Monthly Archives: August 2016

Open Your Heart by Wearing More Green

               Chiles de pasilla, fresh and forest green                                                                                          Chiles de pasilla, roasting on the stove                                                                                            Chiles de pasilla, stuffed with cremoso cheese                                                                                  Chiles de pasilla. Hey, they’re not all for me?!

The vibrant, green, giving heart. To give gives us so much. Whenever I’ve left my childhood home, my dad (and my mom – when she was alive) tries to make us take things.

“Here, Laura, I’ll never eat all this cheese!”

“You wanna take some avocados?!”

“Laura! The figs!” (Calling out the front door, us in the car, motor running most likely)

Here, I stand under that giving fig tree, feasting iridescent Japanese beetles buzzing around my head. The images are bookended by pasilla chiles, fresh and after transforming into chile relleños for my dad’s 91st birthday. One of the many things he’s taught me are the benefits of a giving heart. The happiness it brings him to give was understood by me on a deeper level when my boys were born. I tried to stop him from giving so much to me as a young adult. I was the youngest of his five – the only girl – so, of course I was out to prove my abilities and independence. Once I became a parent, I realized that in a way there was no separation between us. To give to my sons was and is to give to myself. To see them happy is to be happy myself. In our best moments – with friends, with strangers – this is a connection that is not blood related.

The green, heart chakra is about giving, loving, and openness. When I was looking into how to improve in terms of prosperity (Why, you ask? You are crazy rich with all those figs!), I was surprised to see how prosperity was connected to the green heart chakra. I read about how we can work so hard and not get anywhere if we are not generous – generous with our love, with our time, with our resources. The more I contemplated this connection, the more it made sense. We attract whatever we need when we are consistently in a state of open heart giving, of breathing in and out. I have learned that it must start with myself. If I am hard on others it is because I am hard on myself. I aim to be softer. I aim to be more loving with myself.

When my younger son was just a wee little man lying in a hammock outside holding his ukelele, he liked to ask me, “Guess who I love the most in the whole world.” Sometimes I would name different people. Sometimes I would just ask, “Who?” Always the same answer in those days. “Me!” I loved that. I knew exactly what he meant. He was giving us a gift by loving himself so much. He enjoyed himself, laughing and singing his songs, making the world a better place. Laughing, loving, giving, green heart. No wonder it’s his favorite color.

Recipe for chile relleños using chiles de pasilla. I used the recipe from this book, a favorite in our kitchen when I don’t have notes from my mom!

Dress (friend’s closet clean out) by Alpana Bawa. Top (another friend’s closet clean out) by edmè and esyllte Shoes by Dansko – similar here. Necklace by Nicole.

Chile photos by Evan Hartzell. Fig tree photos by Aristotle Hartzell.

Chakra Necklace and Guru Dog

        Talk’n chakras again. I can’t stop. It’s summer. School’s still out for some of us. I’ve scheduled all activities for the afternoon so this means I’m getting enough sleep. This means I’m not too tired to meditate when I wake up OR when I’m going to bed. It’s the perfect spiritual storm.

There are so many ways to approach these photos. I can’t decide. My ideas all relate to the chakras… but, which chakra? I am over-chakrawelmed! Has this ever happened to you before? Am I wearing too many different colors at once? Is there a chakra dressing expert out there? Hello? No? But you know one? And she doesn’t have a computer? Figures.

I think the reason for the rainbow avalanche is the fantastic necklace pictured above made by my friend, Jodi Pantuck. Jodi used to sell her jewelry on Etsy. As far as I know, now she is only creating for the lucky few when inspired.

Okay, let’s go through all the chakras and relate this post to them, and then see what happens. Why not? We have nothing more important to do – at least nothing that we can remember we are supposed to do.

  1. Root Chakra  Well, I’m wearing red lipstick. It’s my favorite color and I love lipstick. I really don’t need to say anything else about it… Okaaay; It’s grounding. Might be hard to believe, but I put on something red and then everything is suddenly right.
  2. Sacral Chakra The orange chair, obviously! Joy and pleasure is basically this metal patio chair. I mean, look at how it is making me pose when I sit in it. Who am I, right now? Good thing you are not seeing the shots of me in the chair I edited out! To be honest, they were along the lines of a PG 13 Almodovar film. But for me… totally sassy.
  3. Solar Plexus  Okay, I’m going to go all out here and say that the doodle is part of my outfit. In many lands, dogs are incorporated into people’s outfits. I’m not objectifying. It’s like when we dress similar to or complimentary to who we are keeping company with. The doodle came over to be in the shots on his own because he sensed that the solar plexus was missing. He’s like a guru dog. Oh, yeah. Solar is all about being in your power. Guru Dog brings it.
  4. Heart Chakra  Oooh, heart is my next area of focus in meditation. Notice the green foliage at the bottom of my dress. This is a photo print dress. I LOVE photo print. It’s got some kind of architectural thing going on as well… we’ll get to that. The heart is of course about love, giving, forgiveness, compassion. One of my favorite chakras.
  5. Throat Chakra  I will say that the brilliant sky blue at the top of the dress illustrates  the expression of creativity that Gregory Ain was so brilliant at when he designed the house  in these photographs. Oh, the modern home as social commentary. Yes, these case study houses cost more than twice as much as neighboring homes in 1948, but they had sliding walls that could convert them into one bedroom, two bedroom, or three bedroom houses! Also, he is considered to be the first architect to design a house that did not contemplate servants. Talk about speaking your mind. Notice how this chakra has the highest word count.
  6. Third Eye  One of my favorite colors, the enchanting indigo. I could have easily made the whole post about this chakra because my third eye was ON when I put this outfit on in the morning. I “didn’t know” that I was going to receive this necklace later in the day – picking it up from a mail box where Jodi left it for me. I love picking things up from secret locations; especially when they are incredible, sparkly creations in little shiny black boxes that match the dress I am wearing PERFECTLY. Third eye dressing, I tell you. Third eye.
  7. Crown Chakra  Okay, let’s be honest here. The crown chakra mystifies me. Either that, or I totally get it, and it is just not easily put into words. I mean, the mantra is “I am at one with everything.” Isn’t that a conversation stopper? I do have purple on my dress, I can say that much. One of these chakras had to have the smallest word count, and why not have it be the last one?

I think we are starting to remember that stuff that’s really important that we have to do. What was it? Order dog’s flea medication. Right. Look that thing up on the DMV website. Right. Email someone about something. Oh, yeah. Is it all becoming clearer? Maybe it was the solar plexus at work. Wait a second, does that mean this post was really all about the the Guru Dog? Animal photobombs and becomes center of universe.

Dress by rag & bone. Shoes by Dansko. Necklace by Jodi Pantuck.

Photos by Evan Hartzell

Vacation Living How To

Remember those layouts/articles in women’s magazines like “Go From Day to Night in this Outfit” and “Pack a Bag for the Weekend With These Three Easy Pieces”? Oh, that last one! As a young teenager, I would look at these mini wardrobes that were so chic and simple and imagine my life as a young career woman going to San Francisco for the weekend, living a life of adventure with a French scarf tied around my neck and the top down of my vintage little convertible.

Here is the short story of how a series of events gave birth to something like the “Pack a Bag for the Weekend With These Three Easy Pieces”. We didn’t actually go away for the weekend, but because we were having the vacation attitude, someone actually said to us, “Enjoy your trip!” as we left their shop. Comments like that means you’ve won the game of vacation living. At the end of this Clothes Story I list some tips on how to exude the vacation living attitude.

Outfit #1:  My “Weekend With These Three Easy Pieces” started with this white cotton floaty dress from Velvet my friend, Jodi gave me from her closet clean out. I LOVE clothing from closet clean outs. It was maybe my second time wearing it. It’s so soft and feels like I’m wearing a cloud, but I kind of knew it wasn’t the right shape for me. So, I subconsciously put it on this day because I knew my friend, Leah was coming over for dinner later and that it would look so good on her. By the end of the evening I told her it would soon be hers, and she said, “Yeah, I’ve been eyeing it all evening thinking I never see a dress like that. It’s perfect!”      

Outfit #2:  But before Leah even came over, Evan and I went for a walk to buy what we needed to make dinner. On the way, we planned to stop at Surfing Cowboys because E had eyed a birthday present for me there the day before. “I want to get you a Hawaiian shirt for your birthday!” he said, “What do you think?” It was one of those times where I think I am hearing a crazy idea from him, and then in an instant, like a lightening bolt, the true brilliance of the idea hits me like a beautiful symphony piercing through the static of my closed mind.    Walking into Surfing Cowboy, my eyes are illuminated by the sight of a whole rack of the best and softest Hawaiian shirts that came from someone’s collection that was amassed over decades. I remember seeing Surfing Cowboys when it used to be on Abbott Kinney, and while I never properly checked it out, I would peek my head in from time to time and see that it had a great individual vintage, beachy but intellectual vibe – like a fantasy Venice beach house from the Beat 1950’s that had an impossibly good sound system and a great library. Now it’s on a newly cool and breezy stretch of Mar Vista’s Venice Boulevard with more space and natural lighting. So, just like when I was a kid and had a new clothing item, I had that shirt on and tied at the waist by the time we crossed the street towards the Japanese market. Layer it, Baby!     Outfit #3!:  Next morning we were shuttling our youngest to his internship in the arts district in DTLA (downtown Los Angeles), and there was no way I was going to not wear that Hawaiian shirt again (did I mention how SOFT it is? They have more of these. Go get one!) – this time with jeans. This is not rocket science, people! Shirt. Jeans. Flipflops. Come on. Okay, now that the three outfits with three easy pieces are all squared away, let us enjoy what wonderful things are happening to the once sketchy, grimy neighborhood of the arts district. It’s getting Googled, Baby! I know; I should just call this post, “Baby!”  

Vacation Living How To:

  1.  Dress in an outfit that exudes relaxation and/or adventure. Sun hats help.
  2.  Don’t walk; float.
  3.  Try bossa novas as the soundtrack of your day.
  4.  Make a grand ceremony of meals – even if it is just a little snack at home.
  5.  Marvel at things. Trying saying “Oooh!” a lot with your eyes wide.  Pretending becomes reality.
  6.  And lastly, if you are going to move your big tech company into a neighborhood, be cool and subsidize some of the housing so that some of the really cool people can stay there. Wait, a second. How did that get in here? Vacation Living How To… maybe??

Dress by Velvet. Similar here. Similar shirts available at Surfing Cowboys. Hat by San Diego Hat Company. Sneakers from Footland. Jeans by Joe’s. Necklace by Evan Hartzell. Coffee, croissant, and flowers by Black Top Coffee. All photographs by Evan Hartzell.


Sartorial Sublimation: The Art of the Reframe

Hello everyone! My name is Lissa, and I am highly honored to be a Clothes Stories guest blogger. I am a student and practitioner of Expressive Arts therapy, and one of my favorite techniques in expressive arts is the reframe. Sometimes this takes the form of literally re-framing a piece of art to emphasize a new aspect of your work. Other times, it is writing out an old story from a new, and liberating, perspective. This is the Clothes Story of how I did an expressive arts reframe of my relationships through the transformation of my wedding dress.

At the age of 25, I married my kung fu instructor, and although he had many positive qualities as a kung fu instructor, they did not translate well into marriage. It all ended in a severe case of learned helplessness and a devastating three-year custody battle.

Photograph from my wedding at 25.

Even though the dress I married in was purchased for only 63 dollars in the garment district of Los Angeles, it was a rather lovely floor length confection of white lace with an empire waist and flowery straps. I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it, although I felt my stomach drop every time I encountered the thing in the back of my closet.

After the divorce, I went into a downward spiral of rage, grief, and powerlessness in the face of my custody battle.

I took up with a man who was both incredibly charming and highly unstable. When I finally broke it off and moved to North Carolina to start my masters degree, this man—we’ll call him ‘Dorian’—pleaded with me to come see him, even sending me a ticket so that we could meet one last time for forgiveness and closure. I ignored the ticket. I knew how he cycled between loving attentiveness and physical/emotional abuse.

Fast forward two years, and I was happily ensconced in graduate school in the mountains of NC when my friend Briana invited me to her wedding. Briana’s pleasure group had been instrumental in my survival of the terrible divorce years, and I was thrilled that she had found such happiness. Her wedding was to be a flapper-style 1920’s era speakeasy affair, and although I loved the aesthetic and wanted to dive in, I was a single mother and a self-employed graduate student. There was no way I would be able to afford the flight to California, let alone buy new clothes for the occasion!

But I am persistent, and I am resourceful, and I REALLY wanted to be there. As I cudgeled my brain to think of a way to get to California, I remembered Dorian’s ticket to Los Angeles. I quickly called up the airline and found that it was still valid, but would  expire the day after Briana’s wedding! I took this as a sign and booked my trip.

Now the flight was taken care of, but what would I wear?

I rifled through my closet. Nothing I owned had even the vaguest 1920’s aesthetic. And then, at the far back, I encountered my wedding dress. My heart began to beat faster. What better way to reclaim that dress than by wearing it to the wedding of a woman who had helped me through my divorce?

I took it off the hanger and assessed the situation. The sleeves would need to change. It would need to be shortened and given a drop waist. The lace already had a fringe effect….this was going to work!

I cut it off with my shears and dumped the whole thing into a vat of strong tea and mango peels to give it a vintage sepia color. With ribbon, I created a drop waist at the hip line and sewed on a large flower “given” to me by Michael’s (I found it orphaned on the floor!). Voila! The dress was utterly transformed. In the same way I had rebuilt my life with resourcefulness and creativity, this dress had gone from a generic, innocent lace gown to a sexy, original piece that felt like it had history and maturity. I felt like Cinderella. 

But the story isn’t over yet.

When I arrived at the airport, ready to visit friends and celebrate the wedding, Dorian was waiting for me. My heart dropped to my shoes. I hadn’t taken the time to consider that because he had originally paid for the ticket, my full itinerary would be emailed to him!

There followed a strange and surreal time of fear, ceremony, and closure. I was amazed to discover how much more powerful I had become as a person. I set firm boundaries and I spoke my truth. I refused to be intimidated by Dorian’s verbal abuse, and I ended things with him for once and for all.

And I made a mistake.

You see, in North Carolina, I had met someone. I had met a man who genuinely loved me, a man so full of creativity and intelligence and support and patience that I almost couldn’t believe he was real. I didn’t want him to know that I had ever been involved with someone like Dorian. So I hid that truth from him. I didn’t tell him about my years with Dorian. I didn’t tell him where my ticket to Los Angeles came from. I returned from Briana’s beautiful and soulful wedding and told my beloved all about it, but I did not tell him I had seen Dorian.

Photo “booth” at Briana’s wedding.

Well… As we all know, truth has a way of emerging into the light. And as it turned out, something in me really wanted honesty and full disclosure with the man I love.  One night, as I was sleeping, I confessed the whole story by TALKING IN MY SLEEP.  (Note to self: don’t try to keep any more secrets.)

When  I woke, he was crying. We had a long, painful and deeply vulnerable conversation, and we braved it out. We kept talking, we kept processing, we kept listening, and we kept our hearts open. He never gave up on me.  In the months that followed, he proposed.

Now we live together in the mountains of Asheville. Last week, I set up a date for us at a 1920’s style mystery theater, with my friend Briana, who has since moved to North Carolina. Full circle!

My beloved.

My beloved saw the dress laid out on the bed and quailed. He told me he still associates it with Dorian and that terrible sleep-talking conversation. But he is a brave and patient man, and after we had discussed it for a while, he asked me to wear it anyway.

We walked through the streets of downtown Asheville,  past the beautiful art-deco buildings, arm in arm and excited for the sense of history we felt. We laughed and talked and dined and were serenaded by live piano in an old saloon. And we reclaimed that dress once again–for ourselves, and for our love.

We are getting married in September. That is a whole other Clothes Story, but in the meantime, it is wonderful to know that with tea, scissors, flowers, intention, and communication, an outfit that once represented pain, difficulty, and betrayal can be transformed and reframed into a vehicle of love–not once, but twice.

Dress, unknown brand, LA garment district, tea-dyed and altered. Shoes, Chelsea Crew, vintage store find. Necklace, handmade, acquired in a handmade gift exchange in Malibu. Slip, vintage, thrift store find.

Read more about Lissa here, and enjoy her blog, True Beauty Always… it’s radiant, like her!  xoLaura

Sade in my Day


        So, like I said in my last post, I’ve been space clearing. I don’t mean just going through a pile of papers or one box of photos or a closet. This is a whole house. It’s all going down at my childhood home where I grew up – the only house I grew up in, the house with an attic, the house with a closet under the stairs, that once had whole bedrooms devoted to storage, with endless forgotten kitchen cabinets and the house with a deck full of tarp covered boxes.

Although it is emotionally exhausting going through your whole life history, there is a ton of benefits. For example, revisiting different chapters of your own style through photographs, letters, sketches, music and maybe even a few articles of clothing can teach us a lot about ourselves. One such chapter I revisited with enthusiasm was the Sade chapter.

In terms of music appreciation, there is no Sade chapter. She has been my favorite vocalist since I discovered her in the 80’s. With no other artist would I read every word of every song she wrote before putting the new vinyl on the turntable for the first time. Her lyrics are just as important to me as her delivery, her vocal sound, and the band’s musical collaboration with her. In 1987, as I completed my Tess chapter over the summer, I entered college ready to embrace the Sade chapter of style.

While the Tess chapter was a country bath full of lavender flowers that washed away all of the glitz of eighties blue eyeshadow and Wham U.K. day glow, the Sade chapter was about growing up into an artist with classic and sophisticated style that was at the same time European and embraced diversity. Sade represented a simplicity that spoke of strength and individuality. I felt like I had a lot in common with her at the time. She was born in Nigeria, grew up in England, went to art school where she studied fashion, and afterwards when she helped out some friends who needed backup vocals, found her love of writing songs. I also felt like I was bicultural growing up in Southern California with a firm grounding in all things Mexican. I got into fashion school, made a detour to an art major, where I also “helped out” some friends who needed vocals for their electronic music class. Lyrics also came to be one of my favorite parts of the music process as well.

My Sade chapter of style really took off when I decided to be her for Halloween in 1987. Of course, I doubt anyone knew who I was channeling at the time. I continued with this inspiration on and off for at least a year. Hair pulled back, red lipstick, gold hooped earrings, with a lot of denim, black and white. At one point, I even found it necessary to invest in a black bolero hat. The best word to describe what I thought of her style at that time would have to be “cool”. Just like her approach to creating and her approach to life, her style expressed integrity, brevity, a sense of being comfortable in her own skin. For a woman of color who was expanding her “languages”, it was a whole collection of qualities that could help me make this transition from girlhood to adulthood.

Pulling a black dress from the way back of my closet, which I wouldn’t normally wear these days, as I am so addicted to color, I paired it with a white shirt that was a recent thrift store find. Black and white? What was I doing? So unlike me these days. And then it hit me. The Sade style chapter was making an appearance – a result of all this unearthing of the past. The gold hoop earrings are updated. One side of my head is now pretty short as it’s pulled back. Red lipstick? That hasn’t gone anywhere. Some things just stick.

I like the idea that time is a circle. My synesthesia lets me see this moment as a spinning wheel, each spoke in the wheel a different moment – past, present, with inklings of the future. As they spin together, they become a beautiful blur, the miracle of our evolution.

Dress by Patagonia, shirt by American Eagle (boyfriend fit) – thrift store find, shoes by Dansko, earrings by Mingle, necklace by Evan Hartzell. All photos of outfit by Evan Hartzell.

Some of my favorite Sade style moments.

Some of my favorite Sade style moments.

Chakra Dressing: Solar Plexus

         Oh my goodness. Fashion Spirit Cards one week and chakra dressing the next? Let me interview myself for a minute… Are you serious?  “Yes, I’m completely serious.” Accompany me on this mystic journey of adornment, please. Look; I even had to add another category at the top of the page – “SPIRIT”!

I used to only notice talk of chakras as part of a joke making fun of west coast living. In another chapter many years later, I struggled to keep up with one of my first meditation lessons from a healer friend, thinking, “Chakras? What? Oh, I’ll try to remember those colors later.” Eventually, as a visual artist I asked her to show me what kind of blue is the blue chakra. “Oh, more of a turquoise? I can get into that.” I was trying to get a handle on it all. In Indian/Ayurvedic thought, chakras are the seven main centers or wheels of energy in our bodies that align up and down the spine. Read a more in depth explanation here.

Eventually, I got all the colors down in my visual meditation. I could remember the meanings of green, blue, indigo, and violet. However, I could not remember the meanings of the first three – red, orange, and yellow. Every time I would contemplate those areas and colors I would think, oh yeah, I have to look those up later. Years went by, and I didn’t look them up. My excuse to myself was that I was doing important work up there with green, blue, indigo and violet and that I couldn’t really take on anymore.

Finally, I thought of these missing pieces when I wasn’t meditating. I looked them up, and guess what! Well, I was shocked that I had been missing these important areas because I really needed to strengthen them!

I don’t wear yellow or gold a lot, and I wasn’t thinking about the solar plexus on this particular day as I put my outfit together, but as soon as I saw the photos – while still sitting on the beach – I got so excited because I wondered if maybe I had subconsciously chosen to wear all these pieces of yellow because I had been really focusing on the solar plexus for the past three weeks in my meditations. Then, the idea occurred to me that one could purposely dress to focus on a certain chakra. Even more exciting! Oh, the powers we have! The possibilities!

In short, the solar plexus – the yellow part of the chakra system – is about your personal power, your perception of who you are. I feel it is best explained here. I found a different site where one healing strategy is to surround yourself with more yellow, so why not wear it?

I had been feeling a pang of anxiety in this spot every 30 minutes or so for a couple days when I decided to look into this chakra. Once I knew what it was all about, the fact that I was feeling something there totally made sense based on what was going on in my life. During the school year I had been very focused on being open to messages about where my journey was taking me professionally for months. Then, as my busiest teaching season started (summer), I stopped asking. I stopped listening. Sure enough, as soon as the workload lessoned, I felt this pang of anxiety in that spot just below my ribcage. It was like someone ringing a doorbell. I also started to notice 11:11 everywhere. That had not happened for a while. Even the cashier at Trader Joe’s said, “Hey, I’ve never seen this before!” He showed me my receipt, and there it was. The total was $111.11. Wow. Read more about 11:11 here, to see if these interpretations resonate with you.

As soon as I educated myself about the solar plexus, followed some of the ideas I found about how to strengthen this area (through meditation, writing,  yoga), the anxiety went away. A couple of days of focus, and I dropped the ball, and the little doorbell started ringing again. So, I got back on track. With this area strengthened, I had the courage to do more space clearing in my life, see with more clarity what I want to put my energy into, and have been able to attract opportunities aligned with my goals. Today I am wearing yellow again… and I feel like I am right where I need to be.

Chakra dressing. Who knew? Now, my closet being color coded makes even more sense! If you try putting your outfit together based on what chakra you are focusing on, let me know in the comments. I’d love to know if you feel it makes a difference for you.

Photographs by Evan Hartzell

Umbrella from Chinatown, Los Angeles – similar here, sweater is thrift store find (Forever 21), skirt is by Carolina, bag by Bee, Bark, & Moss.