The Vintage Vegan – Interview with LJ Steinig

One of the things that I love about being vegan is that you become part of a really cool community.  Here in Philly I am super lucky to be part of the Philly Vegan Lady Gang which was the brain child of the fabulous LJ Steinig.  She created this group as a way for vegan ladies in Philly to get to know each other, hang out and eat good vegan food, and be a source of information and support. When you meet LJ you will be won over by her enthusiastic and energetic personality, I know I was.  In addition to having a stand out personality, LJ also has a fabulous sense of style.  Her wardrobe is filled with amazing vintage vegan finds.  So my lovely vegan fashionistas, today I share with you a bit of insight into vegan vintage expert LJ with this one on one interview.

How long have you been vegan?

I’ve been vegan for 7+ years.

What made you decide to become vegan?

In 1989, I came home from an Earth Day celebration and announced that I wanted to be a vegetarian and my mom laughed at me because I was a VERY picky eater. I didn’t follow through, but the seed was planted. Years later, during my yoga teacher training in 2005, I learned about the concept of Prana (life force). I realized that consuming animals meant consuming the opposite of life force, meant consuming death and sadness and fear, and I wrote a note in the margin of my copy of the Yoga Sutras, “good argument for being vegan!” It still took me another four years to get here, but when I finally did, it was for the animals first, for the environment second, and better health, well that was just frosting.

How would you describe your personal style?

Comfortable Vintage Happiness. What a fun question! I liked thinking of a “label” for how I dress. Comfortable because comfort is actually the most important thing to me. Like you will mostly find me in sneakers (high heels make me so unhappy). And I’ve just always been most comfortable in dresses. Vintage because I am obsessed with vintage dresses (and vintage lamps, Pyrex, and books, hahaha). And Happiness because I wear a lot of bright colors that make me, and I think other people, really happy! I’m actually smiling right now just glancing over at my closet because it’s so full of color.

How does being vegan influence your style?

I always considered myself an environmentalist, even before I was vegan, which is why I started shopping at thrift stores and flea markets in the first place. If I can Reduce by Reusing before I even have to Recycle, for me, that’s the best way to shop. So much of “fast fashion” ends up in a landfill a season after it was bought, and I just can’t be part of that pattern. I wear my clothes until they fall apart, and then if I can, I get them mended. If I don’t wear something anymore, I would never consider just throwing it away; instead I will sell, swap, or donate it to an organization I believe in (usually Philly Aids Thrift).

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Some of LJ’s other vintage finds

In additional to environmental concerns, being vegan has also tuned me in to human suffering. Not only does “fast fashion” end up in a landfill, but it’s often made by women and children working in sweatshops, which often have very long hours and deplorable conditions. I want to do the very best I can to avoid contributing to their suffering. 50 years ago, clothes were made to last by human beings who were treated with dignity. I like to look for the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) tag in my dresses, because it means they were well made by people who were treated fairly.

You are an expert vintage shopper, what tips would you give others who want to shop vintage?

Enjoy the search. If you’re in the Philadelphia area, check out vintage stores like Retrospect and Sazz and vendors at the Phila Flea Market like Edna’s Mod Vintage and Kitty Cat Antiques, and just see what catches your eye. Try stuff on–I wear leggings & a tank to the flea market, which makes trying things on in public much easier. And don’t be afraid to try something that’s too big or too long or too anything–you have to be able to see the potential in a piece, and you have to remember, anything can be altered. Which leads me to my last piece of advice–find a good tailor you trust. A friend recently asked how all of my dresses look like they’re made for me; the answer is that they are. They’ve all be expertly tailored to fit my body (Philly people: I recommend Yoon’s on the corner of 11th & Pine).

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One of LJ’s vintage dresses before and after tailoring
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One of LJ’s vintage dresses before and after tailoring

Could you share with us you very favorite outfit and what makes it so special?

This was so hard! I narrowed it down to two: the dress I wore to my 42nd birthday party and the dress I plan to wear to my 43rd!

The first one I found at the flea market after I had nearly given up hope in finding my perfect birthday dress! Pink is my favorite color, and I love how the pattern looks like one of those swirly balloons that I seem to remember from the 70s or 80s. It was only $15 and it fit me perfectly with no alterations, not even for length!

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One of LJ’s favorite outfits!

I apologize for the mirror selfie of the second one: I wore it to a fundraiser for Woodstock Farm Sanctuary in June and I probably won’t get this dressed up again until September. I love the geometric pattern of this dress, and anything black & white is always striking. Also, it has pockets! What I’m especially proud of in this picture though, is my shoes. Those t-strap Mary Janes are my first pair of really nice shoes from an ethical vegan designer (SUSI Studio), which is clearly your influence! Notice, of course, that they are definitely not high heels!

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Another of LJ’s favorite outfits with her SUSI Studio vegan shoes!

A big thanks to LJ for sharing some of her insights on veganism and her amazing personal style!

What are your thoughts on vintage shopping?  Do you have a favorite spot for vintage finds in your city?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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