Embracing My Curls

This post was written in collaboration with Lakeshore Dry Goods, who sent me a product to review. 

girl holding her curly hair

This summer, I’ve set my hair free.

I’ve always had curly hair. For years I would try to tame it with a brush, reducing my hair to frizzy waves. I learned how to get my hair silky and straight, only to have annoying little frizzies pop up in a halo minutes later. My special occasion hair involved blowing my hair straight only to re-curl it using heat and lots of products.

And then I found a community of curly girls. Women who celebrate their natural hair and see the ever-changing curls and waves as a gift. Women who nourish their curls, embrace the unpredictability, and let go of control.

I’m still in the beginning months of my curly journey, but here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. Check the ingredients. A sweet friend started me on this journey when I commented on her beautiful waves. “I use No Poo!” she exclaimed. I discovered that many conventional shampoos use harsh, heavy ingredients that strip moisture out of hair or weigh down curls.

2. Leave the conditioner. I make sure to leave some of that conditioning goodness in my hair instead of rinsing it all away. My hair needs the extra moisture.

3. Add some gel. This was the weirdest step for me. I NEVER used gel, and now I find it’s indispensable for holding my curls.

4. Dry with a t-shirt. Standard terrycloth towels are way too rough for my hair, causing frizz and breakage. Old t-shirts ain’t pretty, but they are much more gentle on curly hair. I recently found Lakeshore Dry Goods t-shirt towels, which are safe for my hair and cute for my bathroom.

5. Say goodbye to heat tools. Okay, okay, I’m not throwing out my straightening iron any time soon, but I haven’t used it in over four months! I love having a style that is truly wash and go.

6. Sleep with silk. Silky pillowcases, y’all. Sleeping on satin or silk pillowcases means my nighttime tossing and turning doesn’t add to my frizz.

7. Find role models. When I have questions about caring for my hair, I go to the ladies at NaturallyCurly.com, the curly hair subreddit, or Instagrammers like Mandie. Routines aren’t one-size-fits all, but finding women with similar hair and much more experience makes the learning process easier and more fun.

What I really love about the curly girl movement is the celebration of hair in all its many forms and states. Sophisticated doesn’t have to mean silky. So whether your hair is curly, kinky, wavy, stick-straight, or non-existent, you are beautiful. Our differences are a gift to the world.

Continue Reading

7 Small Business Lessons from a Reformed Workaholic

A selection of products from my fair trade shop, circa 2007.

Once upon a time, I was a small business owner. Young, passionate, and ready to change the world, I left corporate America looking for more meaning and purpose. I started a business. I closed that business. And in the mix of hard work and long hours, I learned a few lessons along the way.

1. Save more money.  I had a wonderful, well-paying job before starting my business. If I had worked six more months to save more capital, my little shop would have found much firmer footing.

2. Avoid scope creep. I started my business to bring fair trade goods to my neighborhood. Then I added a few items I had handmade because I thought they were cool. Then I added items friends had made. The next thing I knew, I was carrying a disjointed range of products that I couldn’t effectively market.

3. Get help. I was in serious need of experts. I had a bad case of I-can-do-it-myself. Some of it was to save money (see #1), and some of it was because I couldn’t be honest about my own deficiencies. I was too cheap to hire a bookkeeper and spent many miserable hours reconciling accounts and doing my taxes.

4. Find the right time and place.  My original vision for the business involved a neighborhood storefront, but I ended up online and at craft fairs when I couldn’t afford standard rent. Now I look at the tiny business incubator shops in my neighborhood, think about the growing interest in ethical fashion, and wonder “What if.” It’s funny to think about what my business might look like now, in the age of Square readers and Venmo. Waiting two years while conducting more research might have changed my entire business.

5. Expect the unexpected. I needed to build in enough time and money to cover the problems I couldn’t foresee. At my first event, my entire shipment of Thistle Farms lip balm melted in the August sun. A significant portion of money invested in products was now lost, and I struggled to rebound.

6. Look beyond the bottom line. When I decided to shut down my business, I felt like a failure. Even though I was shutting down by choice to focus on my family, I hadn’t yet reached the point of making money. I felt ashamed of spending our family’s money on something that didn’t give back. A wise friend (Okay, okay, it was my therapist) asked if I would feel so much regret if I had spent that money on graduate classes but ended up with no degree. Could the education of running a small business be worth the investment and toil, even with no financial gain?

7. Accept the gift of experience. With benefit of hindsight, I see that my struggling store was exactly what I needed during that time in my life. I learned so much about myself, and I like to think that what I did made a difference to others as well. My business didn’t thrive, but it introduced my friends and neighbors to the concept of ethical fashion and fair trade. I made a difference in the lives of the artisans who made my products. I met some amazing people. And maybe I changed how my neighborhood shopped, once person at a time.

Continue Reading

New Life for An Old Favorite: A Love Story

Woven pants from Liz Alig

Ever try on a piece of clothing and just know? I knew with these pants. One night at a Liz Alig trunk show, we were trying on various styles when brand founder Elizabeth Roney suggested I try on these crazy, printed pants.

And I was in love.

I didn’t buy them — not right away. They were not in the budget that night. I went home, and thought about the pants. And thought about them. And thought about them.

The fit, the quality, the beautiful recycled textiles, and — best of all — how they were made. With traditional fabrics and traditional techniques and workers earning fair wages. Weeks later, I bought the pants.

They quickly became a favorite in my closet. I wore them at least once a week. Wear and wash, wear and wash. And after a year of wearing and washing, I found holes in the upper, inner thigh area of the pants.

Hole in Pants

I put off repairing the pants because I didn’t want to hear a dire prognosis. How could the unique, woven fabric possibly be repaired or replaced? The pants lingered in my “to mend” pile for over a year and half. I didn’t even know where to take them or how to start.

Yes, I despaired of these gorgeous pants being repaired due to the unique nature of the fabric. But a couple of weeks ago, challenged by the fashion love story theme for this year’s Fashion Revolution Day, I bravely took the pants to the alterations specialist at my local laundry shop to see what they could do. I expected a sad shake of the head from the shop. I was surprised to find that the holes in the fabric didn’t phase them at all. They took the pants, and one week and $15 later, the pants were repaired!

Yes, the tiny Xes sewn over the holes are visible upon examination, but the inner patch material is not. The repair blends in perfectly with the fabric’s pattern and color and can’t be seen when I wear the pants. My old favorites are finally back in my closet!

The Pants Are Back

The lesson? I need to be nice to my clothes. Throwing that gorgeous, woven fabric into my washer and dryer every week wasn’t a good way to help my clothing last. In fact, much of my current clothing has been worn and beaten up by harsh wash cycles and frequent drying. While I don’t have time to hand wash most things in my closet, I do plan to use the delicate cycle on my favorite clothing from now on and then hang it to dry. I’m looking forward to extending the life of my wardrobe and saving a bit of energy, too.

I’m thankful this is one clothing love story that will last.

Continue Reading