Author: katieddavidson

Writing Prompt: Where Are You Writing From?

During this week’s writing group, I walked us through a meditation that brought attention to the head, heart, and gut. I asked you to notice how each feels, what each might say. Are they in harmony? Over the past few weeks, I’ve been personally exploring what my needs are. Identifying them, let alone communicating them to others, can feel so foreign! How am I supposed to tell you what my needs are when they’re constantly changing and often conflicting? Sometimes my head thinks I need to hurry and get more work done, while my heart is telling me to slow down and offer myself space for self-care. For me, being in alignment means my head, heart, and gut can all get on the same page – or at least respect one another and work together. 

Checking in with these different parts of myself was first introduced to me on my first-ever silent retreat, led by an incredible spiritual teacher and author, Will Pye. Until I arrived at the retreat in Eastern Tennessee, which required me to fly for four hours, then drive another four hours, I had no idea the long-weekend retreat was silent. This concept – the inner dialogue between my head, heart, and gut – assigned names to the competing thoughts in my head and provided me with some much-needed comic relief. I started journaling a script, as though they were distinct characters with their own unique feelings about being on a silent retreat: 

  • My head: “WTF?! A silent retreat? I’m so uncomfortable! How awkward to have to eat with these people and not say anything… What the hell am I supposed to do? Do I make eye contact? No, that makes it more awkward… Where do I look?” 
  • My heart: “Oh no, how will I ever connect with these strangers if I can’t talk to them?” 
  • My gut: “Thank god I don’t have to make small talk and socialize.” 

This is something to think about when you write. Who’s really speaking? Which place, or part of your body, are you writing from? Often, I’ll start out writing with my head, trying to get all of the important details on the page. (Sometimes this means my ego gets mixed in there, and I’m including superficial details that don’t really serve the reader.) Then, I pour my heart out and onto it, letting the words flow freely even if they don’t make sense. Finally, my gut becomes my editor with the final say, intuitively cutting out what doesn’t need to be there, while expanding on and finessing my original thoughts.

The next time you sit down to write, consider what roles the different parts of yourself play in your own process. Put them to work for you (not against each other). 

Writing Prompt: Why Do You Write?

During the beginning of her classes, one of my root yoga teachers often asks her students why: “Why do you practice? Why do you show up? What is it you care about?” She asks us to get to the “root of the root” of our intention. Often, when she asks this, I grow anxious and uncomfortable, not wanting to dive in too deep (perhaps my resistance is my fear of “taking in the good,” as we explored a few weeks ago).

And it’s not just intention-setting; she challenges the future yoga teachers she trains to ask why when building their sequences, to ensure their classes are safe and functional. I’ll be honest, as a rookie yoga teacher, sometimes I don’t know why I put a particular pose in my own sequences. I do it because I like the pose and feel comfortable teaching it, not necessarily because it’s aligned with my intention for the class, theme, or the peak pose I’m leading my students toward. This preliminary step is a great exercise in keeping me in check. 

Similarly, in her new book Everything Is Figureoutable, Marie Forleo encourages her readers to get clear on why they want a certain goal.

“List as many whys as you can, then for every why you generate, dig deeper. Ask yourself, ‘And why is that important?’ Then ask it again. ‘And why is that important? What will that ultimately do for me and others?’ Drill down several layers until you get to the core of why this dream matters and what you want to feel, experience, or share as a result of achieving it.” 

Marie Forleo, Everything Is Figureoutable

I also ask the writers I work with why they want to write – both in general and about specific projects they’re working on. It becomes clear to me, their editor, (and, most likely, will be just as obvious to readers) when they do not consider this crucial question.

For instance, I’ve been sharing some vulnerable reflections on Breathe Together Online, a digital magazine I recently helped my yoga studio launch. Had I written about these painful experiences as I was going through them, my intention might have been driven – or at the very least confused – by my ego (a desire for validation, revenge, attention, etc.), and my message would have been misguided and murky. I had to get clear that I wanted my past to be an offering for anyone who might be struggling like I was then. This is probably why it took me so long to share it; I had to heal those wounds and parts of myself first before I could write from a true place of service.  

In her book Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg has an essay titled “Why Do I Write?” Here are some of her reasons:

  1. “Because I’m a jerk. 
  2. Because I want the boys to be impressed. 
  3. So my mother will like me.
  4. So my father will hate me.
  5. No one listens to me when I speak.
  6. So I can start a revolution.
  7. In order to write the great American novel and make a million dollars.
  8. Because I’m neurotic.
  9. Because I’m the reincarnation of William Shakespeare.
  10. Because I have something to say.
  11. Because I have nothing to say.” 

She continues,

“Writing has tremendous energy. If you find a reason for it, any reason, it seems that rather than negate the act of writing, it makes you burn deeper and glow brighter on the page. Ask yourself, ‘Why do I write?’ or ‘Why do I want to write?,’ but don’t think about it. Take pen and paper and answer it with clear, assertive statements. Every statement doesn’t have to be 100 percent true and each line can contradict the others. Even lie if you need to, to get going. If you don’t know why you write, answer as though you do know why.”

Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

This is the prompt I offered writers to explore last week. No matter what type of project you’re working on – a chapter in your book, a manuscript, an article for a journalism outlet, copy or content writing for your business – it’s worthwhile to examine your intention or the goal you’re working toward.

A couple suggestions:

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Practice “stream of conscious” writing, and allow yourself to write whatever comes to mind and wants to be expressed through you.
  • Remember: There is no wrong answer. But, in order to get where you’re going, it’s essential to know why you want to get there.
  • Whatever your reason, your readers will feel the intention behind it. 
  • Similar to the meditation we’ve been exploring, check in with your head, heart, and gut. Are their motives similar or different? Listen to what each has to say, and, rather than trying to change their responses, get curious about a way they all can cooperate and work together. 

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Interview with ‘Girls’ Costume Designer Jenn Rogien

Originally published at StyleCaster.com on February 13, 2016. Photo credits: Amy Dickerson; HBO

It’s hard to remember a time before Girls, before life as a twenty-something navigating the real world was so honestly depicted on the small screen. Nearly five years ago, Lena Dunham rose to the occasion, appointing herself “the voice of her generation” in the pilot episode. As we enter into the sixth and final season, and the girls jump into the next chapter of their lives, it’s safe to say the creator-writer-star accomplished what she set out to do. And no matter how uncomfortable her character’s fashion choices—or sex scenes—have made you feel, you can’t deny how well the controversial series nailed the beautiful uncertainty plaguing young adults today. So we chatted with the series’ costume designer, Jenn Rogien, to get the 411 on what you can expect in terms of fashion from the four famous girls in their last season ever.

Before we dive into the interview, a bit about this season’s plot: Since we last briefed you, we’ve learned a bit more about what the future has in store for our favorite millennials. Last night, season six premiered on HBO, and though we can’t say how the series will end—that’s between Dunham, the cast and crew, and God—we have a few hints. We know Dunham’s character, Hannah, is writing again; we know she and BFF Jessa (Jemima Kirke) are feuding (and reconciling) as Jessa continues to defend her relationship with Hannah’s ex Adam (Adam Driver); we know Marnie (Allison Williams) is still struggling with her relationships; we know Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) is fresh from Japan and back in action. But—what about what they’ll be wearing?

That’s where Rogien comes in. Ahead, find out how she thinks the four actresses’ wardrobes have evolved on the show, her all-time favorite fashion choices for Hannah, Jessa, Marnie, and Shosh, and what item defines each girl.

StyleCaster: What will you miss the most?

Jenn Rogien: “I’m going to really miss the creative energy of the show. It had chemistry like no other job that I’ve been on. Because we’re all freelancers, a lot of us planned our freelance gigs [and] our calendars around going back to Girls to make sure that we could be there for all six seasons. And that’s not necessarily doable, you know, scheduling is so erratic into production that to make a point of it, I think, is a huge compliment to Lena and [producers] Jenni [Konner] and Judd [Apatow], and just the creative atmosphere that the show created for its family.”

Did you feel pressure to create especially memorable looks to send off the show?

“It crossed my mind, to be honest. But when I got the script, there was so much on the page that that thought faded. It was about telling the story [about] these characters in the moment, and these moments were like the other moments—they were the girls, they were up to their normal hijinks.

[My goal] then was to really focus on what was happening to them within the stories of every episode and not be as pulled into creating something bigger than what it should have been. It tied into my focus of the show all along, which was to stay true to the characters and not let negative comments on the internet necessarily feed into how we were dressing the girls or not let the popularity of some of the individual looks influence the rest of the season, depending on what we were shooting. So it really was about maintaining a focus on character work, which I think is then true for all six seasons.”

There’s definitely more of a realness to the girls that is absent from other shows. What’s the key to executing some of the more unflattering looks?

“I’ve heard the look of the show described as ‘hyper-realistic’—those were not my words, but I think it’s a really apt way to describe what we were going for. Part of that started in season one, before the show had aired, and I was literally just trying to be true to what the girls were going through that season: They had no jobs, they had no money, maybe they had stuff leftover from college, maybe they were shopping in thrift stores, maybe they were shopping in H&M and Zara.

[I was] just trying to imagine where the girls might really shop if they were real people [who] lived in Brooklyn and didn’t come from tons of money. Every season, I would renew my commitment to staying true to their circumstances, and that didn’t necessarily mean doing the same thing we were doing in season one; it meant really reading the scripts, reading between the lines, talking with Lena, Jenni and my girls, and trying to make choices that were right for that moment, that place in their story.”

How would you say their wardrobes have evolved, and how will they continue to evolve?

“I got to go through and pull an archive for HBO for the series, so I went back through every single costume from the show, and it was a trip, honestly. As different as the clothes are from season one to six, they’re still a bit the same; you can still see Hannah in her closet, you can still see Marni in her closet, you can still see Shoshanna and Jessa in their closets.

Hannah’s always a little too bright, the patterns are a little too loud, and the fit is still off. And, certainly, her clothing grew up along with her for the series, but there are always some things that are true about her wardrobe—the color and the pattern and the mismatch. Marni went from super faux-tailored business wear to super-bohemian music wear, but there was always a little bit too much. She was always overshooting just a little bit, and that stayed true throughout the six seasons. Ironically, Jessa’s the one who got streamlined and sort of distilled in a way throughout the seasons. She started out as over-the-top and very dramatic and [in] crazy silhouettes, and then by the end she was sort of stripped down to the essentials in vintage jeans, a T-shirt, and a pair of boots. It was really interesting to watch those transitions happen in photos—obviously they were deliberate transitions as we were producing the show and shooting, but to see them all in sort of a slideshow as I was going through for the archives really highlighted the evolution of the girls throughout the seasons.”

Looking back at those looks, do you have a favorite for each of the girls?

“It’s so funny because a lot of times the looks I end up loving are not the looks that jump off the screen. There are some behind-the-scenes moments that made it really interesting for me or something that happened that made it challenging—those kinds of things stick out in my mind.

I think of Hannah: She ends up Jell-O wrestling at a backyard house party, so we picked a dress that the blue Jell-O would really show up on. It was a white dress with a black print, and it was so iconic visually that you could tell she started in a white dress. What we didn’t realize is that the dye in the fake Jell-o actually turned the dress blue, so we had to do all these things behind the scenes to make sure that in continuity the dress looked the same. Just those kinds of things that [are] not that big of a deal—it’s not significant on screen at all, but to me it was a really fun costume moment.”

Since there is so much collaboration between you and each of the girls, how would you say their personal style influenced their characters’ wardrobes?

“The girls are so different from their characters that I don’t know that there is any crossover, and, in fact, when the girls come to work I rarely see them until they’re in costume. It actually took me a while to realize that they’re so incredibly different, that there isn’t any bleed over … There are always those pieces that resonate but that you can tell are right for character and wrong for the human, or right for the human and wrong for the character. That’s the brilliant thing about the girls: They’re amazing actresses, and the fact that you can’t tell the difference is a huge compliment to their work and skills as character actors.”

Looking ahead to the next chapter of their lives, what is one defining item that each of the girls will need to carry into her future?

“Hannah’s is her work bag, or her school bag. And it’s something that we handled throughout the series; she started with a very collegiate, canvas-and-leather satchel-tote-bag thing, and by the end she was in a lovely sky-blue suede tote, and it’s always big enough to fit her laptop, her notebook, and her odds and ends. That’s the thing that will always be with her, her writing bag.

I feel like with Marnie it was always about her rings because you see so much of her hands, whether she’s playing her guitar or music, or working with her headphones. She wore a series of rings over the course of the season, and, for me, there was always something about the rings that she was wearing that said a lot about how she was feeling—sometimes she was wearing a ton, sometimes she was wearing none, and I sort of use that as a tool to help convey where she was at. Then, now, and future, rings are always important to Marnie.

With Shoshanna, it’s her loungewear. If there’s one thing Shoshanna always had a great closet full of, it was loungewear. Whether it was the infamous Juicy Couture suit—which I did not do actually, I did not do the pilot—her crazy Japanese pajamas, or her shredded sweaters toward the end when you could literally see that she was unraveling, I think Shoshanna is an expert at loungewear and that will be true going forward.

And then with Jessa, I think it’s vintage—vintage and a great white dress. That’s something that I maintained throughout the series, starting in season one where she wore a couple of different white dresses, including her wedding dress, and then almost every season after that she wore some form of a long, white dress. [This season] it ended up being a white blouse. It’s sort of a palette cleanser for her, and a lot of the times it’s vintage. I think that’s something that’s very important to her character in the series and going forward.”

What style (or life) lessons have the girls learned thus far and still have yet to learn?

“Wow, [‘life lessons’] would be a better question for Lena, Jenni, and Judd than for me. I’ll stick to the style standpoint: Hannah has come a long way in realizing how to dress for the context she’s in, but she has a lot to learn about fit and [using] an iron. Marnie has come such a long way in dressing to express herself, but she has a lot to learn about being comfortable in her clothing and not quite overshooting the mark.

Jessa’s a hard one. Jessa has come such a long way from her crazy, over-the-top, high-end vintage look and has learned so much about using or not using her clothing as armor, but I think she still has a lot to figure out on that same front—she’s got a long way to go. I think Jessa’s definitely used her clothing as armor the most. And Shoshanna has definitely come a long way from the girly, confectionary look that she started [with] in season one, and I think she still has a lot to learn about dressing for her context.”

Don’t miss the final season of Girls on Sundays at 10 p.m. EST on HBO, and follow Jenn Rogien on Instagram and Twitter. Ahead, find some of the most iconic looks from Girls ever, including a shot of Rogien with the fam. 

Interview with ‘Spectre’ Actress and Costume Designer

Originally published at StyleCaster.com on November 6, 2015. Photo credits: Jonathan Olley/Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer

Forget what you thought you knew about James Bond: The 50-year-old franchise’s latest installment, Spectre, which hits theaters today, is breaking all the rules. Don’t get us wrong—there will be plenty of martinis, exotic locales, and high-action stunts in the 24th movie. What’s noticeably missing, however, are the one-note Bond girls serving as mere eye candy. In their stead are not just one but three empowering, seasoned actresses: Léa Seydoux, 30; Naomie Harris, 39; and Monica Belluci, 50.

Though we can’t help but notice the wide age range of the latest Bond women, it’s important to note that Bond himself had to come to terms with his own mortality in the last film, Skyfall. Nevertheless, Daniel Craig is back to reprise his role—along with Harris, who portrays Eve Moneypenny and will be filling the shoes of M (Judy Dench).

We got the scoop on the Bond women’s modern evolution from the stunning English actress, as well as Jany Temime, the woman who dressed Harris and her castmates.

How do you relate to the Moneypenny that’s portrayed in older Bond films?
Naomie Harris: “Well, I’m really lucky because when I got asked to come on board and play Moneypenny, I was told that they wanted to make a radical departure—they wanted her to be much more badass and tougher, more capable and much more of an equal to Bond.”

How do you think modern-day Bond girls compare with those in the older films?
NH: “They’re much more intelligent, resilient, and stronger as well—the way they reject Bond’s help and want to do it on their own because they’re strong, capable, independent women. Bond works really hard to get them to accept his help.”

How has Moneypenny’s style evolved since Skyfall?
NH: “In Skyfall, we were just discovering who the character was, and [now] we know how to take risks with her style. Because she spent so much time on the field, we were limited in terms of costume choices. She discovered she doesn’t really have the stomach for killing and being out in the field, so she made a mature decision to go behind the desk. In Spectre, she’s in the office a lot more—we understand her and know who she is—so we were able to be a lot more playful with the costumes.”

How does your real-life wardrobe compare to your character’s?
NH: “We’re similar in the sense that Moneypenny loves a lot of color, and I certainly do. But I think she’s constrained by working in a quite conventional office environment, so she has to wear traditional office wear and then brighten it up with some colorful, quirky touches, whereas I’m able to wear whatever I want, which is very liberating. I’m able to take more fashion risks, I would say.”

Speaking of fashion risks, you’ve been killing it on the red carpet. How do you approach getting ready?
NH: “Well, it’s a lot of work because there are lots of premieres, red carpets, and events of sorts to turn up to. But I’m really lucky because I work with an amazing stylist, Nola Singer, and she does absolutely brilliant, gorgeous outfits for me to wear, and we try to have a lot of fun choosing [them].”

Do you ever try to channel your character on the red carpet?
NH: 
“No. [Laughs] I don’t think that Moneypenny would be very comfortable on the red carpet. I think she’d much rather stay behind the scenes, since that’s what she’s used to.”

Do you notice any similarities between yourself and your character?
NH: “I think we’re very different, actually. I think Moneypenny is very, very brave and witty, and she does very well in a man’s world—she’s one of the few females [who are] a part of MI6 that have access to this top-secret information. I don’t think I’d do quite so well in that environment.”

And for a behind-the-scenes perspective, we spoke to costume designer Jany Temime (who won a CDGA award for her work on Skyfall, as a matter of fact) about how she created the Bond women’s new looks.

How did you approach each of the women’s wardrobes?
JT:
 “In the case of Moneypenny, we had seen her already last time, but now she is working the office. She has a tough job, working in the secret service, so we dressed her up like that—and I used colors for her.

Monica Belluci was another story, because she’s a widow, so of course she’s in black. I was very much inspired by the classical Italian actresses, like Sophia Loren, to give her a beautiful, sexy, classic-woman look—that sort of sexual maturity that Monica Belluci exudes. She’d never dress up like a kid; she dresses like a woman—and she is extremely sexy at it.

And then we have Léa Seydoux, who plays Bond’s love interest [Madeleine]. She is a high-executive woman, but she has evening and cocktail dresses, so there [are] lots more possibilities with her. We see her not only in her work clothes, but also in her free time. Her style’s a little bit nostalgic; I wanted to keep that sort of feeling about it because they are traveling in Morocco, looking for things that happened in the past.”

How do you select the perfect formal dress that will make the right statement?
JT: “In the case of Madeleine’s dress on the train, the story was that she had that rolled up in her suitcase. She had no idea that she was going to be in an evening dress, because she’s on a mission. So I wanted something very, very simple—something that you’d take in case. This is the first time that she catches Bond’s attention, so I wanted the dress to be more like second skin for her and also as simple as possible because of the situation. The other dress is a cocktail dress, and she’s in the middle of the desert, and it was a dress that was given to her by the villain; it’s his projection of Madeleine, not the dress she chooses, so it had to reflect his personality more than her.”

Do you factor in action sequences?
JT: “Bond girls are never dressed for action. For Skyfall, Moneypenny was dressed for action because she’s an agent, but Bond girls are usually never dressed for action. They do their best action scenes in evening dresses.”

What are some wardrobe tips we can learn from the Bond girls?
JT: “I think you should always be prepared, like the Bond girls are. You should always be at your best because you never know what life is going to bring you around the corner. Never, never, never let go. I like men to be perfect, and I like women to be perfect: to be dressed up all the time [and] to be extremely well-groomed. You can walk out like that, going to work, and, god knows, you might meet the man of your life. So always, always be prepared.”

Interview with ‘Broad City’ Costume Designer Staci Greenbaum

Originally published at StyleCaster.com on August 17, 2015. Photo credits: Comedy Central/Ali Goldstein, Lane Savage and Linda Kallerus

While Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer might not be your typical city-dwelling trendsetters, the stars and creators of Comedy Central’s “Broad City” are raising the bar for powerful, authentic women on television—and serving as an unlikely source of style inspiration in the process. Yes, their characters’ clothing choices are sometimes questionable (see: Ilana’s Fruit Loop leggings and fanny pack combo), but they’re always made confidently, and we can all learn something from their audacious attitude.

We stole a few minutes with the show’s costume designer Staci Greenbaum, who is guest-speaking at global tradeshow MAGIC in Las Vegas this week, to discuss the psychology behind Abbi and Ilana’s wardrobes, how she puts together their budget-friendly ensembles, and how to channel the girls’ confidence into your own closet—plus what’s in store for the new season.

You’ve worked in the wardrobe department of dramas such as “Person of Interest” and “Mildred Pierce.” Do you approach dressing for a comedy series differently than other genres? “Yes, indeed you do. It’s a lot more fun—in different ways. There’s something really beautiful about those other genres, but you certainly have [more] flexibility. You very rarely are exploring a costume to be funny or over the top just for the sake of it being over the top in those other genres because it’s not supposed to be garnering your attention necessarily.”

How would you describe the girls personalities, and how do you convey this in each of their wardrobe choices? “I would say that Ilana is filterless, guileless, free-spirited, and exploratory. She loves herself, and she doesn’t hold back. That tends to translate in her costumes; we play a lot with proportions, and we try to redefine what is sexy—it’s not for anyone but herself, which is really the beautiful part about it: that unapologetic confidence that she has to walk around her bedroom in a shirt with no pants on, platform wedges, and really big statement earrings. Her personality is just so…she’s like her own magical unicorn.

And then Abbi is also very fun-loving, a little bit of a romantic, and very aspirational in the way that she approaches life. She has more rules for herself, as far as who she wants to be when she grows up. She wants to see strides, and so she aspires to be more of a professional and have an end goal. We see that in the level of practicality with the way that she dresses. We see a lot of repetition and a more traditional normcore aesthetic from her—with a little bit of feminine touches scattered about with her cool, urban things.”

How are you approaching the new season? “I hope that this season, we’ll see a little bit of growth in the characters, but what’s so special about “Broad City” specifically is that these girls are trying to navigate their way through New York. So with every step forward that they make, they usually take two steps backwards—hop to the side, slip a little bit, and then land backwards. So, I hope that we get to have some really fun moments costume-wise for the girls when it’s appropriate and that people really feel like they can relate to it.”

Do you have any fashion rules you follow for them? “I wonder if they’re hard rules because once you set them, you usually defy them. Actually, it’s funny you say that because, lately, there is a color that is out right now, like everywhere, and it keeps coming onto my racks from shopping. It is a golden rod, kind of burnt ochre. It takes a very special skin tone to wear that color, and it is not very flattering. Right now, that is my only rule, [not to put] that on camera and on these lovely girls. Beyond that, I don’t think there should be rules. There are some things we stay away from—like Ilana doesn’t wear pants and Abbi doesn’t frequently wear skirts—but they’re not rules, they’re just preferences. I think that’s the fun of it: everyone gets to create their own.”

What is one item that each of the girls can’t live without? “Both of them, hoodies. Ilana, any kind of bra: colorful, strappy, a bra that shows, a bra that supports. And Abbi can’t live without cropped, skinny jeans: a classic staple jean you can dress up and down.”

What are the girls’ go-to retailers? “I would say Ilana would be Urban OutfittersAmerican Apparel, and Forever 21 with little touches of smaller New York and Brooklyn-based brands. Abbi is more of H&MAritziaMadewell, a little bit of Uniqlo, and a little bit of Free People.”

How else does New York impact their wardrobes? “New York is a very vibrant and colorful place, and being the backdrop and the third main character gives them the opportunity to really have no boundaries. New York is the best, but there are also some realistic things that come along with that. There’s a lot of practicality that’s involved—it’s not easy to take public transportation from Queens to Brooklyn—but there’s also a lot of playfulness: in New York, anything goes.”

What advice would you give someone who wants to be just as fun and fearless with their own wardrobes? “Don’t hold back. It’s really about exploring and working with what you have, trying something new, and accepting that it’s okay if it’s not right. I mean, that’s really the beauty of fashion and what we like to do on the show: the girls don’t always get it right, but there’s still something very human and wonderful about that. Just trying something that’s out of your comfort zone can sometimes be very liberating. You can do crazy things, even if you’re not in New York. It says a lot about who you are, and it’s okay for it to say one thing one day and something completely different the next—that’s the best part about it: that you get to change your clothes.”