I often talk about fashion and style on this blog, but let’s take a minute to think about our lexicon here. Style can have a lot to do with how you look and the clothes you wear, but saying the two are interchangeable is a bit of a misnomer. Style is feeling comfortable in your own skin and having the confidence to let that comfort shine through.
My husband once said to me, “You’re cool. You are completely at ease with who you are,” and I took a minute to ponder
that, because it wasn’t always that way. I spent many years copying other people’s fashion and mannerisms – I’d pay desperate attention to how my cousin Tutti dressed (who is a sartorial wunderkind, by the way.) This kind of self-loathing is a taught mechanism – I’m sure you can immediately find 10 examples of something stating that you are not good enough or you should look like XYZ.
I spent a lot of time and money fighting the way I looked. I tried silly diets and exercise regimes that never amounted to much. I altered the texture of my naturally curly hair and I was never that comfortable with my size (I certainly am now). Then one day, I woke up and thought, you know what? Life is not a dress rehearsal. Why get anxious over what someone else thinks? They don’t have to live this life! This is my general approach to most things. Don’t get it twisted, I will always have some element of caring what other people think – you’re lying if you say you don’t. However, I never get too caught up in it – I have to live with my decisions and actions so it’s in my best interest to do what is pleasing to me.
Laziness was actually a big factor in developing my own style. I didn’t have the time or desire to fight against who and what I was, so I really learned to work with what I have and love it; regardless of what Vogue, men on the street, or other women had to say about it.
Admittedly, I borrow fashion element and style inspiration from all circles – my mother, my father, my husband, the girl on the bus with the great Kate Spade bag. I don’t embrace any one look – I like to experiment and play with them all. I have some days that are real sartorial misses and messes – don’t be surprised if you find a few stray cat hairs nestled in my ‘fro, or there’s a run in my hose. That’s all part of me too, and like a coworker once said, “Hey, I can’t be brilliant everyday.”
I think your personal fashion is an extension of who you are and how you feel about yourself. Clothes don’t make the man, but most people feel good when they look good. That was my impetus in getting into style consulting. My job isn’t to tell you what to wear – my job is to help you evaluate who you are, what you want to portray, and dress accordingly without ever feeling compromised.
Fashion can be an enabler of style, but it’s not the same. How did you figure out your style?
hate loathe exercise. Yep, I said it. I am not and will not ever be a zen yoga master, a soul cycle enthusiast, or a mighty marathoner. I have made peace with these facts, although I don’t think my physician has (as she is not so subtle about mentioning the 10 pounds I should lose). Now, now you gym nazis, while I am known to occasionally slip into periods of sloth, (generally when I am on vacation at my parents’ where my Jawbone Up pedometer band logged a total of 764 steps on a Saturday compared to my normal 10,000-12,000), I’m fairly active on a daily basis.
This is not due to logging hours at
Women’s Torture Chamber Women’s Workout World or the gymnasium du jour. I do not “feel the burn” or “get into the zone.” There is no runner’s high in my world; instead I play tennis run around chasing a ball in a feeble manner¹, I cycle everywhere, and when I don’t cycle, I walk. I’m a firm believer in functional and fun exercise, which brings me to the problem of this year’s bloody polar vortex.
See, I had these grandiose plans that I was going to Bike Winter in Chicago. You know, bundle up with the balaclava and knock out those 10 miles a day on my Green Lantern (that’s my bike). The Hawk had a serious hand in paving the road to hell – my good intentions were met with ice, wind, and Siberia-like temperatures. I had talked to my friend Sandra in Sweden and she said that Malmö was warmer than Chicago– it was clear that my tires would not be meeting the pavement anytime soon. I made it a point to walk at least five miles on even the coldest days, but how can you not want to gorge yourself with macaroni and cheese and stay holed up in flannel and fleece when it’s 25 degrees below zero? My efforts to cycle a had gone a wee bit in vain.
You know that mental to-do list that you have the back of your brain of things you want to do say…during your lifetime? (This is going somewhere, I promise) Not even a bucket list, per se, but just those questions that annoy you off and on like, “How do I stay fit during the winter without succumbing to the gym and not developing severe hypothermia in the process?” (Okay, maybe you’re deep and your thoughts are a bit more existential– more in the “What is the meaning of life?” vein. I’m an easy read. It’s either “What am I going to eat today?” or something far more mundane like what I just said.) The answer came to me in a Refinery29 post.
Hula Hooping. Yes – hula hooping. It was a stroke of absolute genius. Why force yourself to do things you hate? If I have to “work out” it is going to have to be a) fun or b) functional. I was a very active 80s child – most of my time was spent outdoors running around², on roller skates, on a bicycle, or often with a hula hoop. Can’t you see me with my big Afro, some serious bell bottoms, and a sparkly hula hoop, going for what I know³? Immediately, I asked the almighty Google for an adult hula hoop and the Cleveland Clinic (yes that Cleveland Clinic) had a collapsible Hoopnotica one on sale. Sold! This was the most brilliant thing I’ve thought of in weeks! I can’t wait.
I’ve not hooped in years, so the first week is going to be
hard colossally tragic. They do say it’s like riding a bike. Hopefully that doesn’t mean falling down a lot. I’m not a video kind of gal, but maybe Keith will post a vid of me and the hoop (what should I name my hoop???) after I get a little good, although I suspect that I will never be amazing.
All you gym haters out there (c’mon, it’s safe to tell me) - how do you stay fit?
¹ You should see me and Keith attempting to play tennis. We have public courts across from our house and I am surprised we haven’t been banned. It’s pretty pathetic and I think other real tennis players are ashamed for us. My favorite part? Tennis fashion. I’ve got some great tennis skirts and dresses.
³Come on. This never gets old. And it’s on repeat in my brain until I get my hula hoop. Maybe then I’ll expand my mental jukebox.
My purse is a BLACK HOLE. I mean, a supermassive black hole where nothing can escape. I carry EVERYTHING with me, all the time. You never know when you are going to end up with broccoli in your teeth and need some floss to get it out (Flosscard!!), or if you are like me and don’t wear antiperspirant, you don’t know when you might spontaneously start to stink and need to reapply your natural deodorant (Jean Godfrey June swears by Lavanila, but I’ve found that plain old Milk of Magnesia in a spray bottle works the best and it’s cheap, to boot.)
So I carry everything with me (need a baby wipe? sewing kit? Girl, I got you.) and when I see all those blog posts about “What’s in Celebrity XYZs” bag and it ends up being an iPhone and a tiny wallet, I think seriously? Is it because she has a sherpa to lug her real 30 pound whopper-of-a-suitcase around? Cause that certainly ain’t me.
However, I am a student of life, ready and willing to learn how to schlep around less, because I ruin the handles on bags on a very regular basis and furthermore, my left shoulder has a permanent indentation from where my ginormous bag rests. I’ve moved to crossbody bags and to backpacks to redistribute weight, and I can even pare down to a bag a bit smaller than the size of a Louis Vuitton Speedy 25. I can’t help it, there’s a special place in my heart for a big ol’ tote. I mean the kind of tote that screams FEED ME SEYMOUR cause you would never believe what I find in the bottom of my bag at the end of the week. I’m talking about unwrapped pieces of gum, hairpins, an errant Kind bar, broken tea bags and way too much electronic nonsense (flash drive? check. headphones? check. Square card reader? check.) I hate to admit it, but I once smooshed an avocado in my
12 x 9 x 7 humongous Badgley Mischka tote and it still hasn’t changed the error of my ways (I just learned to put my avocado in a plastic container, which equals MORE. DAMN. STUFF.)
So tell me your secrets, ladies? How can you get away with carrying next to nothing (which to me is a tiny wallet, 2 keys, and a cell phone)? I can do this if I am going out, but my work bag? AIN’T. GONNA. HAPPEN. How are you living your lives without lip balm? Umbrellas? Business cards? Androids/iPods/iPads/tripod/whatever other nonsense you need to make it through the day? What’s the most bizarre thing you’d find in your bag? And is there such a thing as Big Bag Rehab? If not, I need to get on that.
Let’s start this by stating that I’ m a utility cyclist. It’s my point A to point B – seldom do I cycle ‘for fun’ and I certainly don’t cycle for sport. I still hate to exercise, but I do not equate my daily ten mile commute with a bout at the gym. However, when I do find myself at the gym on business trips, I notice that cycling has improved my effectiveness.
I spend a good amount of time on a bicycle. About 10-15 hours a week. It’s been a life changing experience in many different ways, the most valuable being that it has taught me how to slow down. This modern life has a way of systematically getting us away from simple pleasures; there’s always a drive to be bigger, better, faster…and more efficient. Now, I’m all for efficiency – I probably should be a German in that respect, but it seems like taking the time to smell the roses is hardly ever an option.
Bicycling changes all of that. You can only go as fast as your feet can take you on a bike. And for me that tops out at about 9mph at a hefty clip. On a bicycle, my mantra is “I’ll get there when I get there,” although I am seldom late. I ride fully engaged with my surroundings. I use all five senses simultaneously: taking in the jarring feel of Chicago roads and wind through my helmet, sniffing the respectively enticing and repulsive smells of Blommer’s chocolate and an overdue trash day, hearing the annoying horns of Windy City cabbies and listening to my fellow 7am middle aged cyclist who pumps dub reggae out of his new age ghetto blaster on a a Divvy bike. I see the city coming to life as mothers shuffle their tots off to school and rush hour traffic ensues at 5pm. I taste the saline sweat from my upper lip – I don’t understand runner’s high, but I completely get the connection between body, pedal, and earth.
Okay, I’ve waxed poetic enough, but imagine living your life at a speed relative to as fast as your own two feet could take you. Don’t get it twisted, there are many days where I don’t feel like hopping in the saddle, but peace (relative peace…thanks f’ing cabbies) awaits me there. In my world of 24-hour news, smartphones, reports, and airplanes, that otherwordly slowing-down to take the time to smell the flowers (or dog $*!t…hey it’s all organic) is a sobering antidote. It connects me to a slower form of life, where my only immediate concerns are if I have enough air in my tires and will the Grand street bridge be out today. There are times on that long, quiet tretch of Hubbard street through the West Loop where I could could give Icarus a run for his money with my thoughts, but I try to keep my eyes and ears on the road so it’s typically very freeing.
All in all, for those precious 15 hours a week, I can only do one thing at a time and I can only go as fast as my two feet will carry me, which for me is a zen and peace that my bus card or a set of car keys can never provide.
I wrote a little earlier this year about taking out time to be better to myself (and you being better to yourself as well.) Unfortunately this meant a few things had to fall by the wayside until I got a better balance on my life. I’m definitely guilty of trying to take on 1000 things at one time, therefore doing none of them well. Being a new wife and trying to make all the gears turn hasn’t necessarily been difficult – it’s been very enjoyable, but it does put demands on your time that being single does not. I think I’m entering a period of homeostasis now, so you probably will hear from me a bit more often. Besides, a lot has gone on.
I received a significant amount of feedback about my initial post on cycling, so I wanted to do a follow-up, specifically on fashionable cycling. I am no road racer, but I put in anywhere from 50-70 miles a week on my trusty nonmotorized steel horse and more often than not, I do so in my everyday clothes, except on the hottest days*. As a commuter cyclist, I have some concerns about showing up at my place of employment smelling like a gym sock, so I will provide a few tips on how to survive a ride and still look fresh and clean. *A note about cycling in extreme weather. Dress the part. If it’s 96 degrees outside, don’t ditch your bike! Wear clothes that wick sweat and RIDE. You’ll feel a lot better and stay a lot cooler. I work out in tennis outfits made of wicking material, so those become my cycling outfits when the mercury climbs above 90. Also, stay hydrated. You’re gonna sweat. For the most part, water will do the trick, but you might find sports drinks are a better idea if you cycle long distances in the heat. Similar instructions for crazy cold weather, but layers are your friend and cotton is not. You still need to wick sweat, but opt for wool or silk when you can.
On Commuting… I started commuting by bike a few years ago, but gave up due to taking a crazy route. If you’ve not commuted to work by bicycle or if you are used to riding your bicycle on short trips for recreation, it’s a good idea to try a few longer trips when you have a lot of time. Plot out the distance from your place to work and plan to have a semi-leisurely ride for that distance on the weekend. Doing a dry run to your place of work and back is a great idea, but if you can’t stand to be near your place of work on the weekends…a similar route with the same terrain and distance will do. Build up your endurance by doing this a few times then make your way to work… With that said, it is a very wise idea to map out your route before you go. If you are a beginning cyclist, I highly recommend that you do not ride on busy roads, but instead try quiet streets nearby the busy roads so that you feel safe and comfortable. My most direct route to work is a 4 mile straight shot down one of the busiest and most cab-filled streets in Chicago, but I eat the extra mile to take a safer and more comfortable route meandering through side roads. Allot plenty of time to get to your destination – you’ll want an extra 15 minutes to clean yourself up when you get to your destination. Commuting by bicycle can be a very sweaty experience. Which leads me to:
Packing your bike bag
In my previous segment I suggested some ways of schlepping your kit around – you do not want to do this on your back. Many cyclists wear backpacks or messenger bags while commuting, but a sweaty back is just un-chic. Do yourself a favor and get a rack/basket system and some panniers if you need it. You’ll thank me when you come across that $3.99/bottle closeout of cabernet at Whole Foods and you decide to take half a case home (true story). I keep a small menagerie of things in my bike bag, but when it comes to staying gorgeous (and clean) without fail there’s always four things:
The first two are probably obvious – you can take a ‘slagwash’ with the baby wipes in the restroom and throw on some deodorant and you’re pretty good to go. The alcohol in the body spray is very cooling when you feel like you’ve been sitting in a steam room – plus you smell a bit nicer. The powder takes care of any extra sweaty spots and helps ward off chafing should you have that problem. Considering that I am a serious bag lady, I consider a few other things as smart choices in your bike bag, but these will have varying degrees of necessity for you.
Hopefully these tips will get you off your butt and on your bicycle!
Lately, I’ve been super busy with the hidden operations behind Plastic Bags and Magazines, specifically the event planning and entertainment portion of my larger business, Caden-Price Creative Consulting. It’s been a busy summer with moving things over to WordPress and undertaking so many new events, including hooking up with the crowd at Unieros for the America the Beautiful fashion show. Join us this Saturday at the MultiKulti community space for fashion and music representing the diversity of the United States and beyond. DJ Justjazz (me) and DJ Somos will be your selectors for the evening, and there will be live performances from !Esso! AfroJam Funkbeat, Josh Niemier, and Dame Haze.
Photo Credit: Keith Caden
From Holland (the Netherlands) to Humboldt Park (Chicago), cycling is all the rage. More cities in the United States are working to become more cycle-friendly, including Chicago with its addition of the new Divvy bike-sharing program.
Cycling is nothing new in Chicago, as my neighbors in Humboldt Park have chosen la bicicleta as their preferred form of transport for quite some time. It’s the perfect solution for getting around the city when you’re carless and don’t want to sit for hours on a bus or train.
Contrary to what some may think, cycling is for everyone, whether you’re a year-round enthusiast (like my husband, an ex-courier) or take to the streets during the warmer months (like me). For those of you who are thinking that it’s hard to look cute on a bike, I’ll have you know that you are sadly mistaken. Considering I’m always a stickler for fashion and functionality, check out the different ways to get your bum on a bike and look good doing it.
Get Your Wheels:
Protect Your Neck: You can’t be cute in the hospital with a traumatic brain injury, so get a helmet. Helmets are notoriously ugly, but a few companies have come out with some slick options.
Protect Your Goods: Bikes get stolen. In big cities, bikes are stolen even more, so make sure you have the right kind(s) of lock(s) to keep your bike yours.