Monday, August 29, 2016

Interview with Designer Emily DeLong of Margu

I recently started following Margu Design on Instagram and fell in love with everything I have seen from them so far. The clothing style is simple and feminine with a hint of vintage charm. This weekend, I had the honor of interviewing the woman behind the company, Emily DeLong, to learn a little more about her journey to becoming a fashion designer and what goes into each piece she creates.

What led you to design clothing and what attracted you fashion?
It's kind of weird to think about how I ended up where I am now, designing and producing my own fashion label, because it was never the path I thought I was on, even if I was unknowingly on it the whole time. I first became interested in fashion as a teenager (before that, as my parents will attest, I wore nothing but sweatpants). At that time, I began to wear clothing from a hodgepodge of sources — the mall, the thrift store, my grandmother's closet — and while back then my often-eccentric ensembles were coming partly from teenage angst and a need to distinguish myself as unique, I realize now that I was also using clothing as a vehicle for self-discovery, something I still to do this day. I was way into crafts as a kid (I loved all those crafty kits that came in boxes you could buy at Hobby Lobby), and I taught myself how to sew (with my mom's help) when I was around 12. I made a lot of garments back then from Simplicity patterns that I was proud of at the time, but, uh, don't really hold up to my current standards. I didn't do much sewing when I was in college, but shortly after I graduated, I rediscovered my sewing machine and started making things from patterns again. That quickly turned into an obsession. I began altering the sewing patterns I bought, and then I stopped using the commercial patterns altogether and taught myself how to draft my own patterns. By sewing my own clothes, the theme of clothing as a vehicle for self-discovery emerged again, and I began to have a lot more respect for everything in my closet — from the stuff I had made, to that on-sale Anthropologie top I bought in 2010, to the vintage 1960s sundress I've had forever. Fashion, to me, is at the perfect intersection of art, craft, mathematics, utility, and self-identity in a way that nothing else is, and I think that because it is so multifaceted is why I never tire of it.

Your pieces are so sweet, what inspires you when designing clothes?
So many things! A lot of my designs are inspired by vintage clothing, either vintage pieces I have in my closet that I want to recreate, or vintage pieces I see in a store or on the internet that inspire me (Pinterest is one of my go-to places for online inspiration). I don't live completely in the past, however; I enjoy keeping up with what's going on in the fashion world and like to incorporate trends that resonate with me into my clothing — but always with my own personal spin on them! Really, though, what I design comes down to what I feel like wearing. My design process often feels to me like standing in front of my closet, thinking about what I want to wear — except instead of my closet, I'm choosing from anything I can dream up.

How long does it take you to make a dress? What goes into it?
A single dress can take me anywhere from 2 to 10 hours to make, depending on how complicated the design is and how much hand-sewing is required. Provided the dress has already been designed, patterned, and graded (a process I do in my studio, by hand, with pencil and paper), this is a brief sketch what goes into the dressmaking process: 1) I prepare the fabric I'm going to use by washing and pressing it. 2) I lay out the fabric on a big flat surface, lay out the pattern pieces on top of the fabric, and carefully cut out each pattern piece from the fabric. At this point, I also transfer any pattern marks (such as dart positions) from the pattern pieces to the fabric with chalk or a marker. 3) I head over to my sewing machine and start sewing! This part of the process is the most variable, time-wise: if a dress has only a few seams, like a simple shift dress, it can go pretty quickly; if a dress has lots of seams, or lots of embellishment, or if it is lined, it can take hours. Throughout the sewing process, I am pressing each seam with my iron after it's sewn to make it crisp, and I am finishing each seam, usually with French seams, so that the dress looks as great on the inside as it does on the outside. I'm also doing things like adding pockets, adding buttonholes, attaching collars, and attaching linings at this point. 4) I do any necessary finishing touches on the dress. This can include hand-sewing buttons if the dress has them, hand-sewing hems if the design calls for it, snipping off any loose threads (always a necessity!), and giving the dress a good final press with my iron. At this point, the dress is finished and I'm ready to start on another one!

Do you have a shop in Arkansas or is your business all online?
We currently do all our business online from our website ( I'd love to have a little shop someday, but it may take quite some time before we get there!

What can we expect from you in the future? Will there be another collection coming out soon?
We will be releasing our Fall/Winter 2016 collection near the end of September. It's bigger and a bit more ambitious than our first collection and features a mix of organic cottons, silks, and handloom cottons. We're working on final touches right now, and I couldn't be more excited to share it with you!

You can visit to learn more, see more, and shop the collections! Thanks for reading and thank you Emily for talking to us!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Links à la Mode, August 25th

I hope you enjoy this week's links à la Mode courtesy of the Independent Fashion Bloggers. Outfit Zest managed to sneak on the list again with the One Year Blogiversary post. Happy Weekend!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Home at Last

After a few weeks of traveling around, it's nice to settle back into regular life. Life where I know the neighborhood, the language, and where everything is. The once ordinary now makes me feel absolutely whizzbang. I can ride my bike on familiar bike trails, know that there are people nearby who love me, and get back to tending the garden. In honor of my appreciative homebody-self, I did a photo shoot with the little garden gnome who sits contentedly by the potted plants on our windowsill. The gnome never seems to mind that the biggest trip he has been on was when my husband finished firing him in the ceramics lab and brought him home. I wish I could say that it was because our gnome missed the trip to the beaches of Costa Rica that I took him outside, but really it was just because I was looking for some photo shoot inspiration. However, as I took him for a little walk around the block, I couldn't help but notice that the gnome seemed...totally unchanged. His sculpted face didn't move. He remains satisfied wherever he is. I was reminded that true joy isn't awarded from visiting a physical location, it comes from within. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

One Year Blogiversary

A lot has happened on this blog in the past year. 
I started by posting very shy outfit photos of myself and felt even shyer about sharing them. I didn't know how to use the manual settings on my camera, and I was working with a ten second timer on a broken tripod. But after a year of countless hours of practice, some photography classes, and gaining a proper tripod and camera remote I feel accomplished and driven to keep improving myself as a photographer. Outfit Zest is a fashion blog, but really it is an online journal for me to share photos and get creative behind the lens. Although most of the time I take photos of my own outfits, I have also branched into portrait photography in attempt to capture other people's style. I have learned about direction, lighting, technique, and story telling. And each time I shoot, I get to learn a little more. What I love in particular about fashion photography is the element of fantasy that can be incorporated into everyday scenes. Fashion photography isn't just documenting what happened, it is storytelling. 

And then there is the fashion itself which I hardly thought about before I started this blog. I mean, I have always enjoyed getting dressed and putting outfits together but I never thought about where my clothing was made, who designed it, or how it arrived in the store where I bought it. But over the course of this year, I have learned too much. I no longer feel comfortable buying mass produced fast fashion. I have discovered so many beautiful designers who create ethical clothing that I would rather buy. So Outfit Zest officially became a sustainable fashion blog this summer. This means that I will only wear independent brands, secondhand items, or things I have made myself. There is too much waste in the world of fashion and too much money going to unjust practices. So keep an eye out: I have exciting photo shoot ideas to share featuring slow fashion pieces.

A year in review:
Within the past year I quit an unsatisfactory job at a local coffee shop and started teaching. I went to Europe and Central America. I dyed my hair pink. I started my own freelance business. I gained confidence as a blogger and started to really tune in to the things in life that make me sing. Living day to day, it can be easy to forget life's achievements and goals. It can be easy to get bogged down in everyday annoyances and humdrum. I believe that it is important to reflect on the things you have accomplished, feel proud, and appreciate the little moments that brought you to where you are.

Love, Joy

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Adventures in Chacos

 Hello, meet Ben and my Chaco sandals that we have been wearing all week. They strap on securely and give incredible arch support. Chacos are my go-to shoe for hiking, biking, and trekking through streams (all things I like to do). For our week in Costa Rica, Ben and I have both been wearing Chacos non-stop because we are spending so much time adventuring outside. I absolutely love these shoes and could wear them all summer long.
To go along with their environmentally minded clientele, Chacos are made to be repaired instead of replaced. I have owned this pair for over a year now and they show not signs of damage aside from the mud I have dragged them through. But if they do get damaged, I can send them back to the Michigan based factory to have them fixed. These are definitely investment shoes if you love spending time outside.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Parrot Sweater and Jungle Wildlife

My sister got married here on the beautiful Caribbean coast of Costa Rica two days ago. While the week was completely packed with wedding preparations, festivities, and family time we still managed to sneak in some hikes and sight seeing. In these photos I am wearing my wonderfully fuzzy parrot sweater from Blue Vinyl which I packed for emergency layering. I haven't needed it much here in the tropics but this morning was just cool enough for me to put it on and take some photos. When Pennsylvania's winter rolls round, I can wear it again and dream of Costa Rica's hot climate and colorful wildlife. Peering through the leaves, we have seen lizards, parrots, toucans, howler monkeys, and sloths. Spending time with my family surrounded by a serenade of jungle animals is not a future I ever saw for myself but that just goes to show you how unpredictable life is.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Costa Rica Day Trip Collage

I have done quite a bit of traveling on my own but I usually just save up enough money for a plane ticket to get me to the place I want to go and volunteer on a farm or do a work away program while I'm there so I don't have living expenses abroad. But this trip is different. My sister is getting married and my whole family is traveling together. We are paying to stay in hotels instead of bunking in with strangers. We are eating out. We are being tourists. And while a younger version of myself may have scoffed at this idea, I find myself having a wonderful time. This past Sunday my mom treated the family to a day trip on a tour bus to see some local attractions. We visited the Poas Volcano (which was sadly clouded over so I failed to get a good photo), a local coffee plantation, a traditional ox-cart workshop, and other nearby places of interest. Here are some photos I snapped during our trip and at the bottom of the post is a brief description of each.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Wall Art in San Jose

Ben and I arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica and have spent the past few days exploring. In between noisy traffic and concrete infrastructure, this city hides a sprawling art gallery. It seems that no matter where you look, there is a colorful mural nearby. Some pictures are beautiful, others are thought provoking, but mostly these paintings seem to serve the sole purpose of adding color to an otherwise drab city. My favorites are the completely cartoonish and bizarre murals. These paintings look like they were created just because the artists had fun making them. The pictures liven up the city and bring a sense of playfulness out of the imagination and onto the sidewalk. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Jetting Off

I am in Costa Rica for the next two weeks to see my older sister get married. 
Blog posts will probably be slow but I still hope to take lots of photos and share them here. 

See you back in full swing around August 19th!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Vintage Swimsuits and Summer Fun

Charlotte, North Carolina 1941
I recently discovered a fantastic tumblr page called National Geographic Found. It features forgotten and unprinted photos from the archives of National Geographic magazine. The photos range over one hundred years and were taken all over the globe. This is a small collection of pictures that I enjoyed featuring people having fun in the sun. It is fascinating to look back through time and see common threads that tie us all together. No matter what part of the world or what time period you look at, it seems we can all relate to the pleasure of jumping in cool water on a hot day, playing with sand on the beach, enjoying picnics, and sitting around campfires.