August 12, 2019 – The Writing on the Wall (OOTD #545)

Here we are: the actual reason for my trip to Israel-Palestine!

I didn’t really discuss this in my blogs from last spring, but I spent a sizable chunk of time before spring break writing a grant proposal to go to Jerusalem to do some research. It was a long shot — I never thought I’d actually get the money to go, and I mostly considered it an experiment with the grant-writing process (which I had only done once before, to go to Vichy for a week-long language intensive in French) that would be useful practice for later.

The plan to go to Israel-Palestine stemmed from the time I’ve spent over the last two years working with the Madrasa Discourses project, for the conciliation of traditional Islamic thought with modernity in India and Pakistan. The idea first came from a friend that I made while in Doha with an MD conference. She was the one who originally proposed turning our experiences with Madrasa Discourses and interreligious dialogue into an independent project, and so I owe it to her for inspiring me to actually go through with the whole undertaking.IMG_5062.jpeg

Though she ultimately couldn’t go, which was a huge factor in determining my level of comfort going to a politically tense area like Jerusalem, I still decided to do it. You don’t get a grant from your university to do research every day — especially when the research takes you to a country and a culture you’ve experienced been before.

There have been many famous walls throughout history – the Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, the of Northern Ireland Peace Lines – and now a new barrier wall has joined their ranks.

This barrier wall is the West Bank barrier, which separates the Muslim-dominant Palestine from the Jewish-dominant Israel. Described by Israelis as a “security fence” (geder-ha-hafrada) and by Palestinians as an “apartheid wall” (jidar al-fasl al-‘unsuri), the barrier has been a subject of controversy ever since its construction began in 2002. Out of controversy and political unrest, however, can spring one of the most passionate and creative forms of self-expression: art.

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Much like what was seen in Berlin and Belfast, artists in Jerusalem have transformed the concrete that separates Israel and Palestine into a canvas for political discussion. On either side of these walls, activists, professional artists, and civilians have used graffiti as a way to express opinions about the situation in Israel-Palestine and the barrier’s existence.

During the course of my one-week journey to Israel-Palestine, I studied this political graffiti on the West Bank border wall, focusing specifically on the area around Bethlehem. My goal was to discover some of the artistic themes on the wall and how those reflected local sentiment about the ongoing Israel- Palestine conflict. More specifically, I wanted to study how the opposing narratives of the border wall as a “security fence,” as it is referred to by many Israelis, or as an “apartheid wall,” as it is referred to by many Palestinians, were evident in the wall’s artwork.

If you’re not familiar with the situation in Israel-Palestine surrounding the border wall, here’s a little context: the border was initially constructed by Israel to protect against extremist Palestinian bombings, and to many Israelis, it has done its job well. In 2004, approval of the wall for Jewish-Israelis was at 78%, with many arguing that it had caused the shift from nearly-weekly bombings in 2003 to only three attacks in 2004. IMG_5087.jpeg

However, though the barrier primarily follows the Green Line (a 1948 armistice border acknowledged by the UN), it swerves east several kilometers to incorporate certain Israeli settlements. To many Palestinians, this is nothing short of occupation and land grab. The wall cuts off many Palestinian citrus and olive farmers from their land, making it difficult or impossible for them to harvest their crops because of the new security checkpoints. Crossing the checkpoints from Palestine-controlled Bethlehem to get into Israel-controlled Jerusalem also poses many problems for Palestinians; people begin queuing hours in advance on weekday mornings so that they can get to their jobs in Jerusalem. Many simply bypass the checkpoints and cross the border illegally every morning instead — something Israeli employers easily take advantage of by refusing to pay “illegal” Palestinians for labor they have already completed.

With this background in mind, I began my preliminary research by taking a graffiti tour with a Palestinian guide. This initial tour was crucial, as he was able to point out key pieces of art (such as those by famous English graffiti artist Banksy) and direct me to other wall-related graffiti that was in the area but not necessarily on the wall itself. I came back at a later date to actually scrutinize individual pieces and photograph the wall itself; this first day was just to get my bearings with the help of a local. With this as my main goal for the day, I was able to relax a little and just enjoy learning.

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Due to the constantly changing nature of graffiti, some of the pieces that I had seen online when I had been doing research for my grant proposal had been completely removed or covered by new pieces of graffiti. For example, one, which had previously depicted President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu in a kiss, had been altered to remove their embrace. It may be interesting to go again in a year or so to see how the visible graffiti has changed — which pieces have been scrubbed away, or covered up by other graffiti, or had their message altered.

My guide also took me into Bethlehem to see a Palestinian refugee camp, where I got to talk to some locals (including an elderly man who rememberd when the Palestinians were orignally evicted from their homes in 1948 during what is known to Israelis as their War of Independence and known to Palestinians as The Nakba, meaning “the Catastrophe” in Arabic). Seeing the lives of Palestinians as they went about their days was honestly just as impactful as the graffiti. At one point, we had to cross into a piece of territory that was technically under the control of Israel. We, as foreigners, were allowed in but our Palestinian guide was stopped by IDF soldiers before he even got to the checkpoint.

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But it wasn’t all politics and gloom — we visited a part of Hebron, where we saw a glassblowing workshop. We also saw the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the (honestly, kind of tacky) Crusade-era church built to commemorate the supposed birthplace of Jesus. And we got lunch at a really lovely Palestinian cafe, which was still open despite the fact that it was a Muslim holiday and most places were closed.

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When I originally wrote this grant proposal, I had hoped to learn about both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict through the artwork on the wall. As it turned out, there wasn’t much artwork on the Israeli side at all, nor was there much artwork on the Palestinian side that might be described as “pro-Israel.” I thought that this might be the case going in — graffiti often being used more as a vessel for protest rather than praise — so my trip helped to confirm my belief.

Because I actually visited Palestine/the West Bank, rather than just viewing images of the wall online, I actually got a sense of what life is like for the Palestinians who live behind the wall. Perhaps most apparent was the great wealth disparity that was immediately visible as soon as I crossed from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. They feel like worlds apart — one is relatively safe, modern, and comfortable, and the other looks more like what you’d imagine a war zone in the Middle East to be. The massive concrete wall, guard towers, and IDF soldiers watching you from above doesn’t help.  

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Do I recommend that you go to the wall itself? Personally, I feel a little conflicted about the concept of political tourism, because actual people’s lives aren’t something to be gawked at and photographed like animals at a zoo — however, it’s critical to educate yourself about the history and political context of the places you go, and one of the best ways to do that is simply to pay a visit to a contested area. Each city has one– it’s Freedom Square in Budapest, it’s the Opéra in Vichy.

As the quote goes, travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. Respect the people you encounter, don’t treat it like it’s another tourist destination for Instagram, and share what you see if it so moves you to consider a different perspective or narrative than you thought you knew.

If you ever get the chance to visit Israel-Palestine, I highly recommend popping over to the West Bank to get the Palestinian story. Whatever you decide, do as the graffiti says and don’t be a brick in this wall. IMG_5145

 

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my trip to Israel-Palestine this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Top: Zara

Coat: Forever21

Trousers: Altar’d State

March 14, 2019 – NYC, 5th Avenue, Juicy Couture (OOTD #471)

What’s the oldest article of clothing in your closet?

A few months ago, I would’ve told you it was this long blue wool dress coat. I just recently gave it away, but I’d had it since I was literally in second or third grade. My mother bought it for me used at a garage sale from a friend with the intention that I’d grow into it, so I didn’t really begin wearing it until fifth grade.

Like I said, I only recently gave it away, and more because it was getting ratty-looking than because it didn’t fit. It was getting a touch small in the sleeves, though, admittedly. I honestly probably would have kept it if not for the fact that I own plenty of coats at this point and I shouldn’t keep accumulating them if I’m not at least getting rid of some old things — e.g., a coat I’d had since I was 8 years old.

The point being, I suppose, that I’m basically the same size as I was in fifth grade. Also that Marie Kondo would hate me.

This plaid blue blue coat (unrelated to the long blue wool dress coat mentioned above) is now probably the oldest item in my wardrobe, but I’m much less willing to part with it. I got it during my first trip ever to New York City from the Juicy Couture store on 5th Avenue. Those three phrases — New York City, 5th Avenue, Juicy Couture — were hugely important to me in 5th grade when I got this coat. They represented the height of fashion at that time, and so receiving this coat as a gift from my parents was a big deal.

And for something that was purchased literally 10 years ago, I think it still looks pretty good. Unlike most of the rest of my 5th grade wardrobe — including Victoria’s Secret PINK yoga pants, Abercrombie t-shirts, and Justice camisoles — it’s stood the test of time.

It is also, admittedly, a little small in the sleeves at this point. We’ll see how much longer it lasts before I’m guilted into getting rid of it to make way for new clothes. But for now, it still “sparks joy,” as Marie Kondo would say.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Coat: Juicy Couture

Dress: Altar’d State

 

February 7, 2019 – Signature Yellow (OOTD #451)

Yellow has somehow become my signature color.

It’s funny, because for years I wouldn’t wear yellow because I thought I couldn’t wear it with my skin tone. All the magazines I read when I was younger said that Asians shouldn’t wear yellow because it would clash with the already yellow-undertones of our skin.

Guess what? That’s a lie. I look great in yellow, and so do other plenty of other Asian women. I don’t know where the idea the idea that all Asians have warm or “yellow” undertones to their skin came from (well, historically, yes I do), and I don’t know who decided we should avoid yellow entirely, because both of those ideas are faulty. I’m Asian, but I don’t have warm-toned skin — in fact, it’s cool-toned. No one tells other racial groups that they all have the same undertones to their skin, because even among members of the same race, there are many variations in skin tone. It’s the same case for Asians.

I can’t wear every shade of yellow — for example, pastel yellow or pale gold tend to wash me out — but I can do a deep, saturated yellow like this shirt here. And it seems that of late, I’ve been wearing the color more and more.

One of my friends, Mariana, has adopted the principle of a “signature color.” In order to create cohesion in her everyday look, she’s chosen a particular color — in her case, red — to buy her accessories in. She has a red laptop case, a red scarf, and a red mug, just to name a few things. It’s a great, easy way to tie things together without getting in the way of whatever she’s wearing and whatever color scheme that ensemble has. She always looks really put together, and I think it’s in part because she has a common motif throughout her accessories.

And so I think I’m going to try it with yellow. I already have a yellow winter scarf and yellow snow/rain boots. I’m not sure how that’s going to work with my camel coat, but I’ll find a way to make it work. I think I feel like yellow is the most unappreciated of the primary colors, and it’s about time it gets some love.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life at Notre Dame. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Jacket: AMIClubwear

Top: Thrifted (Goodwill)

Pants: Altar’d State

 

September 7, 2018 – Plant Aunt (OOTD #368)

Dang, I can’t believe that, with all of my plant-themed blogs, I haven’t used that title before.

I’ve mentioned my interests in plants many, many times before on this blog, but until this year, it hasn’t been much more than just that — a personal interest. This semester, though, I got into a one-credit course called Local Flora, which is about local plant life in Northern Indiana. It’s honestly been one of my favorite classes I’ve taken here at Notre Dame so far, and it has nothing at all to do with my actual academic concentration.

With this class, I get to go out and learn to identify plants. I’m admittedly not that great at it, but I’m learning. Because it has nothing to do with my major, I admittedly don’t devote as much time to doing the readings and homework as I should, or as I would like to.

In some alternate universe, maybe I became a botanist. Realistically though, my interest in plants will likely never amount to anything more than a garden and a collection of indoor potted plants.

I believe that there have to be a lot of alternate universe versions of me that went off and decided to pursue interests other than law and international relations. I hope that one of my alternate selves is an artist, and maybe another took Adv. Human Anatomy earlier than senior year and decided to become a doctor. Maybe one actually decided to pursue a career in the military, like she’d always sort-of considered.

At any rate, I’m here now — and maybe this version of me will end up becoming a famous blogger. I’ve still got my fingers crossed. The YouTube career I’d always wanted as a middle schooler is probably never going to happen, but I’ve still got this. Granted, I’ll never become famous if I continue to put off writing blogs until 9PM at night but…shhhh.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life at home at Notre Dame. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

White Top: Altar’d State

Pink Top: Forever21

Jeans: American Eagle

July 23, 2018 – Meilin The Tomato (OOTD #335)

For whatever reason, I feel like this outfit looks particularly tomato-like.

I definitely get a ketchup impression from the jacket, with perhaps more like vine-ripened tomato vibes from the blouse, especially when paired with the greenery behind me.

Or perhaps I’m simply hungry — I guess that could influence how I see the the outfit. I am rather craving some pizza.

The transition back into work life has been easier than I expected. I guess since I was still actively taking classes and working in Nepal, it wasn’t too bad getting back into a regular 9-5 schedule. Still, packing boxes and doing inventory in the haunted basement of the Kentucky Capitol building is significantly less exciting than you know, wandering about Dhulikhel and stumbling upon ancient temples.

While my work life at home is certainly inferior to what I had going for me in Nepal, I do appreciate some things about being back home — being able to trust that tap water won’t make me sick, eating American food, walking the dog with my mother in the evenings. I am also glad to be able to go outside without being attacked by mosquitoes; I’m still trying to recover from the bug bites and the resulting scars I got in Nepal.

In fact, the other day, I had a dentist appointment, and the first thing the technician said when I sat down was not “have you been brushing?” or even “have you been having any problems with your teeth lately?” but instead “wow, what happened to your legs?” Even she thought I looked like I had some kind of horrible skin condition — and it wasn’t even her job to examine my skin!

It’s fine, I’ll be back in dry, bug-less South Bend soon enough, and there will be plenty of time for my mosquito scars to heal over. Maybe if I’m lucky, they’ll be gone in time for next summer, so I can move back to Kentucky and get even more all over again!

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life at home in Kentucky. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Jacket: Yellowcake Shop

Top: Altar’d State

Jeans: Hollister

July 7, 2018 – I Fell Down A Mountain (OOTD #324)

Oops.

I’m going to cut straight to the moral of the story, here — don’t wear a tea-length skirt hiking in the Kathmandu Valley.

I don’t know how or why anyone would be stupid enough to do that — in fact, I myself am still a little hazy on the details as to how I ended up in a skirt to go hiking. I guess I was hoping to spare the pink trousers I had worn earlier in the day from getting dirty by wearing something I’d already worn and was thus already dirty. It didn’t work. That skirt was plenty dirty by the time we were done.

That’s why we’ve got two very distinct outfits and backgrounds featured in this blog — there was the outfit I wore to class during the day, and then the (poorly chosen) outfit I changed into in the afternoon to go hiking in. Honestly, I should have just stayed in the outfit I went to classes in — it ultimately would have been more practical than the skirt I went with.

After session, a group of us decided to go out, as per usual. We had no particular goal in mind, just wanted to get out of the hotel for a while and stretch our legs. For some reason, I assumed this meant a stroll around town.

What it ended up being was probably the most intense physical activity I did the entire time I was in Nepal. I mean, I’m used to walking, and I’m used to hiking, but I’m not used to sliding down a mountain on my ass in a tea-length skirt. That’s a new one for me.

The nice thing was that after a very steep decline to get down to the main path, the rest of the walk was fairly easy — just a gentle sloping road. It was simply a matter of getting up and down.

Like I said, I slipped and slid most of my way down, leaving myself coated in mud and with a weird rash on my palm from grabbing some plant that I guess I shouldn’t have in order to try to stabilize myself after tripping for the 20th time. ‘Twas an adventure.

We did get to see some cool views of the valley though, and made some stray dog friends who followed us most of the way begging for food. It was a good time, albeit a muddy one.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my trip to Nepal. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Top: Altar’d State

Trousers: The LOFT

June 21, 2018 – Second Chances (OOTD #308)

This was almost the last time I wore this dress.

I’ve had it for a few years, and I was just starting to feel tired of it. You know that feeling? When it’s like you’ve worn a certain piece in all the ways it can be worn, and even if it’s not horribly out of style or ill-fitting, you’re just not interested in keeping it around any more? 

Maybe you haven’t had that experience. I do have a lot an obscene amount of clothes, which means I’m privileged enough to be in a place where I am able to give away clothes simply when I don’t like them any more. I’m spoiled that way; I don’t have to keep clothes out of necessity. I have enough that I’m able to discard things without feeling any detrimental consequences — which I’m very grateful for.

Anyway, this dress is a few years old, and I’ve just never loved it. It comes from the children’s section of J. Crew (what? I’m petite and I can fit into some of the bigger kids’ clothes, and they’re so much cheaper than their adult counterparts!), so the fit is a little more “juvenile.” I thought the pattern and the style were appropriate for an adult woman like myself, though, so I went ahead and bought it.

Still, I just never really managed to get the dress to live up to my expectations of what it should be or how it should look, and even when I was getting dressed the morning of June 21, I just wasn’t feeling it. I resolved to make it the last time I wore the dress, and then I would give up and just get rid of it. 

But then, when I wore this outfit, the craziest thing happened — strangers started complimenting me on my dress! This dress, which I was literally about to give away to Goodwill, was a huge hit. 

Despite the nice things people said to me, I still don’t see what they saw. I don’t hate this dress at all, in fact, I think it’s perfectly fine, but I’m still not sure it’s something I want to keep  in my wardrobe, especially with all of the clothes I already own that I like better. The compliments I got were nice, to the point that I’ve been deterred, at least temporarily, from giving the dress away. 

I don’t know, what do you guys think? Do you like the dress? Should I keep it? Let me know in the comments below!

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life at Notre Dame! Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Dress: J. Crew

Top: Altar’d State

 

 

June 17, 2018 – Dad Day 2K18 (OOTD #305)

It feels weird publishing this Father’s Day blog two weeks after it’s passed, but you know, it happens.

For Dad Day this year, we went out to Louisville to hang out with my grandmother (my father’s mother), get lunch, and otherwise, just chill. It was a very typically Scanish day, involving moderately-priced sit-down food, my grandmother trying to overfeed us, and sitting around and gossiping about my various cousins whom I don’t really know.

We ended up going to Macaroni Grill, if only because the place my dad originally wanted to go was closed. I was happy enough — Macaroni Grill had a pretty bright yellow wall that worked well for taking pictures with, which the other restaurant didn’t.

Not that taking OOTD pretty photos is the most important factor in deterring where to eat for a Father’s Day lunch! I mean, it was his choice, or, I guess, second-choice. I’m just very glad that his second-choice made for a prettier background that his first would have.

Macaroni Grill was my favorite restaurant as a kid, but to be honest, it really didn’t live up to my childhood memories. For one, my favorite old dish, the Pasta Milano, is no longer there, which basically means that Macaroni Grill is dead to me now. There are just better pasta restaurants in the world, you know?

I debated whether or not I should conclude this blog with a “my dad is great!” Father’s Day kind of spiel, but it seems weird to do so since Father’s Day was so long ago. My dad is great though, so I guess the point still stands. And if you’re reading this Dad, hi! I hope you’re doing a good job of keeping my plants alive while I’m gone.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life at Notre Dame! Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Sweater: Altar’d State

Top: Express (thrifted)

Shorts: Francesca’s

Dad: South Jersey

June 3, 2018 – Trendy Brunch Date (OOTD #297)

I’ll let you in on a secret — I think brunch is overrated.

I like the aesthetic of it, I guess — white tablecloths, fresh floral arrangements, elegant baked pastries, and indirect morning light. But in reality, brunch food is overpriced, lousier than real breakfast or real lunch, and not worth the cute table settings and the potential of snapping a good picture. Honestly, you might as well go to a home and garden store, take a picture sitting in a random patio chair, and post that to your social media and tell everyone you had some super expensive brunch.

I make an exception though for my general distain towards brunch for special occasions. I had a good friend come visit me the other day whom I haven’t seen since Thanksgiving owing to us living in different parts of the state and going to different schools, and so brunch seemed warranted.

So why are there no trendy brunch photos in this blog? Well…after spending the money and finding the cute table, we forgot to take any pictures! I guess trendy brunch pictures are just not meant to be for me, at least not today.

The more optimistic way of looking at it is that we were enjoying each other’s company so much, we didn’t feel the need to take a photo to prove to people on social media that we went out and socialized. Imagine that — not taking photos to post to social media when you go out and do something. What a novel concept.

After brunch, it was only fitting that we went out and did more trendy things. We got popsicles, walked around an upscale outdoor mall, and — the most trendy of all trendy things — went to a plant nursery to buy succulents for our mason jars. Just give me my own Good Housekeeping editorial shot already, I’ve gone mainstream.

Again though, I don’t really have many photos of the various things we did together. And I’m okay with that. Taking photos all the time can be taxing, to the point that it hinders one’s ability to actually enjoy what’s going on.

You won’t catch me going off the grid any time soon, though. I enjoy living my social media life of fabricated perfection too much.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life at Notre Dame! Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Jacket: AMIClubwear

Top: Altar’d State

May 2, 2018 – Suddenly Spring (OOTD #278)

I had expressed back in mid April when the temperatures in South Bend were still hitting freezing (freezing! In April!) that I was afraid I might completely miss the spring flowers at Notre Dame, but thankfully, I was wrong!

I’ve never seen foliage come back to life so quickly! Back in Kentucky, the coming of spring is a slow process — first, you have a couple of warm days in early March to get you excited; then, the first trees begin showing buds; then, finally, the home/garden stores start opening up their greenhouse sections and you know that spring is in full swing. The whole process takes about a month.

In South Bend, though, spring came in about a week. One week, it was cold, rainy, and freezing; the next, the flowers were blooming and we were hitting 60 consistently.

It’s been a jarring transition, but one I don’t wholly mind making. I loved winter in South Bend, even with the cold and the snow, but I’m glad it’s still over. I want my winter to end in mid-March (you know, the whole “in like a lion” proverb), not mid-April.

To celebrate the start of spring (and the last full day of classes!), I wore my springiest outfit. It reminded me of something Southern and preppy, like what I might wear back in Kentucky. There’s not a lot of Southern prep going on at Notre Dame, for better or for worse. While it’s not my favorite style ever, I don’t mind it every now and again.

Dress: Lilly Pulitzer

Shirt: Altar’d State