Secondhand Serenade: October 2019 by Diana Le

This year I’ve been shopping so much secondhand again thanks to ThredUp, Depop, Poshmark and eBay. I feel like thrifting both in-store and online can be overwhelming to sift through all the good, bad, and wtf?, but once you figure out your methods to the madness, you can seriously find the best stuff. And thrifting doesn’t have to mean dressing qUiRky, y’all! To prove it, here are some great basics, classic, and interesting pieces I found on ThredUp that I think are great for fall.

Girl by Diana Le

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As a part of this whole crisis I’m having where I’m going backward to go forward, I’m revisiting my favorite media, the ones that had the most impact on me. So I’ve been re-reading some of my favorite books of all time. I love re-reading books anyway, but Leena from Justkissmyfrog also said that re-reading a book and a writing style you’re intimately familiar with can be a good and unintimidating way to get back on the reading horse.

So the first book I re-read was Girl by Blake Nelson. It’s been my favorite book since I read it for the first time in the 8th grade. And I’ve probably re-read it about 10 times since.

It was honestly so nice to get back into Andrea’s voice and Blake Nelson’s unique style he used for this book. It’s very plain and stream of consciousness, and actually something I’ve tried to impart in my writing ever since I read it the first time.

It’s just crazy how well he captures these little relatable moments of insecurities. And it’s weird because I’d forgotten how sad and pathetic I felt in high school and even up until a few years ago until I re-read this and related with Andrea’s moments of infinite sadness.

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Here are some passages from the book that I think are so simple and sweet, and maybe you can get a feel for how special this writing is.

“We drove. when we got downtown we cruised by Outer Limits and there were so many people outside on the street Rebecca had to slow down and wait for them to move. And these boys were guzzling a quart of beer and everyone was smoking cigarettes and acting really cool and tough. But then on the next block we saw Greg’s station wagon which made me feel better. We parked beside it. And I didn’t have any makeup on and Rebecca had a little mascara and she looked at herself in the rear-view mirror and asked me if we should put on lipstick and I said, “I guess we better.” So she put some on and I put some on and then some eye pencil. And she asked me if I ever smoked and I said I knew how and she said good and got some cigarettes from under the seat. And we got out and ran across the street and then we smoothed our dressed and turned the corner and walked into the crowd.”

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“Then I turned seventeen. It was so depressing. I couldn’t even look at anyone. At school nobody cared because most of them had already turned. At home my mom made a cake and my dad was acting weird and trying to make eye contact. And all day I kept studying my face in the mirror and wondering if I would have jowls someday like Mrs. Schroeder. And everything old was bugging me like Lizzy Rosen’s grandpa who went on these pathetic walks to the corner that took him half the day, That Night I took my Coma tape and sat outside on the steps with Brad’s Walkman and listened to it all the way through twice. And I knew my parents were wondering what my problem was and then my dad came out and stood over me and asked me what I was doing. I said nothing. He asked me if I was sad about my birthday or if it was something else and I couldn’t answer and I couldn’t look at him. So he sat down and said it was hard being my age and no matter what happened he still still loved me. And my mom too. And after a while he gave me a hug but even then he was holding back because I was seventeen and my breasts were touching him.”

“Back to school, what a nightmare. And I was having the worst crisis of my life because I loved piling my hair up and nobody cared at Monte Carlo or Color Green shows, but at Hillside High School? It was a terrible decision because if I put it up there wouldn’t even be anyone to appreciate it and I would get teased and what was the point? And for the last week before school I had worn it up every day because it was so hot and now it felt weird to let it down. And also, as Carla had pointed out, my whole taste in clothes was heading toward a big hair look anyway and it was like the missing link and I looked like an idiot if I wore my fish dress and saddle shoes and then left my hair hanging off me like a dog. It got so bad that I even contemplated getting a bob just to end the agony but no one was getting bobs now and even Carla was growing hers out, And I was having a total panic so I called Cybil and she said I should shave my head and I was like, very funny, Cybil. Then I almost called Carla but she wasn’t in high school and I thought it would be too embarrassing to bother her with such suburban stupidness.”

From the Archive: On Rookie and High School Diana by Diana Le

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This is a piece I wrote for a scholarship from the library where I worked as a student. I won. It’s funny finding this piece I wrote in 2013? 2014? given that I JUST wrote a blog post about my affection for Rookie and wanting to rediscover a part of myself that I admired and forgotten about. It makes me feel good to know that I’m periodically checking in with myself and taking stock of whether I’m really doing the things I want to be doing. And it’s nice to see that there seems to be a common thread of what it is I value most and think I should be spending my time doing.

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Diana,

Wow, I can’t believe the year is already over. It seems like just yesterday I was listening to one of your hilarious speeches in speech class. You are such a passionate person, and I know you will get far in life. Hopefully I will see you organizing giant music gigs around the world in the future!!

                                                                                                            -Ryan

This was written to me in my high school yearbook. Though I don’t miss high school, I do miss the girl that Ryan is talking about. She was passionate, ambitious, had the time to be introspective, and was not yet crippled by her own self-awareness. Somewhere along the way, I’d lost that.

I discovered Rookie Yearbook One in HQ 798, the girlhood section of the Suzzallo/Allen library, which I frequent often, trying to make sense of where things may have gone wrong for me. The description on the back of the book read: “RookieMag.com is not a guide to Being a Teen or a texbook on How to Be a Young Woman. It’s a publication for teenage girls intending to make the best of the cringe-worthy awkwardness and sometimes sort of beautiful pain that is female adolescence.” Yearbook One is an anthology of the online magazine’s best content throughout the year bound together like a high school yearbook. It was at this moment that I felt that I had received a gift.  I took it home and poured over it. It was as if Rookie had populated an entire high school with the coolest, smartest girls you knew and always wanted to meet. It’s a Sassy Magazine for the post-Riot Grrrl generation.

At first I felt strange and embarrassed that I identified so strongly with this magazine aimed at teen girls. Then I realized that the feeling of uncertainty and infinite sadness doesn’t end when you turn twenty. Your pubescent angst becomes teen angst; your teen angst becomes permanent existential crisis. Those feelings are universal. As Joan Rivers once said, “It doesn’t get better. You get better.”

Rookie reintroduced me to the part of myself that I had once written off as sophomoric. Rookie showed me the joy of loving things whole-heartedly and without irony. They taught me that nostalgia can be productive. And that being forthright and female is awesome. As an aspiring writer, Rookie helped me realize that I didn’t have to write for a tangible goal like being published or to please everyone. I needed to write for myself again.

In high school I was obsessed with music, movies, and art; it was through this immersion in the work of others that I learned the most about myself. It’s said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, and I consider Rookie one of those people. Since the introduction of Rookie into my social circle, I’ve once again been able to find those moments of strange magic and write about them.

Something Old by Diana Le

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Lately I’ve been hearing quite a few of the YouTubers I subscribe to express that they’re interested in reducing how much they shop, whether it be fashion or beauty, but feel like the nature of their job is such that they need to constantly be showing and trying new products to give their audiences ideas for what to buy. And that often times, they are using tried and true things in their day to day life, but don’t show that in their videos because they feel like people will get upset if it’s an old product that can no longer be purchased.

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I actually feel the opposite. I’d prefer to see people wearing and using the same things over and over again. I’m at a place with my wardrobe and my belongings where I want to add things that are carefully considered. So when I see a YouTuber or blogger I follow consistently wearing and recommending something over a long period of time, I’m more inclined to consider it as something I’d like to purchase and get a lot of use out of.

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Two Internet People who I think do this really well are Kailee McKenzie and Lizzy Hadfield. Kailee is always recommending products she’s had forever and when they’re something she thrifted or is no longer available, she takes the time to find and link something similar. Which solves the whole not being able to recommend products that are currently in stock issue.

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Lizzy’s core style is fairly consistent and I enjoy seeing common threads of wardrobe items she wears over and over again. I like that she doesn’t do a ton of haul videos and her Testing Basics series has helped me make more informed purchases.

One of my tried and true, ride or die pieces is my black Everlane oversize blazer. I bought it just under a year ago and have gotten so much wear out of it. I can’t tell you for sure, but I’ve worn it at least 30 times, making the cost per wear $5 right now, and it’s going down all the time. I’ve worn it to work, on job interviews, with casual outfits and just about every night outfit. Can’t recommend it enough.

I’m hoping this pressure around constantly sharing new purchases shifts because I know I’d like to see more tried and true than new.

Girl Noise by Diana Le

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Rookie magazine folded a couple months ago, and I didn’t realize it, but I guess I’m still processing my feelings around that and it’s inadvertently influenced the things I’ve been thinking about, inspired by and setting goals around. I found Rookie later age-wise than most, probably. I started reading Rookie in 2013, my junior year of college. It set my head on fire. I started writing more, listening to lots of Riot Grrrl, going to lots of underground shows and meeting lots really cool girls.

So much of my creative endeavors, socializing and discovery revolved around girls making things from their bedroom for other girls in their bedrooms.

But all of that started to fall away slowly after I got my first job in copywriting three years ago. I stopped writing creatively and for myself because I enjoyed my work and began focusing on sharpening my skills to reach career goals. I started my now on hiatus podcast, Girl Noise during a breakup, but then stopped after 11 episodes. I’m still not sure why. Work, life, self-consciousness?

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Even as I moved from my first grown-up girl apartment to another, I paid a lot of attention to creating a dreamy, girly space in the bedroom where I felt safe and inspired. But now that I’ve moved in with my boyfriend, my bedroom can’t really be the same girly sanctuary anymore. I’m finding ways inject that same sentiment into a shared space. And I’m determined to do so now more than ever. My boyfriend will have his office and I’ll have the bedroom to decorate and make a space that I can feel inspired to create. The bedroom walls are painted a New England green, so I’m going to buy blue plaid bedding, a Pendleton blanket and decorate it kind of like a teenage boy’s bedroom, which is what my actual teenage bedroom looked like, with band posters plastered all over the walls and a red and black color scheme. I’m excited about this because 1) teenage bedrooms house creativity, wonder and rebellion and 2) I think tapping into that boyish teenage bedroom vibe will remind me of my own creative courage in my teenage years.

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And I’m in such a lucky position to enjoy the work I’m doing and find fulfillment in it, but I don’t want to continue feeling fulfilled just enough to where I completely lose touch with the joy of writing for myself. So when I created my mood/vision board for the start of 2019, I new that this year needed more Girl Noise. Girl Noise is something I read in Rob Sheffield’s book, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran that I’ve held onto every since.

“My sisters were the coolest people I knew, and still are. I have always aspired to be like them and know what they know. My sisters were the color and noise in my black-and-white boy world—how I pitied my friends who had brothers. Boys seemed incredibly tedious and dim compared to my sisters, who were always a rush of energy and excitement, buzzing over all the books, records, jokes, rumors and ideas we were discovering together. I grew up thriving on the commotion of their girl noise, whether they were laughing or singing or staging an intervention because somebody was wearing stirrup pants. I always loved being lost in that girl noise.” 

I used to marinate in so much Girl Noise. I even used to make a fair amount of my own. So this year I want to go backward to move forward. I want to get back in touch with an old part of myself that has gone dormant and that I miss. I want to wear cute mini skirts and go see cool bands, I want to read more books and more things written by cool girls on the internet, I want to start writing creative nonfiction essays again and self-publish them like a lo-fi ho, I want rediscovery my love of discovering new-to-me music and movies. Maybe I’ll even pick up the microphone again and bring the podcast back. I definitely want to blog more and a lot casually on here. And I’m gonna do it all from my bedroom.

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You Probably Don't Need a New Outfit for That Party by Diana Le

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I love planning outfits. Weeks, even a month ahead of time for events I may or may not have coming up. Once, boyfriend mentioned off-hand that we were invited to some girl’s party in a week.I felt insecure and threatened and wanted to look good and cool and pretty. So I bought a new black, patent croc print mini skirt with tulip hems on the sides from ASOS and paid an extra $7.99 for 2-day shipping. We didn’t even end up going to that party and that skirt is sitting in my To Consign pile, NWT (new with tags) because I impulse purchased something that wasn’t quite right out of panic and insecurity.

I eventually found and carefully considered the purchase of the perfect black faux leather wrap mini skirt add to my wardrobe. There was no specific event I had in mind for it. But I knew it would it could be dressed up with knee high boots and a blazer for nights out and parties, and dressed down with a T-shirt and sneakers for casual day looks.

When I got invited to a friend’s Christmas party with two weeks notice, I decided not to stress and buy something new to wear for it. I mentally took an inventory of what was in my wardrobe for what could work. My general philosophy for occasion dressing is: Appropriate and Unexpected. I knew for a holiday party, most people would go for reds, greens, sparkles and metallics. So I wore a sleek, all-black outfit. I paired my black mini skirt with a black velvet/sheer leopard print bodysuit, black semi-sheer tights and black knee-high boots.

There’s something so satisfying, effortless and chic about re-working things you already have in your wardrobe to make them work in the evening. I got invited to another holiday party a week later and wore the exact same outfit with the addition of an amazing Flamin’ Hot Cheetos pin that my boss gifted me.

Even with this newfound confidence in my wardrobe and my ability to put together Appropriate and Expected outfits for whatever occasion arises, I’m still working on buying new clothes for something out of insecurity. I have something coming up where I know someone might be there that makes me feel a little paranoid and jealous. And so I want to wear the perfect thing that makes me look good and cool and pretty.

I had bought a secondhand BCBGMAXAZRIA pink snakeskin print faux leather mini skirt of my dreams off Depop thinking I could get it altered smaller to fit me. The tailor told me that the fabric would be too hard to work with, which was devastating. I’d already been planning outfits around it (e.g. a black mockneck and brown suede knee-high boots) and dreaming of all the shows and nights out I could wear it to. But most importantly, I was going to wear it to this thing where this girl was going to be there where I need to look good and cool and pretty.

And now I realize that the times I do want to impulse buy a new outfit, it’s been out of insecurity and jealousy toward another girl I think might look better, cooler and prettier than me. And that sucks, but it’s good to know so I can move forward with that knowledge. I don’t think knowing that will cure this impulse, but it’ll definitely give me pause the next time I plan an outfit.

The Bobbi Brown Look by Diana Le

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Ever since I bought myself Bobbi Brown’s Teenage Beauty book, I’ve been on a mission to find the perfect products to execute that clean, simple, sexy, pouty look. A young Sofia Coppola is nailing it here.

A huge part of the look and probably the most difficult to find were the lips. But I’ve finally found two holy grail lip colors: NARS Damage (a muted grape) and Colourpop x Karrueche in Brick (the perfect 90s model brown). My only gripe is that the NARS lipstick is sheer, which I like, but needs to be reapplied often so I go through it so fast. And at $28 a tube, I don’t really want to be constantly repurchasing it. I may be on to a dupe though…stay tuned!

Your Hair Looks Sexy Pushed Back by Diana Le

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Remember these??

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I’ve been revisiting Buffy’s style recently, taking bits and pieces to try and incorporate into my own look. While I was scrolling through all the amazing episode screencaps on the What Buffy Wore tumblr, these ones of Buffy’s stretchy comb headband stopped me in my trackpad.

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As you probably have noticed, ‘90s and early ‘00s hair accessories are coming/totally back, e.g. scruchies, barrettes, velvet headbands. I think these headbands are a great candidate to make a comeback. My #1 Kendall Jenner was seen rocking one a couple months ago. It’s fun, retro and a little more sophisticated than a colorful barrette or big scrunchie.

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I went out and found a 3-pack from scuncii that came with a clear, black and tortoiseshell and have been really enjoying styling them with blown dry straight hair and simple outfits like a black turtleneck, skinny jeans and ankle boots.

Subtle Flex by Diana Le

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As I transition from one calendar year into another, I found myself being very introspective, as is expected with New Year’s. There are definitely tangible and more straightforward goals I want to tackle this year, but what I wanted to talk about today is more of a shift in mindset.

2018 is going to be the year of the subtle flex for me when it comes to my style. I wouldn’t say I’m hella extra, but I’ve been known to stunt. I don't think I've been egregious with it, especially as I've come into my own style wise in the last year. Knowing your style and feeling comfortable in it just makes it harder to do so, because nothing feels forced or out of place. But I do want to be more conscious and responsible with what, how and where I wear certain things.

I’ve been binge watching Complex’s Sneaker Shopping series on YouTube. If you haven’t seen it, the premise is having some sort of celebrity or public figure on to discuss their relationship with sneakers and sneaker culture. After the interview portion, they shop for sneakers and pay for it with their own money, I believe. Some of the guests are really braggadocious about all the sneakers they can afford, but others are extremely real and humble about it. For example, when asked if he was always laced up in the flyest kicks growing up, Marshawn Lynch said he was mostly wearing Payless ShoeSource because they were poor and he also had brothers and sisters that needed to be taken care of.

In Amber Rose’s episode, she starts reminiscing about having the Nike Air More Uptempo in school and how they made her feel like such a baller. Then she looks down and realized that the host, Joe La Puma, has those same shoes on: “You have them on right now!” And he goes, “I literally wasn’t even paying attention, I’m like in the zone.” A few moments later when he asks her opinion on sneakerheads taking to Instagram and wanting to be the first to show off their new purchases, she says that it’s corny and that “Swag is very subtle. Like kinda when I noticed your shoes, you didn’t even say it, but I, like, saw it after. . .Subtle flex is hot.”

Subtle flex. This is something I want to work on, for sure. And I’ve definitely gotten better about it in terms of how I put my outfits together. I make sure to keep everything really balanced and effortless, like the high-low dressing I talked about for my outfit in my occasion dressing post. But sometimes I do end up talking about something I’m wearing before someone else does. Most of the time it’s because I’m just really excited about something, but on occasion it’s probably because I’m excited about it for the wrong reasons. More recently I’ve been trying not to draw any attention to my outfit apart from my own subtle swag. If someone notices some element of my outfit they’re into and seem like they’re genuinely interested in talking about it, I’ll discuss it.

But what really got me thinking about all of this in a big way is the Vince Staples episode. When Joe, the host, asks him about always repping Converse, his response floored me:

“I mean, it’s like this. My thing with Converse is more of a pricepoint thing. . .I remember once this kid, I had some Jordan 4s, like old as hell, they cracking. . .but this kid was like ‘Oh, what kind of shoes are those?’ And I told him, and he’s like ‘Man, I wish I had those shoes.’ And it made me feel like shit, you know? Like a 13, 14-year old kid. I didn’t want to have on nothing that could make somebody who was considered a fan or a kid that looked up to me, anything, anything like that, to feel like they were beneath me.”

Out of all the episodes of Sneaker Shopping I’ve seen, no one has gotten real like this. A lot of people talk about humble beginnings and how cool it is to now be able to afford the things they used to want, but Vince is still extremely conscious about his position as a role model: “I got some shit, but I couldn’t do that to those kids, you feel me? Because I feel like when somebody sees you and they look up to you, and they need to aspire to be something, it should look as reachable and responsible.”

In an article where he lists his favorite things for QG, he talks about Converse in a similar way: “Converse didn't take part in the music program, but they donated some shoes to it and have been very supportive of us trying to help the kids. It's cool to work with people who care about their consumer. Even if you just look at their pricepoint, it's a necessary pricepoint. I like the 1970s versions just because it's a little more comfortable when I have to jump around at work. But you can always find a 30 or 40 dollar pair of Converse that don't look any different than the 1970s.”

I definitely want to be more responsible with this. I never want to make someone feel uncomfortable or less than because of what I’m wearing or how I’m flexing it. Especially with a 13-year-old sister who looks up to me, my lifestyle and my style. There was a weekend this past summer when we had family in town and I saw my sister two days in a row. The first day she gushed over my dress and the second, over the metallic purple backpack I was carrying. She said, “Ugh, where do you get all your stuff? It’s so cool.” A couple weeks later I gave her my backpack because I knew she’d appreciate it a lot more. And now instead of selling or donating my unwanted clothing, I’ll let her go through them first, because I remember what it was like growing up without a lot of money, only wearing hand-me-downs from my mom’s friends’ kids and shopping at Ross.

To be honest, hearing Vince say all of that made me feel like shit. And it reminded me of all the times I felt like shit walking around Seattle or on public transit dressed relatively well and seeing someone who was dressed purely for function and budget. It’s just a huge reminder that having the time to think about, cultivate and execute on your personal style, is a total luxury.

I’m not yet sure how this revelation will physically manifest as a resolution, but it’s something I want to stay really grounded and connected to this year. I guess it’s really all about remembering when you wanted what you have now. Amy from Vagabond Youth made an amazing video about that and in the video she shared a quote that I’ll end this post with:

“The aim of life is appreciation; there is no sense in not appreciating things; and there is no sense in having more of them if you have less appreciation of them.” - G.K. Chesterson

90s Minimalism by Diana Le

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In the past few weeks I've felt a deep internal shift to my personal style compass. Some of it has been happening slowly since the summer when I discovered Lizzy Hadfield's videos on YouTube (you'll notice that she's all over my mood board. Though I'm not a proponent of apeing other people's style note for note, I have been drawn and compelled to buy the same or similar items Lizzy's featured in her videos and blog posts. I think it's because Lizzy's style reflects a heightened version of elements of my own style.

Lately, my style has been getting simpler, chicer and more effortless. I've been into shopping vintage Banana Republic, Ann Taylor and Eileen Fisher on Depop for the last year. But it wasn't until a few weeks ago as I was putting together to go to a job interview, that it suddenly occurred to me what I was going for: 90s minimalism a la Calvin Klein, Jil Sander and Helmut Lang. The outfit I put together was a fitted navy ribbed turtleneck, slightly oversize straight-leg jeans, a gray check blazer and brown suede heeled ankle boots. The very next day, I was watching "The Pick" episode of Seinfeld and realized Jerry's Calvin Klein model girlfriend was wearing a very similar outfit.

People who have one or two designer that are "theirs" and wear those designers exclusively are very interesting to me. And as I venture further into my interest in fashion, I've been keeping my eyes open for what my brands and designers are. Like I mentioned, I've been loving Banana Republic and Ann Taylor. And as I transition to shopping more mid-range, I've been eyeing Eileen Fisher and Diane von Furstenberg.

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But this recent Calvin Klein revelation really smacked me right in the face and felt so obvious in hindsight. By chance, I was browsing Magus Books, a really wonderful and quaint used bookstore in Seattle, and found Vogue on Calvin Klein, bought it and read it immediately in one sitting. There were sooo many quotes that resonated with me. Here are a few:

"The clothes I do are always a balance between the way I want to see women dressed and the way they want to dress." -Calvin Klein"

"He really dresses a working woman so that she can be free to work."

"It's got to be quality. With this kind of inflation, women can't spend a great deal of money on clothes, so it has to be something that they can wear over a period of time, that's not going to become obsolete in a year or two." -Calvin Klein

"What's sexy doesn't necessarily have to do with decoration, but with shape and with the unexpected: things that are masculine, childish. I like the idea of putting a woman in something that could be worn by a little boy." -Calvin Klein

And in the Minimal chapter of Amanda Brooks's I Love Your Style: How to Define and Refine Your Personal Style, she even features a quote from Calvin Klein: "Minimalism is not about abandoning pattern or print. I see minimalism to be a philosophy that involves an overall sense of balance, knowing when to take away, subtract." And Brooks herself says, "...There is nothing more stylish than a woman who knows the simplest, most refined pieces of clothing that suit her best..." That's the essence I'm pursuing.

This has begun being incorporated into so many aspects of my style and the way I present myself. I haven't heat styled my hair in over a year, I've streamlined my makeup routine and probably only wear about a third of the amount of makeup I wore a year ago, and though there's still work to be done, my wardrobe has never been more refined than it is now.

Though I'm an avid Pinterest user, I was inspired to make this condensed, digital mood board after watching Amy Serrano's YouTube video on that exact topic. It's everything I'm inspired by and aspiring to contained in one image file: masculine/feminine, reds and blues, cardigans as tops, lots of denim, blazers that take you from meetings to margs and natural hair and makeup.

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This mood board is going to guide me as I get ready in the mornings so I'm never at a loss for what to wear or forget who I am. And it's been keeping me quite focused while I'm shopping for pieces to fit into this look as well.

A mood board: "It's a glow-in-the-dark compass ring. So you don't get lost."