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This Is a Story About Loss by Stephie Grob Plante
The headline says it all: this is a story about loss, of things and of people. Alabama's Unclaimed Baggage Center acts as the backdrop for Stephie's massive, moving meditation on grief and God. (You should also read Stephie on the world's preeminent toddler style blogger and a secretive Christian clothing chain.)
The Great Weed Rebrand by Chavie Lieber
As Racked's features reporter, Chavie could fill a list of her own (Gwyneth! Marc! Jessica!), but her magnum opus, at least for 2015, is this piece on Colorado's cannabis lifestyle industry. It starts with stoned yoga and somehow gets even better from there.
Playing Snooki by Mary H.K. Choi
Snooki was one of the first to ride the wave of reality TV celebrity, but what happens now? She attempts to conquer the fashion world, of course. In this funny and honest profile, Mary is very fair to a person people are never particularly kind to.
Everything Is for Sale by Helen Rosner
This may be the only story about microeconomics that will make you weep. We sent Helen on a 700-mile road trip along the country's longest yard sale and what she came back with is an astonishing piece about, among many other things, the value of our stuff.
Infiltrating Makeup Alley by Claire Carusillo
Makeup Alley is a message board that predates pretty much every other existing online community, having been founded all the way back in 1999. It's populated almost entirely by women, all hardcore beauty obsessives. This delightful read involves lipstick, far-flung friendships, and trolls, some of whom Claire fell victim to.
American Apparel's Worker Revolt by Erika Adams
The downward spiral of American Apparel has been well-documented, but there is so much more bubbling just beneath the surface. Erika met with protesters outside the company's Los Angeles headquarters to investigate what exactly is going on with the workers' unionization efforts — and how Dov Charney figures in.
The Fast, Furry Rise of the Instagram-Famous Pet by Kyle Chayka
Kyle went deep on the internet's most viral animals. Meet the dogs (and cats, and even hedgehogs) and owners (slash managers) who help each other play the fame game to absurd, and often adorable, effect.
All Dolled Up by Julia Rubin
I feel weird putting one of my own stories on here, but this feature on American Girl got a big response. It's clear that people care a lot about a company that cares a lot about 9-year-old girls. Another girl-centric story that got plenty of play, and happens to be on the other end of our coverage spectrum, is this piece on Suicide Girls.
If You Give a Hunk a Cookie by Meredith Haggerty
Crosby Tailor is an impossibly handsome man who makes impossibly healthy cookies. (But really, impossibly healthy: these are cookie are made of fat.) Besides being a so-called ketogenic cookie guru, he's also a model, health coach, and social media star. He took Meredith to a cryotherapy center. This is peak 2015.
The Big, Weird Business of Prom by Lauren Sherman
At Atlanta's World of Prom trade show, Lauren saw more bedazzled dresses than you can imagine and met the people who make a living selling them. On a related note, another Lauren hit from this year is her revealing feature on the rebirth of David's Bridal.
HSN and the Power of the TV Shopper by Tiffany Yannetta
Some of the most brilliant companies are the ones we don't necessarily think too much about. HSN is one of those companies, and Tiffany went down to St. Petersburg, Florida to find out its secrets to success. Among those secrets: targeting a demo the rest of the retail industry ignores — middle-aged women.
Why Are Sports Bras So Terrible? by Rose Eveleth
The patriarchy! Kidding, kind of. Bouncing breasts are only just now getting the scientific attention they deserve, and Rose looked into why that is. The researchers at the forefront are, obviously, some badass women, but the issue is more complex than you might think.