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SUMMER CAPSULE WARDROBE: 10 PIECES, 10 WAYS – WITH TALBOTS

One of my favorite posts these past few seasons has been a “capsule wardrobe” type round-up featuring 10 core pieces, styled 10 ways with my friends at Talbots. A full IGTV try-on video is live on my Instagram now, but I wanted share the photos of each look + outfit details here for reference. These pieces really can be mixed and matched in endless ways and be worn from work to weekend depending on how you style them.

To note: almost all of these pieces are available in petites, regular and plus sizing (sizes 0-24) and I really can’t say enough good things about the quality and the fit. I’m wearing a size 2 or XS in everything except for the pink sweatshirt (size S) and the checked blazer (size 4) as I wanted a bit more room to layer. I’m 5’4″ for reference.

I love this dress – it makes me think of something Betty Draper would wear on a picnic. It’s perfect on it’s own, but on the left is how I’d wear it at the lake house (where it gets cool at night) – with a sweatshirt over top and the belt tied into my hair as a headband.

LOOK 1:

LOOK 2:

You all already know how much I love a blazer. This lightweight version in a fun check print is great for the office (where the A/C is always blasting) but cute too on the weekends with a pair of white jeans.

LOOK 3:

LOOK 4:

One of my favorite styling tricks is to later a skirt over a dress to make it look like a top. The secret is to pick pieces with similar waistlines and to use a lightweight dress and a fuller skirt so that you don’t add bulk. You practically double your wardrobe this way!

LOOK 5:

LOOK 6:

A sleeveless button down shirt is a great summer layering piece. Underneath this striped linen jumpsuit it adds just a tiny bit of pattern mixing, and on the left – I tied it up high at the waist for a very ‘Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday’ vibe.

LOOK 7:

LOOK 8:

This cute little embroidered berry t-shirt is unexpectedly one of my favorite pieces from the collection. I’ll be wearing this tossed on over a bathing suit, on trips to the farmer’s market and for ice cream dates all summer long.

LOOK 9:

LOOK 10:

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ON MONEY: BUDGETING FOR ACTIVISM

Between a worldwide pandemic and a nationwide uprising, for the first time – maybe ever – a lot of us have seen just how fragile (and often downright broken) our economic ecosystem truly is. And it’s compelled a lot of people, myself included, to spend their money differently. From donating to an organization that provided meals to healthcare workers from local restaurants to placing orders with Black-owned small businesses.

And that’s great. But these efforts need to be a movement and not a moment. Money is power and if we want to see change, we have to start distributing that power in a more responsible way. For most of us though, especially in the aftermath of said pandemic, money isn’t just endlessly abundant. Which means we need to budget for activism. In my opinion this can be done in two ways.

DONATIONS: The donations that I made in the past have been in response to an immediate need. A hurricane, pandemic, social injustice, etc. The problem is that this spending has been “discretionary” when it really needs to be “fixed”. I’ll explain. Discretionary money in a budget means that you see you’ve got $50 leftover at the end of a week after paying all of your bills and buying groceries and you choose to use it towards a donation instead of a new skirt. But to make long-lasting impact in our communities, we really need to move donations to monthly reoccurring payments and consider these fixed costs in our budget. Just like our electric bill. And if you think you don’t have $20 extra a month to give – I encourage you to call your electric, cable and phone companies and negotiate your bill. I promise you between the 3 of them, they’ll offer you at least a $20 discount per month to keep you as a customer. Boom! You just saved yourself $240 a year that can go straight to an impactful non-profit organization of your choice.

SHOPPING: This category falls into discretionary spending, but even within that part of your budget we can make conscious changes. Can 50% of your discretionary spending go to small businesses this year? How much of that can go to businesses owned by people of color or the LGBTQIA+ community? I, for one, want to do much more to support the small business community, especially here in New York City. Going forward I plan to share brands I’ve shopped and love or am inspired by in this space. Be that an awesome Black-owned wine bar/bookstore in the Bronx or a vintage-inspired handbag brand owned by two sisters here in Manhattan (gingham bag shown above!). I’ll be spending my money with activism and equality in mind. And if you aren’t in a place where you can be shopping right now – don’t forget that a “follow” on Instagram is free. And engaging on social media helps to bring exposure to new brands which might mean PR opportunities in a bigger publication or better placement in google ads that will reach consumers ready to shop.

Let’s put our money where our mouths are.

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HOW TO BE AN ALLY

(Artwork by @ohhappydani – her account is a wealth of beautifully designed resources)

I had a call with a work mentor of mine yesterday to discuss ways in which I could be a better manager right now. And she said to me “It’s important to remember – we’re all in the same storm, but some of us are in the boat and some of us are in the water”. And it’s so true. We’re all feeling the heaviness of the world right now, but Black people have been unjustly shouldering the heaviness of it for their entire lives (and their families lives before them). It’s our job to fix the system so that we are finally all paddling in the same boat.

It’s safe to say that many of us have acknowledged that responsibility this week – and that’s great. We no longer simply want to be passively “not racist” but instead, actively “anti-racist”. So what can you do in order to become a lasting ally to Black people – not to mention all other non-white people and LGBTQIA+ communities? Well, I’m certainly not an authority on the matter but below is my four part plan. I’ve put these steps together for myself this week after leaning heavily on resources from @therealkamie @theconsciouskid and @nicolettemason among many others. The work is long overdue in this country, and frankly I haven’t been doing nearly enough of this active work when I had every opportunity to. And it doesn’t end today.

  1. Admit your inherent privilege. White privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard – it means that your skin color isn’t one of the reasons that it’s been hard. Read that again if you need to. Same goes for if you’re straight or Christian. If you’ve never been discriminated against because of your race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, etc. – you have privilege. Let’s admit that and move on to step 2.
  2. Commit to adding diversity into your daily life so that you can learn to understand and empathize with stories that look different than your own. This can be in everything from the books you read and the accounts you follow on Instagram to the people that you hire and connect with socially and the businesses where you shop. Essentially, make sure they all don’t look like you and come from the same background as you do.
  3. Become an active ally. Using your privilege and the understanding that you’ve cultivated – listen closely to these communities when they call out for help. Be vocal in speaking up when there is injustice – both in large, systemic ways by using the power of your vote or in small ways like when someone in your family or office uses hateful speech. Even if it’s thinly veiled as a “joke”. Don’t stand for it. Speak clearly, look them in the eyes and tell them that their statements make you feel uncomfortable and would make X group feel less than. Is that their intention? Beyond your voice, donate your time and your resources to organizations that support these causes.
  4. Raise the next generation differently. Studies prove that children begin to absorb bias at an incredibly young age. They watch you closely to understand how they are meant to act and it’s never too early to start teaching them lessons of equality. Just like you diversified your life in step 2 – do the same for them. Buy dolls that look differently than them, buy books that show different lifestyles and cultures, speak openly and honestly in support of these sentiments. Raise them to be the next generation of allies.

There are a wealth of resources on all of these (I found this round-up to be helpful), but I want to specifically speak more to #2 on how to further diversify your life in a way that feels personal to me. Reading has always been a way for me to personally connect with worlds beyond my own. It’s important to read non-fiction to understand the full history of oppression, struggle and systemic issues that you might not have learned in school and to understand people’s unique experiences. It’s also important that you read fiction from Own Voices (meaning if it’s a story about a queer protagonist it’s been written by a queer author, if it’s a story about the life of a Black woman it’s been written by a Black woman). I think non-fiction often helps us to better understand our differences and fiction can be a great way to connect with the similarities (for example: if the characters in a romantic fiction novel are Black or Gay or Trans, the focus is a love story.. same as if the characters were white/straight).

I’m personally planning to be sure that my shelves look much more diverse. I had originally posted the 15 books on my Summer Reading List but there are not nearly enough own voices and stories that focus on BIPOC or LGBTQIA+ lives there. So I’m adding 10 more to that list.

  • The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  • Sissy by Jacob Tobia
  • Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
  • Boys of Alabama by Genevieve Hudson
  • Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
  • All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
  • Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

If you’re looking for more, here is a list of anti-racist books to further your education and here is a list by age group of books that address race for children and teens. While you’re at it – consider forgoing Amazon to order from one of the independent bookstores below.

  • A list of Black owned bookstores by states: here.
  • In NYC, I’ve already placed an order from The Lit Bar and plan to order from Sisters Uptown next.
  • Here is a list of LGBTQIA+ owned indie bookstores by country and state.
  • In NYC, I look forward to visiting Bluestockings when things reopen.

I can do better. We can all do better. Let’s get started.

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MY SUMMER READING LIST

Remember when you were in high school and they’d assign summer reading? And you’d dread it and wait until August to even pick up the first book? Well this is like that… but way better. I usually just pick my next book based on my mood (or something I’ve selected for my Steele Maiden book club posts), but as I was looking for ways to put a fun twist on what will likely be a somewhat quiet summer – I thought why not make a big list filled with books I can’t wait to read?!

Below – the 15 books I’ve got stacked up for the summer. Many are new release fiction, but there a couple of older titles in there I’ve been meaning to get around to plus a couple of memoirs. I can’t wait to dive in!

And lastly – these pictures are from a recent Talbots feature in which I shared some of their most comfortable styles alongside some of the books I’ve read and loved lately. See their full feature here! The photos also serve as a peek into our apartment and all of the little corners I tend to curl up in to read – including my favorite perch, our fire escape.

  1. The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner – a group unites over their love of Austen in post-war English countryside.
  2. Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes – sweet romantic fiction set in small town Maine.
  3. Stray by Stephanie Danler – a memoir from the author of Sweetbitter
  4. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain – Hemingway, 1920s, Paris – need I say more?
  5. All Adults Here by Emma Straub – already on everyone’s summer hits list.
  6. From Scratch by Tembi Locke – a memoir set in Sicily, for those dreaming of an Italian getaway.
  7. Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion – one of the last few works by Didion I still haven’t read.
  8. Euphoria by Lily King – after loving her new book Writers & Lovers I wanted to go back and read her debut novel.
  9. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin – I’m always fascinated by reading about what makes some of the most brilliant minds in entertainment tick.
  10. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt – the story of a young girl who loses her uncle to AIDS and becomes unlikely friends with his partner in the wake of that loss.
  11. The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess – set in Cape Cod against the backdrop of the glittering publishing world, this feels like it will be a good beach read.
  12. More Miracle Than Bird by Alice Miller – historical fiction based on the mesmerizing woman who played muse to W.B. Yeats.
  13. Supper Club by Lara Williams – the story of a secret society where women come to feast at night.
  14. Murder at Kingscote – a thriller set in Victorian-era Newport, RI.
  15. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – this has long been on my reading wishlist and I loved Daisy Jones & the Six last summer.

SHOP THE BOOK LIST:

SHOP THE OUTFITS:

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ON HAPPINESS: HOW TO RETURN TO “NORMAL”

The Steele Maiden: Classic White Shirtdress at South Street Seaport

What if we treated the last two and a half months like an elimination diet for our lives? We were forced to quit all of the excess cold turkey, but now – we get to slowly reintroduce elements of our old lives. Isn’t it worth examining which of those old elements actually brought us happiness? What if you realized during this time that there were some habits you actually felt better off without? Certain people that you didn’t miss. Why go back to exactly how things were before?

From what I’ve seen in my 30+ years, life hands us very few opportunities to do a hard reset. So you just might want to take this opportunity. I’m definitely not one of those people going around calling this time “a blessing” – it wasn’t. Millions of Americans are out of work and nearly 100,000 families are grieving a loved one. But in the race we all seem to be in to return to “normal” – why not shift the sails and create a new and improved normal?

I’m honestly still not sure what the rest of this year will look like for me – but I do know that when everything was pared down to absolute basics it was easy to see the things that actually brought me happiness. My closest relationships, my home here in New York City (with or without the usual energy), exercise, reading & writing. And honestly – I really loved working from home. So I want to find a way to continue focusing my energy on each of these things and growing where I can. What would your new normal look like?

The Steele Maiden: Classic White Shirtdress at South Street Seaport

(Images are from this original post two years ago)

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The Steele Maiden © 2012

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle. Based in NYC.