11.16.2018

Hygge: A Meaningless Word to Some, a Fashion Statement to Others

Definitely easier to pull off than to pronounce correctly.




Just to clarify: hygge is a Danish concept, not a Swedish one. We have fika and even the term mysig (which is basically impossible to translate in English, but mostly means "cozy" that can only be visually described by being next to a blazing fire inside a Swedish cottage in the winter), but hygge is strictly a Danish thing. It feels that it can only be reserved for Denmark because it also, like mysig, has no direct English translation. Google Translate refers to it as "fun," which feels very, very wrong, especially as I visited Denmark earlier this month and "fun" is not the way to describe my experience.

Cozy? Exciting, but in a lowkey way? Happy-inducing, but again, in a lowkey way? A combination of all three? Hygge. That's better. Even if I can't put into words what my five-day long hygge adventure was like, I know that hygge is the proper term. Think warm coffee shops with friendly staff that you can spend hours in; cozy bars that specialize in the best Danish beer; even just spending hours of your vacation lying in bed because it's too cold outside, but without feeling severe amounts of fomo. That's hygge for ya, at least my perception of it. If you're Danish and think I'm completely wrong on this interpretation, please call me out on it. But otherwise, I'd like to bring hygge to my attitude every winter. It makes freezing temps and seasonal depression so much more fun!

The past two winters I've experienced have been more than miserable. Having to wear five different layers and dealing with little to no sunlight always put me in some sort of funk that only spring and summer would get me out of. Now, of course being in Sweden, this funk is heightened—it's way colder and the sun sets two hours earlier than back in the states (I'm writing this at 3:30pm and it is pitch black outside, btw). The past week has given me a glimpse of what seasonal depression is truly like, and folks, it's nothing I would wish on even my worst enemies. Getting myself to leave my (warm!) apartment just to see the sun for five or less hours feels futile, and attempting to enjoy my last month in this city is really, really hard. But for some odd reason, getting dressed in this sad, sad weather is one of the few things that I find exciting. Fall in Stockholm got me weirdly excited, which was already unexpected enough, but now winter? Honestly, I'm just confused. I've been a summer gal through and through; colorful vintage dresses and various mules have been my style saviors the past few years. But now that I'm forced to face the dark void that is Sweden, I guess I better embrace the Danish concept and bring hygge to everything I do, style included.

Sweater and jeans are vintage. Turtleneck by J. Crew (I will stand by the tissue turtleneck until my dying day, btw). Shoes are unknown, but I like these a lot.

Of course, my journey with hygge began in Denmark, of all places. The wind that literally blew me over multiple times forced me to wear a turtleneck under my thickest of sweaters and not touch anything but my tried and true vintage Levi's. I followed this outfit recipe for the next four days, half in Aarhus and half in Copenhagen, and I now call this trip my test run for how to dress for Swedish winters. I used to be against the idea of style uniforms, I embraced them for a bit when winter ruined me just one year ago, and now I realize that Scandinavia is a place that not only encourages, but requires a sartorial uniform. It's too cold to experiment! My months spent worrying about my fashion sense going down the drain from living here vanished as I realized that mixing and matching turtlenecks and sweaters is actually really fun. If I'm feeling more adventurous, I can swap a sweater for a button-up and leave it unbuttoned most of the way to show off my trusty turtleneck. I can switch my classic Levi's for a pair of purple corduroys I thrifted earlier this year to fight the stereotype that Swedes only wear black in the winter (which, by the fact, is very true). Hygge paved the way to a winter that can actually be fun in terms of style; outfit repeating is not frowned upon here. It's celebrated! Maybe I have worn this pair of jeans everyday for the past two weeks. But it's sad and cold and dark, we have better things to worry about than if we're wearing a pair of pants five times too many. 

This style epiphany has also translated to other parts of my Swedish experience; I've been more okay with spending time by myself, specifically in the confines of my warm apartment, than having to be busy 24/7. Getting out into the city just to enjoy an hour-long fika might be a minor accomplishment, but it's still an accomplishment! Hygge may directly translate to fun, but it could mean the opposite—taking time to decompress is the best thing for our mental clarity, especially when this lack of sunlight is driving me to week-long depressive episodes. So if all you can put together is a turtleneck under a sweater with the pair of jeans you wear way too often, congratulate yourself—winter is hard.


And then I couldn't help but wonder... can hygge even be translated to the warm summer months?


10.14.2018

Can We Make Big Gay Energy a Thing?

In celebration of National Coming Out Day being three days ago.


Faith and Buffy giving off major BGE, even if they were never canonically queer in the Buffy universe.

About a few months ago, a now friend that I had just met at the time messaged me "you give off major bge (big gay energy)". Throughout my 20 years of existence, I think this had to be the greatest compliment I've ever received; even better than people telling me that I'm their style inspiration or that my writing influenced their own creative work.

And then I thought—is looking outwardly queer, especially for women, something us queer ladies strive to embody? In a world where coming out of the closet is neverending and being assumed straight is more than irritating, giving off major BGE, or as others call it, Big Dyke Energy*, can feel more than comforting. It's not only empowering, but it legitimizes our existence without disclosing our entire coming out narratives. I feel like I've spent the last three years attempting to craft the perfect "gay look," which may have started to rub off on my personal style in the past year. After all this time of experimenting with femininity and masculinity (and a mixture of both), I realized that just dressing true to my personal style which, by the way, is pretty tricky to genuinely find, might just do the trick (maybe along with a short haircut, too). And now I've reached my peak—at least one person thinks I have BGE! Is this it for me? Will my (now extremely minimal) internalized homophobia and cautiousness of coming out in certain situations finally end?

That last sentence is why BGE is not an Internet trend like Big Dick Energy, but more like a source of empowerment that can change the way we think about our own identities in a society that favors BDE over BGE. It's not about having to fit into this certain queer look that excludes many bodies and representations, but about having your own sense of queerness that exudes with every action you make—the way you dress, the way you go about your everyday life, the way you dismantle the heteropatriarchy simply with your existence. Not only is it super radical and political, but it's a hell of a lot of fun. Who doesn't love queering things up?

An even more enjoyable activity than having your own BGE is seeing who else carries this same superpower. Seeing others with it is similar to the infamous lesbian glance where you essentially know if someone is gay if you mutually get "the eyes" from them; it's not always sexual, it's simply a mutual agreement that you both are very, very queer. This one look can be even more powerful than BGE, and combining the two is a rare occurrence that I have only witnessed once or twice in my life. The best part about BGE? It doesn't necessarily matter how they identify, and you never have to truly know, either. They may be a certified gold-star lesbian, they may be bisexual, they may be questioning their sexuality and experimenting with BGE to figure some things out. At the end of the day, there's a lot of autonomy without having to outwardly state how you identify—BGE is both simpler but also a skill that could be fairly difficult to master.

Some examples, you might ask?

Faith Lehane from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Faith Lehane, aka the queerest character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and might I add the first person, at least in my mind, to master BGE. Faith was never actually canonically gay in the show, sadly, but compared to the other two identified lesbian characters, Faith exudes BGE. Many fans, including myself, hoped she was queer the minute we met her, and we especially hoped that her budding friendship with Buffy was a bit more than a friendship. Apart from her super queer style, she did whatever the fuck she wanted, would never listen to authority, and was presumably very anti-man. Although she did have many flings with men, she never excluded women, and her flirting with Buffy was far too obvious for a straight girl. And here's where the magic of BGE comes in—you can still have it without having to identify as anything. Especially when you made every queer viewer swoon during the entirety of season three.


King Princess (aka Mikaela Straus) is, by definition, the queen of BGE. If you scroll through her wonderful, wonderful IG feed, you will immediately understand. While Faith is a bit subtler with her BGE, KP is not only out and proud, but she seems to embody her gayness unlike any other. Shamelessly calling herself Shane from The L Word is the first sign; captioning a photo of her and her girlfriend "gay dyke hoes" is more proof.


And here's her girlfriend, also a queen of BGE! There's scientific evidence that couples who both give off BGE will rule the world one day.

Shane McCutcheon (left) and Carmen de la Pica Morales (right) from The L Word

You could argue that every lesbian on The L Word has BGE in their own, unique way, but most people see Shane from The L Word as the expert. She not only attracted every queer girl out there (characters and viewers alike), but she also broke all of their hearts. However, most of us want our hearts to be broken by Shane McCutcheon. A queer rite of passage, I suppose? Bonus points for when she found someone with equal amounts BGE, aka Carmen de la Pica Morales, and decided to stick with her for a while. Were they soulmates because their relationship was a constant battle for who had the most BGE? Maybe.



A post shared by AMY ORDMAN (@amyordman) on

Another realm of BGE is found in the lesbian and queer community of Youtubers who I, ashamedly, only discovered this past summer and soon became obsessed with. The three above include two of my favorites, Alexis G. Zall and Amy Ordman, who are IRL best friends but constantly joke about how they are twins, dating, or both. Their vids are full of BGE as they overtly make content about their gayness, but even queerer are their lives displayed on social media. They've seemed to create a squad of only queer women (mostly from Youtube) that are chockful of BGE, making it a friend group I would glady be a part of. More evidence that the power of BGE comes in numbers.

Yorkie from San Junipero

BGE might seem excluding of the quiet gays, but fear not! Yorkie from San Junipero is the perfect example of carrying equal amounts of introversion and BGE—the two are not mutually exclusive, if you were curious. I've already discussed her BGE style, but her essence is extremely refreshing for what a lot of BGE entails. She's obviously very in love with women (one woman, in particular) and is, at least later in the episode, entirely shameless about it. She proves that you don't have to be a "social gay" to still have BGE—all that's required is an unconditional love for other ladies and knowing how to pull off a pair of Bermuda shorts.


My list can keep going; Kristen Stewart, Ellen Page, Syd of The Internet, Janelle Monáe, and Hayley Kiyoko are just a few others of the thousands that have this energy. While everyone I've mentioned is a fictional depiction or a celebrity that we will probably never be able to connect with on a personal level, they represent the endless possibilities we could have in this lifetime—to find a community stronger than any other just with the magic of BGE. In an age where being proud of your queerness is either "too much" or only allowed for certain individuals and identities, it feels necessary to reclaim the notion of being too "out and proud." Whether you're your own BGE icon, you found your future wife through the powers of BGE, or you and your queer pals all mutually share it, BGE can be greater than we ever once imagined. More than a fad, perhaps?

Next time you're asked what your first choice in superpowers would be, try saying to have massive amounts of Big Dyke Energy—maybe your dreams will come true.


*I like to use BGE here instead of BDE because Big Dyke Energy has the same acronym as Big Dick Energy. Also, BGE is more inclusive! But, if you do identify as queer, saying Big Dyke Energy does the trick, too. I say both, depending on my mood.

9.23.2018

I'm Excited for Fall for the First Time in Years

My first favorite season is making a comeback into my heart.



Today is the FIRST day of fall! And it's so, well, romantic. The drop in temperature forces us to think about the people in our lives—the ones who literally keep us warm (cuffing season is upon us!) or, to be more figurative, the ones we go to when we're feeling down from the change in seasons. It's all about safety blankets! Sweaters and turtlenecks are even appropriate for this season, especially in Stockholm where their summer feels like my fall and their fall feels like my winter, and so on. Iced coffee shifts to warm cappuccinos (with oat milk, please), and if I'm going to be honest, iced coffee has got to be the least charming beverage that exists. Nine times out of ten it's taken on the go, grasping onto the cold condensation is a very unenjoyable sensation, even in the summer, and plastic straws are the last thing our planet needs right now. My summer-loving self would never find these flaws, but now that I've accepted autumn back into my life, that oat milk cappuccino seems to be calling my name, especially since I have fika at least twice a day. I'm also a big fan of ankle boots again, my leather jacket has been glued to my body for the last week, and I weirdly enjoy having to wear enough clothing to keep warm in 50 degrees. 

This is strange.

I haven't full-heartedly enjoyed this season ever since I became obsessed with sunlight and wearing as little clothing as possible. But something about fall in Stockholm strips all its negativities and makes it feel like, as I said earlier, the most romantic season to exist. And not just in the couple-y way; I can enjoy this season to its fullest extent without an S.O. It's romantic in the sense that every single detail of a moment, no matter how minuscule, feels poetic, and that simply existing outdoors even when it's below 50 makes my soul feel good. It's inexplicable, but oftentimes, there's no explanation for love.

So! Now that I've fallen in love with this season again, it feels fitting to also fall in love with its style once more. Now that my personal style has done a 180 approximately 17 times since I claimed this season to be the best, I'm forced to seek out which autumn 'fits are worthy. Three years ago, I used to constantly layer sweaters over dresses with over-the-knee socks and ankle boots and title this my go-to (I'm pretty sure I owned at least six pairs of those types of socks, which is strange for someone who did not attend private school). Was I trying to be Suzy from Moonrise Kingdom? Without a doubt. But now that I have added a layer of queer style and vintage pieces to my style identity, this high school look just feels wrong. To find the fall pieces that would match my newfound love for this season, I decided to do what any student abroad obsessed with vintage would do—go on a thrifting adventure to seek out the best of the best in Stockholm.

If you were unaware, Stockholm has some of the best thrifting in the world. Maybe this is just my own opinion, but its selections and prices easily beat any Seattle or Brooklyn vintage shop. In the past five weeks I've been here, I've managed to thrift at least once a week and spend far less than I would at home but leave with pieces I love so dearly that I wear them at least twice a week. A few tops, one slip dress, and one pair of snakeskin pants later, I discovered the dress of my dreams. What does it look like, you ask?



Dress is vintage from POP Stockholm. Jacket by Madewell.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon this fantastic thrift store that only sells vintage from the '50s to '90s—no later. Not to be dramatic, but the minute I walked in my eyes immediately spotted the dress you see above. Was this love at first sight? Definitely. I knew we would enter a long-term relationship after I tried it on and it fit too perfectly. Combining the beauty in thrifting and my infatuation with autumn made this a magical, or, dare I say, romantic experience. After purchasing it and wearing it three times in one week in three different ways, I decided it would be fun to approach fall style in a very literal sense—to physically look like the season. In this case, the color scheme on the dress exactly mimics the changing colors of fall, and weirdly enough, it also matches the buildings behind me in Södermalm that should be in a brochure to entice tourists to visit in October. I paired it with my black leather jacket and black boots and at first felt strange to not wear any light or bright colors, but then realized how well I fit in—apparently every Swede only wears dark colors when the temps start to drop. Although I only find it fun to wear bright colors in the midst of a dark and depressing winter, I also think I can get used to this autumn thing. I've been told time and time again that study abroad is all about change. I said in a previous post that Stockholm almost feels too fitting for my style and personality, but maybe, just maybe, my identity will shift a smidge, possibly to its best form, as a result of my time here. Change is good, no?


Photos taken by Josie.


8.29.2018

Stockholm's Style Feels Far Too Personal

Not like an invasion of privacy, but more like we're already best friends.



Approximately 18 months ago, I decided that I would move to anywhere in Scandinavia for at least a semester. My deep, insightful reason was that it just felt right, but in actuality, it was because I just finished watching the first three seasons of SKAM in only four days during my winter break freshman year. Norway seemed so cool! So me! I had never gotten a glimpse of what Scandinavian culture was like until the show—all I assumed was that everyone was blonde and that it was freezing year-round (both myths, I later discovered). After watching the Norwegian show three more times in the same year, I was not only infatuated with the idea of living there, but married to it. I began following far too many Scandinavian style icons on Instagram, becoming familiar with Scandinavian culture and lingo, and then eventually deciding to study gender and sexuality studies in Stockholm for a semester.

And guess what?

That semester is now!

Yes, I'm currently in Stockholm for the next four months if you were unaware and/or not paying attention to my recent IG posts. I stepped into this fascinating city about two weeks ago, and although I only know how to say about five words in Swedish, I feel like I've finally come home. My summer move to NYC last year doesn't even come close. The independent, reserved, and non-hierarchal nature of Swedes feels too familiar to my own personality, and the idea that fika, aka taking a break from your busy day with coffee, a bun (cardamom is my favorite, btw), and friends is a highly practiced event here makes me never want to return to the states where long work days and minimal breaks are very much a thing. And then I think of the evergrowing queer scene here, as well as its feminist policies and laws, and I feel like I should extend my stay to far longer than a few months. All I know is that returning home come December will be a hell of a lot harder than the depressing few days after a week-long vacation in Spain or France, as I probably will become that person who comes out of her abroad experience as a "changed person." 

But if I feel like my best and truest self here, am I actually changing or just shifting to who I'm meant to be?

Existential soul-searching aside, I also mean this in terms of style. As I say time and time again, style and identity are deeply enmeshed, so it would make all the sense that both my style and identity fit perfectly into the complex puzzle of islands that is Stockholm. After living here for a short two weeks, I've observed that Swedes agree with the notion that style and identity are inseparable. Answering the question of which came first, style or identity, is near impossible, as each consequently influences each other on a day-to-day basis. It feels that no one attempts to mask their true selves with what they put on their body; instead, it simply highlights who they are, or at least think of themselves to be. This theory of mine brings in a whole lot of style diversity, a lack of overplayed trends, and, most importantly, some really cool outfits. Even just during my commute from my apartment to class, I can easily make a long list of all the looks that both emphasize this style-identity dynamic but also that I could bring to my own style (personal style is destined to be influenced by others, if you forgot). Then I realized what exactly makes Stockholm's style so good, so personal, and so, so familiar—people simply dress to embody what they believe their best selves to be. That's the exact mindset I bring to my sartorial decisions, so maybe I really am Swedish at heart. Should I just call my family now and say I'm never coming home?

Dress and shorts are vintage. Shoes by Madewell.

While I already see myself dressing like a true Stockholmer when in the states, being here has brought this tendency out even more, where there are only two criteria I need to follow: a) comfort and b) unconventionality. It may seem strange to put these two antonyms together, but let me explain—comfort simply means to wear what I feel best in, while to be unconventional means to wear something unexpected from the norm. As I already stray towards weirder styles, these two requirements don't feel too difficult to follow. Another non-requirement, but something that Swedes definitely lean towards, is to wear mostly thrifted pieces, which is something I already do on the daily. Although I am in the home of H&M, both large-scale and boutique-style vintage stores greatly outnumber fast fashion. A wonderful, wonderful discovery, yet a curse to my bank account (which, by the way, is already dwindling, as Stockholm is one of the most expensive cities in Europe). 

So! To make my Stockholm style dreams come true, I did the unexpected, but also the expected for what I would typically wear—a vintage red '90s babydoll dress partially tucked into some denim Bermudas with a pair of white loafers. Summer is the peak time for Swedes to dress, as the long, warm days bring out the best in its residents. Color! Really cool shoes! Shorts cut at unexpected lengths! As temps are already dropping and short days will become a reality very soon, the time to dress is now. They'll spend all of their waking hours outdoors, even if it's raining, just to get the last bits of sun. So why not show off? It's never to show that they think they're better than others (they're non-hierarchical, remember?); rather, it's to show that they put effort into the sartorial side of their lives. Creatures of style, I suppose? And, once again, I already feel like everything I've been doing my entire life works too well with how the Swedes do it. This sense of familiarity makes this big move less frightening than it should be. Hopefully I'll be able to survive the cold and 3pm sunsets come December.