Posts Categorized: guest post

Guest Post: Nancy Dilts on Sustainable Style

Today, I want to introduce you all to Twin Cities personal stylist Nancy Dilts. I met Nancy through mutual friends, and immediately admired her methods and her mission. She’ll tell you about both shortly, but suffice to say she’s helping her clients make choices that are great for their wardrobes and for the planet!

Nancy mentions the film “The True Cost” below, and I must also urge you to watch it. After viewing it myself a few weeks ago, I have vowed to make some serious changes to my own shopping practices forever. More on that soon.

But now, let’s hear from Nancy about her innovative methods and deeply personal motivations.

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STYLE FOR EVERYDAY: NEW TO YOU – TRUE TO YOU

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My tagline has two mantras: “new to you” and “true to you.” I specialize in “new to you” shopping – that is, shopping at consignment stores for secondhand clothing. And I help my clients find and embrace their personal style to feel great about themselves and remain “true to you.” When I start talking about these two tenets of my business, I get a little excited.

Here’s why:

NEW TO YOU: SUSTAINABLE CONSUMERISM

I spent close to 20 years in environmental education and outreach. Everything about my work involved raising awareness about environmental issues and teaching about how our behaviors impact the environment. I’d also been shopping consignment for years – not only because I like high-quality clothing, but also because I never really had the budget for it. (Environmental educators are not known for raking in the big bucks – and even if they did, I wouldn’t want to spend that much on clothing.) My current work as a wardrobe consultant specializing in consignment shopping now brings these two passions together.

At consignment stores, you can get that high-quality clothing – designer/top brand garments that will last – at a fraction of the cost. And you will significantly reduce your impact on the environment by reusing good quality clothing, keeping it out of the waste stream, and reducing pollution created and energy used in the manufacture and transport of new clothing.

This summer marked the release of a new documentary “The True Cost,” which looks closely at the human rights and environmental impact of “fast fashion.” Fast fashion is extremely inexpensive trend clothing – clothes meant to last for one season at most, ready to be discarded once the next trend has arrived. They’re so cheap it doesn’t even matter! But it does matter.

The True Cost” is not for the faint of heart. The film vividly illustrates that while the consumer may not pay much for fast fashion, the cost is actually very high. It is high in how it affects the factory workers in developing nations who create this clothing in hideous working conditions for mere pennies a day. It is high in the amount of pollution being created in order to grow cotton in vast quantities and to fabricate synthetic fibers from petroleum products to meet the demand for so much new clothing. It is high in the energy used to transport these items around the globe to consumers like us. And it is high in the impact it has on our waste disposal systems when it is thrown away after only a few wears.

These things are not fun to think about. But knowledge leads to action. When I shop “new to you” for myself and with my clients, we are addressing these issues, one consumer at a time. Exciting stuff!

The True Cost” is available now for streaming on Netflix, or you can download it. Check it out – it’s a powerful film. And if you really want to get your environmental geek on, read Luz Claudio’s article, “Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry,” in Environmental Health Perspectives for an in-depth look.

TRUE TO YOU: POSITIVE BODY IMAGE AND PERSONAL STYLE

Personal style is just that: personal. Mine has certainly evolved over the years. I’ve always (ALWAYS) loved clothes and putting them together – just not on myself – for much of my life. That’s where body image comes into play.

Launching my business as a wardrobe consultant was the culmination of gaining the upper hand on a lifelong battle with body image that included struggling with my weight. I hid my body in loose clothes and pretended I didn’t care about how I looked. I consistently felt shame regarding my body.

Having my daughter pushed me to come to terms with my own body image. I did not want my daughter to experience the same self-loathing. Now that she is a pre-teen, this is particularly crucial. I want the messages she receives from me to be ones of self-love, including being healthy, strong, and confident. I worked to accept my body as it was. I embraced that weight doesn’t define beauty.

When weight loss became about being healthy for myself and for my family – rather than being thin (and thus beautiful, in my old, distorted mindset) – I lost weight. That was five years ago. I still work at maintaining the upper hand with positive body image and always will. But I have a much clearer understanding of the insidiousness of shame and the power of self-love.

I now have the privilege of supporting others in their positive body-image journeys. I never tire of working to help people feel better overall by feeling great about how they look. I love the thrill of clients embracing their true selves – inside and out – and expressing themselves with personal style. Talk about getting a little excited.

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Nancy Dilts, founder of Nancy Dilts Wardrobe Consulting, brings her passions – personal style, positive body image, and the environment – together to help her clients feel great about how they look, using an economically and environmentally sustainable approach. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, with her husband, daughter, and dog, and is certain she will one day find a way to incorporate her other passion – chocolate – into her business model.

Contact Nancy to book a Wardrobe Consult, Personal Shopping session, or service package. Learn more about Nancy Dilts Wardrobe Consulting at nancydilts.com.

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Guest Post: The Politesse on How to Build a Work Wardrobe on a Budget

I’ve linked to The Politesse a few times already, but today I’m excited to be sharing this guest post from its co-founders, Allyson and Andrea.  Both are fashion journalists who decided to launch The Politesse after noticing a lack of social skills, business protocol and basic etiquette amongst their female interns, assistants, and interviewees. The blog helps young women navigate the professional world with the amusing mantra, “You can climb the corporate ladder in heels, but we’re here to make sure you don’t flash us on the way up.” Using good-natured humor and grounded common sense, A + A provide answers to questions like “How do I follow up without being a stalker?,” “Is a crop top office appropriate?” and “Should I decorate my cubicle?”

Today, they’re going to share some tips for creating a work-appropriate wardrobe on a fresh college grad’s budget. Please welcome them both!

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building a work wardrobe on a budget

Years ago, when we got our first jobs in the fashion industry, there were limited options for on-trend, wallet-friendly fashions. We’d eat Ramen noodles and peanut butter sandwiches for three solid weeks just to save up for a pair of shoes from Bloomingdales. It was a different time.

Today, there are endless options for fashion-forward, work appropriate wardrobe solutions—perhaps even too many to choose from! With the abundance of cheap, enticing styles popping up in your inbox, social media feeds or even your walk to and from work, it can be difficult to know when to splurge and when to save.

Not to worry! If you’re new to the workforce and/or have limited funds, read on for our tips on how to build an office-appropriate wardrobe on a budget.

When to spend

It’s best to set a budget for your work wardrobe, and we recommend spending roughly 60% of your budget on quality basics. While we love a bargain, your whole wardrobe should not be made up of disposable fast fashion. It’s just not economical, and here’s why: Imagine you purchase a black polyester blouse for $30. You wear it six times and then it falls apart—that’s $5 a wear. Instead, think about buying a silk blouse for $90, one that will last a whole year. If you wear the top once a week, that equals less than $1.75 a wear. You save money in the long run!

When to save

Though it can be tempting to buy trendy fashion from cute boutiques with beautiful visual merchandising, helpful sales associates and designer brands, resist the urge. When it comes to trendy, fashion-forward pieces, fast fashion retailers are your BFFs.

Want to buy 70s inspired flares and pussy-bow blouses for fall? Head to H&M for vintage color palettes and denim under $40. Interested in purchasing some statement chandelier earrings for a work event this spring? Check out the jewelry section of Forever 21 for unlimited options, most under $13.

Brands to know

One of the most amazing things about modern retail is the ease and availability of ecommerce. We can shop whatever brands we want, whenever we want with

hassle-free returns (most of the time) and free shipping. Since the choice can be overwhelming, here are our favorite brands for budget-friendly workwear, and the

best items they offer.

  • Everlane: Producing designer items at wholesale prices, Everlane creates small capsule collections that often sell out within days, so we check their website regularly for new styles. Some of our favorites include their silk blouses (we’re loving their new mint color for spring) and perfect layering tanks.
  • H&M: Shopping at H&M is all about separating the juniory, cheapy pieces from the higher-quality, European-inspired pieces. When shopping online, we click through to the “Trend” section, which offers pulled-from-the-runway, sophisticated separates (how chic is this crepe robe jacket?) In store, just ask a sales associate to direct you to the “Trend” section, and you’ll find amazing coats for under $75, well-made dresses for under $50 and colorful printed tops for under $35.
  • Zara: Though Zara hasn’t made its way into every US city (yet), the Spanish brand’s ecommerce site is super inspirational and offers a flat shipping rate of $4.95. We turn to Zara for sleek basics like single-button blazers, French-girl stripes and effortless summer dresses. Did we mention that all returns are free?
  • ASOS: UK-based ecommerce site ASOS is our go-to source for fun, fashion forward items—think coordinated separates, playful sandals and statement sunglasses. The best/most dangerous thing about ASOS? Completely free shipping and returns. Be careful, ladies.
  • Gap: A little bit nostalgic, a little bit utilitarian, Gap’s product selection is perfect for building an affordable work wardrobe. We pick up staples like classic black pants and crisp oxford shirts, but every now and then we’ll spot a perfect shirtdress or a laid-back moto jacket. Trust us, Gap is still great.

For more advice on what to wear to work, or to ask us a question regarding career, etiquette or life in general, email us. We’d love to hear from you!

Images courtesy Everlane

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Guest Post: Amita Basu on Style, Sexual Identity, Binaries, and Perfectionism

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Several weeks ago, reader Amita reached out to me with the loveliest email, and in it she shared a bit of her personal style and body image journey. She’s a Ph.D. candidate in cognitive science at CBCS, University of Allahabad, India, and she has a unique perspective and fascinating story. I immediately asked if she’d be comfortable writing a guest post for the blog so others could hear about her ruminations, struggles, and triumphs. And I’m so glad she agreed, because in the post that follows, she has outlined and supported several important ideas that I’ve never been able to articulate myself. And done so with tremendous passion, elegance, and care.

Please welcome Amita, and read on to share in her journey.

(Content note: Disordered eating is discussed. Comment and discussion note: As always, express your views respectfully and civilly or they will not be published in the comments. Be courteous and kind to each other when responding to remarks from other readers.)

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Style and beauty have always lurked in my mind. All my life I have repressed these interests. Like many young girls, I acquired the belief that you can choose to be smart, or you can choose to be stylish. I made my decision early: I would be smart, and I would be not stylish. And I have been my own best dictator.

Like most Indian girls I had my ears pierced when I was a year old. At eleven I decided that body piercings constitute body defacement. I stopped wearing earrings. My piercings appeared to close again, my ears returning to their natural state to my great satisfaction. I’m fortunate to have a liberal family, so my mother protested only verbally. But she did protest, and that increased my satisfaction. She wanted me to “dress like a girl” but I saw no reason why I should. Ignoring my appearance became my protest against gender roles and other dated social codes. It became part of my emerging feminism. It also ‘went well’ with my introversion, with my chosen field of academics. It was convenient.

As far back as I can remember I have been interested in school, and in writing. I was regularly recognised for both. Excellence in these pursuits became my identity. That was who I was: a good student and a good writer. Everything else was a distraction. So that I could focus on endeavours of the mind, my body had to be in its natural state. Fallaciously, I assumed that “natural state” meant being whenever possible dressed in old, loose, even faded clothes, with nary a comb run through my hair. This was my “natural state” for so long that I forgot it was a state I had chosen, one of infinitely many states that my body could occupy.

“Natural” is a dangerous category. It is a favourite catchword for fundamentalist groups of all stripes. An excuse for governments and individuals to repress certain behaviours, to persecute certain people. Empirically, “natural” is a meaningless category. By definition, everything that is, is natural. Everything that everyone does. Unless you believe that humans are outside nature – which also makes “natural” meaningless. To invoke “natural” morally is equally meaningless. Nature is bloody “in tooth and claw.” The principles of nature are selfishness, exploitation, and manipulation at every level between and within species. Even things like cooperation and altruism have been able to evolve because in the long run they are self-serving. “Natural” is anything but a proxy for “morally acceptable.” I’m a vegan, a conscious consumer, and a lover of green spaces. But I have become convinced that “natural” cannot be used to explain, justify, or privilege any behaviour or any individual.

“Natural” continued to exert heinous influences to repress my interest in style. I began to realise that there was something ‘unnatural’ with me. I have never been attracted to anyone. Not sexually, not romantically. It took me years to realise that I am probably asexual.

It was complicated. I have a libido, and I have experienced infatuations. For some time I thought I was gay. I explored my sexuality with women, with men. Lovely people. People to whom I could perfectly well picture someone being attracted. Even someone like me. But I wasn’t. Eventually I realised that my infatuations were a form of admiration. The people I crushed on had traits I admire. Even with them, I couldn’t picture doing anything. I felt upbeat around them. Inspired, energetic. Just as I do after a run, or when I listen to music I love, or when I read a well-turned phrase. But the people I crushed on were people. So I interpreted that as infatuation.

Interpretation is a powerful thing. What shapes our lives, our self-concepts is not our ‘direct’ experience, but our interpretation of it. Of course, my interpreting my infatuations as admiration is also an interpretation. Sexuality is a fluid category, and my friends tell me I just haven’t met the right person yet. At 28, I doubt that, but I’ll keep an open mind.

My putative asexuality gave me one more reason to enforce the style vs. smarts binary in my life. Dressing is social, and an interest in one’s appearance often sends, with or without intention, messages about one’s sexuality. I decided to deflect any attention from my appearance, to avoid anything construable as false advertising. I shunned skirts and bright colours. It didn’t matter that these were things I’ve always loved. My primary intention when dressing became to signal that I was not interested, not available.

My interest in style broke free when I realised that I could dress for myself. Groundbreaking, right? Just because dressing is social doesn’t mean it’s not also personal. This was the first of several false binaries that I had to cut loose from. Wearing skirts and bright colours lifts my mood and makes me feel myself. Just as writing does, or running. It makes me feel put-together and comfortable and ready to focus. Because I’m aware that most people continue to subscribe to the binary of smarts “vs.” style, dressing well also raises the standard I set myself for other endeavours. Dressing well is a way to show that the world does not exist in binaries – that you can do it without being or becoming lazy, vain, or interested in sex. That you can be stylish and also be creative, intelligent, athletic, generous – any number of things. Those of you who put visibly more thought into your clothes than people around you will understand what a lift this can be, to excel in other areas of your life. It can act as a handicap in sports: in many arenas, individuals who stylish will have to work harder to be taken seriously. So in many cases, you do. It’s a way to exploit false binaries in people’s thinking – in your own thinking – to motivate yourself to excel. To show up all those binaries as false.

Body image is a dynamic entity that shapes, and is shaped by, other aspects of our lives. Acknowledging and indulging my interest in style has helped my life in other ways.

I am a perfectionist. Those of you with tendencies this way know it is a pain in the a**. Nothing will ever be good enough – so why try? All my life I have swung between periods of ambitious hard work and periods of exhaustion where I reflect on my achievements, deem them inadequate, and sink into an apathy in which nothing seems worth doing. I did this at school, and with my writing. I obsessed over every word, every shade of meaning, every comma. It took me weeks to finish a short story. And when I finished I was sick of it. Perfectionism poisoned my interest in the things I enjoyed.

My periodic surges of interest in style I firmly repressed. I did not need another thing to obsess over.

But it happened anyway. As an undergrad I struggled with anorexia nervosa. For me this disorder was ‘motivated’ by a quest for perfectionism. Fuelled by another dangerous binary: “all or nothing.” A perfect body attained with hours  everyday of exercise, with continuous self-deprivation. That, or nothing. After recovering, I became even more indifferent to my appearance. My body had proved itself incapable of perfection. Now it did not merit any attention. I continued to eat well and to exercise in moderation. I had developed an interest in health. But as for clothes, as for the self that I showed the world – I felt bound to acknowledge that my body was imperfect, therefore worth no speck of my own or anyone else’s attention. I have realised that nothing is perfect. A shaky realisation: I have to keep reminding myself. I still struggle to believe that things are worth doing, and doing well, even if nothing is perfect. Taking an interest in style, working with the body I have rather than with an impossible fictitious body – has helped me to relax in other ways. I continue to take care of my health but I’m less fanatic about a missed workout or a bit of processed food. I find work interesting without needing to turn in the perfect paper, to design the perfect experiment. And I continue to work hard on my writing but I’m (slightly) less obsessive about perfectionism. Getting dressed reminds me everyday that life is beautiful if you just accept it as it is. Accept yourself as you are. When you give up perfectionism, self-acceptance becomes oddly compatible with continuously striving to be better, to do better.

But why is all this important? It’s “just style,” right? “Just clothes,” as even fashion designers sometimes say.

Wrong.

Because anything worth doing is worth doing well. Because it’s never style “vs.” anything. Because thinking in binaries is backwards, muddying our ideas about other people, about who we can be. Because acknowledging and embracing all aspects of the self makes people happy, and because when people are happy they’re likelier to work harder, to take care of themselves, to care about other people. Because style is for you, regardless of your occupation, your personality, your sexual orientation, regardless of anything. Because style is a repudiation of perfectionism, of self-repression, of thinspiration, of the obsession with pale skin that permeates my society and many others – a repudiation of repressive and homogenising forces of every kind. Because style exists for every shape and size and colour, and is a concrete, visible celebration of diversity and self-worth. Because style is a concrete, visible celebration of you.

Just as you are.

Image courtesy Marc Roberts

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