The Girl Gangs of Fall ’16

I promise my computer desktop is never in more apocalyptic a state than after I’ve spent several finger-blistering days clicking through the offerings of New York, London, Milan, and Paris Fashion Weeks. These recent shows in particular have had me doing a dive so inexplicably deep I had to make a super embarrassing color-coded spreadsheet that I’m never showing anyone just to keep my head at a comfortable sea-level.

Suffice it to say, the sheer volume of jpegs I’ve amassed is enough to fill a $500 hard drive (from 1997) (aka about 200 pretty small files). And tonight, as I poked through them for themes like a dutiful mother does her child’s literal lousy head, I found myself doting on my groupings as they came together with precious specificity. I assigned them names, personalities, and favorite pastimes, as if the models – each rendered on my display at a humble 3 to 4 inches – were the teeny tiny girl gangs of my dreams.

Upstate New York, 1953, a working class neighborhood in a small town. In this violent post-war culture controlled by men, a group of headstrong teenage girls unite into a sisterhood of blood: they form the Foxfire gang, a secret female-only society, recognized by the flame tattooed on the back of its members’ shoulders. “Foxfire” for pretty foxes, but also “Foxfire” for fire and destruction. (source)

The Foxfire girl gang ^^^ (source)

And so when I considered how I might spin my favorite Fall ’16 looks into a consumable narrative for this personal website of mine, it only felt right that I honor my daydreamy inclinations. After all, who better to administer a shot of sartorial inspiration than a group of fiercely loyal females who’d die for each other and look transcendent while doing so?

So without further ado, meet my seven #GirlGangs of Fall 16.

The Little Zippers

The Little Zippers met when the six of them collided on the street, resulting in a coffee spill so extensive they had no choice but to purchase spare tops at the nearest store: Sports Authority. When the all got in line with half-zips they struck up a friendship over their mutual disgust for buttons and corruption and never looked back.

***

The Drowning Suits

The Drowning Suits met when they all reached for the same XXL suit at the same time. They proceeded to bond over their mutual love of oversized men’s formalwear and they get together every Sunday to drink black coffee, bitch about the economy, and review the array of medium-sized trinkets they have stored undetected in their front pockets.

***

The Lil Coats

The Lil Coats met when the man running the coat check mixed up all their shrunken outerwear. Every Saturday they can be found enjoying their simultaneous warmth and mobility around various public outdoor attractions such as parks and cafes. They love dogs, old westerns, and taking photos during magic hour.

***

The Fur Babies

The Fur Babies met when they were literal babies being raised by the same clan of bears. As they’ve grown older and been forced to assimilate into human society, they’ve taken care to honor their native culture by always wearing the fur of their kin. They love Wes Anderson movies, back scratches, and catching salmon with their bare hands.

***

The Condiments

The Condiments met at Costco when they were all waiting in line to dress their hotdogs. They get together every Friday to paint impressionistic landscapes and discuss the folly of man. They love food in sample proportion, buy everything in bulk, and think movies without popcorn are a waste of time.

***

The Slinkies

The Slinkies met when they all got bored at the same party and retired to the roof to bitch about the simple-minded people in attendance. They never smile in public, value honesty above all else, and spend their evenings pondering the absurdity of an ever-expanding universe.

***

The Mish Mash Bats

The Mish Mash Bats met in the middle of the night when the fire alarm sounded in their apartment building, sending them all running furiously into the street wearing camp socks and birkenstocks. They hate matching, always have jelly beans in their pockets, and are constantly babysitting each other’s cats.

***

So…are you trying to join any of my Fall ’16 Girl Gangs?! You’d be welcomed to any & all with a loving embrace.

(all photos pulled from vogue.com)

5 things to consider during your next bout of existential ennui

If you’ve found yourself in the murky depths of listlessness, confusion, or uncertainty as many times as I have, then you know that although these feelings are like the emotional equivalent of bad Chinese food, they usually lead you, in however glacial and crooked a pace, towards a future version of yourself that’s a little tougher and a little smarter.

But when you’re stumbling down that dark twisty path, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel can feel impossibly far away. As far as non-threatening feels go, existential angst can really be The Worst.

Here are 5 things to consider next time your thoughts  are swirling around a little too much in your gut.

1. It is possible to feel two ways at once without one being inherently correct or true to you.

This is one of those truths that can seem both obvious and absurd. When we’re torn between two ideas we naturally feel at pains to choose which one is right or true. When researcher and author Jamie Holmes introduced me to this concept of dual feelings during his interview with The Atlantic, it was a huge weight off my chest not because it absolved me of making decisions, but because it allowed me to feel normal for my occasional lack of one.

[Holmes] suggests that in less strained situations, in our everyday lives, we might avoid a lot of anxiety and jumping to wrong conclusions by accepting that sometimes people do feel two ways at once. Things can be similar without being exactly the same. Some things we can never know.

Julie Beck, The Benefits Of Getting Comfortable With Uncertainty

Uhhh you mean things can be similar….ISH? #namedrop

2. Your willingness to sit with ambiguity is a sign of intelligence.

So often life presents us with a nebulous, shitty fog of feelings and circumstances that don’t quite line up in our oft-travelled cognitive pathways. It’s overwhelming and confusing and trying to escape it can take every last ounce of our energy. But the human ability to accept ambiguity and uncertainty as parts of life is ultimately a sign of emotional strength and intelligence.

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

3. An increased tolerance for uncertainty will allow you to draw more thoughtful and considered conclusions.

Not only should we practice embracing ambiguity because it holds a worthy spot on the spectrum of Acceptable Human Emotional States (which is now official because I capitalized it), but our life choices will be exponentially better for it. The above-mentioned Holmes actually wrote an entire book on this concept, which I’d recommend if you personally struggle with ambiguity or are not a robot.

Dwelling calmly among feelings of uncertainty, to be clear, will help you make a more rational decision.

Jamie Holmes

4. Your confusion points to your complexity.

From the dark pit of anxious feelings, the world can seem like a busy blur of perfect people that have never questioned themselves. Actual reality notwithstanding, others’ sense of calm can stand to highlight our internal struggles. But the ability to question our selves, our lives, or our choices points to a level of open-mindedness and critical thinking ability.

The world is a complex place, it’s only simple to simple people.

A willingness to be puzzled is a valuable trait to cultivate, from childhood to advanced inquiry.

Noam Chomsky

5. Your angst comes from a long line of greats.

And if all else fails, wear your distress and ennui like the high-minded, self-indulgent accessories that they are. Revel in your emotional depth. After all, this was the stuff of all our world’s greatest philosophers.

Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.

Marcel Proust

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.

René Descartes

Sartre sees anguish as a mark of maturity, a sign that we are fully alive and properly aware of reality, with its freedom, its possibilities and its weighty choices.

The School of Life

Life is a lot odder than we think, but it’s also as a consequence far richer in possibilities. Things don’t have to be quite the way they are. We’re freer than we allow ourselves to imagine amidst the ordinary press of commitments and obligations.

Jean-Paul Sartre

Our suffering isn’t merely chaotic – a mark of failure, an error – it can be linked to admirable things…empathy, forgiveness, kindness, and focus.

Alain de Botton

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

Friedrich Nietzsche

The red thread is that doubts and fears aren’t necessarily something we need to escape or solve. They stand to give our lives depth and color and, with a little patience and acceptance, we are better for them. Nothing lasts forever and your swirly gut is no exception. Hang in there baby girl.

On president’s day, we wear sequins

sequin tank – nasty gal / pants – emerson fry / sweater – urban outfitters / cardigan – zara / shoes – thrifted, unknown / bandanas – thrifted

I blame George Washington for affording me too much time to dress myself today. Specifically because the only item on my calendar is to watch the Grammy’s on my friend’s couch at 7 p.m. and I can only imagine the three other attendees will either come straight from work in something sensible or straight from home in something made of 100% cotton.

But after spending the morning pulling all my favorite looks from the New York shows – many of which featured materials of the fluffy and shiny variety  – I approached my closet this afternoon like a kitten to several laser pointers.

Or me to dogs, evidently.

I’ve worn this sequin number only a handful of times but judging celebrities while shoving tacos down my gullet seemed as appropriate an occasion as any.  In an effort to quell the going-out-top vibes I sought out layers in contrasting fabrics, which proved more difficult than I expected considering literally everything in my closet falls in this category. That is: clothing that does not feature sequins.

After flinging about a dozen items around the vicinity, I settled, peculiarly, on one of Austin’s cheap wool cardigans and an old faux fur from the very back of my closet (and before that, Zara’s clearance rack).

Tada!

My lower half required less improvisation since, lucky for me, I’d picked my pants out around 4 a.m. when I couldn’t sleep. Now, I want you to imagine how long it takes you to put on your average pair of pants and then I want you to triple that, go watch a youtube tutorial on origami, then come back and consider these babies:

Chelsea and I first saw these pants at Emerson Fry’s Capsule booth and were both in awe of their genius and distraught at their unavailability to us (#instantgratificationgeneration).

Cut to only a year later when the world has ostensibly gone mad because Chelsea finds the magical pants for an astronomical 65% off. She immediately texts me and within approximately 32 seconds both of our banks accounts have a shiny new $58 charge and I’m like SURE, TAKE MORE EVEN!

They take about 5 minutes to put on, are lacking pockets,  and disincentivize their wearer to hydrate while wearing them but these are minuscule costs imho.

Things were really coming together. If the red bandanas were my cherry on top…are the white boots the vanilla ice cream on the bottom? Sure! I’ll apply an irrelevant sundae metaphor. It’s the Grammy’s! And the Westminster Dog Show! My priorities are understandably elsewhere.

I found these little guys at a thrift store called After Life. They were $30 and I considered their purchase for potentially even less time than I did the pants. Their brand is unknown but I’ll assume they retailed around $5000 despite their inexpensive feel.

I can only hope you’re wearing something equally unnecessary to watch the Grammy’s tonight. Now I’m off to walk these puppies across the street as I’m on chip and salsa duty.

Meet you on the couch!

Matching is the new matching

I’ve recently stumbled upon a style rule that’s lifted me out of the doldrums. It’s free to implement, kind of obvious, and I learned it on Instagram.

I’m assuming that was an effective hook, so let’s dive in.

While I glean most IG inspo from cat accounts, I can’t deny the impact of a somewhat random follow I don’t even remember clicking: the Kardashian’s stylist Monica Rose. I have no recollection of how I found her and I haven’t stayed because I find her styling particularly ambitious or wacky or fun, but because I’m in constant awe of how freaking fre$h Gigi and Kendall and Kylie look in the street style photos she posts of them.

I mean, can you deny:

The concept of minimal outfits in muted palettes doesn’t feel particularly new — I’m actually getting really sick of it — but Monica’s flavor of it always looked somehow new to me and I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why.

For a while I attributed it to  the magic of super expensive fabrics hanging off banging model bodies, but then I started to notice a more specific pattern: outfits composed of two to three elements of which a touching two are almost perfectly matched in hue and often shade. Then I noticed this formula popping up in a lot of the style photos I’ve saved lately that don’t feel as overtly sexy but look just as cool.

The idea of choosing clothing of complimentary colors to compose an outfit is not even an “idea”…it’s been a pillar of getting dressed forever. But perfectly matching two layering pieces is a subtle distinction that makes an outfit look more special than jamming neutrals together.

This was the rule I stumbled upon when I started combing my feed last week to shock a closet routine that was feeling a little stale. And it was how I got the idea for how to dress this past weekend. Some shoddy photographic evidence is below.

Admittedly the runways and ~my heart~ are starting to lean more clashy maximalist than calming minimalist, but when I’m not feeling inspired or financially capable of ascribing to that, I’ve found the match-on-match to be a super easy way to feel cool. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it’s just enough of a side step for me to feel a little more alive.

🐫

sweater – asos / coat – zara / jeans – gap / denim shirt – madewell / boots – sam edelman / hat – zara

pants – j crew / button-down – everlane / turtle – j crew / hat – zara / boots – topshop

Tysm to my girls Monica, Kendall, Gigi, Kylie, Kim, and Khloe for enlightening me.

TBH

Tell me you haven’t heard it a thousand times: “Thank god my twenties are over! What a nightmare. I’m so much more confident and happy with myself now. If only I would have known everything would be fine!” As fatigued as I’ve become of platitudinal remarks about a decade and its appropriate corresponding feeling, I still privately visit this one when my head is spinning with existential uncertainty.

I offered it up to my brother Andy once, like a pathetic crumb, during one of our panic-stricken gchats about how we want to do and be and feel more something. His response was something like:

Honestly those comments have never made me feel better. I interpret them as ‘Thank god I’m out of the phase where there is still hope for me to do something worthwhile. Now that my options are fewer, it’s a relief and I can blame my circumstances on my age instead of my decisions and just accept things as they are.’

Well, fuck.

Since I’m no stranger to the blurry line between contentment and complacency, this felt like a very comfortably horrifying explanation. Maybe Andy was right. Maybe people weren’t stumbling upon some enlightened state after living longer than us. Maybe they’d merely given up.

Luckily for our anxiety, this interpretation of the advice not only gave us permission to dismiss it completely but to spiral further because now this. shit. was. time. sensitive.

Bye, us.

My brother is in Panama right now and he’s texting me as I’m writing this.

Buzz. Beach photo.

Buzz. “Vacation is crazy.”

Buzz. “Time doesn’t exist and you’re not a loser when you don’t care.”

Surprisingly poignant given the current topic.

On the other side of this desire for more something is our confusion as to why we have it. Last night Ramey and I were talking about how tired we are of doing this dance. I’d had an unusually glum day and had been reveling in it while simultaneously denying myself the feeling because of how great my life is.

We laughed, almost sadistically, thinking about the number of times we’ve sat in a dark car or a dark restaurant or a dark living room listing off all the ways our lives were so amazing in an attempt to invalidate our listlessness. WHY DO WE ALWAYS HAVE TO LIST THIS SHIT OUT? WHY CAN’T WE JUST FEEL GOOD WITHOUT THINKING ABOUT IT? We were shouting at each other with these bewildered looks on our faces and laughing and kind of crying inside probably.

This is me and always has been me. Can you be both stuck in your head and stuck above, observing it? On a podcast the other day I heard a woman cite metacognitive people as the most successful, but so often it feels like chasing my own tail.

Last month, like a new-year-new-me cliché, I started seeing a therapist to get some help in putting these contradictory pieces together. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of an unbiased party who was ethically and professionally forced to indulge my every psychological whim (*evil laughter*) and now felt as good a time as any.

Over the holidays when I told my mom I was going to have my first session the next week she scoffed good-naturedly, like only a mother could. “You don’t need a therapist. You’re already thinking about the right stuff. You’re just doing it too much. You need to meditate.”

I had to admit I agreed a teensy bit. Part of me had been thinking of this shadowy therapist figure as an extension of my journal. You know, if my journal could nod along and be like “Yeah. Totally. You’re brilliant. You’re right. This stuff can’t be solved. Can you be MY therapist?”

Maybe this fucked up version of “getting help” says a lot about me.

Now I’m four sessions deep and my vision of a talking journal has been flipped on its head. Although I’d joked beforehand that I was only in it for the validation, I quickly realized that’s what I was desperately trying to get away from. And after I stopped trying to convince her I was remarkably together and intelligent, I’ve found it to be some of the most honest reflection I’ve ever done. It’s felt, in its best moments, like I went from shouting in an echo chamber to walking outside.

When I asked her at the beginning of our second session to push me and question me and not let me move swiftly past the sticky parts that don’t support whatever agenda I’m subconsciously pushing, she said that was fine with this blank sort of smile.

I still don’t know if she likes me or thinks I’m totally annoying, but I find that kind of thrilling in a stereotypical fucked up way and it’s likely some twisted projection of how I feel about myself.

It’s shocking how quickly my narrative veers off its planned course when driven by an iron-will to not bullshit my listener, and it’s through this candor that she’s pinpointed in me a tendency to over-intellectualize my feelings.

(Lol @everyone reading this who is like “HAHAHA YA THINK?”)

When she would ask me how something made me feel, for instance, I kept launching into massively overwrought webs of pseudo-intellectual considerations that begged a million more questions and moved us a fraction as far as we could have moved had I just said: “It made me feel sad.”

It’s seriously Psychology 101, I know, but the simple answer isn’t something I’ve ever been comfortable giving, and I’ve suddenly found it exhilaratingly novel to allow myself that luxury. It’s been eye-opening to revisit some of my psychological hang-ups through this lens of avoiding complexity.

There is something refreshing about approaching hard questions with literal brevity, even if that brevity is “I have no clue.” There is a finality to it that is healthy for me. I am forced to be honest about who I am and resign myself to the unknown. Answering a question with five more does nothing for me but feed my ego. It’s intellectual masturbation.

All this got me thinking more about the thirty or forty-something trope of Newfound Acceptance I’d brought up to Andy. I’ve started to wonder if the comfort of getting older isn’t so much about becoming happy with your life out of some tired sense of resignation as it is finally being honest with yourself about who you are.

So much of my existential unrest over past years ties back to this sense of failed potential. A failure to follow every path possible. A failure to center my life around different parts of my personality. A failure to try harder to be someone I wasn’t. A failure to be more whimsical and short-sighted and spontaneous. I was always too rooted, too calculating, too careful. I hated that about myself.

And when I think back to the moments where I felt sick with indecision about what I did or didn’t want or should or shouldn’t want, an element of complexity was added because I was – and still occasionally am – entertaining so many different versions of myself.

Of course decisions were hard to make and feelings were hard to triangulate when I was struggling to even parse out who I wanted to be from who I actually am from who I realistically had the potential to be. There were too many layers and angles to consider. It was (and can still be) paralyzing.

For example, I spent years during and after college feeling upset that I majored in business instead of design or journalism or fashion or hell, even psychology. Why the hell did I have to be so practical?! What 17-year-old cares more about impressing their parents with their overdeveloped practicality than following their dreams or becoming an interesting human?! What the hell was wrong with me!? How could I have been such a shell of a person?!

I used to scream this stuff at myself so hatefully and get caught in this twisted shame spiral that served no purpose aside from turning my brain into a self-destructive punching bag.

It was until more recently that I started to consider that maybe my level-headed, logic-driven decision about college was an expression of one of my inherent strengths rather than a denial of some true creative identity I was failing to nurture. And the key to that switch in thinking was learning to let go of this alternate art-school version of myself that I’d held on to when I was young that hadn’t materialized in my adult self the way I imagined it should or could have. And then ultimately learning to be okay with that.

It makes sense that we hold onto versions of ourselves that may not be true simply because we want them to be true. Or because we are told that with blunt force we can be anybody we want to be.

But maybe part of getting older is learning to let some of those go and accepting the unique shapes of our personalities. Maybe when people say being young is a confusing mess it isn’t just because it’s hard to entertain so many possibilities, but because it’s hard to entertain so many possibilities when you still haven’t been honest with yourself about who you are and accepted that.

And I’m not talking about accepting our shitty, immature, unevolved qualities or entirely fixable shortcomings. I’m talking about being completely dead honest with ourselves about where our natures and affinities net out, rather than where we wish they did. And trusting what parts of ourselves we’ve either consciously or subconsciously chosen to nurture or let drive our lives.

It sounds so simple and obvious. Like something I’ve heard a thousand times, but it wasn’t until I started observing my own thought-patterns with a therapist that I was able to put some of these thoughts next to each other without sending myself around a paradoxical loop.

At my work we talk a lot about how constraints in design challenges actually force designers to be more creative and in that way allow them more freedom because they don’t have to constantly consider some nebulous set of conditions that aren’t established at the outset.

If we apply this to how we approach our identities and allow them to inform our decisions, maybe time and experience provide us with the tools to put up the proper constraints in our lives, thereby allowing us more freedom to be creative and enjoy ourselves. And these constraints don’t appear because the opportunities have passed us by (necessarily), but because we’ve learned to intentionally pass them by in pursuit of the opportunities that better suit us.

Maybe that’s what people mean when they act like their age has afforded them a new set of lungs. It’s actually a new set of boundaries. Maybe what time does is afford us a healthy dose of acceptance.

It may have taken me 1,873 words to get here, but I’ve either genuinely debunked Andy’s rebuttal or come up with a fantastic way to stave off future bouts of existential hand-wringing.

I don’t think it really matters which and, not to be corny, but so it goes.