Sunshine, Suncreen & Vitamin D

Though I grew up in southern California, I was never a sun-worshipper. I was more of a “sun-ignorer.” I didn’t give much thought to the sun. I usually avoided it, preferring the shade of the trees in our backyard.

I’m sorry to report, however, that I suffered from countless sunburns as a child. Every spring and summer, we would go swimming at our grandfather’s condo in Palm Springs, and though my mother was obsessive about slathering sunscreen on her blond babies, we’d refuse to get out of the pool for reapplications. (Back in the early 80′s few were aware of the need for reapplying sunscreen.) I can even remember lying on Grandpa’s couch one night, unable to sleep from the pain of the sunburn that even hourly applications of aloe vera couldn’t relieve. I wish I could take back those hours in the sun and the damage it may cause in the future, but sadly, I can’t.

The always fashionable Samantha Jones keeps her skin safe under this uber-hat.

However, my past experience doesn’t mean that I cover myself head-to-toe in sunscreen whenever I go out. I feel that our relationship with the sun has become as dysfunctional as our relationships with other parts of the natural world. Some of us guiltily sneak in a few hours here and there to get some color in our skin. And some of us avoid the sun completely, using sunscreens (some of which have questionable ingredients) and covering ourselves with hats and tunics.

I started avoiding sunscreens about two years ago, because of their questionable ingredients. Since then, I’ve read a lot about sun exposure and how we’ve become a nation full of people with serious Vitamin D deficiencies!

Why is Vitamin D important? According to Dr. Frank Lipman:

Although called a vitamin, it is not. Vitamin D is in a class by itself, behaving more like a hormone. It is made in the skin, gets into your bloodstream and then goes into the liver and the kidney where it becomes activated as a key steroid hormone called Calcitriol. It then goes to the intestines, bones and other tissues, effecting metabolic pathways and the expression of myriad genes. Vitamin D’s active form can interact with almost every cell in the body directly or indirectly, targeting up to two thousand genes, or about six percent of the human genome. It is necessary for numerous cellular functions, and when the body does not have what it needs to function optimally, it follows that we experience a decline in health and put ourselves at risk of disease.

If you think you are producing enough Vitamin D, you may want to get tested to be sure. According to a 2009 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, “70% of Caucasians, 90% of Hispanics and 97% of African Americans in the US have insufficient blood levels of Vitamin D.”

Our fears of getting melanoma have pushed us too far to the other extreme. Is it possible to interact with the sun in a more healthy way?

The quotations above were taken from a wonderful article about sun exposure and Vitamin D deficiency over at Gwyneth Paltrow’s website, GOOP. It suggests that, yes, we can – and should – have a more balanced relationship with the sun. The articles makes a suggestion that is almost completely contrary to the current trends: Go out in the sun without any sunscreen on! Now of course, the key to getting healthy sun exposure (and Vitamin D) is MODERATION. The article gives very specific time frames for people that will keep them safe.

One of the key points of the article is that sun exposure is really the best way to get your Vitamin D. It is very difficult to get enough Vitamin D from food sources (even enriched beverages), and using supplements can be dangerous, as too much synthetic Vitamin D is toxic to the body. You can’t OD on Vitamin D from the sun, however. As always, Mother Nature knows best.

Since you won’t be spending much unprotected time in the sun (hopefully), you are going to need some protection at some point. If you choose to use sunscreen, you need to be sure that you are using one that is safe for you and your family. You can check out the Environmental Working Group’s wonderful information on safe sunscreen here (this is the updated 2011 report which includes links to articles about current sunscreen studies). You can also read a fantastic post on sunscreen at EcoYogini by clicking here.

As for me, I hate sunscreen in general. I don’t like the feel of it, don’t like those chemicals on my skin, and most of all, I don’t like paying $30 for a half ounce of organic, non-toxic sunscreen (yes, I’m exaggerating on the price). I am not out in the sun very often, but when I am, I try to use sunscreen as a last resort (though I have no objections to slathering it on when necessary – I’d rather be Vitamin D deficient than battle skin cancer!).

Hiking in 2009 with MY uber-hat.

My natural sunscreen tips:

::Use an umbrella. Yep, it’s perfectly fashionable, and more importantly, gives your skin some extra protection.

::Wear long-sleeved shirts or wide shawls to protect your arms when you’re out. When it is super hot, this isn’t always practical, but I find this works for me when it’s below 85 degrees outside. Also remember that clothing is not completely effective at blocking the UV rays. If this is your only protection, you might not want to stay out for too long.

::Wear a wide-brimmed hat. Baseball caps and visors are cute and great for keeping the sun out of your eyes, but you want to protect your neck and especially your ears. Believe me, I have seen what skin cancer can do to your delicate ears. Protect them with a huge hat! (Obviously, if you are bicycling a lot and wearing a helmet, your skin will be much more exposed to sun, so sunscreen is a good idea!)

::Eat well. Your diet actually helps you stay safe in the sun for short periods of time. So make sure to eat those veggies!

::Stick to the shade whenever you can.

As Dr. Lipman says, “Have a healthy respect for the sun. It is powerful medicine with potentially dangerous side effects on your skin. Treat it like medication, using the lowest dose necessary, but don’t avoid it completely.” The sun gives us so much life – don’t be afraid of it. Just respect its power and be wise when you’re outdoors.

As always, a disclaimer: Please remember that I am not a medical professional, and that it is best to talk to your health care provider about these issues, do your own research, and make your own decisions about what is right for you and your family. Be cautious, above all.

Naked Face: Me

Yes, here it is. The promised picture of me, sans makeup. Guess what? It was surprisingly harder than I thought it would be!

This picture was taken on June 21, 2010. I washed my hair with baking soda that morning, and an ACV rinse. I let it air dry and did not add any products. No makeup, either. No foundation, no eyeliner, no blush. I also went for a walk and a bike ride before this picture was taken, so I was a little sweaty!

This is the way I look most of the time, even out in public. But putting it on the internet is a lot harder than I thought it would be! Whew!

I’m still hoping to post a collage of brave participants (anonymous, if you like). Please join me and send your pics to five5seed@gmail.com.

Natural Products Interact with Nature

Summer is a fabulous time of year. There aren’t a whole lot of things to complain about. But one of the few things I’m not so crazy about during summer are the super hot temperatures of summer transit. Natural products in extreme temperatures tend to get quite “melty” very quickly!

In order to prevent products from leaking during transit, I have started taping the rims with electrical tape. I am not happy about this, as electrical tape is the dreaded plastic that I do everything in my power to avoid. But without it, you’d have a soppy, oily, recycled envelope on your hands, and a half-empty tin of lip or hand balm. If you have any suggestions on a more eco-friendly alternative for leak prevention, I’d love to hear!

What about when the products are home with you? First of all, it is imperative that you let the products sit overnight, or put them in the fridge for an hour to let them firm up BEFORE you open them. If you open them right out of the mail, it is likely that they will be in a somewhat “liquidy” state and will spill all over.

Further, if you don’t have (or use) air conditioning, and your house is regularly 76 degrees or higher indoors, realize that the products will be softer than usual. I am currently adding higher amounts of waxes to my recipes to keep them firmer in hot weather, but I don’t want to add too much as I don’t want them to become too firm in the cooler months. Some products (those with coconut oil, for instance) are more likely to become softer in warm weather than others. Moon Balm can easily become soft when it’s over 75 degrees. This isn’t necessarily a problem – it is just as easy to apply and is as rich and luxurious no matter how “melty” it becomes. But if you prefer it to be more firm, you can simply keep it in the fridge between uses.

Lip balms are fine to keep out all the time. They may develop a thin oily sheen in hot weather, but they shouldn’t melt on you unless you leave them in the sun, in your car, or in any other hot location. Same goes for Sankalpa Scents.

Please remember that natural products interact with the environment. A product altering its viscosity according to the temperatures is a clear indicator that it is made with natural ingredients. We women all know that any lip product will melt if it gets hot enough. But think about how many times you have ordered a tube of lipstick in the summer and were able to open it and use it right away – no melt factor. That’s because most beauty products are made with a chemical cocktail of stabilizers and preservatives that keep them the same all day, every day (unless you leave them in a hot car, of course).

This may be convenient, but it’s not healthy. I’ve read that women ingest anywhere from 2 to 7 pounds of lip products during their lifetime. That’s ingest, not use. What are you eating? Additives, dyes, stabilizers, preservatives? Or organic, food- and cosmetic-grade oils and butters?

Always stick with cosmetic products that change in relationship to the world (the weather, the temperatures). This is the way nature works – every change creates another change. The natural world is interactive – a web, where everything touches and affects something else.

So please keep these tips (above) in mind when ordering during the summer months, and be confident that you are using the best, purest, natural ingredients available. If you end up ingesting, say, 6 pounds of 5 Seed‘s lip balm, you have nothing to worry about!

And on that note, here’s a funny (and kinda gross) video about makeup ingestion:

Our Fears About Real Food

Admit it: Real food scares you. Just a little. If you think that’s crazy, just think about butter for a moment. A plate of linguine with alfredo sauce – made with real cream. Pizza. Real whipped cream. Mac n’ cheese – homemade, not from a box. Eggs. Potatoes and gravy. Beans with a butter sauce.

I know I barely mentioned veggies or fruit there, which of course are real foods. But I’m talking about the real foods we’ve been taught to fear. Now if you’re a vegan (as I once was), the rest of this post probably won’t resonate with you. But if you do eat dairy (or even meat), then here we go…

I don’t think most women notice how afraid they are of certain foods. Or rather, we notice, but are so used to it that it doesn’t really register. We don’t realize just how far the roots of that fear have grown.

If your experience is at all like mine (and I’m going to dare to say that I’ll bet it is, as many women have similar stories when it comes to body image), you probably started your aversion to certain foods when you were a teenager. I was 12 when I started associating cream, cheese, eggs, and other items with “being bad,” or “getting fat.” Thus began a twenty-year dysfunctional relationship with an entire food group. I both loved and dreaded the holidays, as that was the only time I really allowed myself to indulge. But because I knew I would try to avoid them during other times of the year, I would binge completely on these “naughty foods,” making myself sick. And yes, I always gained about 10 pounds over the holidays solidifying my belief that these foods were BAD.

I tried to cut them out of my life completely in my early twenties by becoming a vegan, though that was certainly not the biggest reason for that decision. I was a pristine vegan for about two years. But after that, I spent the next decade “falling off the wagon” when confronted with cheese, or desserts with cream in them. Yes, I was a dairy you-know-what. Other vegans would say to me, “Make a decision. Be a vegan or not. But you can’t cave every time someone passes a plate of cheese around. It’s a matter of what your mind wants, not your body.”

But for some reason, that argument didn’t sit well with me. I’m a firm believer that we must listen to our bodies and that they will tell us what they need. There are some instances in which I think it’s important for the mind to overcome the body, but when it comes to food, I’m more of the mind that we must listen to our bodies first, as they know what nutrients we need. (And please understand I mean listening to genuine inner guidance – not the craving to eat two bags of potato chips in one sitting.)

When my boyfriend and I went to France last year, I had just finished reading Eat, Pray, Love and I was ready to let it all go on the dinner table. I was in another country, and I wanted to taste every cheese, every pastry. I had absolutely no limits and no guilt. On our first night, I craved cheese so badly. We decided to buy three cheese (trois frommage) paninis from a seaside bakery in St. Malo. I can still remember the taste of that panini, and the pain au chocolat (my first, if you can imagine) that we ate for dessert. The panini cravings continued – I probably ate at least five during our week over there. I remember the second one just as vividly as the first, sitting on a bench along the beach, watching a little French boy chase les oiseaux in the dimming light of the day.

In Paris, we met up with my cousins who live in Scotland, and ate ourselves dizzy for those few days. Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, pasta with creamy tomato sauce, gelato, crepes, panna cotta, tira misu, pizza… (Yes, we ate a lot of Italian food in France. Odd.) I never had a moment of feeling guilty – just complete pleasure at every single meal, something I’d never experienced before. Complete and total gluttonous, hedonistic ecstasy.

I got home and found I hadn’t gained a single pound, thanks to the hours we spent walking all over Paris. We never sat still, so all that delicious food was just much-needed fuel to get us where we wanted to go. Perfection.

Yet still, I thought that kind of eating couldn’t be sustained. I think those feelings were partially responsible for my interest in raw foods last summer. I honestly aspired to become a 100% full raw foodie. I probably indulged in non-raw foods at least once a day, LOL, but I kept thinking it was possible for me. (This is my inner perfectionist that drives me to do things that aren’t always right for me.)

In the end, I just couldn’t do it, though I didn’t really stop trying until December of last year. I just wanted cheese. I wanted heavy, cooked foods sometimes. I lived somewhere between raw, vegan, and vegetarian for the first part of 2010.

And then…I started looking at the “healthy” foods I kept in the fridge. My “healthy” butter alternative, for instance. After reading the ingredient list, I realized it was made in a laboratory. I couldn’t believe I’d been eating that fake butter for over a decade because it was supposedly healthier than real butter. How can that be? How can something made in a lab be healthier than something straight out of a healthy cow (although, admittedly, finding a healthy cow can be tricky)?

It was at that point that I realized just how much food I had in my house that was supposedly healthy, but that was, in my mind, not REAL. Low-fat chips, low-fat fake butter, fat free this, low-cholesterol that. Suddenly, I didn’t want it anymore. I wanted to connect with REAL food.

I recently found a recipe for mac n’ cheese on the blog Cheeseslave, a real food blog. It is basically just noodles, real butter, real cheese, and real cream. Yep. Butter, cheese, and cream. The things we aren’t supposed to eat. The things that make us oh so fat!

My boyfriend and I love to indulge in mac n’ cheese, and for a long time, we ate his preferred dish – Kraft! Ick. It’s fun to indulge in all that fake deliciousness from time to time, but it ALWAYS made me sick after a few bites. I got more and more averse to eating all those chemicals and decided to start making a vegan version. This recipe became our favorite for a long time – we still love it. But I made it with fake butter for a long time, and plus, I wanted to try something that I thought my boyfriend would really, truly love.

So…we cooked the Cheeseslave mac n’ cheese and…it was heavenly in a way I cannot describe. Honestly, I cannot begin to explain how good it is. B (the boyfriend) could not get enough of it, and ate the leftovers so fast, I hardly had a chance to have any!

Here’s the thing: I could only eat about 3/4 of a bowl of this stuff. My stomach literally could not hold more than that. Whereas, with fake mac n’ cheese, or fake anything, it was always super easy to overeat. Your body doesn’t process fake foods in the same way, and so our hunger signals don’t ever quiet down. Just like all the foods we ate in France, we found that real foods fill you up and, in general, make it really hard for you to overeat.

This experiment is still somewhat new to me. It’s only been about two months now that I’ve been eating real food. And again, don’t misunderstand and think I’m on an all-dairy all-the-time binge! I eat tons of veggies every single day. But I’m focusing on the foods that scare us the most in this post. Anyway, I haven’t gained any weight if you are curious. Granted, I have been biking or walking to almost all my destinations recently, so physical activity is always between moderate and high on a daily basis. But isn’t that the way we should be living? Moving our bodies, and feeding them well with real foods?

The best part is that I really, genuinely feel healthier.

Now I know there are a million different perspectives on food and health, as well as many ethical and spiritual principals to consider. However, I’m not going to get into that here. I respect everyone’s different feelings about food, and am only suggesting that you ponder your fears about food, and how they may have led you to a place that causes you to ignore your body’s needs or inner wisdom. We deserve to eat real foods and not be afraid of gaining weight.

This post is not suggesting that anyone go on a dessert, meat or dairy bender, eat in a way that is unhealthy, or ignore one’s doctor-prescribed diet. It is just a suggestion to explore what kinds of fake foods might be living in your home, and to consider how often you eat them, and whether or not that is more healthy for your body than real food alternatives. Each person is different and every body has different needs, so you must follow your own guidance, listen to your own needs, and do what is best for you. This post is also not meant to judge or criticize any food choices in any way: Raw, vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, locavore – I respect them all! Finally, I know I have a lot of pictures of desserts here, but I’m not suggesting that sugar-laden foods are “real” or that we should eat them in abundance. I’m just making a point that we don’t have to avoid these foods altogether.

A Collage for our Naked Face feature

If you are new to Five Seed, you may not know that I love encouraging women to go au naturel as often as they feel comfortable. No makeup, no hair products.

Tyra Banks with a naked face

Brave and beautiful Melanie of No New Plastic was our first participant. I fully intend to upload a picture of myself sans makeup, but have been too lazy to get to it. I have also received another photo of a lovely reader – it was so exciting to finally see her face! However, she requested that I not post the picture by itself, but rather in a collage with other participants – which I think is a fabulous idea.

If you are concerned about privacy (as this reader was), or if you are uncomfortable showing your naked face to the world, you can still participate. Just send your picture (no makeup, no hair products) to five5seed@gmail.com and let me know that you want to be anonymously included in the collage project. I’ll save these photos until we have enough – say 20 or more – to put together a good collage.

Don’t be scared – join in!

DIY: Fabric Flowers

Love the look of flowers on your lapel, made popular by Sarah Jessica Parker? You can make your own now super easily. No, they don’t have to be as big as Carrie Bradshaw’s here, but if you have enough fabric and really want to make a statement…go for it!

I found great flower-making tutorials at the fabulous blog, Tea Rose Home. Click on the pictures below to read the tutorials for each one. The nice thing about this is that you can make them from old fabric scraps!

Copyright: Tea Rose Home

Copyright: Tea Rose Home

Here’s one I made (which proves how easy it is to make, as I’m not very handy with the sewing machine!):

Click here for another flower-making tutorial from Sew4Home. Or, if you don’t have the time or ability to make them, check out these amazingly affordable and beautiful flower clips made by Sachiko of Tea Rose Home.

New Product: Moon Balm

Moon Balm is a great way to prepare for your menstrual cycle. Applying it each night the week before your period will help you stay in tune with your cycle and focus on your body in order to “listen” to what it needs. You might find that using it nightly (or as needed) just before and during your period will help ease menstrual cramps.*

Naturopaths often use externally applied castor oil to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. This is especially effective when you place a hot pack over the area, after applying this oil to the lower belly.

The lavender and vanilla oils are soothing to the body and help to relieve tension. Lavender oil can also relieve pain, and enhance blood circulation.

Cocoa butter and coconut oil are both extremely effective moisturizers. Additionally, coconut oil is also calming to the body.

The best part about this product: It smells like a chocolate vanilla cookie!

This tin will get you a lot of bang for your buck. If kept in a cool, dark place, it can easily last over a year (depending on how often you use it). Please note, if it is really hot in your house during the summer, I recommend keeping this tin in the fridge between use.

These tins are made from recycled materials, and do NOT add more plastic to our already plastic-choked environment. They can easily be washed out and reused, as well. Please click here for more information.

*This product is not claiming to cure menstrual cramps. It is not meant to be sold as a medicine, but simply as a “moisturizer with benefits.” Please be aware of any allergies you may have before purchasing this product. If you are pregnant, consult a physician before using this.

Looking good (and saving the earth) on your bike

I’ve been sharing my journey into alternative transportation over at A Green Spell, and have bikes and scooters on the brain. After hearing the recent developments of the massive oil spill in the Gulf, I am trying to avoid using my car unless I need to travel more than 15 miles, round trip (though I may be able to raise that figure, as I get stronger).

I’ve recently noticed lots of pictures of celebrities on bikes and scooters, lately, and thought I would share them to show that you can still look good and be green! (But please wear a helmet!)

Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts, and kids

Kate Hudson and son

Bill and Sookie (oops, I mean Steven Moyers and Anna Paquin) out in the sun

Hugh Jackman on my dream scooter (I believe this is the same one used by Michelle Conlin.)

Emily Blunt & John Krasinski

So forget the car this summer, and keep the Gulf in your thoughts and prayers. And if going green isn’t enough to convince you to walk, bike, or scoot, then consider this: It’s a guaranteed way to lose weight without altering your diet!

Six Month Anniversary Redesign

The six month anniversary for my store is just a few days away now. I can hardly believe how fast the time has gone – or how long it takes to learn all the ins and outs of Etsy!

I spent the month of May very seriously considering what I wanted to do with this shop, as I had hit a major plateau and felt that there was nowhere to go without some serious retooling. Part of my problem was hitting a creative brick wall.

I never liked my logo. I spent weeks and weeks on it, with the help of my kind brother, and when the opening date of my shop approached, I knew it was time to just take what I had and go for it, hoping I could tweak it later. I tend to be very stubborn about holding on to things that I feel are important. For instance, I was insistent on keeping the star-shaped seeds of the logo, because they represent something very important to me. I also wanted people to see them and think of an apple (pure, natural, simple) – though I kinda doubt that that’s the first thing that comes to people’s minds when they see this design! And yet, the months went on and on and despite tinkering with that design all this time, I have always had a small tug of dissatisfaction with the way it looked.

Not the look I wanted...the new logo will be unveiled very soon!

This past week, I decided it was time to let go of all the things I felt were essential to the design. Goodbye to the star-shaped seeds. Goodbye to the number 5, replaced by the word “five.” (Didn’t think about how confusing that would be when I first started…oops!) Suddenly, a logo naturally emerged within two hours of playing around with fonts and designs. And I love it. Unlike my first logo, which I disliked more and more with each passing day, I LOVE the new one. I try to create a world in my head for my creations, whether is it the design of a blog, something I’m writing, or my Etsy store. If I see one element, like a banner or logo, that gives me a peek into this world that I’ve envisioned, then I know I’ve done something right.

Unfortunately, not long ago I ordered 100 business cards with the old logo. Isn’t that the way things tend to go? But I will, of course, continue to use them until they are gone – no needless paper wasting here!

As for the product line, I am continuing to shape that and redevelop things. I had held on to the idea of beauty products for so long that I found myself boxed in. And as many of you know, I don’t believe in using much on the body – a little moisturizer, some lip balm. That doesn’t make for a very full shop! For a while, my creative sanctuary at 5 Seed was developing Sankalpa Scents – I LOVE aromatherapy, and really enjoy mixing new scents. But I didn’t want to end up with only a perfumery (not that there’s anything wrong with that – it just wasn’t enough for me).

One of my true loves is herbalism in all its forms. I have always wanted to create herbal remedies in the forms of creams, salves, and other such things. At this point, that is what I’ll be focusing on, though you can count on lip balms and Sankalpa Scents being staples of the shop. Further along in time, I’ll also be adding some up-cycled items to the shop as I acquire them.

As I transition into this new design and the next six months, I hope you will forgive the lack of consistent design in the shop. Again, I don’t waste paper, so I’m not going to throw away the labels on the items currently listed. I’m going to sell them as is, alongside new or restocked items that will have the new logo on them. Messy, I know, but please bear with me for the sake of saving paper!

And as a thank you for your support (and an incentive to move the old logo out of the shop) I’ll be reducing prices at the shop starting today. With a few exceptions, the items currently in the shop, with the old labels, will be 10% off.

Thanks for your support these past six months. I have been continually surprised and touched by all the people who have stood behind this store from the very beginning, financially, emotionally, and more. I wouldn’t still be here without your kindness. Thank you all!

When Style Cramps Your Style

I think fashion and makeup are wonderful ways for women to express their creative sides. We all have styles we admire – outfits we see out in the world, on TV, or in the movies that inspire us to look at our wardrobes with new eyes, or inspire us to try something different.

Who, for instance, doesn’t love Charlotte York’s impeccable, classy New York style?

Or how about Carrie Bradshaw’s haute couture days in Paris, with dresses so beautiful they give you the chills?

Or the 1950′s house dresses worn by Vianne Rocher? Deep, mysterious blues, luscious orange caridgans and shirts, a tightly cinched waistline, classically beautiful, full skirts, and my favorite: cherry red pumps.

And my most favorite fashion inspiration of all? Gillian and Sally Owens of Practical Magic. Who wouldn’t love their botanically-inspired skirts and dresses, chunky sweaters that might have been hand-knitted by Aunt Jet and Aunt Frances, and all those beautiful earth tones?

But here’s the funny thing about style: I’ve noticed many women are drawn to a certain look, but trying to achieve that look just doesn’t work for them. It perhaps doesn’t fit their personality, or, more commonly, it doesn’t fit in with their lifestyle. I, for instance, would love to dress like Charlotte York every day, but I don’t like to wear makeup, I don’t like to worry about matching accessories, and I’m not even going to touch the issue of high heels (that’s another post for another time). I’m a green activist – I bike and walk whenever I can, and those outfits just won’t work for me.

I’ve also found that many women feel the pressure to adopt a personalized “look” – something that defines them. When a friend or relative points at something in the store and says, “Oh, that is so you!” it seems as if we have accomplished something – the definition of our personal style.

But I think sometimes we can become trapped by our own style. During my teaching days, in an effort to look professional, I embraced my love for preppy clothing, and ended up with argyle bursting out of my closet. And though I still love argyle, sometimes, I look at those sweaters and feel almost oppressed. Is that me? Do those clothes represent who I am?

I think that’s the problem with trying to define ourselves with our wardrobe. We get overly concerned with what our style says about us. We may even feel trapped by our wardrobes. Yes, it is important to realize that our clothing does say something about us, and to dress in appropriate ways according to where we’re going and what we’re doing.

But I think our clothing style should reflect our creativity while still being functional. Look at the pictures above again. Did you notice that none of those women are real? They are all fictional characters. No one looks that put together all the time, nor can we always pull off the outfits we want to wear doing the things we need to do.

For instance, when I went to France last year, I wanted to look as stylish as possible, but I was not willing to sacrifice comfort since I knew we would be walking and sitting for long periods of time. There were no Carrie Bradshaw dresses for me – no dresses at all, in fact. But with a pair of sleek blue slip-on shoes, two pairs of pants (one brown, one denim), a variety of shirts, two hats, two scarves, and my trench coat, I think I pulled off the perfect French tourist style. It’s what I call “livable style.” You can look good and still walk, run, shop, eat, and ride the Metro!

So what do you want and need from your wardrobe? How can you make it as livable as possible without sacrificing the style you like? Notice what kinds of clothing you are drawn to, but if they don’t work for you, use them to inspire your own style. For instance, I absolutely adore red pumps, but refuse to wear them (another time, another post). My solution? Using red with other accessories. I bought a stunning red scarf in Paris that I adore, and one day, I’d love to buy this red belt made from recycled plastic.

I think one of the best things we can do is to let go of the need to adhere to a “mono-style.” We shouldn’t be afraid to have many different styles, and to express them as the mood arises.

Your body is your canvas, your clothing, jewelry, and makeup your paint. How will you paint your canvas today in a way that expresses and supports who you are in this very moment?