Thursday, January 31, 2013

Frankenstein of Jewelry

Remember that shirt I had with the built-in necklace? Well, it broke. One day I picked it out of my pile of laundry to find beads spilling all over the floor. I saved them, of course, and the shirt too, though I don't know what I'm going to do with that. The beads, however, I found a use for just recently when I decided I really needed a blue necklace. Online searches for such were going nowhere, so I took matters into my own hands and busted out my bead collection.

Mixing the crystal blue beads from the broken shirt and a few darker beads from a kit I got when I was just a kid, I was able to construct a pretty passable design, if I do say so myself. The only problem was I didn't have all the findings needed to complete the project.

I had to get myself out to JoAnn Fabrics (which is an awesome store for DIYers—they almost always have valuable coupons) to buy crimp rings that would allow me to connect the cord to a clasp and a backing/hook for the big blue bead that would be the pendant. All in all, this necklace cost me about 3 dollars in new parts—everything else was salvage and stuff I already had. Including the blue ribbon, which is what I ultimately decided to use as a cord.

After construction, I let this baby hang in my jewelry box for a couple of weeks, but brought it out today to accent the lovely blue-and neutral outfit I wore for yet another workplace presentation. My coworker said it made me look like a teacher, which I guess is the look I was going for.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

It is January, and I wore a sweater coat.

That's right. As my only coat. A delicate pointelle sweater.

Which I then proceeded to trail in the mud as I crouched at the air pump at the gas station. After I realized I was doing that, I switched to kneeling, thus introducing the mud to the top of my boots instead.

For all that terrible mistreatment, I still think this is a pretty nice outfit. And a wonderful way to make me feel good on an already wonderfully warm day.

The sweater, by the way, I purchased on eBay as part of a 2-piece set for $11.02, and the necklace was bought at Icing on sale. The boots are new, too, purchased for 25$ from a Chinese eBay seller. They are awesome. Remind me sometime to rhapsodize about these boots.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Shoes and a Sweater or Rabbits in Disguise?

I had a dream last night that I had a bunch of small animals in cages, and they kept reproducing and getting too big and too numerous for their cages. I think that was a rather zoological interpretation of the circumstances leading up to today's outfit.

See, last week I bought these shoes. I actually bought three pairs of shoes for a total of 16 dollars (another win at Rugged Wearhouse!) but these were the cheapest at only 4 dollars. Yes, they were black, and yes, I already have 4 pairs of black shoes, but these ones had a snazzy maroon stripe flowing down the side! Yes, that color combination was certain to severely limit what I could wear them with, but yes! They were only 4 dollars!

A few days later, I took a totally unnecessary side trip into Rainbow and found this sweater on the 5$ rack. I probably wouldn't have bought it except that the maroon stripes made it the perfect sweater to wear with my new 4$ shoes. Plus, I need some warmer colors in my wardrobe.

So that got me thinking about how one unnecessary purchase led to another, and how my clothes are begetting more clothes. Hence the dream about rapidly multiplying rodents.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Unfashionista Toughs It Out

There's a saying that goes: "When the going gets tough, the Unfashionista gets dressed." Haven't heard it?

Last night was kind of tough for me, in terms of my life being turned in a new direction entirely against my will. The only thing that made me feel better was the thought that I had a kickass outfit to wear the next day.

What makes it kickass, you ask; it doesn't look that special to me? Well, I think it's mainly the fact that it was able to meet all my boring logistical needs and still make me feel good about wearing it.

Today I had to do a presentation at work, and you know that drill—dress conservative and look professional. Fortunately, since it would be a remote presentation, I only had to look professional from the shoulders up.

In my previous presentations, I've worn every button-down/collared shirt I own (collared shirt is my gold standard for professional dress—is that too simplistic?) except for this one, which is actually a faux-layered one-piece. I felt a layered-look sweater was appropriate for a webcam presentation on a cold day. Speaking of a cold day, I did not want to wear a skirt! Uh uh no way no how!

I chose white pants because there was white in the shirt, and then I had to make a decision about shoes. This is where I got really wild! Rather than just repeating the colors in my clothes and wearing white shoes (not in the mood) or green ones (don't have any), I wore shoes of a different color! True, teal is in the same color family as green, but I felt like it was a daring decision. Sometimes you just have to pat yourself on the hand and say, "Of course you're daring, sweetie." You're allowed to humor yourself when you're emotionally vulnerable.

I tied it all together with turquoise jewelry to match the turquoise shoes.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Shop Like an Unfashionista

If you read my blog often, you're probably getting a feeling for where I like to shop (cheap stores!) and what I like to buy (cheap stuff!). But if you need some extra information or inspiration, I will give you the low-down on how to shop like a successful Unfashionista.


When to shop

This is an easy one: whenever you can! I have been known to buy dresses on my lunch break and snag unbelievable bargains on my way to dinner. When the opportunity to expand your wardrobe arises, do not pass it up! Even if you don't need or want anything right now, you know you will in 2 weeks when you're bored with all your clothes again. You don't need to worry about buying too much, because you have a price limit in mind, and you are going to stick to your guns! And if you feel like your closet is overflowing, you sell off or give away some of your less-favorite items without regret, because you didn't pay much for them to begin with.


What was that you said about price limit?

One of the things that makes an Unfashionista an Unfashionista is the very stringent spending restriction she lays upon herself. You have to set yours based on experience (i.e. what kinds of prices can you reasonably find a given item for?) and values (how much can you spend without feeling guilty?), but my maximum prices are as follows:

20$ — High Heeled Shoes
13$ — Dresses
10$ — Pants
9$  — Flat shoes
8$  — Bras
5$  — Skirts
5$  — Hats
5$  — Shorts
5$  — Shirts
3$  — Tank tops
2$  — Jewelry & Nail polish
1.30$— Underwear
1$  — Socks

Now, there are qualifications and exceptions to every rule. For example, I'll rarely pay up to the maximum for items that I can't try on, because that's not a safe investment! And if I desperately need something (for example, a pair of skinny jeans that fit right, or some high-heeled black boots that are more ladylike than "rock star"), I'll pay a few dollars more. In general, though, I use these numbers as guidelines to help me keep my shopping impulses in check.


Where to shop

Knowing where you can get a bargain is essential to a swift and stress-free shopping trip. I thoroughly enjoy shopping, but when my boyfriend wants to go to the mall, I cringe inside, knowing that none of the stores will have anything I'm willing to pay for. I don't mess around with high-end retailers (even though, once in a blue-moon, you can find something affordable on their clearance racks), but I do have favorite stores that I can count on. A serious Unfashionista also has favorite departments within favorite stores—like when you go there, you make a beeline for the shoes, because you know they have good prices whereas their clothing department is not so affordable. Good cheap stores may be regional, which makes my advice less pertinent to you, but here are a few of the places where I get consistent bargains.
  • Burlington Coat Factory — though their regular prices aren't really boastworthy, despite their ads, they do have some pretty good deals on clearance items. My local Burlington has a dollar bin for underwear, which is not to be missed!
  • Rugged Wearhouse / Gabriel Brothers — Rugged Wearhouse, just a short walk from my office, gets a visit from me every time I happen to be nearby, because I never know what goodies I might find! This company knows the meaning of a good bargain. Apparently it operates as Gabriel Brothers in the Midwest (and was my favorite store when I lived in Ohio). I find their shoe selection to be consistently delightful and cheap, but I've also acquired most of my sunglasses there, and a few pieces of jewelry.
  • Rainbow — Rainbow is a kids'/ladies'/juniors' clothing shop that draws me in with its huge "CLEARANCE: $3" (or $5 or $7 or...)  racks. It's nice to be able to walk into a store and have the products already arranged according to your spending preferences. Their end-of-season shoe sales are also spectacular!
  • Claire's / Icing — I'm pretty sure these two accessories shops are run by the same company. Claire's seems to cater more to little girls, while Icing is a bit more sophisticated, but they both have wonderful X-for-10$ sales on a frequent basis. That's how I get most of my jewelry.
  • Thrift Stores — Thrift stores are where people with lower standards buy other people's old discards. I love them! Unfortunately, their prices seem to be highly influenced by the cost of living in their area, which means that thrift stores around DC tend not to be any cheaper than a good clearance sale at a retailer. However, every thrift store has its own specials and discounts that make it worthwhile. Around here, Value Village and Unique Thrift offer 50% sales about once a month, and 25%-off sales every Monday and Thursday. An unnamed thrift store at the corner of Rhode Island Ave. and Edgewood Rd. has few marked prices at all, meaning you are free to talk down the owner in a good-natured haggling session. In Ohio, I found Savers to have good quality items at reasonable prices.
  • eBay — I saved the best for last, because eBay is indeed my favorite place to do my fashion shopping! When you factor in the cost of shipping, eBay prices are generally not as good as those at a thrift store, but when you factor in the ease of shopping from your desk and the multitude of options to filter the results to find exactly what you want, it's totally worth it! eBay shopping is partly appealing because it's always an adventure. One of the most thrilling feelings is to drop a trivial amount of money and have a whole collection of new clothing arrive at your door a few days later! (Just shop Mixed Items and Lots to see what I mean). And as an Unfashionista, you can sell back what you don't want, and ensure you have a steady (but small) you can do more shopping!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wearing the Unwearable: Skirts and Butterflies Edition

Q: How do you wear a skintight miniskirt at the office?
A: Very carefully.

I have this skirt I bought in September and still haven't worn (OK, so I wore it once, the day that I bought it, after sitting in a puddle in New York and ruining the only pair of pants I had with me, but that doesn't count since it was covered up with a jacket the whole time).

Every time I try it on, I go "Eek! That's too tight!" But finally I had a brilliant idea to make it workplace-friendly: wear pants underneath! Layered over a sober pair of black pants, the miniskirt ceases to be inappropriate office attire and becomes instead an accent piece, like a belt!

On top, I wore a lace trimmed camisole in black and pastel pink (almost lavender). I got it secondhand, and it's seen better days, but it's wearable enough. I topped that with the black bolero which is becoming one of my best fashion investments at about 2 dollars!

I hesitated to wear these shoes since they're so tall, and the pants aren't really that long, but they are purple, so I did anyway. Fortunately, the pants are loose enough that I was able to wiggle them down a few inches and make my purple platforms less conspicuous. Style Tip Flared pants should always be worn either within a couple inches of the ground or around mid-calf-length. Anything in between risks making you look like you just had a growth spurt and your wardrobe hasn't caught up.

Today was a great day for accessorizing! I have a number of jewelry items that look grand with purple clothes, one of which is a new purple butterfly brooch that I just got on eBay.

A brooch, you say? Does anyone wear brooches these days? I sure don't, but I have discovered that some of them make very nice necklaces!

Convert a brooch into a necklace

This is really simple to accomplish, and doubles the versatility of your jewelry collection! Just thread an empty necklace chain through the pin on your brooch. Tada! Instant pendant!

You'll notice that this purple butterfly is a twin of the green one I sometimes wear in my hair, further proving that there are all sorts of things your can do with brooches other than jab them through your sweater.

Since I was wearing a purple butterfly already, I decided to wear another one, just because I could! This one's a bracelet.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Summer in January

It's the dreariest time of year, when even an Unfashionista has trouble finding clothes to cheer her up. Since my wardrobe the past couple of weeks has mostly consisted of pants and sweaters in the most uninspiring of combinations, I think it's high time to roll out a blast from the past.

This is an outfit that I put together in August, in anticipation of the release of my new website, which was to have a bright green and pink theme with stars. I had my boyfriend (to whom I owe a great deal of thanks) take me out to the Jefferson Memorial and shoot an infinitude of pictures of me with and without my green and pink electronic devices. Then I waited. For months, during which I did everything but work on the site. Finally, in late December, I got the motivation to finish the website and publish now that it's no longer a secret, I can finally share the outfit that is indubitably the coolest feature of the whole site.

It's a summery explosion of brilliant colors, outré accessories, and of course, stars. Lots of stars.

The shoes are the very same ones which I found guilty of slicing up my ankles (this photo shoot was the first time I wore them, and by the end of an hour, I could barely limp back to the car), but I forgive them because they are just that awesome. How many shoes do you know that are covered with stars?

The skirt is equally starry, and I owe many thanks to my boyfriend for this as well, because he is the one who paid more than I would ever pay for a skirt to purchase it for me (30 dollars, marked down from a hundred or so).

The green tank top is unremarkable, except to some readers who will remain nameless who seem to have an obsession with it.

The hat is one of my favorite accessories, being a ridiculously notice-me shade of pink. I have to wear it as much as I can now, because soon it will be much too passé to take out in public. This one was a gift from my boyfriend as well (I may as well call this post "Thank You Rico")—a not very apropos souvenir of our trip to the National Aquarium.

As a coup-de-grace, I also wore a pair of dangle earrings in the shape of – what else? – Stars!

Reading back over what I've written, I am rethinking my decision to title this post in gratitude to my boyfriend, and instead to call it something like "Outlandish outfits make me speak French", since I can't believe the number of French words I have appropriated in this one post!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A New Year's 10-List

It's that time of year again, when every blogger churns out top-10 lists by the tens, and the Unfashionista wants to get in on the action. I think I've missed the rush by waiting until after New Year's to foist my list on an uninterested maybe that means someone will actually read and be interested in my insignificant opinion. In this post, I'll unphilosophize over some of the trends that have assaulted our eyes over the past year and why I sincerely hope that they're on the outs in 2013, followed by some trends that I hope we see more of!

Wishing a fond farewell to...

1. Spikes
These metal monstrosities showed up on everything from shoes to shirts, and I'm sure they were on some hats that I was fortunate enough not to run across (or into!). I'm a nice girl, and there's just nothing nice about clothing accents that double as weapons. I'm also clumsy, and these kinds of things on my person just scream accident waiting to happen!

    2. Leather
    Where I used to work, there was a lady (whom everyone disliked for her personality, not just her fashion sense) who would come in frequently wearing a pair of unflattering shiny black leather pants. We called her Leatherpants, in a way that could only be meant as an insult. Leather pants were not a cool thing to wear. But now, everyone is wearing leather—as a skirt, as a shirt, as just the sleeves on their shirt...weird. Leather is never going to go out of fashion, but I think we could live without quite so much of it.

    3. Dead animals
    Speaking of wearing dead animals, what's with this thing about wearing dead animals—whole ones, with their heads still attached? Fur stoles went out of favor decades ago, but sadly I've been seeing a lot of them draped around the shoulders of poor misguided fashionistas all over the Internet. Wearing a corpse is not cute, no matter how fuzzy it is.

    4. Hi-lo skirts
    I've seen them called hi-lo skirts, fishtail skirts, swallowtail skirts, and probably other names I've been fortunate enough to forget, but I've never seen them look good on anyone. In theory, a skirt that's short in the front and long in the back sounds lovely—like some throwback to the beautiful overskirts of the Renaissance era—and a few of my friends once wore the style to great effect and to my years of unspoken envy when they sported it as flower girls in a wedding. When they were 8. The look works much less effectively on adult women, for whom it seems to call all the world's attention to their kneecaps. Everyone in a hi-lo skirt looks disconcertingly as though they are a starving waif in Victorian London.

    5. Chiffon
    Chiffon is a special type of fabric that just began enjoying too much attention a year or two ago. Chiffon is sheer, light, flowy, and ubiquitous (you can see it on the blue hi-lo skirt above, for example). While I have no problem with light and flowy in itself, I do have a problem with clothing manufacturers trying to sell trashy synthetic materials at a premium price. Any chiffon dress you bought this year will probably be unwearable due to normal wear and tear by next year. Which I guess is OK, since it shouldn't be in style by then.

    Saying a Hopeful Hello to...

    1. Pretty pastels
    The last few years, bright saturated colors have ruled the runways. I have embraced the trend, stocking my closet with electric blues and bold fuschias. But pastels were my first love, and I'm delighted to see them in shops everywhere (seafoam green and pale salmon...delightful!). I hope the clothing lines of the near future continue to employ such lovely color combos.

    2. Rainbow Hair
    My personal interest in putting unnaturally bright-colored streaks into my hair just happened to coincide with a global increase in the same. Convenient for me, but I would have done it even if the rest of the world had kept its hair brown and blond. The only problem is, if the hair-dyeing train grinds to a halt now, and I continue to sport jewel-like locks, I will look like an aging fool who got stuck in the fashions of the past. It's cool to be avant-garde, but it's lame to be outmoded.

    3. High Waisted Jeans
    This past weekend, I finally bought a pair of skinny jeans. I had to slightly step outside my normal price range, because everything I've tried on within the range (and I mean everything, over weeks of failed shopping trips!) has fit terribly. Meaning it won't stay up when I sit down. The obvious solution to this is pants with higher waistbands. They are becoming more common. While I prefer the comfort and aesthetics of wide-leg pants with a moderately low rise, I guess if tight pants are here to stay, they can at least be designed so that you can move in them.

    4. Fringe
    Yes, two years ago, I expressed a hopeful desire to see more fringe in the fashion world. It sort of materialized, mostly in the Pocahontas style of leather fringe on shoes. OK, fashion world, you're on the right track, but I'm still waiting for more of the stringy, flapper style fringe. Don't let me down.

    5. Top hats
    Top hats are not in any way an up-and-coming trend. The last time I think I saw a top hat was on Britney Spears, which doesn't really translate well to the rest of us.

    But over the past few years, we've seen cadet hats, newsboys, hats would totally top them all!

    Wednesday, January 2, 2013

    Blue Velvet

    I wore this dress on New Year's Eve 2011, making me the most conservatively dressed girl at the party. I wore it a second time on New Year's Eve 2012, which would have made me the most overdressed person at the office...except that no one else came in to the office. So I went home, changed into the outfit you saw in my last post, and saved the dress for another day. Today.

    It's a simple outfit, and while there are many things I can do to accessorize a plain dress like this, I really only wore it because I wanted to wear my new winter-white boots.

    These boots so wonderful! They fit like a charm, they look great on me (if I do say so myself) and I got them brand new for only 13 dollars (Thanks, Rugged Wearhouse)! I can't wait to find other outfits to wear them with.