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Fashion Through the Decades: How 1940s Fashion Inspires My Style

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A woman with a structured jacket and collared shirt posing

Drawn to 1940s style, I can’t help but agree with the motto: Vintage style, but not vintage values.

Due to World War II, designers were forced to stop making new styles from 1939 to 1945. This created a strikingly different fashion aesthetic from the beginning of the decade to the end. The government set limits on how much material a woman could purchase. Thus, women needed to get creative with their wardrobe selections.

Hence, the 1940s was known for its seemingly classic style, simple designs and clean lines. Trends could be thrown out the window in favor of versatile pieces that could be worn from season to season. Perhaps this is where the idea for the capsule wardrobe originated.

The 1940s was known for its seemingly classic style, simple designs and clean lines.

Many of us, whether we realize it or not, have been influenced by 1940s fashion. It can definitely be regarded as the start of our modern-day interest in stylish minimalism. Pieces that once gained popularity in the mid-20th century currently sit in our closets, no time travel required.

Here are some of my favorite style inspiration ideas from the 1940s:

Hair Scarfs

Seen perhaps most recognizably on Rosie the Riveter, hair scarfs were a practical way for a woman of the 1940s to keep her hair out of the way during WWII. Women of the time rolled up their sleeves and went to work outside the home for the first time. They took on essential roles in factories left behind by men who had to enlist in the military.

Patterned scarfs are a go-to accessory in my own wardrobe. I first picked up a few while thrift shopping for a feminine, yet vintage flair item. An easy, go-to scarf style can be as simple as a top-knot with a scarf wrapped around the head. It’s a perfect hack for when I run out of dry shampoo.

Pencil Skirts

In the 1940s, designers raised hemlines for the sake of fabric shortages. Also, pencil skirts that were trimmed close to the body came into fashion. Women’s fashion maintained a feminine shape, while still allowing for pieces that were practical enough for everyday wear.

Women’s fashion maintained a feminine shape, while still allowing for pieces that were practical enough for everyday wear.

In 2021, we don’t wear pencil skirts on a daily basis. However, they are still the perfect piece for a professional look with a blouse tucked in to further show off one’s shape for a “femme-fatale” look.

The Classic Dress

Perfect for the summer months, a common look that women in the 1940s wore was the iconic, yet simple, floral dress. During a period when clothes were transitioning to more practical designs, women still wanted to get dolled-up on occasion, especially toward the end of the decade as feminine styles reigned supreme once again.

An easy find today, a light and airy classic knee-length dress is still a staple in my wardrobe. A faultless and versatile fashion staple to throw on, one can dress the look up for a glamorous night out on the town or down for a casual day out at the park.

A simple dress with a good structure is the first article of clothing that drew me to 1940s fashion. It inspired me to become more in tune with my femininity and strength like the women in that time did so eloquently.

What fashion trends do you appreciate from the 1940s? What time period influences your style the most?

Image via Chris and Sarah Rhoads of We Are the Rhoads, Darling Issue No. 7

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How I Would Uplift My Younger Self

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A woman holding her ankles as she wears a pink dress and sits on the floor

If I had a time machine, I wouldn’t go back to try and save the world. Before you judge me too harshly, let me explain. 

I am a 30-year-old, 5-foot-2, plus-size, mixed-race Black woman in America. The year is 2021, and I think it’s safe to say, the world is a mess. There are plenty of moments in time where one could argue that it would be smart to use time travel to go back and “fix” things. But who are we kidding? Time travel doesn’t quite work like that.

Here’s what I would actually do if I had a time machine: I would go back and hug myself at five pivotal moments in my life. Yes, you read that right. I’d use the power of time travel to be kind, compassionate and present for myself.

I’d use the power of time travel to be kind, compassionate and present for myself.

I’d go back and lift up the 5-year-old version of myself, who just saw her father pack his bags and leave her family behind for the first time. I’d make sure that she knows his leaving has nothing to do with her. I’d hug her close, kiss her on the forehead and tell her that she is loved immensely by her father and that she will see him again.

My second trip would be to the locker room of my 10-year-old self who just lied to her group of girlfriends about her weight for the first time. I’d grab her hands and walk her to the mirror. I’d tell her to look closely at the beautiful, curvy girl reflecting back at her. I’d tell her that there is nothing wrong with her body and that numbers on a scale can never define her. I’d hold her close, kiss her on the forehead and tell her that one day, the love of her life would find her and love every inch of her.

I’d visit my 15-year-old self who is insecure about her body and wardrobe, terrified that anyone will realize she’s wearing hand-me-downs and three-year-old shoes that are secretly falling apart. I’d tell her to never let where she came from hold her back from where she’s going. I’d also tip her off that by senior year, she’d be voted “Best Dressed” by her classmates because she turned what she had into something fabulous with her creativity and sewing skills. I’d hold her close, kiss her on the forehead and tell her she is enough.

At 21 years old, I was still two years from college graduation, hopelessly single and trying to “save” my mother by having her move into my college apartment with my siblings and I. I’d go back and tell myself to give my mom more grace because she’s hurting more than I know. I’d remind myself how much my little sister, Shamora, was looking up to me and to be proud of the strength that I portrayed for her. 

I’d hold myself close, kiss her on the forehead and give myself permission to mess up. I cannot save anyone but myself. So I’d tell myself to love the ones I love wholeheartedly and without condition. No matter how hard the moments in life might be, be present in each of them and have grace because we are all hurting.

I’d hold myself close, kiss her on the forehead and give myself permission to mess up.

My final trip back in time would be just two years ago. I was 28, just diagnosed with PCOS, when my 19-year-old sister, Shamora, died. I’d run into that hospital room and wrap my arms around myself in the most painful moment of my life. I’d tell myself that it’s not my fault. There is nothing that could’ve been done to change this. No amount of willpower, protection, strength or self-sacrificing could have stopped this. Epilepsy is a dangerous disease, and this could’ve happened anytime. 

I’d hold myself so close. I’d cry deeply and kiss myself on the forehead. I’d remind myself that Shamora knows how much I love her and that one day, I will be the one to share her story with the world and bring much needed awareness to epilepsy.

If I had a time machine, I wouldn’t go back and save the world. I’d go back and save myself because with healing, self-care and a whole lot of love, we become better people. We become people who do better and who intentionally love the people in our lives while we still can.

If you had a time machine, I hope you’d go back and lift yourself up too. If we all lifted ourselves up a little more, we’d be strong enough to reach back, give back and work together to save the world.

Radical self-love and care, that is the secret to save the world.

What advice would you go back and give your younger self? Why is it important to have grace for our younger selves?

Image via Melanie Acevedo, Darling Issue No. 11

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Letters to My Younger Self: The 25-Year-Old Who’s Setting Sail for the First Time

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Three paddles leaned against an old wooden cabinet

“Letters to My Younger Self” is a series focused on wisdom and self-awareness. Just as you write letters to a friend to encourage and uplift them, here is the advice we would go back and tell our younger selves.

Dear 25-year-old me,

Your world is about to turn upside down in the best way possible. Don’t worry. You won’t be alone. Take a deep breath, and read on. 

You’re moving to New York City this week! Newly single, newly sober and with no clue how you’ll land on your own two feet. But you booked that one-way ticket. I’m so proud of you! You’ll never be the same. 

But you booked that one way ticket. I’m so proud of you!

This leap of faith will be a touchstone for you in the years to come, reminding you of the great reward that follows great risk. I know it feels irresponsible, almost selfish, to make this move. However, you’ll learn to see this as an investment—both in yourself and the countless others you’ll meet along the adventure. 

You’re starting to wonder if everything your sister told you about God is true. You’re clutching tightly to the handwritten map of the five boroughs. You’re about to fall in love with the world all over again. 

NYC will romance you. Her architecture, modern and old world, will excite you. Her city-dwellers, children and grownups, will teach you. Her parks, lively and quiet, will inspire you. 

Right now, all you see is the unknown. You’re trying to navigate the uncharted waters of your future, ping-ponging between every emotion. I know you’re afraid that you’ll lose your kindness in the hustle and bustle of city life. With intentionality, you’ll grow rich in compassion, learning to love others as you are loved in community. 

Right now, all you see is the unknown. You’re trying to navigate the uncharted waters of your future.

I know you’re afraid that your creativity will dwindle without drinking and partying. With trust, you’ll become a stronger artist, liberated from the heaviness of addiction. 

I know you’re afraid that you’ll miss your “person” by being single in your mid-20s. With faith, you’ll lean into the freedom of flying solo and find your groove. And you will marry a wonderful man who waited for you, too. 

Yes, it will be challenging, too, as evolving can and should be. Your expectations will be interrupted by the colorful, messy reality of life, again and again. Every belief you swear by will be tested until what is gold remains.

Friendships will change. People will surprise you in the best ways and in the worst ways, too. However, with each relationship, each success, each failure and each risk, you will grow stronger. Trust me, I’m living proof.

Your expectations will be interrupted by the colorful, messy reality of life, again and again.

Here I am, writing this letter on the other side of an adventure you’ll take later on: Marriage. Another exciting, challenging, rewarding voyage into the unknown. Except this time, we’re not alone. Everything you’re doing and feeling now will lead you here. 

A little note on writing letters: your words are powerful. To your great surprise and merriment, you’ll end up in places with people you never thought you’d meet. Write them letters just for joy; expect nothing in return.

But remember: You are not beneath them, nor are you above them. Don’t write, or do anything for that matter, to be seen. Get in the habit of being kind for kindness’ sake. 

A related little note: you are worth investing in. Stop picking up furniture off the street. Stop cutting corners and putting yourself last. I wish we would stop doing that even now. Let people invest in you, too. You are not trash.

You are a daughter. That will take some time to sink in, but let it. Let love sink in. 

Get in the habit of being kind for kindness’ sake. 

From where I’m standing, I can see now that there was no other way forward than to let faith set your course. So lift up your sails and let faith launch you into the great unknown.

Cheering you on,
Your Biggest Fan 

P.S. Keep writing.

How do you feel when you were beginning a new journey or embarking on a new path when you were younger? What advice would you give to your younger self?

Image via Sheri Giblin, Darling Issue No. 13

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Darling Letters: La Libertad Que Se Encuentra Al Abrazar El Gris

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A gray image of an ocean shore

Darling is working to translate some of our content into Spanish. If you have edits or feedback on this translation, our team would love your input! Email blog@darlingmagazine.org and include Spanish Translation in your subject line.

For the English version, click here.

Translation via Jennifer Rodriguez

Hace cuatro veranos, una amiga y yo nos sentamos en un muelle, mirando las estrellas y reflexionando sobre la vida. Hablamos sobre las diferencias en cómo pensamos–cómo ella piensa en gris mientras que yo pienso en blanco y negro. Desde entonces, mi forma de pensar ha cambiado y ahora veo la belleza de la vida en las áreas grises. 

Desde entonces, mi forma de pensar ha cambiado y ahora veo la belleza de la vida en las áreas grises. 

El año pasado tuvo más paradojas de las que podía haber imaginado. Un año de profunda tristeza y dolor, risa y diversión, ira y examinación, aventura y renovación, vergüenza y miedo, curiosidad y crecimiento. Me sentí más confundida que nunca. Sin embargo, de alguna manera llegué a un lugar de confianza fundamentada que no sabía que fuera posible.

 Las áreas grises pueden ser intimidantes porque no tenemos control allí. Tenemos que ver a las personas como seres humanos dinámicos en lugar de separarlos en pequeñas categorías ordenadas. Algunas personas podrían describir esto como mantener una tensión de opuestos. Yo lo experimenté como una libertad que me envolvía como una ola– a veces tan poderosa que no podía pararme y a veces tan tranquila que todo lo que podía hacer era sentarme y respirar profundamente. 

Liberar la tensión de la paradoja y abrazar las áreas grises conducen a una aceptación radical y a una gratitud. Es hermoso reconocer cómo las experiencias únicas e incluso los opuestos pueden coexistir. 

Liberar la tensión de la paradoja y abrazar las áreas grises conducen a una aceptación radical y a una gratitud.

Con resolución,
Emma

¿Sueles ver la vida y las personas en blanco y negro? ¿Cuál es el valor de aprender a tener espacio para la paradoja?

Imagen vía Raisa Zwart Photography

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Letters to My Younger Self: The 19-Year-Old Starting a New Chapter

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A woman with sunglasses holding flower petals

“Letters to My Younger Self” is a series focused on wisdom and self-awareness. Just as you write letters to a friend to encourage and uplift them, here is the advice we would go back and tell our younger selves.

Dear 19-year-old self,

A little more than a week ago, I read a letter that I wrote to my future self when I was your age. Your sorority pledge trainer encouraged you to do this. As you sat in the chapter room putting words to the page, you had no idea how much your words would mean to your future self.

So, here I am now, replying to your letter. 

I am currently in my college town, waiting for the last of my friends to leave. Everyone graduated this past weekend, and I am sticking around for graduate school.

As cliché as it may sound, the past four years of college have flown by. When you introduce yourself to new friends these next few months, keep in mind how soon the goodbyes will sneak up on you. For this reason, relish the hellos and the time in between. 

For this reason, relish the hellos and the time in between. 

This morning you spent some time journaling and reflecting on this past season. You were honest with yourself for the first time in a while and realized how many expectations were not met. That letter that you’re about to write reminded me of a lot of these expectations.  

Realize that unmet expectations are OK. Spoiler alert, you aren’t going to have a ring by spring. In other words, you aren’t going to be engaged by senior year. That’s OK.

Another spoiler alert, the people you think are your best friends now, you won’t even speak with regularly by senior year. True friendships are going to bloom out of unexpected places, and that’s also OK. 

Write your plans in pencil—both big plans and small plans. You will learn very quickly how little control you have over circumstances. Have grace for yourself and be open to change. Seriously, write that last sentence on a sticky note and hang it somewhere you will see every day. It’s that important to remember.

At the same time, keep dreaming big. Some of your plans will come to fruition. Be persistent and put yourself out there. You can do hard things!

Realize that unmet expectations are OK.

College is going to be where you experience your lowest lows, but it will also be where you will experience your highest highs. Sometimes unmet expectations will break your heart. In these moments, call your parents or go get ice cream with your friends. These heartbreaks are growing you into a person you never imagined you could be.  

Sometimes unmet expectations will propel you into a greater future. One door closed often leads to a better door waiting to be opened. When these moments happen, still call your parents and have a dance party with your friends. 

The reality is that if you could see who I am now, who you are going to become, you wouldn’t believe it. Keep challenging yourself to stretch and grow. Keep working hard, but allow yourself to have fun often. Keep being your unique self and the right people will gravitate toward you. 

Keep challenging yourself to stretch and grow. Keep working hard, but allow yourself to have fun often.

You are stronger, braver and wiser than you know. Thank you for taking the time to invest in yourself now because it will pay off in the future. In the words of your dad, “Keep being you!”

Xoxo,
Your older self

What advice would you give to your younger self? What advice would you give yourself about unmet expectations of other people?

Image via Lenka Ulrichova, Darling Issue No. 16

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Darling Letters: On Embracing the Art of the Pivot

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A woman wearing sunglasses looking over her shoulder

We are bringing “Darling Letters” from your inbox to the blog! We love the art of letter writing and believe it helps build authentic community. Our editors and contributors have thoughtfully written encouraging letters to cut through the busyness and speak straight to your heart.

If you asked me in February 2020 where I’d be during the spring of my junior year of college, the response would have been easy: London. Since freshman year, studying abroad had always been in my plans. Weekend trips to Paris, studying in cozy British cafés and seeing the world in a whole new lightthis was the dream. 

Now, nearly a year and a half later, I’m not in London. Instead, I’m writing this in Hermosa Beach, CA, a city I never thought I’d visit, much less live in for four months. But plans change. 

At the onset of the pandemic, we were forced to adapt. Whether it was switching to online learning, working remotely or re-learning how to share space with our families, we all had to adjust in some way. We didn’t just pivot our daily routines, we also had to make changes to major life events like weddings, graduations and even funeral ceremonies. When the pandemic hit, we didn’t have a choice in how we would respond. We had to learn to adapt.

We didn’t have a choice in how we would respond. We had to learn to adapt.

However challenging this past year has been, we learned how to pivot. 2020 taught us to mark our calendars in pencil and to hold our plans with loose hands. While postponing trips and celebrations of milestones wasn’t fun, we learned that life doesn’t always go according to planand that’s OK. This newfound perspective is invaluable.

Let’s embrace the art of the pivot and relinquish control. We can move forward from 2020 knowing that our abilities to adapt have forever been enhanced. We can move forward with courage when life doesn’t go as planned. Never again will we underestimate our ability to adjust to circumstances, no matter how daunting they may seem.

Let’s embrace the art of the pivot and relinquish control.

Olivia Novato, the Darling family

What changes did you have to make in your daily routine last year? How did you process the many changes brought on by the pandemic?

Image via Alyssa Bush

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Juneteenth: Moving Forward in the Fight for Justice

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A pair of hands of people of different races intersecting

Recognized annually on June 19, Juneteenth marks the federal order to free slaves in Texas on June 19, 1865. While Juneteenth has historically and primarily been celebrated by Black communities, the day marks an important moment in our nation’s history. It offers an opportunity for all Americans to learn more about the history of slavery in the U.S., the specific structures of racism that followed Juneteenth and today’s ongoing fight for justice. 

Here’s a brief look at the history of Juneteenth, its significance and ideas for how you can recognize this important day in history:

The History of Juneteenth 

Though released on January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation did not automatically free all enslaved individuals in the United States. In states like Texas, slavery continued until June 19, 1865 when federal troops reached Galveston and proclaimed the freedom of enslaved men and women. A year later, on June 19, Black communities organized what we now call “Juneteenth,” a celebration of freedom that involved religious services, community activities, musical performances and big feasts. 

Throughout time, strawberry soda, barbecues and baseball became special hallmarks of the events, and Juneteenth adopted key focuses such as an emphasis on prayer, education and self-development. 

How to Honor Juneteenth Today

The National Museum of African American History and Culture writes, “The legacy of Juneteenth shows the value of deep hope and urgent organizing in uncertain times.” Though anti-racism education should be a consistent part of our lives, Juneteenth offers us a distinct opportunity to pause and dig in further to the history of and struggle for racial justice. 

Read a report from the Equal Justice Initiative on Reconstruction in Americathe complex history following the earliest Juneteenth celebration—or attend a virtual lecture offered by a respected institution, like the NMAAHC or the National Center for Civil and Human Rights

The urgent work of racial justice happens when we organize and gather in community to learn. Gather your community—your school, neighborhood or religious community—to honor Juneteenth. Follow Black activists, scholars and artists and engage in calls to action. You can also support organizations working toward racial justice with your time and donations.

Why the Fight for Justice Still Matters

The fight for justice for Black Americans matters. We still live in a society that is riddled with injustice. In the last year, we have witnessed injustice waged against the Black community and a stark rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, both in spite of a supposed increase in awareness about the reality of racism. 

Recognizing and honoring Juneteenth presents us with the shared opportunity to recognize where our nation has been and where we would like to go. It is a time to recognize a group of people who throughout history have been overlooked, marginalized, abused, stereotyped, profiled and threatened. It is up to us, not our parents or their parents, to be the change we want to see, which begins with humility and growing in our awareness and understanding of the true history of America and its injustices.

In what ways can you take time to learn about the history of Juneteenth? How confident are you to pursue hard conversations about race and racial injustice? What, if anything, holds you back?

Illustration via Micaela Fox

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