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Darby Minow Smith's Posts

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From muumuu to Miu Miu: Turning thrift-store rejects into cute couture (SLIDESHOW)

Jillian Owens dyes, snips, and sews landfill-bound secondhand clothing deemed too ugly or damaged to sell. The envy-worthy results are donated to a charity shop, where the proceeds go to a women’s shelter. Get inspired by her remakes -- and head to her blog for a look at the process.

Read more: Living

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H & Ahem: Cheap clothing hurts the planet, the economy, and your style

Off Target: Your money goes further when you spend it on quality products -- and it's more satisfying, too.

I really thought I was above binge shopping. But on a recent trip to Target, the women’s clothing section quickly pulled me in with trendy pastels, $19 dresses. The moments clawing through racks under fluorescent lights are a blur -- but unfortunately, the resulting bright purple shorts are all too real. They remain at the bottom of my closet, a (literally) uncomfortable reminder of the irresistible pull of cheap fashion.

Ring a bell? It's no accident. The fashion industry has sped up and priced down to the point where a common shopping trip can make you feel like you’ve doubled down on a Double Down: bloated, unsatisfied, and foolish for indulging in something so trendy and cheap.

Elizabeth Cline was all-too-familiar with the feeling. “I had gotten to a point where I really wouldn’t buy any clothing if it was over $30 and I owned almost 400 pieces of clothes as a result,” Cline says. The Brooklynite was curious as to how clothing had gotten so cheap and why it felt like her huge closet lacked substance and any sense of personal style.

So she set out on a nearly three-year journey behind the scenes of the fashion industry, traveling from sweatshops in China to overflowing Goodwills to a mostly shuttered New York garment district haunted by ghosts of U.S. industry’s past. The resulting book, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, is a revealing look at how fashion arrived at where it is today. Before you write off apparel as low-hanging Fruit of the Loom, keep in mind that clothing is easily the second largest consumer sector, after food. I chatted with Cline about how cheap clothing cramps our style, our economy, and our planet.

Read more: Living

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Hot tram! Old trolleys are the new classic cars [SLIDESHOW]

After nearly going extinct in the ’60s, vintage streetcars are returning to the rails in downtowns from Philly to San Francisco. These electric-powered trams are so painstakingly restored, they make classic T-Bird owners look like chumps. Here's what it looks like when mass transit goes retro.

Read more: Transportation

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Out of reach: How sprawl jacks up the cost of ‘affordable’ housing

Each year, U.S. taxpayers spend billions to subsidize affordable housing for low-income Americans. It’s an important part of the social safety net we’ve built to keep families and the elderly from falling through the cracks. But there’s a problem: A lot of that housing has been built far away from public transit, schools, and jobs. As a result, residents drive long distances, burning gobs of gas -- and huge holes in their wallets -- in the process.

For many residents of affordable housing, transportation and housing costs eat up over half of their income. For a struggling family, this can make healthy food, higher education, and health care seem as far-fetched as President Newt.

Lately, however, there’s been a push to alleviate transportation costs for low-income families. Efforts on the state level show some promise, and officials at the federal level are expressing interest as well.

Read more: Sprawl

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Love fast food, America? Well then, why don’t you marry it?

"No."

Still reeling from your failed marriage proposal to Jack in the Box's bacon? (Don't take it personally -- bacon always leaves a greasy trail of heartbreak.) Cheer up, meatlover: You can still make that fast-food-themed forever commitment -- but this time, with a human! And it only costs $10,010. Thanks for saving Valentine's Day, Pizza Hut!

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Seeing red: Where do the GOP candidates stand on urban issues?

Photos by Gage Skidmore.

How times change. Four years ago, a Washington Post op-ed gushed that the Democratic primary had turned into “a sharp competition among the leading candidates to become champions of urban America.” Skip ahead to the 2012 Republican primaries, and cities are getting dissed. Big time.

The national Conference of Mayors is having its annual meeting in Washington this weekend. Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Rick Perry were all invited. Romney said he had a scheduling conflict. (OK, fair’s fair: The South Carolina primary is a legitimate excuse -- but he couldn’t swing by Sunday? Oh, right.) The other two didn’t even bother to reply. The chorus seemed to be: “Cities -- who needs ’em?”

Truth be told, cities won’t likely decide this election. America is still firmly rooted in the suburbs. (Emily Badger wrote in The Atlantic Cities last week that both Romney and President Obama have drawn most of their campaign cash from the “moneyed ’burbs.”) But this is just the latest in decades of insults slung at cities by Republicans in Washington.

“The core of the Republican constituency in metropolitan America are the growing, racially and economically exclusive ‘outer suburbs’ whose privileged status Republicans seek to protect at all costs,” former Albuquerque Mayor David Rusk told Daniel Denvir in his excellent primer on the subject for Salon.

But the Republicans currently taking pot shots at each other in the presidential primary never cease to surprise. While there has been almost no mention of urban policy on the campaign trail, a look at their sordid pasts reveals that (surprise!) some of them have actually had some sensible ideas over the years, albeit often grounded in some pretty weird logic. Here’s a quick peek.

Read more: Cities, Politics

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An act of dog: Why climate change is like walking Fido [VIDEO]

What can't you use dogs to illustrate? A new video offers a very simple explanation of the relationship between climate and weather. The next time someone in a parka snickers about Al Gore, send them this: Looks like a harsh wiener.Photo: Jonathan GillSo, if weather is a dog, and climate is the dog walker, we should be working on trading the pair for a kitten on a turtle. Any questions? (h/t Climate Central)

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Spies among us: Café Nordo’s sustainable dinner theater

Photo: John CornicelloI'm on Pan Am Flight 892, en route to the 1962 World's Fair. Only this is no ordinary airline food, and there are spies slinking among the seats. This is To Savor Tomorrow, the latest production from Seattle theater company Cafe Nordo. It's the company's fourth foray into dinner theater -- although I wince calling it that. Whereas the term conjures up mediocre food and mildly entertaining shlock, Nordo has a refreshing take on the form. Stewardess with "dwinkies"Photo: Alabastro PhotographyAlongside zany, gastronomic fare, made from local sustainable ingredients, they tell compelling stories that illuminate the very foods …

Read more: Food

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No girls allowed: Dr. Pepper's latest is dudes-only

Thank godessa.Image: Dr. Pepper Snapple GroupThe internet is fizzing over a new diet soda marketed strictly to men from, of all companies, Dr. Pepper. In a wildly misguided effort to get Bro Six-Pack to start calorie-counting, they've deployed an array of Axe-Deodorant-style "viral" marketing initiatives that are about as stale and musky as Tim Allen's man-cave. And boy oh boy, is "Dr. Pepper Ten" corny. From the AP: Instead of the dainty tan bubbles on the diet can, Ten will be wrapped in gunmetal grey packaging with silver bullets ... A Facebook page for the drink contains an application that …

Read more: Food, Scary Food

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You win some, you booze some

Green-minded dinner theater's 'Sauced' buzzworthy, but not intoxicating

The saucy crew of Sauced.Photo: Cafe NordoTake the backroom of Theo Chocolate in Fremont, Seattle. Add creative interpretations of bar food made from local, sustainable ingredients. Mix in carefully-constructed cocktails from America's best bartender, original jazz scores, booze's fascinating history, stunning women in stunning vintage, an actor who talks exactly like an old-timey radio announcer, and a tale of twisted, tainted love. What do you get? No, not the strangest, most analogy-strained drink ever. It's Sauced, the third production from innovative dinner theater Cafe Nordo. I attended Nordo's second production, Bounty! An Epic Adventure last spring and had just that. …

Read more: Food, Living