Half the Story

Our mission at Ensemble of Elan is to dress with purpose.

To explore ideas that intrigue us, to celebrate those who inspire us, and discover who we are through fashion.

As part of that, we try to be as authentic and honest as we can, but like anyone, there are still sides of ourselves that we don’t exactly broadcast to the world.

We want to inspire those around us to take on the world with confidence, but we don’t want to give you the idea that this is something that comes to us with ease. Because like anyone, we sometimes doubt ourselves and our abilities.

So, we wanted to share with you our #halfthestory, which is a movement to share the half of yourself that you don’t normally share on social media, and we hope our stories inspire you to do the same.

 

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Have you ever gone somewhere and felt like you were out of place?

Now, have you felt that way almost every day of your life?

Most people probably haven’t, but I have.

I suffer from what is called impostor syndrome.

Impostor syndrome is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. I graduated as valedictorian from my high school, got accepted into one of the most prestigious honors colleges in the country, graduated summa cum laude with my bachelor’s degree, and I am currently holding a 4.0 GPA in my master’s program.

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People have always regarded me as the “smart girl,” but for a long time, I honestly never felt that way.cI always discounted every accomplishment with something along the lines of “I went to a small school, so there wasn’t as much competition,”or “I got in the Honors College because my sister was already in it, and they liked her,” or “The work wasn’t very hard, so it didn’t take that much effort to get an A.” I never credited myself for a single one of those feats.

I hadn’t heard of imposter syndrome until about a year ago, but when I finally read an article about it, something clicked because it perfectly articulated something I’d felt for years. I was truly afraid to write this because I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging; I’m not that kind of person (rather, quite the opposite). I know there are a lot of people out there who feel the same way, but don’t know how to talk about it without looking like they’re fishing for a compliment. From all of us out there who struggle with this, I promise we aren’t ‘humble bragging’ because outside validation does nothing to help us.

 

I wanted to share this anecdote from Neil Gaiman because it helped me realize that I wasn’t alone:

Some years ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realize that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.

On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of,

“I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”

And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”

And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an impostor, maybe everyone did.

Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth;

all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.

 

The older I get, the more I realize that nobody actually ever feels like they know what they’re doing.

We look at people who seemingly have it all together and forget that they’re people too.

People just like us.

So, if you do feel way out of your league or completely terrified that people are going to discover that you actually aren’t as intelligent or creative or whatever as people think you are, keep going. Someone (probably a lot of someones) saw something in you, even though you couldn’t see it yourself. Try to give yourself a little credit, and if that’s still difficult for you, remember it’s better to be humble and keep striving to better yourself than to think you are the most amazing person who has ever existed and stay exactly where you are.

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This year, I took on quite the workload with being a full time student, working 20-30 hours a week, starting Ensemble of Elan, and taking the first steps to open our sustainable fashion company, Awaken. I’ve learned that being an aspiring entrepreneur often means accepting stress as part of your life.

Many days last semester consisted of waking up and starting my day in school, doing work for two of my jobs in class (sorry mom), racing to business meetings or blog photoshoots as soon as I got done with class, then in the wee hours of the night I would finally start on some homework. I’m only twenty years old, but I have a lot of dreams, so I knew I needed to find a way for me to take them on without my brain exploding from so much stress.

I noticed the weight of the anxiety and tensions start to creep in, and I continually pushed it to the back of my mind or ignored it until I was on the verge of a meltdown every other day. Rather than sharing my feelings with my friends or family, I employed the “fake it till you make it” method, or as some social psychiatrists put it, “impression management”.

 

Many of the things that make a great entrepreneur- creativity, passion, energy- are also the things that can lead to them feeling worthless and sapped of motivation, especially when things don’t go as planned.

There are almost entire days when I lay in bed, just mentally exhausted from all of the tasks I have to do on regular basis. On those days, the last thing I want to do is to post another social media post or create another graphic. But many times, I don’t really have a choice.

So what are we supposed to do to keep stress from overcoming our lives?

Are we just supposed to give up our dreams altogether because they’re too stressful?

 

What has helped me deal with the stress and burdens of being an aspiring entrepreneur is remembering why we started Awaken in the first place: to help promote sustainable clothing in the fashion industry (and because going into fashion has always been my dream). When I refocus my purpose and intentions of why I am doing all of this, it makes it all worth it.

There are days when I am the most positive, encouraging person and I am ready to take on the day, but there are also days when the doubt and fear crashes down like a thousand ton elephant on my shoulders, and I can barely get a single thing done.

On those days, I like to hit up the gym and let out all of my frustrations.

ANOTHER TIP IS TO JUST TAKE A BATH EVERY ONCE IN AWHILE. IT HELPS.

Many of us worship the ideal of perfection, but letting that go can help us release all stress we compound on a daily basis.

-H

 

Be sure to check out the Half the Story Project for more life unfiltered!_MG_5701Hannah’s Outfit Details

Camisole: Target

Robe: Victoria’s Secret

Earrings: Amazon

Sabrina’s Outfit Details

Slip Dress: Target

Robe: Gift

Earrings: Gift

The Rules Are Meant to Be Broken

There are a lot of so-called ‘rules’ in fashion.

“Don’t wear socks with sandals.”

“Don’t show your bra straps.”

“Match your shoes to your purse.”

“Dress for your age.”

Thankfully, all of these rules are completely irrelevant in 2017. The new era of fashion is all about expressing yourself however you so choose. If you are a fashion novice, it might be a smart idea to use the rules as guidelines until you get more comfortable creating outfits, but after that, feel more than free to shatter and stomp all over them.

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I remember when I was a teenager, it was a fashion faux pas for your bra straps or your underwear to peek out from your clothes. It was such a pain to make sure my bra straps were tucked away at all times and that my underwear wasn’t showing above my low-rise jeans. Now, I love that undergarments are made to be shown. We as women shouldn’t have to worry about constantly covering up what we’re wearing underneath our clothes. It’s ridiculous!

And impossible at times!

Trust me, there’s nothing scandalous about a visible bra strap. There might be something a little scandalous about showing off Calvin Klein or Victoria’s Secret undies, but is there really anything wrong with that? (No. No, there isn’t.)IMG_2566

 

 

 

 

 

Dressing in a sexy manner isn’t a crime.

Although, I honestly did feel a little awkward during this shoot because we were at the Clinton Presidential Library and guests were arriving for a fancy wedding while I was chilling and modeling for photos in this outfit. I probably could have planned the timing/location of that shoot better so that I didn’t feel underdressed, but it wasn’t the end of the world, and I didn’t let it bother me.

-S

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There are a couple of fashion myths that I simply do not agree with.

For starters, whoever said that you have to be as tall as Karlie Kloss to wear long pants and maxi skirts is dead wrong. Many short girls, including myself (I’m 5’2 and proud), have ventured into the world of over-the knee-boots and wide-leg pants, and you know what? They look just as fly on us as they do on our taller counterparts.

However, there are several challenges when it comes to pulling off jumbo pant legs if you are not a pro in stilettos. Just remember to have your tailor on speed dial and that high waistbands can add several inches to your perceived height

 

 

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Another misconception that used to exist in the fashion industry is that you cannot mix prints, but that has certainly been disproven over the past few seasons. From mixing florals with stripes to even leopard and plaid, fashion in 2017 is on a new level that does not follow any rules.

I read an intriguing quote the other day on the fashion blog, Racked:

“A fashion ‘don’t’ thoroughly owned by you is always going to be a much more interesting look than a fashion ‘do’ worn with resentful compliance.”

So don’t hold back; break the rules. Remember that rebellion has always thrived in fashion.

Without it, would fashion ever evolve?

-H

All that said, you do have to know the rules before you can successfully break the rules. So, please don’t pair Hanes crew socks with your Birkenstocks or show off the straps of your ratty, old, Maidenform bra (please). But you can wear fishnet socks with black heels or show off the straps of a lacy, new bralette!

Keep in mind that fashion icons do not get remembered for wearing what’s conventional or appropriate. Wear what you want to wear, and let it roll off your back if people have a problem with it. Right now they might be mocking you, but before you know it, they’ll be imitating you.

“Well behaved women seldom make history.”

– Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

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Hannah’s Outfit Details

Button-Down Shirt: Goodwill

Jeans: Target

Heeled Sandals: Goodwill

Sunglasses: Rue21

Purse: BCBG

Sabrina’s Outfit Details

Crop Top: Target

Bra: Aerie

Jeans: Zara

Undies: Victoria’s Secret

Purse: Aldo

Ankle Boots: Lulu’s

Falling in Love With Clothing Again

Do you remember how you felt as a teenager after you tried on a million prom dresses and finally found one that gave you goosebumps?

If you are anything like us, you probably took it out of its garment bag and tried it on at least two or three more times before prom night because you simply could not wait to wear it until then.

It was a magical feeling that most of us can still remember.IMG_2771People used to have that kind of emotional connection with a lot more pieces in their wardrobes, but many of us have lost that. We buy the same, boring button-down shirt in three different colors because it works for the office, and we don’t want to have to put in the effort to find three amazing, unique tops instead.

This is precisely why we as a society have accepted fast fashion. We’re perfectly content with finding clothes that are kind of cute and that we can wear two or three times before the seams start coming apart and the appliqués start falling off because we honestly don’t care enough about them to want to wear them year after year.

But, it’s time to bring back the emotional connection to clothing because without it, we are losing out on some of the greatest benefits that fashion has to offer us.

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I know there are a lot of people out there who love services like Stitch Fix, where a personal stylist selects clothes for them based on their style preferences. This service is great for those who don’t have time/don’t enjoy shopping, but I personally do not think you can develop that same attachment to something if you do not pick it out yourself.

This is big part of the reason why I develop more of a connection to clothing items that I purchase myself, rather than those I receive as gifts from friends or family members. I truly do appreciate that someone else has put the time and effort into choosing a dress or pair of shoes they think I’ll like, but even when I do like it, I don’t fall in love with it in the same way I would have if I had found it myself.

 

So, use Stitch Fix for everyday wear if you like, but if you have a big event coming up that you are really looking forward to, I urge you to go out, do the old-fashioned thing, and find a dress or an outfit yourself.

The joy of discovery leads to a deeper connection with that piece of clothing, and you’ll be more likely to wear it again and again.

-S

 

There are not a lot of times I can find a print or a pattern that works for me, but when I saw this dress online at Lulu’s, it was love at first sight. This print was minimal, chic, and two of my favorite colors. I was motivated to widen my wardrobe and find more prints that I adore because of the designer, Dom Streater, who was a Project Runway winner.

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What inspires me about Dom is that she creates her textile designs based on her own paintings, and you can see her constant love affair with prints come through in her clothing pieces. Dom took a lot of risks during her season by using prints in every challenge (even the million dollar runway challenge!), but because she continually made clothes that she personally loved and never compromised her design or aesthetic, she prevailed and won her season.

Even though I’m not quite as much of a prints person, I want to try to be more like Dom by not being afraid to take a risk and always wearing pieces that I’m emotionally attached to instead of ones that I merely ‘like’.

-H

 

You are probably tired of hearing this by now, but we’ll say it again anyways because it’s important: Clothing is how we show the world who we are inside.

How are we supposed to do that if we do not care about what we buy or what we put on our bodies?

Treating clothes as if they’re disposable not only harms the environment and contributes to unethical labor practices in developing countries, but it also dilutes this crucial form of personal expression.

There is a famous quote that reads,

“Life is too short to wear boring clothes,”

but we’d like to amend that to say,

“Life is too short to wear clothes you don’t love.”IMG_2896Sabrina’s Outfit Details

Dress: Target
Button Down Shirt: Goodwill
Ankle Boots: Lulu’s
Sunglasses: TJ Maxx
Earrings: Jeweller in India
Purse: Aldo
Hannah’s Outfit Details
Dress: Lulu’s
Bralette: Aerie
Ankle Boots: Lulu’s
Choker: Rue21
Earrings: Amazon
Hat: Target
Sunglasses: Eyeglass Direct

In Defense of Social Media

Social media gets blamed for a lot of things nowadays.

Low-self esteem. Violence. Addiction.

Even social media-savvy celebrities like Selena Gomez and Kendall Jenner have popularized the “Instagram Detox” as a way to escape the pressure and potentially harmful side effects that these apps can trigger. It’s true that too much of Instagram or Facebook can definitely have a negative impact on people’s lives, but we’ve forgotten that despite these shortcomings, social media does have the power to do good if it is used in moderation.

A few years ago, I studied abroad in Europe and spent about a month backpacking across the continent. I took a lot of photos, but besides posting them on Instagram, I didn’t do much else with them.

I’m so thankful I used Instagram back then because now when I scroll back through my feed, that section of it is like a travel journal filled with my adventures. I’ve always wanted to put together a scrapbook of my time in Europe, but in the almost four years since I’ve been back (has it seriously been that long?!), I still haven’t done it. (Shocker.)

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If I hadn’t posted those photos on social media, they would have simply gotten lost in my iPhoto library, (almost) never to be looked at again.

Social media gives us a way to not only share our experiences with other people, but it also gives us a way to look back on them and reminisce ourselves. I honestly do not care if two hundred or ten people like my posts because I post them mostly for my future self anyways.

-S

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Social media has given me an incredible opportunity as an artist to share everything I am currently working on, from our daily posts on Ensemble of Elan to art I create in my classes or recent thrift shop transformations. I love that I can immediately share them with my community at the touch of a button. Not only is it great for sharing daily events,it has also given me ample opportunities for jobs and collaborations.

I started H + L Creations to brand myself so it would be easier for future employers to familiarize themselves with my skills and talents. And I’ve already reaped the benefits with not one, but two jobs as Marketing and Social Media Assistant for RaftUp and Social Media Manager for Waterhouse Market.

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I run five social media accounts daily, and to be honest, I can get tired of it too.

There are some days when it is really hard to keep up with everything and it’s mentally exhausting.

So, as much as I love the opportunities these social paths create, I do have to agree that sometimes it’s nice to take some time for yourself and put the phone down.

-H

Social media has brought us closer together and has allowed us to accomplish some pretty amazing things, from creating supportive networks for those living with mental illnesses or pre-existing conditions through the use of hashtags, to raising awareness and sometimes even millions of dollars for social causes around the globe.

Without social media, those feats would have never been possible.

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For better or for worse, social media is here to stay.

It’s ultimately up to you if you want to use it, and we completely understand if it isn’t for you. But before you take to bashing social media (on social media, probably), remember the reason it was created in the first place.

To connect with new friends and family.

To reconnect with old ones.

To share and celebrate your life experiences with the world,

And to voice your opinion on a platform where you will be heard.

How often do you really think you would talk to those who don’t live near you if it wasn’t for Facebook? How many “Happy Birthdays” do you think you would get? How many scrapbooks would you have made of your travels if it wasn’t for Instagram?

Social media has made our world a whole lot smaller, and we’re definitely experiencing some growing pains because of it. But, it’s also made us closer to one another and more aware of the events going on around us.

Connections and knowledge are power, and we can’t imagine our world without them.

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“Social media are a catalyst for the advancement of everyone’s rights. It’s where we’re reminded that we’re all human and all equal.
It’s where people can find and fight for a cause, global or local, popular or specialized,
even when there are hundreds of miles between them.”
-Queen Raina of Jordan
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Hannah’s Outfit Details
Dress: HipSway (Refashioned by Awaken Atelier)
Ankle Boots: Lulu’s
Clutch: TJ Maxx
Sunglasses: Rue21
Sabrina’s Outfit Details
Button-Down Shirt: Goodwill (Refashioned by Awaken Atelier)
Shorts: Impressions Boutique
Fishnet Socks: Amazon
Heels: Kohl’s
Purse: BCBG
Earrings: H&M