Monday, October 7, 2019

Suits and Sneakers and Sparkles

My employers probably haven't realized it yet, but I am a champion of dress-code reform! Every time I do something bold and daring like anchor my work outfit with shorts, I am breaking down boundaries. Maybe they're just self-imposed boundaries, but they still count! I feel powerful when I juxtapose the business-casual with the totally casual.

While I once used to challenge myself to see just how formal I could dress at the office, I'm definitely enjoying taking it in the opposite direction these days.

Or am I? 
When your ultra-casual shoes are ornamented with ultra-dressy embellishments, does that make them more casual or more formal? Could it possibly, magically, unite the two extremes into the perfect paradigm of professional attire?

I'd like to think so, because that's what I wore to the office today.

I was going to go all out with a complete set of dress and matching jacket, but I can no longer pretend that I don't feel overdressed showing up to work in a full suit—even when I decorate it with a squirrel and leg warmers. So I took the ultimate middle path and paired my fancy-not-fancy sneakers with a (fancy) suit dress and a (not-fancy) cardigan. I've worn this combo before, but I have to say, the rhinestones bring it to the next level!

Saturday, October 5, 2019

The world's longest refashion

Many, many years ago, a friend gifted me a new-with-tags dress among a large collection of other old clothes she was getting rid of.

The fit was everything that I avoid in a dress (strapless, blousey, ruffly, midi-length, you name it!), but it had two things going for it: 1) a lovely lavender color, and 2) butterflies! I'm a sucker for anything with pretty insects on it!

My goal was to find a way to make this dress actually look good on me, and it only took 5 years and some change for me to figure it out.

The first year, I got as far as deciding I didn't like the dress in its current form, but by the end of the summer, I still didn't have any ideas as to how to fix it, and I lost interest in refashioning a summer dress when it was winter.

The second year, I tried it on at a few different lengths, and experimented with making the bodice tighter. I still couldn't decide what to do with it.

The third year, I finally settled on a cut: I would convert the dress to an empire-waist style with sort of Ancient Grecian vibes. 
I even went so far as to decide on where I'd cut the bottom portion from the top (the fold line at right in the photo).

The fourth year, I figured out how I would form the bodice: I modeled the neckline on a halter top I have.

I stuck in a few pins to mark key points, and got so far as cutting out armholes before I ran out of steam and let the project sit for another winter.

The fifth year, I really charged forward with the project! Over the course of a month and a half, I laboriously completed the basic shape of the bodice and attached it to the skirt.

But the sixth year (that's this year), I decided all the previous work had to go! The empire-waist dress was a stupid idea, completely impractical for my lifestyle and too complicated to sew! 
In retrospect, I have no idea why I came to this conclusion when I was in the home stretch, because what I ended up doing was certainly just as complicated, but I guess the years of frustration were finally getting to me. 
I decided instead to make the dress into a skirt!

I marked the top of a waistband with pins and cut it out.

When the waistband was folded over to the inside and not-so-artfully sewn down, here's how it looked!

All that remained was to put in a side zipper, which I accomplished more or less gracefully (at least from the outside view).

The skirt is not finished on the inside by any means, but it looks passable on the outside, so at that point, I decided my creation was good enough to wear in public.

And... here it is!

Now that I've had a chance to look at my photos, I think I should have worn it with less highly contrasting shoes and shirt, but after 5+ years of work, it's kind of miraculous I wore it at all!

Monday, September 16, 2019

The ex-X top

So I had this striped top. I've owned it for a few years now (It came to me as a companion to the black skirt-pants I first wore in 2017), and in all those years, all I wanted to do was sell it.

It was so cool in theory—form fitting, with black and white stripes, and a totally unique design with bands of the same fabric layered across the front in an X shape! 
I loved it; however, on me, it just fit too tight (Indonesian sizing strikes again!), and the X's tended to bunch up around my neck and over my chest in a most unflattering manner!

New with tags, I thought it would sell for a decent price, but I had it listed on eBay for quite a while without any signs of interest from the masses. Eventually I de-listed it and decided to have one more shot at making it work for me.

My first step was to remove the sleeves. As always, my extra-wide shoulders stretched them awkwardly, an effect which was only exaggerated by the horizontal stripes.

It looked much better as a sleeveless top, but the problem of the crisscrossing straps remained. I really wanted them to work...but they didn't! Eventually I accepted the inevitable and cut the front X off at each side of the waist, leaving it attached at the top.

Wow! Magically, it now had a cute little pussy-bow neckline, which was just what this ordinary striped top needed to give it some flair!
I had to sew the panels down at the shoulders to keep them in the right position, and that was the only stitchery this project required!

Now that the shirt has gone from having an X in the front to not, I can call it my ex-X top (interestingly enough, it was given to me by the mother of my former boyfriend, so there are all sorts of exes in this story!)

It has a sort of cutesy old-fashioned look that calls to my mind the late 50's, when pedal pushers were an integral part of every teen's uniform (I'm thinking "Bye Bye Birdie" cast photos). So I wore it with my cropped lavender pants! Lavender accessories and shoes rounded out the look.

The shirt still has crisscrossed panels in the back, which I do like...but which I might choose to remove later, as they tend to pull the top of the arm openings in towards my neck, meaning constant adjustment is necessary. If I cut them off, I'll have some extra black-and-white striped fabric that would make an adorable matching headband, completing my "Bye Bye Birdie" look!

Friday, September 6, 2019

A flat worse than death

In 2017, I claimed I "would rather die than wear sneakers when I could wear heels."

Cut to 2 years later, and I've downsized pretty much all my heels (I just counted, and slightly over half of the shoes on my shoe rack now have a rise of 2 inches or less) and am now making sneakers the focus of my OOTD. 
I suppose it was inevitable, with my office wardrobe getting more casual by the month, that sneakers for work would be a logical step in the progression. Would I still rather die than wear sneakers? Heck no! Especially not if they're (a) velvet, (b) bedazzled, (c) platform, or (d) metallic.

You're probably guessing what comes next: over the past year, I purchased sneakers in all of the aforementioned styles! I guess I accepted my fate as a wearer of athleisure footwear.

I have to say, for something that I formerly ranked below death in order of preference, sneakers have made me pretty happy.

These new blue ones in particular are quite comfy (my new gold standard for a great shoe!), flattering (I think it's the thick sole and fabric that help balance my foot proportions), and made of velvet! What's an Unfashionista not to love!?

I decided to wear my new cozy kicks on the first chilly day since spring (Forecast: 72°). Cold weather is always more tolerable when you've got new exciting clothes to keep you warm! The cropped pants paired excellently with the shoes, and the top, while nothing to write home about, rounds out the look with a variety of colors.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

The wild frontier

I wasn't intending to wear shorts at work again—a special occasion once a year seemed quite sufficient to me.

But I ordered some shorts online to be worn with tank tops in my summer off-duty uniform, and when they arrived, I found that reality was much different from expectation. I had thought I was ordering some high-waisted chocolate brown short-shorts that would look cute with crop tops and fun, breezy tanks. What I got were some roomy, pleated, cuffed tan shorts with a microscopic black houndstooth pattern—far too stuffy for what I had intended! Such are the hazards of shopping online.

I thought about returning them, but then I got to thinking: What if I wore them at work? The fabric and style essentially made this garment a truncated version of the most conservative slacks out there. If any shorts were to be deemed office-appropriate, it would be brown pleated-front houndstooth shorts with a cuffed hem! I kept them.

And that's how it became my mission to wear shorts to work for the second time in one summer—this time with the shortest shorts I've ever attempted! With a 2-and-a-half-inch inseam, these babies (while modest compared to the daisy dukes I wear on weekends) would definitely be taking me to a new frontier in office hemline standards!

Speaking of frontier, it's only appropriate that my adventurous ensemble had a bit of Western flair.

I started with a gem-studded saguaro cactus necklace. It was the only touch of color I wanted in this outfit; in order to make these skimpy pants blend in in an office environment, I otherwise stuck to conservative staples such as shades of beige and a traditional collared shirt.

The green necklace caused me to pick a greenish (though still mostly neutral) cardigan as my top layer, and the greenish cardigan just happens to be trimmed with a sort of Western-looking fringe. Although I was originally planning to wear a pair of flat sandals, the overall country feel of the rest of my outfit inspired me to switch to boots—a smart choice both for the overall visual effect and for the comfort of my tootsies in the chilly office.

I wore my bold new look on Friday Funday—the best day of the week to attempt daring sartorial feats. I received neither compliments nor censures on my unconventional bottoms, so I like to believe that means they slipped by completely unnoticed, and I'm cleared to wear shorts at the office again!

Next summer, be ready for workplace shorts in every color!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Office Birthday Party

Sunday night, I laid out some brown, black, and white clothing for work today, and, feeling content with the subdued but sophisticated outfit I had planned, put myself to bed.

Moments later, I jumped out of it. What was I thinking!? Monday was my birthday! Even if all I had planned was to go to work, I had to bust out some colors!

As I went to my closet for a re-do, I was disappointed to find that most of my clothes have already been worn at least once, so I couldn't do a fabulous first appearance. But I could do a splendid second, and so I found myself gravitating toward these pink ultra-wide-leg pants that I've only worn once before.

I'm pretty fond of them. The eyelets make them delightfully breezy on a hot summer day, and the generous leg opening makes them almost skirt-like in appearance—a fitting look for a celebratory day.

In keeping with my celebratory mood, I paired the pants with a sparkly sequin-embroidered top; and to balance the black, which stood out sharply from the pants, I wore black sandals.

I even invited my hair to the party, trying to coax some texture into it by means of overnight braiding. It was only marginally successful, but I think I'll try it again.

All told, I'm happy with my festive birthday ensemble. I worked in just enough color and shimmer and novelty to satisfy my need to make my birthday special, while still managing to put in a respectable showing at the office.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

How to take in a skirt in 20 seconds

I'm a huge fan of quick and dirty alterations, and it doesn't get any quicker than this one!

Of course, figuring out how to do it in the first place took a little trial and error, but once I got there, I learned a reliable technique for taking in a skirt at the waist, in 20 seconds. Really!

The skirt that I had to work with was a midi-length peasant skirt with a sheer layer and a liner. I tried taking it in my usual way, by just sewing parallel to an existing seam, but the liner kept getting in the way. And when I figured out how to take that pesky piece out of the equation, I found that my seam invariably got deformed thanks to all the tiers and gathers I was having to sew through.

Finally I decided a seam wasn't the right solution at all—instead, I needed to just add more gathers in strategic places! I bunched up the waistband in two places, tacked it closed, and I was done!

Here's a step-by-step tutorial:

1. Start by making sure you're using the right raw materials. This technique only works on a specific kind of skirt: a loose and flowy one with lots of fabric and lots of gathers.

2. Measure how much width you need to remove from the waist. Divide that number by the number of gathers you want to make. I made two gathers, one on each side of the back. About an inch of fabric per gather seems to work well; any more than that, and the fabric might start to pucker and bulge when worn. So if you need to remove more than about two inches of waistband, you may have to add more gathers.

3. Mark the center of each gather so that they are symmetrically spaced, then pinch the fabric around the center point. Each of my gathers needed to remove about 1 inch of width, so I pinched 1/2-inch away from the center point on each side. Right sides should be together!
4. Sew down where you pinched, the entire width of the waistband. Because my waistband was so narrow, I just started at the bottom edge, reversed to the top, and then sewed back down to the bottom to secure the stitching.

Oops, my gathers aren't positioned quite symmetrically!
And you're done! Maybe I exaggerate the simplicity a little (measuring and math can be a bear!), but at 10 seconds of actual sewing per gather, you can say that's only 20 seconds of work!

When finished, the gathers at the waistband just blend into all the other gathers forming the skirt, so they fit right in. Cover them with a shirt, and suddenly they're not noticeable at all! 
While the extra fabric does cause some slight bulging, it's in such a place that it just enhances my butt, and bigger butts are trendy right now, so that's a win in my book!  Not bad for a quick and dirty!

Now with my skirt riding high, I can wear it with all the extra-short vintage (turn of the millennium) tops I've been accumulating! 
With this particular skirt and top combo, I was feeling a little too blue, so I paired the outfit with some pink sandals, just for a change of color.