Polyvore, Oh My!

I love fashion, styling and jewelry. Polyvore allows me to do all of this for free and for fun. I am constantly forgetting what is in my closet, especially newer things. I love this app because I can go, like what I own, or clip it, (especially all my Chloe and Isabel jewelry), and then style outfits with it. Check out some of my sets, I am always making more!

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I love apps like this that give us an outlet for our creativity. They also give us ideas about how to wear the latest styles and what to wear with them. I know sometimes I love new styles, but I have no clue how to wear them. With Polyvore, I feel like I am able to pick other people’s minds about how and what they would do. Plus you can put together looks without messing up your closet!

Follow me on Polyvore: http://jennlsch.polyvore.com/

Shop all jewelry: chloeandisabel.com/boutique/jenniferschmidt1

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That One Time I Posted in the Casual Encounter Section of Craigslist: My Interview with a Poster

The Casual Encounters portion of Craigslist attracts a large amount of traffic everyday while people seek anonymity so they can fulfil their deepest desires. Selena* was drawn in and wanted to experience the type of response and attention a poster receives. A negative self-esteem led her to experiment, but a stronger sense of self was discovered in the process.

It is not everyday that I get to sit down and have an open conversation with a woman who has admitted to posting suggestive pictures of herself on Craigslist. If you aren’t already aware, there is a page on Craigslist for Casual Encounters where posters can post about seeking any type of sexual experience. Requests vary from the most grotesque to the average three or foursome. There are swingers, transsexuals, homosexuals and others seeking a little bit of Fifty Shades.

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Personals Section of the Site
The New York Times gives some statistics for the site in an article written a couple years back. The Casual Encounter section accounts for 2% of all posting on Craigslist. Despite this small percentage, the Personals section, (of which Casual Encounters is a part of), has a higher rate of traffic than any other online personals site, (eHarmony, Match and Yahoo! Personals included). One major draw is the ability to remain anonymous, at least initially, and therefore, be honest about what one’s true desire. Despite all of this, it remains a taboo that isn’t openly discussed.

Posters can attach pictures to their posts to attract a greater response. At first, it might be thought that posters are all social outcasts, 40-year old virgins, and prostitutes. But that is not the case. There are a great deal of everyday people posting, looking for the partner with which to fulfill their fantasies. Selena* chose to post on the site for another reason altogether. Yes, she wanted to fulfil the curiosity that the site naturally encourages, but she was primarily looking for a self-esteem boost.

My interview with her sheds light on an aspect of her personality that led her to need attention enough to result to this. While she did not pose nude or show any part of her you wouldn’t see in a bathing suit, she still felt dirty after receiving responses. Ultimately, her experience is not one she recommends. She reminds us the very real things that could happen if a woman did opt to follow through and meet with a responder.

My Interview with Selena* – A One-Time Craigslist Casual Encounter Poster

Q: Selena*, my first question, why would you want to post pictures of yourself online? And what kind of pictures did you post?

A: Well, honestly, I have always wondered about the people who post pictures of themselves in this casual encounter corner of Craigslist. Sometimes I just go through all the postings reading and wondering what drives a person to do this. And, of course, what kind of response they receive. Sometimes the posters will refer to the responses they received as being unwanted or different than what they asked for. I just really wanted to know. So, I took four pictures of myself from shoulders down in a deep-v lace body suit. I didn’t want my face to show and they weren’t overtly sexual. I don’t want to have those out there forever!

Me: I understand, everything is permanent online!

Selena*: (Laughing) Yes, it really is. And I do value my career and my future, I didn’t want this one experiment to label me. And worse, what if I did have my face in the picture and somebody on the street recognized me, that would be terrible!

Me: Indeed, it would be. But let me ask, interesting word choice. You saw this as an experiment?

Selena*: Yes, I really did. I am not going to say that sleeping around is bad, but it is not my personal choice. I prefer relations with men after a personal connection has been established. Even then, I am picky!

Me: So you weren’t actually attempting to solicit sex through this ad?

Selena*: Well, in regards to what I actually wrote, yes, I was. My post was short, just four sentences, but I made sure it reflected mainstream pornographic culture to garner a healthy response. But I didn’t personally want to solicit sex. I was trying to see what kind of responses I would receive.

Me: What else compelled you to do this experiment? You must have great self-esteem to post any part of you online in a suggestive way. Especially on a platform designed for hookups.

Selena*: Honestly, my self-esteem isn’t very good. I am often worrying about what others think of my body and whether men find me attractive sexually. I am of a curvy frame and I often feel that I am not what is generally considered attractive.

Me: So were you concerned about the responses then? Did you ever consider that you may receive rude responses from these men? How did you weigh this against possible positive responses?

Selena*: Yes, when I did this, I was worried that I would receive nasty responses from men calling me fat or undesirable. But I also needed the affirmation from the men that I was desirable. My need for someone to desire me, even a creepy man behind a computer, outweighed my fear of being ridiculed. I suppose I just wanted to know what it would feel like to get that kind of attention, the sexual kind, in a safe way.

Me: Well, I think you look fantastic today. I don’t know why anyone would find you unattractive.

Selena*: (blushing) Thank you, I am trying really hard to remind myself every day that I am beautiful. I think this experiment really opened my eyes to the despair I could fall into.

Me: Despair? Please elaborate.

Selena*: Well, I guess I mean that I now understand something key. I follow a lot of plus sized models on Instagram and they are always letting their bodies show, and I think that is beautiful, the confidence. But sometimes they let way more skin show than I would feel comfortable doing, and I am not plus sized. Then I go to bars with my friends and I see plus size girls dressing the same way and I wonder if there is something wrong with my thinking that keeps me from showing all that skin. I watch these girls throw themselves at these guys and the guys pay attention generally, but never to me. I can’t help but wonder if they are attracted to the confidence, the girl, or the fact that she is letting it all hang out.

Me: Interesting, this is something I have also wondered about. I am also curvy, not plus sized, and I often feel lost between the thin and the plus sized women. It is kind of a no man’s land.

Selena*: Seriously! And you are built much more athletically than I. I am totally envious of your muscle girl!

Me: (laughing) Thank you! Well, I think the main question now is, just what kind of responses did you get?! Where they like you expected?

Selena*: Oh my! (blushing) I received some interesting responses for sure. They were all positive though! That was the best part. It was actually funny, I posted it and then I opened my email. I had no responses for five minutes. I was so sad, so I closed my email and decided to take a shower. 15 minutes later, I checked my email again and I had 42 emails. All responses. After that, I was receiving about a response a minute. I was so overwhelmed!

Me: Wow! That’s a lot of responses. Any that were memorable?

Selena*: Yes, originally, I hadn’t intended to respond to anyone. However, as the responses started flooding in, I was pleasantly surprised. Some of the responders said really nice things and seemed like really nice guys. I had to remind myself under what circumstances they were emailing me!

Me: So is the posting still up?

Selena*: No, I took it down after about 30 minutes. I got such a large response that it was too much for me. Plus, I ultimately wasn’t comfortable with the kind of talk that the posting elicited. I am very private about my sex life so the blunt responses were very overwhelming and kind of gross. I could just imagine the type of guy who trolls Casual Encounter postings on Craig’s List.

Me: I take it you weren’t imaging Prince Charming.

Selena*: Not at all! (laughs) I was expecting some creepy guys.

Me: What is the weirdest response you received?

Selena*: One guy said some nice things, beautiful body, that type of thing. And at the end of his email, he asked to be notified of any donations.

Me: Oh! Wow, I hadn’t considered that.

Selena*: Neither had I! Honestly, I didn’t understand that at first. Then I realized, he meant money most likely. Which opened up a whole new world of possibilities and I thought to myself, wow, suddenly the number of people posting on here is more understandable. Not assuming all are looking for money, but if you are already willing to have a random hookup, then the idea of donations would be a bonus, I assume.

Me: Going back to your self-esteem, after all this attention, how do you feel now?

Selena*: I felt a bit dirty at first. Especially when the responses started rolling in. But I did feel good too. It was so heartening to receive all that attention. Granted it was sexual attention and it was because I elicited it, but I still felt good to hear that all these guys wanted me. I understand that they might just respond to anything or that they are totally gross, but I felt good. I left this experience knowing that if I chose to be overtly sexual and dress provocatively, I would get a response.

Me: Is this something you intend to do again?

Selena*: Absolutely not! Once was enough! It wasn’t a bad experience by any means, but I defiantly realized how precious my body is and how much I value myself. I don’t want to receive attention just for the sake of attention, and that’s what I did with this. I want honest attention from guys interested in me, not my body. So, going back to the previous question, I suppose my self-esteem was affected because I am much more self-assured now.

Me: Is this something you would recommend other women do?

Selena*: Well, I suppose if you really want to, sure. But I would caution against it. You just never know with the internet. I realized afterwards that somebody could maybe trace my IP Address and find out my location or something like that. I am probably paranoid, but safety is important! And never actually respond or meet with these guys. The least worry is that they have a disease, the worst is that something terrible could happen.

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*Name has been changed for confidentiality reasons.

Questioning “Enough”

Just the other day I was driving in my car listening to the radio and The Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden” came on. I have grown up hearing this song and am very familiar with it and the lyrics. But for some reason, this time I heard it the lyrics really spoke to me. Much of the song is questioning “Am I rich enough? Am I strong enough? Am I rough enough?” He asks questions like this several times and it was really making me think.

So, not to launch into some rant about self-esteem and ‘everybody is equal and wonderful,’ I did want to comment on this. Many songs, books, poems, and pictures are focused on whether or not one has reached this threshold of “enough.” What is enough anyways? And how has this term come to be how we judge and base ourselves? Why are we constantly wondering if we are enough?

Enough – the English dictionary defines it first as a determiner and pronoun with the definition, “as much or as many as required.” In my opinion, there are several issues with using this word as a self determiner with this definition. First, this definition implies that there are indeed “requirements.” That is fine if you are discussing whether you have enough units to graduate this semester. But when applying it as a self determiner, you are saying that there is a requirement for how thin, rich, strong, rough, etc. you are. While there are guidelines, there is no such requirement for these.

enough

So, enough, we use it thoughtlessly to self determine value, appeal and worth. But I think this is a problem. This constant struggle to be something we aren’t currently leads me to question whether using terms like “enough” so thoughtlessly is to blame. With social media, (I have talked about my feelings about this in past posts), we are constantly bombarded by pictures of people who we have chosen to look up to, idolize, or become obsessed with. I follow several fitstagram people and I will admit that sometimes I judge myself with their bodies as the standard. This can also happen with feeling someone on social media has more shoes, a better social calendar, goes to more concerts, or travels more. We look at ourselves in relation to this person and use that self determining word “enough” to decide whether we are worst, just as good or better than the other person.

In the process of judging ourselves we are also judging the person we are comparing ourselves to. And then we do this over and over and over again. So much so that we begin to break down your self-esteem and feel insignificant. Because, regardless of who you are, there is always somebody who has more of something that you do. You may hold 100% of Apple’s shares and will never have to work or consider money again, but there is likely someone out there who has more of something that you desire than you do.

This process of determining our enough-ness breaks down our self-esteem and any ability we have to truly be appreciative. It also hard wires us to constantly be comparing ourselves and others and then making determinations and judgements based on those comparisons, regardless of whether they are fair or equal. 

What should be done about this? Well, I would call for the elimination of enough from self determining vocabulary. I will not wonder if I am enough in anyway, instead I will view myself (perferably objectively) and ask myself if I am happy with how I am  and if not, how I can work on improving myself so that I can be happy with how I am. Removing enough from our vocabulary may lead to less harsh judgements on ourselves and the feeling like we can’t measure up so we can lead happier lives. 

Met Gala Fashion Review

I am sure you have heard that the Met Gala was on May 1st, the first Monday of May. It has been the talk of fashion magazines around the world in the few days since the event as pictures are published online and through social media. From very demure gowns to outrageous fashion statements, the Gala brings them all out in celebration of fashion. 

The Met Gala is something I have always admired and would like to attend. Hopefully, someday I will have the opportunity. I don’t think I would go bold with my choices though, mostly because I am not that bold with my choices in general… but there is a point to be fashionable and flawless at the Gala. Since I didn’t have the pleasure of attending, I thought it would be fun to discuss some of the looks we saw this year from our favorite designers and celebrities.

My absolute favorite look is a sheer black custom Thai Nguyen Atelier gown worn by La La Anthony. The gown features what appears as a expanding cracked design done in delicate bead work. According to interviews and her Instagram, the dress served to make a statement about her strength in light of her recent breakup with basketball star Carmelo Anthony. She captioned her photo on Instagram with “Unbreakable” fitting with her recent breakup and the cracked look of the dress itself. The gown perfectly showed off her amazing figure. Anthony complimented her look with nude lipstick and a subtle smokey eye. Certainly a powerful look.

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La La Anthony in custom Thai Nguyen Atelier
If you were unaware, every year the Met Gala has a theme that the guests are encouraged to dress within highlighting the exhibit that will be launched. This year, the Gala celebrated the opening of the Costume Institute’s exhibition, “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between.” This is the first exhibit that the Met has featured a living artist since the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit in 1983.

Rihanna stole the show with her three dimensional floral ensemble by Comme des Garçons. Of course she is known for her unique fashion choices and she regularly garners attention for her outfits… but I wasn’t a fan of this personally. However, I understand that this is the keynote designer and she is showcasing her new jewelry line with Chopard.

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Rihanna in Comme des Garcons, Rihanna Loves Chopard jewelry and desquared2 shoes
There are a few more pictures of my favorite looks at the Met Gala. Which ones were your favorites?

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All photos pulled from Vogue online slideshow.

You and Success

I had the pleasure of attending a training for Junior League of Riverside this afternoon where the illustrious Vicki Clark spoke to us about organization and how to see projects through to fruition. Although I learned a great deal that will lead to successful futures for League members, I found what she had to say about Leadership and Success to be extremely advantageous. She spoke about how to view success through alternate perspectives and touched on how media is training us to view success in certain ways – for instance, basing success on money and possessions.

So, what should we base our successes on? Is success really something that can be represented by the amount of money in a bank account? The designer labels we wear on our backs? Our shoes, purses, and what shopping bags we carry around when we are at the mall? Social media has opened up a new world for the younger generations and it has caused us to be hyper aware of our “successes.” There are countless studies about how people who post everything on social media are likely sociopaths. But, does this mean that everyone who posts on social media feels this?

Personally, I post random things on my social media. I don’t plan posts and I don’t post an overwhelming amount of selfies. However, when I have a great workout or I am spending an awesome day at Fashion Island, I like to post those things. In other words, I suppose I am saying that my social media profiles are more representative of what is contributing to my happiness or what I am doing while happy.

Bringing this back to the question of what is success… For me, success is the ability to do things. I feel successful when I can spend a day reading, at the mall, the beach or Disneyland. These things remind me of the quality of life I am working for. Although we all struggle from time to time, I am happy that I have generally been in a decent position for someone my age. Yes, I struggle with the repercussions of poor financial decisions in the youth,  but I have made sure that I have the means to continue to grow and become more successful.

So what is success? I suppose, I think of successes as the crossing of goals off my list. I would like to get back to Europe and see countries I have yet to visit. If I come to a place in my life where that would be feasible, that would be a success for me. Marriage, having children – those things would be successes as well. Growing in my professional career, completing my first text, publishing, making friends, all of those things would be successes for me. But keeping that in mind, I have to remember that certain success comes with time and experience. We can’t all be a Kardashian or a young pop star. Success usually comes from working hard and putting in the time to gain the experience and the knowledge that is necessary to grow within ourselves. This might even mean that our goals, and therefore, our eventual successes will adapt to our growth. And that, to me, is a success in of itself. That you can understand that you have grown and your desires have changed as well.

Yes, I wish I was rolling in money and could have everything I could possibly want and never have to think about whether I can afford to spend money. It would certainly make life easier not having to be concerned with bills and the cost of living. But, ultimately, where is the joy in that? If you can have everything you want, those things begin to lose their value. Success is ultimately a feeling. A feeling about how you are doing at this stage in your life. The people we follow on social media that help us to feel inadequate are just in a different stage of their lives, their careers, hobbies or values. We shouldn’t rely on other people, our bank accounts, cars or sneakers to determine whether or not we are successful. We should allow our personal feelings of success to guide us and help us to feel free enough to enjoy where we are currently. Focusing on how successful (or not) you will be in 5, 10, or 15 years inhibits you from enjoying any success you have attained now.

So, my advice: Be happy! Enjoy the ability to buy a latte today. The fact that you can go to dinner and a movie tonight. Not everyone has the ability to do the things we may take for granted. I can’t buy Gucci tennis shoes but I can buy Nikes. That is a success. And, if I do purchase Gucci tennis shoes someday, I will know that I worked hard and I attained many levels of success on my way to that. But the shoes won’t represent that success, the personal joy I had along the way doing the things I could do, will be representative of my success. 25_quotes_about_success_18

The Retail Race

Let me be clear – I am a shopaholic. Confessions of a Shopaholic? Yes, that brilliant idea visited me in my sleep before it jumped the pond and landed in Sophie Kinsella’s brain to be developed into the Shopaholic franchise. (I will discuss this more when I review Big Magic… once I finish reading it) And to fuel this addiction, I spent many a year in specialty women’s retail (fancy name for LOFT & Chico’s) … mostly for the discounts.

But, because I have spent many years in retail, I understand the game they play with us. I understand the trickle down effect fashion has on the retail industry. Point in case, Fashion Week shows us the newest and hottest trends about a year in advance. By the time our local stores get on the trends, it is almost a year later. What’s worse, their marketing campaigns serve to make women feel as if they need a brand new wardrobe every season! I don’t know about you, but I sure cannot afford that (although I shop as if I can).

I follow A LOT of fashion bloggers on Instagram because I admire their style and their fearless fashion sense. But I also believe that many of them are sporting sponsored duds. I cannot believe anyone purchases new clothing that much and then just wears it to take pictures. I mean, why buy something if you don’t intend to wear it numerous times? Why spend the time to find items you truly love?

But as I write that, I am reminded that I spent a great deal of money in high school and my early years of college purchasing items because I loved them in the moment but then never actually wore them, or wore them only once. I understand and again – I don’t do this anymore. Instead, I have developed a returning issue. Meaning, I return probably 10% of what I purchase on a regular basis. Usually 15-45 days after I purchased it. Hey! I really liked it! I just realized I don’t a) have the proper additional items to pull of the look b) hadn’t eaten any food when I purchased it and now, after eating breakfast, it looks terrible on me or c) it no longer speaks to me.

This is the part that probably truly betrays the depth of my addiction to shopping and clothing… the items speak to me! They say to me “Buy me,” “I will make you happy,” or “I will emphasise all those squats you have been doing.” And I fall into it every time! However, I have found a compromise for myself. I only buy items I love, I don’t rush out and wear them right away, and I utilize the Cluise app, (no this isn’t sponsored, I actually really use the app). Basically the app is a digital closet. It can assemble outfits for you based on weather and event, but I rarely use this feature. Instead, I take pics of everything I purchase, (and am slowly adding everything I currently own), and add them to my digital closet. Then I construct outfits with what I have. Honestly, I don’t generally stick to these outfits, (because I am not an outfit girl, I am a separates girl), but it really helps me see what I have and how the new pieces with incorporate into my current wardrobe. Bonus: I can “see” my closet when I am in a store debating whether or not to buy that super trendy piece. And that is my coping secret.

I have also made an effort to limit my shopping at places like Forever 21, Hollister Co. and Tilly’s. I have realized that I purchase the items at seemingly cheaper prices, just to find the items don’t last and really don’t look good after you wear them once. Of course, it is quick fashion and is meant to only satisfy the season’s trends. And that is great for many women. However, I have found that I can find better fitting and higher quality pieces on sale for the same or less than the items sold by stores such as Forever 21. Such retailers? Madewell – they don’t always have a sale, but they do sometimes. And when they do, (such as an additional percentage off sale items), I shop heavy. I also use my student ID because they offer 15% off for teachers and students all the time, on everything, (don’t quote me, they may exclude third party merchandise). So, top was $68, marked down to $50, additional 50% off that AND THEN an additional 15%? That top is now about $21… And the top at Forever 21? $28.80? No return and may self destruct after first wear? No thank you!

Being a more full-figured woman, (a healthy 12/14, L/XL), fit and quality really matters to me. But I am also basically skating by financially so I really don’t have the room to purchase things at full price. So I try and do my due diligence and follow sales. For instance, Ann Taylor LOFT, (whom I worked for in the past), allows for price adjusting. When I began building my professional wardrobe, I did purchase some items at full or near full price. (Caveat, if you do shop there regularly, you really should have the credit card. Rewards system is fan-freaking-tastic!) So, I watched for when the items went on 40%. Sure enough, they did.I went and price adjusted. (My sister and her boyfriend went with me and had a cow… It was a process) In the end, I ended picking up double what I purchased initially AND I walked out with $1.25 in my pocket! I had a $300 budget and I ended up with nearly 1k in merchandise at ticket value. I should say, I used Cash Cards as well, and that helped quite a bit. But moral of the story, if you do your due diligence, you can really win and make out like a bandit.

Anyways, the point of all this. I think retailers put too much pressure on women to buy new things and to buy them immediately. Obviously, they have sales goals every single day that compound into month, quarterly and annual goals – I get that. But so do we. We have school, new tires, kid’s baseball fees, whatever it may be that we need to prepare for as well. And, I will admit that seeing women with their brand new Chanel, Louis Vuittons and Hermes bags on Instagram sometimes makes me feel inadequate. But, that is okay! I am so thrilled that those bloggers have reached that level of success. But I have reached my own level of success and you have to! So be proud of it and rock your new and old wardrobe staples and show the world that you are feeling good in your duds! And please, be smart about your shopping. The retailers give you the tools, you just need to use them!

In case you are curious, or follow my Instagram, I frequent Ann Taylor LOFT, Madewell, Free People (generally sale online), Banana Republic (by far the best credit rewards system I have seen) and JJill. 

Human Traffiking

Human Trafficking is a huge topic amongst countries and world leaders as well as police and regulatory organizations. On the surface, it is common sentiment that trafficking of men, women and children is inherently bad. But when the topic is broken down, it becomes clear that there lacks a common moral ground on every social level.

I had the pleasure of hearing a speech on the topic by Jeremy Vallerand, CEO and President of Rescue: Freedom International. The goal of the non-profit is to “empower the rescue and restoration of those suffering in sexual slavery.” This is an excellent goal, however, it is also quite broad. In his speech, he discussed a multitude of facets including pornography. It is here that I would like to focus this post on.

Pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry. Yes, I could throw some numbers at you in order to incorporate that shock factor so many of these presentations incorporate. But I find I tire of context-less numbers thrown at me. I want to know the nitty gritty, I want to understand on a personal level. That doesn’t mean I need to experience it, but I do want to be able to grasp the ideas and magnitude of the issue.

On the other hand. I also want to make a difference. But there are thousands of people trafficked every single day. It seems like a loosing battle to fight, but I have to believe there is a way to insight change – to save women, children and men from becoming trafficked across the globe.