1970 saw the birth of the first annual Earth Day. It also saw the publication of John Ashbery's The Double Dream of Spring. Named for a de Chirico painting, it's filled with poems nearly as opaque and puzzling as the banner image from which the title springs.
Some Trees, Ashbery's first book written in 1956, won Yale Younger Poets Prize. That year it was judged by W.H. Auden, who once talked about a poet needing a little censor in his head to cut out all extraneous words and who famously confessed he didn't understand a word of what he'd read.
Ashbery does not have that censor. Not one little bit.
I haven't dipped into that earlier book yet. However, I can attest to the fact that Ashbery's later book, The Double Dream of Spring, published some 14 years later, continues the obscurity trend, although it does also contain some poems that are more easily ingested.
From "John Clare":
I say this because there is an uneasiness in things just now. Waiting for something to be over before you are forced to notice it. The pollarded trees scarcely bucking the wind-- and yet it's keen, it makes you fall over. Clabbered sky. Seasons that pass with a rush. After all it's their time too-- nothing says they aren't to make something of it.
There is an uneasiness in things just now... That's certainly a line I can relate to in the current political climate, when I'm almost afraid to simply open links to CNN.com or NYTimes.com anymore.
Ashbery is widely viewed as a genius, not because he's so difficult, but because he freed the written line from academic constraints in a move mirroring abstract expressionism in painting. His unique style has brought out the copycats by the scores-- imitators writing poetry difficult to understand, poetry filled with both high-falutin' allusions to things like "eidolon" and to pop culture as well. But always at the heart of an Ashbery poem is a connecting thread of good, sound sense, a desire not to impose a false sense of order over a chaotic, ever-changing world.
I like best Ashbery's take on his own work, in an essay in he which he comments on Borges as well:
‘Music, states of happiness, mythology, faces molded by time, certain twilights in certain places—all these are trying to tell us something, or have told us something we should not have missed or about to tell us something. The imminence of the revelation that is not yet produced is, perhaps, the aesthetic reality.’ The imminence of a revelation not yet produced is very important and hard to define in poetry and probably is the source of some of the difficulty with my own poems. But I don’t think it would serve any useful purpose to spare myself or the reader the difficulty of that imminence, of always being on the edge of things.
This entire blog is devoted really to the sense in that line alone: to the idea of opening a space in your life that will allow for the imminence of a revelation, to being on the edge of things in order to leave the old behind, to make something new, something that will, I hope, with grace, courage, be better.
Sustainable Outfit Details:
Blouse from Greene Street Consignment in Chestnut Hill. Sandals by sustainable designer Swedish Hasbeens-- their company is all about fair labor practices and they use vegetable dyes on their leather! Crossbody bag from Tradesy-- an online secondhand site for clothing, shoes, and purses. Brass necklace from Second Time Around in Center City, Philadelphia. You can also shop their feed on their Instagram page @2taPhilly. Happy hunting!
This year has marked the beginning of a change in lifestyle, a change that's been a long time coming.
Some of the changes have been small: doing less laundry, reusing shopping bags, walking whenever possible. And some have been larger: getting rid of our second car, switching to a mostly vegetarian and vegan diet, shopping secondhand or sustainable whenever possible.
I know that these changes came about because of the election, but, recently, as I've been thinking back over this past spring and how different (and better, kinder, more textured, richer, happier) my less materialistic, greener life already feels it made me wonder what brought about the environmental movement in the larger society.
Of course, as all things in my life seem to link back to, it has to do with the 70s.
The first Earth Day was celebrated on in 1970. A year before that...
"...a well drilled by Union Oil Platform A off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, blew out. More than three million gallons of oil spewed, killing over 10,000 seabirds, dolphins, seals, and sea lions. As a reaction to this natural disaster, activists were mobilized to create environmental regulation, environmental education, and Earth Day. Among the proponents of Earth Day were the people in the front lines of fighting this disaster, Selma Rubin, Marc McGinnes, and Bud Bottoms, founder of Get Oil Out."
Almost half a century later, in 2016, the landmark Paris Agreement was signed on Earth Day by the U.S., China, and almost 120 other countries.
I fear that half century of hardwon progress is about to be rolled back again.
And so I do what I can... I walk. I learn. I share. I celebrate the Earth. I celebrate life.
Please join me!
Sustainable Outfit Details:
Dress by sustainable designer Kelly Love. Sustainably designed clothes are costlier. This was the only new dress I bought this spring, and I spent my whole spring budget on it, but it was worth it! The expense reflects fair labor practices and ethically sourced fabrics, but the cost is also reflected in the grace and quality of the garment. I got married at City Hall, so I don't have a wedding dress to pass along to my daughter. But I can imagine passing this silk dream of a dress along to her one day. My bag is secondhand from one of my favorite consignment stores: Bring N Buy in Ridgefield, CT. You can shop them on their Instagram feed now!
Well, it's been 100 days.
100 days of Trump & a 100 days since everything changed. The outside world is grim. Prominent protesters are dying in highly questionable circumstances in Ferguson. A nuclear stand-off feels imminent with North Korea. Healthcare is on the verge of being stripped from millions of Americans for the sake of ANOTHER tax cut for the uber-rich.
However, the utter helplessness that has plagued me at first is being held at bay by a few things: a renewed belief in poetry if only for the need of its soul-fulfilling function. That and a desire to be better myself if only to hold at bay the horrors of the world by shaping my own life in a different mold.
I thought these greener-living changes would be hard or sacrificial to the max. I admit I more than once imagined myself like a Mrs. Miniver doing her duty, forehead-creased and stalwart or a nun, pious and behatted, her lustrous hair kept under wraps because there are more serious things than vanity to be thought of.
To my equal parts shame and delight, my life lived green-style has only gotten more fully rounded, livelier, lovelier, and, yes, greener, too. Not hard, bitter, and penitent at all. I still have changes I'd like to make, subjects I'd like to read up on, but these small changes add up. They're not hard, and they make your life and the world better. Here are a few simple, easy changes I've made with a nod to more on the sunset-splendored (hopefully not because its a nuclear holocaust of a) horizon:
1. Reusable Cups
I very rarely buy bottled water, and I'd like to stop entirely. It's really a habit of convenience, and more and more I'm getting in the habit of always having a bright teal and therefore easy to keep track of venti Starbucks reusable cup with me throughout the day. I do also need to start using it when I go out and get coffee.
2. Do Less Laundry
Washing your clothes only when necessary couldn't be an easier to save the world, and it certainly makes the life of a mother of two small children a lot more manageable. It's like I needed the guilt associated with being lazy removed for me, and this water-saving tip is it! You can read more here. about the labor and water-saving benefits of doing loads less frequently.
3. Extend the Life of Your Clothes
"It's not eco fashion," as Livia Firth, a champion of the slow fashion movement, has put it. "It's common sense." That's a great point, because it's insane that we've now gotten to a point where we buy a garment planning to throw it out-- I saw that exact language in a recent People Stylewatch article, actually as you can see in an earlier blog post here. It's so easy to make an effort to keep wearing the clothes you already have. Another great line from Livia Firth comes to mind along these lines: Before you purchase an item, ask yourself if you'll wear it at least thirty times.
4. Switch to a Plant-Based Diet
You don't have to throw on a daishiki and chant around a fire to do this, mind you. You don't have to label yourself a vegan or vegetarian to reap many of the benefits of those who follow a plant-based diet all the time. I'm not officially a vegetarian and eat red meat about once a month, because I feel like I have to. My body only craves it on those rare occasions, and I've failed at being a vegetarian because of a tendency to become anemic. So why not mostly be a vegetarian? It was a real lightbulb moment and it really works. I don't know why that didn't occur to me sooner. Not only are there innumerable health benefits linked to a plant-based diet, but every time you forego red meat, you're helping to save 2,500-5,000 gallons of water.
Composting is my next adventure. I actually don't know anything about it. But as you can see from the picture above, I have a little patch of garden, and I'd like to grow some tomatoes-- something I did once upon a time on a rooftop in the East Village so why not in my patch of Philadelphia dirt?
Well, that's about it for some of the easier changes I've been making. What are some ways you try to live green? Please comment and share! For more easy-peasy ideas, I also loved this post on the Eco Warrior Princess.
Wearing a secondhand Ulla Johnson dress from eBay & sustainably designed (and very gorgeous) Swedish Hasbeens sandals. They use vegetable dye!
I want to make a promise to you before you read, because I know this vegan/ environment stuff is scary stuff. I know because I was too scared to care or to pay attention myself. I was too scared, until I realized a couple important things. The first?
It's kind of crazy that I have to preface ANY argument of any kind by using the "science matters" card, but, sadly, I think we can all at least agree that in this day and age I do.
So there it is: the concept we all need to embrace this Easter as fervently as we do chocolate. Mmmm chocolate. (I promised not to scare you. Otherwise, this would be the time to bring up the upcoming planet-wide chocolate shortage. However, that is way too scary for even me to contemplate. So let's get back to less scary things like meat and water and science.)
100% absolutely, US-grade guaranteed, the world needs us to pay attention, simply because... science. Because the polar icecaps are melting, which means ocean levels are rising.
Because we're depleting our underground aquifers faster than we're replenishing them. Because, most of all, climate change is a thing. A very real, very scary thing.
But we're getting too scary again. I promised not to scare you, and I KEEP MY PROMISES.
So here's the worst part, and guess what? It's not scary. I promise. The worst most Orwellian craziest part of all is how it's so easy for us to help, to make a difference, to be the change.
Easy AND fun AND not scary at all.
For instance, how hard is it to not eat meat as often? That's it. Eat less meat. In another recent post, I pointed out that we could all save the world by-- and this is ABSOLUTELY SCIENCE-Y THE WHOLE TRUTH-- not doing laundry as often. That's it. So this not eating meat as often thing is kind of like that not doing laundry as often thing. SO easy.
And here is the best, easiest reason why:
For every pound of beef you don't eat, you save a whopping 2,500-5,000 gallons of water.
Don't worry about going vegan if the word or concept or lifestyle freaks you out. Just east less meat. Eat more fruit & veggies. As a non-chef myself, I can promise you, non-meat recipes are SO much easier to make and clean up than the smelly, bloody, meaty kinds.
I could go into other benefits: weight loss, clearer skin, more energy, a brighter outlook. But I shouldn't even have to play those cards, because the only card that matters is the one I already played: science matters. The Earth matters. And yes, you are part of the Earth.
You matter, too.
Now here's the two easy recipes I promised! The first recipe I like to call...
Recipe 1: A Green Smoothie That Doesn't Taste Like a Disgusting Bitter Salad Because Mmmm Peanut Butter
I found this original recipe in a magazine and decided to try it. You can really tinker with this one and end up with dozens of delicious variations. The one I ended up most emulating is the one below (with pics above).
1 bag of frozen berries (I like the blue kind, because the final mixture ends up purple, and I can tell my toddler it's Twilight Sparkle Ice Cream and get her to consume kale, guys. KALE!)
2 tablespoons of almond butter (peanut butter works equally well and is highly, HIGHLY motivating towards you actually making this thing. Do not skimp on this part!)
2 handfuls of fresh kale leaves
1 handful of sunflower seeds (optional: I just like the extra crunchiness and texture)
1 pouch of applesauce (optional)
1 small container of coconut water
Mix on high until well blended. Add a handful of ice cubes if desired and mix again until smooth. So filling. So delicious. So healthy. Enjoy!
Recipe 2: Mémé's Soup or 4 Ingredient Soup
(Or 1 onion if leeks are unavailable.)
(You can use plain ole Russet. I make this soup so often, I've started playing with potato varieties.)
(You can use less or more depending on how big you want the soup to be or how much you like cabbage.)
(I add more, because I like the extra sweetness.)
*1 sweet potato
(Optional-- it makes the soup sweeter, and I like that. Also, sweet potatoes are wicked good for you. Not part of the traditional recipe, though.)
Simply chop these veggies up in smallish chunks. Throw them in a pot and top them with filtered water. Let it boil until soft. After you mix it with whatever you have at hand, you can season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.
I used to add milk and cheese, because I was too lazy to mix the veggies up before I discovered the Cuisinart Smart Stick. The blend is tasty enough to stand on its own without the need of adding any other ingredients, barring salt. It takes 30 seconds to stick the hand-held blender in your pot of boiled veggies and mix up this surprisingly delicious mélange of simple vegetables. It usually makes enough to last me 3 or 4 days. I've also recently started adding dried red pepper flakes. My husband adds sherry vinegar and thyme to his.
This soup doesn't need much to be delicious! It's simple peasant food and what many French, non-vegan people eat every single evening for their supper along with a fresh baguette. I remember once my sister and I got in the breadbox and devoured the baguette my grandmother had fetched fresh from the baker that morning. A daily chore. I will NEVER forget the utter horror and incomprehension on my poor grandfather's face when he was informed he would have no baguette with his dinner. I actually enjoy this soup on its own or with crackers, but some nice hot rolls-- or a baguette!-- help make this soup feel fancier!
I was so excited to hear that the world's first mall for recycled goods has opened in Eskiltuna, Sweden:
The facilities contain both a recycling center and a shopping mall. Customers can donate the items that they no longer need, then shop for something new – all in one stop.
Read more about it here.
Honestly, at first, I felt jealous of this little Swedish town, and then, upon reflection, I realized how many sustainable options there were in my own neighborhood. Everything from an upscale boutique for sustainable fashion like Roots, Inc. to secondhand stores and consignment shops like Greene Street Consignment. Up and down the Hill, you can find co-ops with local produce and farm fresh options like Weaver's Way and artist-owned Artist Supply and Crafts. Green Design, one of the number one green design stores in Philadelphia, is on Germantown Ave, right there beside block after block of antique shops and rare book sellers. Not to mention, from time to time, the Clover Market, a flea market for upcycled goods, comes to town.
And yet, I rarely see people in these stores. The Clover Market, which took place this past Sunday, was packed from white shining stall to white shining stall, but on a day to day basis, when I walk up and down Germantown Ave pushing with my baby in his stroller, the street has a haunted feeling like it's a set for The Sixth Sense as much as anything else. We need to support these kind of stores, not just in theory but with our dollars and our hearts. Next time you need a basket, don't make a Target run, try stopping into Garden Gate Antiques, so called for the charming, postage stamp-sized garden at the back of the shop.
Eskiltuna took it to a new level, granted. Not only can you go there for upcycled goods but you can bring your own gently used items to drop off as well.
Every town needs an Eskiltuna, but I bet every town has something pretty close already. Check it out! Explore! Have fun! And maybe help save the Earth, too, in the meantime.
Yoga wisdom can sometimes come across as a little fortune-cookie-ish to the outside observer.
"Breathe out through the top of your head," a yoga teacher might command you in class.
Um, what now?
You can go with it or you can let your intellectual mind take over and scoff. I find going with it easy when I'm in great shape, but considerably harder, when, like I am now, I'm struggling to get back into the flow of things after a long, stressful winter. For the past week, I've been taking advantage of an unlimited pass at Rebel Yoga in Chestnut Hill, and both loving and loathing the unusual amount of practice. Usually, it's a pleasure to test my own gains in strength and flexibility. But when you're experiencing the opposite-- how you've weakened and softened-- it's hard not to get into your head in the afore-mentioned critical way.
In short, it's hard not to get competitive, when you're feeling insecure. I realized the broader implications of that feeling, when the teacher commanded us not to breathe through our skulls but to take what we had learned on the mat and apply it to life.
"That's ridiculous," I thought. "I don't act this competitively in real life..." Oh wait.
I was aware of my yoga class competitiveness, and I was already ashamed of it. There's nothing worse than another student beside you, radiating tension, shaking with effort and rage.
Effort and rage are not what yoga is about to say the least.
It's so much better to move gently through poses, breathing, and enjoying yourself. But when you can't flow where once you could, it's hard not to become the very, uncool fire-breathing version of a yogi yourself.
"Am I being this competitive because I'm... insecure?" I mused for a while after our teacher spoke her yoga Yoda piece. It certainly helped explain why I was suddenly not enjoying myself, because yoga is usually a chance to reconnect with the 9-year-old inside of me who spent an ENTIRE SUMMER UPSIDE DOWN.
I was never a great gymnast, but dang if I was not an enthusiastic one.
In how many other areas of my life, I wondered, had I spoiled my own enjoyment, measuring myself against others instead of being in the moment? Of course, physical stuff came to mind immediately, because 1. and 2. I live in a world that never stops messing with women's heads.
I'm happy to say that in becoming a mother I have become considerably less competitive in that category. I'm not 100% immune to the advertising, because I'm not blind, deaf, and dumb/ liar, but after having experienced gaining 70 lbs, losing 65, gaining another 70 back and then losing 60 in the course of two pregnancies in less than three years, I'm much kinder to myself about my shape. Partially, I'm just grateful my shape-shifting days are over.
It was also interesting-- like being the heroine of a sci-fi story-- to be all these different sizes. However, it was disconcerting to change that dramatically that swiftly. It wasn't a process I had a lot of control over, but it did leave me feeling more body-positive. After all, when you've experienced your body making people and then shrinking back down to your normal size as if nothing happened, it's hard not to be a bit in awe of a wisdom that surpasses all rational explanation. It's hard on days like today when I step on the scale, and it tells me I'm still 20 lbs heavier than when I was modeling in New York, but I mostly win that battle. I mostly feel good about myself.
It's the not feeling good that mostly fuels the worst aspects of the fashion industry, I think. And that's unfortunate. There's no reason the silly, vain, sweet art of self-decoration needs to be despised by some or honored by others the way it is. Go with me here as I metaphor, but if your body is like your mat, really your experience there should be your own. For me, to be happy, I need to be gew-gawed, bedazzled, and spackled to the tee. However, a problem arises, I think, when we women let the world make us insecure, when we look around at other mats, and wonder whether their gew-gaws are gooier.
When I think of how happy I am to inhabit a healthy, fit body, I am content. When I weigh myself and begin to think critically or compare myself to others, I become less so.
I become a shopper. I become compulsive. I help fuel the world's second most polluting industry after big oil. The silliest part is beauty truly does come from inside. I never felt beautiful when I modeled. Never. But I feel beautiful now. It's the feeling inside your own self, on your own little mat that counts towards happiness more than any other factor, and finding that flow in any way you can is your own wonder and work.
The more I learn about the fashion industry, the more I want to define my own ideal of beauty and living. To my great surprise, I have not had to give up style to do so. There are SO MANY gently used clothes out there. Did you know most garments only get worn FOUR TIMES?
So that's my struggle at the moment: defining my own sense of style and fashion, finding my completion within myself, instead of comparing myself to others, and letting those cracks of insecurity crack open all my happiness and cause me to contribute to a global epidemic otherwise known as fast fashion. For example, the dress above does not fit me. I bought it on ebay. My very first auction! And I usually always wear a size 4, but at the moment my body is still shifting and changing.
I'm selling the Self-Portrait dress here, rather than hoarding it-- my preciouses, sigh!--soon to be listed in the shop section of my site! I'm 5'9", and it's a bit too short on me and won't close up the back. I bought it from another new mother, and I understand now why she was selling it brand-new. (It's still got its tags. I just wore it for this blog post before I gave up the good fight.) It would suit someone a bit shorter and...er... not a mommy (to use a euphemism for my still heavy, breast-feeding boobs. Email me at email@example.com or DM me through the site if you're interested in learning more.
Thanks for reading! I'm always curious what people think of these essays, so be sure to let me know your thoughts below. Do you think insecurity is the contributor the world's great ills or do you think that's a bit of an overstatement/ yoga fortune cookie?
Sustainable fashion was an interest of mine long before it had a snazzy, hashtag-worthy name. Back in the day, it was called plain old thrifting, and I loved it for purely selfish reasons.
In fact, I can remember my first time.
The thrill of it. I was 14, wandering around NYC on my own because my father is a mad Frenchman and let me loose on peaceable Murray Hill. I remember the dusty smells of the thrift store, the furtive folks rifling through racks, and the first time I felt real velvet, clutched tight in my grimy paw. The catch at my heart. The pure, unadulterated delight, as I made the discovery that I could afford luxury items. Fabulous, heeled shoes. Real leather purses and tailored jackets that should have been far out of my Contempo Casual budget.
I can even remember what I purchased that day: a dark blue velvet jacket with frog closures. An exquisitely draped red Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress, one little ink spot marring the bodice.
I don't know where I thought I was going to wear these purchases, mind you. I was a teen, living in the Deep South! My native New Yorker mother had, and has, a thing for hiking the Blue Ridge, but me and my interest in fashion were in exile down there except for vacations when I visited my dad.
All it took to get voted "Most Unique" my Freshman year of high school was wearing that deep blue velvet jacket. That was all it took to qualify me. Actually, I sort of did it on purpose on voting day. At first, I wanted to be noticed. Later I didn't. I learned it was not a compliment for a girl to earn that superlative, although it was for boys.
The boy who won "Most Unique" with me that year, also won "Class Clown". I'm still not that funny. Well, not on purpose, but I'm happy to say that I'm not afraid anymore to put together clothes that make me feel unique and happy.
It was only much later, while living in Soho that my interest in thrifting slowly turned into an issue of deeper concern. I began noticing how quickly trends were coming & going, and how insane the stampedes of shoppers looked up and down Broadway. At the same time, thrifting had a new, more polished monicker: sustainable fashion. As it turned out, it wasn't simply a selfish practice: I was saving the world! Fashion, as I came to learn from following other sustainable fashion bloggers, is the SECOND BIGGEST POLLUTER of the planet after big oil. Americans on average toss 65 lbs. of textiles away. Producing ONE t-shirt, just one, uses up THREE YEARS of human drinking water. Let's not even get into what it takes to make a pair of jeans. (Or let's. TEN YEARS. A decade of fresh water to produce enough cotton to make just one pair in that pile of thrifted jeans stuffed at the back of my closet.)
The good news is there are some extremely easy ways to make changes now!
1. Extend the life of your garments.
Mend your shirts. Find a cobbler or a tailor. Don't toss your clothes! Even making a small effort to wear your clothes longer, hugely cuts down on landfill waste. Super easy, see?
2. Dry Your Clothes on a Line or a Drying Rack or Tumble At Low Heat
I've been doing this anyway, because I think it helps my clothes (and my children's clothes) last longer. I only dry my husband's undershirts and our sheets and towels, but avoiding high heats has even more ready benefits:
"According to Well Dressed?, about 60% of the energy used in the life cycle of a cotton T-shirt is related to postpurchase washing and drying at high temperatures; transportation constitutes only a small portion of the energy profile to produce a cotton product. As for whether it is better to buy locally produced garments, the report argues that this approach would cut severely into the livelihood of peoples in developing countries where the products are now being manufactured."
3. Donate Your Old Clothes, Don't Throw Them Out!
Again, Americans toss out 65 lbs of textiles a year; that's not even taking into account sheets and curtains. Plus, donating can lead to other fun things, too. I brought three bags to Impact Thrift Stores in Montgomeryville, PA last night after taking my daughter to see Beauty & the Beast (the reason for the Belle doll clutched in her little hands above). I ended up finding several beautiful picture frames for about $15 total and a brand-new pair of children's size 12 UGG lace-up boots that both my daughter and son will be able to wear! You never know what you'll find. It's like a treasure hunt.
4. Wash Your Clothes Only When Necessary
See! I told you these are easy! This one will make your life even easier, and if you're a mommy like me, it will also erase those pre-feminist, lingering feelings of guilt. "Hey, I'm not being a lazy mommy by avoiding the piles of laundry in the basement! I'm saving the world!"
b. I also turned one of my baskets into an alterna-laundry basket. Clothes I've worn but that seem okay to wear again go in there. It's harder with my baby, but I've been able to do the same with my potty-trained toddler.
5. Choose the Right Detergent
We use Mrs. Meyers, and it's available everywhere. Even at Target!
"This is a very important step in avoiding environmental pollution. This is a difficult step since companies are not required to list the ingredients on the container. Some of the harmful ingredients are surfactant nonylphenol ethoxylate or NPE, phosphates and bleach. In order to avoid these ingredients start by choosing detergents without dyes, such as those recommended for washing baby clothes. If its gentle enough for a baby, its likely to be gentle enough for the Earth. Some eco-friendly detergents I found during research were Seventh Generation, Biokleen, Planet, Method and Ecos. Remember to take into consideration the water temperature as another step in sustainability. Whenever possible, use cold water. There are detergents especially designed for cold water like Tide Free for Coldwater. You will save energy and money on your bill. For optimum savings try making your own detergent by adding baking powder or vinegar to your water."
That's it for now. See? SUPER easy way to be the Earth's superheroes. (Sorry, my toddler is obsessed with superheroes right now.) Thanks for reading this far. Now for the fun stuff!
As promised here are the winners of my new blog's bag & book giveaway.
Bag #1: Vintage Italian Leather Satchel
To Erica at The Simple Chic Brunette!
Bag #2: Vintage Backpack
Bag #3: Tylie Malibu Crossbody
To Marci Reid!
Congratulations again, guys! DM me your address whenever you have the chance, and I'll send the bags & a copy of my book your way.
Thrifted Outfit Details:
Secondhand Self-Portrait dress from www.Tradesy.com, secondhand Swedish Hasbeens boots from https://greenestreetstores.com/, vintage necklace from a shop on 8th Street & Avenue A in the East Village, Consigned Celine bag from www.ebay.com, secondhand Elizabeth and James ring from Tradesy
*Names generated by a random name generator.
For a while after the election, every morning I'd thumb through the news, absorbing one shocking story after another, until they merged into one huge, overwhelming ball of bad vibes. I knew I had to make a change in my life to combat how helpless I felt, and that's part of what this blog is about. However, in that time, one piece, an obit, stuck with me, even though I hadn't heard of the French designer Emmanuelle Khanh before her death. (It's sad how often that happens!)
Emmanuelle Khanh, whose name caught my eye first, resonating as it does with a postcolonial, global vibe, was famous for reinvigorating fashion in the '60s. Her specialty was quirky, wearable clothes for young women. Not only was she ahead of her time, freeing women from the ongoing rigidity of girdles (boo Spanx!), but she was already aware of a creeping modern malignancy: disposable, cheap trends.
What she said that stuck with me was this:
“In the 1960s and ’70s, it really was all about ready-to-wear, clothes designed with women in mind, because there hadn’t been anything like it before,” Ms. Khanh told the magazine L’Express in 2016, when she sold her private collection at a vintage-clothing auction. “In the ’80s and ’90s, it was ‘ready to show’ — runway fashion. In the 2000s, it’s ‘ready to throw away’ — you buy it to wear it for one season, and that’s it.”
Ready to throw away.
If you think about it, that phrase is almost the foundation of our modern culture. For example, before the blizzard hit last week, I made a semi-reluctant trip to Target to stock up on essentials for me and the toddlers. I actually found some great DIY and art projects that occupied us very nicely through the biblical plague visited upon us-- whoever heard of a snowstorm so loud it kept us awake all night, hailing and icing!! While I was standing in the long line of freaked out Philadelphians, waiting to check out, I paged through StyleWatch Magazine. My eyes lit on this passage:
It sent a chill down my spine.
We must stop normalizing a culture that uses 400 gallons (2700 liters) of fresh water to make ONE t-shirt. That's enough water for one person to drink for 900 days! Almost three years of drinking water that we're planning to throw away BEFORE WE EVEN BUY IT. Jeans are even worse. They require almost 4 times that amount of water to grow enough cotton to produce a pair. ONE pair requires 1,800 gallons of water. That's more than a decade of drinking water, and I don't know about you, but I have so many jeans I couldn't wear them all in a month. (Most of mine are from Housing Works, Life, Vintage, and Thrift, etc., but still.)
We have to stop normalizing the concept that we can just keep making more of the stuff we already have, while throwing out 65 lbs of textiles every year! (What the average American throws away without including other textiles like sheets and bedding.)
Rant over. Sorry. Here's the good news.
The good news is that an awareness is growing, and since we have a lot of stuff already, changing shouldn't be that hard.
Reusing, recycling, thrifting, upcycling, sharing, giving away, trading, donating.
Those are all easy, quick ways to make a huge difference in terms of your personal footprint. But... we need to do our part to help the concept catch on, because we have been conditioned for a while to think new is better than old. For example, the same day I made that Target run, I stopped into Millay Vintage, where I found the beautiful, sustainably-designed and produced dress I'm wearing in the first picture along with the vintage cashmere shawl. I got to chatting with the owner and mentioned I was starting a sustainable fashion blog. Inserting my foot in my mouth, I then mentioned an observation, that I haven't noticed a lot of interest in thrifting or vintage in Philly compared with New York-- the city where I'm originally (kind of) from.
Millay Vintage is a beautiful shop, like an exquisite little boudoir of some sci-fi geek's idea of a time travelling femme fatale from the 1930s, stopping in the '90s, and remaining in 2016. I apologized profusely for my faux pas.
"No, it's okay," the owner said. "It's true. A lot of my clientele seem to be from New York."
I think that's a good sign, actually. New York City has tended to be America's trendsetter, and if it's cool in New York, I guarantee you it will be cool soon enough elsewhere. For my part, putting all these pieces together, I realized the reason Emmanuelle Khanh's words stuck with me is because they align so closely with my own feelings on the subject. I want to continue her legacy. I both love fashion and loathe fashion's footprint. I want to help redefine what a cool girl is just as Emmanuelle herself did, and I think a cool girl should be a sustainable one, not a trendy one. As Coco Chanel said anyway, "Dress shabbily, and they remember the dress. Dress impeccably, and they remember the woman." Dressing well, shouldn't be dressing in the latest disposable trends.
Doesn't that make us disposable in a sense as well?
In that spirit, I'm giving away a bunch of my own things, donating them and sponsoring this gently used bag (and my book!!) giveaway here and on Instagram. To enter simply follow @IsabellaMDavid on Instagram and comment either here (mentioning which bag you're interested in 1,2, or 3) or under one of the pictures on my IG!
Outfit & Giveaway Details
Giveaway 1: vintage Italian leather satchel with crossbody strap. Kelly Love dress and vintage shawl from Millay Vintage in Philadelphia.
Giveaway 2: vintage black leather backpack with extra side pockets and a drawstring closure. Marc Jacobs blazer from Shop Greene Street in Manayunk, Swedish Hasbeens Boots from Shop Greene Street in Chestnut Hill, Celine micro bag from eBay (not for giveaway yet, sorry!)
Giveaway 3: Tylie Malibu fringe, crossbody bag from Buffalo Exchange in the East Village, Hasbeen Swedish boots from Shop Greene Street in Chestnut Hill, Paige jeans from Twice As Nice in Ridgefield, CT
I'm the first to understand, and sympathize with, the fatigue that follows trying to care. In fact, when you see the block of text below, you might feel fatigued even trying to wade through why I care. If you read the whole thing and comment, I promise I will buy you a present. I swear to God. (You can tell I'm a mother, ha. Anyway...)
Yes, I have two toddlers, one of who is still semi-in diapers. My life is often magical, but more often exhausting. I don't want to care, either. Not right now. Not about anything besides keeping my children clean and fed, an overwhelming task on the best of days. (There's a reason the book You Have to Fucking Eat is a bestseller.) I kept thinking caring is a lifestyle I could ill afford at the moment. Then, everything changed November 9. Actually, I wrote an essay before the election, imagining what it would feel like if Trump won. It was published here. It feels worse.
I need to care. I have to care. It's the only thing that's making me feel better and keeping despondency at bay.
However, caring, especially in a Trump/ semi-trained toddler presidency, is exhausting and complicated. I get it. It's hard to unravel the lies; they go so deep and so many public figures are implicated. In fact, when I was in the rough-draft-in-my-head imagining phase of writing this post, I was going to write something entirely different from this post you're reading now. I was going to write about how caring didn't have to be hard! You could enjoy pretty things like this Lady Danger lipstick by M.A.C. cosmetics and still care about the world, tra la la!
However, like I said, the second you really do care, you also realize how complicated caring is. When I began to research this post, the one I'd been imagining writing, the one whose title came to me so easily, which is always a thrill... titles are hard... well, I quickly came across one of those complicated, annoying facts. After doing only one quick Google search, I learned that M.A.C. is owned by Estée Lauder. I knew what that meant, because I'd read plenty about Estée Lauder on friends' Facebook posts, but I couldn't begin to remember all the different companies under their umbrella. There are a lot of them, including Origins, Bobbi Brown, Smashbox, Clinique, and Tory Burch. (Insert slightly bitter joke here about those companies being everything that keeps your basic WASP going in life but that I feel bad making. I used to live in Connecticut. It was as horrible and Stepford Wife-y as all those shows make it out to be, so forgive me.)
Anyway, if Estée Lauder owned M.A.C., this is what I knew without having to do any further research. I knew that meant M.A.C. sells its products in China, and that means M.A.C., an acronym that is short for Makeup Against (Animal) Cruelty is in fact very cruel to animals, because all foreign companies that sell their beauty products in China are required to test on animals.
You see? Complicated.
If you go to M.A.C.'s site, this is the equivocal rationalization they offer for a practice that turns their moniker into nothing but a pretty nonsense rhyme:
WORKING TOWARD A CRUELTY-FREE WORLD
M·A·C does not test on animals and we never ask others to test for us. If a regulatory body demands it for its safety assessment, an exception can be made. Today, M∙A∙C continues to be a leader in the movement to end animal testing globally. We are proud to partner with IIVS (INSTITUTE FOR IN VITRO SCIENCES) and together our mission is to expand the use and acceptance of non-animal testing methods worldwide. M·A·C is working toward a cruelty-free world.
What do you mean by “an exception can be made”?
Of all of the countries where M·A·C is sold around the world, China is the only country that we are aware of that tests on animals as part of its safety assessment. This means that before we are able to import any of our cosmetics into China, their government may conduct animal testing on our products or ingredients in their mandated laboratories.
I didn't know any of this when I purchased my lipstick, of course. I took their name at face value, which is not something any of us can do anymore, exhausting though it might be.
"M.A.C. makes being ecologically responsible easy and pretty," is the nonsense rhyme I'm ashamed to admit trilled through my uninformed brain, tra la la!
The truth, if you seek it out, is more difficult. It always is. I can almost see why Trump voters avoid it. The truth is always scary. I don't know why, but that's how it is. To quote The Princess Bride, "Life is pain. Anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something."
M.A.C. is definitely trying to sell us something. It's trying to sell us the idea that a company who's made its millions off our trust in its ethical practices doesn't need to live up to its name or our trust. They're like those people who call themselves vegetarians but eat meat.
So, what do we do now? It's not as if, considering the mass of other issues, we can expect people to march against China. We'd be burying our heads even more in the sand if we expected 45-- what the Resistance calls Trump in America-- to do anything, you know, president-y like diplomacy.
Do we exert pressure on Estée Lauder to stop selling their products in China? The problem there is I bet the Chinese market is bigger than the market at home.
I'm not sure. I'm sorry.
I can't offer definitive answers. The truth is a shitty, tricky business. But this is what I do know:
Joy is simple.
I can't imagine buying another M.A.C. product, not right now, not knowing what I know. It would feel like the opposite of joy. It would feel like that moment when you decide you're not going to care anymore, and I've been there before. I've lived in Connecticut. I've lived in the suburbs of the soul. Shutting your eyes to reality is no way to live.
But I won't throw out this lipstick, either. It wasn't tested on animals in the States, and that is some progress. Also, mostly, I won't throw it out, because I think that would be wasteful. Maybe that's my own rationalization for life, but it feels right. I'll use it. I'll enjoy it, but I'll be keeping my eye out for a replacement.
If you know of any ethical beauty lines, please comment below! I'm going to be starting a newsletter to share my research into companies that do not equivocate about their promises. If you're interested, please be sure to sign up for my newsletter.
More on sustainable and ecologically responsible beauty lines soon! Meanwhile, don't forget the acronym for Makeup Against Cruelty Except is (...ha....) M.A.C.E.
Wearing a Free People shirt. I like that they don't use animal products like cashmere or fur or leather, but I haven't researched them yet. Please don't tell me it's actually Enslaved Fellow Human Beings.
Two events triggered changes in my life, changes that have expanded concentrically like stones in a pool sending ripples through my present life, triggering even more changes, and both occurred a scant handful of years ago, just before I became pregnant with my first child.
More to the point, both events made me want to live a more ethical existence.
1. The first life-changing-little-did-I-know-it-then-event:
It was 2012, and I was driving cross country with my sis, helping her move from her graduate housing in Colorado to her new professor-ship (that should be a word) at Bowdoin College. My sister is a... wait for it... fluvial geomorphologist. Try saying that 3x quick. Mostly that's a fancy word for saying she studies human impact on water and eco-systems. Anyway, back then I'm ashamed to say my bottled water habit had gotten pretty bad, but that was after living in NYC for almost a decade. My scientist sister, as I like to call her, pointed it out to me plenty on that long, long, long cross-country drive. (Jesus, America is yuge. Yuge.) NYC actually has great water piped down from the Adirondacks, but I'd been living in old buildings with lead-lined pipes...according to one landlady who was potentially insane, but. When you're landlady tells you there's lead in the water, you tend to put principles aside and pick plastic, so I sympathize with anyone who doesn't feel comfortable drinking their tap water. However, as my sister pointed out, tap water is often excellent, even preferable to what you're buying in the bottle.Plus, the waste caused by bottled drinks is horrific. Did you know there's an entire soupy island of our junk now in the Pacific? It's called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Check it out. Bottled drinks make up some of the most frequently found items in the soup.
Around that same time, I encountered the delightful Rosalind Jana's blog, Clothes, Cameras, and Coffee . Her writing and her blog were a revelation to me. She was one of the first truly intelligent women I'd encountered who also reveled in fashion but tempered any charges of vanity by taking both an ethical and highly creative approach to her self-decoration. Since then, I've added Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Michelle Obama, Louise O'Neill, Natalie Kay, and Katie of Sustainability in Style to that roster.
Which brings me to the present!
Recently, I watched The Minimalists on Netflix and immediately longed to carry out their Thoreau-like dictum, "Simplify, simplify, simplify." For one thing, in 2016, we moved three times-- THREE times with TODDLERS--and it was galling carrying junk we didn't use from one location to another. I nearly destroyed my right shoulder in the process. Then, one day, it occurred to me: what's stopping me from living the way I'd like to live?
Two babies, a voice deep inside me snidely replied.
Okay, touche, deep voice. But!... That brings me to my greatest source of inspiration: my children. I want to provide them with a better example than the one I grew up surrounded by.
Instead of the mantra consume, consume, consume, I want to encourage them to live, live, live! Tempered of course by a bit of collect, collect, collect. As the Minimalists point out, if a collection brings a lot of value and joy to your life, that's not the same as hoarding. (Er.. right, Minimalists?) With that said, I'm going to be offering a curated collection of books for sale on here that I loved but don't think I'll read again and clothes that I've been carrying around for years but haven't worn, including some beautiful children's clothes. I'll also be sharing my research on ethical brands and companies and posting outfits of my beautiful, old clothes... Basically, my new mantra will be to live the simple way I imagined I'd always like to live, but always felt I'd have to wait to achieve, or...
Vive la Résistance!
Outfit details: Elizabeth and James dress from Buffalo Exchange in Chelsea, brass necklace from Second Time Around in Center City, Philadelphia. Two poems about my trip with sister & my first exposure to the world of sustainable living were published at Every Day Poetry, which sadly no longer exists but are both available in my collection on Amazon.
French-American dual citizen on a green journey, making a Paris out of Philly or a Philly out of Paris, depending on the day.