Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Grandma's Brooches

I blog a lot about my collection of Grandma's brooches, so I thought I might as well dedicate a whole post to these unsung heroes of accessorizing.

Brooches, these days, are not at the height of fashion. Although people wear them, statement necklaces, earrings, and bracelets all seem to surpass them in popularity. That's one reason why I consider it a particularly worthy challenge to find ways to showcase these vintage works of wearable art.

I have about 7 oversized floral brooches, which I inherited from my paternal grandmother (along with a sizable collection of jewelry and makeup). For years, I kept them at the bottom of jewelry boxes, much admired but unworn. I was not much into jewelry (other than earrings) until after I started this blog.

However, in more recent years, I have discovered the power of a brooch, in such varied functions as fastening a cardigan, accenting a monochromatic look, tying together a color scheme, and even doing double duty as a necklace or hair accessory.

I have found a use for many of my Grandma's vintage brooches—just a few to go! I think I shall have to make it my mission to bring these last few, unloved ornaments into the spotlight they so richly deserve. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 28, 2014

My Fair Lady

Style Tip The best way to showcase a colorful accessory is to wear it against a black backdrop.

Thus, when I decided it was time to take my new metallic blue heels for a spin, I went with nondescript black pants and a subtle (yet elegant, I like to think!) black top.

Maybe I've just been reading too many fashion columns about "Old Hollywood Glamour", but something about this outfit made me think of Audrey Hepburn. Is it the cropped cigarette pants (which figure in the first paragraph of almost any article on Audrey Hepburn's style)? Or the sober black color scheme (which might not be her signature look, but since almost all her photos are in black and white, it's hard not to make that association)? Or the dainty blue stud earrings, (which happen to bear a striking similarity to a pearl pair marketed with her name on it)?

I don't know, but I do know that once I had Hepburn in my head, I knew I had to go all the way. I may not be a hardcore fan, but since I saw her in a film at an impressionable age, I wished fervently that I could look like her. Consider this outfit my best attempt. I may never be graced with her delicate features, but I do happen to have her dark hair at present. I had a go at her signature 60's cat eye, and I did the best sophisticated updo I could muster, since that's what she always seems to be wearing, especially in her iconic Breakfast at Tiffany's look.

Judging from what little I've gleaned from fashion blogs and photos, Audrey Hepburn would not have been caught dead in what some people might describe as "stripper shoes," but they were the starting point of this outfit, and they are here to stay!

Here we are, my newfound style icon and me!

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Once, when I was in high school, I went out for breakfast at Bob Evans with a friend who worked there with me, and we happened to run into one of our regular customers. He, being used to seeing us in khakis and white button-downs every day, was inspired to comment on our outfits. Hers, with the flowing silky top straight out of New York & Company, was assessed as "glamorous." Mine was labeled "sporty." When I heard that, I had to do a mental double-take. I have never been a very athletic person, and I was even less so back then.

In retrospect, my daily summer uniform of sneakers, half-length white crew socks (they were in style then!), jean shorts, T-shirt, and a ponytail was tomboyish to say the least, but I never thought of it that way—it's just what I always wore. However, that comment inspired me to consider more carefully the image my apparel projected. Since then, I have edited my style to hit more often on the "glamorous" end of the spectrum. The only time I sport anything sporty is when I'm going to the gym.

But yesterday, as my look came together at the last minute (amid a pile of discards all over my floor), I found the athletic aesthetic working its way into my outfit.

I started with a pink tank dress, which is basically a blank slate that has the potential to be very ladylike. But once I topped it with my black zippered vest, the sporty transformation had begun. There's something about this vest that reminds me of a golf or tennis outfit. 

The next element I added was the pink elastic headband to cover my roots, which has a definite "aerobics" vibe to it.

The shoes were the finishing touch. With all the black and pink going on, I just had to wear my black and pink wedge sneakers. Generally, sneakers with a dress is not something I go for, but apparently this combination is all the rage in the fashion world (although wedge high tops are probably passé by now), and I like doing something weird once in a while.

So there you have it, folks. This is about as sporty as you'll ever see the Unfashionista get! (And you'll notice that I couldn't resist adding black sparkly dangly earrings!)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

One Skirt, Four Seasons: Summer

Since sweltering July days are the best days to wear non-breathable plastic fabrics, the purple pleather skirt is back!

The theme this time around is purple and teal, which I effected with a long flowy teal vest (which I've had for two years but never found a way to wear), teal shoes (which gave me blisters), a lavender camisole (which was a recently acquired hand-me-down that proved to be the perfect addition to this outfit), and, the pièce de résistance, a blue floral brooch from my grandma's collection.

At first, I was hesitant to wear the light purple top, as it kind of stood out like a sore thumb among the other dark colors of the outfit, but the light blue of the brooch lifted the dark blue(-green) of the shoes and vest, making the pastel camisole fit right in. I got a couple of compliments on this ensemble (and a couple more on the shoes alone), so I guess I can consider it the most successful of my three seasonal outfits featuring this skirt.

Here are the others, in case you want to do a little comparison yourself.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Brass Knuckles

As you might guess from my blog title, I don't consider myself much of a "fashion girl," but in my clothes-loving heart, I want to be part of that club. So I read Who What Wear's compilation of 21 Things Only Fashion Girls Understand with a sense of delicious expectation. Sadly, I only "understood" 2 things on that list, both related to high heels ("Wearing shoes that may also function as torture devices" and "Riding bikes while wearing heels, because, duh, so cute"—and technically I don't agree with the second half of that one, because I only ride bikes while wearing heels because it's easier than packing a change of shoes). But one thing I noticed on the list stuck with me:

"The fear that your first-knuckle rings are always going to fall off."

I confess, even as a wannabe fashion girl, I'd never heard of first-knuckle rings until I read that article. 

I'm not big into rings, one main reason being that they don't fit on my fingers. I was blessed with huge knuckles that dwarf the supposedly fleshy part of the base of my fingers, causing rings to be annoyingly loose once they're on...assuming I can fit them past my knuckles at all! I can only wear rings on my little and index fingers—and rings on my index finger usually end up getting taken off because I keep scraping my face with them.

But when I recently replaced my jewelry armoire with a hanging bag with see-through pockets, suddenly my ring collection was front and center, and I found myself wearing rings a lot more. Today, while trying to find brass jewelry to punch up the necklace that was built into my shirt, I pulled out a ring that fit too loosely on my little finger, I remembered the concept of the first-knuckle ring, and slipped it onto my middle finger instead. 

Whoa, instant magic! My fingers might have thwarted me from wearing rings in the traditional way, but these bony hands were just built for first-knuckle rings! I loved the asymmetry of rings placed haphazardly all over my hand! I loved the mix of metals! And yes, I spent the whole day fearing that the first-knuckle ring was going to fall off, but it was totally worth it.

I might never succeed at being a "fashion girl," but I think I can see being a "ring girl" in my future.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Another confluence of fashion challenges resulting in a pretty snazzy outfit if I do say so myself

Orange isn't really my color.

In my vast array of 2 closets, I only have one thing that's predominantly orange, and that came from someone else.

I also have an orange scarf, which my boyfriend got recently as a wedding favor (I wasn't invited—I'd be bitter, except I'm the one who ended up with the present!). I don't really wear scarves, but I'm trying to get into it, so I set it aside and waited. Find a way to wear a scarf that also happens to be orange? Enter Challenges 1 and 2.

Challenge Number 3 was not a big one—I just had to wear a dress I'm not too fond of. I try to do this when I can—even if I don't think I like an article of clothing, I make an effort to wear it at least once, just to make sure I'm not missing out on anything. And if I think I'm bored with an article of clothing, I try to wear it once more before I get rid of it, to be sure I haven't just forgotten how much I like it (also because that's one more day I can avoid repeating an outfit). So when I pulled this dress out of the closet over the weekend and decided it was dead weight, I vowed to wear it soon and be rid of it soon after.

Challenge Number 4 is one you're probably well familiar with already—I have to cover up my growing-out dye job. Incidentally, a headscarf is a great way to do that, and, incidentally as well, an orange headscarf from Challenge 2 just happened to be a great match for the dress in Challenge 3.

I was a little uncertain about covering up my whole head (especially after I was asked if I'd converted to Islam when I covered only part of my head earlier this month), but I decided I'd have to do it sooner or later, cause these roots aren't getting any shorter! I took inspiration from the "My Little Pony" tutorial on, but instead of using a hair elastic, I just tied my scarf in a bow at the back, and wore it to work.

Usually when I wear something that outlandish, someone will say something, but I didn't get a single comment on my headscarf for most of the day. I was starting to feel insecure (if people decline to comment, I always assume it's because they are trying not to hurt my feelings), but then I got a shout-out from across the street while walking back from lunch: "I love your headwrap!" Phew. Crisis averted. Guess I'll keep this headscarf game going.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

How I covered my roots this week

The big old headband of July 1 was only the beginning! Since we last met, I've been trying all sorts of tricks to cover up my hair roots.

On the 4th of July, I went all-out patriotic with a bandanna on my head (and blue sunglasses and jewelry to boot).
On the Sunday following, I discovered that a multi-strand beaded necklace makes a pretty cute headband, which neatly disguised the blond part at the base of my bangs. I was astonished that it stayed on all evening, making it not only cute but practical.
I'm the one on the right.

Here's the entire outfit to go with my beaded headband.
All these bands and bandannas have been a fun variation from my usual routine, but I've also happily discovered a way to return to it: hair chalk! I haven't had much luck with using chalk to actually put bright colors in my hair, but it turns out to be a great solution for disguising roots. I just swipe it on wherever my hair happens to be parted, maybe touch up around my face a little, and I'm done! It's not a perfect color match, but it's close enough, and it enables me to wear my hair in normal styles without covering up my head!

Headshot of Before and after using chalk to cover up roots
Using these techniques, I feel pretty confident that I can avoid dyeing my hair for at least another couple of months...and I haven't even brought out the big guns yet...just wait until I try the ultimate in head coverings—a turban!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Bows and Ties

If you haven't noticed from my last few posts, my hair color has been changing a lot lately. It is presently a dark brown, but its natural color is a dark blond, and it's been growing out for about a month now. My hair grows relatively slowly compared to some people's, but there's still enough new growth showing to make me look, as one friend put it, like an old lady trying to cover up her grey. Well, obviously that's not attractive, but at the same time, there is not enough new growth to warrant going in to the salon for another expensive dye job just yet. So until such a time as I feel like dyeing my roots again, I'll be experimenting with different ways to hide them, including creative headwraps! I eased into it today with what is essentially an extra-wide headband.

The rest of the outfit is Unfashion as usual. The forecast said it was supposed to be very hot today, so my priority in selecting an outfit was keeping it light and breezy. I started with a red shirt, which is basically sleeveless, but because of its construction looks a tad more polished than your average tank top. I paired it with my black ragged-polka-dotted-hem skirt. I was satisfied that this getup would keep me cool, but I wasn't so happy with the silhouette, which, because of the overall looseness of all the elements involved, was a little shapeless. I added definition with a skinny black belt.

For footwear, I went with a cute pair of ankle boots that a friend gave me just recently. I considered casual black sandals, but they just didn't pack the same unexpected punch as boots in July, plus I couldn't resist the impulse to wear something new!

The assessments that I received on this outfit today included, "Like Cyndi Lauper, but not as crazy," "kind of like a pirate," and "a little Steampunk."

I personally didn't have a particular look in mind when I put this together, but I did notice that there were little bows on the boots and the headband was tied up in a knot too, so, when considering jewelry, I decided on the bow-tie necklace at the last minute. I'm not sure whether it was a cute way to "tie" together the little bows into a thematic look, or whether it's just "bow"verkill. What do you think?