Thursday, August 16, 2018

Happy belated birthday to me

In 2016, I didn't buy myself a pair of birthday shoes, because I'd just bought a house, and I felt that I had spent enough money for a while.

I made up for it in 2017 by purchasing two pairs—one of which was the Julian Hakes Mojito sandal, which I'd coveted ever since I'd seen it for sale in a New Orleans boutique the previous spring.

I dithered and dithered about what color to buy my Mojitos in—the original pair had been silver, but there was also a striking blue shade and a poison green that was right up my alley. 
I can't remember what eventually decided me on the metallic purple, but it might have had to do with the price, my shortage of purple sandals, or just the idea that a lovely lilac would go with a lot of my clothes.

If it was the latter, I was wrong. The new shoes didn't seem to go with any of my clothes! And after they arrived, the occasion to actually wear them (which I wanted to be special) never arose, and I waited over a year before deciding, as often happens, that the right occasion was right now. Even if that just meant wearing them for an ordinary Thursday at work.

To allow the shoes to do their shining, I wore them with a simple dress in a solid contrasting color. I didn't want to wear any jewelry that would compete with the shoes or the beading on the front of the dress, so I wore something small but, in keeping with the spirit of my birthday, quintessentially me—my teal-and-purple cat earrings!

And thus, a year and a week late, my 2017 birthday shoes finally got to be the central piece in my OOTD!

All in all, I have to say this particular splurge was a 250-dollar disappointment. The shoes I received were much darker in person than they had looked online, and the hue a little bit warmer than I'd been expecting. Instead of getting a bright, pastel, fun shoe that complements my most playful clothing, I had gotten a dark, exotic shoe that works best with more moody ensembles. While that kind of shoe has its place, the place is a lot smaller than I'd hoped—hence the year of waiting. By the time I wore them, the excitement of getting them had worn off, and as soon as I wore them, I learned they weren't very comfortable. While the heel is actually pleasantly springy when I set my foot down, when I lift it up again, the hard plastic top of the shoe digs into my saddle bone deformity, making them impractical for even short distances of walking. They look much better on their own than on a foot, being rather bulky and bulgy without the negative space to lend them gracefulness.

Will I wear them again? Unlikely, but this won't be the last you see of my 2017 birthday shoes. At some point, the second pair will make an appearance, and I'm making a wish that they will be more suitable for celebrating!


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Slow Burn

You only need to take one look at this shirt to know I would love it! It's bright! It's got curlicues! It's tailored and sophisticated! It's sleeveless for summer comfort! And to top it all off, it has a unique old-timey oriental aesthetic with its loop-and-button closure and mandarin collar. Of course I loved it, but you would not believe the work I had to put in to make it wearable!

Being what I deem another relic of the 90's, the sizing on this shirt is a little smaller than that of the present day, making it just a tad too tight around the bust. The buttons, which connected the two sides of the shirt with nary an overlap, allowed it to gape most indecently. An easy fix would be to simply wear another layer underneath it, but that would make it tighter and hotter, which is exactly what I don't want in a summer blouse.

Fortunately, almost all the openings were finished with a large fabric facing, so I felt like I should be able to use that in some way to create a mock inner layer that would only cover the button placket. I tried ironing it in place with no success, then I decided to use snaps.

First, I had to make the facing into a movable flap. I used buttonhole stitching to prevent fraying, and cut it free after the raw edges were thus enclosed.

One snap at the top holds the flap to the inside of the other half.

Now when I wear the blouse, the buttons still gape, but there is a matching piece of fabric behind them to keep everything prim and proper.

It took me months to discover and complete this alteration, and then weeks more before I felt the time was right for a bright red-and-orange top. It looked so fierce and fiery, I didn't want to squander it on just any old day—meanwhile, it was practically burning a hole in my closet!

When I finally did decide to wear it, it ended up being just any old day after all. It was today.

But before I took it out into the world, I had to fix another problem with the fit! Like many late-90's tops, this one was cut short...and while the bust had been a little too tight, there was still plenty of room—too much room—at the bottom end of it.

It flared out slightly above my hips, and I don't know about you, but I hate shirts that do that! Something about that gap skews my proportions in ways I don't even want to waste my time describing. But I will describe a way to deal with it!

The no-sew solution for a too-wide blouse

I think shirts look best when they create a smooth line from waist to hips, with no gap between the shirt and pants. However, If you have a tailored blouse that isn't tailored to your exact proportions, you may find that the bottom portion is too wide and/or too high above your hips.

One solution (and one that I use often) is to tailor the back or sides so they align precisely with your own unique curves.

But stitchcraft isn't always the answer to every problem! You can also simply fill in the gaps with other clothing!

I like to do this with a voluminous skirt worn at the waist. This adds tons of bulk to your hips, banishing the awkward-looking gap like it was never there!

Today, I chose my black tulle skirt to do the job. I felt like black was a good pairing with the shirt, evoking charred wood while the shirt evoked flame.

The blue hair is perhaps a tiny bit incongruous, but I wasn't about to let my new dye job stand in the way of my chosen outfit! I figure you can interpret the hair two ways—either as bluish smoke rising from a conflagration, or as water coming to douse it. Either way, this outfit tells a story!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Let me slip into something a little more beachy

A lot has changed since I was invited to my first wedding as the Unfashionista. Since then, I've been to so many weddings, (I no longer get anxiety before them and) I've practically developed my own nuptial uniform, usually consisting of a cutesy empire-waist party dress (usually pink) that was probably designed for teenagers at Homecoming. Here are some examples from 2015 and 2016 respectively. 
I also have more of the same from 2017, 2016 summer, 2016 spring, and even a picture of a dress I wore to crash a reception in 2013. The routine is getting so old (and old-fashioned!) that this summer, when we were invited to a whopping 3 weddings in 3 months, I expressly prohibited my usual "Paris Hilton circa 2004" aesthetic. Even though 3 of the dresses I bought in my shopping spree do sport that look (2 are still pink!), I'm reserving them for later (possibly for never) and focusing on dressing for the current decade.

The first two weddings of the summer have come and gone. For the first, I am ashamed to admit that I wore yet another aughties throwback. I had my reasons, but ultimately they weren't good enough, and the outfit, much like the rest of the evening, was something I'd as soon forget. For the second wedding, I wore an unassuming blue maxi dress that was neither particularly stylish nor unstylish. If I had to describe it in a word, it would be "forgettable." For the third wedding, my last chance, I had to do better! I had to wear a dress I'd be proud to post in my blog!

The nice thing about this wedding was it was going to be held on a beach, and there was no dress code, so I was confident that I could wear anything relatively tasteful and it would be fine. With all the options at my fingertips, I decided it was time to wear, for the first time ever, a slip dress! I've been wanting to jump on the slip dress trend since 2016, but it has proved quite a slippery (pun intended!) proposition. Slip dresses, for all their apparent simplicity, are outrageously expensive, and it wasn't until this spring that I was able to acquire one (actually 2) at a reasonable price.

This particular slip dress was the second-most expensive of my dress-buying spree, at $7.50. I loved it online, but was a little less infatuated in person, as it had an unflattering hemline. I don't know if it has a name—I guess it's the opposite of a high-low hem, as it gets low in the front and high at the sides. So a low-high hem? Whatever you call it, that hemline never looks good.

But aside from the fugly front, the dress was loads of fun! So many colors! It wasn't too hard to alter the cut to do justice to the print. In one of my famous reversible alterations, I hemmed the front to have a straight edge, and tacked the fabric inside at a few strategic points so it wouldn't dangle down. I left the back as it was, so now the dress has a more traditional high-low hem.

While the fit is much looser than I usually feel pretty in, it feels free and breezy, two adjectives that are right at home on a beach. Not to mention, it has an open back, which gives it that little something extra.

Much as I feel un-flattered in flats, I have to say that these black sandals were actually some of the best-looking shoes I could have worn with this dress. Since the fabric had so many colors, the black shoes provided some balance—not to mention their lack of a high heel helped me balance! In another display of admirable restraint, I also wore simple gold jewelry and a solid gold clutch.

 After a summer of disappointing wedding looks, I finally found one I'm happy with. I think this dress was superb (summery, shiny, celebratory, slightly sexy, yet simple) for a wedding in the sand.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Have you heard of Hypebae?

I'm about to disappear on a vacation for a week. That means that even if I wear any blog-worthy outfits (unlikely while traveling!), I probably won't have the time and resources to post them. So here's a little something to keep you busy: a fun game that sometimes ends up fashion-related! The one rule: Whenever you hear a new term for the first time, don't immediately look it up or ask what it means. Instead, listen, observe, and see if you can figure it out for yourself. Sometimes this process happens over several months. When you're satisfied with your own mental definition, then consult your reference material, and see how close you came! 

I played this game with the newest word in my fashion vocabulary: hypebae. The first time I heard it mentioned, it was in some firsthand narrative in which the author was wistfully admiring this particular style of dress without actually committing to it herself. Like any good guessing-gamer, I of course didn't do any research at that time, and quickly lost track of the article. But now that I've heard the word hypebae a couple of times, sometimes in conjunction with pictures, I'm going to take a stab at what it means.

Hypebae (adj.) *[Note: Since there isn't a lot out there describing this supposed trend, I worry that people who search for the word might come across this post. If that is you, don't take the following definition as gospel! It's a guess based on limited information! For a more informed definition, scroll down to the bottom.] Describing a style of dress in which the wearer (usually female) incorporates a number of characteristic components: a strong profusion of athletic elements such as leggings, cropped tanks or T-shirts, and sneakers. Prominent logos of athletic brands are common. Accessories often include angular sunglasses and belt bags worn as crossbodies. The hypebae style is frequently aggressive and masculine, and based in the strong neutral colors of white and black.

Now let's see how I did!

Urban dictionary defines hypebae as "A girl who is dating a hypebeast and wears his clothing." Well, this doesn't tell me too much except that I was wrong about the part of speech that hypebae occupies—it's a noun, not an adjective. But nouns are frequently used to stand in for adjectives, so I'm not going to judge myself too harshly. The part about wearing his clothing gives credence to my theory that the style involves a strong element of the masculine...but to really understand this definition, I guess we'll have to go see what a hypebeast is.

"A Hype Beast is a kid that collect clothing, shoes, and accessories for the sole purpose of impressing others." Well, according to this Urban Dictionary definition, my ideas are much further off base than I thought. Although I picked up on the notion of brand obsession when I mentioned prominent logos, I got the whole focal point wrong. According to Urban Dictionary, hypebeasts are not necessarily all about athletic clothing (although they are "very much into sneakers"), but rather any brand or item that is considered prestigious or hard to acquire.

What is most confusing is that, while a few Urban Dictionary entries strongly emphasize that "hypebeast" is a derogatory term for someone without much actual style, my impression of "hypebae" was that it was an intentional label that women wear with pride.

The existence of a whole website dedicated to hypebae would certainly support that notion, but unfortunately, seems like it has really just co-opted the word to present yet another generic lifestyle site about "today’s female leaders within fashion and culture." Let's take a step back from editorial websites trying to capitalize on a word, to spaces where people are actually talking about "Hypebae style" as a specific phenomenon.

There wasn't much out there. Lookbook had only 9 hypebae looks; Instagram had 903,111 pictures (many seeming to come from the same corporate juggernaut behind but not much explanation.

I found only two sources that seemed to make an effort at classifying hypebae fashion. One article basically distills hypebae down into 9 essential characteristics, (which is pretty helpful, but it's still written by someone who seems to be an outsider.

There was also a video, which splits the aesthetic into three different distinct types: Heatbae (characterized by branding and logomania) Techbae (characterized by techwear, which as far as I can understand it is high-tech utility clothing meant for extreme weather and sports), and Sportybae (characterized by a casual look, a lot of athletic apparel, and a smattering of visible brand names - basically what I thought hypebae meant). But here's the catch: the person presenting the video is an Instagrammer who never (as far as I could see) even mentions hypebae in her posts.

So is hypebae fashion a real thing? Or is it all a conspiracy between expensive clothing brands and a well placed social media entity?

We may never know, but that won't stop me from sharing my revised definition.

Hypebae (n.) A girl or woman whose personal style leans heavily towards exclusive brands and limited production items, particularly those of an athletic nature or a typically masculine aesthetic. Common elements in a hypebae's wardrobe include sneakers, prominent logos, technical outerwear, and belt bags worn as crossbody bags.

I have to add that one word that kept popping up in my search was "streetwear." I always thought streetwear was supposed to mean "clothing you wear on the street," i.e. everyday clothing, as opposed to formalwear or loungewear. Isn't that what streetwear means? Apparently not. Rather than wait another few months to puzzle out the word's hidden meaning, I looked it up right away. Wikipedia was helpful, but not very: "Streetwear is a style of street fashion rooted in Californian surf and skate culture. It has grown to encompass elements of hip hop fashion, Japanese street fashion, and modern haute couture fashion." So basically streetwear is whatever you want it to be, and hypebaes wear a lot of it.

Monday, August 6, 2018

My dear, you're a peach

I wasn't going to do much for my birthday this year. With an international vacation looming at 6AM on Tuesday, I knew I was going to have to spend my birthday weekend packing and preparing. So I didn't want to take up too much time with an elaborate celebration like I did last year and the year before.

But my boyfriend went ahead and planned something anyway, so I had to invent an outfit worthy of the occasion. Fortunately I have a lot of never-worn fun clothes in my closet, so I assembled several potential outfits and waited to see which one would inspire me.

Obviously you're seeing the one I ultimately selected. I had originally thought it was a little too formal for the casual dinner we had planned, but your birthday is the one day a year when there's no such thing as being overdressed! I decided to run with it.

My first thoughts on this top (which I got as a hand-me-down last fall) were that tube tops aren't flattering on me, and I'd be best off just getting rid of it. But I was too tempted by its unique color, and the corset lacing in the back, which I can never resist. Plus, I had read somewhere that tube tops are supposed to be trendy this summer. I haven't seen much evidence of this claim, but it's a good enough excuse for me to wear one! This tube top reminds me of orange sherbet, and by pairing it with my milky ivory tulle skirt, I felt like I was channeling an orange creamsicle—a tasty and pretty way to celebrate a summer birthday!

The problem was that I didn't really have any good shoe options. Since orange and its analogues are underrepresented in my shoe collection, I decided the only viable color was off-white. Being 90 degrees outside, it would have been the perfect day for sandals, but alas, I don't have any off-white sandals either (I sense a shopping opportunity!), so my choices quickly narrowed down to my lace pumps—skewing the outfit even farther to the formal, but what other choice did I have? Except maybe gold? I tried on my gold strappy sandals—they imparted a more modern and casual vibe, but they also looked a bit...exotic. "We are going for a little more ladylike and a little less 'Queen of the Fairies,'" I told myself sternly. I set aside the gold shoes and continued looking for accessories.

The more I hunted for cream-colored jewelry, the more I began to despair at my choices—there were none! When I came across this mother-of-pearl butterfly necklace, pretty much the only thing in my collection that qualified as cream, I thought to myself that it certainly looked fairy-like, and suddenly I realized "Queen of the Fairies" was exactly the kind of aesthetic I wanted. What day but your birthday is better suited for indulging your fantasy fantasies?

I donned the butterfly necklace and the golden shoes and flopped onto the bed in exhaustion. My boyfriend who was reposing there commented, "You look like a peach!" His mind apparently went for the most literal interpretation of my predominant color, without grasping the nuances of my sherbet-hued fairy theme, but I wasn't about to argue with his lack of creativity. In fact, I realized, it presented the perfect opportunity for my obligatory OOTD photo—I could pose with my peach tree!

This is probably the best use I'm going to get out of the peach tree this summer, because, in spite of the multitude of fruits growing on its branches, every one of them seems to be infested with worms. I might not get a single edible peach out of this tree, but at least I can get a decent photo-op!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

When was it made?


As an avid thrift store shopper, I am no stranger to old clothing. One of my favorite activities is trying to guess exactly when any secondhand garment of mine was made. Now, I'm not a fashion archivist by any means, so my guesses at the vintage of a garment are usually based on my vague memories, other people's online throwback posts, and comparison to stills from period movies. I've learned some techniques for dating old clothing using other clues as well. Today, I thought I'd do something a little different, and share some of the attributes I use to help me guess at a garment's age.

As an example, I'll use this vest that I purchased from about a month ago.

I've seen more than my share of 90's vests at the thrift store — they are ubiquitous, usually made of thick tapestry or heavy knit, in hideous patterns, color combos, and bulky shapes that I would never wear today — but this vest fits in quite well with my modern aesthetic. In fact, when I first got it, I didn't even really pay attention to its dated appearance, but focused mainly on the pretty blue-green color and how much I liked the flowers. After I'd owned it for a while, I began to pay more attention to the signs of its age.

Here they are—signs that you can use to help you determine the age of any fashion item!
  1. The pattern - Different eras produce different trendy patterns (think the psychedelic designs of the 60's or the earth-toned rainbows of 70's). On this vest, the profusion of wavy-edged straight lines and imperfect zigzags is something I'd swear was everywhere in the early 90's, but I'm having trouble coming up with photographic evidence. In any case, it's clearly an evolution from the scribble-heavy designs that are definitive marks of the 80's. Meanwhile, the flowers hint at the sunflower obsession that defined the 90's.
  2. The fabric - As textile technologies grow and change, different kinds of fabric rise to ascendancy. This vest is made of rayon. Although rayon-like materials have been around since the 19th century, the rubbery, faux-silk feel of rayon is, to me, firmly entrenched in the 90's. This is definitely a more "vague memory"  than anything empirically backed, but I seem to recall encountering this type of fabric a lot when shopping during my youth.
  3. The embellishments - Much as trends in patterns rise and fall over time, so do those in the little add-ons and visible fastenings.

    Take a look at those buttons. The "knot" style of plastic or metal button is one I often see on vintage clothing and never on clothing of the present day. Although this does nothing to help me narrow down a specific year, I can say with a degree of confidence that these buttons wouldn't have been used past the mid-1990's.
  4. The fastening style - In very old vintage clothing, I've heard you can use the placement of the zipper (or whether there's a zipper at all) as a reliable indicator of the approximate era of construction. With modern clothes, this doesn't often apply, but there is one style of fastening that really had a heyday in the 90's, and that's the side- or back- cinch tie.

    Shirts and dresses that tie in the back to adjust the fit (like this one) were common in the 90's, but seemed to have lost their appeal by the turn of the millennium. I still see them in one-size-fits-all hippie clothes, but popular opinion labels them tacky.
  5. The cut - Obviously different silhouettes can provide a strong clue as to the age of garments--like when you see huge puffed sleeves, you can know without almost any doubt that they came from the 80's. I wasn't really aware that this top had an iconic cut, but then I googled "90's vest." Apparently it wasn't just tapestry/sweater vests that were popular in the 90's—this particular cut (with the longer length, deep V-neck, and pointed bottom hem) was popular in the era as well. Most of the pictures I found of the style were actually modern bloggers trying to do their own take on 90's trends, but I did find one 1992 sewing pattern that confirmed it.
  6. The size - Because of size inflation, clothes manufactured today fit larger than equivalent sizes from past eras. Now, I have to make some assumptions here, because some brands use very unusual sizing, but I'm going to assume this shirt was manufactured using a common size scale. My size in contemporary juniors' clothing (the odd-numbered sizes) is usually a 3 or 5, so the fact that I fit pretty well in this size 9 is a strong indicator that it's a couple decades old.
  7. The label - The materials and method used to make the label are often good ways of telling how old an item is as well. For example, clothing made in the 2010's often has a translucent plastic label, or the label printed right on the inside of the fabric.

    This heavy woven polyester label with the stiff scratchy care tag is definitely an older breed. The logo, surrounded by textural dots, also has that late-80's/early-90's feel.
It's not often that you find clothing a couple decades old with the original tags still attached, but this one was just that. Apparently it went through a battery of markdowns before someone bought it out of pity, and never wore it. Since the style number is printed on the tag, I could probably pinpoint the exact age of this vest by contacting the Joni Blair company (if it still exists), but that would be a little too much work for this armchair fashion detective! I'll settle my investigation here by concluding this vest was made around 1992.

So now we come to a question: with so many features clearly branding this top as out of date, am I still brave enough to wear it?

Thinking, thinking...

Of course! I'm the Unfashionista!

Instead of wearing my retro vest in a retro style, I wore it as a shirt without anything under it. I paired it with a pair of black capri pants (the cut of these also being almost 20 years out of fashion!) and some coordinating robin's egg blue pumps (fortunately, this conservative style of shoe will probably never look too passé!).

The most modern element of my outfit is the jewelry. I made the earrings myself out of a pair of studs that I ordered online recently. The style turned out to look silly on me, so I took them apart and impaled them on some kidney-shaped wire hooks that I cut the fastener end off of.

Now they're a never-before-seen threader-dangle-hybrid style! 1990's vest, welcome to the future!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Semi-sporty skort

Over the past few weeks, Friday Funday has gone from something I might occasionally try on a whim, to practically a requirement for a successful week. Whether I keep up the effort or drop it remains to be seen, but at least for July, I've been saving my most quirky, casual, and slightly more daring outfits for Fridays.

For this week's showing, I decided to do that thing I try once a year or so—where I wear something vaguely athletic for my OOTD. Today's has a little bit of the golfer aesthetic in the sleeveless button-down blouse, and the skirt is one of the two active skorts I got last summer. This skirt is a tad shorter than I like to wear at the office these days, but the built-in shorts drastically decrease the likelihood of a wardrobe malfunction, and it is, after all, Casual Friday.

For footwear, I went for a new-to-me pair of floral embellished flat slide sandals. These were only $3.75 at the thrift store and, while more on the shabby end of the chicness spectrum, they have the coolest floral embellishments I've ever seen on a pair of shoes!