Friday, May 15, 2020

Week 8: A Farewell to Arm Coverage

I haven't been posting my work-from-home outfits as the novelty factor wore off and they basically became variations on a tired theme, but this week I'm back! There are exciting developments afoot! This week, as the weather finally, hesitantly, approached something resembling warm, I got to wear short sleeves!
On Wednesday, it was a pink and red floral number, topped off with my still-new-and-exciting dusty pink duster! The color coordination came as a pleasant surprise even to me, the person who put it together!

On Thursday, my gold cardigan made its second appearance, over an off-white T-shirt and my still-new-and-exciting refashioned gold pants for another day of monochromatic dressing.

Both those days, the afternoon got warm enough that I was able to discard the cardigans for a few hours and enjoy freely flailing my limbs! But Friday was truly special. The forecast predicted 86 degrees, and I marked the occasion with my first dress since the first week of April! I didn't even need a cardigan in the morning!

Usually, by this time of year, I've already had my spring wardrobe out for several weeks and sometimes (as in 2018) even already begun wearing my summer clothes.

This year has been the cold and miserable exception. My usual cutoff for the Spring Switch, seven consecutive days of high temps above 59, has still not actually occurred—meaning that if I were following the rules, I'd still be decked out in my winter wardrobe of cable knits and furs.

But I haven't been following the rules. I went ahead and unpacked my spring clothes sometime in mid-April, as we'd had enough days in the high 60's and low 70's that I'd started re-wearing T-shirts. I'd also run out of interesting outfits for any weather condition, since wearing nothing but house clothes has effectively reduced my wardrobe to less than a third its usual size. So out came the transitional clothing, even though plenty of chilly days awaited!

There's no reason I shouldn't be able to fashionably enjoy whatever warm weather we have, whenever we have it! Following a set of arbitrary rules is needlessly restrictive and prevents me from living my life to the fullest! Rules are for the repressed! Plus, it's pretty clear that climate change is the new normal and I can no longer count on consistent weather patterns to guide me in my clothing selections.

So I think I've given up on the rules entirely. I revise them and make exceptions so often; I may as well just abolish them. From now on, I'll use my own good judgment as to when it's appropriate to rotate my collection. Rules? They're more like guidelines.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Facemask, but make it fashion

Never in my wildest dreams did I think a surgical-inspired facemask would become part of my daily attire, but here we are. In the state of Maryland, it is now required by law (or is it executive order? Facemask, Fahcemask, I guess) to wear a face covering any time you will be interacting with people in public, and it looks like that's going to be the norm for quite some time.

So, since I'll probably be wearing facemasks pretty regularly for the foreseeable future, and since all my usual avenues for creative sartorial expression have been cut off, it should surprise no one that "Make fancy facemask" became a must-do project for me.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, back when it felt like the sky was falling and there was a shortage of everything, I learned that some home sewists were starting to make fabric facemasks to help out people on the front lines. I jumped on the opportunity to join them and soon found a local group that was sewing and collecting masks for distribution in the area. So I've been sewing masks for months now and have actually learned to do it tolerably well (much different from my usual haphazard DIYs!). I am by no means fast (I usually manage about 6 finished masks per week!) but I now feel quite confident in my ability to sew a face mask from scratch!

I kept several of my early prototypes and "mistakes", so I have a decent-sized collection, but they don't make me feel good when I wear them. And in these depressing days, you have to do whatever you can to feel good. If that means wearing a festive facemask to the grocery store, then so be it! I debated long and hard about how I wanted to make my own personal facemask fun—rhinestones? glitter? graphics? trims? The answer came to me in the form of a ruined pillow.

Back when my dog had fleas last fall, I packed up most of the soft objects in my house and put them in the shed so I wouldn't have to flea-spray them every week. My shed doesn't leak, so I'm not quite sure how it happened, but when I finally brought them back inside last month, I found that several items had mold and water damage—including a pretty cool quilt that folds into a pillow. The stains didn't wash out, but fortunately, only the exterior pocket (the piece that helps it become a pillow) was ruined. I was able to remove that and salvage the quilt.

The fabric is lots of fun, featuring line-drawn forest creatures peeking out from an array of graphic flowers. It's just the kind of whimsical thing that I want on my face! Here's a picture of the front of the pillow pocket after I'd already taken it apart and cannibalized some of the fabric. The larger piece was just big enough to make a double-layer facemask! This isn't a mask-sewing tutorial (there are plenty out there now!) so I won't be going into the details of how I constructed my mask, but it was based on the "Type A - Normal Face Mask" pattern from Craft Passion. I've tried several face mask patterns, but this one is my favorite based on fit and ease of sewing (especially if you don't bother with making casing for the elastic and just attach it directly!). It also has variations, so you can find one that best suits your sewing and wearing style. My one warning for this mask pattern, is it does seem to run small. I'm a woman with a fairly small head, and I wear the "man"-sized mask. For larger adults, this pattern might not actually be big enough, but I'm sure the front curve could just be extended if necessary.
With my newly salvaged fabric, I was able to make a mask with one side prominently featuring an owl, and the other side featuring a rabbit! It was reversible! [Pro Tip: Don't reverse your medical facemask without washing it first!]
But there was a problem—it was also prominently featuring the same stains that had marred it when it was a pillow. Embellishments to the rescue! Not only would they be able to hide the ugly parts, they'd also do that little something extra to make the mask a work of art!

From the remaining scraps, I cut out a few of the printed flowers. I didn't want them to fray, so I put permanent fabric glue around their outside edges on the back. You can just barely see it as a glossy sheen in the photo.

I wanted the flowers to really pop, so I hand-stitched around their centers and gathered the thread, causing the cloth to pucker.

Then, I opened up the bottom seam of the mask (if I'd been thinking in advance, I wouldn't have sewn the bottom to begin with, but we improvise here!) and sewed the flowers to the owl layer directly on top of the worst stains. I put more flowers on the rabbit layer in different positions, purely for show.

Then I repaired the bottom seam and was good to go!

Owl Side                              Rabbit Side

On the first day I wore the new "fashion" mask in public, I really pulled out all the stops! I put on eye makeup for the occasion and boots with actual heels! I don't think I've worn anything but flats since March, so it was indeed a thrill! I rocked the mask at Home Depot and the Post Office, but sadly did not get any comments. People are so much less friendly when we're all wearing masks. Oh well...maybe I'll try again the next time I venture out of my house in another 2 weeks!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Velvet leggings

Feast your eyes on another work-from-home outfit I'd never consider wearing to work-from-the-office....Because it features leggings as pants!

These blue velvet leggings are gloriously glam. As soon as I decided to wear them, I knew I wanted to wear them with black, for the starkest contrast possible with their shiny surface. I tried on every black top I own, but ultimately decided that my cape-like cardigan provided the drama factor I was looking for.

Ordinarily I only wear leggings with fully crotch-covering tops, but for these, I had to make an exception. The high waist and zipper closure was just begging to be noticed, and they didn't have the problems with excessive clinginess that makes most leggings too revealing. So I tucked my tank top inside and strutted my high-fashion stuff. The pom-poms on the shoes definitely added to the effect.

Now that I don't have any showplace for my outfits, I get inordinately excited whenever anyone sees them—anyone at all. Yesterday, I just about brimmed over with delight when my roommate complimented my front of her mom, who happened to be visiting. An adoring audience of two! That's what Unfashionistas live for!

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Bring me a higher waist

I came of age around the turn of the millennium—in other words, the era of ultra-low-rise pants. At the time, I was new to fashion and embraced the trend with all the enthusiasm of someone who had never known anything else. But I never really understood it. I was frustrated by the fit of low-rise pants, trying valiantly to keep mine on the up and up with a succession of well-used belts (I only owned one belt at time in those pre-Unfashionista days) and always choosing oversized shirts to shrink the gap caused by an very low waistband.

When the tops of bottoms finally started to ascend after a decade, I embraced that trend with all the enthusiasm of someone who had never realized it was an option. Now, with several years of increasingly higher waists behind us, I've reached the point where I absolutely refuse to wear anything that doesn't rest solidly above my pelvis and stay there without a belt. Too low of a rise has become one of my top reasons for returning pants I buy online; but this particular pair was low-rise and not returnable, so I had to do something drastic.

When I was finally brave enough to risk ruining the pants forever (nearly 5 months after their purchase in October), I took them apart so I could reassemble them into a style more to my liking.

First, I picked apart the waistband with my seam ripper. The belt loops were removed, the button snipped out (I tried to take it apart to damage the fabric less, but nothing doing), the buttonholes unstitched—in order to get the inner layer separated from the outer layer, everything else had to go!

Once the waistband was completely removed, I put it all back together in a single layer twice as high.

I used zigazg stitching for maximum stretch, which unfortunately was too loose and can be easily seen from the outside when the material is taut—I'm not sure what else I could have done except maybe a stretch straight stitch, which my machine does, but which takes forever.

What I did was go over my original stitching with another layer in less visible yellow thread. I also tried to better position the seam to hide the original serging, which had been peeking out in places after my first run.
The pants were stretchy enough that a button and zipper closure were not really necessary, so I decided not to replace either of those. Instead, I cut out the zipper, sewed the placket shut, and finished the waistband for pull-on ease!

Without the original double layers to give it support, the waistband was now very flimsy and unstructured. I decided to buttress it with a backing of elastic, which I had salvaged from some other pair of pants sometime in the past.

The elastic served to cover up a lot of the raw edges, but there were still several seams left exposed. I tried to mitigate those with a combination of pinking and zigzag overlocking.

Where the button and buttonhole used to be, I was left with several unsightly holes. I stitched over them in a haphazard way to close them, but I also had to cover their scars.

Since I knew I was never going to wear these stretchy jeggings with a belt, I set three of the old belt loops in a row on the front, to hide the holes and add a little bit of pizzazz to the waistband. They're slightly off-center, but in spite of that, they're my favorite feature of the new pants!

I ended up completely covering up the belt-loop trim in the pants' inaugural outfit, but I'm just lucky I got to wear them at all! The weather is warming up here in Maryland, so soon pants season will be over. Fortunately for these pants, winter hasn't given up the ghost yet. On a cold and rainy Thursday, I put on the pants for a pick-me-up—sunny colors for a sunless day!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Stay-at-home mom jeans

It had to happen sometime. After a month and a half of working from home, I finally ventured into denim territory.

I've been very firm in my adherence to soft clothes during the extent of my quarantine—I've basically lived in stretch leggings, flowy wide-leg trousers, and the occasional skirt. But not only am I bored sick of those options (side note: this fall, I was just beginning a love affair with leggings and tunics, never imagining that they'd be my uniform for the entirety of April. The affair was probably the most short-lived of all my fashion fixations. Now if I never have to wear another tunic, I think I'll do a jig), but they're also very limited in their pairing potential.

Leggings can only be worn with tops that cover my crotch; wide-leg pants can only be worn with short, tight shirts (I mean, unless you want to appear slovenly, which you're certainly entitled to do while sheltering in place, but it's not my first choice of look). If you want to wear a moderately fitted and mid-length top, neither of those options are a great choice. If said top happens to be red-and-white striped, your options are even fewer, because there aren't many colors or patterns that won't clash. The best option by far is blue jeans.

But what about the lack of flexibility? The pinching and constricting and all the other downsides to wearing denim? Was I willing to take on those hazards? Yes, with the greatest compromise ever: mom jeans!

Mom jeans: what are they? Generally high-waisted, roomy pants with plenty of room for child-bearing hips, famous for their popularity among busy mothers who can't be bothered with fashion. To contrast them from "boyfriend jeans," which are straight-legged and baggy all around, mom jeans tend to be tapered toward the bottom to emphasize a more feminine figure. Most importantly, they have a relaxed fit, perfect for retaining the leg mobility I prize so much in my WFH outfits.

This is my first pair of mom jeans, and the first time I've worn them in this blog. I'm a little late to the party (who's surprised?). Mom jeans first took off around 2014, much to my initial dislike. They fast became a favorite among fashion bloggers, but it took several years before they really went mainstream, or before I was willing to invest in a pair. I finally decided to try and bring some into my collection early last year.

These mom jeans are the real thing—purchased at the thrift store at my "I'm not sure if I'll ever wear it, so I'm not paying more than 4 dollars for it" price point, and proudly bearing the Sonoma brand name. No high-street knockoffs for me!

I never found many occasions to wear them. When I did, I always felt frumpy and not at all like the trend-setting fashionista I wanted to be. Eventually I realized it was because the cut was wrong. At the time, above-the-ankle was the only fit worth sporting, and these jeans reached as far as my foot. I tried cuffing them, but they still didn't look right, so eventually I cut a few inches off the bottom, leaving what I hoped was an edgy raw edge. Just in time for hemlines to start creeping downwards, I'll have you know—I'll always be behind the curve!

Though I don't think mom jeans will ever be my first choice of legwear, I do think they work with this outfit. The top is new to me, and I couldn't love it more (it's almost a fair substitute for the much-missed black-and-white top that even its replacement could never quite match); the Chinese slippers are the ideal addition to the outfit, perfectly comfy indoor shoes, and yet another first wear since quarantine times.

After a whole day of wearing the mom jeans, I feel neither confined nor constrained nor uncomfortable (I'm sure the added Spandex helps). Sure, they're not as loungey as leggings, but the freedom of having a whole new silhouette to explore almost makes up for it. I'd consider these again for another day at the home office.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Hood to Hemline - A refashion

I bought this unicorn hoodie last summer from Rainbow, when I was actively building the collection of lounge clothes that's becoming so handy in these stay-at-home days. It was on clearance—3 dollars, I think?

I must have decided it was too cheap to try on, because I didn't notice until I brought it out of storage in the fall that it was missing its waistband! Raw edges are no dealbreaker for me, but this shirt was awkwardly short without a bottom band. Something needed to be done.

Some deliberation later, I had decided to use the hood to extend the hemline. I never wear the hoods on my hoodies anyway, so...Off with her hood!

I turned the raw edges inside and stitched them down (they're still raw for the most part, just out of the way!) but I forgot to take a close-up of that part.

The hood, I picked apart stitch by stitch (I wanted to salvage as much fabric as possible, so no cutting!), finally ending up with these two pieces.

After accounting for the unusable curved edges, I found I had enough fabric to cut four rectangles that would cover the shirt's circumference if they were sewn end to end.

I attached them to the bottom of the shirt...

...Then folded them under for a neat hem.

The inside doesn't look so neat, but that is typical of my work. At least I took the time to zigzag-stitch over the seam to minimize future fraying.

Since the sweatshirt was destined to be a "house shirt," I modeled the finished product lounging on my bed (with my house shoes again)!

However, the day that I wore it, I also made a rare trip to go shopping (for essentials, of course!), which meant I got to wear it with jeans. I never thought of jeans as a treat, but I haven't touched my denim since early March, so I felt pretty excited about wearing them. I even busted out some sparkly earrings for the occasion!

Friday, April 17, 2020

Three more for Week Four


In my last fashion haul before coronavirus made trend-watching irrelevant, my mission was to acquire a full-length or midi-length cardigan, which I'd heard were making a resurgence. I loved them the first time around, but as is the case with most fashions, I never quite got one of my own.

Well, now I have one, just in time to never be able to wear it anywhere! Fortunately, long sweaters make great loungewear, so I paired it with some graphic leggings and a tank top for my Tuesday WFH outfit. I even pinned the top closed with a brooch—about the most effortful use of jewelry I've attempted since the start of quarantining.


I haven't ever worn this sweater at work because I prefer to take full advantage of its lace-up sides. While I can close them tightly for a modest and office-appropriate appearance, I love them best when they're wild and undone. I wore a burgundy tank and matching leggings underneath, the dark colors of which contrasted delightfully through the openings in the sweater. I am running low on shoes that I haven't yet worn for quarantine, but I haven't run out! These off-white ones are one of the remaining holdouts.


Friday is casual day, and that means screen prints! I'm not opposed to graphic prints at the office generally, especially if they're traditional designs like flowers, but I'd typically save a big bold image like this one for a Friday—and I probably wouldn't wear this particular one at the office at all, owing to its extreme tightness. But it's fair game for working from home, and exactly what I needed to pick me up on this last day of this very long week (time seems to drag on unbearably when I never leave the house!). I paired the print with some fortuitously coordinated green leggings, and – the icing on the cake – leg warmers! I haven't touched my leg warmers in two years, but when I saw them in my drawer next to the leggings, I knew the time was right to bring them back!