Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Life Aqua


You might have noticed, I get a little sartorially excited when we have unseasonably warm weather, and this, the third week in October, has been a true blessing from Mother Nature, with temperatures not less than 80 degrees for the last 3 days! Now, I made my fall wardrobe switch October first on the dot, which left me with precious little summer clothing to sustain me through this warm spell, but somehow I managed.

My favorite outfit of the week was this one, a study in blue and blue-green. I have so much aqua in my wardrobe that I once decided to wear it every day for a week. I haven't tried anything like that again (nowadays I actively avoid wearing the same main color two days in a row), but aqua's still the color of choice when I want to go for a tonal look.

The sweater is yet another of the baggy sheer top layers I'm obsessing over this year (there's another one which I wore last week but didn't have much to say about). In the past with this sweater, I've tried to do a little contrast between the underlayer and the top layer, but this time, I decided matchy-matchy was the way to go.

With the aqua tops, I wore my teal pumps (shout-out to these workhorses, which I've had for 4 years without them showing any signs of dying, and which remain my most comfortable pair of heels!).

To further celebrate the warm weather, I decided to wear cropped pants. I've really been enjoying the fact that cropped flares are so trendy this year. While all my crops are so old they're from a time when they were referred to as "capri pants," they bear a striking similarity to the new ones—enough that I'm wearing the dickens out of them while I still can. I had several options, but in the end I felt the dark blue denim ones looked the most polished, so on they went!

I like a good monochrome (or monochrome + blue jeans) look as much as anyone, but I felt like I wanted to spice things up a bit and wear some non-blue jewelry. Butterflies ended up being the name of the game. 
I put on a now-ancient butterfly bracelet and some newer butterfly earrings. Sadly, I lost one of the earrings on my bike ride home (this is one good reason why I never spend more than 2 dollars on a piece of jewelry), so it looks like this will be the first and last time they feature in my blog. Bon voyage, beautiful butterflies!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Pajama Time

Every outfit looks better with a cute dog in the foreground
It's stylish to wear your pajamas everywhere these days. To prove it, I decided to look for an article on the subject to link to, so I went to my favorite website for info on fashion trends: Who What Wear, and immediately found this piece taking up their whole home page! If that's not validation, I don't know what is.

I've been on a mission to find my own set of silk pajamas to wear around town (I'm guessing my 15-year-old flannels with the frog princes on them wouldn't qualify), but it's been hard. I thought the thrift store would be a veritable treasure trove of pajama sets, but I was wrong. Eight months into my search, I'd still dug up nothing. Finally, on, I ran across this sheer floral top with navy blue satin lapels and cuffs. It wasn't a pajama set, but it had that pajama-top feel to it.

Besides, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that walking around in pajamas might be nice on those rare occasions when I go out brunching or shopping, but it wasn't really appropriate for work (or my generally less sophisticated weekend activities). Wearing only the top gives a nod to the trend without being mistaken for someone who just rolled out of bed.

The idea of a see-through pajama top was a little puzzling to my sensibilities (If you were going to go for the sexy-nighty look, wouldn't you choose – well – a sexy nighty?) but in the end, I think the sheerness of the top is one of my favorite things about it. Its incongruity as a sensible pajama piece makes it even less likely to be misjudged as nightwear worn wrong. And just in a general sense, I've grown rather fond of sheer baggy shirts. They are loose and comfortable and work-appropriate, but still show the outlines of the body underneath, so you don't have to feel so bulky and shapeless. This one was so boxy that I did have to tailor the sides a little bit, but there's still plenty of room to move!

I paired the pajama shirt with a navy tank underneath, my brown jeans, and my navy blue quilted flats. Enormous gold earrings add (literal) weight to the message that I'm not dressed for bedtime. Not-so-incidentally, I'm getting more varicose vein treatments today and tomorrow, so this outfit was carefully calculated to hide the single compression stocking I'd be wearing after my appointment. As a friend and reader noted, back to Compression Sock Chic!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Scary Cat T-Shirt

I've been waiting since January to share the remaking of this Halloween T-shirt I got last year, and now that it's finally October, I can!

It's a little graphic tee with a tiny (rather weird-looking) cat and the caption "Scary Cat." Well, I love any cat, no matter how weird-looking, so when I found it in a lot of 4 on eBay for 9.95, I absolutely had to have it. It didn't hurt that one of the other shirts in the lot featured an even cuter cat! The shirt on the top right turned out to be old and scruffy and poorly fitting and not really my style anyway, so I donated it, but the other two tops have enjoyed lots of success in my wardrobe. But let's talk about the scary cat.

I'm always excited to dress for the season, but sadly, like many of the secondhand T-shirts I find these days, it had the baby-doll cut of a bygone era, and it was a size too large, so not flattering at all!

I started by unstitching the bottom hem. Sometimes I do this as a really quick and dirty way of lengthening my clothes, but it wasn't enough this time.

However, before adding any more length, I needed to reduce some girth, which I did by taking in the last few inches of the side seams and then trimming away the excess fabric.

For adding to the length, I decided to go with a nice strong Halloweeny black. I got this poor T-shirt at a conference a few years ago, and after many failed attempts to make it look more "cute," the only thing it was good for was scraps.

I cut off the bottom hem and attached it right to the raw edge of my new T-shirt, adding almost 2 inches to the length and saving myself the bother of sewing a new hem.

After this, I felt the bottom strip stood out like a sore thumb, so I decided to similarly alter the neckline.

I drew a line around the original collar and cut it off, then used more of the conference shirt as a bias tape to bind the raw edge. This part was hard, so I didn't take any pictures!

I'm really pleased at how this project turned out. When I started out, the tiny cat seemed almost drowned in the vast expanse of orange on the shirt. With the addition of the black trim, I think the cat fits in better...and the shirt fits better too!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The making of the off-the-cold-shoulder top

In yesterday's post, I shared (or one could say blathered, yammered, and otherwise said way too much) about the new top I refashioned in the cold-shoulder style with the sleeves borrowing from the off-the-shoulder aesthetic.

In today's post, I'll share even more about how it came to be.

This particular top was a hand-me-down from a friend. Much as I love gifts, I wasn't about to wear it without some modifications.

Fortunately, a well timed (shortly after I got the shirts) post on Refashion Co-op inspired me to try something new: a cold-shoulder top. That is, one of those tops that has sleeves, but has an open area around the shoulder. They don't seem very practical for someone who prefers everything sleeveless unless the weather's too cold, but after having seen them for a couple years, I've gotten used to the idea of at least trying them out (this is why I'm an UN-fashionista—I frequently only warm up to trends after they're so old they're not trendy any more).

Here's what I started with. (I took this picture after already beginning deconstruction, which is why the shoulder seam is already peeking).
I picked out most of the shoulder seams but left the sleeve connected about 1/4 of the way up the front and back. 

I tried it on and decided I'd removed a little bit too much from the front, so I restored another inch of the original seam.

Now the tough question—exactly how to structure the opening so it looks good? I tried it on in the mirror, pulling the fabric from here to there, safety-pinning it in different spots, but no matter what I tried, it always seemed to bulge and crease in an unattractive way.

I decided that I liked the puffiness of the original, but it needed to be more controlled. I would keep everything uniform by elasticizing the top edge of my new open sleeve!

I pin-marked a line on the sleeve that I thought made a good top edge, then I cut off all the excess fabric, leaving a half-inch for a hem.

Then I folded down the very edge of my hem allowance and sewed a very narrow hem, then folded that over again so all raw edges were securely inside the seam, to keep any fraying at bay. This created a casing which would hold the elastic.

Using a bodkin, I threaded a piece of elastic through the new casing. When it was all the way through, I safety-pinned it at one end so I could mess around with the length.

This mostly consisted of trying it on in the mirror until I was happy with the amount of pouf.

When that was all done, I stitched down the ends of the elastic permanently.

The shirt was basically finished, but I found that with the elastic pulling on the sleeves, the fabric was being stretched across the chest when I moved my arms.

To keep the buttons from gaping and reduce the amount of puckering in the fabric, I hand-stitched the button placket closed at the level of the sleeves. With a little patience, I'm still able to tug the shirt over my head, though it's a tight fit!

The coolest thing about this shirt (which I actually learned by accident when I was trying it on) is that you can tuck the sleeves back inside and it looks just like any old sleeveless top! Hooray for versatility!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Off-the-shoulder at last!

When I was young, I had a mild obsession with puffed sleeves. This was almost certainly fueled by Anne of Green Gables—never mind that that book was set in the Victorian era and certainly did not reflect the fashion of my times. In my more enlightened adulthood, I have realized that puffed sleeves are really only good for one thing: making your upper body look gigantic. Puffed sleeves could be considered the perfect pairing for broad shoulders, since they are a great equalizer, making everyone who wears them look huge, whether they have naturally broad shoulders or not. However, if you've spent your whole life trying to downplay your shoulders, you don't take kindly to anything that deliberately makes them look bigger.

Puffed sleeves are one of the last things I would ever voluntarily add to my wardrobe, which is why it's ironic that I have a continuous stream of this style of top just falling into my lap. From eBay lots to hand-me-downs, I get so many puffed sleeves, I could practically start a whole museum dedicated to them! Or I could just use them as fodder for an endless array of creative refashions. Most of the time, I just lop off the sleeves and turn them into sleeveless blouses. I once had great success cutting off just part of the sleeve and making a nice fluttery cap sleeve. But with the latest delivery of puffed-sleeve blouses, I decided to try something different. 

I vowed to try and keep a few of them for wearing as-is (let's see if I actually follow through) but one that I relegated immediately to the Project Pile was this grey one (photo taken after I'd already put it under the knife). With the big sleeves and the ruffly front (a friend likened it to the apron a French maid would wear), it was just too frou-frou for my taste. But I actually loved the fabric and fit, and I really wanted to make it work for me. 
Since I'm going pretty heavy on the commentary today, I'll save the construction details for another post, but let it suffice to say that the end product looks like a cross between your standard cold-shoulder top (you know, one of those shirts with a cutout in the shoulder area—this is my first foray into that arena) and the off-the-shoulder tops that have been blowing up the fashion world all summer (this is my first foray into off-the-shoulder details as well!).

ICYMI (So one abbreviates when one wants to seem especially "with it"), off-the-shoulder tops were unquestionably the single trendiest thing to wear this summer, hands down. As with puffed sleeves, I had a longstanding off-the-shoulder obsession when I was young (no doubt fueled by every Disney Princess ever). I have since come to the realization that unless you are shaped like a Disney Princess, off-the-shoulder-tops (just like puffed sleeves as well!) will merely make your upper body look comically gigantic—an unsurprising result of having an unbroken horizontal line running all the way across the front. But with its vertical arm openings, this shirt breaks up that line, accomplishing the off-the-shoulder aesthetic without the body-widening effect.

I'm pretty pleased that I was able to try this trend the same year as I first saw it, although admittedly I had to risk death by freezing to wear it on a rainy day in late September. That was actually an experiment in itself, as normally I only wear sleeveless shirts when it's 75° or warmer. I don't know if this happens to other people, but with me, if my upper arms are cold, all of me feels cold—even if other parts of me are so hot they're sweating. So I was thinking, with a cold-shoulder top, I might be able to keep my upper arms warm enough to feel comfortable, while still being able to bare my shoulders, in a look that I vastly prefer. It seemed to work. Despite the office running a steady 74 degrees all day, I never got too chilly.

The fabric of this top is a dark, very slightly purplish grey—the purplish hue making it very difficult to pair with anything except pure white and pure black. So I wore it with a black skirt and some black mary janes. I probably did, unintentionally, have a little bit of a French maid vibe going on.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Caftan Top

The days of tank top weather have drawn to a close. And just as the last time I reluctantly conceded to cold-weather clothing, my look is a study in blue.

This time, though, instead of accentuating the melancholy, I've chosen to make my outfit a celebration, with lots of bright shades and new things!

I just got the shoes over the summer from*, which, thanks to their reasonable prices, even more reasonable shipping price, and liberal return policy, has become my new favorite online clothing shop!

The top was snagged at Rugged Wearhouse early in the summer for just 3 dollars on clearance! I'm not sure what to call this type of top. It's defined by a very boxy shape when laid flat and a drapey, cape-like appearance when worn; a wide, baggy body; and very loose sleeves, or simple arm openings with no sleeve at all. It resembles a poncho, but it's not really a poncho, because ponchos typically have no arm holes at all. You could say it has dolman sleeves (but only if you use the less common definition and not this more common and specific one), but that doesn't distinguish it from other dolman tops with very ugly cuffed sleeves. It's constructed in a similar style to many caftans, but it doesn't really qualify as a caftan, because they are usually dress-length. I guess, lacking any more official word, I'm going to call this top and others like it "caftan tops."

Over the past year, I've pretty much fallen in love with caftan tops, buying, in addition to this blue floral one, two open-work sweaters in the style and even making my own out of a chiffon skirt. In hotter weather, they are a wonderful way to add elegance without adding too much weight. In transitional weather, the long "sleeves" keep your arms warm when you're sitting still, but the open fabric and loose construction let in some air should you get hot. I resisted this style for a long time, because I think the silhouette (which basically turns your upper body and arms into one solid mass) isn't the most flattering on my boxy frame, but I like to believe the graceful draping of the fabric makes up for some of that, and the comfort factor wins out anyway.

When I purchased this top, my friend looked at it and said, "Isn't it too big?" (It's actually a size 3X.) But size is just a number, and big is what I was going for with this shirt. I wanted it to just flow off my back like a waterfall. I think the excess fabric actually adds to the whole baroque effect. In this case, more is more!

*The link is my personal referral link, and if you follow it and make a purchase, I get 20$! You don't get anything! Ha! Except a boatload of cool clothes at affordable prices!

Friday, September 23, 2016


I'm really loving this red bandanna-print skirt—1 item anchoring 3 blog looks in 5 months has to be a new personal record for me! While the first time I wore it, I was still testing the waters (I hadn't resized it appropriately yet, and I wore it with a too-large shirt I've since sold, so everything hung on me like so many sacks), by the second time, I'd refined it to a level of sleek yet rural sophistication. This third time, I decided to replace the white with black, which resulted in a sort of Bad-Girl-of-the-50's look—frequently referred to as Rockabilly.

If you looked up Rockabilly in the dictionary, you'd see a picture of this outfit! OK, actually you wouldn't, because Rockabilly fashion is subjective at best, and there doesn't seem to be a clear-cut definition for what it entails. But if you looked up Rockabilly in Yahoo Images, (because subversives don't use Google), you would see a lot of red and black, a lot of flared skirts, and a lot of wide belts at the waist, all of which this outfit possesses. 

As a bonus, the sandals are GX by Gwen Stefani, whose picture on the cover of Tragic Kingdom served as my mental image for the "retro" girl for years (though looking at it now, I realize that while her hair and makeup are classic pinup, her clothing reflects no past era I've ever seen).