Fashion Category Archives

Fast Food Fashion

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It was five days after I had come home from the hospital with Leo and sleep was hard to come by. So was clothing. On one particularly upside-down day I found myself wearing a tank dress rolled down to my waist and an old workout teeshirt knotted around my mid-section, holding up the makeshift skirt. It was a disaster and the last thing I needed in the midst of my hormonal maelstrom was something else making me feel crazy. Why the DIY ensemble failure, you ask? I had all-too-quickly discovered that when you are breastfeeding a newborn baby every 2 hours, there is no time to dress and undress. You need the wardrobe equivalent of a drive-thru restaurant. Aka fast food fashion.

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Everybody’s breastfeeding journey is different. Just ask my mom who insists that I was a dream baby who slept well and nursed at accommodatingly infrequent intervals. But when you give birth to the son of a man who as tall as he is handsome you’re in for an adventure. I believe my lactation consultant’s actual words upon learning Joe’s height were, “Oh, shit. Strap in, honey, it’s going to be a wild ride.”

And so I find myself, three months into this “wild ride”, with my son averaging only about an hour off of my breasts between each feeding (except for at night. thankfully he takes after me in that regard…), and getting very creative with the ways, places, positions in which I nurse him.

The most exceptional places I’ve find myself breastfeeding, so far, are as follows:

  • the on-ramp to the Brooklyn Bridge in gridlock traffic
  • friends’ empty Chinatown apartment in the midst of a move
  • the Canadian border
  • parking lot of a rural gas station in the White Mountains
  • Amazon’s NYC conference rooms
  • TJ Maxx

I always have to be ready to serve up a fast food lunch for my son and so long sleeves, tight straps and all manner of restricting clothing is no longer in my wardrobe rotation, rendering half of my closet unwearable. Nor have I been moved to purchase the expensive and completely non-versatile wares advertised as “nursing clothing.”

All hail the season of the tube top as I find this style of dress to be most handy in breastfeeding. Another blessing to having a May baby is that I can get away with wearing as little clothing as possible in these warm summer months. A close second to the convenience of the strapless dress, and best for giving the illusion that you’ve considered fashion when dressing, is the off-the-shoulder look which can transition seamlessly to accommodate a quick feed. Button-down ensembles, like the vintage dress pictured below (poached from my mother’s closet on our recent trip to Maine) are yet another way to discreetly get the job done.

Honestly, I don’t love wearing the modest nursing cover when I feed my baby (though I love and will occasionally use my beautiful swaddle blankets by Aden + Anais) because I can’t see where his face is to ensure the correct positioning. At this early stage in his nursing he is still often falling off the latch and needing to be put back into place.  And so these simple, wearable outfits are the best for accessibility, but also to keep most of my body concealed while offering up the goods.

As an added bonus? I can integrate them into my permanent wardrobe after my stint in fast food fashion has come to an end.

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MariNoLoves || Norway Through The Eyes of Designer Mari Norden

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Snow was falling when we arrived in Oslo, Norway—albeit spring snow, the kind that melts the moment it touches the ground—and we were immediately reminded that we were arriving in a place where warmth, sunlight and color is a luxury. There was some sort of marathon in the city center that kept us laughing as we acquainted ourselves with the city streets. The runners were galloping in circles and in criss-cross fashion. They went up and then down the same streets, marked by partitions and onlookers yelling encouragement, around Oslo Center. The Norwegians were out in large numbers, some bundled appropriately against the still frigid spring, and some letting the strengthening sun of late April kiss their exposed skin. We were witnessing the frenzied energy of the return of the warmer months and feeling the palpable excitement of the Nordic people who must hideaway throughout much of the year against the truly fierce cold.

We were seeing Oslo during its seasonal awakening, a spark of life emerging after the dormancy of winter. There was a palpable excitement of the Nordic people having left their wintertide hiding places.  It was only appropriate, then, that we visit the studio of designer and silk screener Mari Norden whose designs exist as a reflection of this excitement and as a spark of color emerging from the staid Scandinavian design scape of black and white.

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Designer Mari Norden, who’s namesake brand MarinoLoves sparked my attention on an evening scrolling through Instagram searching #NorwegianDesign, is a beautiful blaze of color and warmth. The aforementioned snow was falling on a particularly grey morning when we came upon Mari’s studio in an old industrial-residential area of Oslo. When she opened the door to invite us in out of the cold it was like stumbling upon a stoked fire in its hearth.

“It’s not chic, it’s sheep.” – Mari Norden

Her bright, friendly eyes—as full of sparkle and smiles as she is—see the tradition of minimalism in Scandinavian fashion a bit differently than I do. When I used the word “chic” to describe the controlled, color-blocked street fashion of the Norwegians, she immediately corrected me with the quip, “It’s not chic, it’s sheep.”  Mari’s almost counter-culture view on fashion in the land of black & white—that it should excite, draw attention and be an extension of your own energy—is no surprise when you walk around her studio. A rainbow of color in silks and wools, so vibrant it almost vibrates, paints the clothing rack positioned in the corner of the room. Tufts of snow cone colored reindeer hair—the same that adorns the lapel of her fuchsia coat pictured above—seemingly grow from a section of wall in her studio. The models that grace the pages of her look book carry balloon bouquets and wear balloon crowns. When you discover that the first piece of clothing she ever designed was made from a sky-blue bean bag chair that she deconstructed, followed by years of finding those little synthetic balls all over the house, the picture completes itself.

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After beginning to sew at age ten, Mari daydreamed about her future as a designer getting good grades along the way, and arrived at Middlesex University in London where she studied fashion. It was there, during her last year of university, that she got really into silkscreen printing, practically living in her school’s excellent printing facilities. You’ll recognize this technique in her work to this day, balancing the solids of her collection with playful patterns.

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But not all of Mari’s approaches to design are counter to her homeland’s approach to fashion. She focuses on all natural fibers and sustainable practices that fall directly in line with the Scandinavian tradition of social and environmental consciousness. It is this cobimnation of mindful, yet unfettered, creation that makes Mari’s pieces such treasures and her collections exemplary of a new understanding of Scandinavian design.

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After spending the morning chatting with Mari about Norway, New York City, The Netherlands, London, cinema, fashion, art, and beyond, it was clear that, while her last name—Norden, or “The North”—identifies her as a native daughter, we were meeting a person that redefine what is considered quintessentially Norwegian. In a land of people perceived (and often identifying) as introverted, wild emotions—especially those in opposition to the norm—are rarely visible. Mari’s unique perspective on design and true passion for turning the conventional on it’s ear is an inspiration.

We said our goodbyes and emptied back out into the frigid spring air. There was a context now, for this vast, snowy land and a comfort in knowing—at least in one specific example—how the beautiful minds of this society stoke their own creative fires. Our eyes were attuned now, finding the pops of color, warmth and rebellion wherever they sprang up. Be it a grafitti’d wall blooming amongst the concrete, an underground club washed in the cathartic screams of Death Metal or the radiant rainbow of the MariNoLoves collections, the Norwegians are getting their fix.

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For more on Mari Norden and MariNoLoves, please visit: www.marinoloves.com.

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The “Captain” Queen of Vintage

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There may be no better story suited for these pages than that of Nicole Katherine Alexander, aka The “Captain” Queen of Vintage. It was she that became my guardian goddess when I arrived back in Brooklyn after my year teaching and writing in Korea, feeling rather lost and in need of someone to shed some light onto my life and help me to distinguish the direction of my path. In essence, by example, it was Nicole that helped me get my feet under me and start finding my way as the creative hopeful I was in the big city. I had arrived back to NYC in the late summer of 2010 and came to work during the fall at the local Brooklyn boutique, A. Cheng, where Nicole was the manager at the time. My memory of those days is filtered through bright orange mornings, the sounds of gated store fronts clattering open and the smell of Gorilla Coffee. Nicole would always arrive to work in some vision of vintage: full skirts, dramatic capes layered over functional wool sweaters to protect against the growing cold and statement pieces of jewelry either collected or created by her. We spent our days tending to the shop and, in the moments of calm that occasionally came, talking about life, art, womanhood and our city at large. Nicole was perhaps one of my first examples of a life perfectly curated. What I witnessed in her was a cultivated balance of self-love and an outpouring of creative energy that is really, in many ways, the inspiration behind Naked City Style.
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Autumn and the weeks leading up to Halloween will always remind me most of Nicole, given the fact that it is when we first came together so many years back, but also because nobody brings the fire to a costume party like she. I once attended a Halloween party with Nicole where she was dressed in a fabulous outfit carrying a giant cardboard cut out of a phone. When people would ask her what she was dressed as, she would confidently reply, “Shhhhh….I’m on the phone.” Her humor, sense of style and craftiness make Halloween the ultimate playground. This must have been on our minds when I visited her Bedstuy apartment for this shoot, because our photographs took a turn in the direction of all things witchy and whimsical. I had asked Nicole how her vintage collection was coming along—perhaps one of her longest running passions for which she has an indestructible gift—and without missing a beat she asked, “Well, do you mean clothing, shoes or bags?” Anyone who has a collection thriving enough to necessitate breaking them down into succinct categories certainly has a lot to teach the rest of us. And so, without wasting time, she began to dive into said collection to pull out the choice pieces that are featured here. Nicole tried to suggest that she wasn’t the most comfortable being photographed. The camera immediately called her bluff. If there is one thing I’ve always known about Nicole, it is that her contagious (and seemingly unceasing) energy demands attention. 

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In fact, in the years after working at A. Cheng, Nicole has found her way to the stage. A place, in my opinion, she was born to inhabit. She and her team, Solarium, perform every third Saturday of the month at The Triple Crown Alehouse & Restaurant on the border of Chelsea and Midtown. But Nicole also occasionally performs solo, like during the recent Blood Moon Kaleidoscope. There she improvised monologues initiated by the audience, all in the name of sister witches, the moon and comedy. I asked her if styling is a big part of her performance, and, while she confirmed that she has done some prop building and costuming for her shows and for the shows of friends, it would seem as though her attention to dress is a part of her life that simply and happily permeates all that she does. Spending the day at her home was a performance in and of itself, watching her flit about piecing together enviable ensembles of vintage Versace, vintage Norma Kamali and a bounty of other treasures found on Etsy (she is a self-proclaimed “Etsy Sleuth”!) and across the United States.

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It is this contagious spirit, this laughter and love of life and inherent sense of style that make her such a prime example of supreme womanhood. But, moreover, it is her fierce femininity and her desire to help bring other women up that make her an idol. In addition to her incessant vintage collecting, her improv work and her days spent at the incredibly hip LES outpost of Love Adorned, Nicole also works as an organizer for the company The Artful Bachelorette which hosts parties at which women learn how to sketch live nude male models. Her business cards read (only naturally) Nicole “Captain” Alexander.

This beauty is a beacon of serious girl power vibes each and every day of her life. The world is lucky to have her.

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In closing, it felt only appropriate that I should ask Nicole to share some of her sage knowledge with us here, straight from the unicorn’s mouth:

What are your top 5 rules of wisdom that you would share with your 10-years-younger-self or a freshly landed creative about chasing dreams? 
1. Be your own best friend. This world is cruel and filled with people that will want to tear you down…be kind to your inner self & be forever encouraging, only you can stop you.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. The worst thing that can happen is a no – but I have found that in most cases, when you are clear about want you want and your intentions…the universe makes a way for it to happen.
3. Do some fucking push ups or something man!!! (I’m) slowly getting flabbier…(I) really should have gotten that base layer muscle in my twenties…
4.  Travel more. While I love the work that I do…I get ULTRA committed to it. I love being successful in my work, but am still working on that perfect balance.
5. WEAR SUNSCREEN. Why didn’t I do this????? Ladies & gentlemen, wear that shit everyday. Even though I have lived a life out of the sun more than others (I tend to burn), I still see the effects of sun damage (and old age).
When the little voice inside of you says “you’re not good enough” what do you do to quiet it?
This is a very good question…and relates back to “being your own best friend.” I’ve practiced this type of thinking since high school – and honestly it has been a saving grace in so many of life’s darkest hours. I am also sure to tell myself that everyone has to start somewhere – and if I do feel a lack of ability/confidence…I WILL FAKE THAT SHIT TIL I MAKE THAT SHIT. Then I always end up making it – truly, I do always have faith that I will. By now, I trust myself at 34, to get it done. I am very excited about what life is yet to bring…and the projects that I have yet to take on.

If you were to be stranded on a desert island, what are the most important items you’d take with you?

– Weed plant & weed pouch
– Beach boys ‘Friends’ album (with record player b/c they are married)
– A monkey best friend (will also accept a feathered tropical bird friend…or dolphin)
– SUNSCREEN – we talked about this
– Three HUGE shipwrecked crates of peanut m&ms
For more advice, to book parties with The Artful Bachelorette or to have the sleuth track down your most coveted vintage item, email Nicole at nka.brooklyn@gmail.com.
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