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Archive for the ‘Inspire’ Category

My chosen feminist style icon

02 Mar
beach, smoking

Sitting together at the beach

As a child I had very strong likes and dislikes. My propensity for all things bright and colorful turned my mother into a very concerned citizen. I’m only paraphrasing slightly when I say that she would swear I dressed myself up like a Christmas tree when left to my own devices, having taken after my grandmother, the family magpie. I realize now that the analogy of the Christmas tree must have made more sense in French because it doesn’t really hold much drama when uttered in English.

That said, she meant I had too great of an enthusiasm for color and textures to meet the criteria of a lady, classy and tasteful. She had me pegged right. I still think fondly of my mémé Nadia (Najla) Bittar as my inspiration with regards to fashion. Stories of her eccentric behavior and questionable moral fiber flit about here and there, as a child I knew a very different woman.

It was 1972, a Parisian living in Lebanon. She was a woman who would not rely on a single man, she lived a fabulous life. The rose pink baroque velvet sofa, the glass-topped dining table and chandelier, the fox stole, the sequined dresses. Last but not least, the caribou bedroom slippers with the kitten heel. As child of five I was mesmerized by the magical natural of this opulence. Oh, my mémé must have been Liberace’s fantasy muse. She was a free spirit and she never turned down anything that glittered or shined.

She traveled and brought back trinkets from faraway places, she regaled tales with the theatrical intensity of Gloria Swanson, one captivating story after another. While adults might have tsk’ed-tsk’ed, she was my hero. Dressed to the nines every time she left the house, she drank Johnny Walker Red, smoked unfiltered Lucky Strikes, straightened and bleached her curly black hair blond, outfitted her golden arms and fingers in costume jewelry and wore a lot of heavy eye make-up.

She carried herself with a glamour to inspire and mesmerize the young and innocent. She broke every rule about the expectations of women’s roles along the way. I’m not saying everything she did was right but she certainly did it her own way. While no one may have ever heard of her, Nadia Bittar is my chosen feminist style icon.

Check out these additional contributing Fashionable Feminist Icon posts for inspiration:
Hedy Lamarr – Adventures in Refashioning

Björk – Oranges and Apples

Christine Lagarde– Rags Against the Machine

Cindy Sherman – Mrs Bossa Does the Do

Claude Cahun – Cervixosaurus

Diane Von Furstenberg – For Those About to Shop

Elizabeth Smith Miller – Techie Style

Ellen Page – SK{ru}SH

Frida Kahlo – La Historiadora de Moda from Fashionable Academics

Frida Kahlo – Knitting Up the Ravelled Sleeve of Care

Gloria Steinem – Ef for Effort

Gloria Steinem – What If No-One’s Watching?

Gloria Trevi – Feministified

Grandmother – The House in the Clouds

Griselda Pollock – Magic Square Foundation

Marjane Satrapi – Jean of all Trades

Joan of Arc – Interrobangs Anonymous

Julia de Burgos – Mad Dress Game

Margaret Cho – What Are Years?

Rachel Carson – Aly en France

Siouxsie Sioux – Yo Ladies

Sydney Fox – My Illustrative Life

Vivienne Westwood – Seamstress Stories

 
 

Favorite body parts

26 Jan
A windy morning in the hills
The thrifted scarf was such a find

What is your definition of beautiful?



Merriam-Webster states: The quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the sense or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.


A while back I read a thoughtful post on body image by Sal, from Already Pretty, which brought back to mind a topic of conversation I’d had this summer with some friends. When it comes to our personal assessment of beautiful it can be fleeting and subjective. How do we define our beauty? Is it spirit? Is it physical? Is it emotional? Can it be contained? It is likely to be all of those things and more.

I challenge each and every one of you to assess yourself; how are you defining your beauty? We are bombarded with how-to’s, tips, tricks, fixes and examples of ways to improve. One can’t improve upon something that does not exist; how can we define our beauty when there are so many messages reinforcing the ways with which we are falling short and require outside interference?

How are you using your eyes and mind to view yourself? Are they kind?

As I age I find myself navigating different phases of my body, mind and heart. Fascination has slowly replaced negative association. Nurturing has replaced self-deprecation. It has taken years to get here; it is not foolproof. We all have our days, after all. If we were to throw away every metric we use to judge physical beauty, would we still find the tonal changes of skin that come with age undesirable or would it just be different?

Different.

We strive to be unique and yet we want to belong. This is another example of an “either/or” scenario that clearly functions better as an “and”. After all, we’re just human. I checked in with some of my favorite humans not too long ago and asked them to share with me their favorite body parts. I asked that they not waste space in this post with humility, excuses or deflection; just name it.

I was impressed with the amount of attributes each person shared. We all inherently like certain, if not many, things about our bodies yet we’ve been conditioned to focus on the negatives. There’s a misconception out there that liking and appreciating ourselves is the great evil that is vanity. Here’s a sampling of what I heard, starting with my own.

“My butt. There, I said it. The shelf. It’s round! I like my skin, especially as it changes. I like the color and I have inverted freckles now, there’s a pattern of three on my right arm that always makes me think of dominos. I like my eyes and my smile. When I smile I feel more attractive. I get freckles and age spots on my face that one of my friends said looked like a heart shape. I like that! I love my legs, they’re really strong. I like my stomach area, too. And my hair. It’s naturally unruly but behaves really well with a little love” – Fabienne

“My moles. A lucky-placed one left and above my lip, a-la Marilyn, and three that form a triangle above my heart. My face. I use it all the time! It’s so expressive & zany ^,.^ The skin on my back and arms.  I’ve been told it’s soft, and therefore I get pet a lot by my friends and loved ones :)- Telene

“When it comes to describing just one particular body part that I like the most about me, I struggle to name one. Instead a number of body lines converging together come to my mind: especially the rear view of my arms, shoulders, hips and buns that melt together into my waistline. And as I’m writing this paragraph, I go through a list of my body parts again: hips, shoulders, arms, small of my back, my belly, etc. and  I’m realizing that, as a result of your survey, I’m getting closer to that ONE thing. So, I have to say that my waistline is my favorite body part because it is the place where my curvy hip and bun lines narrow down to a “deep valley” and then widen up again towards my shoulders and arms creating flowing curves of my female body. Now, put all that in motion with a sound of music and imagine it dancing!” – Barbie

“The obvious are my breasts. (Yes, I like them too) and my face, skin, eyes and hair.  I like my body shape as well although I tend to be critical about extra weight.  I like my hands and my fingers, feet and toes too. Wow. I didn’t realize I liked so much!” – Donna

“I like my hair, wrists, ankles and eyes. My hair (as you know) is wild and easy to wear. My wrists and ankles are actually fairly tiny and dainty. I need that since I’m fairly muscular (and round) and need the extra feminine touch. My eyes I’ve received compliments on over the years. Being almond shaped with brown into green (when exposed to the sun), they give me a little more of my Middle Eastern pizzazz-lol! Windows to my crazy soul!” – Ingrid


I have to admit I almost got teary-eyed reading my friends’ comments. I understand what a long road it was to get to this place of just liking who they were. I was surprised at my own list, I never thought it would contain so much. Did any of these comments resonate with you? Did any inspire you to see yourself differently? We’re never going to be completely above self-criticism but what if we changed the way we saw ourselves to be more realistic? What if we leveled our personal beauty playing field? 

Because you can dress it and undress and dress it back up again but you can’t detach yourself from your body. Why would we ever want to? The human body is an amazing organic machine. What are your favorite body parts? Make a mental or physical list and keep it handy. Refer to it every time you doubt yourself, any time you are comparing yourself to another. If you only make one resolution this year, change the way you see yourself before trying to change yourself.

There’s only one you: Fascinating, unique, one-of-a-kind beautiful you. I would love it if you shared with me and other readers what your favorite body parts are below. Say it loud and proud!

A special thanks to my girlfriends who made time in their busy schedules to participate. An additional thanks to Sal from Already Pretty for encouraging positive body image regularly. If you haven’t already checked out her site, I encourage you to do so.


Deets: Hot pink dress/H&M, scarf/thrifted, grey patterned tights/Hue, faux cowboy boots/ModCloth, silver belt/unknown, silver cuff and ring/Lois Hill, black gingko earrings/Braindrops.

 

 
 

Paying it forward, or giving back?

08 Jan
The view of Lake Tahoe at Diamond Peak is epic! 

Snowbunnies!

Last night, I grabbed my very first of three snowboards, a Burton Custom, and outfitted it with my friend’s bindings. I tracked back to everything I knew to make sure she would be set up optimally for where she is with her riding. This board is dear to me, it was the board that defined my commitment to the sport when I was still gripped with fear. This was a guy’s sport and I was thirty-two at the time. I made a financial investment, I owned my own gear. I wasn’t going to let anyone tell me I couldn’t do this.

I still didn’t really know anything other than I loved this sport. I had no idea that overcoming the fear of trusting my body and my gear would shape my confidence into the next decade. Today was a day I got to give back. After I set up the bindings, I dropped it off to get waxed so it would be ready to move into the next phase of its life. It had been gathering dust for a few years, I’d outgrown it a while back. I didn’t want to sell this board, I wanted to pass it on.

I spent the day on the mountain with my friend Donna. I followed her lines, we would stop and break, take a few pictures and discuss what to focus on next. I got to give back. Or pay forward. Does it matter? The heart doesn’t need justification.

There are moments in life where it’s more rewarding to give than to receive. The greatest gift is watching someone find their confidence, their fire. Seeing the light and joy in their eyes as they start discovering their potential. I had seen her potential a while back and knew at some point the time would be right for this. Today was the day.

I celebrate her potential, I celebrate our friendship. This friendship is not one-sided, this just happened to be my day to give back. Or pay forward.

Does it matter?

 

Shine your light on me

23 Dec
Wearing a green flower dress in my garden

This little number transitioned seamlessly from summer to winter

Owl necklace

Ode to Clash of The Titans

 

This morning I woke up at 4:15 a.m., coughing. Rather than putting my husband through the Hell that is your partner coughing incessantly next to you, I got out of bed, threw a zinc lozenge in my mouth and spent some quality time with my laptop.

I started thinking about the independent fashion and lifestyle community. How much support and kindness there is out there. I reflected back to a time when life was more competitive amongst women around me. When I was younger and I felt that any woman who had something interesting to offer was immediately a threat subject to character dissection until proven worthy of friendship. A dubious task at best. You can imagine how few made the cut.

It appalls me that this had been my reality. We all collect baggage on our path from toddler to young adult and into maturity. Some we inherit as it’s passed down from generation to generation. We’re also equipped with the ability to shed some of this baggage, which I happen to think is one of the most significant things about developing self-awareness and choosing our evolutionary path.

Who do you want to be? How are you getting there? Have you put an army of support together to help on your journey?

I wish I could tell all women, young and old, this truth: That there is room for all of us in the world to shine. That unity makes us stronger, that we can learn from each other. Whether it be as simple and as superficial as taking note of how someone with beautiful hair styles and cares for it to watching and supporting a friend who’s decided to overcome her fear of advanced math and conquer it. My life-long friend from high school recently decided to this, I can’t tell you how proud I am of her.

When you see another woman in your life succeed, use it to energize your spirit and inspire you to keep trying. When you see a woman comfortable with her beauty take note of what makes her beautiful; it’s likely to be that her capacity for love and compassion, humor and perseverance is what makes her truly shine

Don’t limit your judgment of beauty to a dress size or flawless skin. Life is so much richer than that.

I find myself grateful to have taken a new step in my life with this blog and that I found support from complete strangers. The encouragement I have received says so much about who each one of you are, what you carry in your heart and that you fundamentally believe that there is room for each one of us to shine.

There is no hero. There is no idol. We are more beautiful and interesting collectively; together we make up the different colors, shapes and patterns of a unique weave, the different harmonies of one song. So go ahead, dip your toes in the water of confidence. Embrace the trial and errors, pick yourself up and give it another go. Ask for a hand if you need it, the universe wants you to succeed.

This is your time to shine.

 

Deets: Green watercolor dress/H&M, green cashmere pullover/Bloomingdale’s, owl necklace/Urban Outfitters, ivory knitted tights/Hue, aqua legwarmers/unknown, grey faux cowboy boots/ModCloth, infinity scarf/hand-knitted by Stacy.