Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Art Nouveau

I had high (Ok, moderate) expectations for the "Le Chat Noir" swimsuit, but, as is common when I order something too cheap to be true from a Chinese seller on eBay, it failed to live up to them. I never expected I'd actually be able to swim in it, since it didn't appear to have any lining, but I was sure I'd be able to wear it with some undergarments and at least show it off while sunbathing. True, sunbathing is something I never do, but when confronted with a thrilling piece of wearable art for only $4.25, an Unfashionista tends to trade in logic for enthusiasm.

Alas, alas, the swimsuit that I got was not up to par. It was a crappy imitation of the original illustration, lacking all the lines that defined the cat's features, and the letters were all partially cut off. Feeling disappointed, I contacted the seller and got a refund.

Well, a refund sure changes everything! Even though it still wasn't as cool as I had been expecting, now that I had gotten the swimsuit for free, I felt a lot better about taking the risk of cutting it up and making something new out of it. In this case, a shirt!

Here's what I did.

I laid the offending swimsuit on the ground and took a picture of it, so you could see how inferior it looked.
I then marked a line, as low as I could make it without reaching the leg holes.
I cut off the bottom of the suit and then pinned the raw edge under, finally sewing it into a new hem. I then did the same on the back of the suit (you can see the black dashes where I was planning to cut).
What? No more?

Nope. That was all I had to do to turn the swimsuit into a top.

I wore it for the first time with a pair of 3-D printed sandals that I just bought from Continuum Fashion. They were a huge splurge, but, being something of a shoe nut, I was sucked in by the opportunity to be "one of the first to own an authentic pair of 3D printed shoes." Also, I owed myself a birthday present.

They have a lovely, sinuous tree-like shape that is quite reminiscent of the same Art Nouveau period that also birthed the design on my shirt, so I thought they made a fitting combination.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Green with love


You've seen my olive green blazer, my green strapless pointelle dress, and my green heart earrings all before, so I don't have much to say about this outfit, except maybe that it's distinguished by consisting of absolutely nothing new, which really is rare in my blog!

The lace shoes, however, even though I've had them for 2 and a half years and worn them at least 2 and a half times, have never appeared in the blog, so here's a close-up.

Monday, September 22, 2014

3 necklace hacks (one of which is the complete opposite of which)

Last year, I posted a simple trick to make a necklace shorter. I called it "quick and dirty," and it is. All those knots take a necklace from a pretty ornament to a hot mess. So I've dedicated myself to finding better options for necklace length adjustment, and I've come up with three! I'm calling them necklace hacks, because the Internet thinks "hack" is a pretty cool word to use for any simple trick that you can execute to change something into a more easy-to-use or useful version of itself.

1. How to permanently shorten a necklace

For this trick, you will need a pair of pliers. You must then take the pliers and remove a few links of the chain (if the chain is cheap, you will be able to bend a link to open it and slip the remaining links off. If it is a better-constructed necklace, you will need to cut it. Either way, you should be able to accomplish the task with a pair of standard needle-nose pliers). Then you must reattach the jump ring and clasp to opposite ends of your newly shortened chain. Wow! Super easy!

If you want your necklace to be more versatile, you can then attach an extender chain to it, so you can wear it at a variety of lengths, but an extender is almost as ugly as a knotted up necklace.

2. How to have a necklace of the right length any time

Having a short necklace can be a great boon with the right neckline, but it can be a disaster with the wrong one. If you want to have every necklace look great with every top, you'll need it to be wearable at a variety of lengths. If, like me, you don't want all your necklaces to be uglied-up with extender chains, and, like me, you have a plethora of pendants, I have a solution for you!

First, take all your pendants off the chains. Then, measure the chains. Arrange them in order of length. Ideally, you will have one chain for every 2-inch increment of length (so, a 14-inch chain, a 16-inch, an 18-inch, and so on. My longest chain is 30 inches, which falls right about in the middle of my torso). If you have several chains of a long length, but are missing some in an a shorter length, you can cut down one of the longer ones by following the instructions in Tip #1.

Once you have all your necklaces arranged by size, keep them that way. I sort mine into silver, gold, and "other," clip them onto paper clips labeled with the length, and store them in descending order on the back of my jewelry hanger.

Then, when you want to wear a specific pendant, just grab it and slide it onto the chain that will work best with your neckline du jour.

3. How to make a necklace look longer

Short of adding the dreaded extender, there is little you can do to make a necklace longer, but, if you happen to be wearing a collared shirt, you can try this little trick.

Simply unclasp the necklace and safety-pin each end somewhere under your collar. Tada! This trick is the exact opposite of a "hack" by definition (you know, the definition that signifies violent cutting), but semantics aside, it's quite a useful trick, as it can add a good 8 inches to your necklace without changing it in any permanent way.

I think you could also do a version of this trick with a non-collared top by simply pinning the necklace to the neckline at the shoulder (unobtrusively, from the underside). I have several shirts with built-in necklaces, or necklaces that clip to loops somewhere on the shirt, so I think this could be quite doable!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Fall makes me blue

Fall used to be my favorite season. Not any more. Now the falling of the leaves and the slow insidious chilling of the air fills me with a sense of dread. The day when I decide I can no longer wear sleeveless shirts is a day of mourning.

Thus it is fitting, that when that day came for me (today*), I chose an all-blue outfit, reflective of my general state of melancholy.

There is, however always a plus side. Today I have two!

1. In adding bike shorts under my skirt so that I could bike to work without fear of flashing anyone, I discovered a neat solution for a common wardrobe woe. Style Tip Prevent a tucked-in shirt from bunching and bulging by tucking it into a skin-tight underlayer.

See any bulges there? I think not!

2. The onset of fall does mean I get unlimited use of my favorite type of footwear: boots! Today I wore a fresh new pair. Just take a look at them and marvel. Thanks.

*Some of you may be noting that the weather forecast calls for temperatures in the 80s this weekend, which is definitely warm enough for sleeveless shirts, even for a poikilotherm such as myself. But, this weekend is a particularly warm exception to a string of forecasts in the low-to-mid 70's, and it doesn't look like I'll get to wear sleeveless shirts at work any more this year.

Monday, September 15, 2014

First of Autumn

I wear this dress once a year (here's last year's appearance).

Maybe sometimes, it's twice, but every year, around the second week of September, I suddenly remember I have a dress that's sleeveless for warm weather, yet colored in oranges and browns for autumn.

Yesterday, believing the Weather Channel when they told me today's high would be almost 80 (the warmest day of the week), I pulled it out of my closet and set it out to be worn with my wine-colored rose-toed shoes. Last night, realizing that it was going to be right chilly in the morning even if it warmed up in the afternoon, I started seeking additional layers to keep me warm until the air caught up with my body temperature.

I've worn this dress with a brown blazer, and I've worn it with a tan blazer, but today I mixed it up and wore it with a tan blouse instead! Buttoning the blouse all the way up gave this outfit the appearance of a two-piece set with a matching scarf, and I'm kind of pleased with how it turned out.

Good thing I planned for cold, because the weather never did catch up with my body temperature, and I was forced to wear the blouse all day.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wedding dress

I don't attend many weddings. I've only been to 2 that I can think of since I hit adulthood, and in one of those, I was a bridesmaid. So I don't have much experience selecting appropriate wedding attire.

Thus, this weekend, when I dressed myself for my first wedding in 4 years, I was naturally a bit unconfident. In fact, on my arrival, I was almost certainly more anxious than the bride and groom themselves (nothing to do with being crammed into a tiny room with a bunch of strangers, I'm sure). Was my outfit all right? Was I overdressed? Was I showing too much skin? Was there too much shimmer in the fabric? Did I look like a bridesmaid rather than a guest?

After a few deep breaths of fresh air, a few gulps of champagne, and a few glances at what other women were wearing, I relaxed. I even got few (actually, three—yes, I was counting) unsolicited compliments along the lines of "I love your dress!"

Just don't tell the complimenters, it actually wasn't a dress! It was, in fact, a skirt, which I have only worn once in all the 7-odd years I've owned it because it's just too dressy for almost every occasion. It's also very hard to find shirts to wear with, which is why, this year, I finally got the brilliant idea to forgo a shirt entirely and wear it as a dress, using the sash to create an empire waist.

As evidenced by the compliments, this was a pretty good choice, but wearing this outfit to a wedding has reminded me: I must renew my vows to never, ever, wear anything strapless to any event at which there might be dancing. Too many close calls and too many visits to the bathroom to hike up one's bra (finally culminating in one attaching straps to the convertible bra and Res-Q-taping the dress to it, with limited success) kind of takes some of the fun out of a party.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

I shot for the moon and missed.

If rainbows are my favorite color scheme, stars might very well be my favorite motif. Stars and moons together, though? That's not just my favorite, that's my identity! I'm surprised it's taken me this long to come up with an outfit that combines them both.

I started with the aqua dress, since I haven't touched it all summer, and summer is rapidly ending. I enjoy accessorizing this dress, because it's a solid color that can be worn with almost anything! Last time I featured it, it was with an oceanic theme, so this time I decided to look to the sky instead! I hadn't worn my star sandals enough this year, and I had a silver star necklace waiting in my still-unworn jewelry basket, so a celestial theme was a logical choice.

What really launches this outfit to the next level (possibly to the level of thematic overload, though I personally don't believe in such a thing) is the moon pendant, which I found while digging through the aforementioned jewelry basket. Moon? Stars? A match made in the heavens? Have I reached thematic overload now? Perhaps, but even if it was a failure, it was worth trying.

After all, they always say, "Shoot for the moon," they say. "Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." While anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of astronomy could tell you this is logically flawed advice, it does provide great inspiration...for an outfit, at least!

What's really cool about this whole combination is that I was originally planning to wear two necklaces, one inside the other...but I forgot to bring a chain for the moon pendant. So being the resourceful little Unfashionista I am, I attached the necklace to the dress with a safety pin. Tada! Instant brooch! And it fit there even better than it probably would have done dangling from a chain. Ha! This time I think my terrible aim (read: forgetfulness) certainly landed me among the stars!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

If cavemen wore cranberry

About a month ago, I was perusing the clearance racks at Rainbow (one of my favorite ways to get sidetracked while shopping for groceries at Giant), when I came across this decidedly wild deep magenta fuzzy double-layered top with a built-in necklace. At three dollars, it was within my price range, but not usually the price range I reserve for weird-looking clothes like that, which would obviously get minimal air time in my daily rotation—especially once you consider its bulky construction and dolman sleeves (a pretty big disqualifier for making it into my wardrobe). However, because it was actually a tube top plus the outer layer (attached at the waist, but nothing a pair of scissors and a seam ripper couldn't fix), and it came with a necklace, I figured it amounted to 1 dollar a piece, which is a pretty good bargain. 

Plus, I was feeling a stirring in my bones that told me it was time to attempt a more ambitious DIY than the re-hemmings and re-sizings that have basically been my life this summer, and I couldn't think of a more inspiring palette than a purple, glittery, as-yet-unstructured mass of fuzz.
One look at the top draped over my frame was enough to convince me it had to change. Big-shouldered shirts are my enemies, but I have recently developed kind of an affinity for them if they only have one shoulder. I think the asymmetrical fit and single bare shoulder creates a dramatic silhouette without making me look enormous. So I set out to turn this top into a one-shouldered piece of work.

My first step was to simply pull my arm through the neckline and see how it looked. Pretty blobby. Next, I took all the fabric from the left shoulder and bunched it up around the vicinity of my waist. A critical eyeballing determined that, yes, this could work. 
So I took the shirt off, pinned the fabric in place more thoroughly, and then wrapped and pinned the free end of the left sleeve around to the back, so as to get a better feel for how it would look when finished.

I liked it, so I took my trusty sewing machine and stitched a seam over the bunched fabric down the left side, fixing both layers of the front firmly in place.

Now I had to decide what to do with the fabric in the back. Did I want it to drape low, revealing more of the tube top? Or high, for a more conservative look (As conservative as one can get when one is wearing a Tarzan top made of glittery purple fur!)? Did I want it to be bunched up in back as it was in front? Or go for a smoother surface? After a couple of experiments with the exact positioning, I decided on no bunching and a straight hem from shoulder to waist.
This necessitated cutting a bit of the fabric from the back and a quick hemming of the resulting raw edge. I didn't have to be too precise during this bit, because furry fabrics like this one hide a multitude of sins (a.k.a poorly stitched hems).

Then I lopped off the remaining excess fabric from the back and the left sleeve. 

The only thing left to do was to wrap a few stray edges of the left sleeve under the edge of the back and sew it down. Fortunately, again, I didn't need to create any neat seams because the fabric was so fluffy that all the raw edges were well disguised.

Sewing done, the shirt was complete, but I still had one more idea! Since I had a lot of fabric left over and I've been so into headbands lately, I decided to make a matching headband from some of the extra material!

I cut a strip about 2 inches wide in the middle and narrower at the ends, then sewed the two ends together.


I wore this shirt and headband, with the original necklace, to dinner and a movie in Baltimore a few weekends ago (DIY-blog procrastination has struck again, explaining the delay in posting). I even went all out and changed up my purse (something I only usually do for special occasions) to better match the vibe of the outfit. While we were eating, one bartender asked me if I'd made the outfit myself. Typically, getting asked if you made it yourself is not something you want to hear in regards to your clothes (it signifies shoddy workmanship and/or a lack of refinement), but she explained that she thought it might be because the two pieces matched and it was cute. So I'll accept that as a compliment.

Sadly, I had no idea that my camera was utterly failing to capture the many poses I sent its way on self-timer. So here's a collection of blurry pictures that together, I hope, present an adequate portrait of how the whole ensemble looked.