Category Archives: style

Made in the USA

Deciding to ride a bicycle for transportation in a place like the US, after years of driving a car everywhere like everyone else, required that I step back and really question the system that I’d accepted all my life.  Through this, I realized the absurdity of using a ton of metal to carry myself a couple of miles.   This one change has naturally led to reconsidering other aspects of modern society.

Fresh on my mind, following Black Friday, is consumerism.  I love a good sale and I am far from a minimalist, with my collections of tchotchkes and overflowing bookshelves, but I feel that objects I bring into my home should have meaning and reflect my beliefs.  I do not always live up to this standard, but I’ve been making a conscious effort to buy clothing that was made in the USA or another country known for craftsmanship and decent working conditions, like the UK, France, Italy and Canada.  I know this is a complicated issue and many lives are improved by factory jobs overseas, but I personally feel better spending my money in a way that does not support corporations’ race to the bottom.  (See “Garment Workers Stage Angry Protest After Bangladesh Fire” and the Clean Clothes Campaign.)  Of course, I am lucky enough to have the time and resources for this, but so do most Americans.  No one is perfect (I’m typing this on an Apple computer, with its Foxconn manufacturing issues, after all) but that should not stop us from thinking about the issue and making small changes where we can.

Finding products that fit my criteria is, unfortunately, harder than it sounds, but prevents me from buying a lot of crap – avoiding fast fashion and focusing on quality over quantity.  And over time, I’ve built quite a nice collection.  Last Friday, I realized that everything I was wearing was made in the USA.  This made me happy.  :-)

My silk blouse and wool skirt are by Steven Alan, boots by Samantha Pleet for Wolverine (a birthday present), tights by Commando (the most comfortable ever), underthings by All USA Clothing, and earrings by Chic Gems.

(Hint on Steven Alan: twice a year he has online sample sales.  The fall sale just ended, unfortunately.  My skirt was $30 marked down from $225!)

As Mr. Dottie pointed out, the only exception to the outfit above is me: made in Germany.  And here is my wonderful mother who made me, visiting Chicago for Thanksgiving.  :-)

In regards to bicycles, I have one made in the Netherlands, one in Germany, and one in Taiwan.  As much as I absolutely love my Betty Foy in every way, part of me wishes that I saved my money longer to buy a made in the USA frame, like a Sweetpea or ANT.

How do you feel about this issue?  Do you have any shopping rules to counter thoughtless consumerism?

If you have tips on favorite businesses that manufacture in the USA, please share in the comments!

{p.s. another good way to shop – and cut down on waste – is to go for vintage style with secondhand savvy.}

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A Week of Fall Outfits

Here’s an overview of my outfits last week, before setting off to bike to work in temps of 30-40 degrees.  I expect to wear these same outfits over and over again during the upcoming months.

Tuesday: Chloe trench, cashmere sweater, Celine pants, boots.

Wednesday: trench, Chloe dress, tights, boots.

Thursday: trench, cashmere sweater, wool skirt, tights, boots.

Friday: red trench, cashmere sweater, Burberry skirt, tights, flats.

(Most everything I bought used, some on clearance.)

The photos reveal a consistency in my fall dressing: cashmere, wool, tights, and leather boots.  I know I’ve said this many times before, but these materials are excellent for cold-weather cycling.  There is no reason for me to wear technical clothing.

Do you have a cold weather cycling uniform?

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Chicago’s Tweed Ride

A fun and friendly group gathered for Chicago’s Tweed Ride on Saturday.  After an unexpected thunderstorm, the weather was sunny and exceptionally warm for November.

 

After the second pub stop, I broke off the ride with a group of girlfriends for dinner at Bangers and Lace.  I love that going on a Tweed Ride naturally means hanging out with so many of my friends.  Good times.

I know Des Moines had a Tweed Ride on Saturday (looking forward to the pictures!).  Anyone else?

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Fashion Friday: Wool Boucle Suit for Bicycling

The outfit above is chic – there is no doubt about it in my mind.  But at some point stuff gets ridiculously expensive.  This week, I saw a gorgeous Chanel boucle suit at a consignment store…in my size…for almost $2,000.  Holy mother of god.  That is a lot of money for one second-hand outfit.  The shop lady kindly informed me that they have layaway – ha!  Luckily, the timeless Chanel designs have filtered down to the level where ordinary people like you and me can enjoy clothes that look kinda sorta the same.

The day after I left the consignment store, a friend at work randomly gave me a Chanel-esque wool boucle suit that no longer fits her.  So I ended up with a similar outfit for free!  Sure, it’s no Chanel, but it is a quality suit made in Canada.

Once I got to work, I traded  my winter boots for heels, removed my gloves and scarf, and viola: ready for the office.  Except I realize now that my bow was askew.  :-)

A co-worker said to me, “You biked in that?!”  Really, wool boucle and tweed are excellent for bicycling because the fabric has some give, never wrinkles, and is super cozy for fall and winter.  I’m going on the record now to say that a wool boucle skirt suit – in addition to being timelessly chic – is the best outfit for cold-weather cycling.  Who’s with me?  :-)

 

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Janet’s Black Faux Fur Helmet

On my ride home from work yesterday evening, I ran into my friends Janet and Dan on the Lakefront Trail.  I love unexpectedly seeing friendly faces in Chicago; it always brightens my day and makes the city seem more and more like home.

As you can see, Dan and Janet have WorkCycle Omas, which they bought after visiting Amsterdam a few years ago.

Janet had on a new helmet by Yakkay, called the Luzern Faux, that she bought locally from Heritage Bikes.  The Yakkay helmet can be mixed and matched with different style covers and this is one option (it also comes in white).  So stylish!

At first I thought it was an actual shapka, not a helmet.  These are very on trend right now (and I do love my Anna Karenina).  :-)

Janet’s whole outfit was perfect for a chilly November night: fur hat, tweed coat, scarf, jeans, leather mittens, and high boots.  Perfection.

I want one now, but alas I already own a black winter helmet.

You can see another Yakkay helmet cover modeled by Martha, one of the lovely women-who-brunch, in this post from last year.  Has anyone else given this a try?

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Bonfire Tweed Ride – This Saturday

This Saturday is the 4th Annual Bonfire Tweed Ride in Chicago, starting at Four Moon Tavern at 1 p.m.  I haven’t made it to a tweed ride in a couple of years, so I’m looking forward to this one.

 

{beautiful Scottish tweed from Brora: outfit 1outfit 2}

If you’re in Chicago, come on out!  Not sure what a tweed ride outfit would be?  Check out this Tweed Time fashion inspiration.  Trisha’s last Fashion Friday outfit would work well, too!

More info on the ride here.

Anyone else tweed riding this fall?

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Fashion Friday: European Vacation

Today I’m heading to Europe, where I’ll meet Trisha to enjoy a whirlwind 10-day trip through London, Paris, Amsterdam, and a bit of Dublin!

This is the collage I created to plan my packing.

And here is Trisha’s packing collage.  Yes, we are planning nerds.  :-)

Everything is good for walking and bicycling comfortably while (hopefully!) looking chic.

We’ll be taking many trains and riding lots of bicycles.  And we’re shoving everything into carry-ons, so wish us luck!

How do you pack for trips?  Do you have any traveling tips to share?

 

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Gone With the Wind

Biking may make your skirt fly up, but if you want to keep it from becoming literal, here are some tips:

  • Attach an office binder clip to the hem of the skirt to weigh it down—or, if the skirt is long, try clipping the front and back of the hem together to create makeshift culottes.
  • Wear a garter belt on your thigh with a safety pin and then safety pin your skirt to the garter belt from the inside, or purchase a bike garter.
  • If your skirt has a pocket, put a cell phone or keychain in it and shift the pocket to the front while you ride to act as a skirt weight.
  • If the skirt is voluminous enough, tie it tight with a rubber band or hair tie (you’ll have to weigh your modesty against the possibility of wrinkles with this one).

What secrets do you have, readers? Share in the comments!

{ More on wearing a skirt on a bike—and how to wear a long skirt. }

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Fashion Friday: Flights of Fancy

Today I feel like indulging in some flights of fancy.  The result is my dream outfit.  This is by no means a shopping guide, simply an expression of my aesthetic at the moment.  This lushly beautiful Stella McCartney dress is waaaaaay too rich for my blood.  But there are some attainable luxuries, such as striking nail polish and a romantic hair style. Also, I am in love with this Bloom Theory camera strap and will have to figure out how to make my own out of whatever scraps I can find at JoAnn’s.  :-)

I could easily ride a bike in this outfit, especially a lovely upright Velorbis, while enjoying the final remaining days of tights-free weather.

{collage details}

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A Happy October Outfit

Welcome to October!  It’s hard to believe that September is already over and fall is seriously here.  The weather in Chicago is cooling down substantially and in response I pulled out the (sometimes fingerless) gloves, cashmere, and jeans.

This is a typical fall outfit, although for now the sweater comes off at a stop light early in the ride.

I’m happy for the change in seasons – in fact, October is my favorite month!  How are you handling the transition?

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Fashion Friday: Foxy Fall

The crisp fall weather has officially arrived in Chicago (see here) and this week I wore gloves and a light scarf for the first time (see here).  Fall is my favorite season and I love dressing for it.  Lately I’ve been thinking of boots, burnt orange, brown leather, dark denim, and – yes – sweaters emblazoned with foxes.  A spritz of my favorite fall scent, Burberry Brit, and I’m ready to go. Since I was talking about alien baby folding bikes recently, I added a Strida to the mix: quite possibly the most alien of them all.

Now all I need is a big pile of colorful leaves to jump in.  Who’s with me?  :-)

P.S. I totally want to follow this DIY to embroider my own fox slippers.

{Collage details here.}

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What Not to Wear, Bicycle Edition

We’re big believers in the fact that riding a bicycle doesn’t have to mean compromising style (and when we say style, we mean YOUR personal style, not any sort of catwalk ideal). So we’ve tried wearing just about everything in our closets on our bicycles, and have found that there are very few items that absolutely won’t work (or aren’t worth the trouble of hacking). Here’s our very short list.

  • Pencil skirts (without slits)—the tight, hobbling skirt doesn’t allow enough freedom to pedal, unless you convert them.
  • Bellbottoms or extremely long or loose pants—the flares can get caught in your chain or crank, and the extra material slapping against the chain case or frame as you pedal can be annoying. Of course, binding the pants at your ankles can fix this, but for simplicity’s sake we prefer to just go for an alternate pants style.
  • Miniskirts—unless you don’t mind being known as the girl who flashes people on her way to work. If you love miniskirts, try leggings, tights or bike shorts underneath, or get a big ol’ basket for the front.
  • Evening gowns—this is as much a safety issue for the gown as it is for the individual! But long trains, gauzy overskirts, etc can be especially challenging on a bike.
  • Platform heels—there just isn’t enough sole surface area at the ball of your foot to make contact with the pedal.

Readers: where do you draw the line when it comes to bike-friendly clothing? Tell us in the comments!

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Fashion Friday: Patriotic

I am all pumped up from watching the Democratic National Convention this week – mostly from Michelle Obama’s speech!  You may notice this influence in my Fashion Friday outfit.  ;-)

Happy weekend!

{Collage details here}

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Pedal Pushers

Before I started cycling, I never thought about the name “pedal pusher” for pants in a literal way. But now it comes to me – duh, this style is named pedal pushers because they are made for pushing pedals!  The cuffs are short enough that there is no risk the getting caught in the chain or crank while bicycling.

Since I started bicycling daily, I almost entirely stopped wearing pants in favor of skirts and dresses to avoid having to secure pants cuffs, but lately I’ve been wanting to wear outfits built around pants.  Pedal pushers are a good solution.

This is the only pair of pedal pushers I have, tending to avoid them as not the most flattering length, but I think I’ll keep my eyes out for more.  They are just too convenient and fun for bicycling.  I really don’t know why I never thought of them much before.  :-)

What do you think – are you a fan of pedal pushers?

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Fashion Friday: End of Summer Cycling

As the summer winds down, I find myself already growing nostalgic, but excited for cooler weather.  This outfit brings together those disparate feelings.  The bright flowers celebrate the brightness of summer, while the jeans are perfect for those evenings when there’s a slight chill in the air – and these skinny jeans won’t get pulled into bike cranks or chains.  (Hint: if you don’t want to pay for Dolce & Gabbana, buy some inexpensive jeans and fabric paint!)

I’m heading to Nashville this weekend to hang with Trisha and enjoy some Southern sun.  Then I plan to spend as much of next week outside as possible, enjoying what’s left of Chicago’s magical summertime.

How about you?

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Making It Work

Sometimes an outfit comes along that is worth a little extra trouble to become bike-friendly.

I found this Burberry polo shirtdress at Salvation Army last week for the low, low, low price of $1.89.  I thought the casual dress would be great for summer, but it was shorter than I expected once I put it on.

I really did not want to be inappropriate, so I put on black spandex shorts underneath.  Then I layered a full-length opaque slip to prevent the black from showing through the white cotton.

A couple of people mentioned using slips for bicycling in the comments of this post, so I picked up a highly-recommended full slip from Gap Body.  The slip worked perfectly, although natural fibers would be more breathable and therefore better for bicycling.

These three layers helped me feel secure while biking 8 miles in this dress.  I think I could have gotten by without the shorts, but I prefer not to worry about my hemline and appreciate the extra coverage.

I’m sure this new slip will come in handy with many other outfits.

Do you have an outfit that you love so much, you go out of your way to make it work on your bike?

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Bike Style in Vogue

News flash: bicycles are in.  Last week, Vogue wrote about the fashionableness of bicycles:

As we ease into the last few weeks of summer, bike style is the new street style. So why not count your chic cruiser as a seasonal staple? Just as you might acquire pieces to complement a favorite new bag, it’s possible to build your ensemble around your bike.

A slideshow of bicycles matched with fall fashion accompanies the article. (Hat tip to CycleStyle Australia for the link.)

Looking at the slideshow is fun, kinda like our Fashion Fridays, but with all couture designer clothing.  We have been known here at LGRAB to match our outfits to our bikes!

I think such attention is positive for the image of bicycling and it gives me a little thrill, but I also agree with Trisha that bicycling is more than a fashion statement and that making the bicycle a fashionable accessory – without accompanying advocacy – will not substantially increase the amount of bikes on the road.  Paris and New York’s bikeshares and increase in infrastructure must be pushing this trend.  I’d love to know what others think.  Do you get excited about or roll your eyes at such articles?

(I must say, in regards to the imagery above, that society tends to gloss over painfully thin models as normal for fashion, but excepting the very few woman who look so naturally, this extreme thinness is not good or healthy.)

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Fashion Friday: Biking to Yoga

Who else is obsessed with the Olympics?  Watching the US women’s gymnastics team (go Gabby!) was the push I needed to get my butt back to yoga, after years of saying, “I need to get back to yoga.”

I’m finishing week two of near-daily 6 a.m. classes and I love it.  I am not a morning person, but I discovered that if I get up as soon as the alarm goes off, throw on my yoga clothes, and head straight out the door – no snooze button, coffee, twitter, or other procrastination – the morning is not so bad.

This routine requires extra preparation, especially combined with biking to work.  I bike to the studio on the way to work wearing my yoga outfit (Lululemon’s yoga clothes are so expensive, but soooo perfect!).  After class, I shower at the studio and change into regular shorts and a t-shirt, since my yoga clothes are too sweaty to put back on and I get too sweaty on my bike right now to wear work clothes.  Finally, I bike the rest of the way to work and change into my work clothes.  I swear, this is not as complicated as it sounds.  Totally worth the extra effort for the wonderful feeling I get from yoga class.

Do you have a yoga or other exercise routine that you combine with your bike commute?  I’m interested to hear how others handle the logistics.

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Favorite Cycling Accessories

Bike bag

Bike shoes

Bike love

Some of my favorite bicycling accessories cannot be found at a bike shop.

:)

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Kicks

I prefer to keep my work shoes under my desk, especially during the summer when my feet sweat.  Last summer I spent a lot of time biking in Keen Commuter sandals or regular slip-on sneakers.  This summer, I wanted casual shoes that could also look stylish.  I chose Bensimon Tennis Laclets (aka the French Converse) and I like them a lot.

These sneakers are easy to slip on and off – I never have to mess with the laces.  They are also breathable and very lightweight.  The only downside is the thin soles.  I would not wear them for a lot of walking before adding a gel insole, but happily that is not an issue when bicycling.

 I’ve been wearing them a lot and I like how they dress down and lighten up my regular outfits.

What kind of shoes do you like for summer bicycling?  Anyone else wear Bensimons?  :-)

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