What is ‘Cultural Appropriation’ Anyways?

IMG_5313IMG_5725For this post, we challenged ourselves to put together the most *American* outfits we could without doing any online research to see how much influence other cultures have on our sense of style.

In short, we failed. Miserably.

Literally none of the styles we chose originated in America. Then, we did some more research and found that the only styles that truly got their start in the United States are blue jeans and western wear.

 

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This exercise was truly eye-opening because we saw firsthand that if we hadn’t taken styles from other cultures, there essentially would be no fashion in this country.

So, that brings us back to the idea of cultural appropriation. When is it okay to take ideas from other cultures and when is it disrespectful?

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I remember people getting upset about things like the name, “The Washington Redskins,” or even more recently, not liking that Kendall and Kylie put their faces on t-shirts with the names of Tupac and other African American artists, but I didn’t realize there was a name for it: cultural appropriation. The definition of cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by members of another culture.

As someone who is half Puerto Rican, I do understand this on a personal level. Particularly when people use bits and pieces of Spanish without really knowing what they mean, like adding “el” before certain words and “o” after them , like “el car-o” to be funny and make those words sound Hispanic.

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It’s not that big of a deal to me because I know most people who do this are just trying to be funny and aren’t trying to be disrespectful, but I understand why it is offensive to some people. Taking some aspects of a language and using them improperly is not respectful to that language and the people who speak it.

-S

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IMG_5555As we all know, America is a melting pot of different cultures. With so many different types of people coming to the States, cultures and lifestyles are bound to mix and take on aspects of other traditions. There are definitely reasons to tread cautiously when it comes to clothes, art, or anything from other cultures, but without this amazing conglomeration of people and ideas, we would not have things like Chicago-style pizza or New York Fashion Week.

I was researching cultural appropriation for this post because I actually didn’t even know what it was before Sabrina brought it up to me. I found this incredible article on how to approach cultural appropriation in a positive way, and I could not have put it any better myself:

“In the 21st century, cultural appropriation—like globalization—isn’t just inevitable; it’s potentially positive. We have to stop guarding cultures and subcultures in efforts to preserve them. It’s naïve, paternalistic, and counterproductive. Plus, it’s just not how culture or creativity work. The exchange of ideas, styles, and traditions is one of the tenets and joys of a modern, multicultural society. So how do we move past the finger pointing, and co-exist in a way that’s both creatively open and culturally sensitive? In a word, carefully.”

-The Atlantic, “The Dos and Don’ts of Cultural Appropriation

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If we limited ourselves to just ‘American’ culture and didn’t share with others, we would not have much at all. Blending cultures and lifestyles is what makes America, America.

So, if you like good music, good food, and good fashion, we should probably keep mixing cultures (respectfully).

-H

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To be completely honest, I did not understand why people got upset about cultural appropriation until fairly recently. I thought that people should be happy and feel honored if another culture borrowed one of their ideas and showcased it. (Boy was I wrong.)

I finally understood why people got upset about it when girls started wearing shirts and toting coffee mugs with the phrase, “Nama’stay in Bed,” emblazoned on them. Namaste is a Hindi greeting, and one time when I asked a girl wearing one of those shirts if she knew what “Namaste” meant or even what language it came from, she had no clue. As someone who is half Indian, that’s when I got a little offended and realized that there’s a right way and a wrong way to borrow from other cultures.

It is acceptable to borrow another culture’s idea if you know the meaning behind it and you treat it respectfully. Such as, if a clothing company used tribal print on one of their artisan-crafted handbags and also told a story about creator of the bag and the origin of the print in the description, this would be acceptable. On the other hand, if a company put a Native American headdress on one of their Caucasian, underwear-clad models for a runway show, that is not okay (ahem, Victoria’s Secret).

-S

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Sharing between cultures is something that is unavoidable–and honestly desirable–if we want to bring cultures closer together. But, there is a right way to do it by honoring the history of the cultural idea and the people who came up with it, and a wrong way to do it, which is ignoring everything except the aesthetic value of the idea.

Learn before you wear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos by: H+L Creations

Savvy’s Wearing:

| Forever 21 Satin Shirtdress | Marc Fisher Ankle Boots (similar) | Amazon Earrings | H&M Hair Piece | Fossil Purse (similar) | Plato’s Closet Watch (similar) | TJ Maxx Sunglasses (similar) |

 

Hannah’s Wearing:

| Forever 21 Slip Dress (similar) | Target Button Down Shirt (similar) | Amazon Heeled Sandals | Target Earrings (similar) | Aldo Sunglasses (similar) | BCBG Purse (similar) |

 

Sabrina’s Wearing:

| Amazon Crop Top (similar) | Forever 21 Pants (similar) | Zara PurseH&M Sunglasses | Forever 21 Mules | Amazon Earrings | Plato’s Closet Watch (similar) | Amazon Rings |

What to Wear When You Hate Summer Fashion

If you are anything like us, you probably cringe when someone tells you that summer is their favorite season.

Sunburns, scalding car seats, and spiders galore? No friggin’ thank you.

We would prefer to go into hibernation for the three most soul-crushing months of the year (which are only going to get hotter and hotter), but they unfortunately haven’t perfected that process yet. So, until then, we’ve had to make do.

 

IMG_4382I have always been a sweater-obsessed, booties-loving, fall fashion guru, so when the Arkansas summer heat hits, I’m filled with dread when I’m trying to figure out what to wear. (Not to mention, having to shave your legs like everyday is such a pain.) With the humidity in Arkansas, staying fashionable in the summer is nearly impossible. But instead of staying snuggled in my bed watching Netflix and counting down the days until the air turns crisp (which would be my first choice), I’ve turned to mesh tops, backless dresses, and flowy fabrics to get me through the summer fever so I don’t have to stay holed up in my room until September.

 

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Being only about 5’3 and having legs as white as the sandy beaches of Destin, I’ve always found it uncomfortable to wear shorts because it’s difficult to find a pair that is flattering on me. But, I decided it was time to free the thighs and get over my irrational fear of my white legs seeing the sun because how else are my legs going to get any darker if I keep them covered up all the time?IMG_4229

I love these shorts because they are high-waisted, which elongates my torso, and they pair well with my favorite, all-season embroidered booties, which magically make any outfit look chic. The vertical stripes of these shorts slim my waist while giving me the nautical, summery vibe I’m going for, and I love how they contrast with this peachy mesh top (whose main purpose is preventing me from melting like the Wicked Witch of the West). 

I still cannot wait until it’s sweater weather again, but I think I can survive until then with pieces like these in rotation. (But then again, it’s only June and we still have the two hottest months of the year to go, so we’ll see!)

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Summertime is great. I love long breaks from college to travel, work and just slow down for while. However, I have never been a fan of summer fashion. Living in Arkansas, I dread going outside into the sticky heat where sweating is inevitable. Picking out an outfit becomes a game where you have to consider so many factors before you even leave the house. What’s the temp out? Will I freeze in the AC when I go inside? Will this show sweat? Am I going to get a weird sunburn in this? (I say burn rather than tan because I’m only one shade of porcelain all year round). I am probably in the minority of people who would gladly trade scorching sunny days for cooler cloudy ones, and I get by in the summer by wearing light layers both for versatility and as a means to use some of my staple pieces from other seasons. And no one does layers and cloudy days quite like England, from which I draw most of my style inspiration.

In 2015, I spent the best semester of my college career studying abroad in London. For several sweet months, I drank in the culture around me as I fell in love with the accents, the food, the history, the mannerisms, and most of all, the fashion. 

 

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I brought quite a lot home with me after that semester; a few great pieces of clothing, but mostly ideas for my wardrobe. When studying there, I found that balance and stability are themes that permeate almost every facet of British culture, and they definitely extend to fashion. Londoners were not overly done-up nor were they slouchy or frumpy.

This look has infiltrated much of my own wardrobe and the pieces I buy. I strive for that balance between the high-end pieces like you could find in London’s West End shops and vintage finds like you might pick up in the East End.

IMG_4296I aspire to find that androgynous balance for me that looks powerful and bold, yet still chic and soft. I am always seeking that balance that says, “I put in some effort with this look, but not too much.” Because at the end of the day, I want that beautifully unique look too. I don’t want someone to compliment my outfit or my makeup as much as I would like them to compliment how I look. I want my summer wardrobe to be flexible and still me even if it’s not my favorite season of the year and even if I’m suffering through Arkansas weather instead of London’s. And if I can achieve that, I promise you can too.

-S

 

IMG_4341I love the color black.

I wear it year-round, so my fellow Arkansans must think I’ve lost my mind around this time of year.

But, I hate typical summer fashion with its frou-frou ruffles and bright colors, so I had to find a way to stay true to my sense of style without literally having a heat stroke.

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I wore this all-black outfit when it was at least eighty degrees outside, and you know what? I was actually pretty comfortable! If you like dark colors, the key is wearing pieces that allow you to breathe in the summertime. This shirt is mesh, so I could feel that wonderful breeze on my skin all day long, and these flowy, satin wide-leg pants didn’t cling to my skin at all or make me sweat. 

It’s honestly really difficult for me to find the motivation to get dressed up in the summertime because I am very hot-natured and I sweat a lot (ladylike, I know). I don’t want to wear cute clothes or spend time on my hair and makeup because I know as soon as I step outside, I’m instantly going to sweat through whatever I’m wearing and my hair is going to frizz up because of the humidity.

 

Before we started this blog, I essentially only wore various, boring combinations of tank tops and shorts whenever I went out somewhere because I didn’t think it was worth it to put in the energy. Now, I’m a little more obligated to put in some real effort instead of giving summer a pass and being content with looking like a hungover college kid dragging their feet to their 8 am class (messy bun, dark circles and all). It’s a good thing, though, because I feel better about myself when I try, and with breezy fabrics, makeup primer, and plenty of hairspray, I think I can make it until fall.

-S

 

“I figure if I’m gonna be a mess, I might as well be a hot mess.” -Mindy Kaling

IMG_4469Hannah’s Outfit Details:

Mesh Top: Forever 21

Shorts: Forever 21

Embroidered Booties: Target

Earrings: Amazon

Sunglasses: Aldo- similar here

Sarah’s Outfit Details:

Crop Top: Kohl’s- similar here

Satin Top: Goodwill- similar here

Pants: Forever 21

Heels: Forever 21

Sunglasses: Rue 21- similar here

Sabrina’s Outfit Details:

Mesh Top: Zara- similar here

Bralette: Aerie

Satin Pants: Goodwill (revitalized by Awaken Atelier)- similar here 

Velvet Sneakers: Target

Earrings: Amazon

Sunglasses: TJ Maxx- similar here

Watch: Plato’s Closet- similar here

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

Freedom Lies in Being Bold

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

– Neale Donald Walsch

DSC_2354 2They say it’s hardest to see what is right in front of you.

We ourselves did not see how much our sense of style was growing and evolving until we looked back at the photographs from some of our first shoots.

Our style is nearly unrecognizable from even a year ago, and that’s pretty incredible.

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Until just a couple months ago, I was stuck in a phase for a long time where I only liked neutrals and basics. They worked, and I knew they looked chic, so it was difficult to break out of that mold. I turned to neutrals because before that, I didn’t really have a ‘style.’ I chose clothes on a whim without thinking about how they would fit in with the rest of my wardrobe. I kind of collected an assortment of pretty clothes with no idea as to what my sense of style was supposed to be.

I’ve loved fashion for my entire life, but it’s taken me almost my entire life thus far to truly figure out my identity in it.

I think everyone goes through those phases in their chosen craft: trying out a whole bunch of random things to see what ‘clicks’, narrowing down those choices in an attempt to make everything appear cohesive, and finally, cultivating some originality and through that, branching out and trying things that are bold and risky.

If you had told me even a year ago that I would be fawning over a floral, embroidered mesh top, I probably would have laughed. I would have never bought this top a year ago because the old me would have thought it was too flashy. But the new me wants to wear it literally every single day.

-S

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People are afraid of being bold in their choices because they’re scared that other people may not like those choices. They’re afraid of indulging in the edgier sides of their passions for fear of what other people might think.

We used to be those people.

We used to care what comments people made, or didn’t make, but thought to themselves.

Yet, we’re a lot happier now that we honestly don’t give a damn what other people think of us or our outfits.

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I knew what I was supposed to do, but I didn’t know how I was going to do it.

I was scared.

For so long, I wrestled with what my major was going to be. I tried out environmental science and journalism at first, in an attempt to be “practical,” and then turned to digital filmmaking because it seemed like a good compromise between practicality and artistry. I liked them all, but none of them ever lit a fire inside of me.

It was time to be bold and do what I was meant to do– the arts.

I jumped in headfirst and took four art classes this semester, and they have opened my eyes as a creator. When I see a garment hanging on a rack at Goodwill, my mind races through the different ways I could reinvent it to make it fresh and stylish, and my heart races with anticipation to get to work on it. I don’t think I could have (or would have) done that with an environmental science degree.

In art, we are always looking for a way to communicate a message through colors, emotion, and lines– and that describes fashion to a tee. When I was bold in my decision to go after my passion and my craft, I became more myself than ever. And my style reflected that as I began to purchase daring pieces. As I became more adventurous in my art, I also became fearless in my style. I would have never worn a mesh top and overalls even just a few months ago!

So, take that job, move to L.A., wear that dress. Be courageous and go after your desires.

-H

Making bold choices is obviously a risk, and sometimes it doesn’t pay off.

Just yesterday, we were talking about how we would like to scrap/change some of the old outfits we’ve worn for shoots! Disliking some the chances you took is part of it. If you don’t take those chances, you are never going to end up with something that takes your breath away. You have to be willing to be bold and put yourself out there if you ever want to get past a plateau.

For us, that plateau was sticking to fashion that was safe.

For you, it might be grinding away at the same sales job without ever actually increasing your commission, or yielding the same results from a research experiment over and over again. If you’re stuck somewhere like that, know that you don’t have to be there forever.

You just have to try something new, or even think about something old in a new way. Change is hard and change is messy, but change is worth it. Step out of your comfort zone, and you would not believe the incredible things you can achieve.

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“Enjoy being bold, and if that is scary at first, marvel at your ability to walk through fear.”
-Rivka Solomon
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Sabrina’s Outfit Details
Mesh Top: Zara
White Button Down: Express
Jeans: H&M
Shoes: Antonio Melani
Earrings: Badgley Mischka
Sunglasses TJ Maxx
Rings: Unknown
Hannah’s Outfit Details:
Top: Forever 21
Overalls: Forever 21
Shoes: Marc Fisher
Brallette: Victoria’s Secret
Earrings: HipSway
Sunglasses: TJ Maxx
Photos by Demetrius McCullough

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.

-S

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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.

-H

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