Friday, September 28, 2012

Electric Blue, Number 2

I've created outfits with a blue and white theme before, but never have I had such awe-inspiring shoes to work with.

Check those babies out! They are the sole reason (get it? It's a double meaning!) I participated in that 3-for-50 sale—and believe you me, I had to scrounge for 2 other items I wanted as much as these shoes. The last item ended up being a pair of "tan" pumps that arrived looking suspiciously "peachy." I have no idea what I'm ever going to be able to wear them with—but these sandals alone are worth every one of the fifty dollars!

They are that gorgeous blue color I've been going crazy over all summer. They are elegant, graceful and tall on their spindly heels (now, "graceful" may not equally apply to the wearer, who expected to break an ankle all day thanks to their lack of surface area and slippery sole). The toe covering, not too big, not too small, and endowed with a lovely butterfly shape, just screams "ladylike" (except ladies never scream). Even the studs (that nasty spiky trend I've been avoiding all year) are low and non-threatening, with their blue color making them look almost like drops of water.

I was desperate for an opportunity to wear them, but short on coordinating clothes, and since they arrived at summer's end, I thought I might just have to wait until next spring. And then I got the blue lace blouse.

I'm definitely glad I didn't pay full-price for this schmatte, because already after two wears, the elastic fibers are poking out of the material like long hairs, in (where else?) the armpit area. Had I noticed this before I left for work, I would have given it the once-over with my electric clippers, but since I didn't, I was forced to spend the entire day with my arms at my sides. I think this is one of those wear-it-while-it's-hot-and-ditch-it-when-it's-not kind of things, and I guess that's fine, because I don't think electric blue lace peplum tops are going to be socially acceptable for more than a few seasons.

Oh, goody! An opportunity to wear the world's coolest shoes!
From the pictures, you can figure out I wore these articles with white pants, a white tank top, silver-white earrings, a white necklace, and a matching blue headband. So, enough said.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Victory at last

I show you this photo for one reason and one reason alone: After several past attempts (including two in one week) I think I finally got the casual/tough-girl boots and the girly-girl outfit to go together without looking bad.

I think the secret was the black lace edging the dress. Black lace makes any frilly dress look a little more edgy. The counter-culture look might have been slightly improved if it weren't for the Apple Bottoms buckle on the boots, but beggars can't really be choosers, and buying boots at 10$ a pair definitely makes you a beggar.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Speaking of Hippie...

This skirt is pretty much the last holdover from my flowy skirt days. I've had it for 6 years, and I'm getting tired of it. Last year, in fact, I didn't even wear it once.

It's got a distinctively autumnal vibe, so I can only wear it about 3 months out of the year, and last year, I didn't even pull it out of storage until it was almost too late. And then, well, I was still tired of it. This year, thanks to someone who recently listed the same skirt on eBay (several times, unsuccessfully apparently), I had it in my mind, and brought it out while it was still wearable!

It helped that I had a new orange top to wear with it, keeping the boredom factor down to a manageable level. I was even excited about wearing it. And then I tried on the top...and it looked awful! But a commitment is a commitment—I was going to wear the skirt, no matter what it took!

Fortunately, I had one other new shirt that matched the skirt—the dark olive green cowl-neck short-sleeved sweater you see in the photo. I wore it with my humongous plastic bangle, tree earrings (their bare branches carrying on the fall theme), and plain brown shoes.

At the last minute, while trying to figure out how to wear such a voluminous skirt on my bike (the sensible person would just pack the skirt and wear shorts, but not me!), it occurred to me that my faux-leather belt would look oh-so-cute as an accessory! So on it went! Next to the warm shades of the skirt, the belt ended up having a weird greenish tinge, but I'm so tired of having to have clothes in every shade of every color so they don't clash with whatever else I'm wearing...that I wore it anyway! Take that, color theory!

All in all, I came up with a nice earth-mother-in-the-autumn (with-a-mild-case-of-color-blindness) type of outfit...and I'm still tired of the skirt. I'm now selling it on eBay, along with the orange shirt that looked so awful on me. We'll see if I have better luck than that other eBay seller.

By the way...

How to bike in a skirt

To ride your bike while wearing a long skirt, you have a couple of options. If you do it regularly, you might want to invest in a skirt guard. They're finally starting to sell them in the U.S.! Crafty though I am, my attempts at making one have always been a resounding failure. If you don't wear long skirts that often, you might find it easier to just gather up your skirt so it's short enough to stay clear of the wheel and gears. I bunch up my skirt around my waist, folding it several times if it's got a lot of fabric, then secure it in place with a belt. It looks ridiculous, but it keeps my skirt clean and makes for a lot less changing of clothes!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Super-vague-hippie-punk half-rainbow!

Over the past few years, I've kind of let my hippie sensibilities fall by the wayside, but lately I've been jonesing for some long flowy skirts! I got this one (as part of a dress) at a 3-for-50$ sale from ShoeDazzle, which comes to 10$ for the dress if the shoes were counted at 20$ each.

I was disappointed by the fit and the seam that falls smack-dab in the middle of the bottom tier of the skirt (in other words, it's barely worth what I paid for it, and would have been a total let-down at its full price of $39.95) but at least it allows me to indulge my love for millions of colors and sky-high shoes (it is the only long skirt I have that's long enough to not look stupid with heels)!

The dress itself brings 4 colors to the mix. I added another shade of aqua with the shoes and yet another with the shrug, and added one more shade of purple with the necklace.

The shrug, I discovered, looked kind of cute with its ties tied into separate bows and worn loose. It was vaguely reminiscent of the hippie vests of the 60's, albeit shorter, and vaguely reminiscent of the sort of punk crop tops of the 80's. The shoes bore no resemblance to anything hippie, but definitely have a punk vibe with their zigzag soles. The hair, refusing to cooperate in any way, was finally drawn into messy pigtails in a look that was also sort of vaguely hippie.

Look at the teeth on those soles...
And look at the angle of attack on that zipper!
No wonder they scraped all the skin off my heels
the last time I wore them! Now I wear them with
the zipper half-unzipped.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

One Skirt, One More Way

My boyfriend has been watching too much chef shows, which has given him an urge to go out and eat something really fancy. He's also been (since we first started dating early last year) expressing a desire to dine at CityZen at the Mandarin Hotel, which has the highest priced menu I've ever seen. Finally the stars aligned and I was able to secure us a reservation at CityZen for early yesterday evening, which I figured would assuage his hankering for haute cuisine for a good long while.

Honestly, I'm not a huge fan of gourmet food, but if someone else is paying, well, then it's just a great opportunity for me to dress up! And thus, the last glorious plan for my green skirt finally came to fruition.

The only reservation I could acquire at the late date of a week and a day in advance was for 5:30 pm, which cut dangerously close to the end of the workday. I had to take all my clothes with me and put them on once the quitting bell rang (we don't really have a quitting bell; it's just figurative).

The "dress" was actually 2 unrelated articles—the infamous green skirt which I can honestly say I'm now tired of and which I'm going to put into storage over the winter, and the corset top which hardly goes with anything but makes a darn fine topper to an almost-formal outfit. Because they aren't designed to go together, I had a dickens of a time getting them together (I wore the skirt hiked up to tube dress level, and then it kept trying to peep over the top of the corset), meaning I got a later start out of the office than I intended.

I had to put on my makeup in the train, in semidarkness using a smudged-up compact mirror, which made for a rather poorly matched set of colors and one eye that looked bigger than the other. Oops!I put on my shoes right before walking into the restaurant, because I'd rather go around town looking like a bridesmaid in loafers than wear another blister into the top of my toes. The shoes were the same green ones I keep wearing and wearing. I'm going to put them into storage over the winter too, which is only appropriate for peep-toe shoes anyway! I put on my necklace on the train, too, and I have to say that that at least was a good color match, providing a much-needed break from all the green while still coordinating with the purple flowers in the top. Perhaps a little gaudy, but the Unfashionista does not take a rare opportunity to dress like a dandy, and then blow it by dressing conservatively.

After dinner, I dragged my boyfriend all over the hotel and the surrounding environs, trying to get a good picture of the outfit for this blog. Sadly, my cell phone camera was having none of the dim lighting, even with a flash, so these are the best I could come up with.

After setting down my purse for a failed attempt at an outdoor shot, I then proceeded to leave it there and walk half a block away, proving that vanity does not pay! Fortunately, I was able to retrieve it none the worse for abandonment, proving that at least vanity does not cost excessively either.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Glad You Held On

Putting my hand on my hip like so helps counteract the
fattening effects of wearing a floaty empire-waist dress.
Up until now, I had been mostly focused on this dress' brown aspect, but a closer inspection reveals that it is really full of pinks and muted greens. I was somewhat surprised to find that this dusky rose necklace looked better with the dress than any of my brown ones. Astonished and pleased, because goodness knows, wearing all brown gets me down. Although adding straps made this dress much more work-appropriate than it had been when it was halter-tied, I still felt conspicuous wearing it (besides, it's not summer-hot any more), and wanted to cover up with a sweater of some sort. The discovery of the additional colors freed me from feeling like I needed to wear it with my brown bolero (which clashed with the shoes anyway) and experiment with pinks or greens...which I don't have. I went with off-white—a color-coordination stretch, but not a complete snap.

I headband-curled my hair again, but I vow that this will be the last time I try to wear curls, at least until winter. Long high-speed bike rides and precarious hairdos just don't mix.

I am proud to say that my modifications seem to have worked—I wore this dress all day without it sliding down, and it even helped hold up my too-large strapless bra!
This is one of those instances where ankle straps really do
make your legs look shorter.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

When You Can't Let Go: How to fix a dress when everything's wrong

 Early in the spring, much too early to be wearing sleeveless dresses, I picked up this sundress at Rugged Wearhouse. It was the perfect blend of trendy and hippie, with pretty little flowers and a color that would go perfectly with the brown sandals I'd just bought (Or did I later buy the sandals because they'd go with the dress? I forget). I did not try it on, and I probably should have, because I would have noticed that it made me look fat. However, I loved it so much that once I owned it, my wallet 13 dollars lighter and myself looking 15 pounds heavier, I didn't try to return it.

But after I'd worn it once, it became painfully obvious that love wasn't going to be enough to keep our relationship afloat. The dress was going to have to change.

The smocking on the back wasn't tight enough to hold the dress up, and the little ties that served as a halter were sufficient to hold up the front (albeit while cutting into my neck) but the sides slowly sagged over a few minutes of wearing, giving the dress a decidedly frumpy look and revealing my bra underneath. In addition, I was growing increasingly intolerant of the bulky look imbued by the dress, and I concluded that the worst of it was caused by a bulgy part of the skirt on my left side. Lastly, due in part to poor construction, the top front of the bodice kept trying to turn itself inside out and let the lining layer peep out.

Here's a picture of the front of the dress with the beige lining
poking out over the top edge—just one of the many
"quirks" the dress had to offer.
I was seriously considering giving the whole thing up for lost, but I really, really wanted to wear it with those brown sandals, if only just once! So I set up for some major surgery.
  1. First, convert the halter straps into shoulder straps. This would help the dress stay up evenly all the way around.
  2. Second, diminish the bulging part on the left side.
  3. Third, tame the front bodice and keep the lining under wraps.


Converting the halter into shoulder straps wasn't too big of a challenge. The ties were more than long enough, so I just sewed them down along the top edge of the bodice, on the underside, until they were at a good location for a shoulder strap. At the same time, I made sure some of the sheer fabric on the front was pushed up and sewn in place, to hide the lining a little better. Then, wearing the dress so I would know how long to make the straps, I pulled them up and over, and pinned them down on the back of the dress. I then sewed them into place, leaving the free tails to tuck inside when wearing. The advantage of doing it this way is it's totally reversible if you ever want to wear it as a halter dress again!
Some words of caution:
  1. Make sure you're sewing the straps onto the inside of the dress. I accidentally sewed one on the outside and had to rip the seam and start over.
  2. I had to sew the straps closer together than I would have liked, in order to help keep the bodice from flipping inside out and/or sagging. Ideally you would place the straps exactly where your bra straps are.
This is a picture of the two halter ties being pulled to the left and right, along
the top of the dress. That big hank of thread dangling on the right? That's
where it will poke out as a strap. I reinforced it there with a bunch of extra

Here's a picture of one strap pinned down and ready to be sewn. Look
carefully, and you'll notice it's actually pinned on the outside of the dress.
That's a big no-no.


The bulging part on the left side proved to be an ongoing challenge. I tried sewing it down, which created too obvious of a seam and still didn't eliminate the bulging! I poked and prodded it for a while before finally giving up. So I have to look fat—big deal. I know in my heart that I'm thin enough that my dress needed help staying up anyway!


Now, for the magical flipping bodice, I was kind of stumped. Part of the reason was that the right foam bra pad had been sewn too low, leaving too much flexible fabric near the top of the dress. But even after moving the bra pad up, and even after adding the shoulder straps for extra support, there was still fabric poking out near the center of the bodice. What would have helped was a little bit of boning to help hold the fabric in position, but this dress was obviously too cheap for something like that. Eventually I decided the best solution was to eliminate all the excess fabric that had no place to go after the bodice was drawn into gathers at the center. I fixed it the old fashioned way—with a safety pin! I simply pinned through some of the errant fabric and secured it down lower on the inside of the bodice. No more peeping liner!
Here you can see the right bra pad is positioned lower than
the one on the left.
Here is me closing up the gap between the top of the bra pad
and the top of the dress.
The final solution: Safety pin locked in position!
With all that done, I finally considered this dress wearable. I also learned a lesson.

Style Tip If you're shopping for a dress that will be held up entirely by a smocked bodice, buy it a size smaller than normal! Better too tight than slip-sliding and bulging all over the place!

Come back tomorrow to see the result of all these labors!

Friday, September 7, 2012

2013, Today!

When I wrote this post (something like 4 weeks ago), everyone was in a tizzy (and by "everyone," I mean three of my unacquainted Facebook friends) over the face masks that apparently all the cool ladies are wearing over in China (and judging from the photos I've seen, mainly the "old" cool ladies) to protect their skin from the sun.

But why is everyone in a tizzy? Well, as your foremost authority on fashion, allow me to theorize. It might be because the masks are ugly as sin.

I am all for sun protection, but there are many better, more attractive ways to do it: A hat, a veil, sunscreen, or, my personal favorite, a parasol! As your foremost authority on fashion, allow me to make a bold prediction: these sun-protecting umbrellas are coming straight back from Victorian times! And I'm welcoming them with open arms!

I admit I was once a slave to the tanning mentality (although I never really thought tanned skin was attractive, per se, it was just ingrained in my head that tan was the ideal way to be). But sometime in college, I absorbed my doctor's adage that "pale is pretty," and I never looked back! I've been in the non-tanning minority for most of my adult life, but I think the tides of fashion may be finally beginning to shift my way. (It is rather interesting that in our culture, people go to great lengths to get tanned skin, whereas in most others, they go to great lengths to avoid it. But I'm not going to discuss that at length here, because anyway, the times they are a-changing!)

It may be just my imagination, but I feel like I'm beginning to see a backlash against tanning, which has driven our standards of beauty (at least among white Americans) since, I don't know...the fifties? The ad campaigns in favor of sunscreen are coming hot and SPF 60 (that is to say, heavy!), and I really have seen it—people walking the streets, without a cloud in the sky, carrying an umbrella!

OK, all right, so far it seems to have been mostly Hispanics and Asians rocking the parasols (in one case, an entire horde of them visiting campus where I work), but I think us Caucasians can't be far behind! I, for one, have already taken to carrying a folding umbrella in my purse on sunny days and whipping it out when I have to walk a significant distance away from the shade, but that's because I'm a trendsetter. And also because I really can't stand the feel and smell of sunscreen.

So who's with me? Unfashionistas unite! Let's get those parasols out of our childhood dress-up boxes and onto the streets!

Is this me next summer?
The outfit in this picture was chosen for our staff photo at work (to be worn with an off-white flowy shrug to hide the bright blue bra straps!). As you know, I normally go for monochromatic color schemes, but I really wanted to wear these brown shoes (I've only worn them once since I bought them), and I had several pieces of brown jewelry (Brown jewelry? Really? Who comes up with this stuff?) that I've also been hoping to finally wear, so...