Trying My Vest
Today is my birthday, and I’m turning 23.
It’s been a turbulent year. I graduated college, was the first employee at a tiny startup robotics company, worked in China for three months, vacationed in Zimbabwe right before a severe economic collapse, came back to the United States and I’m now in the middle of switching jobs.
I’ve been exposed to a lot of different things over the past year, like how differently the world works all over the world. I’ve been astonished, surprised, and delighted, but also frustrated, distraught, and occasionally cynical (see a very unstructured post, Between, for all of those emotions).
And through it all I have written.
For year 23 of my life I thought I would try to channel my writing toward a more formal endeavor. I went back and forth with this because it didn’t seem “serious” or befitting of an MIT engineer, but like I talked about in An Engineer’s Guide to Glowing Up, I also felt that I shouldn’t be ashamed about my interests, especially if the only reason is because they are feminine and considered not “serious”.
So here goes: I’m starting a fashion, lifestyle, and design blog.
When I was an intern at Bose, Inc, my junior summer, I learned a lot about how design influences how people react to objects. You can encourage the adoption of something good or bad for society through its design. There’s a reason that the Juul has been called the “iPhone of vape pens” and led many high school children to become addicted to nicotine. There’s a reason Snapchat glasses were accepted over Google Glass.
One of my favorite, surprisingly insightful movie scenes is from The Devil Wears Prada:
“…This… ’stuff’? I see, you think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select out, oh I don’t know, that lumpy blue sweater, for instance, because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise, it’s not lapis, it’s actually cerulean. You’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves St Laurent, wasn’t it, who showed cerulean military jackets? …And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of 8 different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic casual corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. From a pile of stuff.”
Design influences the world around us in both trivial and incredibly important ways. Design is important.
There are so many other things I love and think are important that tie into this blog. But in short, this blog is a celebration of good design, the way that I define it.
Below is the ‘letter from the editor’ on my ‘About’ page, describing the purpose and motivation behind this blog, Trying My Vest.
A Letter from the Editor
Like many people, I started paying closer attention to myself–my appearance, personal hygiene, health and wellness, my belongings–during college. For me, that was a time when I started to be fully in control of myself and my choices, and develop a personal way of living that’s mostly independent from other people, such as family.
In starting to learn more about myself–like what clothes fit me best, or what types of things I liked–I also started to realize that there weren’t many fashion or skin care bloggers who looked like me, were shaped like me, or had a similar background to mine. But I knew I was similar in many ways to people I knew in real life–my body shape is similar to other black or African or just curvier women, and while I’m relatively light, I still have a deeper complexion than most internet beauty gurus. This is particularly relevant, in a very practical way, now that consumers buy a lot of apparel or beauty products online. I found that I would search and search for reviews of clothes I wanted from people that had a similar weight and height to me, or a similar shape, and it was difficult to find that. Brands are getting better at having more size-inclusive models partly for this practical reason, but that’s still far from commonplace. Furthermore, in a lot of my favorite lifestyle editorials–The Cut and The Strategist for example–there is a noticeable dearth of people of color, which means in these publications that curate and tastemake for the public, there’s a very singular, “typical” voice that’s not really representative of their target audience in the United States.
This really did create a lot of cultural homogeneity–why does everyone know about “hygge” from Denmark, but not about Design Indaba in South Africa, for example, or how come there are so few people talking about Ikea’s interesting new product line from African designers. This isn’t just about yelling for inclusivity–isn’t it also simply boring when everyone is wearing the same coat or buying the same style of furniture? Maybe more people with different backgrounds being vocal in the design space will stop all our coffee shops from looking exactly the same.
I started to increasingly feel that I should do my part; I should try to change these design narratives, even in a small way with a small blog.
Additionally, around the same time I started to realize how important my choices as an individual consumer were. The effects of climate change get worse and worse each day, and I became aware of all the issues with fast fashion and other industries with “dirty supply chains”. I embraced minimalism as a life philosophy; I started to be a lot more intentional about what I bought, from clothes to cleaning products, and these were yet more spaces where I found few voices, faces, or bodies like mine.
Lastly, my day job is as a female mechanical engineer–a quality that makes me quite different in another way from a lot of the content creators you find on the internet. I think that perspective gives my approach to design and my choices in products a level of practicality that sometimes gets lost in the branding race to attract consumers. So that’s why I chose these pillars of what good design means to me:
- Beautiful–an albeit subjective quality, but maybe my background gives me a unique and different perspective on what is beautiful that I can offer
- Robust–this is not only practical, but also sustainable, allowing us to have just one thing longer and reduce resources needed to make, package, and ship even more items,
- Ethical–toward the environment, toward the often disadvantaged people and nations that are part of our global consumer supply chains, and finally,
- Useful–the practical engineer speaking in me, I feel aesthetics needs to be balanced, that form should follow function, and that I should pare my belongings down to what is most versatile and useful in my life
I also chose blogging as the platform for this project in a time when visual content (Youtube, Instagram) and short-form seems to be taking the lead. This is because that’s how I express myself best, and my own aforementioned favorite publications have longer written pieces too.
I don’t know if there are still people out there who are looking for a blog like this one, or as much written and text-forward content, but I thought this would be both a fun and important project and I might as well try my best–and that’s exactly what I’m doing, with Trying My Vest.
Because I’m small and new, I deeply appreciate each and every reader–feel free to contact me any time about any subject, and I’ll respond as fast as I can.
I would greatly appreciate your support! Visit www.tryingmyvest.com