Dolce and Gabriella

Little thoughts from the Big Apple


First day

Well chickadees, it’s finally here.

I’ve bid goodbye to break for good. Back to the grind. I’m looking for the silver linings:

Dark cloud: I woke up at 7 a.m. today.

Silver lining: somehow, I still got almost eight hours of sleep. And I don’t have to be on campus until 10 tomorrow, so I’ll survive at least until Wednesday.

Dark cloud: I’m in twenty units of classes this semester. I was in the art building today from 9 to 5 with exactly zero breaks.

Silver lining: those twenty units are pretty interesting. Design classes, journalism, art theory…it’s all pretty cool. Fingers crossed I can manage it.

Dark cloud: I was peer-pressured into wearing something other than yoga pants today.

Silver lining: at least it was my favorite pair of shorts.

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Hand-me-down shorts from best friend’s mom, J. Crew Factory shirt, thrifted IIIBeca by Joy Gryson bag, Sam Edelman “Sabrina” wedges, J. Crew Factory sunglasses

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Savoring the end-of-summer pedicure I treated myself to last week. This shade of purple reminds me of a pair of beloved clogs I had as a kid–instant mood boost. And the Sabrina wedges are super comfortable…highly recommend for an affordable, versatile sandal with a relatively low heel.

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In love with my Everlane backpack in Sand.

If you too went back to school today, my condolences. Labor Day can’t come soon enough. But we might as well enjoy the week; here’s a video to put you in the right mindset for Day 2.


What’d you wear on your first day?



Accomplishing Goals

My dirty little secret: I’m a class-A procrastinator.

Since I am both ambitious and maniacally organized, you wouldn’t think I have a problem getting work done. But I do, big-time. For instance, I sat down to write this post two hours ago. Since then, I’ve watched four video tutorials on making beach waves with a curling wand and chatted with half a dozen friends on Facebook. I responded to a backlog of emails and voicemails I’ve been letting pile up and folded my laundry. I’ve done everything I can think of to avoid writing this post.

Whenever I have a creative deadline on the horizon, I feel a burst of palpable anxiety writhing in the center of my chest. I do everything I can to avoid confronting that anxiety. So whatever I end up making–even if it’s really good–I know that it’s not as good as it could have been, had I devoted the amount of time to it that I originally intended to.

When I started this blog in June, I told my friend Sonya that I was afraid I couldn’t motivate myself to produce the content I know I’m capable of. She, an accomplished artist who’s encountered her own share of creative struggles, recommended a book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

I immediately ordered it on Amazon and finally got around to reading it last week. It’s a quick read–I finished in about three hours–and so worth it for anyone who’s sick of getting in the way of their own achievement. Every sentence of Part One, I was nodding along, thinking, “Finally, someone who understands!” and then, “Wait–I’m not the only one?”

@valeriewatersInstagram, @valeriewaters.

Not by a long shot. According to Pressfield, the struggle against what he calls “Resistance” is universal. Resistance is a villainous feature of the human psyche that works to prevent us from doing the things that will bring us good. When we think about how we should really get started on some task–me writing this blog post, for instance–Resistance does everything it can to keep us from beginning it.

Pressfield personifies Resistance because it has a mind of its own. It comes entirely from our own subconscious, yet most of us don’t have a say in when our Resistance manifests, or how. You can feel Resistance as fear or anxiety, like I do when I think about an approaching creative deadline. It frequently comes across as the desire to procrastinate. It feeds us valid-sounding rationalizations for why beginning an activity is a bad idea, or at least is bad right now. (Hint–if Resistance says that today about something, it’ll also say it tomorrow).

Resistance doesn’t limit itself to artists and writers–it flares up in the presence of “any activity that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity.” Resistance is that familiar voice in your head saying, “This really isn’t a good time to take that trip to Europe. I’ll do it next year,” or, “I’ll skip the gym today. One day can’t hurt anything.” The more important the activity is to our self-improvement, the more Resistance we encounter during it.

Luckily, this means that we can use Resistance as a “compass.” The more Resistance you feel toward doing an activity, the more positive and powerful that activity probably is. Resistance should be a sign to do more, not less.

The first step to overcoming Resistance is recognizing it in yourself. When you’re aware of it, you can fight it. The next step is to sit down and get to work (or book a plane ticket, or step onto the treadmill). Your Resistance will lessen the second you start. The only way to get through Resistance is to push through. It doesn’t matter how good what you’re doing is, only that you’re in the process of doing it. Nike knows what I’m talking about.

4393967665_ab91fb4a4e_zJhong Dizon, Flickr, Creative Commons. 

To achieve something big in spite of Resistance, you have to do what Pressfield calls “going pro.” You have to treat the activity like it’s a job. If you were getting paid by somebody else to do it, would you be taking it more seriously? Probably.

Pros go to work every day. To be a pro, you have to work on your goal every day too, or at least on a rigorously kept schedule. Again, it matters much less how much you accomplish in these work sessions and more that you’re putting in the time. Each day that you write another page of your book or log another mile at the gym, you’ve beaten Resistance–eventually, those little victories will add up to major results. Pressfield stresses that you’ve got to commit to your goal over the long haul. Amateurs work for a short time with an intensity that they cannot sustain long-term; pros work in realistic increments that will give them what they want in time. A big goal “is the Iditarod, not the sixty-yard dash.”

I’m well-acquainted with my Resistance; I feel it all the time. In fact, today there are several activities I would like to do, and would get satisfaction from doing, but am probably not going to do. I love yoga, but getting to the studio is a haul and I’m always totally wiped by the end of a two-hour vinyasa class. I downloaded this app I’ve been wanting to play around with and post on the blog, but to input the information I’d need to use it would require a few hours of work and I’m like, eh. Not today.

But you know what I’m now realizing? I’ve said those excuses to myself every day this summer. School starts next week and I never got around to either of them. I did plenty of other great stuff, so I’m not devastated, but I would have enjoyed both activities. If I could do it over having read The War of Art, I’d hit the 30-minute beginner yoga class in the mornings instead of telling myself it was vinyasa or bust; I’d put ten minutes each night into working on the app, and by now I’d have it done. If I’d faced my Resistance, even in tiny increments, I’d be a more flexible and tech-savvy girl today.

As fall approaches, I challenge you to do what I’m doing today: think about what Resistance has stopped you from doing in the past and what it’s stopping you from doing now. Do you feel guilty for or anxious about avoiding some activity? Figure out what the first baby step is toward your goal, take a deep breath, and get ‘er done. The only way to feel relief from those icky Resistance feelings is moving forward. I’m going to: write an email I’ve been procrastinating on big-time, order my textbooks for a difficult class that starts Monday, and sign up for yoga at the USC gym.

There are other insights in the book that apply more specifically to creatives–writers, artists, etc–who deal with Resistance when they sit down to make their stuff. If this is you, whether you’re a designer, blogger, art student, whatever, I really recommend spending a few hours ingesting what Pressfield says about the way in which we should be treating our creative work. From an art student’s perspective, his comments on production, critique and ownership of work are really helpful. Maybe I’ll even do a second post on it sometime–what do you guys think?

I want to know in the comments: what are you feeling Resistance on right now and how do you combat it?



Make the Most Bad-Ass Bomb-Dot-Com Jean Cutoffs of Your LIFE

Can you tell from the title that I’m excited about today’s topic? It’s because I have a jorts problem.

tobias 1Image from the Arrested Development wikia page

I own an embarrassingly large number of jean shorts. At least a dozen pairs. I can kind of halfway justify it because of where I live, except that I owned most of them before I ever got here. There’s something about a pair of soft, broken-in jean cutoffs that makes me so happy. Actually, all denim makes me happy. I own the WordPress and Tumblr handle “denimfetish” and seriously considered it for this blog. See more about my denim problem here.

I think I’ve bought two pairs of jean shorts in my life. All the others, I’ve made myself from jeans I’ve found at garage sales and thrift stores. I’ve ruined many a pair trying to cut them super-short-but-not-too-short, frayed-but-not-too-frayed. Luckily, I’ve developed a technique that returns custom-fit, absolutely perfect shorts every time. And it couldn’t be simpler. (Warning–lots of pictures in this one!)

how to make jean shorts

If you’d rather do this thang on your phone, I made a great Steller story with the same content.

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First, you’ll need an old pair of jeans. I went to Goodwill and found a pair with a half-off tag for $3. Try to pick something non-stretchy with a high cotton content–it’s much more difficult to distress polyester and spandex. Then, grab scissors, a marker, a ruler, a utility knife and a piece of cardboard.

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Chop off the legs of the jeans, leaving the shorts 1.5-2″ longer than you’d like to wear them. Then put the jeans on.

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Fold the hem of the shorts up. Look in the mirror and make sure that with the fold, the shorts are the exact length and cut you want. Play around with it…try folding at different lengths and angles and see what’s most flattering. On many people, shorts that slant subtly upward toward the outside of the leg look best.

Make sure they’re the right length. I like my shorts pretty short, but they have to cover the necessary stuff.

tobias 3From WiffleGif.

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Once you’re happy with how the shorts look, get your marker. With one hand, pinch the fold you just made; with the other, run your marker along the edge of the fold. You want to make a line that traces exactly where you’ve folded the fabric. Go all the way around both legs.

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For a more precise line, you could pin the fold, take the shorts off and press the crease with an iron. I’m too lazy for that.

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Take the shorts off, turn them inside out and cut along the line you just made. Don’t cut the front and back of the shorts together–the whole point of this method is making a more flattering asymmetrical cut.

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Et voila! A pair of Daisy Dukes custom-made for your booty.

Now let’s distress them!

I used to painstakingly fray my shorts by pulling out individual threads with a seam ripper. It was tedious beyond belief. Luckily, I found a great alternate method in a video on the Free People blog. Basically, it involves cutting slits in the denim with a knife, creating narrow strips that fray and degrade with wear.

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First, we’ll fray the hem. Insert your cardboard into the leg opening to protect the fabric on the other side. Start your cuts a half inch up the legs of your shorts, using the ruler to make them straight-ish. The slits don’t have to be evenly spaced or run the entire width of the leg; you’re just creating lots of narrow strips at the bottom of the shorts.

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Now let’s make some natural-looking distress marks on the jeans. Cut some little slits at the top of the pockets, front and back, where your hand would rub against if you reached into the pocket over and over. Sometimes I also make little slits on the belt loops and the bottoms of the back pockets.

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To “break in” the front of the shorts, drag your blade across the denim until little pulls and holes start to form. Lightly glide the blade over the fabric with just enough pressure to snag the top threads. Don’t overdo it; the holes will get bigger in the wash.

Then, throw the jeans in the laundry. I put them in for the longest, heaviest duty cycle and then let them tumble in the dryer for at least half an hour.

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Just one wash later, you’ve got a perfectly distressed pair of jean shorts. And they only get better with time and more washes.

Happy chopping!

Any other jorts junkies out there? I want to hear your best tips!

Linked up with: Style Elixir, Walking in Memphis in High Heels