Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Dress with the Radishes & Beauty in Disrobing

April, being awesome

The Dress with the Radishes & 
Beauty in Disrobing  

When I was about thirty years old, my mother called me on the phone to tell me about some clothes that my aunt had given her. “I’ve got a dress that Gail saved for you!” she boasted. “It’s your style, you know--vintage. I think it might be old. I know you’ll love it. It looks like something Marilyn Monroe would wear.”
     “Sounds great!” I responded, but my inner enthusiasm was curbed. Mother was notorious for collecting beaded butterfly blouses with transparent sleeves, chunky high heel mules with clear plastic straps and wedding dresses that were three sizes too large or small. (Forgive me mom, it’s true.)
      Therefore, months later, when she arrived for a routine visit with a crinkled TJ Maxx bag full of goodies, I was pleasantly surprised to find the modest halter dress, which was, as touted months ago, quite darling, though it wasn’t truly vintage. It was made of sky blue cotton, and covered in an adorable ruby radish print that was bold and quirky. It was just the sort of thing I’d wear.
     I scanned it over with my eyes, estimating that it might be snug but would probably fit (that horribly, terribly disappointing thing that girls tend to do when they see a dress that they WANT to fit them so badly).  Naturally, it was sleeveless, and I was already concocting plans of how I could pair it with a cardigan or something else to cover my arms (a body part that I felt terribly insecure about revealing at the time). I hung it in the closet and admired it from afar, daydreaming for a few weeks about how I would style it.
     Until the day I tried it on.
     It almost fit. Almost. The waist and the skirt, though they didn’t fall perfectly on my plump shape, weren’t the biggest problem. No, the real obstacle was that it wouldn’t zip. The dress was definitely NOT going to zip, any time soon. In a maddening mockery, it went halfway; maybe even 3/5 of the way up. And then, the tired little white zipper stuck, threw its hands in the air, and said “Screw this!”
     At that point, I could have squatted, gnashed my teeth, and flexed--splitting the fabric in half, Incredible-Hulk-style.
     Instead of doing that, I held my breath like an Elizabethan housewife. Ignoring the fact that my breasts had found new spaces in the dress to occupy (other than the chest area), I ruminated over how I might get this dress to fit. Embarrassingly, I settled on the idea of adding elastic straps to the back where the zipper wouldn’t close. Why not? I knew that I’d never wear the dress without covering my arms, so no one would be able to tell, anyhow.
     I sewed a few white strips of elastic over the gap and permanently fastened the zipper where it had “given up”. I wore it more than a few handfuls of times.
     Yet, every time I sported the dress , I felt badly about myself. No one could see the ramshackle trick I had used to make the garment wearable, but I could feel it, and it made me uncomfortable, as if I was living a lie.
     “HEY EVERYONE!” I thought I should probably yell from the street. “I’M ACTUALLY TOO FAT TO WEAR THIS RADISH DRESS!”
     I hung it in the back of the closet, with the shameful elastic pieces out of sight. Every now and then, the radish fabric would peek out from the sides of another vintage cocktail dress or pair of dress pants, mocking me. It stayed there for years.
     Then, one afternoon, I took the dress off the hanger, but it wasn’t to wear it. I turned the article over and carefully pulled the elastic and stitching from the back, undoing the seams around the zipper that had held it in place. I zipped it all the way up, for the first and final time, and drove it to corner where a World Mission clothing donation box was located. I hoped that a radish print cocktail dress would be the sort of thing someone in Kenya would wear.
     I thought of this experience this last fall when I visited with my friend April (who is a brilliant dietitian and founder of Choose to Change Nutrition). April has done tremendous work in the field of eating disorders and been absolutely inspirational to me in my own quest for body image acceptance, as well as a beacon of knowledge for feeding myself properly. She also happens to exude energy and is wonderfully comfortable in her own skin.
     It was late afternoon, and I was shooting her professional portraits next to an abandoned school house near the very high school that we had both graduated from, nearly twenty years prior.
     One of April’s outfits was based around a black shift dress, and I showed her a few previews from the LCD screen of my camera. “I don’t like the way this dress is making me feel,” she said. “Let me take this off.”
     She pulled some of her clothes out of my backseat and threw some jeans on, and much to my surprise, ripped off her shirt in broad daylight next to the road, smiling. “You know I have to photograph this, right?” I teased. “Of course!” she laughed, and smiled brilliantly. “I’m serious!” I continued. “I’m going to have to blog about this!”
     Once she was dressed, we began to chat about the wardrobe change. Why, as a society, were we always inclined to blame our bodies for the discomforts or insecurities we felt (in photos or just in general)? Perhaps we should blame the clothes a little more often.
     It made me ruminate over all of the times I had stood in front of the mirror in an impossible pair of stretch pants, fuming at my pooched belly. All of those awful moments I had spent in the dressing room at Target, spitting with anger over my own reflection and the terrible way that a pair of ill-fitting jeans encased my meaty thighs like Jimmy Dean sausages.
     YES—why had I never blamed the clothes? Not once!? I immediately cursed my body—“You horrible, terrible vessel, you! You never look the way I want!”—when I could have easily said, “You wretched little pair of skinny jeans. FOUL, dastardly dungarees. I hate you and I will most definitely send your sinister ass to the return rack.”
     It seems like a hilarious notion, but in all actuality, it’s brilliant. There is NO TIME in life for ill-fitting clothes or outfits that make you feel less than superior. Yet, there is immense energy in the articles of clothing you have that empower you, lift you up, and make you feel beautiful or comfortable. And it only takes a moment to sort between the two.
     Therein lies the challenge: wade through your closets, raid your dressers. Find your radish dresses, and pack them up—throw them out! Disrobe—in the middle of the street, if you have to—but don’t allow the fabric of negativity to dissuade you from your own, true, spectacular self. Your body is the gift. Cover it in only the finest cloth.

What can you clean out of your closet today?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Something Creepy This Way Comes: Weird Stuff I Saw at the Thrift Store

Weird Stuff I Saw at the Thrift Store

The other day I stopped in to one of my favorite thrift store haunts with a few things on my shopping list. 

     This was not one of the things on my list.

     My brain came to a screeching halt. Was this pantyhose covered, Idaho-Russet resembling lump in gathered stonewashed stretchpants a doll baby? Why did it have only a few curly strands of Cabbage Patch kid hair? What would it look like if I were to turn it over?

I never did summon the courage, because I was pretty damn sure I was going to see this:

Creepy dolls seem to be the number one scariest thing I run in to regularly while thrifting. Here's a few examples from the past (click the image to visit):


What weird stuff have you seen at the thrift store lately?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Winter Berry: A fabulous (gifted) Vintage Coat


Winter Berry: A fabulous (gifted) Vintage Coat

My friend Jaleen messaged me some time ago to ask if I'd like to have a vintage coat that she had been given. She thought it would suit me. Snapping a cell phone pic, she sent me an image of the red dress coat.
     LOVE. At first sight.
     I adored the cut, and the military style details on the front. Interesting beading on the buttons, loop fastening and plenty of additional snaps were a plus, as well, but the REAL cherry on top was the absolutely perfect way that it fit, and how incredibly comfortable it is.
     It is a fitting wardrobe piece for Christmas, and very appropriate for the chilly (yet balmy and unseasonably warm) weather we are having here in Michigan for December.
     Still, though it fits as though it is made for me, perhaps one of my favorite things about the coat is that it comes from Houseman's of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the name carries a rich history that was a large part of Grand Rapids and its economic growth--from law firms to tailors. It all began with one man--Julious Houseman--and his immigration from Germany.
     THESE amazing sort of truths behind vintage clothing are precisely what draws me in. I can literally feel the remnants of energy from the past in every fiber of what I'm wearing, and when I find something like this red dress coat that fits me so wonderfully, I have to wonder if it belonged to me in a past life.

Reunited and it feels so good!

What do you wear that connects you to the past? Have you ever felt a strong draw to an item or a piece of clothing simply because of its history?





Sunday, December 7, 2014

Breathe--Styling a Tshirt and introducing "GlamPunk Clothes"!


Styling a Tshirt and introducing "GlamPunk Clothes"!

Just breathe. A novel concept for someone (like myself) who is a type A personality and a perfectionist. I've had to force myself to do a little of that with the holiday season (plus full time work and college), but a little reminder is always handy.

That's where GlamPunk Clothes comes in with this great graphic tee! 

The shirt itself (made in the USA) is a soft jersey tee, similar to a tunic style that is extra long. I love layering shirts like these, or tying them into a little bun in the front for a flattering and slimming look!

It is an item that was handpicked by Monica, a dear friend of mine who is an up-and-coming female entrepreneur in Miama, Florida and the owner of the new online clothing store, GlamPunk clothes (find them on Facebook, here!).

Her collections are fun, urban and edgy. I suspect that with her recent success the selections will be growing, and you can order the graphic tee I am wearing as well as other fun items like this Boho inspired fringe tunic and this stretch colorblock knit dress.

I styled this teal t-shirt with a little twist and threw some white up in the mix. Every other element that you see here is thrifted and secondhand: from the white Nine West pumps to the fun vintage shades.

Check out Monica's store and by all means, don't forget to BREATHE!











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?

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