The Quarantine Blues

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Those of you who have been with me for awhile know that my usual office is my local coffee shop. Up until the last few weeks, that is where I wrote everything you’ve read so far. And it was ideal for me. It got me out of the house, for one thing, and I was exposed nearly every day to that calm, friendly café vibe that I’d gotten so addicted to.

Well, no one saw a plague coming, did they?

And so, for now, my office is my kitchen.

original-2But let me take this opportunity to say how lucky I really am. In a time when staying home is the safest and most responsible thing we civilians can do, I don’t have a job that requires me to leave the house. We all know people who do, and we should give them their due appreciation (as in, they should be getting livable wages and appropriate protections from their employers).

Shoutout to my beloved husband, who is a pharmacist, and who is working extra hard right now to help people stay safe and well. And he says that people who thank him really brighten his day, so make sure to thank your pharmacists, everybody.

If you’re lucky like me and are currently in a stay-at-home situation, I know that it can feel like you’re cooped up. Trapped, even. People were getting cabin fever after Week 1, and we’ve still got some weeks to go. But don’t despair. That’s what this blog post is all about. Here are some tips for making this experience, not just bearable, but beneficial.

Moisturize

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This might seem trivial at first glance, but oh no. You have to understand, first of all, the number one rule of skincare is moisturizer, always. But now, in a time when we are washing our hands and sanitizing everything a lot more often (which is just what we should be doing), our skin needs this more than ever.

We’re already stressed. Dry, irritated skin is the last thing we could possibly need. I recommend lotioning up right after you shower–that’s when you’ll get the most out of it. Before bed is a good time, too. In fact, I do my entire skincare routine just before bed. It helps me feel refreshed, especially after a long or stressful day.

Get Dressed

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Pictured: not me (literally no millennial has a house like this)

Another fun thing about sitting in a coffee shop nearly every day was that it was such a great opportunity to dress up. People like to look cute when they go to a nice café, and I’m no exception. But social distancing isn’t exactly conducive to that sort of thing, and staying at home can often mean staying in your pajamas. Who is there to dress up for?

Well, ideally, the answer is…ourselves.

Even on just a psychological level, putting clothes on tells our brains, “Hey, we’re starting our day now.” And that alone can make a huge difference. It has for me. I’m not saying you have to do it every single day without fail, and I’m not saying you have to get fancy (unless you want to, in which case, you definitely should). My point is that you’ll feel much more awake with day-clothes on, and that will work in your favor if there are things you want to get done.

Find Your Makeup Balance

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On the one hand, this is a golden opportunity to go makeup-free for awhile. And that could be just what you need. It would give your skin a break, and you wouldn’t have to hassle with it. One less thing to worry about.

But on the other hand, makeup can be awfully fun, and it can have the same effect on us as getting dressed. If it gives you pleasure to freshen up in the mirror, there’s no reason to stop. Some days, I just don’t feel ready until I’ve got some eyeliner on. And it would be a shame to let all my pretty lipsticks go to waste. You don’t have to be seen by the public to get cute. It’s just as pleasant to get cute for yourself.

In the end, clothes and makeup and everything else we decorate ourselves with, it’s all just a means to an end. That end being the enhancement of our confidence. That’s been the central theme of this entire blog. Confidence. Self-love. Authenticity.

Those things shouldn’t come to a halt just because we’re at home.

You Don’t Have to Exercise

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It’s true that working out is pretty much the healthiest thing you can do, and I definitely recommend some kind of light exercise at least once or twice a week. Under normal circumstances.

Listen, I don’t have to tell you that exercising would be good for you right now. Plenty of people are saying that. But we’re currently in the middle of a crisis, and it just doesn’t make sense to put extra pressure or guilt on yourself at this time. Some of us will come out of this a little heavier or a little skinnier, but the important thing is that we get to the other side.

Besides, exercise shouldn’t be tied to our insecurities in the first place. It should be an activity we do purely out of the love we have for our bodies.

You Don’t Have to Be Hyper-Productive

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If you’re dealing with an unprecedented level of free time, you may feel like you’re failing if you don’t fill that time. Allow me to release you from that obligation.

You don’t have to learn how to sew or take up bread-making. You don’t have to read a dozen books or start a DIY project. Those are all good things, but look, this isn’t a test or a competition. We’re living through a weird time, and you don’t have to “make the most of it.”

Postpone spring cleaning. Leave the laundry for tomorrow. If you don’t feel like doing something, just don’t. Let a day or two pass while you watch Netflix. It won’t make a big difference in the long run. You’re safe at home, and that’s all that really matters.

Listen to Music or ASMR

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One of the biggest reasons I enjoyed sitting at the coffee shop with my laptop or journal or book was that it provided a sense of ambiance. Lattes being made, people talking, it was all a pleasant backdrop as I did my own thing. Noisy, but not distracting. So just sitting in a mostly silent house wasn’t really working.

And my dog, as it turns out, doesn’t like silence, either. He barks if it’s too quiet.

We both needed some noise.

Look up ASMR Rooms on YouTube. There are a bunch of ambient videos, all based in fantasy realms like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. They’re very soothing. My favorite one for blog-writing is The Green Dragon Inn–it’s quite similar to the usual noises of a coffee shop.

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On that same note, I have a dozen or more playlists for whatever mood I’m in. And I learned something recently…

You can’t be sad or lonely if the volume is loud enough.

My birthday has come and gone in the middle of all this, and you might think that made for a pretty depressing time. WRONG. I simply don’t have unhappy birthdays, and I wasn’t going to start now. As soon as I woke up that morning, I blasted party music through the house, and I kept jamming the whole day through.

Music affects our brains like nothing else, so put on a song that makes your blood run hot and the vibes run high.

Dose Up on Nostalgia

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Disney movies were the foundation of my entire childhood, and it’s almost uncanny how all those old feelings can come rushing back.

Nostalgia has been absolutely critical to my mental health lately. Disney+ really could not have happened at a better time. I have access to any movie or show, everything I grew up with, and I can nearly guarantee that I would have to be getting on anxiety meds right now if I didn’t have it.

Take yourself back to happier days. Simpler times. Find ways to laugh and to smile. It helps.

It helps more than I can express.

Nurture Your Spiritual Side

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This isn’t so much about religion as it is about your own inner peace. Now is a good opportunity to explore your spiritual needs. Life often gets so busy that we don’t give our souls any attention. We have more time now. Time to reflect…maybe time to heal.

If prayer or study help you to feel fulfilled, you should make time for that. If meditation or daily rituals or anything in particular helps you find balance, don’t hesitate. Get started today.

Our personal needs are highly unique; every individual has their own struggles and their own path to happiness. This could be your chance to work things out.

Anxiety Will Happen…and That’s Okay

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As I write this, I am on Day 20 of my social distancing journey, and so far I’ve had two days (not in a row) of total anxious stupor. And on those days, I felt hopeless. I lost my appetite; all I wanted to do was cry–because in my mind, the world was ending.

But I’ve learned some ways to help myself through days like that.

First of all, take naps if you feel like it. I’ve always tended to resist naps, but here’s the thing: stress is exhausting. We’re all feeling the fight or flight response, except we can neither fight nor fly. So our bodies turn to Option C, which is ‘play dead.’ It’s fine. Sleep is good for you, anyway.

Next, limit your media intake. A person can only take so much bad news, and that’s all that’s ever on TV. As for social media, it depends. Facebook is a toxic waste dump at this point (it was going downhill anyway), and I’ve all but stopped looking at it. But I’ve cultivated a much healthier, much more positive community on Instagram, so I still spend some time there. It’s all about creating boundaries.

Keeping in mind that it’s allergy season, I still heartily recommend stepping outside every so often. Sit out on your porch, your balcony; take a short walk, or even just open your windows. You need to stay away from other people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fresh air. Get a little sunshine. It’s Spring!

And finally, there’s no shame in responsibly used medication. On the really bad days, I would take a Xanax before bed, and it helped a lot. Sometimes, I eat one or two CBD gummy bears. That’s an effective way to relax, and it also helps with muscle tension. And in a somewhat less medical sense, two glasses of wine with dinner instead of one has also helped keep things pleasant. You can make things easier for yourself without becoming an addict. Just be pragmatic.

All of this falls under one blanket statement: self-care.

Self-care. Self-care. Self-care.

Those days when everything seemed to be crumbling around me were bad days. But then the sun would come up the next morning, and I would feel better. In fact, I’ve had a lot of good days during this quarantine.

Feel your feelings. Humans have them, good and bad. It’s normal. And I’ve realized…I’m not dead yet. So I’m determined to live until life actually ends.

Let Kindness Reign

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There are plenty of things that are simply out of our control. Let those things go, and focus on what you can control. Namely, yourself. If you are quarantined with housemates (spouses, kids, roommates, parents, etc), please be understanding. We have to recognize that things are just weird right now, and nobody is handling it stress-free. But we are capable of supporting and encouraging one another. Now more than ever, we can extend our love outwards.

And if you wish you could help in this time when so many are in need, there are several ways. Staying home is a big one. You are helping just by laying low. Mass quarantine greatly reduces the spread of disease and keeps hospitals from being overwhelmed. You can also help small businesses stay afloat by purchasing from them online or buying gift cards. Donate money to local food banks and homeless shelters. If you’re privileged enough to have extra funds on hand, you could make a big difference to someone who doesn’t. Some people are even sewing medical masks for hospital staff (due to recent shortages). There are a million little opportunities for kindness right now.

(And of course, the obvious: don’t hoard food and supplies. That’s the absolute least you can do. It creates shortages that otherwise wouldn’t happen, placing terrible strain on low-income families. And it makes you a selfish, uncivilized asshole).

If all of us collectively choose empathy and kindness over fear right now, we can get through this, and we can minimize the damage for everyone. We might even realize that we need empathy and kindness all the time, not just in a crisis. It’s my hope that we’ll come out the other side of this as better people, with stronger bonds and more open hearts.

Stay safe, everyone.

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Have a beautiful week.

 

 

 

 

 

La Mode Portlandian

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I got a lot of positive feedback last week for my Portland trip overview, and I thank you. It was a really fun, exciting adventure, and it was a pleasure to write about.

But that was just giving you a sense of what we did there–it was a look at Portland through a tourist’s eyes. Now, because this is a fashion blog, I want to apply a fashion lens to the experience.

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The shirt says Mouse Rat.

So, starting with my flight/arrival look…

I don’t really like to fly, and I’ve never been interested in adding to the anxiety by trying to do “airport chic.” For me, it’s got to be comfortable. This was the closest I’ve ever come to going for a look. I went with all black, head to toe, including soft black shoes which you cannot see. Black stud earrings, my usual rings that I wear every day, and a little rose quartz necklace tucked into my shirt. I wore eyeliner, but that was basically useless, because my eyes watered, and it had mostly worn off by the time we landed. (Travel dehydrates your skin anyway, so I don’t believe in wearing makeup on a plane).

This was the longest trip Greg and I had ever taken, and I learned something: a neck pillow seriously makes all the difference. I borrowed one from my mom, and it truly made the flights 10x more comfortable. Obviously, I’ll have to buy one for myself sometime.

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One stop I actually didn’t include in my last post was right after our first lunch. We had no clue yet how to navigate the city, and we just swung into the first place that said “coffee” as we walked back towards the hotel. I’ve actually had to look up what the shop was called, because we weren’t really paying attention, but it was Azar Indulgences. It turned out to be a small, Lebanese chocolate shop that also happened to offer coffee, as well as something called ‘sipping chocolate.’ The owner was very friendly, and she recommended that we try sipping chocolate with a shot of espresso.

I assumed it was going to be like hot chocolate, but no, this was bitter the way that very dark chocolate is bitter, and it certainly had an extra kick with the espresso. But sipping it slowly was enjoyable after a big meal, and we sat at the little bar by the window, people-watching. By then, with food and caffeine on my stomach, my head was much clearer (after the long trip), and that’s when I started noticing the fashion of Portland.

Most notably, an elderly lady who actually had a fall on the sidewalk right in front of us. I was just thinking as she passed by, what a personality she must have, with her big jewelry and little pigtails sticking up on top of her head, and then suddenly, down she went. (She tripped on a motorized scooter that was parked on the sidewalk). The good news is that several people stopped to help her, and after being stunned for a couple minutes, she was able to get up. She was coherent, and everything was okay. She sent away the ambulance that someone had called, and the chocolate shop owner brought her in and got her an ice pack. She sat down next to us, and we talked to her briefly–she did seem as eccentric as I’d assumed, but that’s very charming in an older woman. She spoke mostly, as she fixed her hair, of how indecent it is for ambulances to be so expensive (and therefore, mostly inaccessible), and thank goodness she didn’t need one.

It was a wild start to our adventure, that was for sure.

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The hotel had actually upgraded our room (our stay seriously couldn’t have been nicer), and one of my favorite parts ended up being our bathroom. I mention this because just look at the lighting around that mirror! I had never had such an ideal place to put on makeup before. And that’s just what I did for dinner that night.

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I had gotten this big, fluffy sweater for Christmas, as well as those huge earrings, and I packed them just in case, not knowing whether or not it would be cold enough to wear something so warm. It stayed in the 50s and was mostly sunny the whole time we were there, but the evenings were cold, so this was a perfect dinner ensemble.

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Greg took this picture.

And as you know, we dined at Jackrabbit, the hotel restaurant.

You can see this was an eventful trip, right from the very start.

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For our first official day, I went with the classic black and white. You can’t see it very well, but my necklace is a little golden bee pendant. I can’t fully explain why–maybe because this look has a sort of sultry business woman vibe?–but this outfit is Greg’s absolute favorite on me.

That was our big museum day, so I feel like it was the right style.

Our favorite coffee shop (in the overall vibe department) was Case Study, where we had breakfast. Everything was so ideal: it was all just starting; we were in high spirits. We got this perfect little table by the window, and we did some more people-watching as we ate. That’s really the great thing about large cities. Observing the multitudes of different people as they all go about their business–it’s exactly why there are so many outdoor cafés in places like Paris; people-watching is a well-loved pastime.

It’s precisely how people like me can figure out what’s fashionable in a city like Portland.

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Portlandian style is actually not a simple thing to pin down. Eclectic is the best word for it. There really didn’t seem to be any rules, and I saw everything from haute couture to grunge…to just plain weird.

But that was refreshing, honestly.

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Since Portland is pretty famous for its weirdness, I brought along one of my more experimental outfits, and I wore it on the second day. A dark blue turtle neck tucked into my black pants, with my most unique crystal necklace as a statement piece. You can’t tell properly from this photo, but I’m wearing a navy blue stud in one ear, and a silver dangly earring in the other. I think I might have turned a few heads in this ensemble, but in a good way. I felt good anyhow.

I kept my makeup to a minimum during the day. Eyeliner and maybe a touch of lipstick. It just didn’t make sense to walk up and down the city every afternoon with a full face.

This was our bookstore and sushi day. Definitely our most extensive walk-through of downtown.

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One aspect of the fashion I can certainly pin down for you is that tons of people had tattoos. Big, lovely, noticeable tattoos. And I don’t just mean hipsters and dive bar waitresses. Lots of professionals, too. Management position types. Clearly, the stigma against tattoos has faded significantly in that region.

And that could be said for more than just body art. Portland was, in many ways, a land of flamboyance. There was this sense of freedom in the air that was noticeable to us immediately–there was just more color, more expression. It made me realize how really, truly stifled we still are in the south. The people who live where I live aren’t less artful–there’s just a lot less tolerance.

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On our last full day, I went with my bicycle sweater. This was also the day when at least two different people asked if I was from Portland, so I must have really nailed it with this look.

And it was this day when I properly noticed how much the city was “shrinking.” When we walked down a few blocks to get Blue Star donuts for breakfast, I was so surprised by how short a distance it was. The previous day, when we had walked the same distance, it had felt much, much longer. And in a way, that happened every day we were there. As we got our bearings and figured out where we were going, the city seemed to compress, becoming less daunting with every new morning.

That was more or less what we considered to be our shopping day, and we spent most of the afternoon exploring a different part of the city that we drove to. We walked the length of Mississippi Ave., which had actually been recommended to us by the owner of Azar Indulgences on our very first day. And I’m so glad, because otherwise we wouldn’t have known to check it out, and we might have missed the taxidermy shop and the delicious street food.

I won’t lie, I actually felt quite underdressed in this sweater when we went to the fancy steakhouse for dinner that night, but some makeup helped me feel polished enough to be passable. It’s amazing what the right eyeshadow can do.

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One more distinct detail I observed was the prevalence of crop tops, as well as outfits with cut-outs or plunging necklines. I’ve said before how much I love looks that show more skin, and I’ve even warmed up to wearing crop tops myself. So this was an element that I definitely enjoyed.

People told us on multiple occasions that we timed our trip perfectly. It was ideal walking-around weather, and that’s not usually how it is in Portland (we were originally expecting a lot more rain). So I’m sure that’s why many people had their springtime ensembles on.

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This shirt says Raise Some Heck.

I decided to go with all the same elements as our arrival for our departure: a novelty T-shirt with a long-sleeved shirt underneath (white this time). Same comfortable shoes, same accessories. Still all about comfort, but I was trying to look a little bit cool.

Trips like this inspire me to pull myself together, to bring my best–it becomes all too easy to pretend I’m a model traveling to go to Fashion Week, or (perhaps closer to the truth) a style journalist investigating this season’s trends. It’s an awfully fun fantasy to play out, even if I don’t really like to fly. And I’ve always had the sense that if you’re going to a new place, you should be a good representation of where you come from.

Just about the best feeling I get from any vacation is coming home at the end, and with that being said…it was a little hard to leave this one behind.

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It only took about a day of being there before I told Greg that if we ever felt like we needed to move to a big city, I wanted it to be Portland. Such a move is never going to be realistic for us–we’re both too deeply rooted in our home; I’m already too happy where I’m at–but I’d never fallen in love with a city the way I did with that one. Everyone was so friendly and helpful. Everything was so interesting and artsy. There was an endless variety of people, things to do, sights to see.

And, quite frankly, it felt like a place where my gay and trans friends would feel a lot safer.

I’ve learned that fashion and self-expression go hand in hand. One is merely the reflection of the other. Portland was a strange and happy place. Eclectic and diverse. People dressed in a limitless array of unique, unpredictable ways. You could never be bored there.

Greg and I very much look forward to going back.

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Have a beautiful week.

A Few Days in Portland, OR

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Disclaimer: Now is not the time to travel! Greg and I went on this trip before the phrase “social distancing” came into play, and there was a lot of luck involved. That being said, though it may take some time, our current global situation with COVID-19 (the coronavirus) will eventually subside. And when it does…

I’d like to personally recommend Portland as your next travel destination. Seriously, I think everyone should go to Portland. We had a grand adventure there together.

Let me tell you all about it.

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Picture us walking out of these doors for a day of fun in the city.

Neither Greg nor myself had ever been farther West than Oklahoma, which is why I decided that our vacation should be in the Pacific Northwest. And once that decision was made, Portland seemed the obvious choice. It’s a city known for coffee, culture, and a general sense of being interesting. Exactly what we wanted.

As I began to research hotels, I came across The Duniway. The hotel’s namesake was Abigail Duniway, a woman who “braved the arduous trail to Oregon” (back in the pioneer days), and made a name for herself by fighting for social justice, including women’s right to vote. She also owned her own newspaper. A hotel named after a beacon of Feminism like that was clearly the hotel for us.

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The lobby.

I could easily do a whole post on how beautiful The Duniway turned out to be. We were immediately welcomed in with this wonderful sense that we were going to be taken care of–and that set the tone for our entire stay.

As it turns out, our hotel was right in the middle of downtown, and almost every restaurant/activity we wanted to try was within walking distance. That was a huge convenience (and a simple way to get in some exercise).

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We asked the concierge if there was a good place nearby to get lunch, and they swiftly sent us on our way to Picnic House. We were tired and hazy, just off the plane, and at that point, we’d barely had anything to eat that day–thankfully I still had the wherewithal to snap this picture. It doesn’t really capture the restaurant’s full charm, though.

The best thing besides the delicious food (which perked us right up) was how reasonable it was. Walking in, we assumed the place was going to be a little expensive, seeing how nice it was. But–and this will make sense to my local readers–it was actually pretty similar to eating out at Stoby’s. (And there was no sales tax. I really can’t tell you how enjoyable it is to see something priced, say, $13 and pay exactly $13).

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As a cherry on top, they gave us our check in an old Nancy Drew book! I wasn’t kidding about the charm.

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Taking the rest of the afternoon to relax, we decided that we’d stay in that night and dine in the hotel restaurant, Jackrabbit. Just imagine the room in the photo above much darker and ambient, with no sun coming in the windows. It was a truly gourmet experience, with an excellent selection from the bar.

Our adventure was just beginning, and we were so glad to be sharing it with one another.

One particular quest on this trip was to try as many coffee shops as possible, which meant a new café for breakfast every morning.

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On our first official morning in Portland, we went to Case Study Coffee Roasters. For those of you who know about my relationship with coffee, you won’t be surprised that I got a mocha latte at each and every shop visited. Obviously, I had to compare them all to my beloved Round Mountain at home. The Case Study mocha was definitely different–lighter, less of that espresso taste, and with a honey-like finish.

It’s also worth noting that the bagels in Portland were actual, proper bagels. Quite dense, and not at all like the kind you get at Kroger and pop in your toaster.

The rest of the morning was spent in the Portland Art Museum. That was the big activity on my to-do list. I love art, and I don’t get very frequent exposure to it.

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Then to Southpark Seafood for lunch. All of this was within walking distance of our hotel, mind you.

After swinging back to our room so that I could change shoes (comfort counts when you walk everywhere), it was a short drive to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). That was Greg’s big to-do.

And it was good fun, highly interesting, but…

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The most extensive exhibit was called Body Worlds–all about the human body, as you can imagine. And all I can say is that it was probably for the best that I didn’t realize the figures on display were real human bodies until after we’d finished going through. (I’m notoriously squeamish about dead people).

It’s funny looking back, though, because as we were going along, Greg would occasionally ask me if I was okay. And I would be like, “Yeah, of course; why wouldn’t I be?” Little did I know…

That was our biggest, busiest day. Two huge museums with only lunch in between–more work than you’d think.

Our next breakfast was at 40 LBS Coffee Bar.

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This one had an industrial, almost Steampunk aesthetic, which was very cool. Right up our alley. And as far as the coffee, I found the 40 LBS mocha to be fairly similar to the one at Case Study. There definitely seemed to be that same honey finish to it.

From there, we walked more or less across the length of downtown, looking around, swinging into little stores along the way. We weren’t just aimlessly meandering, though; we had an end-goal.

Powell’s Bookstore.

Right after a bite to eat…

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Having asked our concierge about a good place to get sushi, we ended up at this marvelous place called Bamboo.

Greg is the sushi lover between us, and that’s what he got (I did try some). I got smoked mackerel, which was served to me, still smoking, in that cute little basket. And I want you to know that seafood in Portland makes all other seafood seem like garbage. This was the freshest, most delicious fish I’d ever had. It was as if I was tasting it for the first time.

I even liked the sushi.

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Powell’s City of Books, the world’s largest independent bookstore, was the big one on our mutual to-do list. Greg and I are both Ravenclaws, if that helps you understand our motivation.

To paint a little bit of a picture for you, Powell’s is the size of a city block, and three stories high, and it’s filled entirely with books. Imagine the library from Beauty and the Beast, except way bigger.

They even have a rare book room upstairs. Take a moment to soak that in.

We ended up spending around $60 there altogether, including the cute magnet and t-shirt, and we were congratulating ourselves on our self-control.

Feeling a little worn out at this point, we stopped at Never Coffee on the way back to the hotel. One of the owners of Round Mountain had actually recommended this place to me, so it was on our list of things to check out anyway. We got iced mochas–being pretty warm from our walking, and from the sun that happened to come out along the way.

We both felt mostly neutral about this coffee shop. It was still very good, but we were just using it as a quick refreshment, not paying that much attention to the nuance of the flavors. Not gonna to lie, after the bookstore, we were just plain tired.

But it was the perfect little spot to take a break.

Our final breakfast was a two-parter. And Part I took place at Blue Star Donuts.

We had been advised more than once that we were better off getting local donuts, rather than going to a big chain like Voodoo. Blue Star seemed to be a favorite, so that’s where we ended up.

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We tried the maple bacon, the CBD Nutella, and the raspberry rosemary (which I got almost entirely for that beautiful color alone). They were all yummy, though I honestly couldn’t eat much more than a bite apiece. I’m used to small, non-sugary breakfasts, and anything this rich was really too much for me that early in the day.

Part II was at a coffee shop called Public Domain Coffee. All of the cafés we visited were pretty much at random (as long as they looked good), because–surprise–there are like 10 million places to get coffee in Portland. We decided on this one the day before when we happened to walk past it.

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Since this was our last coffee shop of the trip, here’s our final verdict…

We judged all of these places by two different categories: best vibe/aesthetic and best coffee taste. For best coffee taste, Greg chose 40 LBS as his personal favorite. As for me, I chose this one. The Public Domain mocha was heavier on that espresso flavor than the others, and it didn’t have the honey finish I had come to expect.

And we both agreed that when it came to best vibe/aesthetic, Case Study was the winner.

But while I’m on the subject of coffee, I want to use this opportunity to say that my own Round Mountain Coffee remains the best of them all in my eyes. It’s fair to imagine that I’m biased, but well, the RMC mocha strikes a perfect balance between chocolate and espresso, and for me, that’s just what it should be. That’s what home tastes like.

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Photo from Instagram, @paxtongatepdx

That afternoon, we wanted to do some shopping, and we ended up exploring a different part of the city a short drive away. Our first stop was easily our favorite. Paxton Gate was a small store filled to the brim with taxidermy, fossils, crystals, and oddities–everything my husband and I happen to love.

Greg walked away with a small T-Rex tooth and a couple other little things (he’s always had the more expensive taste), and I chose some new crystals to add to my collection. It was all so interesting, and when we asked about a good place to grab lunch, they kindly pointed us in the direction of a cluster of food trucks down the street.

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Street food is a mixed bag, depending on where you’re at. But I can tell you that in Portland, you can rely on it to be good (and quality).

I have always loved the idea of Raman, but I’d never had any that lived up to my expectations until I got some from this Japanese stand. And the rest of the food you see was from a Korean stand right next to it. Amid all the trucks were a bunch of picnic tables, and though it was a little chilly out, we sat in the sun, and it was perfect.

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We walked up and down the avenue after we ate, ducking into whichever shops caught our eye. I bought this cool, minimalist ring (pictured above) in one of the boutiques. There was a plant shop, a comic book store, just a little bit of something for everyone.

And honestly speaking, I’m thankful we visited when we did, because parking anywhere was difficult enough, and it was the off-season for tourism.

That evening, I decided that for our last meal of the trip, we’d go to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, a restaurant we’d been passing on the street every day since we’d gotten there. It turned out to be bigger and much fancier than I had assumed from looking in the windows, but all the better. We had an exquisite dinner. Neither of us took any pictures; we could focus on nothing but the food and drink. But I will say this: Greg got a lobster tail with his steak, and he gave me a couple bites. And it further drove home what I was saying earlier about Portland seafood. Even the lobster that I had tasted in Maine last summer was trash compared to this. So apparently, it’s the Pacific Ocean that produces the good stuff.

Back at the hotel later on, after a drink together at the lobby bar, we had no choice but to start packing up; our flight home was the next morning. We agreed, however, that we both would have happily stayed a few more days if we could have. Speaking as two homebodies who will always love sleeping in our own bed the most, we adored our time in Portland. By our second day there, we had already decided that we want to go back.

And I know in my heart that we will someday.


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I’m glad to be back and writing again. I hope you enjoyed the story of our Portland journey, because it’s not over yet! This post laid out the bones of the trip, so to speak, and next week, I want to put a little more meat on it.

In the meantime, stay safe out there. Stay at home if you can. Things have gotten a little weird, but we’ll get through it.

Have a beautiful week.

A Spark of Inspiration

Cherry Blossom Pink

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As we embrace the first glowing days of Spring, I figured this would be the perfect time to pause and appreciate these beautiful flowers.

I actually had the idea for this last summer, but I’ve been saving it for springtime, when it’s sure to be the most inspiring. At first, I imagined I would focus on Japan and Japanese style, because I associate these blooms with that country. However, it occurred to me that you can find cherry blossoms in many other places, and so I decided to take a different approach.

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If I had the nerve (which I do not), I would love to do something like this.

There is something incredibly artful to me about these flowers. Everything comes alive in the Spring; everything buds and blooms, and the world becomes a canvas. The lovely soft pink of cherry blossoms is the most delicate stroke of the paintbrush, a color that is so bright, yet so gentle–you can almost smell the floral perfume just by looking at it.

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This picture makes me wish that I liked tea.

When I was a kid, I went through that phase where I didn’t want people to think I was “girly.” I avoided anything too frilly, and I avoided pink most of all. I think I just didn’t want to come off as “soft.” And tons of little girls go through that phase (the “I’m not like other girls” phase), so I’m sure plenty of people can relate to this.

(We figured out as adults, of course, that we were doing that because society used the word girly as a way of saying weak or shallow, and we didn’t want to identify with that. That’s on society, not us).

But as an adult, pink is one of my favorite colors. Cherry blossom pink perhaps most of all.

a7c3c99dac85b521095e6e70e3b67000Being soft and feminine is just as much a part of who I am as anything else. And there’s nothing weak about it. Flowers and pastels and frilly things, they aren’t lesser than; they aren’t meant to be looked down upon.

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If you’ve been reading my stuff for quite awhile, you know I will do these Spark of Inspiration posts once in a blue moon–just whenever I notice some kind of detail that I want to explore (and see more of in fashion). Cherry blossoms, the flower, the color, pretty much every aspect of them is what we would call traditionally feminine–and that’s probably why I think they’re so lovely to begin with. But there are still too many people out there who avoid things like that, for exactly the same reason I did as a child.

Listen, no matter who you are, if you’re reading this right now, I am giving you permission to explore your “girly” side. Having gentle feelings, enjoying cute things, doing or saying or liking feminine stuff, there is 100% nothing negative about that. And, seriously, if your eyes enjoy the sight of the color pink, you should be able to wear it without feeling weird.

It’s time to think pink. Lovely, floral, springtime pink.

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I’m totally on board with just straight up wearing cherry blossoms. They make for a very attractive print.

But I, myself, lean more towards wearing the solid color.

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Or you could go in the “pop of color” direction and wear pink accessories, like hats, shoes, socks. Hey, even underwear! Why not?

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Bonus: Pink makeup looks cute on all skin tones, so that could be a fun place to start.

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This is what being in touch with your feminine side looks like.

In case there was any question, I am speaking to my male readers just as much as my female ones right now. Perhaps even more so. Don’t forget, if Jason Momoa can wear a pink velvet suit (and be smoking hot), you’ve got nothing to be afraid of.

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I often say, “I need more pink in my life,” and it’s true. I actually don’t own many pieces in this color, and it’s a shame. The only thing is, not every pink works on me, even if it’s divine on the hanger–the reason being that I have a very fair complexion, and with pink undertones, so sometimes a pink shirt will look great on me, and other times, it will make me look completely washed out.

C’est la vie.

It doesn’t make me want to wear it any less.

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“What beautiful blossoms we have this year.”

All I’m trying to say is that now’s the time.

It’s Spring. It’s Rebirth. Everything is blooming. We should bloom, too! Whether you wear pink all the time or have never worn it in your life, seize the moment! The flowers are out in all their full-blown radiance. It’s nothing new to want to copy them. Humans have been admiring and wearing flowers for all time. Men have been comparing women to flowers for thousands of years (all well and good, but men can be flowers, too).

This is an especially pleasant time to be alive. The sunshine is out, it’s warm without being hot, and Nature is wearing her finery again. Today could be your day to stop and smell the roses.

And to wear cherry blossom pink.


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Just to let you guys know, I will be gone on vacation all this week, so there will not be another post next Monday. I’ll catch you up on everything the following week. I hope you’re all enjoying this Spring weather, and as always, I wish you the best.

Until next time…

Have a beautiful week.

My First Fashion Show

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I had the tremendous privilege of attending a fashion show last week, and right off the bat, I’d like to thank everyone involved, not only for their effort and talent, but also for letting me cover the event as a writer.

It was kind of a dream come true.

Toad Suck Creative is a brand new initiative, born right here in my hometown. It is meant to be a sort of conduit for local artists, giving them a chance to showcase their work, as well as helping the community build a much-needed nightlife. Project Conway was their first event.

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And when I saw the theme, I knew it was my destiny to be there.

If you’ve been reading my work for awhile, you know that I am all about the idea of modernizing the Roaring 20s, bringing fashion into what I have called the Screaming 20s. Remember, around the beginning of the year, I reasoned that we should go with the word screaming because it perfectly captures the sense of urgency–panic even–that tends to underscore today’s up-and-coming generations.

(I’m just hoping that if I say Screaming 20s enough, it’ll catch on).

I am so excited to tell you everything that happened!

This opportunity was the closest I ever expect to get to New York Fashion Week, so that is how I treated it. I built an entire outfit around that tiny vintage purse, choosing a solid navy blue blouse as sort of a background for all of its busy embroidery and beading. And I decided that wearing two cameo necklaces made it a Whole Look™.

I spent hours experimenting and fine-tuning every little detail, including delicate navy blue earrings that you probably won’t be able to see in any of these pictures. Those shoes, now they were the choice that really elevated the outfit to a higher sphere, I think. It’s been years since I’ve worn a heel that extreme (and it’s a wonder I could walk), but it was worth it to look a little more haute couture.

I mixed three or four eyeshadows to get the color I wanted–dark blue, but not too blue. And I mixed two different lipsticks. Overall, I’d say my makeup was my biggest Flapper element. Bold, dark eyes and bright lips. I could have done a heavier blush, but I’m always afraid of overdoing that.

The final look, for all my work and attention to detail, was still pretty tame for a fashion event, but that’s just who I am, ultimately. I’m basically incapable of looking “loud.” But I certainly looked like myself, and that’s really the whole point anyway.

(Apologies for not having a better photo of the full look, but I was rushing around and the lighting in my house is truly the worst).

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So there I found myself, in the front row of a small and very special runway show.

There were two local designers displaying their clothes: Mac and Van. Both of them are in their early 20s–Mac just finishing up college and Van fresh out of college–and they both made each of their outfits by hand. Fashion design is a seriously challenging art form, and it was incredibly exciting to see the results of their ambition and hard work.

The first lineup was by Mac.

These are just pictures I was snapping along the way. Definitely not professional quality. But you deserve to get a glimpse of it all.

You absolutely needed to see the back of this jacket.

I’m always a little on the fence about denim, but Mac utilized it very well.

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This red power-suit look was probably my favorite.

Five outfits in total. All of them unique, interesting, and vibrant with the designer’s personal authenticity.

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Six outfits if you count what she designed for herself.

(If she has sparked your interest, you can follow Mac on Instagram: @oh.thats.mac).

Next was Van’s lineup.

The shorts that the young man was wearing looked like shearling-type material, which I had never seen before on shorts. Highly interesting.

The wild sleeves on the young woman reminded my sister and me of Harley Quinn in the new Birds of Prey movie.

I’ve fallen in love with fishnet tights lately (right), and I’m really happy they’ve become a trend.

We got to see this one with and without the jacket, and I’m definitely a fan of the sheer sleeves.

The outfit on the left was my personal favorite of the group. Very sleek. The chain was the perfect touch.

My sister and I couldn’t completely decide if we liked the multi-colored camo pants on the right, purely for the reason that they’re so loud (which means not our style). However, when I showed these pictures to my husband, that was his favorite outfit, because of the loud pants. It just goes to show you that everyone has different tastes–and that’s what keeps things interesting.

Seven outfits altogether, and with a completely different vibe from the first lineup. But perfectly equal in excellence.

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He included the medical masks with his outfits to help create awareness about coronavirus–more specifically, awareness about properly educating yourself about coronavirus.

(If Van’s fashion sense inspires you, you can follow him on Instagram: @iamboyperfect).

After the runway show, the designers spent a few minutes in a Q&A. This was my chance to get some specific information for my blog, and luckily I had a question prepared.

I asked, “What does 1920s fashion mean to you, and what is your vision for bringing that forward into the 2020s?”

They each gave their answers, which I took some shorthand notes on at the time, but be aware that I will be paraphrasing what they said, not directly quoting them.

Van: When you think of the 1920s, you think of the dancing, the partying, the writing, all of that culture. When you think of that now, you think of going to festivals, to raves. I wanted my models to look like they just came from a rave.

Mac: The 1920s, that style, isn’t really my style, but I feel very comfortable in the 2020s. I love repurposing clothes, and that’s a big trend right now. For me, it’s about originality, authenticity; two of my grandmothers were seamstresses, and that was very inspiring. I love making something from nothing. That denim outfit that Taylor (model) wore, I made that from four pairs of jeans.

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Photo from @tay.larae on Instagram

She went on the say that being open-minded, being around people and working with people who aren’t like you, that’s what makes events like this possible. And she’s absolutely right.

I was very impressed with the skill and the professionalism of these two young artists, and I am totally convinced that they have what it takes to make it in the fashion industry.


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Special thanks to Fernando (@stepdaddynando), the gentleman in the white jacket, for being the evening’s master of ceremonies. And to Robert (@robtadodactylsaurus_rex), in the blue jacket, for founding Toad Suck Creative and bringing this all together–and for inviting me to write about it.

This experience, for me, felt like I was leveling up. I’ve been a fashion blogger for a little over a year now, but it was always just for me, writing for my own personal satisfaction. This was my first event, my first step into the tangible world of the fashion community. It could potentially lead to other fashion shows, more opportunities to write, maybe even more readers!

Whatever happens, the best part is that I got to have this experience. It was the most fun I’ve had in quite awhile, and it brought all of my passion burning to the surface again–I enjoyed writing this almost as much as I enjoyed the show itself.

Congratulations to Mac and Van, and to Toad Suck Creative. May there be many more events in the future. And count me in for every single one!

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Have a beautiful week.

 

20s Daywear

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As much as I could get behind making life one big party–and dressing as such–I admit that’s not exactly realistic. Even the most vivacious flapper still had to go about the more mundane day-to-day business of living. And so must we.

But even if it can’t be pearls and red lipstick 24/7, it doesn’t have to be dull.

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The typical daytime outfit in the 1920s was pretty sporty. Simple dresses (or blouses with skirts), about knee length, accessorized with a cute hat and a short heel.

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The cloche hat (cloche being the French word for bell) was exceptionally stylish paired with the lovely bobbed haircut. And this small, sleek accessory is my favorite kind of hat, personally. I like the way it frames the features, rather than overshadow them.

It’s always been my opinion that hats need to become mainstream again, and I’m in favor of bringing back this kind in particular.

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Here’s me last year wearing something along the same lines. It’s not exactly cloche, but it has the same effect, and it’s a little more modern-looking. Just to give you an idea.

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This, in a very general sense, is what the shoes were like. And it seems to me this would be an easy thing to bring into our modern wardrobes. I love kitten heels. They don’t hurt, and not every step has to be a calculated balancing act.

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This isn’t a super casual example, but it’s a really good one in terms of modernization. I’ve mentioned before that if you dress head to toe in the theme of a certain decade, you’re wearing a costume, not an outfit. This woman has the Roaring 20s hair and shoes, and that’s it–those elements are more than enough.

Hello Screaming 20s.

And I think we can all agree. Parasols never should have gone out of style.

This is the accessory we’re really missing. Especially where I live, in the south, where the sun will beat you down before you can say ‘sweet iced tea.’

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At the moment, goths seem to be the only ones with the nerve to carry these around, and I think we should all be striving to reach that level of extra.

Let’s normalize the parasol again. Please. We need the shade.

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One big element in the Roaring 20s wardrobe was the “drop waist.” This is basically just what it sounds like: whatever would typically be at the natural waistline (like a belt) is dropped to the hips instead. So rather than creating the ever-popular hourglass silhouette, it made the figure look more like a straight line. And as I mentioned in my Flapper Girl post a few weeks ago, this was a purposeful stance against the restrictive corset trend of previous generations.

No more cinching and squeezing to the point of breathlessness. Ladies of the 20s weren’t having it.

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Now of course, to pull off that straight line “ideal,” a person would need fairly narrow hips, and that’s not necessarily common. I wanted to point that out, because women are almost always made to feel too big in one capacity or another, and it’s such bullshit.

As you experiment through your style journey, don’t be afraid to try the drop waist look. It will put a lot of emphasis on your hips, and in my own experience, I saw myself in the mirror and thought, “Geez, my hips are huge!” But no, my hips are entirely normal–and even if they really were huge, never fall into the trap of talking yourself down. Whether you like this silhouette or not, that’s just a matter of personal taste–keep in mind, it’s designed to make you look like a rectangle–but loving the body you live in is non-negotiable.

(Remember, Capitalism wants you to hate yourself. Choose love instead–it’s rebellion!)

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Not everybody in the Roaring 20s looked like Daisy Buchanan. That would be like saying everybody today looks like Jennifer Aniston.

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Ha!

There were just as many body types, facial features, and financial statuses in the 1920s as there are now.

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All of this to say that no style should feel exclusive. I don’t want you to look at the Flapper Girl image and say “not for me” just because you’re a different shape. Shape wasn’t even the point. They were trying to get away from shape.

The measurements on the poster above would only fit a tiny fraction of the female population, no matter what location or time period you went to. And literally no one needs to measure themselves that thoroughly unless you’re getting something tailored.

(Looking this all through, this post has gone from “we could wear these cute shoes” to “body positivity for all,” and well, no regrets).

It is my belief that we should capture the Flapper spirit, regardless of who we are or what we look like. Vibrant. Fearless. Ready to seize the moment. Personally, I find that I can capture this attitude more effectively when I wear elements of the glamorous style of the time. And generally speaking, this post was meant to show you that the glamour doesn’t have to fade when the sun comes up.

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And it’s also an excuse for us to look at these cool vintage photos. Real people. Real fashion. They spark more inspiration than any Great Gatsby costume ever could.

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Have a beautiful week.

Oscars Couture, 2020

I was really pleased with this year’s Oscars, though I will say I was less invested in the nominations this time around. I just didn’t happen to see a lot of the movies. But that’s okay–all the better to focus on the fashion, right?

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Honorable mention: Olivia Colman in Stella McCartney. Kinda weird (always a plus), and I’m a sucker for capes in any form.

Let’s just dive right into my lineup, shall we?

America Ferrera

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I don’t want to be too cliché with the whole “she’s glowing” line, but there is a rather brilliant light around her, you can’t deny. The gown is a powerful shade of red, and I’d describe the silhouette as sort of an amped-up Regency Era style. But it’s really the custom headband that makes it.

Her inspiration for the look was, in part, her heritage. She said on Instagram, “Tonight, I take my own warrior ancestors with me, the indigenous Lenca tribe of Honduras.”

Designer: Alberta Ferretti

Regina King

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Regina often makes my lists, and you can see why.

She made it this time for two very simple reasons: the shape of this dress is perfect, and the color is exquisite.

I am a huge fan of this kind of skirt. It captures the sleekness of a more A-line silhouette, while still qualifying as a ballgown. You pretty much can’t do better than that.

Designer: Versace

Billie Eilish

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I really like the contrast going on here. Head to toe in Chanel, but still pulling off her signature edge. Billie’s typical style is quite shapeless, and that is also happening. I can’t think of anyone else who could wear this designer and make it look like she essentially threw on a tracksuit.

The crazy black fingernails are certainly the finishing touch.

Designer: Chanel

Zazie Beetz

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She’s an unknown to me, but her Oscars look was eye-catching. It’s got a sort of goth vibe, but it’s not necessarily the dress itself that makes it for me. It’s the hair and the statement necklace. All of that together…she kind of reminds me of a character in, say, a 90s vampire flick.

It works.

Designer: Thom Browne

Laura Dern

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I love Laura Dern (so proud of her for winning an Oscar). I love pink and black together. And–the cherry on top–I love tassels.

This dress is pretty simple, but when you get it right, you get it right.

Designer: Armani

Mindy Kaling

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Remember in Ocean’s 8 when a group of women (including Mindy) stole a famous necklace from the Met Gala? Remember how the necklace had its own security team because it was so expensive? Well apparently, Mindy’s necklace at the Oscars was in a similar situation. Wearing over a million dollars worth of jewels with her stunning golden dress, she, too, had to have security for her accessories.

Just imagine.

Designer: Dolce & Gabbana

Rebel Wilson

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Rebel went full Marilyn Monroe.

What else is there to say?

Designer: Jason Wu

Sandra Oh

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I’m not even sure I can explain why I love this so much. I’m not always a big fan of ruffles or poofy sleeves, but… doesn’t she just look perfect? Maybe it’s the color. Maybe it’s the silvery shimmer of the fabric against the flowery ruching detail. There’s a lot going on, and it’s all exquisite.

Bonus for the gorgeous plunging neckline.

Designer: Elie Saab

Natalie Portman

If I had to choose just one word to describe Natalie, I think I’d say…rad.

For just this beautiful dress alone, she would have made my list. She looked stellar. But she included a detail which I thought was extremely special–and so her.

Down the lapel of her cape/jacket, the designer embroidered the names of the female directors who had been snubbed for this year’s Oscars. What a statement, and what a fantastic way to draw attention to it.

Rock on, Natalie.

Designer: Dior

Gal Gadot

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There is scarcely a more beautiful woman on this earth, in my opinion. I’m in awe of Gal every time I see her.

This is one of those dresses that makes you take a second look. In fact, it was a subject of discussion between my sister and I (we watched the Oscars together). But it didn’t take long before we agreed that we did indeed love the dress.

For one thing, pink and black. Need I say more? We also really loved the lace element in the skirt, which complemented all that lace up top. It’s striking and different, but that works in its favor–you never want to be boring on a red carpet.

Designer: Givenchy

Brie Larson

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This is just a big bucket of YES.

Honestly, anything that brings the 20s to my mind is a winner. The color, the beading, the cape-like sleeves, the high slit–every element of this is sleek and refined and completely lovely.

There is just nothing better or more fun than combining celebrities that you love with designers that you love. This dress on Brie Larson is a fine example of why I’m passionate about these big Hollywood events.

Designer: Celine

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Vanessa Nadal 

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I couldn’t resist sneaking these two in. Oh my goodness, happy couples on the red carpet are the cutest! Lin is a fave. My heart is so soft for him, and I love that he has a wife who loves him.

But cuteness aside, I consider Lin to be the defining artist of our generation. He has already moved mountains with his talent and success, and I can’t wait to see what else he has in store.

Designer: ???

Taika Waititi

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I almost considered this too simple, but of course Taika made himself noteworthy with sheer force of personality. With the humorous severity of his Clark Kent-ish, old Hollywood style hairdo, as well as the fact that he kept over-dramatically posing, I could not ignore him.

But who would want to ignore this treasure of a man anyway? I have loved everything I’ve ever seen him write/direct. He has this style that is at once manic and meaningful. Overwhelmingly funny, but with depth. I couldn’t have been happier about his Oscar win, nor could I have imagined a more perfect acceptance speech:

“I dedicate this to all the Indigenous kids in the world who want to do art, and dance, and write stories. We are the original storytellers, and we can make it here as well.”

Designer: Dior

Margot Robbie

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Margot has a gorgeous intensity as an actress, and I watch her with great enthusiasm.

This dress has just the right amount of je ne sais quoi. If it didn’t have those dramatic sleeves, or if it didn’t have that big medallion detail as a centerpiece, this wouldn’t have made the cut. At its most basic, it’s nothing more or less than a simple navy blue dress. But much like a chef adding one more pinch of salt, the designer had the right instincts about how to make it just right.

(If you haven’t seen Birds of Prey yet, go see it. She was the producer for that movie, and she is the ideal Harley Quinn).

Designer: Chanel

Anthony Ramos

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This is an up-and-comer that I have a good feeling about. (His big break was, in many ways, thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda, and I love it when one artist’s success nurtures the success of others).

I don’t know if this was his first red carpet, or if this is just the first time I’ve spotted him, but he wasn’t boring, and that’s what matters. That kingly jeweled thing hanging down his chest (which I do not have a word for, sadly), is what secured his space on my list. It has letters on it, but I couldn’t find what they spell out…and I can’t tell in any of the pictures. (Hey, if any of you know, leave a comment and tell me).

Even still, he looks regal AF, and I’m all about that.

Designer: Dolce & Gabbana

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

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In my heart, no matter what roles she may play, Julia will always be Elaine from Seinfeld.

Going with a simple but timelessly sexy navy blue number, she definitely caught my attention. Honestly, it makes me immeasurably glad to see her looking so good. I’ve always had a nostalgic attachment to her, and I was a little scared when she got breast cancer a few years ago.

Some people just continue to glow up as they get older, and I consider Julia to be one of those people.

Designer: Vera Wang

Janelle Monáe

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I had to save the best for last.

I don’t usually choose favorites, but this gown is everything. Head to toe sparkles is already exciting, but then that hood? Oh my gosh. It’s chic, and on top of that, almost… otherworldly. Like, I feel like I could see this dress on Star Trek, and it wouldn’t be out of place.

Janelle is a fascinating and incredibly beautiful person. And their voice…I was totally blown away by their opening performance.

Live long and prosper, Janelle.

Designer: Ralph Lauren


EQn4JWwWsAAViudSigourney Weaver’s dress at the Oscars didn’t quite make my list, but I just happened to find a picture of her at the Vanity Fair after-party, and…

Oh my God, if she had worn this suit to the Oscars, she would have been right at the top of my lineup. I don’t think she’s ever looked better. I don’t think a suit has ever looked better. Ugh, it’s perfect!

Designer: Yves Saint Laurent

As always, I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. Of all the events that I cover throughout the year, I think the Oscars really is my very favorite, and I’m so happy to be able to share my thoughts with you.

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Have a beautiful week.

Halftime

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We all have our favorite Super Bowl halftime performances. Mine is Lady Gaga’s from a couple years back. But this one, performed by Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, is absolutely in my top 3.

What a show. What a grand spectacle. They blew my mind, and then kept blowing it.

The sheer athleticism it would have required to do the things they did on stage… To put it in perspective, Shakira is 43 and JLo is 50. I’m 26, and I can’t even touch my toes. And on top of it all, they are singing! Not to mention, several seamless wardrobe changes in the midst of everything. Shakira started playing the drums at one point. I haven’t seen such a fun (and physically demanding) performance in a long time.

All I can say is, the longer the show went on, the more I wanted to celebrate them. I was so impressed.

But that’s not exactly what this blog post is about…

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Before the show was even over, it was deemed a controversy.

And I’m not just disappointed.

I am furious.

IMG_1197The reactions from a lot of men were already gross, and not because they found the show sexy, but because they immediately tried to condemn JLo and Shakira for that sexiness.

And I definitely was mad about that. I was mad at a couple men I was watching the show with for making comments along those lines.

But that’s Patriarchy 101. A hint of arousal, and they point an accusatory finger. As if women are conspiring with their penises, working against them to make them feel sexual feelings–and then force them into sin. (If you think I’m being dramatic, a man tried to sue the NFL, claiming the halftime show was keeping him from heaven).

Also, I shouldn’t have to explain this, but if you’re a man who doesn’t have a toxic view towards women, then I’m not including you when I say “the Patriarchy.” And you ought to know that.

Men are not mindless, sex-driven animals who can’t control their actions. Which is exactly why people like Mr. Halftime-Made-Me-Horny-And-I’m-Gonna-Sue are so ridiculous.

And why people who victim-blame are so horrible.

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Women dancing naked. The most terrifying thing in the world.

But I covered that general issue in my witchcraft-themed post a few months ago. Associating the female body with temptation and sin is exactly why a bunch of women were called witches and murdered back in the day (and why women keep getting murdered now).

But you know whose voices were a lot louder in condemning this year’s halftime show? The voices of women.

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When a woman is viewed fundamentally as a sexual object, then your respect for her becomes conditional. If she’s wearing clothing that you consider modest enough, if she’s moving or speaking in a way you consider ladylike enough, then she gets to be treated with decency. If not, then that decency can be retracted at any time.

When a woman subscribes to this ideology, there is a term for that.

Internalized misogyny.

It basically means that she gets validation for fitting into a certain mold–she’s considered a lady; she’s modest enough; she’s whatever the Patriarchy deems respectable for a woman. And when another woman doesn’t adhere to that mold, she’s among the first to point a finger and condemn. If another woman gets slandered and punished, she’s in the crowd cheering, because it means even more validation for her through comparison.

I’m not a slut. I’m not full of sin. They are! They are!”

To all the women posting on Facebook about how they were “so proud” that their teenage sons walked out of the room during the halftime show, congratulations, you’ve already successfully taught your children to objectify women’s bodies. And when they get older, and ultimately feel natural sexual urges, they will blame and hate the women who “made” them feel that way.

IMG_0298I want you to look at my face as I say these things, and as you process what I’ve said so far.

The truth is, I naturally fit into a pretty typical mold–there’s nothing risqué about my usual style, and I’m fairly quiet in general. I believe the average person looks at me and thinks, “I bet she goes to church.” And I tend to get respect. Overall, I’m in a prime position to point my own finger and act disgusted because Shakira was belly dancing.

But I know very well that the approval of the Patriarchy is arbitrary. Because it’s not me as a person that’s getting the approval; it’s my looks and my behavior. If those things changed…

Look at my picture again. What do you think it would take? If you saw my bra, would you lose all the respect you ever had for me?

What if you saw my nipple? Would you spit in my face?

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When witches were getting burned, you know what would often happen? “Respectable” women would accuse other women. They’d raise suspicion against their neighbors and get more innocents killed, and it was the same principle.

I’m not a witch. I’m not evil. She is! She is!”

And sitting here, putting these thoughts together as a writer, there’s only one word I can really think of that describes someone like that.

Traitor.

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And to those of you out there who have been saying that JLo and Shakira were hurting Feminism by being so sexy, you’ve still missed the point. A woman has every right to sexualize herself. She gets to make that choice, because it’s her life, and it’s her freakin’ body.

This isn’t offensive. This isn’t objectification.

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Bullshit like this is.

That woman in the picture isn’t expressing herself. She’s being used as a sexual prop to sell chips.

There’s a massive difference. One that everyone needs to recognize.

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I haven’t even mentioned the rich cultural significance of this show.

The Super Bowl was in Miami this year, the perfect location to showcase Latin American pride. JLo, who is of Puerto Rican descent, wore a reversible Puerto Rican/American flag for part of her performance, drawing attention to the fact that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory. Joined by her daughter, singing “Born in the USA,” it was a very definite statement that Puerto Ricans are Americans, too.

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Shakira was born and raised in Barranquilla, Colombia, and she is also of Middle Eastern descent. The belly dancing was a nod to her Lebanese heritage, as well as the “weird tongue thing” she did. Accompanied by a high-pitched cry, this is actually called a zaghrouta, a traditional expression of joy and celebration. And the “stomping dance” she did was the Champeta, a tribute to Afro-Colombian culture.

I myself wouldn’t have recognized any of this; I don’t have any experience or background in these things. But I was so pleased to learn about it, because it means that their amazing show meant even more. It made a lot of people feel seen. And so on top of it being a wild, exciting performance, it was an electrifying tribute to Latin Americans everywhere. Led by two extraordinary women.

And hey, you know, maybe I’m wrong. After all, there have been plenty of other sexy performances in other halftime shows. Maybe the people dragging JLo and Shakira aren’t a bunch of sexist assholes.

Maybe they’re just fuckin’ racists.

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Queens.

If you lift yourself up by pulling other people down, leave my page and don’t come back. This blog isn’t for you. Bigots and bullies aren’t welcome here.

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I created The Makings of a Queen to explore my interest in fashion and personal expression, and the underlying theme has always been to encourage others. I believe in spreading the ideals of self-love and self-confidence. I talk about experimentation and authenticity–finding what makes us happy, what makes us feel good about ourselves, and paying it forward.

Tearing people down for the way they present themselves goes against everything this blog was built on, and I think it would be pretty spineless of me not to address this. Women have to stick together–I won’t shirk my responsibility on that front.

I’ve said what I had to say. I won’t be taking it back.

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Have an empowering week.


Also…

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Yes. Yes it fucking is.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive/dangerous situation, you can reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233 or by clicking this link.

Stay safe, everyone.

 

 

The Modern Flapper Girl

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Since this is (what I have proclaimed to be) The Screaming 20s, and since I love the idea of echoing the 1920s in modernized ways, today I’d like to go into the Flapper.

What kind of woman was she, and why should we revive her?

First, a little context:

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Here’s a general example of what fashion was like in the decade before. It’s basically what the Flapper was trying to get away from. Long, tedious layers, a tightly corseted waist, voluminous hair piled atop the head, and a big, cumbersome hat. As a modern viewer, I can say that this look had its own charm, but it wouldn’t be much fun in a practical sense.

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Look at this in comparison. The contrast is drastic. Much shorter skirts and sleeves, no corsets (no emphasis on the waist at all), and particularly short hair. And this didn’t just happen. It wasn’t a mere whim of style.

It was purposeful, active rebellion.

The Flapper Girl was boldly “unladylike.”

She smoke; she drank. She wore red lipstick and dark eye makeup. She stacked her jewelry, danced at wild parties, and kissed before she was married. Vivacious and outspoken, she became the glamorous ideal of the decade–that’s what she is to us.

But like I said, it wasn’t a flight of fancy for these girls. It was a social movement, a gilded protest against restrictive clothing and restricted bodily autonomy. It was feminism.

The hair was a big part of it.

Even now, in my own personal experience, I have been told that “boys like long hair.” Doesn’t that just make you wanna chop it all off? Well the Flapper did it. Bobbed short and sharply styled one way or another, this is a highly recognizable element of the 20s era look. For them, it was nothing short of a political statement.

It was a bunch of women and girls saying, “I’ll do what I want.”

And you can tell it met with disapproval by just looking at the passive aggressive heading on the poster above. “If you must do it, show this to your barber.”

The Flapper was sexy. The glitz and sensuality were deliberate choices.

Any movement that involves women reclaiming and owning their sexuality is important. It’s intrinsically linked with feminism, fighting against the still-relevant problem of objectification. This idea that there is only one way a woman can be (if she wants to be treated with decency): a “lady,” a “good girl,” perfectly meek and modest, wholly without physical desires, and waiting to be demurely guided through life by her husband. Stepping outside that box, she’s “ruined,” as if she’s a broken plaything and not a dynamic, soul-having human being.

Fuck every inch of that.

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I think it was tremendously clever to rebel by having fun. These women made it all the rage to get dolled up and go have a ball, and they were participating in an important social protest at the same time. That’s why I think we should revive the Flapper Girl attitude. The same causes are still in need of fighting for. But why shouldn’t we bring optimism and joviality into the mix? My generation could stand to have a good time. You know it. I know it. We’re grinding; we’re trying our best, but it can feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders.

I’m not suggesting we be irresponsible. I’m saying that we deserve to get dolled up and go have a ball. We’re grown. Nobody has any business telling us what we can’t do.

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Shake off the shame.

Even right here in the newly fledged 2020s, women are constantly taught to associate their bodies with sin and guilt. It’s wrong, and disgusting in its prevalence. Time to drink a Cosmopolitan and Charleston that shit right off.

The Flapper, donning her pearls and her dancing shoes, essentially said, “You can see my shoulders and knees. I’m not ruined. You can kiss me if I think it’s fun. I’m not ruined. I can get drunk. I can dance all night. I can take risks. I’m not ruined. I’m a person. I’m not ruined.”

This is what I want for us. I’ve realized that feminism, and every single other human rights movement, will always have to be fought for–both to gain freedoms and to maintain them. We have no choice but to rebel in one form or another. But I don’t want that to mean a lifetime of cynicism. I don’t want any of us to lose our spark.

I think this boils down to self-expression in the end. As in, you should be able to present yourself in any which way you please, as a free individual. I know that it’s a lot more dangerous for some than for others (so make your own personal judgments for your environment and please be as safe as you can), but at the same time, have your fun. Choose the clothes you like, the hair you like; get the piercings you like, the tattoos you like…Anything and everything, it should all make you feel happy. You deserve to take up space and be your own self.

Haters don’t want you to have fun, so have it for spite if necessary. That could be your act of rebellion–your inner Flapper Girl coming out to play.

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Look at me. Look into my eyes right now.

You’re beautiful precisely the way you are in this exact moment. You are a fully whole, complete human being, and you deserve to have joy in your life. Not just basic respect and decency, but joy. I mean that, and I won’t stop meaning it.

Time to say to the world, “I’ll do what I want.”

Have a beautiful week.

 

10 Items That are Hot RIGHT NOW

Looking back, I realize that I neglected to do one of these seasonal trend posts for Autumn, which is a shame. But, here we are now, and there are plenty of popular Winter items to explore. This happens to be one of the most fashionable winters we’ve ever seen, if you want my opinion, and let me tell you why…

Beige

It’s the most neutral color in existence, and it has taken the world of fashion by storm. Over the course of several months, I’ve watched beige go from a cute novelty to an overwhelming mainstay.

All neutrals have gained massive popularity the last couple seasons. Mixing beige with white is a very common palette for outfits now. It’s an aesthetic that I never would have expected. I used to associate neutrals (especially beige) with blandness and boredom. A few years ago, I don’t think I would have liked the trend of being neutral from head to toe.

But I get it now. Neutral is classic. It’s neat and clean. It looks good on anyone at any time. And there is actually a boutique near where I live that completely revolves around that ideal.

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This photo is from their instagram page, @beige_lr

The store is literally called Beige if you’re interested.

Short Chain Necklaces

Here’s model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley sporting a couple of good examples. Whether you prefer gold or silver, this style of necklace might be a worthwhile investment. They look nice with the low necklines she’s wearing, but a lot of people are wearing them with cozy sweaters. It’s pretty sexy, either way.

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I spent a little of my Christmas gift card money the other day and got myself this one. Like I said, pretty sexy.

Southwestern Themes

This kind of pattern is popular on sweaters, but especially popular on jackets. And bonus points if it’s vintage. You basically want to look like you found this item in your grandmother’s closet. In Arizona.

The 70s are still with us in a lot of ways, and this is one of them.

Simple Gold Jewelry

I got these photos from @wish_with_itar on Instagram. It’s a lovely aesthetic page.

Gold and silver will always be the mainstays, but gold is pulling ahead this season. And it’s because it happens to go so well with beige. Simple classics are pretty much all that matter right now.

A gold ring or a little pair of gold hoops–you’re going to look chic in this stuff, whether you’re 16 or 96. It’s sophisticated. It’s timeless. You couldn’t get it wrong if you tried.

Wide Stripes

Sometimes these come in neutral, sometimes not, but the stripes are usually an odd assortment of colors. Occasionally, they don’t even seem to complement each other (and yet somehow it still works).

I’m not entirely sure how this trend emerged. Stripes have always been chic, but wide stripes seem fairly new. Is it a modernized version of something from the 70s? A different decade? I couldn’t say. But I will always approve of stripes.

Pendant Necklaces

The photo to the left I got from @fashioninflux on Instagram.

Round, rectangular, or what have you, a simple pendant is all a necklace needs these days. They can be any length, but they’re usually medium, and an especially trendy way to wear it is one or two of these delicate necklaces paired with a big sweater.

Things are fairly minimalist all around this winter, and it’s been very enjoyable.

Showing Some Ankle

Even now in the heart of Winter, the ankles are still out. The big thing of the moment is skinny jeans, either cut off or rolled up. Just this minute, looking around as I’m sitting in the coffee shop, I’ve already spotted four or five people wearing their pants this way. Even those who aren’t wearing skinny jeans have rolled up whatever they’ve got on.

Don’t ask me why this has become such a popular trend, but it’s been developing since last summer, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it last well through the summer to come.

Animal Print Accents

With maybe a couple of exceptions, I have never been a fan of animal print. Especially leopard–I always found it gaudy. But the first time I saw someone wear a fully neutral outfit with a pair of leopard print slippers (and this was last year), I considered changing my mind.

That was the start of what was to become an enormously fashionable trend. If you’re entire look is centered around a beige palette, a bold pair of shoes is a great way to give it a little something extra.

There’s a perfect movie quote for this, too…

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That one’s for you, fellow Birdcage fans!

Fluffy Socks

Remember the little ankle socks that were meant to be completely invisible? I don’t think anyone’s wearing those anymore. Nowadays, people want their socks visible. This applies to all socks, even plain old white gym socks (which I never would have expected, but hey, trends surprise me all the time).

The really chic way to do it, though, is with fluffy winter socks. With your short boots, with your sneakers, whatever. It’s a good chance to experiment–and a good way to stay warm (if you happen to find it too cold for bare ankles). I, myself, need to try this out. I have a pair of short boots, and plenty of fluffy socks that I never wear.

Cold weather is fleeting, so don’t delay.

Intense Patterns

This is a pretty wild trend to develop right alongside the popularity of beige. But I do actually know how it happened…

Vintage.

Shopping vintage is huge right now, and that will always be a wildcard, because there’s never any way to tell what you’re going to get. At a vintage shop, every single item is one of a kind (and almost never simple and modern). It’s a little like a treasure hunt. And people find some pretty crazy stuff.

I’m really pleased that this happens to be so popular with my generation. Wearing old/used clothing is the fashion equivalent of recycling. It’s better for the environment, and it’s more sustainably sourced. We millennials try to be conscious of those things, and I’m pretty proud of us.

And since both ends of the spectrum are chic and trendy right now (full neutral and absolutely insane), this is a great moment in time to wear 100% whatever you want. Feel like shaking things up with your personal style? Trying something totally different? Do it. Do it today.

Experimentation is a big part of growth. Trying new things, seeing what you like and what you don’t, that’s how you become who you are. Finding a style that makes you feel confident is what fashion is (or should be) all about. That’s what I believe, and that’s why I write this blog.

If you’re looking for a sign, this is it. Just go for it.

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Have a beautiful week.