How To Accessorize

How to wear a minimalist ring stack: expertly dainty

The refined daintiness of a minimalist ring stack means that it will work for nearly all outfits and all occasions. There are no rules, no faux pas.

But because most of us, well some of us, love the feeling of masterly that comes from having conceptual narratives to explain why we do things how we do, here are some tips for an expertly done minimalist ring stack that is more masterly than guess work.

1. Complement your outfits

For boho chic, add an airy dainty stack to complete the breezy drape of casual cashmere and chiffon cover-ups, tops, dresses and wide-legged pants.

Complement an elevated casual look in dark palettes with a set of rings in mixed thicknesses.

To accessorize a powerful formal look, try a stack of rings whose bands are flatter and more imposing, but which still have clean lines and shapes.


2. Distribute sparsely

A sparse distribution will ensure that your stack retains its minimalist elegance.

Keep bands thin, details small, and proximity fairy distant. For instance, try a single band on your pinkie finger, distribute at most four bands across the base, middle and top parts(called proximal,middle and distal phalanges!) of your ring and middle finger, then finish up with one ring to the middle of your pointed or thumb fingers.


3. Do a single color palette.

With a mixed color palette, your stack will border more on an edgy fashion-forward look than on a minimalist one. Where edgy fashion-forward accessorizing adds flair, minimalist accessorizing adds poise. A single color palette will result in a more effective minimalist ring stack


4. Don’t do boring

Doing single palettes and smaller bands does not necessarily mean that your minimalist stack should end up boring. Try thin bands with sleekly designed open or spiral ends and with pendants in clean geometrical lines.


5. Go for balance

Do balance symmetrically or asymmetrically for a beautiful dainty stack. Distribute a stack of more than three rings across the proximal, middle and top parts of your finger or across all fingers. Pair thicker bands with thinner bands in balanced patterns, and match classic designs with modern ones in more balanced patterns.


6. Ultimately aim for comfort.

Do not stack rings on fingers or on joints of parts that feel uncomfortable. Rearrange stacks that feel uncomfortable. Anticipate how you will use your hands and accessorize accordingly.


What To Wear

Smart women know fashion’s not frivolous(at least not yet!): dress to be taken seriously.

You probably have accumulated decades’ worth of lessons on what to do to be taken seriously, on how to dress to be taken seriously. For a while before she was the published author she is today, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie did too, and she learnt to tame her love of fashion. She had discovered that women in the West who wanted to be taken seriously had to project indifference to appearance, and to only talk about fashion apologetically or contemptuously. So she gave up her heels, kept her outfits undifferentiated, and learnt to play along to the policing of other women writers who appeared to have invested in their appearance.

She is not the only intellectual to have to contend with the gendered expectation. When Francesca Stavrakopoulou, a professor at the University of Exeter did a 3-part biblical series for BBC2, a commentator marvelled that the series had been commissioned by someone indifferent to the fact  that she looked as if she was “shimmied out of one of the hotter passages of the Song of Solomon”.


The gazers are undecided

Our policing of women’s bodies and appearances though oppressive, is anything but decided. We want to have a say, to gaze and to be pleased, but we can’t seem to decide who we want them to be. We want writers to look frumpy. We want politicians to look put-together, but not too put-together, definitely not too feminine.

In an interview with Die Zeit, Angela Merkel marvels that citizens would write letters if she wore a blazer four times within two weeks, they wouldn’t if a male politician wore the same dark blue suit for a hundred days. It is unfortunately not hypothetical — German newspapers have written about a repeat outfit Merkel wore to the same music event 4 years apart, and about a daring cleavage. And American ones have reveled in Hillary Clinton’s  perceived fashion faux pas — from cleavage-gate, to scrunchie gate, to her bare face after the 2016 elections.


Resisting the policing

Women we look up to have resisted the policing of course. Sonia Sotomayer wore red nail polish to her swearing in against common wisdom for neutral-colored lacquer. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  would chanel Sotomayor at her own swearing in, in bright red lipstick and lacquer, along with a white pant suit and hoop earrings — a nod off to the Latina connection to the chola subculture in which women developed a distinctive personal style to project a “badass, take-no-shit” strength in neighborhoods where they needed to survive.

Many smart women who love fashion know that people will have opinions either way. So they respond ahead of time with their personal goals and personal comforts in mind.

And herein lies your approach to dressing up for the spaces you want to stand out in — define your reasons for what to wear, define the facets of your personal style, and live up to those, boldly, unapologetically. You will have  a defense for critics, but also most importantly, you will be comfortable in your own skin.


Photo by Amanda Vick

Power Dressing

Authenticity in the workplace: what has fashion got to do with “just be yourself”

When Bozoma Saint Johns stood to present at the 2016 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, Twitter went abuzz, people listened. She presented as only she could, played Ghanaian music because that was her heritage, and embraced femininity on a stage where women, let alone black women, were a rare sight. Bozoma thinks that people listened because of her delivery, but also because of how she looked.

And how did she look? She had on a pink dress, a figure-hugging one, and matching louboutins. She had her hair loose in a curly fro and wore pink lipstick.  She was a masterpiece in power dressing.She had embraced authenticity in the workplace.


What is power dressing?

And that is what power dressing means. At least in our definition. It means to dress impactfully, to dress to communicate your message, to leave an impression. Modern power dressing, we believe, is a long long way far ahead of where it was in the 80s, when suited tailoring and shoulder pads modeled to not deviate from men’s fashion supposedly allowed women to project authority in the workplace.

Modern power dressing defies a uniform characterization, and escapes into ambiguity or nuance, depending on how you look at it. Writing about the spring fashion season for the New York Times, Vanessa Friedman observes that different fashion houses used the term power dressing to describe varied looks that included big shoulders, pinstripes, combat boots, culottes, and even cardigans. Gone are the days of easy conforming. And here are the days of self definition, of individual expression, of being who we are or want to be and of dressing the part.


Does authenticity in the workplace pay?

Do our individual expressions work? The jury is still out. Authenticity too is another term that escapes definition. Where proponents consider bringing your whole self to work a surefire way to getting ahead, opponents argue that the costs of authenticity could outdo the benefits in the working place. But opponents also seem to conflate authenticity with a severe lack of self awareness in which one refuses to identify and address weaknesses under the pretext that those weaknesses are who one is. 

We contend that the benefits far outweigh the costs for those of us who approach personal growth intentionally, who believe that who we are is an evolving set of strengths, weaknesses, and lessons. There is nothing inauthentic about framing negative feedback constructively because experience has demonstrated that such an approach works. 

Additionally, behavior is just one layer of the complex self that comes to work. For women, LGBTQ+ professionals, and black professionals and other people of color, not being oneself at work might require that one aspires to an impossible identity unnecessarily, mostly detrimentally. For how is one who is not to “become” a white straight male. 

No black hoodie could have disguised Bozoma’s color or gender. She could have attempted to blend in, to half-arse a presentation similar in presence and tone to that of a Silicon Valley tech-bro. She chose to be herself. It was the right decision.


Authentic dressing is the new power dressing

Some may find the term power dressing offensive for its gendered use. No one ever asked men to power dress, no one ever hailed Obama or Trudeau for power dressing in the same way they did Michelle Obama, Theresa May or Hillary Clinton. It’s an unfair standard. One that might have a century left in its lifespan. 

For as long as this standard is here, we can make it work for us, instead of against us. In the hypercompetitive modern workplace, in which personal branding and visibility count, blending in does not do you any favors. Doing yourself well does. Find that personal style that is you, and make it an accomplice in all the spaces you are about to claim.


Life, Work and Wellness

Beautiful, sensuous, triumphant & actualizing women: my summer reading list

In Brain Pickings, one of the most precious gems on the internet, Maria Popova prompts her readers to construct their own “intellectual, creative, and ideological lineage.” Ancestry as a choice is a simple yet powerful idea that allows one to possess values and dreams that are unconfined by circumstance.

Simple as the idea is, its execution is difficult and most likely the project of a lifetime. If we never stop growing, if we don’t tame our curiosities and lock in to our interests unwilling and disinterested in wonder and discovery, we will always have ancestors to add to our lineages.

This summer, my project to seek more ancestors for my lineage had me spending time with the following women.

1. Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye challenges one to look into oneself and to identify the messages we have internalized about ourselves, how we are seen, and our position in the world. More importantly, it assigns culpability to those of us whose relatively healthy sense of self stems from knowing that we in part meet beauty standards and other social acceptance criteria, however racist, unjust and irrational those standards and criteria may be.

It is hard to reject privilege, impossible perhaps. There is a satisfaction Claudia and her sister derived from feeling beautiful “astride [Pecola’s] ugliness”. Morrison challenges the Claudias among us to confront the injustice, racism and colorism that is in our privilege, to reject our acceptance of it.

2. Michelle Obama

Becoming has much to say about those supportive relationships whose warm security allows one to overcome odds. For Michelle, such warmth started with a tight knit family in South Chicago. Later, these same filial relationships will remain a sustaining force. But she will seek and nurture similar qualities in her relationships with her female friends, her mentors, even her employees, and this way claim the strength she needs to take huge leaps of faith, from falling in love, to leaving a corporate law career, to acquiescing to her husband’s political career, to becoming a campaigning powerhouse for her husband’s bids.

When we go out of our way to surround ourselves with the right kind of people, when we fall in love with people that challenge us to question ourselves and to become better versions of ourselves, the immutable process of growing into adulthood is no longer just aging, it is becoming.

3. Minna Salami

I will admit, sexuality doesn’t come to mind when I think of African feminism, even if it so rightly should. Many African women I look up to are defined by their roles as mothers and wives and by their striving as farmers, entrepreneurs, teachers, corporate women.

It is a balance I have been more than comfortable with, one drilled down into me by an African context so sanitized by colonialism, religion and neocolonialism, and one that insisted we call women not by their names but by Mrs. Odiek, Ms. Karanja, Mama Muthoni, gina wa Kendi, auntie Karambu, through a lens that centered their identities as wives, daughters, mothers, and aunties. A journalist, as Salami argues in her TED talk, would probably have centered their identity on their survival, their struggle, their empowerment — never just on their womanhood.

Salami’s Sensuous Knowledge will be out in February 2020, but her essay, Reclaiming Eros in Patriarchy is a great start for the more of us who could use an expanded view of African womanhood.

4. Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects has little to uplift. There are no bigger truths, no comforting resolutions to get to after Camille Preaker has spent years cutting her body, simmering in self loathing.

The worst could happen, the abyss could deepen, and life would still go on. One can choose to live, to survive, to be kind to oneself and to others.

5. Maya Angelou

There is something breathtaking about a black woman who decides that the world is hers, to be seen, to be interrogated, to be situated, especially in a world in which she often is under the non-discerning gaze of others. Singin’ and Swingin and Gettin Merry Like Christmas is about a woman who gets to see and to situate herself in the world, but with the raw self awareness of one who has known pain.

The next time you travel, break from the confines defined by past paths, refuse the boundaries dictated by color, space and time, break bread with old friends and with strangers.

6. Mindy Kaling

Why Not Me is about earning entitlement to occupy spaces that others like you ordinarily do not occupy. It is about pushing back when the answer is “No” and claiming the success due to you. Of course you’re good enough. Of course you have worked hard enough.

It is about being the hardest working person you know, and knowing that in addition to everything else you are, that should be enough.

Life, Work and Wellness

In Toni Morrison’s first novel, eternal lessons on how to feel beautiful

When Toni Morrison was in elementary school more than eight decades ago, a school friend expressed her wish to have blue eyes. It was a shocking conversation that would inspire Morrison’s first novel, in which her main character, Pecola, is also a child praying for blue eyes, the only alteration she believes will make her beautiful. It is a heart-wrenching story, but one that has existed in different versions among girls whose traits are just at the margins of what is implicitly considered beautiful.

But beauty, argues Morrison, was not something “to behold.” It was rather “something one could do.”

How was one to do beauty? A reading of Morrison’s first novel might have some clues.

1. Engage critically with all messages within and without

Everyone looking at the Breedloves, at Pecola and her family, thought them ugly, narrates Morrison’s narrator, but even on a closer look one couldn’t identify the source of ugliness. It was merely a conviction that was further reinforced by billboards, movies and their experience interacting with others.

Central at doing beauty so that one can become it and experience it, is questioning the numerous messages that attempt to build such a destructive conviction, and seeking messages that attempt to build the opposite self-affirming conviction. Become aware of your insecurities, hair that is too kinky, a nose that is too large, skin that is too dark, thighs that are too thick, identify the sources of these insecurities and the logical problems in their constructions, and proactively seek self-affirming messages that deconstruct them.

This is how Lupita Nyong’o became beautiful. Her prayers for a fairer skin never did get answered. But even as the preference for lighter skin prevailed around her, she grew into her own definition of beauty by seeing herself in Alek Wek and consuming media messages that celebrated Alek Wek as beautiful.

2. Love deeply. Care for deeply.

A stable home and a mother who loved unconditionally gave Claudia and her sibling the confidence to stand apart, to see, and to question. With sympathy, Claudia narrates the struggles of the black women that have learnt to be a little less than themselves, who “hold their behind in for fear of a sway too free”, who do not cover their entire mouth with lipstick for “fear of lips too thick”, and who “worry, worry, worry about the edges of their hair.”

Where Claudia is young but perceptive, the violence in Pecola’s home has taught her to retreat into herself when she experiences indifference and hostility. But how does one who wishes to disappear confront and question that which one must disappear from?

To love ourselves deeply, to love others deeply, to maintain and nurture unconditional sustaining relationships, is how we get the confidence and courage to reject messages that attempt to diminish us.

3. Get beyond the shame of internalized self-loathing

Claudia knows that the Thing that made her and her sister lesser than Maureen Peal who was not as nice, or even as bright, that was the Thing that was to be feared.

But internalized racism and self loathing wasn’t just to be feared. One had to intellectually fight to root it out. One had to look for the source of ugliness and find it absent, to reconstruct a narrative that revealed the truth. As Lupita found out in due course, a day had to come when one decided that one just had to be beautiful.

And this intellectual journey towards the truth that dismantles racist beauty standards need not be a personal project. It can be a compassionate project for others in our lives. It can be an impact-driven project for entire communities as it was for Kwame Brathawaithe when he and his brother helped found a collective, African Jazz Art Society and Studios, that would celebrate black power and black beauty.

Life, Work and Wellness

On Self Love: Lessons from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own

There are many takeaways from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, and there is a lot to feel. Anger that she gets turned away from the doors of an Oxbridge library because she is a woman unaccompanied by a fellow or a letter of introduction, hopelessness that her imagination that in 100 years the equality of sexes would have been achieved has not come true — and it many not come true for another two centuries at least, sadness that the financial inclusion that eluded aspiring women writers centuries ago still continues to elude a majority of women in the rural developing world who till lands whose title deeds they do not own. The list is endless.

Despite all of these feelings, and others that must surely result from a barrage of sad news that we encounter daily about the state of a world that is becoming increasingly divided, unequal and less kind, seek a personal space that allows your work, your being, your living, to be ridden of bitterness and anger that might destroy its very essence.

Asked to speak about women and fiction, Woolf finds that the lyricism of many women’s writing disintegrates into indignation. Women like Charlotte Brönte might have had great writing genius, but encumbered by anger at their circumstance that restricted women’s freedoms and relegated them to household work, they could never write to their potential as Shakespeare could.

All desire to protest, to preach, to proclaim an injury, to pay off a score, to make the world the witness of some hardship or grievance was fired out of him and consumed. Therefore his poetry flows from him free and unimpeded. If ever a human being got his work expressed completely, it was Shakespeare. If ever a mind was incandescent, unimpeded, I thought, turning again to the bookcase, it was Shakespeare’s mind.

Jane Austen did manage to write beyond her circumstance.

And, I wondered, would Pride and Prejudice have been a better novel if Jane Austen had not thought it necessary to hide her manuscript from visitors? I read a page or two to see; but I could not find any signs that her circumstances had harmed her work in the slightest. That, perhaps, was the chief miracle about it. Here was a woman about the year 1800 writing without hate, without bitterness, without fear, without protest, without preaching.

Incandescent. Unimpeded. That’s the nature we are willing our brains, our abilities, our potential. There is privilege, sometimes unaffordable, in creativity and intelligence that does not protest given all the inequalities and wrongs of our times. But may we find moments of peace and grace in which we can think, create, and be, as if we weren’t wronged.

Life, Work and Wellness

Some not-so-bold quarter year commitments that are less stressful and more affirming than new year resolutions.

4 months in and you may have or may not have made progress on the resolutions you set at the beginning of the year. Last year, only 6% of Americans reported following through on their new year resolutions. We hope that you are among those conscientious among us, but if you are not, join us this year as we choose to be kinder to ourselves.
We believe there might be more growth, more optimism, in an outlook that faults us less and therefore encourages us to salvage what we have left. Adapting a harsher outlook, one that is less forgiving and less kind only enlarges the feeling of failure and demotivates us from keeping at the same goals that once seemed so achievable. It’s all about perspective, right?
Anyway, we like to think of April as the month of boldness at Yakutti — the month when we reconnect with our personal goals, motivations and resolutions, and make even bolder commitments. We are not alone in choosing a word to represent our goals. Melinda Gate’s 2019 word is grace, the space where she finds reprieve to hope and to keep going despite the heartbreaks of encountering overwhelming sadness and great suffering.
Whether you choose a new empowering word every month or every year, in lieu of or in addition to your resolutions, we believe in consistent self-reflection that does not place a deadline on internal work and on self-improvement. That is self-kindness. So this April, even as we challenge ourselves to some bold commitments, we think the following not-so-bold commitments are just as affirming and significant, and have exactly the right kind of balance for mid-year rejuvenation

Think futuristically

Thinking broadly about the future is admittedly less bold than acting in ways that influence it, but it is a start. You obviously, we hope, are already thinking about your future in terms of spending and investing, and careers and life-long learning. But you might not have thought about your future in terms of the world you will inhabit.
Will robots take your job? Will climate change affect you or your loved one? Should you invest in a unicorn IPO? Get curious, read related news, be engaged in related dialogue, position yourself to understand the future in ways that will inspire decisions that propel your career, direct your investments, and inspire your global citizenship.

Add to your investment portfolio (or start one if you haven’t already).

Don’t get stuck eating cat food, Sallie Krawcheck, founder of Ellevest warns women who have not started investing. You investment doesn’t have to be bold and risky, but an addition will give you a sense of satisfaction and control.
If you have not invested before, this is a not-so-bold move as well given how many resources you have access to in order to learn and get started — including a minimum account balance of $0 for a new account, low barrier options that build a future from spare change, and investment options whose values you can get behind.

Learn a skill

Learn a cultured skill that connects you to history, to other parts of the world — from Japanese yoga, to Dominican merengue, to African folk dance. In the interests of futuristic thinking, learn a 21st century skill too that expands your scope of life-long learning even if, but especially if, it is not related to your current job — a new language that makes your an engaged traveler, a new artistic skills that compels you to slow down and exercise more mindfulness, etc.
The benefits, if you are wondering, will be some blend of monetary returns, professional success, health and wellbeing and personal motivation and satisfaction. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

Start something new.

Could be a company or a non-profit, but it doesn’t have to be! Not so bold remember? So, doable! Begin a new project at work, work with a colleague you’ve never worked with before, host a team-building event to revamp team dynamics, initiate a new mentorship relationship, develop a new hobby.
Start a new important and personally meaningful thing to reinvigorate your curiosity and your sense of possibility and competence this year. To get started, we like the idea of talking to strangers and distinguishing between thought and opinion. Sound off ideas, question assumptions and clarify thoughts, then get to it!

Reconnect with an old friend

We have been learning to exercise more proactivity in our relationships. To not get away with loose phrasing of “see you soon”  and “let’s get coffee sometime.” Find enrichment in genuine conversations with family, friends and acquaintances, and find peace in forgiveness, in letting go of past grievances.
And if Seneca’s idea of friendship should be inspiring, once decided that one makes a great friend, build your relationship with them on the basis of a non-judgmental camaraderie that fosters true loyalty — if you should get so lucky.

For what purpose, then, do I make a man my friend? In order to have someone for whom I may die, whom I may follow into exile, against whose death I may stake my own life, and pay the pledge, too.

We hope you find meaning in the not-so-bold!

How To Accessorize

Unlikely tips from the Oscars: Styling chic chokers and short strand necklaces

What necklace to wear with which outfit, with which necklines, with which earrings, with which hair cuts? We found 3 easy stylish pairings from — you’d never guess it! — the Oscars! Sometimes the elegant, even the glamorous, is simple.

1. Layer dazzling layers on a high neck

You can cover up and simultaneously bedazzle — if you know just how to do it right.

2. Pair a narrow plunge with a short strand that rests at the top

Plunging necklines don’t always call for long chains that plunge along. This is especially brilliant accessorizing fora narrow plunge.

3. Upgrade your blazer looks

Your tuxedo blazer really doesn’t need an upgrade, your other blazers do. Get a beautiful short strand to peek elegantly from beneath the lapels

Fashion, Feminism and Politics

On Aziz Defenders and The 100 French Women: Holding Empathetic #MeToo Conversations About Sexual Harassment

100 influential French women signed a letter protesting the #MeToo movement. According to them, men should be free to “touch a knee”, “steal a kiss”, and talk intimacy at business dinners. Brigitte Bardot, an actress that signed the letters, called the movement “ridiculous” and “hypocritical,” saying that she found  “you’ve got a nice little backside” complements charming. Do we really want a Puritanist restriction of sexual freedoms and its conception of women as “poor little things under the influence of demon phallocrats”?

This a simplistic and retrogressive view of the entire movement and of the strides women have made to create equal and fair spaces at home, at work, and in public. The crop of women that fought for sexual harassment legislation and policies in public spaces, understood that our society was patriarchal and it would be a while, an eternity perhaps, before that changed. Societal, economic and political power belonged to men, and the contributions and identities of women would be demeaned as long as powerful men who were the gatekeepers to opportunities could discriminate on the basis of, talk about, look at and touch nice little backsides.


Sexual harassment legislation never caught up to reality

But even this understanding and the resulting legislation never caught up to societal structures. Higher education institutions in the US have high incidents of sexual harassment cases and a history of poor accountability and strong opposing forces, many of them belonging to women, are still straining the process of devising solutions. Men with economic and political means are still members of single-gender private clubs in West London where women of lower means are exploited (for those of us excluded, Prince Phillip’s Thursday Club portrayed at the beginning of season 2 of The Crown will shed some light). And it is hard to imagine that Larry Nassar was a lone wolf and that no one knew about his predation 156 women later.

Spaces that have a reputation for liberal progress, are anything but when it comes to women’s issues and empowerment. Investors and venture capitalist are preying on women entrepreneurs looking to change their lives, the world, or both. And for a century, we have been willing consumers of women’s sexualized image in media depictions in Hollywood and elsewhere in  pop-culture – if the thriving cosmetics surgery market is anything to go by, we are buying much more than the images.

Even these cases of societal structures that have been slow to change are the hopeful cases in which the women abused have been given a chance. In other parts of the world, the women abused are girl brides languishing in poverty and forced to marry as teenagers, girls denied a chance at education, women sold in sex and human trafficking rings, and women prohibited to drive, own property or go to work without the consent of a male relation.

The breadth of experiences between women struggling with pain and abuse is staggering, and we owe them all thoughtful and critical engagement. We don’t all have to agree. But we have individual responsibilities to participate, and in doing so to exercise empathy, intellectual humility and drive.


Seeking nuanced answers and perspectives to questions about choice, sex and power

Writing about the Babe story, in which a woman recounts a terrible date in which Aziz Ansari was overtly aggressive, a lot of women’s commentary concludes that Grace, the alias used to conceal the women’s identity, is every woman. It is me. It probably is you too. A more productive analysis of the story could have focused on how our perceptions about sex are imbalanced across genders and how men’s entitlement should be challenged and untaught. Then the conversation could have explored strategies for ensuring that future reporting does not harm all the progress we are making with #MeToo. Instead, the story evolved into a personality war between the two journalists that could have made the conversation much more nuanced and valuable.

Grace did flirt, she did let a man buy her dinner, she did go back to his apartment, but that did not entitle him to a fuck in front of the mirror. Moreover, Babe’s other headlines should not deter us from a careful analysis of the story’s occurrences. There is no reason why a blog that publish posts about women’s fantasies about rape should not publish posts about women’s pains after real assault. Women should be able to decide when and how to experience their sexuality, but they should also be able to decide when and how not to, and their decisions should be respected each time. Men’s are.

A productive engagement with the #MeToo movement and other accompanying initiatives will demand self-examination from each one of us. We have to admit to and confront the double standards we conform to and that place us at an unequal footing in all matters sex and power. In Silicon Valley, a world whose gender problems make one gag, men who participate in orgies and sex parties grow their personal and professional networks, women who don’t lose out on making valuable connections, but those who do invite unwanted advances. A woman with gut and drive needs to do something about it. Perhaps hold women-friendly versions?

Would Grace’s cues have been clearer had she paid for her dinner, never gone back to Ansari’s apartment? Doesn’t a contradiction exist in asking young women to never go to men’s apartments and hotel rooms instead of teaching men that women who choose to be in their physical spaces retain their right to consent, distance and respect? There are no clear and perfect answers. We need to listen to each other, to think deeply, to engage thoughtfully and to take action.


Fashion, Feminism and Politics Life, Work and Wellness

Unlock Your Girlboss. Stop Improperly Criticizing The Girlbosses In Your Life

She is telling it all, and we can’t wait to read it. Because even if she arguably failed, hers is an admirable tale of girlboss resilience and determination. A lot of us felt the unfairness. The intense scrutiny on her pantsuits, her marriage and her emails, even as he wore floppy suits, declined to release his tax returns and defied to extreme degrees the standards of propriety and righteousness we’d come to demand of her. We cringed that her eloquence was taken for dishonesty, and that her competence and preparedness earned her a likability penalty.

As far as the feminist movement goes however, there is little consensus about what a Hillary Clinton presidency truly represented. More accurately, the movement towards female empowerment and broken glass ceilings is fraught with fragmented efforts and incongruous opinions. Clinton’s failed bid can be mined for insights.

There are those that were convinced that her pantsuit-feminism was outdated and needed to embrace Michelle-Obama-bare-arms-dressy feminism. A greater number thought her center-leftism too corporate-friendly, and there even existed Bernie socialists that would have readily exchanged a Clinton presidency for hell. They probably got their hell. We will never know for sure. What we do know is that 53% of white women voted in her opponent, leaving in their wake bewildered women of color.

Is Girlboss Feminism Inadequate?

Feminism may be en vogue, celebrities and fashion houses may be peddling “I am feminist” shirts and music videos, women marches may be rousing crowds onto streets, but that is as far as it goes. The movement failed at making a woman the leader of the free world. The movement shall witness steps backwards in strides it had taken.

And this fashionable feminism, that proudly wears a label with little sacrifice and/or action, is a stark reminder that more conversations need to occur around the conventional neoliberal self-satisfaction that plagues mainstream feminism as it is. One author aptly describes mainstream feminism – it is “a deeply heteronormative, white-and middle-class-centric movement that’s become hopelessly stuck up its own ass.”

I agree. The Sheryl Sandberg brand of choice feminism is not accessible to many women, companies with structural failings such as C-Suites devoid of women should stay away from feminist brand messaging, and feminist consumerism is not enough, not even close.

Criticizing the Girl Boss

Scathing attacks on women working towards a women-friendly world are ill-advised, though. And society’s voyeuristic pleasure at women’s failure, happily helmed by other women in retrogressive catfights, is only a sad reflection of ways in which women continually contribute to their own disempowerment.

We can hail THINX for provoking conversations around the sanitization of women’s reproductive health and making menstruation fun even as we demand the self awareness of its founder, and the female-friendly cultivation of its workplace. We have to like neither Sophia Amaruso nor Marissa Mayer, and we don’t need to like Hillary Clinton, or her pantsuits. Bitches do get stuff done, and it’s ok if they dust off and move on when they don’t work it out.

We can recognize the failure of identity feminism to change structures, even as we admire the agency that makes identity feminism possible. Further, even as we criticize women whose privilege affords agency and choice, we have the responsibility to challenge them to pioneer real change. Over-preaching structure at the expense of agency will not give disadvantaged minorities ownership or participation in overhauling systems that are unfair, and a privileged savior approach to helping with such overhauls will be even worse.

Photo: Brooke Lark

Power Dressing What To Wear

Heels Alternatives: Some Lucca Quinn Tricks For Turning Heads And Walking on Sunshine

I don’t know about your reasons for wearing heels, but I personally love the I’m-on-top-of-the-world spring I get. And if you’re a seasoned heel lover, you also know that ting of mild annoyance you feel about misplaced “will you be able to walk in those” concerns. You have, over time, figured out what type of heels work for what occasions. You have also found out that mixing up your heels’ thicknesses and lengths is a handy survival tactic. This summer, the heels alternatives to try are inspired by one Lucca Quinn, and they are fantastic. If you haven’t already run into her watching the first season of the Good Fight, you probably shouldn’t because you’re probably already watching too much TV!

But here goes. . .

Pointed-toe kittens with lace-ups/ankle straps

Always go for the pointed toe if you want a serious crisp look. Ankle straps add a subtle stylish touch, but definitely go for more elaborate lace-ups for a bolder look. Opt for thin or tapering kitten heels to retain your spring.

If you need more convincing, more inspiration can be found from Michelle Obama. And there’s a board too.

heels alternatives lucca quinn style pointed toe lace ups

Midi block heels

We love Lucca’s girly look here — low block heels paired with a pussy-bow blouse and a short skirt. Here’s where you get to be envious too if you can’t imagine going to work in so short a skirt!

And the great thing about block heels as a heel alternative is that you don’t have to give up that many inches because they are so stably comfy.

heels alternatives lucca quinn style block heels
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What To Wear

4th of July Outfit Ideas: What We’re Reading. And What We’re Totally Not Wearing.

Need some inspiration for 4th of July outfit ideas? We love blue. And we love stripes. But they are both so easy to wear so we bet there will be lots of blue and lots of blue stripes worn on that day.

Our verdict? Don’t do blue. Don’t do stripes. Do all white with thoughtful touches of red. Think a white shirt dress, short or midi, worn with a pair of navy espadrilles – perfect for comfortably standing around the barbecue – and accessorized with a hands-free crossbody bag.

And since 4th of July is a perfect opportunity to peddle that which we are selling – we are not the only peddling culprits! – under the promise that your holiday will be notches better once you buy, here’s our July 4th Edit.

And to wrap up a meaningful celebration, our to-do list wills us to:

1. Read herstory

Matriculating students are rushing for the History major curious to find out how, when, what, went so wrong. It’s a good idea if you ask us.

Only we’ll read about people – women, people of color, immigrants – whose contributions have been erased from mainstream history. We most definitely would be better off as a society had everyone’s voice mattered.

2. Reflect and be grateful

The Buddhist tenet, life is suffering, has such awe-striking truth. In the face of the undervaluing of black lives, the perpetuation of hate crimes, the deterioration of governance, sociopolitics can feel hopeless.

But just as we find our own little joys in the suffering that is life, there is a lot to be grateful for. Celebrate the parts you most love about your national heritage.

3. Also do something

Make a contribution of whatever you have, time, money, choice, to causes that will make all of us better. Volunteer at a shelter, donate to a non-profit, excel at and make a difference with your job.

Happy Independence Day!

Sustainable Fashion

Fashion Resolutions 2017: After Impactful Style

  1. Buy treasures

    With landfills fast filling with fast fashion, buying for keeps and for durability can only get more important. We not only get to play a small role in contributing to a cleaner planet, we also get to more presently experience and participate in the shopping process whether by spending much more less often, by getting to know the stories of items and their creators and even by custom fitting and ordering.

    This new year, we buy preciously, we buy items we can treasure.


  2. Develop a style personality

    Having a sense of style goes beyond wearing good clothes. This coming year, our style personalities constitute gorgeous dress and accessory choices that bring out the best in us while honoring our values. Think Michelle’s embrace of American fashion designers with a tendency towards social justice.

  3. Voice a stand

    Take a stand and voice it with the power within your clutch. This year, we buy from brands that share our stands, those that boldly live up to our values. And we boycott the ones that do not.

    Your boycott alone might not change the working conditions of garment workers, but our boycott certainly will. Let’s get started.


  4. Live bold

    Courtesy of my big sister, I learnt this past year that our own fear of judgment and loss of reputation is linked to our harsh judgment of others. This year, we let people around us be, and in so doing we let ourselves be.

    We go for things we want, we let ourselves be in our careers, in our relationships, and in our wardrobes.

  5. Live better

    We take every chance we get to live and be better — we dedicate more time to people at dinner than to instagram and snapchat, we travel more, we drink more water, we make better use of gym memberships, we read more, we better our work ethic, we buy better, we experience more, we forgive completely, we love deeper, we take back control.


Happy New Year 2017!

We can’t wait to see how your style grows — create an account to share you growth!



Editor Picks Pick B What To Wear

Michelle Obama: Authenticity And Style Lessons You Can Keep

That representation is important is only so visibly illustrated in a love letter penned to Michelle Obama in the New York Times.


Michelle Obama was speaking. I felt protective of her because she was speaking to an America often too quick to read a black woman’s confidence as arrogance, her straightforwardness as entitlement.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes. We’ve all been there. The feeling of trepidation that accompanies watching a loved one perform a task highly subject to public criticism, and the subsequent relief when the job is all done. Adichie is speaking for a lot of us.

She managed. . .to take on health issues and a national food industry addicted to unhealthy profits. She did this despite an undertow of bias in this country that subtly questioned everything she did. Was she too strong, physically and intellectually, to be a proper first lady?

Gloria Steinem writes. Marveling at Michelle Obama’s ability to gracefully, determinedly pursue that which she believed in even confronted with undue scrutiny.

 . . . her reputation as the perfect hostess invited criticism from progressives. Enter Michelle Obama, outspoken activist . . . Suddenly, the progressives were pleased and the traditionalists were confused.
All women struggle to reconcile the different people that we are at all times, to merge our conflicting desires, to represent ourselves honestly and feel good about the inherent contradictions. But Michelle manages to do this with poise, regardless of the scrutiny. That, to me, is the best thing for feminism. Her individual choices force us to accept that being a woman isn’t just one thing. Or two things. Or three things

Rashida Jones writes. She had options and she didn’t need to choose them all, and it’s just the truth of life that seemingly mutually exclusive options may not be that exclusive because we are allowed to be contradictory, to be imperfect, to be growing. And that is where all the perfection is.

The Cost Of Fitting In

Compare the love letters above with this:

Instead she did what the first African-American first lady arguably had to do to play a successful public role. In Voltaire’s terms, she cultivated her own garden, never threatening and never intimidating her neighbors.

I, with admitted bias, disagree with this “love letter”.

There’s an implied presupposition that her choices had to do with an intention to assuage those who suspected that she would fit the trope of the angry/threatening black woman. And there is a suggestion that had she not been African American, that she could have (arguably) made different choices and still been successful in a public role.

I have a problem with these presuppositions because they disagree with my own belief that she lived boldly, authentically. They contradict my belief that even if she second guessed her choices at the beginning, that she quickly struck a chord that truly represented who she wanted to be.

I have a problem with these presuppositions because they make plausible the question whether African American women have to make choices that must not be deemed threatening in order to be successful.

Deemed by who? Who’s the gazer here and why must they care that the gazer has a scale for measuring the extent of threat?

Isn’t a suggestion that she lived different to fit in and meet expectations an assault on women everywhere that look up to her and that are constantly teaching themselves to appreciate and live loud their plus sizes, their intellectual strength, their unruly hair, their shrill voices, their strong opinions, their dark melanins, even when, and especially, when the world wants different?

We are allowed to have varying opinions about Michelle Obama’s choice of issues, and to pen love letters differently. Thankfully, as I started out saying, platforms and hearable voices are becoming increasingly inclusive. Where one sees her choices to be assuaging, the other sees her choices to be authentic, and still another sees a woman doing her best to define the self through all the contradictions.


Celebrating a style icon

Moving on to the other important legacy Obama is leaving behind!


Even her favored kitten heels, for women who cannot fathom wearing shoes in the halfway house between flats and high heels, have earned a certain respect because of her. No public figure better embodies that mantra of full female selfhood: Wear what you like. Adichie.

I love mid heel shoes. They feel sexy without being uncomfortable. I also have been in the awkward situation where a flat-wearer declares “6” or no heels”, seemingly taunting the rest of us for not scaling sexiness’s demanding heights however badly we want it. Here’s to making authentic choices!

. . . she has always been a woman who knows the difference between fashion (what outside forces tell you to wear) and style (the way you express a unique self).  Steinem

We are celebrating a woman who stuck to her guns, her style guns, when the world wanted her to not bare her #fitnessgoals arms, when the world policed her sneakers, when the world wanted to ban her from doing pushups, when the world wanted her to wear a pantsuit while vacationing . . . It’s the difference between fashion and style — style is grounded, it is built, it can be defended. When the going gets rough, it can be grabbed onto, and it will survive,  it will thrive on.

The Style lessons to learn

See our Pinterest board for inspiration from a #powerdresser we adore.



Some style lessons you can look out for -:

  1. Choosing the right belt for your monochrome dresses, and for your feminine sweaters

  2. Styling your statement necklaces, your statement earrings, and how to not disastrously do both

  3. Wearing florals

  4. Living it up in bold colors

  5. Showing off your arms and shoulders

  6. Styling colored kittens

  7. Wearing your suede boots

  8. Pairing your tailored pants with feminine blouses

  9. Stylish coats and cute little sweaters that work


Happy power dressing!


Remember to create an account to share your authentic style, and to keep updated on new jewelry and accessory collections that will see you build a defensible authentic wardrobe!
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Goodbye to the pantsuit?

Credits: Tech. Sgt. Suzanne Day, USAF

Fashion, Feminism and Politics

Nudity, Women, Art, Media: Liberated Or Oppressed?

What’s not to love about an ever going discussion about female nudity in pop culture, female body image and the media, and societal expectations about gender performance and appearance. The dichotomies are still the same.

Proponents of a liberation movement in which women should be empowered to celebrate their bodies argue that nudity and revealing representations are a sign of liberation, both sexual and personal.

Opponents challenge the idea of empowerment and the notion that women that end up in nude and revealing media representations have agency. It’s not liberation, the opponents argue, it’s women doing what they have to do to survive in patriarchal hierarchies long established in entertainment and other cultural and economic sectors. It’s women giving in to structures that have long objectified them, and required of them unachievable standards of beauty while driving some to eating disorders and others to perpetual dissatisfaction and low self esteem.

Ysttyle, Yakutti’s content platform, is about powerful self-representation – it is about the tools, the art, and the context that govern such self-representation – gender is a powerful context as far as self representation goes. So let’s get right into it.

So irrevocably indoctrinated?

“Dear Prof.,

My paper explores the representation of women in Lisa Yuskavage’s paintings. Critics have interpreted this representation
differently, some accusing her of objectifying women and others applauding her efforts to give voice to women and their sexuality. My essay seeks to
reconcile the two viewpoints by pointing out that a representation of female sexuality does not necessarily mean objectification, not especially in
these paintings where spectating has been made uneasy and the implicit presence of the male viewer negated by the very fact that these women are decisively


I wrote this to my professor in my first writing class in college, a class rightly titled Art & the Nude, and the class that lay the foundation for my love of the social sciences. I had written on the female nudes in Degas, Rembrandt, and other earlier works, and encountered the argument of the male viewer gazing at the female nude for his own benefit. So what was the argument when a woman depicted female nudes? Was she too, unbeknownst to her, so irrevocably indoctrinated in a partriachally organized society that she failed to see her participation in stripping women of their voices, their eyes, and their general agency?

I have not resolved this question till today. Is Vivienne Westwood continuing structures of objectification and oppression of women when she poses for a nude painting? Are pop-culture artists that girls look up to advancing such oppression by doing revealing music videos and films? How much of their participation is out of choice? And how much of it is dictated by structures they have no control and/or comprehension of?

It’s a hard question. The problem with the choice argument, however, is that our societies are still indicative of women under pressure to dumb their talents down to the attractiveness of their bodies. Media outlets still bid for leaked naked images of celebrities; careers skyrocket for women that pose nude for the Playboy or that leak their own nude photographs; Instagram and Twitter have become battle grounds for women shaming other women for being too voluptuous, or too muscular or just not good enough; women of specified shapes and sizes still parade on national stages in bikinis and gowns because apparently that is what it takes for a woman to further her professional and personal goals; women still face adverse conditions when seeking equal representation in cultural industries, from difficulty negotiating equal pay to disproportionate access to representation on museum and gallery walls. The list is endless. The notion of choice is an illusion to so many women.


Nurturing a path towards choice

Does a solution exist? I’m not sure. But I am optimistic. Artists like Yuskavage provoke more narratives on representation of female nudity in art. Artists like Nona Faustine not only challenge status quo, but they complicate it with dimensions such as race and black history. Women parliamentarians challenge the relationships between female nudity and sex appeal by controversially breastfeeding during their floor hours. By posing for a nude painting at 68 and after a successful career in fashion, whatever your opinion, Vivienne Westwood provokes a conversation on age, beauty and choice. By exploring  on mainstream television, nudity that challenges existent ideals of who can be nude and what his/her nudity should achieve, Lena Dunham further advances the conversation on
women’s choices and perceptions of self.

Choice, almost complete choice (almost because it is hard to conclusively say that such a thing as complete choice exists) is the path we should be cultivating towards more liberated women, and non-oppressive representations of women in media. Whether through promoting initiatives that let enough women from diverse backgrounds take control of resources and opportunities so that it doesn’t take nudity to skyrocket a career, whether through advocating for a society that does not obsess over women’s nakedness and appearances over their other facets, whether through women individually evaluating factors that go into their decisions to be represented nude, and consciously resisting factors that undermine their choice.


photo credit: 2011-08-03 Galaxy International Pageantvia photopin(license)