so many small moments. A blouse that she is excited to wear, clip-in hair extensions, and the pretty toe-nail polish that her daughter has complimented her on in the shade of “Cherries on Fire”. She relishes these opportunities because the joy she feels in being able to finally express herself gives her an abundant amount of gratitude.
     What if anyone, at any time, could tap in to that kind of gratitude?
     What if you took a few moments today to appreciate a freckle, a slender finger, a boisterous laugh, a crisp collar, a perfectly plucked eyebrow, or a bit of sparkle on your ear? This is not limited to any gender or orientation. It’s about being present—taking joy in the small things that you can do for yourself each and every day. Even if you feel as though you can’t stand your body for one more moment. Even if your body isn’t the one you want to be in. Perhaps you can find one feature, or one accessory, or one self-care ritual that you can express gratitude and joy for. I know that moment is worth experiencing.
     I’m turning in for the night—in fact, looking forward to watching the next episode of Transparent—on my Amazon Prime account whilst relaxing in bed, but I’m going to be watching with a conscious mind, thinking of ways in which I can feel gratitude for this life I live, and this body that I’m living in.
     It’s a gift.

Additional Reading and Resources

Transparent Official Trailer from Amazon Studios

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What I wore to the Lumber Baron's Ball: 1920's style and Event Recap


What I wore to the Lumber Baron's Ball: 

1920's style and Event Recap!

We had a great time at the Lumber Baron's Ball! The staff of Watermark 920 did an excellent job as usual, elegantly decorating and creating a perfect 1920's atmosphere! The food from Ryke's was delicious, of course, and the band was great, too. 

The outfit I wore was totally secondhand and pulled from my own closet--I couldn't really find a fab sequin-y number and so I opted to create a softer look with a 1920's waistline utilizing a brown skirt and shirt combo. The pearl string was thrifted for 99 cents from Hope's Outlet--and the beaded purse was as well, some time ago, for two dollars.  The brown rounded toe heels (though a little tall for that decade) were purchased secondhand at Love Inc. last year for around 5 dollars. If you've followed my blog, you may have already seen that the flapper style headband was a DIY from completely secondhand items I had laying around the house!

If you consider that none of these items were truly new, that brings my outfit cost down to absolutely nothing!

Check out the pics below for more of my recap and also see the entire album on my photography page!




^^^ This gal had the right idea about snagging something glitzy for the event--a budget friendly and eco-friendly RENTAL at Rent The Runway! Have you checked out this website? Wear a pricey dress for a night or two, at a fraction of the cost. =)

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