Category Archives: Thrifting

Create Your World

See those hands?  That’s how I feel about asking someone if I can take their photo. I have always been drawn to street fashion photography ever since I used to peruse  magazines at a local Japanese bookstore. That’s where I first became aware of it. I was excited by the curated windows into everyday people’s style on the street. Eventually, in the mid-00’s I would see these street style blogs popping up, not to mention Bill Cunningham’s work in newspapers and magazines prior to that.The blogs brought it more to my attention and they were INTERNATIONAL. Stockholm, Helskinki, Mexico City, Kingston. It became a merry-go-round of looks unique to those hoods.  So, why the hesitation to participate in such a happening trend? Maybe it’s shyness. Maybe I think people will feel like I’m stealing their souls — or, that I just won’t take a good photo of them! I mean, I have more confidence taking photos of objects. My first attempt was when I met a particularly stylish woman at a friend’s party. Vintage 60’s hostess dress. Jewelry she made herself. Her makeup was so Elizabeth Taylor from Cleopatra days. Oh, man. Anyway, the photos came out dark and her dress was all wrinkled — not in a good way. So, I didn’t try again. I blamed it on not having business cards to give out. I did start taking photos of family members which served as a warm up. I was comfortable with them; they would even take direction.  Friends were a different story, though. You know, “I’m coming over to take your picture. No, don’t worry about your outfit (But of course, you’ll look stunning because you always do, but no pressure, really).”  In my coffee post I got some practice with strangers. “Can I take a picture of you doing latte art? I mean I’m advertising the café and everything!” No problem, they replied. It was easier than I thought.  This post is yet another baby step. I could totally try to trick you and say, “Oh, yeah. I came across this really striking woman in a parking lot. I don’t know anything about her, but doesn’t she look amazing??” But then, enough friends read this blog that know her and would ask me, “What are you trying to pull, Laura? Isn’t that our friend? ”  Did you see what just happened there? She turned around and there was THAT. The outfit that slays as it walks away. I personally need more bustles in my life. Thanks, for letting me practice my street photography on you, Kai. I did just run into her on the street, but in all telepathic honesty I did wish upon a morning star that she would be at the meeting I was attending. Here, I was leaving the meeting and she was arriving. And in all skill-crutch honesty, I took none of these photos. Evan was with me and he has a DEGREE in photography. And lastly, in all historical honesty, one time Kai and I made an elaborate plan to meet at the art museum and do a whole photo shoot relating a great piece of art to an outfit she would wear. But she was like, “Ah, I realized I don’t work that way. Too much thinking.”  I do a lot of thinking with my outfits, OBVIOUSLY. I really enjoy it. Kai says she just goes into her closet every morning and is like a painter with a palette. If it doesn’t work right away she just adds more. I love the description of that process. I love it’s honest simplicity. Ha.I could go on and on about Kai’s style. Every time I see her it’s a treat. It’s not just her vibrant personality, humor, intellect, and childlike curiosity (she’s always learning something new)… it’s her excellent outfits! Yes, they make me think of poetic mystery and romantic epic adventures, but also they are a reminder to be myself in every aspect of my life. Yes, an outfit can do that. While she is in the intuitive moment every morning as she faces her “palette”, she is always true to herself. She wears her spirit on the outside. More of that.   

Jacket by TBA. Skirt vintage, by Penelope. Under t no label. Bag by Fatface. Boots by Florentini + Baker.

All photos by Evan Hartzell.

New Music Merch Equals New Purse

        I’ve mentioned before on Clothes Stories that I speak many languages. One of those languages is music. k-blamo is a music project I do with Evan Hartzell, and I always say that it sounds like music from another planet. At least that is how it sounds to me. This makes me sound like a juggler of many hats or however you say it, but really I’m not. Evan does all the music, says, “Can we record vocals tonight?”, “Hmmm… I don’t know, ” I say (an embarrassment of riches, I tell you) or maybe I say, “Yeah, that sounds good.” and then maybe it still doesn’t happen. Eventually, though, I say, “Let’s do this!” Then, all I have to do is grab a notebook, the appropriate writing tool (more on THAT later) sit in the most comfortable, paint splattered, leather chair, and listen to the track. As I listen, I see things, and I let the words flow out on to the paper. Finish that, and boom; we hit record on that mic. Melody or spoken word, I just go with whatever I hear. Not thinking is key. I think enough with other languages I speak. Then, Evan does all that cool stuff with his machines to make it an actual song. Then, I get to enjoy the listening of that.

So, we got a new EP coming out April 25th called neptune. EP means five songs, and I’m really excited about the way these songs all go together. I think neptune is a perfect name (credit goes to Evan on that one) for this set of tunes — ha, ha; just noticed that — because like I said, it sounds like a transmission from a far off land be it in the deep sea or a mysterious planet. As it goes with new music, the “merch” as they call the merchandise related to the tour or record in the music industry, lands before the actual music. In this case, the merch is now my new purse. It’ s actually smaller in person. The bag is about 13″ x 13″, kind of squishy, and I love how the image appears to wrap around it. Nice photo on the bag, Evan! You might recognize the outfit on the bag from this post — a great example of connecting those different languages. You can order one here. There’s also t shirts!  I’ll be posting a link to the actual music when it drops, but for now if you are k-blamo curious you can check out past recordings, short films here.

For now, let’s look inside my bag. I don’t know about you, but I love when people show us what is in their bag that they carry around. It is like a mini portrait of the inside of their life/head/heart or something. You can learn so much about a person. Learn something about one of my favorite writers here.

Sweater by Costco (no, I’m serious. It’s says, “Kirkland” on it), jeans by Levi’s, shoes vintage

All photos by Evan Hartzell

Bladerunner Teen D.J.

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Plastic stars in lantern nights,

The blue and white and neon lights,

Liquid in the flowing pipes,

Mist my eyes the sounds are loud,

Cold the air my hands withstand,

I yearn,

I yearn to be,

I see the signs,

See the signs and dream,

When the music makes my ears,

The sky,

Darker white then the early morning,

Fear to touch,

Touch the ground,

For I might,

Pick up to have found,

A thing a fear of past steps there,

And smile not upon their sight,

For shadowed face and pocket hands,

They keep me safe,

I wish for sand,

Oh I may live to breath the air,

Air of sea that the sun dearly loves,

And find to me that I am to be loved,

Streaking lights and dizzy stars,

On a day there shall be,

A shining star.

-Aristotle Hartzell, 2017

Is he the teen d.j. for the 1984 original or for the 2017 sequel? And what music will he spin? For the original it would surely be this, whereas for the sequel it may be this.

All photos by Evan Hartzell.

Suit jacket by Topman, customized by Aristotle. Wind breaker by Patagonia. Cords by Old Navy. Socks by Uniqlo. Shoes by Fashion.

Play Clothes

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If there is a movement to make workout clothes actually stylish, I am totally behind it. Oiselle is one company that makes running wear that makes me want to jump around like a little kid and play… ahem, I mean do yoga. Love that vinyasa flow! On my old blog I wrote about hiking in a skirt.  I mentioned how I would even run in a skirt when I was helping out at my sons’ cross country practice. Now that I think of it even rock climbing! So, I have a history of trying to dress up my more active activities.

And then there is the fact that I have this real serious aversion to any kind of dress conformity. I thought it came from growing up in the OC, but since my 15 year old son says, “My dream is that one day I will walk through a crowd and people will turn and whisper to each other, ‘That man is not of this world?'”, then that can’t be the reason since he didn’t grow up there. I mean, one of my uncles wore a purple suit to my wedding! It must be in the genes. Even if I go get a pair of yoga pants at Old Navy from the sale rack (totally trying so hard to avoid fast fashion. I’m 90 percent there, I swear!), they have to be the weirdest purple spider web ones I can find.

I’m also pretty hardcore about serving the earth. Not like these guys, but I try to avoid adding to our landfills. I minimize driving. I use nontoxic cleaners. So the thing is, I love the stretchiness of these kinds of clothes. Even the pants pictured here, while they come from a fancy thrift store, have a little stretch in them – which means they can never be composted! Yes, you can compost your clothes. This is the kind of thing I think about. Like the zero waste queen says, “my 5R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot (and only in that order)”. So, according to those guidelines, this is how we would approach the workout wear. These are just suggestions for dialoguing with yourself and others. You may adjust to fit your situation.

•Refuse… “Uh, I don’t really need another pair of yoga pants. No thank you.” Or “I don’t need a bag for my new/second hand yoga pants.” I always smile after I say this so I feel and share the accomplishment of refusing a bag. Ha.

•Reduce… “Okay, I’ve made a commitment to three pairs of yoga pants. I don’t need six. I mean, come on. And also the ones I picked aren’t going to fall apart in a few months.”

•Reuse… “Hey, one of my pairs of leggings are kind of faded and have a hole so I don’t want to wear them with skirts any more so… yoga pants!”

•Recycle… “Omg, Patagonia has this bin where you can actually give them your old Patagonia and they will make it into blankets and such. Seriously.”

•Rot… “Once upon a time there was a 100% cotton pair of yoga pants and it went into my compost bin. So, now the yoga pants are helping to make really great soil for the tomatoes and such!”

Epic win at work out wear that’s fun to wear. I hoped you enjoyed this break from caring about important stuff! (winning smile as I walk away with no bag)

All photos by Evan Hartzell

Hat by Roxy. Top by Oiselle. Earrings vintage. Pants are thrift store H&M. Belt is Esprit (Seriously!). Shoes by Dansco.

A Steady Glow

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Me and my friends are turning 50.

Well, I have a few more years, but I have this weird thing where I tend to embrace my future age and think I am that age already. I know I should live in the present, but 50 sounds REALLY COOL. It sounds like silver, chandeliers, and the best champagne. It sounds like Italian masquerade balls, leather jackets paired with feathered skirts. Am I the only one thinking this? I’ve been going to girlfriends’ fiftieth birthday parties lately, and I feel like we are all the same age. So, the conversation about women and age continues. It evolves.

50. I can feel it calling me. All that stuff people say about, “Well, then you don’t care about what people think. You finally do what you were afraid to do before. You just don’t give a f%@#*&!” must be true because I can feel that attitude seeping into my brain already. Yay.

So, my friend Anne-Marie was getting ready to celebrate this magic year and she decided to clean out her closet in honor of this birthday. Excellent. I may have mentioned before that luckily people think of me when they decide to clean out their closets. The fact that I benefit so much from people’s closet clean outs is just encouragement to everyone to broadcast your passion. Your enthusiasm for what you love just makes people want to throw whatever that is at you. Be ready to catch!

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The loot.

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The sad emptiness. You know, when you’re moving, and eventually it has to look like this.

Just to add drama to the birthday closet clean out, Anne-Marie and her family were also moving out of their beautiful old Spanish style house by the sea. It was a happy move, really, but you know how moves always bring up the past. You have to actually look at each object you own, consider it, see if it’s going to make the cut to the future, as the house gets emptier and emptier, all the life going out of it with each box that’s packed.

The house had an in between feel the day I arrived. It wasn’t packed with life, art, textures and color like it had been in the past. Now it had some of the family’s stuff left mixed in with some items that weren’t theirs, but belonged to the stagers.

The morning light was still beautiful though, coming through the old rounded iron paned windows. The elegant bones of the house could not be denied. Anne-Marie greeted me with her welcoming smile at the door. Her warm brown eyes, graceful ease always reminded me of a deer – quietly contemplating as she glides through a forest. We climbed up to her and her husband’s bedroom on the second floor. There was already a pile of inviting clothes on the bed for me to look at. Every time I went through one pile, she brought out more from the closet. I actually dream this exact situation regularly. Literally. While I’m sleeping. That kind of dream. All the while, as I sifted through clothes, making a stack for yes, a stack for no, and a stack for my friend Lissa because it turned out they had VERY similar taste in clothes, we talked.

The sunny poet in a blouse she kept.

The sunny poet in a blouse she kept.

We talked about why she bought that dress that she never wore. “Because I was in the shop and I just felt like I needed something new. I don’t shop a lot. So I picked that. And it was never right on me.” We talked about why she didn’t relate to certain items. “Too girlish, you know?” And we talked about turning 50. “I realized I’m not the young girl anymore,” referring to a pale pink skirt. Of course, we were looking at all the items she was done with. We were not looking at what she was now embracing. So, the conversation, the process was about letting go. Letting go so one can embrace what’s next.

I love what came next.

“And so, my birthday was approaching and I was really thinking about it, and dealing with this moment. Around that time, I decided to go through and read all the poems I had written since my first daughter was born. I read all of them. And you know, reading them really made me feel good. I love my life. I have a great husband. Great girls. Good friends. My life is good.” She said all of this with a measured, reflective tone. I could tell she had really thought about it. I felt like we were in a very important scene in a movie, where all is being resolved.

It was then that I knew that I had to do a Clothes Story about Anne-Marie. I loved that she had already been writing poetry about being a woman, a mother, about aging. I loved that her closet clean out was one way to eventually accept and celebrate who she was now.

In the weeks that followed I sent Lissa her loot (What great fun for her to come home from her HONEYMOON to) and had fun integrating my new items into my outfits. The sweater below is on constant rotation. As is this skirt.

Me, having fun at my kid's school sport extravagalooza. No, I was really having fun. There was an In n' Out Truck and my outfit was so Russian Fairytale thanks to Anne-Marie.

Me, having fun at my kid’s school sport extravagalooza. No, I was really having fun. There was an In n’ Out Truck and my outfit was so Russian Fairytale thanks to Anne-Marie.

Oh, yeah and I really lucked out with this dress from Anne-Marie’s closet. Here, I am a Spanish actress who has dreams of having a spiritual transformation in northern New Mexico. Very High Heels without the high heels because I can’t really wear high heels.

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And so I ask you this: Have you ever had to let go of some past version of yourself in a closet clean out? Tell us now. Who was she, and why were you finished with her?

Sweater by Love 21. Cardigan by matty m. Dress by Bailey 44. Thunderbird necklace is from the dreamland. Earrings are vintage (Taxco, Mexico).

All photos of me 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.

 

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.