Yes, this is a fashion blog, but it is a fashion blog for humans. Acknowledging others’ humanity and struggle is important to us at Real Life Style. We have not been posting special blogs on the racial justice movement because we are not experts, we are here learning like everyone else in our position of privilege. However, we have been addressing racial justice in our weekly newsletter. I’ve compiled some of my writings into this blog for those of you not subscribed to the newsletter. If you are not yet subscribed, please put your email in the box at the top of this page to receive my personal thoughts and extra resources in our Sunday evening email each week.
Look out for the list of Anti-Racist books I’ve been reading later this summer.
The only picture I could find from this protest without a F*ck Trump sign.
June 4th, 2020
Although I had a to-do list a mile long, it was very hard to concentrate on Monday. And every day after that this week. First of all, who could sleep after watching the footage of every major city in America burning for hours? I normally severely limit my news intake because I am so affected by other peoples’ pain. And right now, with both a pandemic and the anger of generations of injustice raging across the country at the same time, it is all too much to bear for a sensitive, empathetic soul such as mine. But I can not just look away, from atop my position of white privilege, and say “I can’t bear it.” How dare I? How dare any of us?
We have been donating to COVID-19 charities since the beginning of the pandemic. Beginning this week we are also giving our virtual clients a choice of charities supporting the racial justice movement. You can see the full list of charities we are supporting at the bottom of our Virtual Styling page.
Have your children been asking you hard questions? My 8 year old sure has been. Rather than shy away from them, I’m making an effort to keep the conversation going for as long as he wants, to answer every single question fully and honestly. I don’t want him to think race or inequality are subjects we can’t or shouldn’t talk about. This is actually not a new conversation in our house, but I don’t think he understood previously that although much has changed since Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have A Dream speech, so much has not. And answering his questions about the unfairness of our world and the systems that have been in place for generations actually makes me feel better. Imagine the progress society might have made if all parents had understood and explained these issues openly to their children just two generations ago? We can be the change.
Graffitti: Why Do We Have To Keep Telling You Black Lives Matter?
June 7th, 2020
Father’s Day is two weeks away! Start shopping now to make sure you get your gifts in time with shipping delays. Check out our 2020 Father’s Day Gift Guide. It’s really good this year! And now, the real world…
There are many brands and businesses offering up lists of books and articles to read to give us a new perspective and teach us how to be Anti-Racists, as well as businesses we can patronize. There is probably a lot of this material in your inbox. I watched the CNN Sesame Street Town Hall on Racism with my kids yesterday and although my kids had a hard time staying with it for the entire hour, I thought they did a great job addressing a lot of questions kids have right now.
As always, I am not here to overwhelm. Rather, to make you think and offer simple advice that will hopefully make a big difference. Today’s suggestion: Speak Up.
When people have asked me many times over the last 25 years why I couldn’t wait to escape my hometown, and still have so much disdain for it to this day, I answer too honestly, as I am wont to do about most everything. “I realized my freshman year in high school that I was surrounded by close-minded racists and homophobes,” is my answer. I began planning my escape for New York City, where I moved as soon as high school ended.
Even though I have answered this question many times over the years, and as recently as a few months ago, the experiences I had and the things I heard there came flooding back over the last 13 days. In 5th grade my sister and my closest friends in the neighborhood were both Jamaican. We were told to stop bringing them to play in our backyard because the owner of our two-flat apartment building, who lived in the building too, was racist. As in, she might not renew our lease if she doesn’t like your friends. That’s a lot to put on a 10 year-old. This was the start of many screaming fights on the subject of “that’s just the way it is, even if it isn’t right.” My twin sister and I have been speaking up ever since.
After a few years, we changed schools to a district on the other side of town. The first week of school, something felt wrong. Then it occurred to us, there were no black children. To be precise, there were two in the entire middle school. And although I can’t speak to their experience, I felt for them all through high school, where the situation did not change, and I heard classmates make racist comments. In high school I got pulled over by the cops for absolutely no reason, which really spooked me. Relaying the story to my dad, I told him I had been driving my friend Roy home, who was black. My dad told me that is why I had been pulled over, and if I wanted to avoid this scenario in the future, I should not drive Roy home. A screaming teenage fight ensued. Of course now I know he was right. I did get pulled over for having a black passenger, just as I have had multiple friends get pulled over as adults for “driving while black.” As a sixteen year-old, this unfairness was too much to comprehend. As an adult, it is too much to ignore.
Our Virtual Styling Session donations are going well! So far multiple clients have chosen the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. If you are a client who has not gotten back to me with your charity choice, please do so I can keep making donations!
Max’s first protest in front of Lafayette Park, previously know as the location his parents became engaged.
June 11th, 2020
How are you doing, friends? We are living in incredible times. I used to wish that I had lived through the sixties, able to be a part of real change. Well, now we know that change did not go far enough. We can’t stop moving forward, pushing our leaders to pass laws and adopt policies that will ban dangerous policing practices and better serve our communities. My stepfather, whom my son James is named after, worked in law enforcement his entire career. He began as a state trooper, and later spent 26 years as a criminal investigator for several agencies of the Justice Department. He was a big believer in community policing. The Camden, NJ police department completely disbanded and then regrouped under this philosophy in 2012, to remarkable results. Not perfect, but remarkable.
A few resources that have been helpful to me this week are my friend Riche Holmes Grant’s Instagram feed and the Forever 35 podcast. Riche (pronounced Rich-ee) has been posting about her personal experiences with racism. As someone who has only known her as a devoted mother, successful influencer, and business woman, they take my breath away. Her stories are proof (as if we needed proof) that racism is something every single black person faces daily, no matter how beautiful, educated, or affluent.
I’ve been binging the Forever 35 podcast since it was suggested it might be a good one for me to pitch. At first listen the podcast is “just two friends who like to talk about serums,” as they say. In actuality, the podcast has always addressed more serious, important conversations pertaining to women in particular. The episode that hit home for me was Episode 124: Learning and Unlearning, during which Kate and Doree replay their interview from November 2019 with Ijeoma Oluo, the author of So You Want To Talk About Race.
Ms. Oluo discusses in detail how when someone tells us that we have offended them, we must listen, no matter how hard it feels, and figure out how we can do better. And that even though it is uncomfortable to listen to how we hurt someone with our words, and to have the resulting discussion, we must. We must also resist the natural instinct to judge the other person’s reaction as wrong. Having made the mistake does not mean you are not a kind person. Not feeling uncomfortable for being called out on your words would mean you were not kind.
This discussion was like a punch in the gut for me. A few years ago, after a lifetime of thinking I was a good guy who saw all people as equal, I seriously offended someone so badly with some careless comments, they thought I was a racist. Me. At first the idea was so preposterous I didn’t take it seriously, assuming they would realize they were mistaken in their interpretation of my words and move on. See above paragraph about judging someone else’s reaction as wrong. But this person did not move on, and forced me to hear them out. This was one of the most uncomfortable conversations of my entire life. I learned that it does not matter what “I mean,” only whether what I say hurts others. I was not let off easy. Coming from a white-centric point of view, it never occurred to me that what I was saying could be interpreted as racist. This one conversation opened my eyes in innumerable ways. We can’t understand unless we let others speak, and we listen.
Have you ever been called out for saying something unintentionally hurtful? How did you handle the situation? Were you able to repair the relationship? Let me know.
Protesters painting “Defund the Police” adjacent to Muriel Bowser’s Black Lives Matter street typography.
June 14th, 2020
Hello. I have to say, I have been in a bit of a news desert the last three days, which was probably good for my mental health. I actually forgot my phone yesterday when we went out for the day. I can’t even remember the last time that happened. Who needs the news when you have a husband who is willing to spend 5 hours straight calmly explaining his points of view on mass incarceration, police brutality, and systemic racism, to others whose views may not be the same? This is how he spent his Saturday afternoon and evening. The man is amazing. One action that each of us who strives to be an ally can take, is to engage in intentional and meaningful dialogue with (other) white people. Given demographics, policies are unlikely to change without a number of white people changing their views.
Mr. Real Life Style is also the source of my two “watch this” suggestions this week. Dave Chappelle’s Netflix Special 8:46, is a powerful and affecting monologue on the the George Floyd murder and the current state of racial justice in this country. The show is three things I don’t normally watch: Dave Chappelle, a profane comedian, and TV. However, what Dave Chappelle had to say was so compelling, minus the misogynistic commentary, I actually want to watch it again. You can watch the entire special on YouTube here. I’m aware both of Chappelle’s past comments about the LGBTQ community, and the less than ideal way women are described in his monologue. Like with our own journeys, no one is clear of bias. Keep you ears open to his meaningful words, and your mind sharp to catch where he likely has some work to do too.
I also suggest you watch the Ava Duvernay documentary, 13th, about the history of the mass incarceration of Black people. You can watch a short trailer here, and the full length feature on YouTube here. Thank you Netflix, for releasing this important work so that everyone can see it. What have you watched lately that you think we should see? Reply to this email so that I can share it with our other readers.
There is still a pandemic. Doctors have taken to saying that the risk of not marching in the streets is greater to our social health than the risk to our physical health if we do. This does not mean however that our non social justice social occasions are all back on. Some of you may recall that Kyle, my fashion partner-in-crime at RLS, became engaged last year. She has become a #coronabride. You can read more about her story in this week’s blog, How Do You Plan a Wedding During a Pandemic?
Have a good week!
My neighbor and a friend during a Black Lives Matter march that went past my apartment. Her Obama cut-out got a lot of cheers from the marchers!
Posted on Instagram, June 17th, 2020
“Its a shame you chose to bring politics into your otherwise informative blog. It is unprofessional in my opinion. We read your blog to get fashion advice, not politics. Unsubscribing, but wishing you the best of luck.”
This is an email I received from an active blog reader of 9 years after my most recent newsletter to my subscribers addressing the #blacklivesmatter movement. A previous newsletter had recounted the multiple times my father had told me “that is just the way it is”, about certain situations, such as getting pulled over by the police when you have Black friends in your car. Ever the realist, he had also called to tell me I might lose clients and blog subscribers over my newsletters, even if they were truthful and accurate. “I’ve been receiving nothing but supportive emails from my subscribers and clients,” I told him. “And besides, if someone does not agree that racial justice is an important issue that needs to be addressed now, I don’t need them.” As usual, he was right. 3 people unsubscribed Sunday night and I don’t think it was because they had an issue with the @kyleanndunphy blog on being a #coronabride. My response to the email above:
“Thank you for being a loyal reader of the blog and newsletter for so many years. I have worked really hard to keep politics out of my newsletter, which has been especially difficult over the last 4 years. I consider the Black Lives Matter movement to be about human rights, not politics, and I am not alone. This is why every major and minor brand and business has been blanketing their social media feeds and email marketing lists with information, resources, and statements regarding the racial justice movement for the last month. I have not behaved any differently than every other company out there responding to their customers and their own need to do the right thing, other than ensuring that everything I write is authentic and heartfelt, rather than pulled from a public relations playbook. I respect your decision to unsubscribe.“
June 18th, 2020
We’ve had an exciting week here at RLS. Although I kept joking that maybe I was going too far, first with my COVID-19 blogs, then my Black Lives Matter themed newsletters, no one told me so until this week. You can read the details in yesterday’s Instagram post.
Mostly I’ve been working while balancing child care and feeling like I’m failing at both. I know you’ve been there! Or are we all just permanently there? Stay tuned for a blog on how our summer is going. FYI, I am going back to a once-a-week blog schedule beginning next week, as I just can’t keep up under current circumstances. It was fun while it lasted though, wasn’t it?
This week’s blog highlights Sunglasses for Summer 2020 and I think you will be surprised at what you can get for under $100. Look out for a blog on protest tees this Sunday, a special request from a RLS client/blog reader. The sunglasses blog was also a reader request. We do take requests!
Speaking of, I want to address why we have not highlighted enough Black designers on the blog in the past. Unless a brand or designer is someone we have a personal connection to and/or an ethical brand we come across, like Zuri or By Natalie Frigo, we tend to offer options on the blog that are from well-known stores that are easy to navigate and offer free or low cost shipping and returns. I hope that the department stores our readers shop, such as Nordstrom, will begin to carry more Black designers. In the meantime, we are working on researching our own lengthy list of designers whom we can highlight continuously, not in a one-time blog. If Black designers are not getting their due from traditional retailers, for whatever the reason, then it will be up to us to find them and highlight them for you. A Black designer I can’t wait to shop is Demestik. Fortunately or unfortunately, a lot of people feel that way and the website has literally been cleaned out. However, they do currently offer incredible masks in their beautiful prints, which is why it isn’t entirely mean to be telling you about the line now. If you sign up for their mailing list you will get a first-time discount code sent to you and notified of new style arrivals. I’m thinking of writing my first fashion fan letter, I’m so obsessed with the clothes.
One sad piece of fashion news that came from a RLS client/blog reader this week, (even before I read it in Women’s Wear Daily!), is that Long Tall Sally is closing. Hopefully someone will buy the London based company before they close so tall women don’t have to lose this precious resource. In the meanwhile, this is your last chance to shop!
Lani Inlander is a personal stylist who has been working with clients who want to feel their best and look put-together every day for over 20 years. You can find her in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Learn how you can train with Lani and Kyle to become a personal stylist at The Stylist Studio.
You can find Lani Inlander and Real Life Style on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.