Friday, August 31, 2012

Would you wear the peplum trend?

Earlier this year, I noticed a little survey on an online shopping site: "Would you wear the peplum trend?"

"Peplum? What's that?" I wondered.

By searching for the common features among items with "peplum" in the name. I soon figured out that a peplum is "a short overskirt or ruffle attached at the waistline of a jacket, blouse, or dress." Or I could have just looked it up.

Would I wear it? Heck yes! It is the funnest look I've seen since the prairie skirt went out of style! It almost makes the current trend of pencil skirts palatable. Almost.

Well, I got my first peplum on Wednesday at Burlington Coat Factory, for $2.98 plus a 20% off coupon, and my cashier thought it was such a great deal, she wanted to buy one for herself!

My camera thought it
would be funny and
shoot everything out
of focus when I was
already in a hurry.

As you can see, my peplum is attached to the bottom of a sheer lace electric blue blouse (Oh, I so love this color! It is definitely the color of Summer 2012, and I will be so sad when it goes by the wayside).

Of course, I did not wear it with a pencil skirt, as I don't own one and hope to never have to, but instead my old reliable black pants and a black tank top that was really too long, but matched the color of the pants well enough that I hoped no one would notice.

The blouse came with belt loops, but no belt (what do you expect from a shirt that's marked down to 3 dollars? It also had a huge gap in the seams that I didn't notice until I took it home), but I thought a belt sounded like a great idea. I tried my skinny black belt (as seen previously here) but it kept snagging on the fragile lace, so I decided not to use it. Instead, I resorted to a sheer black scarf that I'd picked up at a post-garage sale free-for-all, which I tied in the back. Between the peplum and the scarf ends, I was trailing fabric like some bride on a budget!

On my feet, I wore blue and brown slippers and prayed that no one would notice the brown was out of place. Lastly, I put on a blue headband, which would have looked slightly better if I'd styled my hair, but I chose to get to work on time instead.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Valerie You're a Star

So, it turns out, that black vest I was so excited about is a little bit difficult to wear. Since it's black and white, it seems I can only pair it with black or white. Interestingly, my black skirt with white stars has the same problem, and so I got to thinking.... I was originally concerned that the vest wouldn't work with anything but pants, but I tried it with the skirt and it was like a match made in heaven! And it just happened to go great with the star shoes of yesterday's post!

I ended up going all out with this getup, curling my hair and wearing these ostentatious feather earrings that I've been holding in reserve all summer.

The curling of my hair was interesting. I used a new method this time, and it worked better than anything else I've tried—scrunching, rollers, rag curls, and curling iron. The best thing about it was it actually looked cute even while it was setting, so I didn't have to be embarrassed walking around the house waiting for my curls to dry! It is my new favorite way to curl my hair.  Style Tip For light and lovely waves in your hair, I recommend the headband method!

I also recommend (if you are not blessed with natural ringlets) not wearing your hair curled on a humid day, as it will go totally flat by 9:30 AM. Blast! Or maybe you just need to find a better curling product.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Doctor Shoe

Sometimes, when you buy shoes by mail order, you receive a surprise. For example, you expected brilliant turquoise and you got a dull aqua. Or you ordered a size that's usually big on you, and it still slices into your heel. Some of these situations can only be corrected by customer service, but if you don't want to deal with the hassle of a return, there are things you can do to make your shoe surprises more pleasant. The following are some examples.

1) Stop the Flop - Just as you occasionally run across a shoe that's too small, you also may end up with one that's too big. Recently I had to decide between a shoe that fit but pinched in the toes, and one that was a half-size larger and kept sliding off at the heel. I chose the latter because there's an easy way to fix slightly-too-loose shoes: heel liners. They attach to the back of the shoe with a built-in adhesive and add about a quarter-inch of padding. They have a rubbery surface that sticks to your feet, keeping the heels from sliding when you walk.

At left: A shoe with a heel liner

2) Mind the Gap

Ignore, for a moment, the fabulous star-studded print on these peep-toe sandals—What the heck is with the bulging toe covers? They stick out like ears on either side. Fortunately, this problem has an easy fix—just dab a little glue on the inside, and stick the toe cover down on the platform. Instant sleekness (if you don't count the 20 minutes of glue-setting time).

3) Avoid the Pain - The first time I wore these shoes, after about an hour and walking a total of a quarter-mile, they had flensed all the skin off the bottom of my ankles—whether my ankles are too low or the top of the shoes are too high is uncertain, but the more pressing concern is what to do about it? If this happens to you, I have two suggestions: first, try insoles. They will raise your heel as much as a half-inch, which should be plenty sufficient for your ankles to clear the hazardous upper rims. Second, try duct tape. I chose this option because I already had some nice callouses on my ankles from the previous injury, so I didn't feel much protection was necessary. I just needed to smooth over the rough edges on the shoes. The duct tape fit neatly over the edge of the shoe and was mostly hidden by the buckle.

4) Challenge the Norm - There's no need to wear shoes just as they were designed. If you can wear one shoe two ways, so much the better! For example, my star shoes have a T-strap. However, not being a huge fan of that style, I discovered it was possible to disconnect the vertical strap from the ankle strap and tuck it underneath the toe cover and then under my toes. It's not too uncomfortable, and it converts the T-strap shoes into some snazzy ankle-strap ones instead! Other options for restyling your shoes include attaching decals, fake flowers, and bows, and switching up laces for ribbons!

The last three tips were all about this fabulous pair of black star-studded shoes. Now that you've learned how I've made them more wearable, tomorrow's post will be about how I actually wore them! Stay tuned!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Save your shirt — Shave your shirt!

Have you ever loved a shirt so much that it started to develop little warm fuzzies in all the places where you loved it most (the places where it rubbed against your arm, for example)? Or have you ever gotten a new shirt and found it frustratingly covered with fuzzies after a single washing? Well, those fuzzies have a name in the fashion world—pills. And that second example has a name, too: polyester.

All fabrics develop pills with time—they occur when [Warning: I'm about to sound all scientific!] friction weakens the fabric, causing it to unravel on the microscopic level, forming little balls of partially detached material. All fabrics do not wear evenly, though, and in my experience the worst culprit is polyester knits, which seem to pill the instant you put them on. Hence my personal policy and Style Tip Never pay full price for 100% polyester clothing. You're almost certain not to get your money's worth.

If, however, like me, you have recently come into possession of a large collection of used clothing, there is a good chance that some of it will be polyester, and some of it will demonstrate some unsightly pilling. You can make that clothing look almost new again with a basic tool you probably already have. What is that, you're asking? Read on to find out!

I bought this rainbow top on eBay for far more than I should have ($4.18 if you logically divide the price of the 4-piece lot it came in) because I thought it was so awesome (I mean, Holy Crazy Rainbow Colors! My boyfriend tells me it's very Brady Bunch, which I'll take as a compliment?) and was thus doubly disappointed to find it in such a well worn condition. But not to be daunted, I merely pulled out my secret weapon—a safety razor!

Yes, that's all you need to rejuvenate a pilled-up travesty.

Shaving your shirts is a pretty straightforward process—it's basically just like shaving your legs, but there is a significant risk involved: you might accidentally cut the fabric rather than just skimming off the pills. Here are a couple of tips to prevent this unfortunate event from occurring.
  • Use your old dull razor that you were about to throw out. A slightly unsharp tool is less likely to accidentally slice into your clothes. Plus, it means one fewer wasted item in the landfill! Hooray!
  • Stretch the fabric on a flat surface before you begin shaving. I just make do with my hands and feet, but I'm sure you can come up with a better system, like holding it in place with heavy books, or using a canvas stretcher if you happen to be an artist, or something.
  • Shave parallel to the lines in the knit. This is less likely to cause stretching and puckering and their inevitable result—cutting!
  • You'll probably need to go over the same spot several times. I use lots of overlapping strokes to ensure that no pill is left unturned!
  • Be especially careful over seams and places where there is more than one layer of fabric. In the process of shaving this shirt, I nicked it twice, and both times were over a seam.
  • Don't use shaving cream. I would hope this would be obvious, but since I made the smart-aleck comment about it being just like shaving your legs, I thought I'd better be sure. 
  • Oh yeah. Don't bother with the water, either.
Here's a picture of the shirt after I was done shaving it. Look at all the fuzz that came off it!

And here's a close-up of the fabric before (bottom) and after (top) shaving. Can you see the difference? Admittedly, there's nothing that can be done about the fading, but at least I've turned this old scruffy shirt into merely an old one—and old is appropriate for the Brady Bunch, right?

Author's Note: An article from eHow advises you to ignore all the wise instructions I have given you and to not use a razor because you might cut the fabric. To that I say, ha! A true Unfashionista is careful and brave! A true Unfashionista scoffs at these kinds of trepidations, and a true Unfashionista has never even heard of – let alone would be willing to pay money for – a brand-new "sweater comb" that the article recommends, when a used razor is so much more economical!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

One Skirt, 3 Ways

After spending half the summer without touching this green skirt, I was thinking of retiring it for good, or at least putting it away until winter, when a flurry of ideas hit me. Suddenly my neglected skirt was my favorite thing in my closet! I had so many ways to wear it, I knew I was going to have to restrain myself from trying them all at once.

I distributed my wears over a period of weeks, which I hoped would keep the watchful eyes of my coworkers from noticing I was overdoing the skirt.

Wednesday, July 18

Shades of sea-green and a vaguely Greek drape to the top bring to mind a voyage to Atlantis. Or possibly just an algae bloom. I would have preferred to sport a more aquatic color on the footwear as well, but green shoes were the best match available. I was planning to wear this with my mermaid pendant, but I forgot, and that's just as well, because a little subtlety never hurt anyone. The sequins on the straps were plenty unsubtle as it was. It was probably overkill for the office, but I never go clubbing, so where else am I going to wear this top!?

Monday, July 23

Brown and green is another one of my favorite color combinations, which I brought out in grand style for my second outfit with the green skirt.

The tank top is almost too casual for work, but all the fancy embroidery and sequins give it a little legitimacy. And it's also almost too revealing, but I wore it with the brown bolero most of the day to keep it proper.

My favorite thing about this outfit is the shoes, which incorporate both brown and green for a lovely color parallelism! I was a bit sad that I didn't have any dramatic jewelry that really looks good with these colors, but I think these peridot earrings, (which my mom gave me several years ago and which I still love) were a pretty good finisher.

Tuesday, August 14

Mixing things up a bit, my next effort was to wear the skirt not as a skirt, but as a strapless dress. Ignoring, for a moment, the fact that strapless dresses don't become me, I was pleased to see that it looked remarkably natural, considering it was actually a skirt! I covered up my protruding shoulders with a blue bolero that just happened to match my new pair of blue sandals charmingly (not exactly the same shade, but close enough to pass inspection). I wore a green necklace and earring set, one of many that I acquired very cheaply on eBay after my jewelry-lacking lament from the last outfit.

I had one more glorious plan for this skirt, but alas, it was a little too dressy looking, and I was plum out of formal occasions at which to wear it, so it will just have to wait until...ah, probably next summer! But I'll bring the skirt along on my vacation to San Francisco, just in case!

Friday, August 10, 2012


 wasn't going to share this outfit on my blog, because I considered it rather run-of-the-mill. But in its very common-ness, it reveals some astounding truths and brings up some very salient points. That's right, my humble black peacock getup has spawned another lingering monologue on the very nature of fashion! These little soliloquies are becoming so common that I've chosen to dignify them with a label: UnPhilosophy, a discussion of clothing trends and their sociological implications! I know you're excited.

Note also that this outfit makes me look
rather like a large, misshapen carrot
disguised as an emo guy.
Today's outfit is about as up to the minute, trend-wise, as my wardrobe will probably ever be. Note the profusion of peacock feathers (both on the shirt and on my ears)—peacock feathers being the past year's golden child of accessories. Note the sleeves, which are non-existent, consisting instead of armholes at the top of a big loose shirt, and the banded bottom hem—both of which being styles that rose to ascendancy within the past few years. Note the rather short, mostly tapered, pants, which are a the dress-pant equivalent of skinny jeans. Other than the peacock feathers (which I've always adored, especially as cat toys), every one of these styles kind of makes me cringe. So naturally, going to work feeling like the world's biggest sellout, I didn't want to publicize my shame.

And then came The Big Conversation. My coworker was in my office discussing a website design, when he burst out with, "Nice peacock feathers, by the way!" Now, before I go on, let me explain that I have become best friends with this coworker's wife vicariously through him. Apparently she and I are both vegetarians, both cat lovers, both afraid of getting too much sun, and now, I learn, both possessed of the same secretly subversive views on fashion! So, after commenting on my earrings, he noted that his wife had recently gotten a similar pair.

I explained, "Yeah, peacock feathers are the thing this year," and that started him off. He mentioned how his wife had also recently bought some of the dreaded skinny jeans, and after that, he started noticing that that's all anyone was wearing any more. He wondered how "girls always know to dress the same," and commented on how guys' styles have basically stayed the same forever, while girls' styles, well, haven't. His wife had to school him on the fact that, if you're a girl, it's basically unacceptable to wear styles that are a few years old. He also noted that his wife doesn't even like skinny jeans, yet was wearing them anyway. Partly, I'm sure, this is because of the immense pressure to be trendy, but I postulated aloud that it's also because the new styles of shirts don't look good with the old styles of pants, so if you buy anything new, you have to buy other new stuff to go with it. At least that's the problem I've been having.

This conversation made me wonder a few things:

1) Why is women's fashion changing so quickly? In the past, styles could be defined by whole eras (Victorian, for example), and later, by decades. Nowadays, fashions change drastically over just a few years. One article I read (I can't find it now) indicated that this rapid turnover is due to dirt-cheap clothing being churned out by mass-merchandisers—meaning, if everyone can afford new clothes all the time, they can afford to completely change their looks whenever they want. Of course, this is a terrible system, in that all our poorly-made clothes end up in the landfill after just a few wears, and the people in poor countries who make the clothes work endless hours with no holidays for such pitiful sums as seven dollars a month! It's enough to make me consider whether personal adornment on the cheap is really an admirable hobby.

2) Is my distaste for today's fashion more than just the stubbornness of a single, admittedly abnormal person? Apparently I'm not the only one who doesn't like skinny jeans, but both my coworker's wife and I are wearing them nonetheless, against our better judgment. Is this indicative of a larger phenomenon?

And the big question...Is fashion really just a load of poppycock? Does anyone really like skinny jeans? Do the people who wear skinny jeans proudly wear them because they think they look good, or do they grow to think they look good after seeing them everywhere?

What if everyone approached fashion with a more critical eye? Would this be a happier, more diverse, less wasteful world? Well, approaching fashion with a critical eye is what this blog's all about, so let's hope so!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Last Hurrah

If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times—all my clothes are too big. It's not because I've recently lost weight (I should be so lucky!) but because I spent a large portion of my adult life believing that if clothes were tight in any spot, it was because they were too small for me. It's only recently I've come to terms with the truth:

For all of us who value our modesty:

Some styles are just designed to fit tight, and you should either accept that and wear them anyway, or don't wear them at all. What you should not do is buy the style in a too-big size. Why not? Because then you'll end up with other problems of fit, such as my favorite—gaping armholes.

You can see the problem in action in my last post, wherein my salmon bra peeks out through the armpit of my lovely fairy dress (and that's after an attempt at sewing the gap closed—curses!). I have another dress (coincidentally, also green) with the same problem and, though I love it dearly for its unflinchingly saturated color, I must let it go, so I can get through my day without adjusting my bra every ten minutes.

This is the last time I will wear this green dress, and thus, I wanted to give it its moment in the spotlight before it goes on to some more deserving owner.

I'm aware of the irony in wearing a dress this short in the same post
as a style tip about "modesty." I'm doing it anyway.
 Not sure if the combination of suede belt and seashell necklace really work together, but this was the last time I could wear either with this dress, so I had to take the chance!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Wood Nymph

Here's an outfit straight out of the craziness my own head.

The bottom layer is a plain old green dress that I've worn so many times it's not even worth mentioning in a blog. But the top layer—oh, the top layer! That is what turns this frock from simple to spectacular!

I acquired the top layer at the thrift store in a sweep through the sleeveless tops, at the same time that I bought my black vest. Looking for shirts that I could wear to the office, I somehow overeagerly concluded that a strapless corset top was totally work-appropriate! I don't know what kind of delusions I was suffering, except that I might have been a little giddy with the price (2$ after half-off discount) and enamored with the style (it has the beaded, floral-embroidered look that was pretty big when I first started buying my own clothes, and no one ever completely gets over their first fashion love—and it is that wonderful combination of green and purple!), plus, I was feeling daring (I mean, a strapless top? That probably originally belonged in a two-piece formal dress? Who wears that as their everyday look?).

So the next few days after that shopping trip, I was busy concocting ways to pull off this clothing challenge.

This is my first attempt. The top is a perfect color match for my old green dress, and with the latter's gathered neckline, the total effect is slightly reminiscent of Medieval Bar Wench. Until you get to the skirt, which, being somewhat short, is far more Medieval Fairy.

The dress has always been slightly too big, but forced into shape by an unforgiving corset, it becomes quite sleek! And poofs out where released in gathers which, while I normally don't like, seem quite appropriate to a fairy-like look.

When I wear outfits like this, I really wish I had more jewelry (specifically, any jewelry that would go with them!) but I was able to find the green butterfly pin and wear it on my headband. I also wished I'd had some dainty slippers to finish off the look, but I settled for neutral sandals.

These minor disappointments aside, I'm really happy with how the look turned out. Some days, I get to work and later see myself in the bathroom mirror, and I'm like, "What were you thinking!?" but today, every look in the mirror made me smile! I think it has to be one of my best creations yet!