Thursday, June 14, 2018

A blazer, a vest, and a bird-covered dress

This hand-me-down blazer didn't seem a likely candidate for my permanent collection, what with its puffed sleeves and extremely tight fit, but it did have something going for it: a cute neckline. I liked the curved lapels and neatly cinched waist. If I removed the sleeves, I thought it might make a useful vest.

What follows is my favorite method for converting a sleeved shirt into a sleeveless one.

Since the place where the sleeves meet the bodice already comes with a neatly sewn seam, it makes a really nice edge for the new armhole.

Cut off the sleeve, leaving a half-inch or so attached to the bodice.

Sometimes, I double-fold the hem to completely protect the raw edge, but that's finicky, time-consuming, and hard to get right on the first try, so for my own convenience (especially when sewing something I'm not sure I'll like anyway), I usually just leave the raw edge uncovered and zigzag stitch over it to help stop fraying (in the picture, it's the row of stitches on the right—pictured after I'd already finished the project.)

Once the raw edge is somewhat finished, I fold the fabric to the inside of the armhole, pin liberally, and stitch it down with a narrow hem (Photo shows the bottom of one of the armholes after sewing was complete).

Normally, I'd call it finished right about here, but with this particular garment, I wasn't quite done, because it was tight as a corset! To buy myself a little more comfort, I opened up most of the seams around the sides and back. They had been originally made with two rows of stitches (shown in picture), so I removed the innermost row on each of four seams, gaining about an inch of total breathing room.

Since the remaining seams were rather weakly serged, I reinforced each one with a single row of straight stitches.

At the bottom and top of each seam, the construction was a little more complicated. To do it right, I would have had to pick out and re-sew a number of seams. But I did it the lazy way and just left those parts untouched. So if you're looking closely, you can see puckering where the parts I opened meet the parts I didn't open. Later, I may revisit those seams to see if I can taper them more gracefully, but for the vest's first wear, I kept them as-is.

I finished this project in the fall, but I don't have much use for vests in the winter (as I mainly use them to cover up bare shoulders and backless dresses), so the vest's first day of employment came in June, when I wore it to office-ify a spaghetti-strap sundress. 

I love this dress—I love the birds on it and the high-low hemline (even though those have mostly gone out of fashion again) and the way it flows in the breeze...but I'm not sure I love it with this vest. I thought the tailored vest would help anchor the dress into a more business-casual aesthetic, but after wearing the combination for a day, I'm pretty sure they still look like mismatched pieces I tried to kluge together. Maybe I'll try again with a less fanciful dress, but the future's not looking bright for the wearability of this vest.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Pink Lemonade

Pure summer fun, is all I need to say about this outfit!

(But naturally, I'm going to say more!)

The shirt is the only thing I'm wearing that I haven't worn a million times before, but its pinks and yellows are so bright and cheerful, it can't help but make the whole outfit seem exciting!

I combined it with a white skirt, pink wedge sandals (already my most-worn sandals of this summer), and yellow rectangle earrings, which look like they were just made to go with this shirt! Success!

There, all done. I didn't need to say much more after all.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Throwaway


Sometimes – frequently – I wear outfits I like to call "throwaways." They're the slacks-and-a-nice-shirt kind of outfits you throw together in two minutes, throw on and wear for a day, and then throw all memory of to the wind. Next to the re-wears and failed experiments, they comprise the vast majority of outfits that don't make it into my blog.

I thought Tuesday's outfit was going to be a throwaway. I've worn this dress more times than I can count, but I've never blogged it. I don't really hate it, but I don't really love it. It's not especially well fitting (#broadshoulderproblems!) but not ugly enough to toss. It's just kind of there, an island of ordinary in a sea of statement pieces, waiting in my closet for a time when I don't feel like putting a much effort into planning my attire.

It was not that time on Monday night. Monday night, I was all gung-ho to find another creative getup to rival the fancy pants I'd worn that day. I was thinking wild colors, some artistic layering, maybe experimenting with something brand new. There was only one problem—I had a meeting in the morning. By now, you've probably got a feel for my office dress code (there isn't one!). I'd be well within my rights to show up to a meeting dressed in any of my craziest clothes. But the self-imposed dress code I place on myself said otherwise. My personal dress code advises, when in a formally scheduled discussion — even with two people who have seen you in your greenest of hair and never batted an eyelid — you should make an effort to direct attention to what you say, not how you look. And that means for a meeting, you need to take down the crazy to at least a 5.

So my dress code dictated conservative; the weather forecast dictated short sleeves; the first item I found in my closet that fit the bill was this green dress.

I've worn this dress so many times, I'm tired of it, but since my options were limited by the circumstances, I decided to settle for the old and trustworthy. Of course, old and trustworthy also means boring, and boring means any outfit featuring it would have to be a throwaway. So I put minimal effort into deciding on shoes and accessories.

The colors of the dress happened to look cute next to the chocolatey shade of an unworn pair of brown sandals I had sitting around, so I decided to go with brown as the accent color, and I was even a little excited about it! The outfit might be a throwaway, but at least it was going to involve a new pair of shoes! I set out all my brown jewelry, and a couple of brown belts, and resolved to pick the best combination of accessories when I got dressed in the morning.

When that time arrived, I decided it was too cold for sandals—so much for the one new and exciting part of my ensemble! I switched to one of my oldest pairs of shoes – my brown high heels – picked one of the belts, decided the necklaces didn't really work with the belt but this pair of carved wood earrings worked perfectly, and headed out the door.

When I arrived at the office, I was wearing a dress that bores me, accessorized with all brown (definitely somewhere near the bottom of the list of interesting colors), and complacent in the belief that my outfit was a solid throwaway. That is, until I happened to glance in the full-length mirror in the bathroom. I actually looked good! (I mean, you know, insert modest qualifiers here...) The dress has a pretty well defined waist on its own, but the belt really enhanced my figure and served to add that missing element of interest to what was formerly just a simple striped dress. I don't often wear belts, but this was a reminder that I should try more often!

Style Tip If you're bored with your shoes, jewelry, toppers, and scarves, try accessorizing with a belt!

Meanwhile, the shoes and earrings added a few more balanced touches of brown, and the height of the shoes seemed just right for the proportions of the clothes.

Maybe was just in a good mood and am inclined to excessive levels of enthusiasm for an ordinary outfit...or maybe this unusually successful outfit was why I was in such a good mood. But either way, Tuesday's outfit felt pretty good, and I'm delighted that my throwaway turned into a keeper!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Fancy Pants

My search for the perfect wide-leg pants continues! This latest pair is probably my favorite find yet, because unlike the butterfly pants and the jade/gold ones, these pants are long enough to wear with heels, and unlike the navy palazzo pants, they are decorated with a veritable riot of colors! Ironically, these strengths are also their downfall, as they are so long, they drag on the ground despite my 3-and-a-half-inch heels, and the colors are so riotous, I had a dickens of a time finding a shirt that looked good with them!

I wore the cardigan most of the day to keep warm, but I much prefer the sleeveless look
that I sported once I took it off in the afternoon.
Ultimately, I decided on an unexciting white sleeveless blouse and white cardigan. I do wish I'd been able to find a necklace or different-colored sweater to break up the vast expanse of white, but I like to match. And as I've mentioned before, geometric shapes aren't really my thing, and the bold shades in the pants are somewhat lacking in my color arsenal. So I settled for a pair of earrings that at least included navy blue.

Despite all the challenges the pants presented, I'm really thrilled to have added them to my wardrobe. I can't wait to step further out of my color and pattern comfort zones to better accessorize them in the future. 'Til next time!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Multi-purpose poncho

A poncho is not the most flattering garment on a broad-shouldered girl such as myself, but sometimes I just can't resist the allure of elegantly flowing clothes!

When I saw these two gorgeous butterfly tops on for 3 dollars each, I knew I wanted them. I hoped that the fabric would be sheer enough that you could see through it, mitigating the body-widening effect of draping any piece of clothing off the widest part of one's body. Failing that, I figured I could cut some strategic holes in them and turn them into flutter-sleeve or open-shoulder tunics.

Sadly, the ponchos were even worse than I had originally thought. It was immediately clear that they had been cheaply made. The neck holes were finished with a hideous shoddy stitch in obtrusively white thread, and the neckline itself was wavery and uneven. I could have returned the disappointing schmattes, but I still could not resist their allure. I was compelled to find a way to repair them.

First off, I let them sit in my Projects Box for around 9 months. Then I upgraded my Projects Box to a Projects Cart and let them sit for a few months more. When spring approached for the second time, I knew I shouldn't procrastinate any longer. 

Part 1: A better poncho

When it came time for action, I was remarkably decisive.

With hardly any trepidation, I set into the blue poncho. I cut off the ragged parts of the neckline, and shaped it into a circle. I felt this would be more flattering on me, as wide necklines help downplay my shoulders.

Once that was done, I had to find a way to finish the raw edge. I considered and rejected a rolled hem (too uneven in my artless hands) and a bias-tape covering (too stiff for the sheer fabric), before deciding on a lace edging.

I happen to have a number of ribbons of semi-elastic lace seam tape, so I found a nice, almost-matching blue one.

I pinned it along one edge so about half the width overlapped the raw edge of the neckline and sewed it down, then I folded it over the raw edge and sewed it down again. 
This means that one side of the fabric has two visible rows of stitching—I keep that side on the inside, but the stitches are hardly noticeable, so it really doesn't matter.

I now had a nifty poncho that I could turn in any direction (shown here in a trial run with the corner of the fabric coming to a point in front) and still have a symmetrical neckline.
For something that took me a year to get started, the four steps it took to finish were really almost embarrassingly easy!

Thinking I was done, I prepared an outfit featuring the poncho to wear to dinner on Saturday night. However, thanks to a miscommunication, I found myself waiting interminably for my boyfriend to be ready to go, and the longer I waited, the more I began to second-guess my outfit.

It was hot. The forecast for the evening predicted cooler temperatures over the hours we might be out...but on a second check of my weather app, not as cool as I'd originally thought. And it was muggy. The near-100% humidity following Saturday's rain showers was making it feel warmer and stickier than the 73 degrees on the thermometer would have you believe. As the minutes ticked by, I kept taking off and putting on the poncho, becoming increasingly certain that it was the wrong day for me to be going out in pants and a full-coverage top. But what if it did get cold!? If I needed the security of arm coverage, I would never forgive myself if I failed to bring the poncho. But if it stayed warm, I would also never forgive myself for wearing too much clothing when I didn't have to!

The mental back-and-forth continued for longer than you'd ever want to know, until finally, during one of the many removals of the poncho, I had a realization: the neck opening was wide enough that I could fit it over my hips. That meant...I might be able to wear the poncho as a skirt!

Part 2: An optional skirt

The poncho looked pretty cute held up by my waist, flowing gracefully with all its uneven edges like a gypsy skirt.

I found I could secure it in place reasonably well with a coconut sarong tie (and a rubber band for security).

This was the greatest idea I'd had all day! Now, no matter what the temperature might do, I had a plan! If it did get colder, I could remove the sarong tie and go back to wearing the poncho as a top. But if it stayed warm and humid, I could happily wear the poncho as a skirt all evening. I made a few modifications to the outfit to better suit that paradigm, switching from a black to a pink tank top, and cuffing the leggings to keep me cooler and look better under a skirt.

By the end of the night, my skirt had stayed a skirt, and I had gotten one compliment from a stranger about it. So I'm happy to conclude that even if ponchos aren't the best choice for my build, the two ponchos I currently own will not go to waste, as they can always serve me in the role of a skirt instead!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Tiger, Tiger, colored bright

Today's outfit (which is actually last Friday's outfit—the 3-day weekend totally ran away from me!) is a study in second chances.

I never thought I was into big-cat motifs—housecats, yes, but lions and tigers and pumas, no way! That is, until this tiger shirt changed my mind for me. There was something about the expression on the tigers' faces – is it just the hint of a smirk? – that made them seem less predatory and more like something I'd want to wear on my clothing.

The second mental hurdle I had to step over was my aversion to garish faux-primitive geometric patterns. Yes, that's a mouthful of a thing to be averse to, but it's a pretty recognizable design style. The particular pattern on this shirt bears elements of the Navajo-inspired prints that were all over the place around 2012, and a bit of that splashy late-80's-early-90's style with lots of triangles and black inked textures. You don't really need to know what I'm talking about (and even I am relying on some pretty vague memories, so I might not know what I'm talking about myself!), but the point is that I'm not crazy about the colorful designs superimposed on the tigers on this shirt. However, because it's so rare that I actually find a cat-themed shirt that's appropriate for work, I was willing to overlook that minor downside.

The last element of this ensemble that prompted a rethinking of my preferences was the shoes. As you recall, I've had these green sandals since summer of 2016, and I've been thinking it's about time to retire them. Having a kelly green summer shoe is great and all, but the pink and black beads frequently contradict my outfit's color scheme. Yet today, they were the perfect match for the shirt, whose predominant colors just happened to be kelly green, pink, and black! I guess you never know when an oddly colored shoe will come in handy.

To complete the outfit, I wore khaki cropped pants and gold hoop earrings, which I thought were a nice complement to the triangular gold plates on the collar of the shirt. While we're on the subject, let's take a moment to appreciate just how unique this shirt really is. A collar with gold plates sewn to the tips of it, plus huge tiger faces, superimposed on flashy green-and-pink geometric designs? While the individual design elements may not have been quite my style, when taken as its avant-garde whole, this shirt is undeniably Unfashionistic! I'm glad I took the plunge and sacrificed 3 dollars to buy it (still new with tags!) from!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


My summer wardrobe came out of hiding last weekend. I'll withhold the commentary... At least for now!

It took several days to complete the switch, but the day I started was only one week after I took out my spring wardrobe (ugh! The weather this year! Took forever to get even remotely nice, and then it went from winter to summer in one week!).

Weirdly, since I've uncovered this wealth of new and exciting clothes, I've been absolutely stymied as to what to wear. I'm crippled by choice! Also, perhaps, by the fact that my new puppy makes trying on outfits prohibitively difficult.

Until I get over my lack of inspiration, I've decided to set a daily theme to help guide my sartorial decisions. Today's theme, in a reflection of the weather forecast (for the entire week! Ugh! The weather this year!), is "Thunderstorm."

I started with a tank top in a watery print of watery blues. I chose a deeper blue for the pants, to still evoke rain, but to also call to mind the dark skies of a thunderstorm. Grey shoes continue that thread, representing the color of a cumulonimbus cloud.

I would have been content with the tank top as-is, except that the cut seemed a bit casual for work, especially when combined with jeans. So I decided to cover up more of my shoulders with my long-line aqua vest, which conveniently drapes in a way reminiscent of falling water.

I chose two pieces of jewelry that aren't at all related to each other (I usually like my jewelry to match) but to the theme: my tiny black zigzag ring reminds me of lightning, and the dark blue earrings are the color of water and the shape of a raindrop.

Even though none of the elements of this outfit are new, I was still excited to wear them because 1) I think they look good on me, and 2) they do such a thorough job of meeting my arbitrary theme!

But despite the forecast, it didn't even start raining until long after I'd taken the outfit off for the day.