Monday, July 30, 2012

Real Retro

Once upon a time, led astray by a well-meaning article in American Girl magazine, I came to believe that "vintage" was a synonym for "cheap." I always imagined that, when I actually began shopping for myself rather than living in gifts and hand-me-downs, I would be a bohemian but classy dresser, assembling clever little getups from the vintage shops that were sure to abound once I figured out where they were. Imagine my disappointment when reality struck, and I learned that "where they were" was mostly only New York City, and that vintage clothes are actually more expensive than they were when originally made and often more expensive than comparable modern articles, due in part to inflation and in part to their rarity. Thus, your typical Unfashionista does not often have the privilege of wearing vintage styles.

In fact, the first time I've actually succeeding in buying vintage, for the price at which I always thought it should be sold, was a few weeks ago, when I won this "vintage 1970's" dress on eBay for $8.04. Well, it was in slightly worse condition than I expected, and it had "that 70's smell," but that indicates to me that it really was a vintage style and not just some modern knockoff. I washed it, stitched up the hole that appeared in the skirt after I washed it, and, as the seller suggested, "put it with a pair of boots and WOW!"

Well, I don't know about the all-caps wow, but I do admit to being pleased that I finally got to add another decade of fashion to my eclectic style.

I wore it with a necklace and earrings that may or may not be period-appropriate, but since I inherited them from my grandmother, there's at least a fair chance.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Strawberry Fields

You'll have to excuse my red, shiny face and disheveled hair.
I took this photo just after riding home from work in 99-degree heat.

I date this dress at about 1999. It has the simple, straight-across neckline that really had me enchanted when I was in high school, and the end-of-the-millennium signature spaghetti straps

I wore it once last year, and once this summer for a brief evening while on vacation, but I was thinking it too dated and plain to wear many more times. It was on my "To Sell" list when yesterday I had a sudden craving to wear it. I laid it flat on the ground overnight to help heal the wrinkles, and it's a good thing that I had prepared in advance, because I woke up about 40 minutes late, and had to rush to get ready.

Fortunately, shoes to match the dress were an easy choice—the kelly green heels I was worried wouldn't go with anything. In my mad dash to get out the door, I also grabbed a pale green open-knit poncho that I'd just picked up at the thrift store (3$) earlier in the week.

In spite of it being solidly out of fashion, my dress still received a compliment from a coworker, which may mean there's life in the old girl yet!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Grafting the roses

Clip on earrings are all well and good if you don't have pierced ears, but if you do, then they are not worth wearing. Clip on earrings display their architecture in big, obvious loops that stick out over the bottom of your earlobes. Tacky! In addition, they pinch. Although they usually feel fine when you first put them on, after a few hours, all you'll feel is the pain.

I accidentally bought some clip-on earrings a few weeks ago, and rather than just write off the one dollar loss, I decided to "fix" them. Here's how I did it, in case you ever find yourself in a similar predicament. I expect you could follow the same process, using different findings, if you're a die-hard clip-on wearer who finds herself in possession of some pierced earrings.

1) Remove the clip. 

I tried numerous methods, mostly in the form of brute force and pliers, but those clips wouldn't budge, and I was starting to scrape the black paint off the metal. Finally I lopped them right off at the base using heavy-duty wire cutters.

These earrings fell apart once the backing was off, because the flowers were constructed of two layers held together by a metal post that was part of the clip-on backing. I glued them back together during step two.

2) Glue on a pierced-earring backing. 

You can find these stud backings at pretty much any craft store (I got mine at Jo-Ann Fabrics). I recommend attaching them with epoxy glue—an Unfashionista's second-best friend (best friend is a sewing machine). The nice thing about epoxy is you only mix up what you need as you need it, so it doesn't dry out in the bottle, but I have also had success repairing earrings with Krazy Glue.


3) Wait for the glue to dry. 

What? That's it!? It's true! This was one of the simplest Fashion-Fix-Its I've ever done!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Meet my new shoes

I already have 2 pairs of black high heels, one pair of black mid heels, and one pair of black flats (let's not get started on the black boots), but I just can't resist a bargain! So when I ran across a pair of cute black shoes with ankle straps at the thrift store for just 6$, 25% off, you know what I did. Now I have three pairs of black high heels.

They're not in the greatest condition, but I'd had a hankering for some ankle strap shoes, so they were perfect for me. As a bonus, I usually wear an 8.5 or 9, but these are a size 8 and they fit perfectly, making me feel dainty.

I wore them with this black tank top (which is currently one of my favorite articles of clothing in spite of its sober colors) and this black skirt in an ensemble that certainly won't win any awards--even with the addition of a bracelet. In a victory for old-school fashion, I untucked the shirt midway through the day because it looked stupid tucked in.

I also wore some black rose earrings that used to be clip-ons and now are studs. Want to know how I did it? Stay tuned!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bad Jeans

Reader Geoff expressed an interest in seeing me wear baggy jeans ("cos you never wear baggy or jeans and it'd be unique"), so here goes.

Actually most of my pants lean more toward the baggy side, so I don't know what he's talking about, but my baggiest are these. This style of straight wide-leg jeans with an extended bottom hem reached the height of their popularity in the late 90's (bear with me if I'm off a bit. I didn't have a fashion blog then) and then vanished from the scene, only to be found in thrift stores, where I got these.

I don't wear them often, because the cardinal rule of Unfashionism is baggy pants must be paired with tight shirts and vice versa, and I just don't have that many tight shirts. I also don't have that much call to wear jeans. When I do, it's usually for activities that require athletic shoes, and these pants are so long I pretty much have to wear them with heels. But in spite of that, this is one of my favorite pairs of jeans cause they have a great silhouette and they're just so darn comfy!

I probably would have worn them with a pink T-shirt, but Geoff kind of ruined that forever, so I scoured my closet for something in a different color that was snug-fitting enough to keep me from looking frumpy.

This fluorescent green tank top fit the bill. With its tailored look, I thought it an appropriate way to dress up these really casual pants for work. And it just happened to match delightfully with my lime green shoes. I wish it were a tad longer, because the pants are riding a little low. Maybe I should blame the pants. They are, as usual, too large. I'll give 'em a wash in some hot water and see if that shrinks them, but if not, then I'll probably be cutting them loose.

Geoff wanted this post to be called "Good Jeans," but considering their poor fit, I thought "Bad Jeans" was more appropriate.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Vested in Me

Airborne hairbrush!
A few weeks ago, I went to the thrift store, looking, in part, for more sleeveless tops suitable for wearing at the office. I found this vest.

It looks to be straight out of ... well, some bygone era (though with the tags cut out, it's hard to tell much about it), which means it must be getting close to being cool again, not to mention it looks pretty spiffy on me! Fabulous find for only 2 dollars.

Normally I am loath to wear vests. It annoys me that they warm up my torso (which is usually sweating even when it's cold around me) while leaving my arms uncovered (my arms and extremities being the parts of me typically most in need of added warmth—this is one reason I'm so fond of arm warmers). But that's winter vests, and this little article is a horse of a different color!

For one thing, I have no intention of wearing it in the winter, so the need for warming my arms is negated. For another thing, it really only covers a small portion of my body (the zipper on front is probably about 6 inches long), with the rest of it being open and airy, eliminating the too-hot torso problem created by, for example, sweater vests.

I happily donned it yesterday morning, on a day when the high was forecast to be 100 degrees. Underneath it, I wore a white ribbed tank, and then puzzled over what I'd wear to cover my legs. White capris proved to be too squat and bulky, and I wouldn't be caught dead wearing black pants in heat like this. I really wanted to wear it with a black pleated miniskirt, but sadly I don't have one. I thought about wearing it with my short white skirt, but I think that's in the laundry. That left long white pants, which I was relieved to see looked pretty good, 'cause I was fresh out of ideas.

Black wedge sandals were hidden underneath, and black floral earrings rounded out the top.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Grape Fine

Just wanted to share with you these really great shoes I got for just 20 dollars from Just Fabulous. Twenty dollars is a lot, but Just Fab shoes are good quality, and when they sell them at half off, I just can't resist!

Before I bought them, I was discussing with a friend my concern that the color was so off-the-beaten-path that I would have nothing to wear them with.

He encouraged me to get them anyway. Because even if I didn't have something exactly that color, I could surely wear them with something in a different shade!

But that's what I always do. So I decided to try something different. When they arrived on my doorstep, I tried them on, found them only slightly smaller than I would like, and wore them happily with a completely contrasting color.

Purple and green. They really are one of my favorite color combinations. I'm surprised it's taken me this long to assemble an outfit with them!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Paint it Pink

It pains me to wear all black and grey, it really does. That's why, when I wore this new grey sweater (3$ on clearance at Rainbow) with black pants (abandoned by my housemate when she moved out), I was feeling pretty figuratively ouchy.

My only recourse was to wear bright accessories. And so I did, busting out all the fuschia I could get my hands on— pink and silver shoes, pink glass bangles, and pink rose earrings.

Thus, even though the predominating color was the soberest of sober shades, I felt pretty chipper wearing this outfit at work all day.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Gone Dotty

I bought this top at H&M for 5 dollars without trying it on, because the line for the fitting room was, like, all the way out the door. Had I tried it on, I probably wouldn't have bought it, because, like so many shirts, it makes my shoulders look big. I actually do exercises to make my shoulders less prominent, and then I have to contend with things like deliberately puffed sleeves! I guess I should have expected this effect when I saw all the ruching running down the shoulders, but I was too taken by the polka dots. I'm kind of fixated on polka dots these days.

Polka dots remind me solidly of the past, and nothing says "prior decade" like a string of pearls, so that's what I wore around my neck. I think I got them from my grandmother, but I've had them so long that I forget. And this is still my first time wearing them!

I think I made a slight error in judgment to wear the bright white skirt and white patent shoes (even though the thicker heels on those remind me pretty solidly of the pre-1960's era), because the white polka dots in the shirt are actually a pale cream. Hopefully no one noticed.

Hopefully, no one noticed as well that the pearls in my ears are a bright white, while the pearls in my necklace are off-white.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

If you can't beat 'em

If you've read this blog at all within the past couple months, you're probably already sick of me complaining about the current trend of baggy shirts.

But for someone who hates baggy shirts with such a passion, I sure do have a lot of them. I don't know how I ended up with all of these too-big clothes. Well, all right, I do know. I buy too large because it's better than buying too small, and when I buy on eBay, I always err on the side of enormous—as in the case of this blue shirt, which I got in a lot. It's been languishing in my closet for months, because every time I try it on, no matter what I try it on with, it looks dowdy.

This morning I had an idea. If it was always too long, why not tuck it in? Turns out the idea was right brilliant. All the extra fabric was thus contained and released in a more socially acceptable manner—to wit, the cinched-waist, baggy-top look that everyone but me seems to be loving right now.

The article into which the shirt was tucked was my zigzag skirt, and, in the absence of shoes with colors that could compare to the vibrant blue of the top, I wore neutral sandals.

The problem with this outfit was that, with everything starting out so large, there were a lot of bumps and bulges I had to work with. The shirt's bottom edge created rather obvious ridges under the tight skirt. And the skirt itself, being a veritable Frankenstein of apparel, had numerous lumpy seams that kept trying to make themselves known. Added to that problem, the pièce de résistance, this gaudy "sapphire" bracelet, snagged on my skirt so many times, I think the skirt might be ruined.

I suppose this outfit was good practice for getting used to the trend that I so dislike, but I don't think I'll be wearing this particular manifestation of it again.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cutup Girl

After unsuccessfully listing this shirt on eBay 4 times - twice in a lot and twice by itself - I gave up on ever selling it and threw it in the Goodwill box. Weeks later, I was complaining that I had no purple tops--a fact which distressed me because I really wanted to wear some of those vibrant purple shoes that are so chic this season. Finally I connected the dots and pulled this top out of the hall closet and gave it a more critical eye.

I had originally rejected it because it was a little too big, the shoulders looked bad on me, and I hate turtlenecks—even lacy mock ones. I'm sure that is the main reason that the shirt didn't sell, since a turtleneck is not the kind of thing anyone is looking to buy when the temperature is in the 90's, and anyway, it's out of style. It does, however, have one thing going for it, and that's the lace layered over a solid fabric, which is everywhere these days! If I could play up that feature, I was pretty sure I could turn this rag into a wearable item.

In contrast with most of my other alteration projects, I didn't start out with a coherent plan. I decided to just start cutting and see where this one would take me.
  1. The obvious first step was to get rid of the offending turtleneck, which I did with a few judicious snips of my trusty scissors. I cut below the seam attaching the collar to the body, so only clean, lump-free fabric remained.

  2. To emphasize this shirt's strong point (its lacy layer), I cut the neckline deeper, but only on the solid liner layer. The idea was to make it look like a lace shirt over a tank top, so I left a  little fabric on each shoulder. I enlarged this cut several times, until it revealed as much of the lace as possible without revealing too much of the wearer's anatomy or undergarments. Later, after wearing the shirt for a day, I decided I could cut just a little deeper, since the lace really does a remarkable job of disguising while revealing.

    I also cut the back of the neckline just to smooth out the border between front and back.
  3. After a few cuts, I decided the shape of the lace overlay looked silly, so I cut it into a more boatneck shape. First, though, I tried the look out by stretching it into the right shape and holding it in place with safety pins, as shown below:

  4. The third try-on was definitely showing improvements, but the shirt was still fitting too loosely. While baggy tops are in style, they just don't suit my figure. I decided to modify the shirt in the style of the swingy tank tops of the current fashion--making it fit somewhat snugly around the top but flow freely near the hem. I made several trial runs, taking in the fabric at the top in different configurations, until I settled on two darts starting at the neckline and running about 6 inches down the back. At the end of the darts, this created a gathered look that I deemed a little bunchy, but acceptable.
    Here's how I did it: 

    And here's how it turned out:

  5. I was mostly happy with the shirt's new look by now, but there was one thing that had been bothering me--the sleeves. They were gathered a bit at the top and hemmed at the ends, making them bunch up around my shoulders. They needed to be set free! And the best way to do that, I concluded, was to slit them down the middle. Slit sleeves are not uncommon in today's fashion, but they usually come together again near the bottom. I decided to go all the way and cut them from shoulder seam to bottom hem. This was going to either make or break the shirt, so, with a little gulp and mentally crossed fingers, I set in.

    The result? Not bad. I made the cut about 3 cm down from the shoulder seam, which I now think was a mistake--I should have made it directly at the top. But not a ruinous mistake. I still considered the shirt wearable.

  6. The last step was just cleanup. I had some messy cuts that needed smoothing, and some seams sticking out that needed trimming. This was quite possibly the hardest part of the whole project! Have you ever tried to cut lace in a smooth line? It was so thin in places, my scissors wouldn't cut it at all, and in other places, it became suddenly thicker, causing my lines to waver. Eventually, I got it acceptably tidy, and I comforted myself with the thought that the differing thicknesses of the lace would probably hide the remaining inconsistencies in the edge...But a word to the wise: The next time you have to cut lace, make sure you have some really sharp scissors!
Here's how I wore the shirt today.

 Not my greatest achievement, what with the baggy, poorly matched grey slacks. And sadly, I still couldn't wear it with vibrant purple shoes because a) I don't have any and b) it's still the wrong shade of purple. I promise I'll do better next time.