You’re walking along the canal enjoying the silence and the iconic blue waters and domed cathedrals of the island and the soft cotton fabric of the beautiful petite dress made just for you billows in the breeze. And right there, in the middle of one of the most beautiful islands in the mediterranean, your gorgeous self sinks a thousand ships, turns a thousand heads, or maybe just gets a thousand likes on instagram because that dress you’re rocking makes you look like Aphrodite. Nice picture, right?
Well this is the image Shell Nguyen had in mind when designing her Pre-fall collection which was debuted at her most recent photoshoot. While we couldn’t all go all the way to Greece or Spain for a photoshoot (no matter how much we may have wanted to) Shell did, however, scout some amazing locations until finally settling on the Mandalay Canal in Las Colinas.
Setting up for the Shoot
Now, the Mandalay Canal is no Greece but it’s definitely reminiscent of the beautiful European architecture and was PERFECT for the theme of Shell’s shoot- vacation wear.
I know it sounds fun (and it is!) but scouting locations, gathering a crew, and conducting a photoshoot- is not a cakewalk. Luckily, Shell had an awesome crew. Two great photographers, a make-up artist with the magic touch, jeweler Adore Bijoux, knockout model Sunny, and one hell of a support team. When I say these guys were on it, they were on it. Just how on it? Ever wondered how models change from outfit to outfit during an outdoor shoot?
Sometimes you get lucky and pay a few bucks to use a restroom. Sometimes you have to change in front of some rando’s apartment (really uber quickly) while the photographer has her back to you and you hope no one comes out or walks by.
NOT that I’m speaking from experience.
Regardless, this is NOT how it was with Shell’s shoot. The team arrived prepared for every circumstance. The usual photoshoot gear: photography equipment, clothes, pins, makeup, snacks, drinks etc and a CHANGING ROOM.
In my short time as a novice model, never had any photographer ever hauled a changing room with them. Any of my model friends ever have this happen? All in all, Shell and her team were prepared.
Shell had not only scouted the locations beforehand, but she had planned out exactly how much time they would spend at each shooting location for which dresses. The shoot went off without a hitch to say the least.
Making the Dresses
I know what you all are waiting for! Of course, you’re curious about the dresses.
The thing that most people don’t know when they’re purchasing clothing, is just who is behind the piece and how much time goes into making it. Typically, when you’re buying from the famous brands like HM, Zara and Forever 21, you’ll find factory workers and shady conditions (see slow fashion post).
Shell’s case is different. She hand makes all her dresses. I’m not going to go into detail explaining the process because truthfully I can’t even begin to pretend I understand but for this collection she designed over 10 dresses before narrowing it down to 4.
I’ll explain this in numbers because, well, this I get.
When was the last time you spent 2 months doing something? I think I spent 2 months binge watching Korean dramas once (FYI I now speak Korean).
The designs showcased in this shoot are all from her Pre-fall collection. In other words, this is basically your last chance to look cute, and show some skin before it starts getting nippy.
Shell’s designs, all varying shades of blue were designed intentionally to reflect a Mediterranean backdrop and instantly transports you to the opulence of Italy or Spain. The cinched waists and open backs also add cohesion to her collection.
In addition to the addressing overall theme, designing for petites require a lot of time and consideration as well (see #shortgirlproblems). Shell’s dresses all cinch at the waist to help give the wearers a figure (Can you just give me a figure? Period?) and break up the bodice and the legs. Her dresses show just enough skin for summer while remaining tasteful.
I know, I know, it’s summer. Who wants to be tasteful. You do. From one chick who’s been attacked with purses for showing too much shoulder to another. Or maybe this is just me. (It was ONE TIME.) Anywho, don’t let me tell you. Shell’s designs will speak for themselves!
The designs are divided into daywear, all day wear and evening wear. Her day outfits are comfortable, easy to match with comfortable shoes (oh so important!) and most importantly still cute while maintaining a casual feel.
The Knot Back Dress
SASSY model Sunny shows off her sun-kissed skin in this FLIRTY blue embroidery dress she’s rocking. This high neck mini falls above the knees in a way that’s both tasteful and feminine. Pair these with some comfy shoes and a woven earth toned handbag and you’re good to spend the entire day wandering around and taking cute selfies abroad (OKAY, or actual pictures of the city) or even just spending the day exploring local venues.
The Open Back Tini Tiny Bow Dress
Wow that’s a mouthful, isn’t it!
This striped v-neck dress is a midi for those of you petites who’ve been told you can’t wear them. TAKE THAT tall people (Sorry Shell)! The v-neck serves to elongate the neck and the linen fabric is light, breathable and perfect for summer! A flounce skirt adds a feminine touch while adding just the right amount of movement. Pair those with some tan backstrap sandals or a pair of wedges and you’re all set for a day of exploring.
While we all love the easy, comfortable feel of daywear, who doesn’t want to get that perfect instagram photo? What better way to do that than throwing on some heels, a nice dress, and painting the town red?
The Panel Dress with Lace Trims
This light blue broadcloth dress is both SENSUAL and CHARMING. This number is a panel dress (and one of my favorites!) that mixes a solid colored fabric with a lace trim. The pleated bottom adds just enough flare and pizzaz. Pick up a pair of fancy heels (nice shoes take you to nice places) and prepare to wow.
Who says that just because we are short, we have to look short.
The Sheer Organza Dress
The final piece in Shell’s collection leaves us both BREATHLESS and WANTING. This one is a cocktail dress with flutter sleeves. The soft colors makes it SOFT and FEMININE while the shape and open back gives you a MATURE look.
Grab those clutches and touch up your make-up ladies because you’re about to melt some hearts.
1021 lives. 1021 mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, brothers, and sisters. If this was the cost of one low cost accessory- one cheaply priced shirt, would you pay it? You may think this is an exaggeration but unfortunately- it’s not.
The tragedy I’m referring to, is the Rana Plaza tragedy of 2013, in which 1021 garment workers perished after being told to return to their factory for work despite concerns about the building foundation.
This is unfortunate, yes, but has nothing to do with us, right?
Wrong. Those 1021 lives were the cost of an ever-changing wardrobe. The cost of consumerism in the 21st century. The cost of fast fashion.
What is fast fashion?
You may not be familiar with the term, but you are familiar with the concept. How often do you think you shop a year? How many of the clothes you’ve bought, have been worn more than a handful of times? How many times have you fallen in love with a floaty dress or a well-cut blazer on the racks, and left it sitting in your wardrobe collecting dust? If this is you, you’re not alone.
This is the result of a fashion industry that changes seasons more than 52 times a year. 52! There are only four seasons so why on God’s green earth (or Buddha’s or Shiva’s or whoever’s) does a store need to have more than 52 seasons? Of course, that was a rhetorical question.
The answer is that the fast fashion industry thrives off of lost cost, low quality clothing. The more they make, the more they make.
But have you ever thought about who made that $10 bohemian print blouse you found on sale? The one you got rid of after wearing it for a season because it didn’t look so hot anymore?
Have you ever stopped to think of how much of the cost actually trickles down?
The unfortunate answer is that garment workers, the ones who are making our clothes in filthy, unsafe factories, never see more than 5% of the retail price (clean clothes campaign). So, you might be happy about the steal you got at the store, but the person who made that top only saw 50 cents.
Big companies like Zara, HM, and Forever 21 are appealing to us because of their ability to crank out trendy clothing quickly for low costs. The truth of the matter is though, that these fast rates and low costs come at a high cost to human life and the environment.
Extreme pressure is placed on factories (mostly in developing countries) to produce mass amounts of clothing at fast rates. A shirt you found for $10 might have cost less than half of that to make. If it cost $3 to make, how much of that realistically, would the garment worker see?
Garment workers in Bangladesh make a minimum wage of only $3 a day. This can hardly be considered a living wage!
Now, I’ve heard the counterarguments. We have to take into consideration that cost of living in that country may be much lower than in the developed countries, right? Well, according to the Global Living Wage Coalition, in Bangladesh a basic decentliving wage would amount to $214 USD a month. According to Shenglu Fashion, the monthly minimum wage in Bangladesh in 2017 was $197 USD per month.
As a result of our consumerist culture, families are being forced to live in squalor or separately and factories are being forced to cut costs at the risk of their employees’ safety.
If the cost to human life doesn’t have you thinking yet, let’s talk about the environmental impact of fast fashion. It turns out that the fashion industry is the world’s second most polluting industry after the oil industry.
Pesticides are poured on cotton fields. Chemical washes are generating an increased amount of greenhouse gases. Not to mention our discarded textiles take as long as 200 years to decompose.
What about those clothes that we donate? In actuality, the thrift stores only keep about 3% due to the sheer amount of clothing people donate. The other 97%? They get outsourced to developing countries where they undermine the local economy.
This post was meant to be about slow fashion, but to be honest, it’s impossible to understand slow fashion without first understanding fast fashion.
So now that we have an idea of what fast fashion is and how it impacts us, the question is what do we do about it?
This is where slow fashion comes in.
So what is slow fashion?
It’s the exact opposite of fast fashion. Slow fashion is the idea of being mindful in our consumer practices by supporting ethical and sustainable fashion. It’s about respecting the production process, quality of clothing and the people developing those clothes.
Slow fashion is important because whether we know it or not, we are the ones driving the demand for cheap products. This isn’t to say that we have to buy expensive clothing. A lot of us just don’t have that kind of money. This is to say, however, that we need to be more aware of the effect that we have on our surroundings.
According to whowhatwear, slow fashion can be one or all of the following: sustainable fashion, ethical fashion, and lasting fashion.
Sustainable fashion: This is the idea of respecting the environment by reducing our carbon footprint. The chemicals used in dye along with synthetic fibers have a negative effect on our surroundings.
What do we do about it then? Choose natural fibers! It takes less energy to produce, it’s safer, and it will naturally biodegrade over time.
Ethical fashion: Fair treatment of labor through fair pay and safe working conditions. This is something that all people are entitled to regardless of whether you live in a developing country or a first world country.
We can engage in ethical fashion by refraining from buying leather or products that are made from animals. Instead of buying mass produced items, support locally produced brands or buy from companies that are WRAP accredited (organization dedicated to promoting safe, lawful and ethical manufacturing practices).
Lasting fashion: Choosing quality pieces that last and surpass seasonal trends.
Rather than getting swept up with the latest trends, fall in love with one outfit! Recycle and reuse pieces to get the most wear. Go thrifting or have clothing swaps! Not only is it fun, but you can consume less and save money.
How can you make a difference?
I’m not telling you to get mad and burn your entire wardrobe. On top of looking crazy, think about the effect you’d have on the environment! What you can do though, is start small. Be aware. Think before you purchase.
I only just found out about fast fashion and slow fashion. My good friend Shell (and founder of Shell N) introduced me to the idea and recommended that I watch the Netflix documentary ‘The True Cost’.
Shell is a small business owner trying to start a fashion line while reducing the high human and environmental costs. While her attempt to be less wasteful and more sustainable is only a beginning, itis a beginning.
Before watching this documentary, I never thought twice about who was making my clothes, and what impact I was having on them. I never once thought my desire to look good could ever result in a tragedy like the Rana Plaza disaster. Sure- I care about the environment, but I thought I was doing my part by recycling. I didn’t know that my clothes played an even bigger part in ruining the earth than the plastic bottles I dislike.
I know we’re not directly responsible, but indirectly, we are.
This being the case, we owe it to ourselves, each other, and the world to just be mindful. We won’t solve the problem overnight, but with some education and overall awareness, we might just make a dent.
To learn more, check out the links below:
Summer is here! The temperature gauge just hit triple digits. It’s humid, gross and icky but of course you still want to look cute. So you start picturing the perfect summer dress. Its soft silky fabric is light and hugs your curves just right. It’s a light-yellow floral print that’s not too out there. It’s in essence- perfect.
So what do you do? You make your way over to the nearest shopping mall and while perusing the racks, your eyes fall on your dream dress. The color is bright but not too bright and the fabric is so soft that it feels like it’s caressing you. Of course, you have to try it on! So you grab the outfit and make your way to the fitting room stall. When you pull the dress over your head, excited and stomach fluttering, you glide forward towards the mirror. Only to trip over it because you had to get one size bigger so that it would fit your generous chest (YES, petite girls have boobs!).
“We’re not children with boobs!” exclaims Sil Thinna, 32. Sil is the epitome of the hashtag #shortgirlproblems at a height of 4 foot 8 inches. Finding the perfect summer outfit isn’t just difficult for her, it’s more like trying to find a dog with pink hair. It surely exists somewhere. Someone had to have dyed their dog’s hair pink. But it would just be easier to get a dog, get some dye and just color the dog’s hair yourself (That was probably a bad analogy, but you got the point, yeah?).
As a woman below what is considered ‘normal height’, Sil finds shopping a struggle. When asked about her shopping experience, she stated simply that “I just don’t do it.”
It’s difficult to understand the full extent of the problem if you haven’t experienced shopping for petite clothes yourself. I’m not even sure I fully understood, until I started working with my friend, founder of Shell N, on this blog and started learning more about fashion. I always thought that I was the problem. And that there was no way any other person my size had trouble finding clothes. I never once thought that it could be that the clothes just weren’t made with petite women in mind.
There are a number of issues to consider when finding clothing if you’re petite. From our own body shape to the cut, fit and style of the dress- everything has to be taken into consideration.
The automatic assumption slash recommendation is that if your chest is an issue, you can just size up. The problem with sizing up is you end up with all the excess fabric at the back and shoulders. As petite girls, our torsos are shorter and our shoulders slimmer, so the dress ends up hanging off of us. Talk about unflattering.
“Where my hips start is where the torso still is!” exclaims Sil.
What about when the dress does fit? It ends up being too low cut and we unnecessarily flash the whole world. I have so been there. Our boobs are not accessories. We deserve to be able to find clothes with enough fabric in the right places.
So what’s Sil’s advice as a petite shopper? “Buy your dresses with safety pins and tape in hand.
Summer dresses aside, there are about a dozen events that requires women to dress up and appear their best. One such event? The dreaded job interview. Who hasn’t spent hours trying to appear professional and put together for an interview? Jennefer Huynh, 31, 4’11, relays her own experience as a petite shopper:
“One time, I needed dress pants for an interview. I was at Marshalls looking at business clothes, and all the pants that fit in the waist were too long. Until I tried on a pair of pants, surprisingly it fit great! The length was perfect! I looked at the tag and they were meant to be ankle pants…”
Haven’t had enough horror stories?
If you haven’t caught on yet, I myself am a petite girl. How petite? Just this week I took my students on a field trip using the school van. The seats in this van are anti-petite person. And the seats don’t even move up! (Who do I sue for height bias?!) This being the case my boss had to get the booster seat for his kid out of his car and loan it to me. So I sat in the booster seat. For the first time since I was 3 feet tall. In front of my grown students.
My. Pride. Was. Gone.
So yes. I’m short. I’m a nice, petite 5’2. As a petite person with a generous chest, I have the same struggles as Sil when shopping. This explains why I HATE shopping. Don’t get me wrong. I love clothes. I love dressing up. I love the process of searching through my closet and finding just the right combination of clothing for a particular event. But that’s my CLOSET in which I’ve painstakingly compiled a number of clothes that I am positive fit and look good.
Shopping, however, is a different story. I used to go shopping with my best friend when I lived in Korea. The only way to describe myself in this duo, was as the grumpy boyfriend who sits on the couch in the corner scrolling through the same feeds on Instagram again and again. That was me. Because regardless of whether I was in Asia, Europe, or America, shopping for me was and has always been the same. I look through the store in 5 minutes flat and decide in those 5 minutes what might or might not look good on me. Then I decide whether it’s worth waiting in line for a fitting room just to find out it doesn’t fit after all.
How often do these clothes end up fitting? Less than 25 percent of the time. Just ask Sil if you don’t believe me.
The truth is that shopping for a job interview, dress clothes for work, a beautiful dress for a birthday or a wedding should not be a trial. Why can’t we, despite being short, go shopping for an outfit that’s stylish, fits perfectly, and within a reasonable price range without scouring the globe?
So, my solution? Well in Asia it was simple. I shopped at the same 3 stores and only EVER bought my jeans from Uniqlo. Why? Free tailoring. In America, it’s not so simple. No more Uniqlo. No more free tailoring. No more familiar petite friendly shopping. Now I have a new solution.
Shell N Fashion.
The majority of petite women I’ve talked to dislike shopping. The majority of petite women I’ve talked to have a tailor.
“I never buy an outfit if Shell doesn’t think she can fix it,” says Trinh Nguyen, 34, 5’1. Trinh has the same troubles as most petite women in terms of shopping. She, however, has a secret weapon. A sister skilled in the art of fashion design. Shell isn’t petite but her sister and many of her friends are. As such, from high school onwards, she has been tailoring and designing clothes for her sister and friends.
Over time, she noticed that the petite women’s niche was sorely lacking in terms of clothing options.
Now there are clothing stores that offer petite lines. Banana Republic, Lane Bryant and Top Shop, to name a few, all carry petite clothing. The issue is that the options are so limited. These stores cater towards ‘normal-sized’ women. In fact, the only store that I’ve found specifically geared towards petite women, is Petite Studio in New York. New York.
Women today are all shapes, sizes and colors. This being the case, whether you’re average height, plus sized or petite- every woman should be able to easily find clothing in her size. Shell understands this and gives us the option to find clothing that is feminine, stylish, and that fits.
Sure, you can go down the street to your favorite store and just try the clothes on. Sure, you can go to a tailor. Sure, you can tailor the clothes yourself. But why go through all that? You deserve the chance to fall in love with a dress, try it on, have it fit, and think to yourself- perfect.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Take a look. @shellnfashion.