Travel Inspiration: My Crazy Life In Textiles

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7 years ago I graduated from Seattle Pacific University with a four year Degree in Journalism. But something I don’t talk about very much is that my initial major was actually Apparel Design (it then became my minor). Clothing and textiles have fascinated me for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been sewing them together into my own designs since I was 5 years old. The daughter of a seamstress, it’s not shocking that I would have an interest in sewing or design. But as I’ve grown older I’ve become more and more interested in the cultures behind the textiles I’m drawn to.

I have a pretty broad ethnic heritage, so there’s a lot to draw off within my own family history. But more than anything, I love seeing the history and stories of textiles when I’m traveling. When I was in Scotland, a couple months ago, I was mesmerized by the National Museum‘s textile exhibits in Edinburgh. If you haven’t been, I would highly suggest visiting, especially if you have an interest in fashion, textiles or the history of women’s clothing.

This week I thought it would be fun to do a bit more research into some of my favorite textile trends. All of these textiles are from cultures that I’m descended from, and they’re each very important to me. The beauty of being tri-racial (it’s a word, just go with it) is that I get to enjoy all of these beautiful cultures, simultaneously. Luckiest girl? I like to think so.

 

Scandinavia (Denmark and Norway) 
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If you know me you know that I love floral patterns more than life. Maybe it has to do with my hippy 4-H childhood, or maybe just my love for nature and the beauty of plant life, but I have too many floral dresses in my closet to count. I’ll attribute some of this, from the artistic point of view, to the Scandinavian side of my family.

My mom’s side of the family is very proud (like seriously, they never stop talking about it) Norwegian and Dane. I haven’t been to Norway before, but I did go to Denmark about a month ago and I guess I kind of understand the hype, now. After all, it’s literally one of the happiest places on earth. Another great way of experiencing a “next best thing to authentic” Scandinavian experience, for those of you in the PNW, is for your to visit the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle. Like seriously, it’s amazing and definitely worth carving our a few hours to walk through.

Cherokee and Muscogee (Creek) Nations

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It’s probably not shocking to you that Native American textiles are something that can (and probably will) take your breath away. They’re some of the oldest and most brilliant designs we know of, and I’m proud that this is a part of my heritage. Native American textiles have always been something I’ve been in love with, and it’s a large part of my personal style, as well as the aesthetic I bring to my art. I love bold colors, and I love intricate details that take hours and hours and hours to complete.

Although I’m quite a bit Native American, these are the cultures I talk about the least. There’s a reason for that. Since I was raised in the Pacific Northwest, with my mom’s family, I haven’t had as much exposure to a lot of my southern roots. Ethnically, however, I have DNA ties back to both Cherokee and Muscogee (Creek) tribes.

 

African American 

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African American heritage, of course, is a mixture of African culture and the resources that were available in the land slaves were brought to. While it’s harder to pinpoint specific designs as being part of my family’s history, there has always been a part of me in love with the intricate simplicity behind designs I do have access to. African designs, as well, are something I love, especially the boldness of of the textiles. As a seamstress is the culture of quilts and quilting and storytelling has also captivated me from childhood. Although I am definitely “beginner status” I love quilting, and if I had more time it would definitely make into my life, more.

I may not be able to trace my roots back to exact spots in Africa (yet), but I am able to love and reflect on the culture that arose from the ashes of slavery.

 

Have a favorite textile, pattern or period of clothing? Comment in the section below and let me know! 

6 of the Best Style Tips I Learned from France

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A little known fact about me is that I have a degree in fashion design. I don’t usually talk about it because in the professional world I don’t use those skills as much, but I grew up making clothes and sewing and I’ve always loved style. I also grew up watching entirely too many black and white movies, so I have a soft spot for classy clothing and pearl earrings. 1950’s Paris *sigh*. When I lived in France one of the parts that I loved was seeing all of the beautiful European style. I would have loved it more if I was making any amount of money close to a salary so I could buy any of these clothes, but not having the income to splurge made me vastly more aware of the trends and how I would apply them to my own life, once I got back into a position to. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

shoppingSimplicity is Queen
One of the most beautiful things about living in France was how simple the style and lifestyle is. Now it’s important to note that we’re not talking Scandinavian minimalism (although I’m sure there are houses that follow that) but the French have a clean, yet intricate, attention to detail that I absolutely adore. I love the minimalism, mixed with color and patterns and my heart was won over by the beautiful patterns that you can find in so many homes.

Pearls Solve a Multitude of Sins
Having a bad day? Not feeling like feeling you’re usual classy self? Throw on some pearl stud earrings! This is one of my favorite style hacks because it makes me feel like Audrey Hepburn on days when I’m feeling more like Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street. And who doesn’t want to look like Audrey? No hands? I didn’t think so. Not ready to throw down on real pearls? I’ve found some really great pairs of studs at Nordstrom that do the trick, while on a budget.

Mix and Max

You’re probably thinking that the French spend millions each year on clothing. And, of course, for some you’re probably right. But some of the classiest women I ever met taught me the very important lesson to mixing where you shop. This means you may have a designer wool peacoat, but your t-shirt is from Abercrombie. This lesson taught me that it’s not just about what you’re wearing, it’s about how you’re wearing it. And another key is to buy quality, over quantity. When you do splurge, splurge on statement pieces that are going to last you years. There’s a really great book I have called Paris Chic that does a great job of outlining Parisian and French fashion. Your wardrobe will thank you for the $1.99 you spent buying it.

Treat Yourself
The French know how to pamper themselves, and I don’t mean going out and coming back with a carload of clothes charged on their credit card. I mean lotions, bubble baths and perfumes. I mean those things that make you feel like gold – even with nothing on. Spending the extra dollars to buy quality skin care products is worth it. Treat yourself, and your body, by investing in some bath salts or some soothing lotions. You’ll be surprised how lovely you feel without even needing to spend money on clothes.

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Scarves
If there’s one style tip that I’m so glad I learned when living in France, it’s the beauty of scarves. From light and airy to bulky and bold, scarves aren’t really something I invested in before I lived in Europe. But I’m definitely now riding the scarf train! A great scarf can not only double your options on a simple sweater, they’re a lot less expensive than buying a whole new wardrobe. And they’re warm. I’m all about the warm. I’ve found some of my favorites at Nordstrom (because, despite popular opinion, Nordstrom isn’t always crazy expensive, if you know the right places to look), but I also love to buy them at World Market.

Kids Wear
One of the cutest things about living in France was definitely the children. The child style goals I now have are insanely high. Like, I kind of want to fly to France yearly so that I can dress my future children. Yeah, that bad. The cute little animals, the cute little patterns. All of it. If you’re looking to replicate all the cuteness (or just see what I’m talking about), you can type in “French kids clothing” in Pintrest and envy away, or hop over to Petit Bateau which has a U.S. website but totally French kids style. J’adore.

Paris Fashion 2015: Gentlemen

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Round 2 for Paris fashion – this one’s for the boys! Parisian guys in their 20s dress pretty similar to guys in Seattle, but there are a few tweaks that are pretty “French.” Like I said, there isn’t any way that I could all encompass everything a city of millions wears, but these are the trends that I’m noticing while I’m walking the streets of Paris on a day to day basis. So here we go, gentlemen!

1. Scarves: Guys and dolls alike all rock scarves in France. Whether it’s a earth tone neutral, a subtle print or a pop of color, the scarf is something you hardly ever leave the house without. There are several ways one can tie a scarf, gentlemen – for further instructions, though, I refer you to one of my personal favorite websites: The Art Of Manliness.

2. Shoes: As far as shoes goes, the key is to make sure they’re of good quality and well made. Whether they’re a sneaker, a dress shoe (oh my word – there are some beautiful dress shoes in this country) or a pair of leather boots, just make sure they’re in great condition (that doesn’t mean new, it means shined, oiled etc.). Grubby is not the way of the Parisian man.

3. Shirts: Graphic t-shirts are acceptable, if you’re mixing them with some nice jeans, but the print needs to be a high quality and have some kind of illustrative narrative. Use your intuition when you’re choosing these tees! Make sure they aren’t screaming for attention, but are commanding it nonetheless. Remember: “Try your best without looking like you ever tried.”  *You get extra points if you grab one with an “ironic” American flag on it.

4. Sweaters: Sweaters are a staple of your wardrobe that you’re able to wear year after year. Not only are they a trendy choice, but can add some patterns to your wardrobe. Don’t look for your Bill Cosby inspired soulmate, though (as charming as that might sound) – grab that pattern in a neutral charcoal or beige. Another great option is a pop of color such as a solid red or turquoise.

5. Turtlenecks: Yep. It’s on here. You knew it was coming. French men are not afraid of turtlenecks, and they wear them proudly. Whether this lightweight style buddy is standing alone as your outfit top, or it’s matched with a sweater over it, you’ll be well on your way to dressing like a Parisian with a couple of these in your wardrobe.

6. Button-ups: First things first: Grab a pink one. As with the turtleneck, you must not be afraid to sport the pink shirt if you’re going to rock the Parisian style. Other great button-ups can include denim, and smaller prints and patterns.

7. Coats: Peacoats right now are pretty popular, the key is to have them fit like a glove. Oversized is not an option. Colors are generally dark blue, black or gray. The leather jacket (of course) is a must have for your wardrobe, but we’re not talking biker tasseled vintage model. Again, you might have to throw down some cash to get the right fit, but the nice thing about leather is that once you commit it’s until death do you part.

8. Blazer: Tastefully mixing business wear and casual wear is a trend that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. The “tasteful” part means making sure your pants, jeans though they may be, are fitted and pull together your outfit, rather than distracting from it. And speaking of pants…

9. Pants: Go ahead and stick with a jean, but why not try a pop of color with that jean!? Red? Turquoise? Green? One of each? Colored jeans are definitely a thing, although I’m seeing them a little less now, while they seemed to be more popular a few months ago. If you’re not up for the colored jean, you can grab a dark wash pair but it is going to need to be fitted. And if you’re REALLY daring, grab a pair of skinny jeans – no, not paint on tight, but just a bit tighter than a straight leg. You’re not trying to mimic your high school emo days.

10. Bags: Messenger bags, canvas or leather are THE thing to have. Parisian men carry bags a lot more than I’m used to seeing in the U.S., but why shouldn’t they!? Men have things to carry, right? So why not have a great briefcase style handbag or crossover bag to carry them!

Notice some other Paris mens trends that I’ve missed? Write them below in the comments box!

Paris Fashion 2015: Ladies

26756e31dbc5e4d431c5df96f9e0eaa2So, you want to dress like a Parisian? Well great, because I happen to live in Paris and  LOVE fashion (so much that I have a college degree in it). Living in Paris has been such a struggle (#firstworldproblems) because I love fashion, but I am/will be absolutely broke while I’m living here. So no Paris shopping sprees for me, as much as I would love to. (That being said, I have bought a few choice items that I’ll love forever.)

Today when I was sitting on the metro, drooling over a girl’s shoes, I thought: People probably want to know what’s going on for this side of the pond, right!? So, from one fashion addict to another, I’ve decided to fulfill your dreams and desires. At least, from my perspective. There are obviously a lot of different clothing choices, and it’s hard to just make a “quick list” of everything, but here are some of the items/trends that I see on a day to day basis!

1. Scarves: The stereotype about Europeans wearing scarves is true, and I’m so glad. A scarf is one way to throw in a print, a different texture or just some fun into your outfit, and the French are great at it! Since French people generally seem to spend more money on statement items, scarves are also a great way to inexpensively add new flavor to an otherwise neutral colored outfit! And speaking of statement items…

2. Leather Jacket: Let’s talk leather jackets! Oh my word. Everyone has one, and they are BEAUTIFUL. I’m absolutely in love with leather in general, but I love the jackets that are effortlessly thrown over a spring dress or a cute flowy top. It is my firm belief that buying a well fitting leather jacket is a kind of rite of passage into womanhood (I do acknowledge my animal rights friends who won’t like this – but it’s my opinion, sorry!).

3. Boots: The trends that I’m seeing a lot of right now, in Paris, are ankle boots of every style though mostly black and brown. Again, leather (bien sûr!). I love that the French keep fashion simple while using detailing to tell their fashion story, instead of overindulging in frills and whistles (save that for the buildings). Another thing on the hot item list are simple leather riding boots (generally a lighter brown) that are knee high. Trending: Timberland logger style boots – try them with some floral skinnies for a soft and sweet/kick ass style punch. And speaking of skinnies…

4. Jeans: Skinny jeans are here to stay…at least for now. The twenty something Parisian woman has dark colored jeans that fit just right. You can tell that she’s spent the time and money to find her brand and her fit. I’ve heard that 70s bell bottoms are coming back, but I haven’t seen them on the streets, yet. I have, however started to see the return of the overall – talk about 90s flashback.

5. Phone Cases: Whether it’s an iPhone or a different smart phone, the case is another accessory that just can’t be ignored. Just think how often you’re pulling that out every day!? The cases I’m seeing are generally geometric with a neutral color or solid with a pop of color. While prints don’t seem to be as popular, there are some minimalist ones  I’ve seen that I love.

6. Nails: Speaking of the hands that are holding that trendy phone, French nails are well kept – although not as overly done as to look it. If there’s one motto for French style it’s:

“Try your best without looking like you ever tried.”

Either keep the color a solid dark dramatic, a pastel spring shade or natural with just a clear coat of polish. No patterns, no crazy long fakes. Work what you’ve got, lady!

7.  Headphones: If you’re riding the metro and want even a chance of hearing that latest indie song you’ve been waiting to get released, you’re going to need a good pair of headphones, and for many French women (and men!) that means grabbing a pair of Beats By Dre. Once again, these are quite the deposit piece, but quality over price? You decide.

8. Purse: Shoulder bags (dare I say it – leather?) and canvas totes are the most common purses that I see walking the streets of Paris. Whether it’s a cute screen print or just a basic tote, canvas book bags are very popular right now for the 20-something Parisian. As for handbags, they run across the scale, but are generally another piece that is invested in.

9. Sunglasses: Black, darling. Always black. Whether it’s a cat eye or a circle lens, black sunglasses are classic and may never go out of style. On Paris streets they’re almost exclusively worn, and it’s unlikely you’ll find other colors or designs nearly as much.

10. Hair: The French do, I’ll admit, have a better hold on hair than Americans. Why? Because they just let it be. Yes some dye it, or do other little tweaks, but as a whole hair here is loved as is, and I love that. The key to French hair is to take care of the hair you have. Whether that means moisturizing, having a great hair cut or shaving it down short the French own their gorgeous locks and that’s a love you can’t help but have rub off on you.

Have some Paris fashion trends you’ve noticed!? Add them in the message box below!

French Favorites For The Week

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1. Fashion Icon: Juliette Gréco

“Still more will remember the pared-down look invented by this muse of Saint-Germain-des-Prés: sheathed in black, her doe eyes rimmed with kohl, her bangs and long black hair framing her pale face and expressive hands. It has been inspiring girls with artistic aspirations for over six decades.” – Vogue August 2014

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2. Cédric Klapisch series: L’auberge espangnole, Poupées Russe, et Casse Tête Chinois 

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This is one of my favorite series of all time. The movies are made over quite a bit of time and show the lives and progressions of a group of student/young adults/adults. Filled with just the right amount of humor, drama, romance and real life experiences they are HIGH on my list of suggested watch, regardless of if you speak French. (They’re easy to find with English subtitles – Amazon has them to stream/buy!)

3. Miley v. Joan of Arc (aka Jeanne d’Arc)

Have you ever watched “Epic Rap Battles Of History” on Youtube? Ok, so this isn’t strictly French, but it does have Joan of Arc in it (aka The Maiden of Orleans, France – where I’ll be going to school). It’s definitely ridiculous and satirical, so watch at your own risk…of dying from laughter.

4. Bla Bla Car

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This is a resource that the French girl Couchsurfing with me right now told me about! Traveling around France can be expensive, and I’m going to pretty much have a budget of nothing while I live there, so it’s going to be really important for me to have little life hacks like this one that I can use to see the country without spending all of my savings. Example: Riding the train from where I live (one way) to Paris is about $40…ride sharing is about $15. So glad I found out about this!

5.  Normandie Armada Festival

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Today I just found out about this festival that happens every four years (the next one is going to be in 2019) where old ships all gather along with millions of people on the coast of Normandy! Definitely on my bucket list.

6. Leboncoin.fr

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Another great resource for the young, broke and not yet famous, I’m really excited about using this website (which is a lot like the French version of Craigslist) to find some necessities at a more accessible for my soon to be financial stays (aka broke).

7. Nolwenn Leroy

My bohemian self is in love with these videos and Nolwenn in general. I’m especially fond of these songs because they’re kind of like a mix of Irish/Scottish music + French which may be the most perfect combination ever.

(Only two more weeks until France!!)