Saturday, January 18, 2020

Big ol' boots

Wide-shaft boots are one of the fashion trends I've been informed are bubbling up this year. I don't know if these gargantuan white foldover boots fit the category, but whether they do or not, I'm glad I got them.

Ever since my last two pairs of white dressy boots bit the dust, I've been craving a replacement. In an attempt to keep my shoe collection under control, I tried to make various other shoes stand in their stead, but eventually I accepted that there is no comparison to a sophisticated, high-heeled, pure white boot.

They are surprisingly hard to find, though. When I searched online, my findings were almost totally limited to ankle and mid-calf boots. There were a few taller options, but they were mostly described as "bone," which is not the optic white my aesthetic sense required. I hesitated long and hard before investing in this oversized, rather oddly shaped boot I found on Shoedazzle...but the actual name of the style is "No Regrets," and it proved to be true.

I love these boots. They are just the kind of maximalist footwear I live for, but even with their over-the-top silhouette, they are solid in color and texture, so they go with pretty much everything (except midi skirts—too chunky for that!).

Today I wore them with my Friday uniform of late: skinny jeans and a sweater (now that skinny jeans are on the "classic" end of the fashion spectrum, I've been finding them the perfect choice for casual days at work). This outfit is almost a reproduction of "Lavender Fields" from 2 years ago, except I'm wearing purple pants instead of pink and these new white boots instead of the older ones. What can I say? When it works, it works!

Monday, January 6, 2020

Partying like it's 1999

A funny thing happened in the last month of 2019: I became obsessed with the fashion of the 90's.

It all started with a  "trance classics" dance party that I attended shortly before Christmas. Now, the heyday of trance music occurred in the late 90's and early 2000's, so I felt like the perfect outfit for an all-old-school trance party would be something from around that era.

I looked to online stills from Buffy the Vampire Slayer as my inspiration, and eventually came up with a cute combo of cami + straight skirt + knee-high boots + butterfly necklace. It combined several distinctive looks of the turn of the millennium, in a conservative sort of way—the trance classics party was only on the top floor of a club that was otherwise just doing business as usual, so I didn't feel like going for the obnoxiously retro raver look. Sadly, I didn't even get a chance to take off my coat before we left, and definitely didn't get a picture.

Un-sadly, I had another chance to pull off a 90's ensemble just a couple weeks later, when a friend invited me to a 90's dance party! Also very fortunately, 2 days before the party, a different friend unloaded a huge collection of secondhand clothes on me, including a quintessentially 90's plaid skirt.

It made the perfect centerpiece to my Clueless-inspired outfit. I wore a cropped cardigan on top and over-the-knee socks on the bottom. You can't do 90's without a choker, so I wore my pink one with the dangling pearl, and pearl earrings. I thought it a very prim and proper, Cher Horowitz-approved jewelry selection.

I even put two barrettes in the side of my hair and tried to curl it under in the best approximation of "The Rachel" I can wheedle out of my very straight, blunt-cut locks.

This time, I finally made the effort to get a photo before even leaving the house!

Success! — but in planning for the parties, I came up with another retro outfit, evoking the early aughties, that I simply can't wait to wear. Now that it's 2020, it's officially time to start being sentimental about the first decade of the millennium. 2000's parties, here I come!

Trends of the teens

Since I started insisting that all the trends in my year-in-review fashion post had to have been actually witnessed by me somewhere other than someone else's trend report, the list has grown a lot shorter...which is fine, because that means I have more space to dig way back into previous years! I'm pretty excited, since, as long as I've been doing my annual trend reports, this is the first one that will mark the turn of not only the year, but a decade!

But let's start simple, with some of the stuff I've seen in 2019!

Square toes 

My favorite trend of the year has to be square-toed shoes. I rhapsodized about my excitement for the style all the way back in May, and I'm thrilled to announce that the boxy toe has stayed strong right into boot season! I suppose I (and the rest of the world) will get tired of it just like the last time it was in fashion, but I hope that takes a good long while!

Chunky acrylic jewelry

Here's one trend I had plenty of opportunities to shop in 2019—fat geometric acrylic hoops seemed to dominate the earring selection this year (also shapeless metal blobs—I threw one in the photo for good measure). In a similar vein, huge barrettes also cropped up everywhere—frequently covered in pearls. While usually bigger is better, somehow I just can't get on board with the strange merging of hard shapes with soft edges, and natural colors in unnatural plastic, and just, so much bigness! It's like ... a baby's toy, but fashion!

Totally tubular shoulders

I've been cringing and hoping it wasn't true, but there is no longer any denying it: 80's shoulders are back and as big as ever! These aren't the cute little puffed sleeves of circa 2005—no, these are monstrous legs-of-mutton and shoulder pads that need their own area code. I personally haven't seen anyone rocking the voluminous styles, but I chalk that up to never getting invited to holiday parties. It seemed that there were plenty of them available to buy, and formalwear was where the trend really blew up (like a balloon!).

Questionable Mentionables

That's only three trends this year, but honestly, I think that's it. I saw "shield" sunglasses everywhere during Paris Fashion Week, but I never see them in stores, so it must have been an insiders-only thing. Something in September prompted me to say that "eclipse" motifs were big, but I haven't seen a single such image since then, so I think it was my imagination. The style publications tell me that heeled flip flops are having a moment, and much as I want that to be true – after all, I called it – I haven't seen any evidence of it IRL. Huge puffy headbands à la the Renaissance are all over fashion and shopping websites but don't seem to be on anyone's actual head. Clearly this has been a slow year for actual developments in fashion.

The Decade in Review

So let's move on back into the past, when things were a lot more interesting, and talk about what made the 2010's the 2010's. For starters, definitely skinny jeans. And leggings. 10 years from now, all the kids attending "10's parties" will be giggling uncontrollably at their sausage-casing calves, but for now, it is still totally normal, and has been that way for so long I almost forget that everyone used to wear nothing but flares. While sticking your Spandex-clad legs into knee-high boots seems to have become passé by now, it was ubiquitous for enough of the decade that I think it qualifies as iconic. As far as shirts go... You know how in the 90's we had tiny spaghetti strap camisoles, and then in the 2000's, it was all about the wife beaters? Well, in the 2010's, the top pick for tops was the loose, flowy tank—bonus points if you wore it in a half-tuck. Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the advancements in technology that allowed pretty much anything to be digitally printed on pretty much anything. While everyone is by no means walking around in custom graphics 24-7, I think we will look back on the past decade as the dawn of a new era in printed apparel.

Do I have predictions for the decade ahead? Well, though I was wrong about tall socks taking over in 2019 (not saying they didn't; just saying I didn't notice if they did!), I'm still going to take a stab at the forecasting game...and this year, I'm looking at my hands—specifically, hands that I hope will soon be rocking totally non-functional lace gloves. If 80's shoulders have returned, surely their counterparts the mesh gloves can do it too!

Lastly, I'm thinking that it's been a long time since fitted shirts were truly trendy. Sure, we've got some really skimpy clubbing outfits that cling like a second skin, but in general, the last decade has been far too focused on boxy, top-heavy, figure-hiding tops. They're great for shoulder mobility, but not at all flattering on me. After 10 years, it's probably about time for the pendulum of fashion to swing back towards the slim-fitting end of things. My hope and wish for the 2020's is that I'm right!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Classic Blue

In keeping with recent tradition, I once again wore an outfit highlighting Pantone's Color of the Year for the first day of the new year (and decade—what an occasion!).

This year's color is a boring one if I do say so myself: "Classic Blue." If ever a color that's not beige, brown, black, or white could be considered a neutral, Classic Blue would be it—the color of denim, corporate logos, Powerpoint backgrounds, and everything else that's dependable and unexciting.

For a first outfit of the year, I guess unexciting is acceptable—especially considering that my New Year's Eve was a wild night spent in a smashing all-silver getup that filled my quotient for thrilling clothes for many days to come. The night, which didn't end for me until after 4 AM, was, in fact, so thrilling that I forgot to take a picture of my outfit, so you'll never see the metallic masterpiece that I assembled.

Instead, content yourself with this perfectly pedestrian Pantone creation. Every single garment I'm wearing is some shade of blue, although I think the most "classic" of the hues is probably the center of the embroidered flowers on my jeans, which can be seen a lot better in this photo from 2 years ago, when they were also the centerpiece of an all-blue outfit.

I guess one good thing about Classic Blue, its complete lack of novelty notwithstanding, is that you can assemble an entire outfit in shades of it, and no one will even notice that's what you're doing!

Friday, December 6, 2019

Llama Rama

Around the middle of last winter, I was overcome by a desire to have more casual winter tops—you know, something comfy enough to laze about the house in, but cute enough to answer the door in and possibly even take out on some errands.
Fortunately, I had just the shirt to start me off: a plain grey long-sleeved T-shirt handed down to me by a friend.

I spent lots of time trying to come up with decorations for this shirt. For a long time, I thought I was going with a dinosaur theme, but several of those ideas proved impractical, so I switched my trajectory to fuzzy mammals. The fake fur that I used for my Mothra costume was just the ticket. By this time, I had removed the black fabric front and replaced the fur in my stash, so it was ready to use.
My initial idea was to do an alpaca, an adorable animal I fell in love with on a trip to New Zealand. However, I found that alpacas don't have a really recognizable silhouette, so again the theme changed, to the larger and more distinctive llama.

I found a llama photo I liked on the internet, and converted it to a black silhouette in Photoshop. Then I enlarged the graphic to the size I wanted it on my shirt and printed it out.
I (temporarily) glued the printout to the fabric, and cut around outside it.
Next, I folded the edges under to achieve the final llama shape.
I ripped off the paper so I could work better with the fabric, then hand-stitched the fuzzy applique to my T-shirt.
A long time passed. My llama needed a face, but I wasn't sure how to achieve it. First, I tried buttons for eyes, but they looked positively ludicrous. So did the eyes I had salvaged from my now-totally-destroyed unicorn slippers
I decided to illustrate the eyes and attach them somehow.
Here's the design I came up with, drawn with marker and cut out of paper. Now how to convert them to a material that would work on a T-shirt?
I don't know how to embroider (and thought that would be too difficult over the shaggy fur in any case). I thought about getting custom-made embroidery patches, but that would send the cost of this cheap DIY into an astronomical range.

Custom-printed fabric swatches? I thought about it, but they might pucker and/or fray.
Felt was the way to go. For a long time, "felt" sat on my shopping list, as I envisioned that I would make detailed cutouts with every color of the facial features represented by a corresponding color of felt.

Then one day, I realized there was no need for that; I could just use a sheet of brown felt I already had and paint on the contrasting colors. So that's what I did!
I carefully cut out the felt pieces and hand-stitched them onto the llama, then the llama onto the shirt. It was a year ago now, but I know I was concerned that the felt wouldn't hold up in the wash, so I'm pretty sure I decided to make those pieces easily removable. When I do the laundry, I'll just have to detach and reattach them. That's a lot of maintenance for a loafing-around-the-house shirt, so I made it worth my while by wearing the llama shirt out for dinner!
Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of that outfit, so allow me to console you with a few other llamas that have graced my life in recent months.

First, some llama lloafers, that I picked up at the thrift store last spring for just $5.49 (probably 20% off?). I've already worn them once, but again, that was an outfit unworthy of a blog post.

And, in a rare non-fashion-related purchase, I also acquired a "Fa la la la llama" decoration early last year, which I made the centerpiece of a holiday-themed table in my house when I decorated for Christmas this month.
Though I've been saying it for decades, I finally get to say it in my blog: I llove llamas!

Monday, December 2, 2019

Reupholstered boots

Those white chunky-heeled boots, how I loved them! I loved them from 2013 through early 2019, and I wanted to love them even longer, but, like all synthetic leathers, they began to lose their thin outer layer of plastic in a manner most flaky. But still, they were my most flattering pair of boots, and I couldn't bear to give up on them.

Resfashion to the rescue! Like the equally beloved pair of white pumps before them, I thought to disguise their scruffy exteriors with a fresh coating of fabric. 
I planned to use some sheer floral chiffon from my stash—the remains of my tiered sundress-turned-coverup (which, I have to say for the record, turned out to be too unbreathable to really work for the beach).
I noticed the original boots were basically constructed of two halves joined at the front and back, so I decided to use the same model for my fabric covering. I traced the front line of one boot onto the chiffon, cut it out, and repeated three times. I even remembered to reverse the direction for the opposite half of each boot, but I don't think it mattered because the front of this fabric looks the same as the back.

I joined the two halves and sewed a seam down the front line of each. The material was so sheer, that I had to temporarily glue the two halves together and  support them with a piece of paper while sewing.

Once the paper was ripped off and the glue washed out, I started work with a different kind of glue, to attach the fabric to the boots. Having had decent success with Mod Podge outdoor glue on the last shoe project, I used it again. I started by painting a thin layer of the glue onto the left forefoot of the boot.
Starting at the toe, I began fitting the fabric to the boot. I lined up the center line of my fabric cover to the center line of the original boot, then pressed the material down into the glue. I did not go very far, because the chiffon was too thin to really grip the glue, and it kept sliding around as I tried to stretch it to fit. So, once again, I found myself gluing very small areas, then waiting an hour or so for them to dry before moving on.
I found this was much easier to do with the shoe actually on my foot, to lend some support from the inside. On the first boot, I glued down a significant portion of the left half of the foot before moving on to the right. But on the second boot, I did the left and right halves at the same time, which seemed to result in a smoother finish.
After several days of this piecemeal gluing process, I had worked my way completely up the boots' shafts. At this point, I decided to work on the bottom edges. I chose to make these shoes as "authentic" as possible, and tuck the fabric in between the uppers and soles. I pried the sole from the uppers, just around the edges, with a screwdriver. 
I used the same screwdriver to press the fabric into the gap, once I had filled it with E-6000, my most heavy-duty glue.
Now came a challenge: Finishing the edge along the back zipper. To accomplish this, I folded the fabric to the underside and pressed a crease into it with a flat iron.

Then, I glued it down along the length of the zipper. This required the use of copious numbers of binder clips to hold it all in place while it dried.

While on the subject of clipping things, let's talk about the top edges! I flat-ironed another crease into the very top half-inch of the fabric, and then folded them over the boot tops to the inside, so that the raw edges were safely enclosed. 
I discovered that the binder clips were causing indentations in the soft material, so I switched to clothespins  halfway through.
When I had cut out the fabric, I'd left enough for the heels to be in one piece with the uppers. But due to the way the fabric had conformed to the shoes, the remaining material wasn't quite long enough. Since the original idea for the heels wouldn't work, I cut the fabric just below the line where the bottoms of the uppers meet the top of the heels.

Normally, the fabric for the uppers and heels are tucked into the gap between them, but since I couldn't actually remove the heels to create a space, I did the next best thing: sew a seam into the fabric. Because the uppers were already firmly glued on, there was no way I could machine-sew this seam, so I did it by hand.
Then I wrapped the material around the heels and glued it down just as before, doubling it over on the inside of the heel where it can't be seen.

At the very bottom of the heel, there was a nice big cavity where I tucked the remaining fabric. The taps popped right back in over this. And that was it!

Am I happy with the results? Mostly.

The fabric really didn't want to stick down firmly, and sometimes it puckered around folds and curves, so the texture is less smooth than I would have hoped. However, the busy pattern mostly disguises these flaws.

For their first appearance in the real world, I really wanted to wear the boots with something that made them stand out, but I couldn't seem to find any dresses that didn't completely clash. So in the end, I paired the boots with a color-coordinated outfit of green and blue.

Monday, November 18, 2019

The embroidered velvet slip dress

Have you ever had a piece of special-occasion clothing so special, that you waited so long to wear it, that it just plain went out of style? I have!

It all started with the slip dress wave of 2015. I wanted so bad to hop on that bandwagon, but my budget kept me away until the next year and beyond. I took so long to adopt the slip dress trend, in fact, that several other big trends had a chance to surge in the meantime. Beginning late 2016, it was velvet.  I mention this because, when I finally succeeded in acquiring a slip dress, it was made of crushed velvet. 
However, that was in May of 2018. By that time, velvet had already reached the end of its trajectory (which probably explains why I was finally able to buy a tags-on velvet dress at my cheapskate price point).

Fortunately, slip dresses were still a stylish option, and another, newer trend was going strong: embroidery. I had a collection of patches that I'd bought as soon as I realized embroidery was going to be big, so I figured I'd use the largest and most ornate of them to embellish the plain pink frock, and help give it a more up-to-the-moment look.

The hardest part of the project was deciding where to put the patch. It was originally one large piece, but it didn't look quite balanced just floating on the side, so I decided to cut it into two parts. To help me decide what to cut and where to paste,  I photographed the patch and the dress, and played around with them in Photoshop so I could experiment with placement without actually making any irreversible cuts.

Design by Photoshop
That done, I went ahead with the cutting in real life, and attached the patches to the dress with water-soluble glue—the idea being, as always, that after I was done with the decorated dress, I could separate the patches from the dress and reuse them (and then resell the dress!)

My original thought had been to wear the dress to a wedding, but the only weddings I attended after the completion of the dress were in the summer—entirely the wrong weather for velvet. No semiformal occasions presented themselves over the next few months, and I decided that the colors and floral motif lent themselves better to spring than the winter holiday season. Valentine's Day was a good contender, but by that point, my relationship with my boyfriend was on the rocks, and we did not celebrate Valentine's Day in our usual style.

Before I knew it, spring had come and gone, then another hot summer, and by the time fall rolled around and events worthy of a velvet slip dress started occurring again, I realized that, by now, even the embroidery patches were passé, and there was no way I was going to wear this dress to a function without feeling behind the times.

So, I did what I always do with special-occasion clothes that are no longer so special: I wore it to work.

The outfit is, if nothing else, a masterpiece of layering. It's too cold to wear bare shoulders this time of year (and spaghetti straps are inappropriate for the office anyway!) but I couldn't wear anything over it, because that would obscure the lovely flower detailing on the neckline! So I took a page from the Fashion Girl Playbook, and put a long-sleeve shirt underneath. This had the effect of toning down my dress from cocktail attire to something more casual.

Unfortunately, the pale pink fabric is quite translucent, and the demarcation between where the deep purple shirt ended and my underwear/legs began was obvious. So I added a pair of burgundy leggings, which I folded up to stop just below my knees, providing a consistent undertone the entire length of the dress.

Observe, the secret leggings revealed!
Honestly, layering ingenuity aside, I'm none too proud of this outfit, and am happy to have checked it off my list! Now I'll just remove the patches and save them for something better! Anyone in the market for a used velvet slip dress?