Thursday, February 14, 2019

A simple Valentine's look

Over the years, my Valentine's Day outfits have evolved from basic pink dresses to over-the-top themed ensembles with custom-made jewelry. This year, I'm taking a step back and embracing simplicity.

The downscaling is purely coincidental, since my newest holiday-appropriate clothing just happened to be a rather plain-jane navy blue blouse, but it's fitting, because I also didn't have any plans for the day. Yes, for the first time in 7 years, my Valentine's Day consisted of nothing more than going to work. So dull, so sad. So appropriate that I picked a blue top for this blue day.

I exaggerate the magnitude of my plight, of course. My boyfriend and I went out for dinner last night, and we exchanged Valentine's gifts this afternoon, so I can't claim that romance is completely dead.

But all the same, as far as holidays go, this one was shaping up to be as ordinary as they come, and my outfit was a reflection of that. The only reason you can tell it's a Valentine's Day outfit at all is that there are little hearts all over the blouse, and I wore these cute little heart-shaped earrings. pants are pink.

I almost wasn't going to photograph this look at all, except that blogging my Valentine's Day outfit is practically a tradition now.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

How to make slacks and a button-down fun

Ahh, the button-down shirt and pair of slacks! It's the signature look of office workers everywhere. It's tried and true, always appropriate, but...rarely is it interesting.

Still, if you are consigned to a business casual dress code, there's no reason you have to be resigned to it! There are many things you can do to spice up your workaday clothes, and today I'm exploring a few of them: a cheery color palette, exciting accessories, and a secret theme!

The basis of this outfit is a white button-down blouse and a pair of sage green pants so desaturated they could almost pass for grey. Dull, dull, dull! If this was all I wore to work, I'd cry. And then I'd die of boredom.

Fortunately, the shirt is sleeveless, which means it practically requires something to be worn over it, which means I get an opportunity to play with a cheery color palette! In a particularly formal office, you might go with a blazer, but for most workplaces, a sweater will be sufficient. For my purposes today, I wore a tie-front cardigan in absinthe-green (Pro Tip: When struggling against boredom with your outfit, conjure up fun associations by thinking of the colors in terms of alcoholic drinks!). The green sweater was a great complement to the slightly green pants, so I decided to carry on the tradition with olive green shoes.

Now, it is time to turn our attention towards exciting accessories! While your pants-and-a-shirt outfit is conservative by nature, there are no such limitations on the kind of ornaments you can throw on top. Scarves, jewelry, hair accessories, belts—all of these things and more can be used to add a little oomph to your appearance, and with such a plain backdrop as your clothes, you can afford to make these accessories over-the-top.

For this outfit, the lines of my cardigan and blouse lent themselves well to a long necklace. I searched in vain for the perfect pendant, when I remembered I have this tiered heart necklace that perfectly coordinated with the other greens in the ensemble! At this point, I was wearing so much green that it wouldn't have been a bad thing to pick a necklace in a contrasting hue, but there was a particular reason that the heart necklace was the best choice.

And what was that reason? Why, none other than the secret theme! This is the final way you can have a little fun with fashion while still wearing your boring cubicle uniform.  
On my sweater, the open knit forms little heart-shaped holes running in rows down the surface, so my theme had to be hearts. The little holes are easy to overlook, but that's what makes the theme a secret! Sure, it's pretty obvious when I'm wearing both a heart necklace and matching earrings, but still...even a blatant theme becomes more fun when there's a little reward for the observant hidden elsewhere in the outfit. There's no reason that a theme needs to be as literal as a graphic motif. You could choose something more subtle, like "vertical ribbing," or a theme that only has meaning to clothes you got on vacation, or gifts from someone you love.

Whatever you choose, building your outfit with some guiding principles can make it a little more gratifying to wear...even when, to a casual observer, it only looks like slacks and a button-down.

Monday, February 11, 2019

I'm with the Lonely Hearts Club Band

On Saturday, I was invited to a 1960's/Sergeant-Pepper's-Lonely-Hearts-Club-Band-themed party. That's a mouthful, but more importantly, it's a challenge! How to dress to meet the theme and to do it well enough to win a contest (which I'd heard would be happening)? I didn't know, but I was going to try!

I knew my friend, who was hosting, was planning to dress as Paul McCartney from the cover of said Beatles album, and she was encouraging attendees to dress as other band members. I came very close to going that route, until I noticed this quite 1960's minidress in my closet. Yes, I do wear 60's minidresses as regular clothes. When I wear this one, I usually pair it with pants—it's very mini.

But for a 60's party, I felt I could get away with wearing it over opaque tights, which are another classic look of the decade. I was very fortunate that all the essentials for this costume/outfit were already in my wardrobe. I had my pick of tights in several shades of pink, or white, or ivory. For footwear, I figured I'd wear a pair of pink Mary Jane shoes, which seemed fairly period-appropriate. Fairly, but not quite. When I'm doing retro fashion interpretations, I am really hard on myself if I feel my look isn't historically accurate, and the 3.5-inch heel on my Mary Janes just felt too high for the vibe of the sixties.

So I decided I should look into buying a pair of go go boots (so mod!). The lowest prices were in the high 20's, and those were for eBay auctions that were likely to end at a higher price. If I wanted some go go boots, I was probably going to have to fork over at least 35 dollars—way above my usual budget!  I wrestled with myself for a while, but then I decided to take the plunge. A splurge is worth it if it means winning a costume contest, right? Fortunately, I never did have to justify a splurge to myself. Right before I was about to bid on a 30$-plus auction for some white boots, I ran my search one more time. This time, I hit the jackpot—a silver pair of go go boots with free shipping, for only $6.47! Yeah, baby, yeah!

These boots also have a 3-inch heel, but since the style is otherwise quintessentially 60's, I felt better about the overall look.

Now on to hair and accessories! For earrings and makeup, I looked to Twiggy, fashion icon of the era, as my literal model. Her signature look back in her heyday was huge, overly made-up eyes with multiple pairs of false lashes, plus painted-on lashes on the lower lid. I only have one pair of false lashes, but I did my best, and managed to paint on a decent set of lower lashes after only four attempts!

Huge, glossy dangle earrings seemed like the best jewelry choice, but I didn't really have any in my collection that fit the bill. What I did have, was a sizable collection of Sculpey. I made my own pair of huge heart earrings (another nod to the theme!) and then painted them with silver nail polish, to match the boots. I hung them from extra-long hooks so they would be visible below the bottom of my hair.

Speaking of hair, I was going to attempt it: the big, voluminous, 1960's bouffant with flipped ends! This was of course a bad idea, since my hair does only one thing well: hang straight down. Even after spending the whole day in giant curlers, teasing the roots to within an inch of their life, and spraying it with more hairspray than I have ever employed, I could only manage a limp approximation of the oversized 'do. Well, at least I got the flipped ends halfway decent.

Here we are in a very retro Polaroid!
With that, my costume was done, but I still had time to help my boyfriend with his. I suggested he go for a John Lennon look, since I happen to have a pair of round-lens glasses. To go with it, I suggested he wear a shiny red Indonesian shirt, because it looks vaguely Indian, and the Beatles went through an Indian phase at some point. He originally picked out a wig that I called a "collapsed Afro," (it was period-appropriate enough, albeit in a more Jimi Hendrix way than a Beatles way), but as we were about to leave the house, I remembered he has a messy brown wig that I thought would look a little more like John Lennon's hair.

I'm glad I thought of that, because he got nothing but compliments about his costume. I did too, so I consider all the effort well worth it...even though I didn't win a prize. I don't think anyone got a prize, because by the time we left, the party was winding down, and no costume contest had been had. So I'll have to consider myself a winner in my own eyes.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

(Ti)red and (Bo)red

The only reason I'm posting today's outfit is because it showcases a moderately interesting tailoring technique I'd like to share (oh, and also those new granny shoes I'm so inexplicably proud of).

The tailoring technique can be covered in a brief paragraph.

See, when I got the dress, it was too loose, and the saggy detailing around the waistband made it look extra-frumpy. If I wanted to actually resize that waistband to fit, I would have had to unstitch a lot of layers and recreate a lot of complicated twists and gathers, and I just didn't feel up to it. Instead, I took the lazy way out, making it tighter in the back, out of sight. I stretched a piece of elastic across the seam in the back, sewed it down, and voila! I had a fitted waist!

Now let's stop talking about this boring outfit. It is so deadly dull. I am so done with red!

Ever since the influx of red hit my wardrobe back in fall of 2016, I haven't really been able to shake it.

I rarely blog outfits featuring the color (maybe because I find it so boring), but lately it seems like a disproportionately large number of my clothes contain it.

I somehow have become the owner of four pairs of red tall boots, two pairs of red ankle boots, two pairs of red flats, and one pair of red pumps. I have three pairs of red pants and two red cardigans. Surprisingly, I've got only one red pullover, but four of my winter dresses are either red or red-accented, and three of my skirts. Enough al"red"y! I don't even like red that much!

I can't figure out why I have so much red stuff when I'm not really drawn to it, but I guess it's just a matter of availability. When you do all your shopping secondhand, and you find a garment you like, you don't get to choose what color it is. It comes in the color it comes in, and that's that. So when I needed some new long-sleeved dresses this fall, somehow the only ones that suited my requirements for length and features were all predominantly red. When I wanted some colorful pants to add variety to my collection, somehow the only options were red. Even when buying new, as I often do for shoes, I have found that the most plentiful non-neutral color out there is almost always red (for example, on ShoeDazzle, I found 54 styles of red boots, but only 5 each of green and purple).

Two days ago, when I was planning my outfit and realized that literally every single unworn thing I could choose from was red, all of a sudden, I couldn't take it any more (that was the moment I mentioned I "finally snapped.") I was sick to death of red. Once, in the past, I had to make a conscious effort to stop buying everything in green. Now I think I'm going to have to declare a moratorium on red.

Red, you're dead!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Outfit That Picked Itself

Back when I worked in a grocery store, and my hardest style decision was which T-shirt to wear with my jeans, I developed a system to ensure all my T-shirts got equal wear. I kept them all in a stack in a drawer (imagine, being able to get all your T-shirts in a single stack!) and, whenever I got dressed, chose the one on the top. When I returned freshly washed T-shirts to the pile, I put them at the bottom, so I had a continuously cycling selection of T-shirts.

Although I've had to make some modifications to accommodate the much more prodigious size of my clothing collection these days, I still use this system throughout my closet. I keep all my sweaters in a stack (OK, seven stacks, arranged roughly by color, including 2 stacks of neutrals that hide in the back of the closet), and put my freshly cleaned sweaters at the top of their respective stacks (I switched to top-loading, because it's easier to remove one sweater from the bottom of a stack than to shove several sweaters under there on laundry day).

This gives me a pretty good idea of what I've worn recently and what I haven't, and this light blue sweater, standing out like a beacon at the bottom of my blue-green pile for months, had definitely not been worn recently. I've been on a One New Thing spree that has seen me mostly dressing in a series of neglected cardigans and vests (they'd piled up, as my use of layering pieces drops off heavily once the fickle weather of fall gives way to winter). But yesterday, I just snapped. I couldn't bear to build one more outfit around any of the New Things that still remained. I just had to reach into my collection of Old Things and wear something that was long overdue: the light blue sweater.

Since the sweater was next up in the rotation of blue and green sweaters, you could say that the sweater picked itself...and the remaining elements of the outfit sort of did the same. I wanted to bring some serious color into this outfit, and what happened to be at the bottom of my pile of colored skinny jeans (which I also try to wear in a rotation), but this dark eggplant-hued pair? Purple and blue are a good combo any day, and having them both come up for top consideration at the same time? That was a match made in heaven!

The next pieces in the ensemble were just as easy to select as the shirt and pants had been. I had an unworn pair of purple boots that would make a nice tonal pairing with the different-hued purple jeans, requiring almost no decision-making and neatly taking care of my One New Thing requirement. I also had an equally unworn purple necklace/earring set that was overdue for its debut, so it was a no-brainer for my accessories.

Ta-Da! In very short order, I had a fully analogous-color outfit ready for wearing, and it didn't require any thinking on my part!

Kind of a digression, but do take a closer look at the necklace/earring set. It's made of a stone I'd never heard of called solar quartz. It's dyed (the natural color is clear), but I'm very excited to add some mineral jewelry to my collection. I think natural crystals might become my next fashion passion!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Friday Fun?Day

I think the only time I can get away with wearing graphic printed leggings at work is on Friday Funday. So I did it!

The printed graphic leggings in question are the last of the many pairs that my boyfriend bought me, cheery enough in a kind of wintry way, with their white snowflakes and cute little trees.

But that's where the fun ends. The rest of the look takes on a decidedly gothic tone, with nothing but shades of shadow and blood.The leggings are otherwise black. The dress is black. The scarf I draped over my shoulders like a shroud is deep dark red, as are my boots. The earrings are positively vampirish in their antique splendor and crimson hue.

Undereye circles worthy of the undead!

So what is this outfit? Is it fun or is it depressing? Can it be both at once? Does it matter? Does anything really matter?

Just kidding! Lighten up, you downer! Just look at how I tied my scarf to my waist with the dress' built-in sash! With styling techniques like that to cheer us up, how could things be anything but fun!?

Monday, January 28, 2019

Cozy 2.0

In 2014 (I know, because I found an old Tweet about it), Body Central was selling a style of sweater they called their "Cozy." It was a pretty cool concept—a long-line open-front cardigan that could be worn 10 different ways. Naturally, I never even knew the Cozy existed until Body Central went out of business and, I'm guessing, sold off all its inventory to outlets like, where I have purchased a number of new-with-tags Body Central products over the past couple years.

Well, perhaps I went a little overboard, but I bought 4 Body Central Cozies last year. What's weird about all this Cozy-collecting? I don't even like the way they look on me!

I've tried hard to hide it with artful posing, and by pinning it into an entirely different shape the two times I pictured a Cozy in the blog, but, to be perfectly honest, the Cozy does not really suit me – it just dangles off my huge shoulders like a huge cape. I feel like a Roman Centurion. There's just too much fabric to look graceful when draped over my disproportionate frame.

However, all was not lost! I made a few tweaks that made my first Cozy look slightly better on me. I have done this twice now—the red one was my first attempt, then I repeated the process on the yellow one.

I find that my oversized shoulders generally look better when defined by crisp, straight lines without a lot of attention-grabbing detail. The shoulder seams on the original garment were actually not shoulder seams at all, but angled up from a point in the middle of my chest. So my first trick was to return the shoulder seams back to the area of my shoulders!

In the picture, the left side is finished, while the right still shows the angling original seam.
I just lifted the fabric until the seam was parallel with my shoulder line, then pinned and stitched the front to the back. (Did this all inside-out, of course!)
Here's an inside view of the new seam.
Here's an outside view! I accidentally sewed a little offset from the original seam, but it turned out to be a happy accident, because I liked the look of the resulting double seam.

With the shoulders now duly defined, I turned my attention to the drape of the garment. Another trick I've noticed for getting clothes to look OK on me despite my shoulders, is to make sure that they give some hint of a waistline beneath. It's a clue to the observer that even though my shoulders take up a lot of space, the rest of me is not the same.

There was no side seam on the Cozy, so I decided to let it drape from the armpit, and picked a point that was directly below that to serve as my new bottom edge. Then I connected the armpit to that point with a curving seam to mimic a waistline. 

Here's a side-by-side of an unaltered Cozy (yellow) next to one I modified (red). The differences are subtle. Nearly invisible. Possibly completely invisible. But at least I tried.

My first newly refined Cozy looked marginally better than the old one, but still not good enough to warrant the purchase of more! But I'd already bought a second one (the aqua one) at the same time. Then I found a leopard one for only $1.80. I could see it still had the instruction tag on it, and I wanted to be able to learn the 10 ways that the Cozy is supposed to be worn (maybe I'd be able to make better use of the two I already had)! Also, I might have gotten sucked in by all the hype around leopard print.) So I bought the third one. Once armed with the knowledge of 9 additional ways to wear a Cozy, I saw the golden one for sale, and I felt confident I'd be able to style it in lots of exciting ways. So suddenly I found myself the proud owner of four Body Central Cozies.

After modifying the gold one in the same way as I'd done the red one, I finally branched out and wore the Cozy in one of its nine alternative stylings—jauntily wrapped over one shoulder like a huge scarf!

*Note that wrapping things around one's shoulders without defining one's arms or waist is probably the last thing one wants to do if one is sensitive about the size of one's shoulders, but I really had to try something new. Maybe I look huge, but I do like the asymmetrical result. The side seam that I added in becomes clearly visible when worn at this angle, which I think adds a little visual interest!

The sweater also brings out one of the accent colors on this new pair of bold floral boots, which put a literal spring in my step in these dark days of winter!