Listen

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Won’t Look Back | Geowulf

Queen | Perfume Genius

Feel It Still | Portugal. The Man

Water | Ra Ra Riot

Another Way | Ten Fe

Don’t Take the Money | Bleachers

Wanted You | Twin Peaks

I | Foreign Fields

Bellyache | Billy Eilish

13 | LANY

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What are you listening to?

– Lauren

Read

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At the beginning of the year, I set a goal on Goodreads to read 50 books this year. When I was working on my bachelor’s in English literature, reading 50 books in twelve months was no problem. I can remember one particular semester where I had to read 35 books for all of my classes combined. But since navigating full time employment is a new experience for me, I figured 50 would be a pretty good, low-stakes goal to set for myself. So far, I’ve read 22 of the 50 books and wanted to share a few that I particularly loved.

  1. Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger. JD Salinger is one of those love him or hate him authors, and personally, I love him. No one does a first person narrator quite like he does. Franny and Zooey is told using multiple perspective narration, and in typical Salinger fashion, these narrative voices are really well done and are the devices that drive the story. Franny and Zooey follows the two youngest siblings in a family of intellectual prodigies as one of them experiences a spiritual and existential crisis and the other attempts to talk to her out of it. The entire novel centers on this one plot point, but because of the distinctness of the voices, it’s a dynamic and fascinating read.
  2. Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong. As a genre, I adore poetry, but a lot of modern print poetry really frustrates me. I know these are unpopular opinions, but I’m not a fan of poets such as Rupi Kaur or Michael Faudet. I don’t like love poems or those trendy typewritten poems you might reblog on Tumblr. What I do love are poems that are complex and beautiful and ugly and painfully real. And I think Ocean Vuong’s collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds is exactly that. This collection explores the poet’s painful early domestic life, the challenges of coming into his identity, and the wounds inflicted upon his Vietnamese heritage. These poems are the type of poems you want to read out loud so you can hear them as you see them. I loved this collection so much I read every poem twice.
  3. The Crown Ain’t Worth Much by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib. Another one of my favorite modern poets is Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib who explores race in modern America through the motif of music and stories of his own life and growing up in Columbus, Ohio. In my degree, I focused on nineteenth century British literature, the canon for which is comprised mainly of wealthy white guys. The result is that, while I read an insane number of books and poems in college, the selection of authors was not incredibly diverse. Now that I have a few months when I’m not constantly reading for school, I’m trying to read more works from writers of different races, ethnicities, genders, etc. I think it’s important to do so. I believe that literature confronts us with different perspectives and experiences that we may not be privy to ourselves and that it’s important – especially now – to listen to those perspectives and experiences, because that’s how we love each other. I highly, highly, highly recommend this collection. For one thing, it’s incredible in terms of poetic merit, but also because it’s brutally honest. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I imagine it’s relatable to many people in a way that much canonized literature isn’t. And for those of us who cannot directly relate, it challenges us to listen – really listen – to a reality other than our own. I would also recommend listening to some of Willis-Abdurraqib’s performances on YouTube so you can hear his inflections and the lyricism of the poems.
  4. Swing Time by Zadie Smith. Zadie Smith is so well-known and celebrated that you likely don’t need encouragement from me to read her work. Swing Time is her latest novel and it follows a nameless narrator from childhood to adulthood, the competition between her and her childhood best friend, her employment as a personal assistant to a pop star, and her relationship with her mother. Threaded throughout the nonlinear narrative is the narrator’s evolving understanding of race, and this exploration is rooted by the motif of dance. It seems to me that several of the characters represent distinct types of people that are characterized by their responses to and opinions on race. Zadie Smith is a ridiculously intelligent human and talented writer, and this is one of those novels that stayed on my mind for a while after I read it because I was trying to work out in my mind everything that the novel was saying and doing (which is a lot).
  5. Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer. I love everything Jonathan Safran Foer writes, because all of his novels leave me with that punch-in-the-gut sad feeling. Just read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and you’ll see what I mean. I picked up Here I Am on principle and was not disappointed. The book follows a Jewish family as they experience domestic tragedy and natural disaster and the narrator explores what it means to be Jewish in modern America versus Jewish in modern Israel versus Jewish in the Holocaust versus Jewish in biblical times. What really moved me about this book was how Foer explored the idea of constructed meanings and inherited narratives and how those things affect the ways in which we grieve tragedies. There’s a scene in the novel where a rabbi deconstructs the story of Moses floating down the river in a basket in order to demonstrate the effects of Jewish history upon modern Jewish identity and grief that left me literally crying at my desk at work. Overall, this book is complex and moving and definitely worth reading despite how heavy it will make your purse or backpack or whatever.

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What have you been reading lately?

– Lauren

Updates | 02

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Admittedly, I’ve been rather absent on this blog for a while, and that’s because the last few weeks have been an emotional free-for-all. This year has been an incredibly stressful one in terms of figuring out what I want my future to look like and the steps I need to take to make it so. And what I decided in all of my soul searching was that following the completion of my undergraduate degree, I wanted to get my master’s. So last summer, I began the process of researching programs, compiling letters of recommendation, editing my writing sample, and studying like a maniac for the GRE. When fall rolled around, I was doing all of that plus my schoolwork for my final semester, my duties as the editor of a literary journal and president of the English honor society, my work as a research assistant to one of my professors, and trying to make the most of the time I had left with my college friends before I moved back home. And I was stressed. I am someone who experiences stress both emotionally and physically. It caused my lymph nodes to swell, my shoulders and neck to develop severe tension knots, and my anxiety to spiral. But I got my applications submitted and graduated shortly thereafter, leaving me with a few months to decompress.

Fast-forward to March when grad school admissions decisions were being sent out. Because I am someone who wants to build my career on academics, I only applied to top tier programs. In other words, I had no safety school. But my GPA, test scores, and recommenders were really good, so while I was hopeful about my applications, I wasn’t too worried about them. And then the rejections started coming in, and I was crushed. One of the things I value most in myself is my intelligence, and rejection in an academic sphere felt like a rejection of what I saw as my most vital self. I was accepted to some programs but not given as much funding as I would have liked, and in my already discouraged state of mind, I counted those acceptances as nothing but softer rejections.

I applied to five schools, and by the first week in March, I had heard back from four of them – two acceptances and two rejections. The only school I had yet to hear from was my top choice and the most prestigious program I applied to. I thought that being rejected from the lowest-ranked program I applied to meant there was no way I’d be accepted to my highest-ranked program. But y’all, I was. I received the email right as got to my desk one morning and immediately burst into tears and called my mom and cried some more.

So I’m excited to officially announce that in the fall, I’ll be moving to England to pursue a master’s degree in English literature from Oxford University! If you’re a long-time reader of my blog, you may remember that I studied abroad at Oxford one summer and that I fell in love with it. I’m so excited to be returning and that all of my stress about my future and self-doubt over my abilities have subsided for the time being.

The point of this post – other than to keep you updated on my goings on – is that I’m an emotional gal. And that has meant that for the past month or so, I’ve been preoccupied with feeling all of my feelings and that blogging has not been something I’ve had the desire to do. But I’m slowly coming out of the funk, so expect to see some more posts from me soon. And within a few months, I’ll be coming to you from a new location!

– Lauren

Spring Sprang Sprung

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Even though winter never really happened in Alabama this year, there’s still something magical about the transition into spring. Warmer weather and longer days yield outdoor adventures (my favorite) and reacquainting myself with my hometown after four years away at school. It’s amazing to see all the new places that have popped up since I’ve been gone, and with only a few months left before the big move, I’m trying to experience all the worthwhile and unique things this place has to offer. Lately, I’ve been really enjoying seeing movies at the independent movie theater and walking across the street to one of the two non-Starbucks coffee shops in town afterwards. The last two movies I saw there were I Am Not Your Negro and Paterson, and I highly recommend both. Now, they’re playing a documentary on Russian avant garde art, and I’m itching to go see it.

I picked up this bodysuit in the American Apparel sale, and since it doesn’t quite fit my office’s business casual dress code, I haven’t had a chance to wear it until now. Paired with an old pair of jeans, my comfiest shoes, and a backpack, it was perfect for walking around downtown, drinking coffee, and snapping photos.

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What’s your favorite thing about your hometown?

– Lauren

Milestones

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Since I started buying only ethical fashion, I’ve been accumulating ethical clothing here and there and incorporating it into my outfits with the pieces I already owned, replacing fast fashion items with ethically-made ones as needed. The result of which has been outfits made from a mix of old and new and new-to-me pieces, and the ultimate goal has been to slowly achieve a wardrobe comprised only of ethical clothing. Which is what makes this post so special for me; it’s the first post I’ve done where every single thing I’m wearing was purchased ethically. My sweater is from a consignment shop; my jeans are from a seller on Etsy; and my boots are from Poshmark.

There are so many people who think shopping ethically is out of their reach when there are so many ways to practice conscious consumerism even if you don’t have money springing from your fingertips. It may seem silly, but I’m so excited to have reached this milestone, because in a very small way, it signifies the possibility of making sustainable changes that make the world better. I’m excited to continue cultivating a conscious wardrobe and contributing to a more compassionate world.

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– Lauren

Ethical Shopping on a Budget | 03

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I recently wrote a post reflecting on my first year of cultivating ethical shopping habits, and being on a budget, I learned a lot about how to put my principles into practice in spite of my financial obstacles.  Over the past few months, I’ve been sharing my tips and tricks for being budget-savvy while sticking to your principles and supporting an important and worthwhile cause: workers rights around the world. So without further ado, here’s Part 3 of my Ethical Shopping on a Budget Series.

  1. Take it in steps. Replace your clothes on an as-needed basis. When I first switched to buying only ethical clothing, it was months before I made my first clothing purchase. In the meantime, I was a little discouraged because I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything. I couldn’t afford a complete wardrobe overall, which was what I needed to rid my closet of fast fashion brands, and I felt like maybe this lifestyle change I felt so passionately about was nothing but good intentions. When I thought about it logically, however, I recognized that for the fast fashion pieces I owned prior to making the switch, the damage had already been done and that getting rid of all of it was not only financially impractical but wasteful. What I decided to do, and what I think is the most viable option for most people, is to incorporate ethical pieces into my wardrobe on an as-needed basis. Whenever my basic white t-shirt from Target wore out, I replaced it with an ethical one from Les Sublimes. When I needed some business casual clothes for my new job, I picked up a few skirts from a consignment shop. This was not only more financially feasible but also more suited to the slow fashion mantra that less is more.
  2. Instagram is your friend. When I began to write blog posts about ethical fashion, I would try to promote those posts on Instagram using hashtags that were geared toward conscious consumerism, slow fashion, and sustainability. In using hashtags such as #haulternative or #fashionrevolution, I was able to discover so many small ethical clothing companies. In fact, the majority of brands listed on my Fair Trade Clothing Companies 1 and 2 posts were ones that I discovered through Instagram. As someone who is passionate about learning more about slow fashion and supporting small businesses, this was a win-win.
  3. Shop off-season. Though shopping secondhand is a really great way to shop ethically, there are times when you just want to treat yourself to something new, and I understand that that’s not always possible when that Reformation dress you’re eying is $200. For me, the key to shopping from ethical brands, which are understandably more expensive than fast fashion brands, is to wait until the end of the season sales. So I’ll buy winter pieces in the spring and summer and vice versa. My reasoning behind this is that seasonal pieces go on sale when the season is over, but also that brands tend to tack on an additional discount for the end of the season. For example, in Reformation’s end of the year sale, they gave a discount worth 40% off of all items, even sale items. I found a pair of pants in the sale section that were originally $150, but between the original markdown and the extra 40% off, I snagged them for about $40. What I’m getting at here is wait until the end of the season and shoot for the double sale. You’ll some really great deals on high-quality pieces that will last you a while if you do.

For this outfit, I mixed some of my old fast-fashion stuff from years ago with some new-to-me pieces from my latest Etsy purchase. My striped top has been in my closet for years and will remain there until it’s coming apart at the seams. These jeans are my new favorite clothing item. I picked them up from a vintage shop on Etsy, and I’ve been wearing them non-stop. There’s a possibility that I’ll be moving to Paris in September, and if I do, I think this outfit might become my uniform of sorts. It’s very stereotypically Parisian, don’t you think?

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How do you shop ethically on a budget?

– Lauren

Check out Parts 1 and 2!

 

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A word. A picture. A sound.

Lay your palms upward and gently crepe-ing upon these static spaces between us, and I’ll show you wonderment in fingertips stained blue. Our bodies wear and tarnish as even facades of magnificent cathedrals must. Another day, another rain shower eroding the stone pillars. Another day, another layer of grime. Invisible from one day to the next until one day becomes a hundred days becomes ten years. One Alabama January, I looked down at my hands on a steering wheel and realized I was moving much faster than I thought. “We’re getting old,” you said in the last letter you sent to me, and I imagined that it was snowing when you wrote it and that you were wearing the sweater with the moose on it. “We’re only twenty,” I replied in the last letter I sent you, and I put on three sweaters to write it because I wanted to feel close to you and also because you scare me. The Alabama winter did not demand such armor, but I left them on until I fell asleep and woke sweating in the early hours of morning, when I removed them one by one. I thought this an appropriate metaphor. In the lamplight, indigo ink gathered and settled in deepening skin canyons, and I started to cry.

Future People – The Alabama Shakes

– Lauren

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Good Things

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Skincare | Glossier Mega Greens Galaxy Pack. I’m a sucker for face masks, so when I placed my first Glossier order last month, I had to get one. I opted for the Mega Greens Galaxy Pack, and holy moly it makes my skin so soft. I can’t wait to try the Moisturizing Moon Mask.

Haircare | Lush BIG Shampoo. I’ve had quite the shampoo debacle over the past few months. I haven’t been able to find one that works for my hair and isn’t filled with massive amounts of harmful chemicals, packaged in ridiculous amounts of plastic, or produced using unethical standards. The first Lush in my state opened up recently, and even though it’s an hour and a half away from me, I took a trip up there to see what I could find in the way of shampoo. The girl at the store recommended BIG to me, and I love it. It’s made with sea salt, which is really fun, and keeps my hair voluminous and oil free.

Music | Volcano Choir. I love how music attaches itself to specific moments in my life. When I listen to Volcano Choir, I think of my freshman year of college when I shared a dorm room on campus with three other girls and how we would go to the record store on cold Saturdays and get orange cake and coffee from our favorite German bakery afterwards. I bought this record on one such Saturday, and it fills me with nostalgia whenever I put it on.

Podcasts | Stuff You Should Know. Now that I have my first big girl job, I’m having to get used to sitting at a desk and staring at a computer for eight hours a day, which is a lot easier said than done. However, I’ve discovered that listening to podcasts while I work is the secret to making the time go by. Stuff You Should Know has become my go-to podcast since I started my job. The premise is that the show’s hosts pick a topic – anything from pacifism to Alexander Hamilton to poop – research the heck out of it, and talk about what they learned.

Essential Oil | Young Living Purification. I recently got a diffuser, and I’ve been loving coming home at the end of the day and diffusing my favorite essential oils. Currently, I’m loving Young Living’s Purification oil. It’s a blend of citronella, rosemary, lemongrass, tea tree, lavandin, and myrtle, and it smells so good.

Food | Sunday Suppers. I’ve had this cookbook for a while, but I’ve recently discovered some new recipes in it that have become new favorites. My favorites at the moment have been the shakshuka and the challah. And food aside, the book itself is an aesthetic dream. I highly, highly recommend.

TV Show | A Series of Unfortunate Events Netflix Series. This show has been getting mixed reviews amongst my friends, but I absolutely loved it. I read these books when I was in elementary school, and admittedly, I was a little skeptical about Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, but I think he did a really good job. The style reminds me of a Wes Anderson film, which doesn’t hurt my feelings one bit.

Article | Am I Annoying? This article by Man Repeller really resonated with me. I have social anxiety and I’m very much a people-pleaser, so I’m frequently worried that I come across as annoying in school, work, or social situations. This article made several really great, non-cliche points about why we shouldn’t worry about seeming annoying to others.

Art | Tommy Ingberg Surreal Photo Art. I love surrealist art, so when I stumbled upon these surrealist photographs, I fell in love. The photos encapsulate the spirit of surrealism really well. They look like a Magritte painting come to life.

Activity | Ceramics. This past semester, I had an open space in my schedule. Most college seniors in that position would have been thrilled to have a light schedule for their final semester, but because I am the overachiever that I am, I decided to use that opportunity to take a class in something that interested me. So I took a class in ceramics, which was so fun. I’m not master potter by any means – in fact all of my mugs are incredibly asymmetrical – but it’s so satisfying to drink my morning coffee out of a mug I made myself.

What have you been loving lately?

– Lauren

Fair Trade Clothing Companies | 02

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Although most of the shopping I do is secondhand, I’m always on the lookout for ethical clothing brands. As someone who made the switch to ethical fashion fairly recently, I know how intimidating it can be to scour the internet for clothing brands who hold themselves accountable for the wellbeing of their workers and the planet. I’ve accumulated quite a list of ethical clothing brands since I made the switch, and I’ve decided to publish it in the hopes that my doing so can make your ethical fashion journey just a little bit easier.

One thing I’ve discovered about ethical shopping over the past year is that it’s a great way to support small businesses. The conscious consumerism movement is gaining more and more momentum, and the market for fairly sourced and ethically produced goods is growing. The result is that many ethical clothing brands, including many of the ones listed below, are startups and small businesses. Supporting small businesses matters because if we give our money to small businesses rather than large fast fashion brands, those fast fashion brands lose a bit of their autonomy in the global fashion market. So shop small!

All the shops are hyperlinked, so all you have to do is click the shop name to go straight to their website. Also, every shop with an asterisk beside the name has options for anyone who’s looking for some male attire. And be sure to check out Part 1!

Clothing

American Apparel*

Arcana New York

Armed Angels*

Bead and Reel

the bloomerie

Boheme Goods

elborne

Fifth Dimension Clothing

Free Label

Indigo Apparel

Jann n June

The Keep Boutique*

LOZENA

modt*

Myrtle

Plantfaced*

prAna*

Shwe | The Wearable Library

SiiZU

Skall Studio

Swellas*

Synergy Organic Clothing

Vintage Style Me

Activewear

Armed Angels

Bead and Reel

Girlfriend Collective

Indigo Apparel

Mitscoots Outfitters*

Naja

Renegades of Chic

Synergy Organic Clothing

Swimwear

LIAR

Myrtle

Naja

Denim

Double Eleven*

Undies/Socks/Jammies

Hanky Panky

The Keep Boutique

Myrtle

Naja

Shoes

Alice + Whittles

Bead and Reel

Myrtle

VEJA*

Bags

Alicia San Marcos

American Nomad

Bead and Reel

Hipsters for Sisters

Johnny Fly*

The Keep Boutique*

Myrtle

prAna*

Renegades of Chic

The Tote Project

Jewelry/Accessories

American Nomad

Bead and Reel

Indigo Apparel

Johnny Fly*

The Keep Boutique*

Mayan Colour

Miss Green Fashion

Myrtle

Renegades of Chic

Synergy Organic Clothing

Vai-Ko*

Home Goods

American Nomad

Boheme Goods

Myrtle

Odessa and Sons

Renegades of Chic

Children’s Clothing

Bead and Reel

the bloomerie

Boheme Goods

Odessa and Sons*

VEJA*

Disclaimer: I haven’t partnered with any of these shops to write this post. I’m just passionate about promoting brands that do good things and treat their workers and our planet well.

For those of you who are on a budget (like me), check out my Ethical Shopping on a Budget Parts 1 and 2 to see my tips for buying cheap clothes without supporting fast fashion.

What’s your favorite fair trade company?

– Lauren

The Young Vinyl

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Over the past month or so, American Apparel has become one of my favorite places to shop. Previously, I had thought it too expensive for my student budget and never really gave it a fair chance. But that was before I discovered their amazing sales, particularly the factory store section of the website. One day, I had gotten it into my mind that I really needed a vinyl skirt, so I scoured the internet for fair trade, vintage, or secondhand options. The only thing I found that matched my vision perfectly was this light pink, a-line skirt from the American Apparel factory store, and I was shocked that it was only $20 (now $15). I ordered it immediately, and it’s quickly become one of my favorite pieces of clothing I own. The structured a-line is incredibly flattering, and it’s a style that looks good on everyone, because it cinches at the smallest part of your waist and creates an hourglass shape. The flattering shape combined with the vintage feel of the vinyl is exactly the unique sort of piece I aim for with my personal style and was impossible for me to pass up.

After finding this skirt for such a good price, I skimmed the American Apparel website and discovered that everything is incredibly well priced for a fair-trade, sweatshop-free company, and their sales are really good as well. I picked up a few more items during their end of the year sale, so look out for those in future posts.

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What’s your favorite fair trade clothing company?

– Lauren