Dress With Purpose

To us, dress with purpose means to present yourself to the world with intention.

Intention to freely express your true self.

To empower yourself and inspire those around you.

And to shine a light on the issues that are near to your heart.

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For me, one of the biggest issues I want to work towards resolving is the disastrous effect that fast fashion has had on the environment and garment workers in developing countries.

When you buy a brand-new shirt for $4, do you ever think about how little the person who made that shirt is being paid? Or the effect of those harsh chemicals on the land and water sources of the countries where it is being produced? As someone who’s working to develop a fashion brand, I know you cannot do what is right and also sell clothing for less than the price of a sandwich.


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I used to not care about where my clothing came from, and I never thought twice about what it did to the environment around me or to other families, but now that my eyes have been opened to the heartache it can bestow on others, I can never go back. The more I learned about fast fashion, the more I realized how deeply it collided with my values.

But I still love fashion, and I can’t give it up. I knew there had to be a way to continue buying clothing on a regular basis without sacrificing my principles.


We feel passionately about conserving the environment because, well, it’s the only home we’ve got. We were worried about taking a strong stance on this issue because we do buy clothing from H&M and Forever 21 and feature it on our blog, so on the surface, some people could say we’re part of the problem.

We’ve considered abstaining from purchasing anything from fast fashion retailers and only buying from companies that use ethical and sustainable practices, but we thought about it, and it would simply not be feasible for us.

Each of us only have about $100 a month (or less) to buy clothing, so we wouldn’t be able to buy even a single pair of jeans from Reformation or one pair of flats from Nisolo. It goes without saying that we definitely would not be able to run a fashion blog if we stuck to only those types of stores! We greatly admire those brands, and we think they’re doing amazing, game-changing things for the world of fashion, but they’re catering to a demographic that is a little more affluent than those of us who are still in school full-time.

We cannot wait until the day we can be like Emma Watson and have the money to fill our closets with only ethically, sustainably-produced clothing, but we’re not there yet. Call us hypocrites if you want, but there are more of us out there who are in the same boat than you might think.

DSC_1805 2This is exactly why we purchase clothing from Goodwill and transform those unappealing, outdated pieces into new ones that are fresh and stylish.

Millions of clothing items (that have a lot of potential!) are already in existence, so it’s incredibly wasteful to continue producing new clothing at our current rate while allowing those pieces to sit on a shelf or be turned into rags. It’s overwhelming to think about completely overhauling your buying habits to make your wardrobe 100% sustainable, and we think that’s why a lot of women avoid it. It’s difficult, it’s expensive, and at the end of the day, there aren’t nearly as many options to choose from.

This is precisely the reason we’re working to launch a brand that brings those unwanted pieces back into the mainstream by altering small details of them to make them fashionable again. We want other women like us to have the option to buy negative-waste clothing that falls into the same pricing category as Zara or the higher end of H&M.

Our brand, Awaken Atelier, which launches within the next few months, will feature pieces from thrift stores that have been updated to reflect modern trends like raw hems on jeans, embroidery on jackets, and low-backs on one piece swimsuits. Just know it’s okay if you haven’t boycotted Forever 21 completely. Make small changes in your life to make it more sustainable, like shopping at Goodwill when you’re looking for your summer wardrobe (or shopping at Awaken Atelier when it opens!). As you start to make more money, transition towards brands like Reformation when you’re shopping for an evening dress or a new pair of jeans. But don’t get discouraged if you can’t do everything you want to do when it comes to sustainability.

Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something- do your something.

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Sabrina’s Outfit Details:

Top: Goodwill- Refashioned by Awaken Atelier

Jeans: H&M

Jacket: Goodwill- Refashioned by Awaken Atelier

Shoes: Steve Madden

Earrings: H&M

Hannah’s Outfit Details:

Jeans: Target

Top: Goodwill- Refashioned by Awaken Atelier

Jacket: TJ Maxx

Shoes: Forever 21

Necklace: Rue 21

Glasses: EyeGlasses Direct

Baby Steps to Runway Strides

Photos by H+L Creations with contributing photographer, Sabrina Runge.

_MG_2857Models honestly do not get enough credit for what they do.

Most people do not realize the level of difficulty and oftentimes discomfort (anyone remember Kate Upton posing for that SI swimsuit issue in the literal Arctic?!) that comes with posing for a breathtaking photo.

We’ve learned there is a certain technique for everything in modeling, from walking in a way that looks natural to arranging your body to get the most flattering angle, and these are not skills you can pick up in a day.

We’ve been doing this for months and we’re just now getting to the point where we are starting look and feel comfortable in front of the camera.



And for me, also behind the camera. Starting this blog was a particular challenge because unlike Hannah, I did not have much experience photographing other people.

My friends and I loved to do impromptu photoshoots in high school, but back then I enjoyed being in front of the camera a lot more than being behind it.

Hannah’s guidance has helped me come a long way with my photography skills, and now I know what lighting to look for, what camera angles to capture, and the exact ground/subject/sky ratio I need to achieve to create a visually appealing photo.

When I was seventeen and modeling in front of the camera, I really only had two faces: serious and smiling.It was not until I started watching YouTube videos and looking at modeling tutorials on Pinterest that I really began to learn how to model for photos.


I honestly felt silly at first when I tried out the techniques, like taking long strides while on the balls of my feet and constantly changing my facial expressions and hand placement while the camera was clicking.

But, I’m glad I went through the phase of feeling ridiculous because now I actually kind of feel like I know what I’m doing.

I say ‘kind of’ because does anyone ever truly feel like they know exactly what they’re doing? (No.)








I’ve always been more comfortable behind the camera. It feels safe, and it’s something I’ve always loved to do. When I was young, I would jump in front of the camera every now and then, but I mostly preferred taking photos of other people.

Soon after Sabrina and I became friends, we decided to start a fashion blog, so I was suddenly thrust headfirst into the world of modeling. I thought I would have a bit of an upper hand because I’ve been photographing other models for years, but I’ve learned it’s a completely different world in front of the camera.

When all eyes are on me, it’s as if my brain shuts off, my hands get clammy, and I forget all the modeling tips I’ve ever learned.

But once I get past the first few shots and get my blood pumping, the shots start to turn out how I picture them in my head.



There is a certain energy in modeling, with each click of the camera comes a different pose, a different look; it’s a rhythm.

Find your rhythm in whatever you do.

Perseverance is key when it comes to doing anything you set your mind to.

If you want to perfect your craft, you have to work diligently at it. It won’t just happen overnight.



Throughout this experience, we have personally realized the truth behind the saying,

“To be good at something, you first must be willing to be bad at it.”

No one starts off being an expert at anything.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and if you are not willing to make a fool of yourself at first, you will never get to the point where you are actually skilled at whatever it is you are trying to do.

So, don’t forgo learning how to make a flawless creme brûlée or attempting a class five rock climb because you do not have the skills to do those things at this very moment.

You will get there soon enough.

The awkward, amateur phase does not last forever, and once you get past it, you will be incredibly proud that you did not quit halfway through.


“A river cuts through a rock not because of its power, but because of its persistence.”


Sabrina’s Outfit Details
Dress: E. Leigh’s
Boots: Zara
Watch: Plato’s Closet
Sunglasses: Rue 21
Clutch: Gift to Hannah
Hannah’s Outfit Details
Dress: Goodwill
Sweater: H&M
Boots: Zara
Sunglasses: Rue 21
Clutch: Gift from friend in Europe
Earrings: Dollar Jewelry Galore

Freedom of Expression

Photos by Demetrius McCullough

“Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment.”
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Sometimes we take for granted in this country how free we are to express ourselves.

We can say, do, and wear almost anything we want without fear of repercussion.

We may have had to abide by strict rules and dress codes in high school, but now that we’re out in the “real world,” the only people we have to answer to are ourselves.

At least for us.

At least for now.

Style is what gives us our personal freedom.

I love that I can wear whatever I want, whenever I want.

I might get some strange looks if I wear a crop top and high heels to class, but I can do it!

And that’s what’s important. Not that I have to do it, but that I can.

I can’t imagine trying to take that kind of freedom from anybody.


Because of our love for fashion and our mutually preferred mode of personal expression, the two of us quickly grew to become close friends.

We would constantly ask each other where the other purchased some random piece of clothing or accessory, and we would bond over stories of finding hidden gems at TJ Maxx or Goodwill.

It’s because we were free to express who we truly were then that we are able to share it with you now.

Most people underestimate the value of freedom until it’s taken away.

I remember when I went to visit family in India a couple summers ago, I had to halt my day while we were touring the ancient city of Jaipur and change out of my denim shorts into pants because too many people were staring, and my family was genuinely afraid for my safety.

Before I left on that trip, I never gave it a second thought.

I just packed summertime clothes because I knew it was going to be 120+ degrees every day. To those of you who have never left your corner of the world, you may not understand how good we have it right now, but also how easily some of the freedoms we take for granted could be wrested from us, especially considering the direction we’re going.


We’re not just saying that women may not be able to “wear what they want” anymore.

It’s bigger than that.

So many times women are judged or accused of “asking for it” because of what they are wearing.

Women of the Muslim faith in this country are afraid to wear the hijab for fear of violent retribution.

In some places, trans women aren’t even allowed to use the bathroom of their choosing or are harassed for wearing heels and makeup.

Fashion is a tool to communicate who we are and what we stand for, and that should not ever be used as a weapon against us.



“We can never intimidate and discourage the people who voice their words with courage. The essence of freedom rests precisely here – in the freedom of expression of the people. And we must protect it.”

– Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj

Sabrina’s Outfit Details:
Top: TJ Maxx
Jeans: H&M
Jacket: TJ Maxx
Shoes: Kroger
Bralette: Aerie
Earrings: H&M
Sunglasses: Aldo
Hannah’s Outfit Details:
Dress: Self-Altered (Originally from HipSway)
Cardigan: Target
Shoes: Goodwill
Earrings: H&M
Sunglasses: Eyeglass Direct


There’s Power in Pink & Polka Dots

It’s an intriguing time to be alive as a young woman.

We’re encouraged to step out of preconceived notions for what is traditionally feminine in order to rise up the ladder, but I think in doing so we’re ignoring the fact that there’s a lot of power in femininity.

There’s a lot of power in polka dots.

And the color pink.

And manicures and charcoal masks.

Simply because we value these things in our lives doesn’t make us any less powerful or less capable than those who don’t. Why can’t we show that being powerful and being feminine aren’t at odds, but rather complement one another to give us unique strengths as individuals?

Kate Bartolotta, a writer for the Huffington Post, shares her thoughts on femininity and being vulnerable,

“Everywhere we turn, people are crying out for authenticity, for genuine connections, for renewed empathy. As we move forward, we need to take this step away from lives propelled by aggression and step into true fearlessness, which is a product of our raw, tender hearts.

If in this new era we are truly going to move forward as human beings, it will not be through strength or force.

Strength of force is no match for the boundless strength of surrender.

If, as has been implied by the Dalai Lama and other leaders, that women will save Western Civilization, it will not be through intellect, nor ambition, nor any overt power. It won’t be because we are perfect. It will be because we are vulnerable.”

When I’m sitting in my MBA classes and everyone is talking about working for investment banks or accounting firms, I’m the only one who proudly says they’re going to start a fashion company. After I say this, I’ll usually get a weird look, or they’ll say something along the lines of “Wow, that’s ambitious!” Yeah, it is ambitious. But I was raised to think deeper and dream bigger. I was raised to believe that if your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough. So I’m going to keep contouring my cheekbones for my night class with pride and also create pro forma financial documents that will blow your basic socks off.

It’s fine if you don’t have those same priorities.

But it’s also fine if you do, which is something I don’t think gets spoken about enough.

Feminine style is a part of who I am.

Rushing to paint my nails blush pink before a business networking event doesn’t mean I’m any less capable of showing a potential venture capitalist that they could seriously profit from investing in our company where our net profit margin is over twice the average (more on that to come!).



Details of Hannah’s Outfit
Top: Target
Pants: Amazon
Flats: Target
Earrings: Amazon
Details of Sabrina’s Outfit
Top: Forever 21
Leather Treggings: H&M
Flats: Antonio Melani
Scarf: Nordstrom
Ring: Jeweller in India