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:

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mastering the art of layering

Last fall, one of my coworkers commented on the weather, saying he likes it when it gets cold out, because then he gets to start wearing layers. My response was, "You're crazy!" First of all, who likes to be cold? Second of all, who likes wearing layers!? More elements you have to match, more fabric you have to struggle with...blech! My idea of layering is strictly 2-dimensional: pants equal the bottom layer, shirt equals the top.

Obviously, layering is not my strong point. But if I want to pass myself off as someone who knows about clothing, I'm obviously going to have to change that. Last Saturday, I got my chance.

In that last lot of clothes I bought on eBay, one of the pieces I was most excited about was this white tank top with stars, red at the top and gradating to purple at the bottom. When I received it, I was so disappointed to find that it was translucent! Clearly (pun intended) I could not wear this top in public. Heck, I could not even wear it to bed! I stashed it away in my box of stuff to resell, but I couldn't bring myself to actually resell it. It was just too awesome! I had to find some way to wear it.

It occurred to me that it was probably designed for the dread purpose of layering, but I hesitated to actually try it out, until Saturday the second of July rolled around. That day, in a bid to make the most of the Fourth of July weekend, my boyfriend and I planned to go to Baltimore for a day of biking and museum-hopping. I needed to wear something that would acknowledge the upcoming holiday, but was not my traditional blue tank top with the white stars that I reserve for the big day itself.

I chose the starry tank top. After trying it on over practically every other tank top in my possession, I chose to wear it with the pink one. I liked the way the straps didn't line up perfectly, so I could show off the fact that I was, indeed, wearing layers. I wore them with the cutoff shorts with the subtle pink trim, which also had come in the last eBay lot. And then, going absolutely pink-crazy, I put a pink bandanna in my hair, which I thought would be suitable for keeping said hair out of my face and protecting my scalp and neck from the sun while biking. The shoes – well – they looked just terrible, so I didn't put them in the picture!

The finishing touch to this whole outfit was the dainty white star earrings that bring it all together to a satisfying conclusion. A special reward, just for the observant.