Beyond Leggings—How A NYC Editor/Yoga Teacher Dresses Sustainably & Chicly

February 28, 2018
You only need a few things to wear when you're an on-the-go professional—check out my sustainable staples.

You only need a few things to wear when you’re an on-the-go professional—check out my sustainable staples.

When I first really got into yoga, the idea of wearing “yoga clothes” every day was quite thrilling. Who wouldn’t trade stiff pencil skirts, pinchy heels, control-top stockings (don’t ask), and button-up shirts that *never* seem to fit a woman’s body right, for soft, stretchy, flowy textiles designed to make you move better (and look slimmer, too)? It was a lovely courtship and honeymoon, and all during my yoga teacher trainings, the weekends I spent in leggings, thick socks, and tank tops felt like a clothing liberation. Not only did I feel more open to showing off my body in front of a room of strangers, but I felt good stocking my drawers with items from brands with a yogic mentality—Beyond Yoga and Alo to name a few, both of which focus on sustainability and local manufacturing.

And then the honeymoon ended. I started craving that feeling of polish and sophistication that my old pencil skirts brought me and not even my fanciest athleisure and All Birds sneakers could approximate. Looking in my closet, though, all I could find was the older items I’d bought from companies lacking the ethos I valued, or feeling like they no longer fit into my lifestyle where my days alternate between teaching and taking class, working from home, meeting clients, and working in an office (a relatively chill one, style-wise, but still). I often have multiple changes of clothes squished into my backpack for the whole day, which made luxury pieces less practical. I had a dilemma unsolvable with daily meditation, nor with a Kon-Mari purge of all my things. Because ultimately, buying new, organic, locally-produced items that fell in this multipurpose gray area wouldn’t work for my budget, or for my respect for the planet.

Savvy Sustainable Style Tips

In a true Make it Work moment, I opened my closet one day and decided to see the tried-and-true items therein with a more loving and grateful eye. They each have a big job to help me present my best self to the world, but that doesn’t mean that self is always the same. Just as a yoga sequence comprising the same exact poses can feel different one day to the next, or different when rearranged or set to new music, so could my clothes.

With this attitude, I quickly evaluated (within a few days) which items were best able to serve me over and over, and these have become my version of a capsule wardrobe that each have far surpassed #30wears. The uniform I’ve adopted isn’t restrictive in any sense; instead, I like to think I’m modeling myself after President Obama, in a way, who said that limiting his wardrobe let him focus on more important things…like running the country (or in my case, running my tiny life). These are the all-stars of my even tinier closet, which I love more each time I put them on and remind me that it’s time, repetition, and practice that allow things—and people—to shine their brightest.

J.Crew Pixie Pant

For a while, I didn’t wear pants, only skirts and dresses, due to a dressing room/general shopping phobia. Finding pants is hard, especially when you are oddly proportioned as I am (meaning, I am a human and not a cyborg fit-model). These were a gateway purchase back into the world of pants a) because they fit so easily; and b) because they are basically leggings with just enough detail to make them work-appropriate. I’ve worn these at least once, if not twice, a week through the fall, winter, and spring of the last two years—proof of how well they pair with loose sweaters and more fitted tops (like this from Everlane) alike. Lately, I noticed a bit of popping at the seam from all that love…but nothing my needle and thread can’t address.


Eileen Fisher Organic Cotton Stretch Jersey Easy Pant

A.k.a., the pajama pants. Seriously, these pants are the most comfortable things I own, and offer a welcome reprieve for my legs after being bound up in leggings and tights most of the time. Super lightweight and, again, just drapey enough to be professional but not stuffy. These pants were part of my self-gift upon starting on a new career path, so their eco-friendly nature is bound up with so many good feelings, which I absorb each wear (instead of nasty chemicals and the toxins of factory labor). And since they’re the second of two pairs of pants I own (see #1 above), think I’ll be wearing them tomorrow, in fact…


L.L. Bean Soft Ribbed Striped Sweater

American ease meets French chic in this all-purpose sweater I loved so much that I broke a cardinal rule of mine: never buy two of the same thing. I have this in black/white and white/navy stripes, which comes in handy depending on my mood and the neutral base I’m looking for. Part of why this sweater works so well is because it’s made of super-soft cotton, which transitions so easily in volatile seasons.LLBean-striped-sweater


Cuyana Leather Tote

I know what you’re thinking: come on, Jen, a leather tote bag?! You’re a vegan for Pete’s sake! Hear me out, though: I bought this bag a few years before I went full vegan—another symbolic purchase after what seemed at the time to be a big raise at my job. I coveted this bag for months and felt so gratified that I had something I worked hard for, and that could hold all my stuff while still looking put together. When I transitioned to a vegan lifestyle, I considered donating it but paused: why would I replace a perfectly good bag with a new item, regardless of how cleanly it was made? I had chosen Cuyana in the first place for its “lean closet”/less-is-more ethos and focus on craftsmanship, so I knew these guys were on the same page as me. Now, I still carry the bag with pride as a sign of my sensible decision to #wasteless.


Beyond Yoga Can’t Quilt You Leggings

If you’re looking for soft yoga wear, Beyond Yoga is your new best friend. These are a relatively new item to my closet, replacing a pair I’d worn down into a pile of pills, and I could live in them…and practically do. The quilting doesn’t cause any weird marks as you might expect, and the high waist makes everything look sleek and refined. I love the steel gray color I chose as an alternative to the black-on-black I usually wear, which gives my practice some personality without the screaming neon hues others are brave enough to pull off.


Beyond Leggings—How A NYC Editor/Yoga Teacher Dresses Sustainably & Chicly

What items in your closet have you gone beyond #30wears with? Share your signature looks!

Also by Jennifer: I Tried A Life Without Plastic For One Week & It Was Eye-Opening

Related: Behold: 9 Gorgeous, Ethical Basics for your Capsule Wardrobe

Never Deviate From Your True Style Again—10 Tips For Building A Capsule Wardrobe

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Photos:; Jennifer Kurdyla via Instagram,;;;;,

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Features Editor Jennifer Kurdyla is a New York City girl with Jersey roots and a propensity for getting lost in the urban jungle. An experienced publishing professional, yoga instructor, home chef, sometimes-runner, and writer, she adopted a vegetarian lifestyle in 2008 and became vegan in 2013. She has written for The Harvard Review Online, The Rumpus, and Music & Literature and maintains a wellness-based website, Be Nourished, which features original writing and recipes. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram @jenniferkurdyla, Twitter @jenniferkurdyla, and Pinterest.


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