Thursday, December 29, 2011

None of the above

In case you were waiting with bated breath to know just which holiday outfit I finally selected, the moment is finally here. And the answer is: ...Well, I bet you can guess from the title of this post.

Fearing a lack of qualified photographers at this outfit's
designated venue, I gave it a trial run at home before
traveling to Ohio where it made its debut.
Sometimes all you need is to tell someone about your problem, and the solution presents itself. Only a few minutes after coming out of the closet with my gay apparel dilemma, I remembered a dress that I had bundled away with all of my summer clothes. Sure, it had no sleeves, but it was brilliant, emerald green—the perfect thing to evoke the holiday spirit!

I exhumed it from the bag of tank tops and cutoffs, marveling at the one plus side to polyester: no wrinkles! Having spent almost two months stuffed unceremoniously in a plastic bag, it emerged just as regal as if accompanied by a trumpet fanfare.

It was not hard to choose the appropriate articles to complete this festive ensemble—a pair of off-white tights I had paid dearly for in expectation of later need matched perfectly with my reliable old crocheted shrug (you might remember it from my first outfit of last spring). Lacking a pair of sparkly green boots, I settled for the platform Mary Janes I mentioned last post, and finally broke out the old Christmas tree earrings I made myself several years ago.

Although initially a little hesitant to show so much thigh at church (our first stop before the party), I swathed myself in a full-length wool coat and hoped no one would look at me once I sat down. Two compliments fell upon me once safe at the party, so I concluded the end result was worth the risk.

Next challenge: what to wear for New Year's...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Don we now our gay apparel

Despite whatever you might be thinking, the title of this post is nothing more than an introduction to Christmas clothing, in the words of a famous song.

In the words of another famous song, it is the most wonderful time of the year, when wonderful things happen—things like holiday parties.

There is a dress code for holiday parties, and it consists of three rules:
  1. You must dress in Christmas colors (red, green, white, silver, and gold) or at least incorporate graphic elements with a Christmas theme.
  2. You must on no account wear the same holiday outfit twice in the same holiday season.
  3. You must never wear the same outfit to the same venue two years in a row.
For years now, I have been abiding by these rules, and have never had trouble following them—until this year. A combination of higher personal standards and the addition of an extra holiday party to my December routine have created a unique challenge: How to be Unfashionistically fabulous for three Christmas occasions in one year?

The first occasion was the holiday party at my new place of employment. Being a newbie and not knowing what to expect, my choices for this party were limited. My preference was to wear my Christmas knee socks (which have served me well in two Christmases past) with a white skirt and a new (pre-owned) red top I had gotten in an eBay lot. However, not knowing how my coworkers would react to knee socks with pom poms, I chose something a little less attention-grabbing and wore boots instead. Woulda worn those fuzzy white boots from my last post if I owned them, but on second thought, they're probably even more attention-grabbing than snowflake socks!

The end result was this getup, which turned out to be a little too dressy for the party, but better to look like a fop than a flop—that's what I always say!

So one holiday outfit down; two to go.

The second outfit will make its appearance at the Christmas Eve party of some family friends, as well as, more than likely, a Christmas Eve church service. It must be fun and informal, but still show some style. The snowflake socks are out, as I'm pretty sure I wore them last year. I used up my first-choice outfit at the office party, so now I'll need to explore the darker reaches of my closet to find the raiments I seek.

Some options:
This beautiful jade-green skirt with gold embroidery, matching sash, and gold sweater. My mother bought me this outfit a few years ago, but I've only had one opportunity to wear the skirt, because it's so plush, I have trouble finding occasions formal enough for it. It's probably too formal for the Christmas Eve party, too.

 Along the same lines, but more casual, I could choose this magenta-white-pink-and-green skirt (magenta's close enough to red that it can get away with being worn for Christmas!). The colorful tiers and abundance of ruffles give it a feeling of being less elegant, more fun. Less embassy ball, more Little House on the Prairie. I'd pair it with a green T-shirt, which might not be the warmest option available. I wore this to the party about 5 years ago, but I don't think anyone'd remember.
Another possibility is to go the more sophisticated route and wear pants. The last time I wore pants to the holiday party was...boy, I don't even remember, so it would certainly be novel for me. I've got this new teal ruched-and-lace top (also from an eBay lot) that I haven't worn yet. And paired with my platform Mary Janes, even boring ol' black pants could be fun.
A  final option would be to daringly defy the conventions of Christmas colors and wear... blue! This midnight blue dress (which I just bought at the thrift store for under 5 dollars) is made of velvet, which is opulent enough to give it a fair place at a Christmas party. The blue color could be construed as an allegory for cold and snow. With the right socks, I think I could make this work! Unfortunately, I can't find the right socks.
The third party of Christmas is the family gathering on Christmas day. I'm not sure how it will go this year, but often it consists of my aunt, mother, brother, and various significant others sitting around the coffee table and opening presents, followed by a dinner with the same participants. It is a day for wearing pajamas most of the morning and changing into sweatshirts for the afternoon. I've got the pajamas and sweatshirts covered, but if we have to do any visiting, for example, with my new step-family, my options have run pretty thin. This might be the year one of my holiday outfits has to make an encore.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

They say I'm shoe-nuts

I have a confession to make. I have become a shoe maniac.

There was a time when I had a pair of shoes for every purpose: a pair for work, a pair for school,  a pair for dress up, and a pair for messy outdoor activities. When one of these pairs wore out, I'd replace it. Simple.

Nowadays, I look for new purposes just so I can have more shoes. I have dress shoes for wearing with pants, and dress shoes for wearing with skirts. I have dress shoes for looking professional and dress shoes for looking playful. I have low-heeled dress shoes for when my feet hurt and when my pants are too short. I have a pair of tennis shoes and am looking for another pair with thicker soles to wear with longer pants. I have work shoes for work. I have hiking boots and snow boots and high-heeled fashion boots. I am currently in the market for some low-heeled fashion boots, since they seem to be big this year and are quite practical. I have sandals for every purpose that I have enclosed shoes for. I do stick to neutral tones because they match everything, but I have one for each purpose in each of brown and black, and a few in grey for good measure. And if I had my druthers (and infinite money and storage space), I'd have all my shoes in a wild array of colors as well.

Every time I visit Facebook, I see an ad in my sidebar for a different site that offers you a personalized selection of shoes for 40$ a pair. And I keep clicking. Even though I rarely feel like spending 40 dollars on a single item, I keep signing up for these shoe clubs so I can drool over their selection.

Shoes this year are awesome. Aside from the prevalence of stilettos, which I object to more on safety principles than on any deep-seated aesthetic sensibility, I am enchanted with the trends. They've taken the cute 40s-inspired shoes of the early 2000's, crossed them with the glamour of the 80's, and come up with some pretty nifty picks (nifty being a term lifted from the 50's). I also see that the Ughs are finally taking a backseat to actually-functional snow boots that coincidentally look cute, too.

However, much as I want to own about half of all the shoes on the market, practical considerations say I can't have my druthers. So I will do second best and collect my favorite shoes here in a kind of personal gratification exhibit.

Some of them are so ridiculous (like the green glittery boots) that I could never wear them. Others have potential.

And if anyone wants to buy me some shoes for Christmas, I wear an 8½. Nine if half-sizes aren't available.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sock Talk

It's been a while (like, since Monday!) since I wore an Unfashionista-worthy outfit, and I figured today – dreary and rainy – would be the perfect day to get dressed up, get out, and get some errands done.

As I looked through my skirt collection, it became apparent that I am once again tired of all my clothes—a problem which I may try to rectify once I can start using a real closet again instead of a couple of storage totes (I have upgraded from the plastic bags, so at least there's a small improvement). But I did my best to think positive and find something wearable amidst my uninspiring collection.

I selected the black tiered skirt that I've really only worn twice, and I decided the perfect complement to turn this somewhat unflattering article would be my black-and-white-striped knee-high socks. I got them in a set which I bought for the plain black pair that came with them, and I wear them whenever I'm going for an edgy, over-the-top, or slightly punk look.

What would be better to enhance a punk look than my zipper-toed Airwalk wedges? (You can tell they're punk by the fact that they have stars on the inside.)

I didn't have much that I could wear on top that wouldn't look silly with an all black-and-white lower half, so I went with the one white shirt I have that isn't stained yellow, already in the laundry, or a big bulky sweater that I don't like: my ever-stylish white blouse by Express (don't worry--I got it for a steal at Gabriel Brothers).

To top it all off, I clipped my hair up in the back in a messy pile that I hoped looked effortless (even though it took me 6 tries) and popped in some heart-shaped earrings. They looked a little weathered, which was the best punky option my earring collection could yield.

I wore this to the mall, where I was convinced people were studiously ignoring my ensemble. However, on the way back, I struck Unfashion gold.

The mall security guard who I think is cute but never notices me told me hello and complimented me on my socks as I passed. Then, while I was gazing happily at the fish tanks across the way, a girl turned to me and announced (to the whole mall, I think—she was loud), "Your socks are cute!"

I'm glad I got those reactions or I would have probably lost all confidence to ever try to look edgy again.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Little Ballerina

I wore this outfit to work on Wednesday. Usually my work style is more what I would call "lack thereof," since I'm supposed to arrive around 6 in the morning and definitely don't want to waste even a minute of sleep fussing with clothes or my hair.

Last Wednesday was the exception: Since I only had to go in for one small task which would take less than 15 minutes, I slept in and took my time getting ready, even putting my hair into double buns. I traded my sneakers for ballet flats and topped it all off with a pink long-sleeved tee.

I wasn't really dressing to impress; I just wanted to get out of the jeans that define my workday wardrobe.

But when I got there, one of my coworkers absolutely astonished me with her enthusiastic praise for my cute outfit.

"You look like a little ballerina!" she said.

I guessed that was worth blogging about.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Looking sharp

Last week, I was invited to two job interviews—one at a place I would be tickled pink to work at, and one at a place I, well, wouldn't. However, the "wouldn't" interview came first, so I decided it would be good practice (actually, the recruiter who persuaded me to come in told me it would be good practice. I guess she was under no delusions about my interest level). I also decided it was the perfect excuse to buy new shoes! You might say I was trying to "pump" myself up for the interview.

Get it?

Get it?

OK, OK, moving on.

I was lucky that my shoe craving coincided with a 50%-off sale at my favorite local thrift store, because while there, I found the cutest pair of interview shoes you ever did see! They were a cross between – well, I don't know what – but they looked businesslike and sophisticated, with just the right amount of gratuitous laces, excessively high heels, and patent leather to say that even when I mean business, I don't really mean business. I consider them something like the mullet of shoes, except not ugly.

You'll notice that they feature stiletto heels. They are, in fact, my first foray into the world of skinny heels. Although I have shunned these impractical footwear features for my entire shoe-buying life, and, in the past year, derided them with as much derision as I could dredge up, I finally gave up my antagonism in the face of 5 dollars. That's right. These puppies were priced at 10 dollars and discounted to five! Such a deal is surely worthy of a little open-mindedness.

Of course, as with anything Unfashionistic, that cheap price came at a price. They were a little worn down. Before they were ready for the runway, I had to trim off some hanging threads, polish out a few scuffs, and employ my secret weapon: black permanent marker, to disguise some of the places where the black cover had come clean off. But when they were done, they were a paragon of fabulous shoes.

By the time my "wouldn't" interview rolled around, I was actually excited about it, just so I could wear my new shoes. Of course, the interview didn't lead anywhere like a new career, but it served its purpose: I got practice, in interviewing as well as in walking around on spike heels. They weren't, actually, any more difficult to move around in than any other pair of ridiculously tall shoes—although I nearly did break my ankle stumbling into a grate on the sidewalk, as was foretold.

After my interview, I
went to a place where my
camera was not. Thus, I
was obliged to take my
photo using the old
phone-and-mirror trick.
I apologize.
However, the second interview – for the job I really wanted – would be the true test. For that interview, I pulled out all the stops, even brushing on a little eyeshadow and mascara. I wore the same skirt suit I wore for the first interview, but traded the houndstooth jacket for a black one (one I bought and blogged about long before I was The Unfashionista) because the houndstooth one made me look fat. And then I set out to meet my destiny.

I learned one lesson whilst en route: If you feel the need to wear thigh-high nylons instead of regular pantyhose (the advantage to the thigh-highs is they are a lot less trouble when you have to use the toilet), make sure they are securely attached before setting out. I had to detour to two bathrooms on the way to my interview to adjust my stockings before I could get them to stay put.

But the shoes—the shoes! Did they succeed? Did they make my interviewers fall in love with me, as I had fallen in love with them (the shoes, not the interviewers)? Well, they scheduled a second interview on Monday.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bug Spree

No bedbugs gonna slow me down! In the past 4 days, I've come up with two new Unfashionista posts! In reverse chronological order, here is the first.

Yesterday was a special occasion. My brother was in my area just for the weekend, and I was going to meet up with him and some of our coworker-friends from times gone by. I suggested Dave & Busters, and he agreed!

Now, for this extra-special night on the town, I couldn't wear any of the usual balled-up-in-a-bag ensembles that have been my sole clothing options for the last several weeks. I had to do something new, something exciting!

I dug around in the bottom of my extra-large Ziploc and lo! I found the never-worn luna-moth-green sweater that I'd bought this summer for a true steal of ... you might want to sit down for this ... forty-nine cents! Yes, I had found it on the clearance rack at Marshall's, marked down to almost nothing because several of the seams were coming out. I loved the color, and I knew that a little TLC would make it almost like new.

The only problem with this sweater is its cropped length, which means I'd be obliged to again try my unskilled hand at ... you might want to sit down for this, too ... layering! Fortunately, I had saved a plain black tank top for just this purpose when I packed up all the rest of my summer clothes, and wearing it under my cropped sweater produced just the right effect.

By some miraculous stroke of luck, a pair of earrings (that I had splurged six dollars on) exactly matched the color of the sweater! The earrings just happened to be in the shape of butterflies, proving that while bedbugs may be the bane of my existence, other bugs can be the perfect addition to a cute outfit.

An outfit so cute that I wore it again to work today, and received 2, count 'em 2, compliments from my coworkers.
I am also experimenting with "dog as fashion accessory," in the mode of Paris Hilton.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Some odds and ends to tide you over

I realize I have been a neglectful media maid, and have allowed my online presence to fall into disrepair. As I explained to a fellow blogger, it's hard to be Unfashionable when you're living out of plastic bags. But I do have a few minutes, and few photographs of Unfashionista projects I started this summer, before bedbug fever hit me (see Val's Galorious Galaxy for all the details). I've been holding onto them for various reasons, but it's time to let them out into the light.

Well, one of them at least.

There was a time when I was not confident about my clothes. If I dared to wear anything that deviated much from the preppy norm, I was consumed by self-consciousness. Today, after several years of compliments on my style, I am more daring. I don't even think twice about throwing on a zany outfit like this one:
This ensemble consists of the cheap yellow shirt I bought at Shopper's World, the salmon skirt I made from an old comforter, a pair of athletic/knee socks I bought at Walmart for 2 dollars, and my knockoff Chuck Taylors from Payless Shoes.

I would ordinarily wear shoes that are a little more feminine with an outfit like this, but I was going to work, so practical flats were key. Following work, I met my boyfriend for an impromptu lunch out. On our way back home, he informed me that our waitress had given me the goggle-eyed once-over when we walked in the door.

Oh. I guess the colors were a little out there. I guess the overall look wasn't at the height of fashion. But whatever. Any kind of reaction is a success!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Flower Power

Summer is almost at an end, but before it draws its last breath, I have a few summer outfits I'd like to show you.

This first outfit was inspired by a shopping trip gone wrong.

Earlier this summer, Old Navy had a heavily advertised weekend tank top sale, with all tanks for 2 dollars. What they neglected to tell me was that they were having a pre-sale on Friday. So by the time I got there Saturday morning, all that was left was the boring colors: black, white, and grey.

Well, I thought I'd make the most of it, and bought a black and a white one, thinking I'd give them some permanent embellishments later.

In true unproductive Unfashionista fashion, I still haven't. But I did wear one one day, and I gave it a temporary embellishment just to make it mildly interesting. A fake flower.

If you are me, you have mountains of fake flowers squirreled away. You have trouble refraining from removing fake flowers from the garbage when you find them. (This includes the garbage at cemeteries). But you hardly ever use them.

This outfit was an opportunity to make use of my fake flower collection and make my boring tank top exciting. I attached the flower to my tank top with a safety pin, and finished it off with my secret weapon: Res-Q Tape!

Yes, rescue tape does just what its name implies, saving you from the embarrassment of peeking bra straps, too-low necklines, gaping buttons, and a host of other wardrobe malfunctions. In this case, it works wonders persuading flower petals to lay down flat. At the end of the day, I peeled the tape off my flower and tank top, and now both are good as new and ready for action! As soon as next summer rolls around.

Friday, September 2, 2011


As a designer, I confess an inordinate love of monochromatic color schemes. This tendency causes me continual conflict with my clients, who are always requesting "more colors" in my designs. More colors? Why? That's what shades are for!

Fortunately, as an Unfashionista, I can do whatever I want, including building an entire outfit in shades of turquoise.

I started with a dark turquoise cami top I bought on a vacation a few years ago at 5 for 10$ (This shopping trip remains the source of the majority of my tank top collection today). For an "occasion," I would wear this strappy top with a strapless bra to avoid the double-strap look. But for everyday wear, I allow my bra straps to shine out.

I paired the top with the dip-dyed (now the favored term is ombré) turquoise skirt (the second-to-last hippie skirt I bought before getting tired of them).

So now I'm wearing three shades of turquoise (two with a gradation between them), but I'm not done yet!

I have a matched set of old turquoise jewelry I acquired in New Mexico when I was just a youngun. I never would spend my hard-earned cash on that sort of thing today, so thank goodness I was less thrifty back then....Of course, it could have been my parents' money that paid for the jewelry – I don't remember – but either way, I'm glad I have it. The bracelet particularly is one of my favorite pieces of jewelry, but I hardly ever have a chance to wear it. It has silver beads and turquoise beads, and best of all, birds! And if you zoom in to the picture, you can almost see it clearly!

To complete the look, I wore my ubiquitous black flip-flops (basically, what I wear when I don't have any footwear that actually matches my clothes). But they were mainly just to cover my feet when going out in public. Obviously this outfit is best suited for running barefoot on the beach!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Shrugs and then some

In the last post, we learned how to convert a useless old T-shirt into a useful shrug. But the finished product left something to be desired, so I decided to spruce it up with some kind of decorative trim.

I searched long and hard (several days at least), and eventually, true to Unfashionista tradition, found my answer at a thrift store for a few odd cents. What was the answer? Well, 2 and a half yards of black lace ribbon. Adding black trim to the white shirt effectively turns it from something that matches almost everything to something that matches almost nothing.

But hey, I'm just going to be wearing it to make my clothes conform to a dress code—not to win any "best dressed" awards.

With great patience, I pinned all 2.5 yards of the lace (less a few inches--I couldn't have asked for a more perfect length) to the raw edges of the shrug, as shown in the photo.

What isn't shown in the photo is how I then folded the lace over and pinned it again to "seal in" the raw edges for a clean looking trim.

Lastly, I sewed over the lace to attach it permanently.The finished piece magically transforms a freewheeling summer outfit into a sober, covered-up, workplace-accepted ensemble!

Except for the short shorts and the bare feet, which may require some additional attention before this outfit can truly be labeled "careerwear."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


 Today's lesson takes the concept of resuscitating an old T-shirt to the next level. Whereas in the first lesson, we used a few conservative cuts and some simple stitching, today we're going to turn the shirt into something radically different.

There's nothing special about this shirt except a few yellowish stains that make it impossible to wear, even if it were something you'd be interested in wearing in the first place.

Never fear! I have the perfect idea to turn this dead weight into something that will be an asset to my wardrobe!

You see, where I work, sleeveless shirts are against the dress code. But where I work is also a 10-minute walk from home, meaning, in the height of a sticky DC summer, I want to dress cool and comfortable for my travels.

The solution is to wear a tank top and throw a light short-sleeved shrug over it when I'm at work! This shirt will make the perfect top layer, since white goes with everything!

1. Turn the shirt inside out and mark the approximate shape of the finished piece. I want to make sure I remove the entire original collar, so that's not going to leave us much fabric to work with. A shrug this skimpy is more properly called a "bolero," but that term doesn't seem to be popular at present.

On this particular shirt, I had previously modified the original side seams to accommodate my unusually slender shape (OK, it's really because I'm forever buying XL shirts when I should wear an M). I'm not sure whether I want to keep this alteration or take out the seams for a looser fit. Stay tuned. Although you probably will not have to deal with this conundrum unless you're already a hardcore Unfashionista yourself.

2. Now comes the point of no return—where we actually begin cutting the fabric! Cut a generous approximation of the bottom hem. If it's too long, you can shorten it later.

3. Lop off the original collar.

Here's how it looks so far! This is pretty much the finished product, except that the back is much longer than the front! Obviously we'll have to shorten that up!

I think I'm going to keep my added seam. It looks fine the way it is, and this'll save me having to rip the seam out.This means I'll have to cut along it to get rid of excess fabric and ensure that the front transitions smoothly to the back.

Here's the shirt lying flat. After we cut off the bottom edge of the back side, we'll be done! 4. Chop chop!
While my previous post on T-shirt surgery shows you can make an acceptable article of clothing with a raw edge, this shrug is curling into itself something fierce, and I think it needs a little more refinement. 

The next post will show you how to add pretty trim to your creation.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dressing down

Despite what you may think when you hear "dressing down," a good Unfashionista never looks sloppy (And here I admit that makes me an occasionally not-good Unfashionista, particularly when I'm in my pajamas). But to a genuine Unfashionista, "dressing down" means building an outfit around an accessory like a hat or earrings—working your way down from the top!

A few weeks ago, I ran across a store in Toledo called Glitter, where every item of jewelry was a dollar! It wasn't of particularly high quality, but it was a dollar! Some of it was even a dollar for a 2-piece set! I went hog wild, spending a whopping 5 dollars and significantly expanding my paltry jewelry collection (in fact, prompting me to discover the new way to store necklaces described last post).

I've been itching to wear my new accessories, but as I spend most of my time schlepping around the back of a grocery store, I haven't had many opportunities. Today, I decided to make the most of my day off and proudly flaunt my new bling.

I chose these leaf earrings because they – unlike many of the selections I acquired at Glitter – are not too ostentatious for a day of shopping, visiting friends, and eating at Mexican restaurants.

The obvious choice of clothing to go with them was something with a leafy print. Just my luck, I have a semi-dressy tank top (acquired in an eBay lot) that I've only worn once, emblazoned with flowers and leaves of every kind. I paired it with my favorite pair of shorts, which fortunately happen to be a dark shade of teal that matches the shirt exquisitely, and finished the outfit off with the ubiquitous black flip flops (pretty much the only shoes I wear in summer).

Below the shoes, I placed the rug—but I believe that's far enough down for this particular outfit.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

No country for old scrunchies

Some things go out of fashion and even an Unfashionista does not want to wear them any more.

Back in the 90's, the only accepted method for tying back your ponytail was with a ruffly, fabric-wrapped rubber band called a "scrunchie." In these enlightened days, "accepted" is the last word you'd use in relation to a scrunchie. Catherine Zeta-Jones made headlines in 2010 when she wore one of these outmoded fripperies in public.

But any girl who was worth her salt 2 decades ago probably still has remnants of a once-mighty scrunchie collection, and patiently awaits the day when she can wear them with pride.

Well, ladies, while you're waiting, there's something you can do with your scrunchies that's both fashionable and functional. Use them to help organize your jewelry!

I just discovered this method while sorting through a collection of old accessories. "Hmm," I thought. "What am I going to do with all these scrunchies? I can't wear them lest I get laughed out of town. But I can't just throw them away...." Then, setting aside that problem, I thought, "Hmm... what am I going to do with all these necklaces?" Then I thought, "And why are these drawers in my jewelry box so darn deep? What can I possibly store in them that takes up so much space?" And then, in a whirlwind, the answer came to me!

Wrap the necklaces around the scrunchies! It will keep them from getting tangled, keep the scrunchies safe from the landfill, and make the best use of my bottomless jewelry drawers. This worked even better than I expected, because the elastic in the scrunchies actually serves to hold the loose ends of the necklaces in place.

Here's the technique for optimal scrunchie storage:

  1. Wrap the necklace around the scrunchie (and here, may I employ a favorite 90's expression: "duh!")
  2. Poke the trailing end of the necklace through the loop of scrunchie.
Ta-da! One scrunchie seems to be quite adequate for storing 2 necklaces.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fat Day Fashion Review

Do you ever have fat days? You know, where you just feel like you're the chunkiest hunk of junk on your respective side of the Mississippi? I'm having one of those. Well, you might call it a "fat week," but however long it lasts, until I recover, I certainly don't want to post any pictures of my chubby self online! In the pause, I thought I might take the opportunity to share my views on the current trends in dress.

On the whole, I'm highly unimpressed. Sure, being grouchy because I'm feeling fat isn't helping, but even on my most narcissistic of days, I'm not pleased by the options the fashion world has allotted us this year. And so I present to you my awards for the worst I've seen in fashion this year.


The shoes this summer are disappointing to a pair. It seems our shoe designers have succumbed to a murderous urge, what with the prevalence of "stiletto" heels and "gladiator" sandals. The former, I object to because I value my ankles and have no wish to break them whilst stumbling into a grate in the sidewalk. The latter, I despise because they are just plain ugly. The "gladiator" look seemed to take off about the same time "300" hit the big screen. Its age has come and gone, but like any good warrior, it just won't die! The astute among you would note that even my beloved platform sandals have the basic gladiator construction. But I find them acceptable because they have dispensed with the ladder-like straps and right angles in favor of woven and criss-crossed elements, lending them a bit more grace. But these shoes seem to be the exception. Certainly in the last few months, I have seen few shoes that catch my discerning eye.

So what's a girl who likes to look good and remain upright to buy? Espadrilles. In fact, if you buy just one new pair of shoes this summer, make it the raffia wedge sandals by Old Navy (now on sale!) The only reason I haven't bought them is that I found an acceptably similar used pair on eBay for around 15 dollars.


Moving upwards a little (in space, but not in quality), I shall now discuss my dislike of skinny jeans. Yes, these ugly pieces of work have been in style for a few years as well, and they haven't grown on me (in every sense of the phrase) in all that time. While skinny jeans may look good on skinny people, they are uniformly unflattering to the 99% of the population that makes up the rest of us. The worst thing about skinny jeans is, they're jeans! All jeans are uncomfortable, but ultra-tight jeans are the worst. Try to bend over in them—just try! Crossing your legs? Out of the question. Skinny jeans are one trend best left at the bottom of your closet, but if you can't completely resist the impulse to follow the herd, your best alternative is stretch leggings. They're just as ugly as skinny jeans, they fit just as well under a loose shapeless blouse (ugh) or into a pair of Uggs (don't even get me started), but they actually allow you to keep your mobility. If you have to look fashionably dopey, you can at least be comfortable while doing it, right?

Tops (Topwear?)
As we reach the domain of tanks, tees, and blouses, I shall focus my wrath on a trend I noticed only recently – to my great chagrin – Dolman sleeves (to those lucky enough to have not yet encountered them, sleeves that are basically just an extension of the shirt, with an opening pretty close to the bottom hem, not the armpit where sleeves are supposed to begin). I could go on and on about how shapeless clothes turn you into a shapeless person, how wearing this type of sleeve is probably the most expensive way to achieve the "homeless" look, but all you really need to know is that the other name for this sartorial horror is "batwing sleeve." There is only one day a year when dressing like a bat is considered normal. Enough said.


Last and least, we have progressed to the one article of clothing that's the worst thing in fashion short of a faux pas. It is the one article of clothing that is actually two--a bottom and a top, making it the "allover" loser of the Fat Day Fashion Review in more than one sense. This article of clothing appeared on shelves last year, to my horror, and it has unfathomably increased in popularity. It is the romper. You know you've hit a low when you're wearing a style intended for 1-year-olds.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How to Resuscitate an Old T-shirt

One of the secrets to successful Unfashionism is the ability to take something plain and ugly and make it cute, fun, eye-catching, or all of the above! Some people accomplish this by leveraging their natural beauty. Others, through accessorizing. Me, with a sewing machine. In today's post, I'm going to show you how to nip and tuck an unattractive schmatte into a top that will make you weep with pride! And I'm trying out a new format: the How-To! Be sure to let me know if you like it.

1. Acquire the feedstock

Heck, I look so bad in this shirt,
I can't even show my face!
The T-shirt to the left (We'll refer to it as "Old Blue" or any other monikers that come to mind as I'm writing) has been in my collection for about 5 years. I was feeling fat when I bought it; consequently, it's a size larger than I really need. I'm also not as crazy about V-necks as I was half a decade ago. While this shirt used to be a staple in my wardrobe, I hardly ever wear it any more. It's time to fix that.

Here's the plan: I'm going to take in the sides a bit so the fit is more flattering. I'm going to lop off part of the sleeves to loosen them up where my shoulders hit. And I'm going to carve vast swathes of material out of the neckline to get rid of the V.

Let's begin!

2. Mark up the cuts

While some people who make a living out of artistically altering clothes will freehand the whole process (they'll also "sew" the shirt back together with strips of fabric that were originally cut from it, which I'll show you if I can ever get it right), the Unfashionista prefers a more refined look, and plans her work carefully. For this part, you will need tailor's chalk. Or some other washable drawing tool.

To start, turn your shirt inside out. This is so your markings and seams end up on the inside of the shirt, invisible, when you are finished. Draw a circular shape around the neckline, making sure that the original hem is completely enclosed within the circle. Don't forget to mark the back of the neckline, too! I cut that one just low enough to excise all of the "tag," which was printed right on the fabric.
The line is faint here, but if you look closely, you can see that it starts at the armpit and extends upward to about the 2/3 mark of the sleeve.

3. Mark up the new seams

In the photo on the left, you can see I've laid another shirt on top of Old Blue. The Virginia Beach shirt fits me to a Tee (ha ha, get it?), so I'm using it as a template to help me determine how best to adjust the side seams. I traced along the outside of the template shirt and ended up with the dashed line you see in the picture to the right. Obviously I got a similar line (though curving in the opposite direction) on the other side.

4. Chop Chop

Alas, I have no photos of steps 4, 5, and 6, because I was having some technical difficulties at that time. But I think you're smart enough to figure it out. In this step, you cut along the lines you just drew. (Not the ones on the side seam! They are for sewing!) But feel free to take your scissors to the neckline and the arms and shorten them up! For good measure, cut off the bottom hem. See, what we're going for here, is a shirt that looks refined in its very lack of refinement. We're not actually going to hem the parts that we trim; we'll leave them with raw edges (because knit shirts do not fray, we can get away with this). So even though the bottom hem is at a good length, we want it to match the other edges in appearance.

5. Sew the seams

Get out your trusty sewing machine and have at it. Because T-shirt jersey is a stretchy material, it would be nice if you used a stitch designed for making elasticized hems (or a serger). A plain old straight stitch is not recommended, because it will rip if you attempt to stretch it. But since my sewing machine is on its last legs, a straight stitch is what I used. Simply make sure the two layers of the shirt are flat and even with each other, and trace along the dashed line. Trim your thread ends, and congratulations! You're done!

6. Add the finishing touches.

I'm going to add one more step to this process (entirely optional!)—sew a decorative border along all the raw edges in a darker color of thread. This is what turns my kind-of-dull, monochrome shirt into a not-quite-as-dull, duotone piece of art!

Here's the finished product: