Tuesday, January 27, 2015

At last, a stocking cap!

You may recall my lack of enthusiasm about the bulgy beanies that are so trendy today. Once I started thinking about hats, I also started thinking about what kind of hats I like, and the answer came to me: stocking caps! The extra-long ones with the pom-poms that people only wear in illustrations. When I was a kid in elementary school, some other kids had them, but I never got one of my own, and they seem to have fallen completely out of fashion now. But fashion is no object for an Unfashionista! I would simply make my own.

All I needed was the right material, and I found it in a striped sweater I'd been trying unsuccessfully to sell on eBay for weeks.

Making a cap out of a sweater is quite a good idea, because the material comes with a built-in bottom hem! I had originally intended to cut the sweater into two triangles and attach them together at the sides, but the faux layered front gave me less material to work with than I needed. 

I had to instead cut 4 narrower triangles that came to a point at the shoulders.

Sewing these puppies together was an exercise in patience. The material was so stretchy that, despite my best stretch-n-sew techniques, I could not keep my needle moving in a straight line. And the top layer of fabric kept feeding more slowly than the bottom, messing up the alignment of the stripes, which I had to "fix" by periodically stretching the bottom layer tighter while sewing, leading to a pretty wavery-looking seam.
By then end, I was irritable and exhausted. Fortunately, a slouchy hat is pretty good at hiding its own imperfections, so although not perfect, it was good enough to wear.

After I'd had a few days to let my frustration subside, I was ready to tackle the next phase of the project: the pom pom! I really wanted my long stocking cap to go that extra mile, and I was lucky enough to have a pom-pom ready made. The brown scarf that came with my brown sweater dress came with pom poms as well (click on this link if you want to be disappointed by a picture of the scarf that doesn't even show the pom poms). I hesitated initially to mutilate a perfectly serviceable scarf, but in the end, I decided I was doing myself a favor, as I rarely wear the scarf—in part because the pompoms are always getting in the way of things. It will probably be a lot more useful to me with them removed.

So that's what I did. Attaching the pompom to the hat was actually a lot more difficult than I imagined, because I could not get the thread tight enough. Even now, the pompom is dangling off the tip of the hat by a good centimeter of thread, but again, it took me so many tries to accomplish even that much that I decided to let "good enough" be good enough.

There was still one more phase of the project, though—mittens! This winter has been a bad season in terms of me losing accessories, and my glove collection has been hit the hardest,* so it makes sense for me to get a little more mileage out of my unwanted sweater by making some mittens with the remnants.

After so many difficulties already, I'd pretty much given up on producing a quality garment, so the mittens took me only a few minutes to hack-&-sew. I used the bottoms of the sleeves for this portion so I could take advantage of the existing cuff.

First I laid my hand down on the sleeve, marked a few key points (tip of fingers and intersection of thumb) and then started cutting.
Then I sewed around the edges, leaving ample room for error.

Next, I bravely tried it on. After that, I basically just kept tightening up the fit by sewing closer seams until there was no more excess fabric hanging off.

Then, using the first glove as a template, I cut and sewed the second glove into the same shape.
Modeling the handmade stocking cap with pompom and matching mittens
Phew! I was done! One more pair of mittens to lose track of, and a nifty old-fashioned hat that will soon meet the same fate!

*I've taken to picking up and laundering every lonesome mud-soaked glove I find in the street, because I am losing mine at such a rapid clip that any free glove, even a mismatched one, is better than having to buy a new pair that I will misplace after one wear. I have also purchased a custom rubber stamp with my contact information on it, so I can label every piece of clothing (and umbrella) I own in case of accidental abandonment.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Ebony and Emerald

Next up on my to-wear list: this fantastic pair of green sparkly shoes that I got on eBay for 17 dollars. I went back and forth with myself over whether they were worth the price—glitter-coated shoes have a pretty short lifespan. But eventually my love of green won me over, and when they arrived, I was pleased to see that they weren't coated in glitter, but were actually constructed from a sparkly fabric, which should make them a bit more durable.

Despite my love of green, I have little in my wardrobe that would pair well with such an in-your-face application of it, but I did have (also never worn) a kelly green scarf. I decided to wear all black and accessorize with green.

My original plan was to wear black pants and a black shirt, then wear the scarf over my shoulders and belted at the waist like a vest (this is an up-and-coming style, and you heard it from me first...maybe second). Sadly, when I arrived at work, I realized I had left the belt at home. I decided I would settle for the traditional and boring scarf-around-the-neck, but that was before I attempted to do my hair.

The previous day, I had worn my hair in a mostly failed attempt at curls, so it was looking pretty ratty. I had hoped to turn the chaos into a messy braid, which always looks adorable on Pinterest. But I should have known that what looks adorable on Pinterest generally looks crappy on me. By the time I had wrestled my day-old mop into the semblance of a side braid, I hated my hair and my life. Suddenly I realized that the 'do might be salvaged if I covered up the worst of it with my scarf. So I invented this cute double-braided scarf headband style! Check it out. That's a braid braided into another braid. Pinterest, I'm ready for my close-up!

In the evening, I wore the scarf more as I had originally intended. But since I was going out for a more casual occasion, I toned down the severity of the look by trading in the black pants for blue jeans. 
The shades of the shoes and scarf were a much closer match than this photo would indicate.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Frog Legs

After the resounding success of my tights with stars on them, I was ready to venture out into even more daring territory—tights with animal faces on them! I've seen cat face tights here and there, and I like them, but I feel like they're too common (at least, common among the limited set of people who would dare to wear tights with animal faces on them). Frogs, now, well, they're a little more unique, and they would go swimmingly (get it?) with my favorite color, green.

My sea-green skater dress made its first appearance since this summer, and I wore kitten heel shoes in a different shade of green. I worried about clashing, then I told myself to stop worrying so much. I topped it with a black blazer, because it was cold, and also because I rather enjoyed the corporate-meets-kindergarten incongruity of it all. In case anyone missed the whole frog theme, I also made sure to don my frog earrings.

I wore this outfit for a birthday party on Saturday. I was probably a little overdressed for the living-room family affair, but better overdressed than under!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Not-A-New Layered Dress

In my many hours of online shopping over the past year, there was one thing I kept running into. A solid dress with a little lacy underlayer peeking out from the bottom. I liked the style and even placed various versions of it in my cart a few times, but when it came to actually checking out, I always reconsidered. It just looked a little too short to wear as a dress, and a shirt – even a long one – is simply not worth more than 5 dollars for me.

Then I realized that I didn't need to buy one online anyway—I had all the makings of a dress just like that, right at home in my closet! All it would take is a tunic with an arched hem (check!) and a lacy skirt (check!).

I wore it with thigh-high brown boots and some brown jewelry to help the boots fit in better. Cute outfit from shopping my closet? Check!

Did not realize I was posing exactly like the model for the "real" dress!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Burgundy boot toppers

I remember a time (was it only last year?) when the notion of letting your socks show over the tops of your boots was completely novel to me. Now it is one of my favorite tricks for integrating my shoes better with the colors of my outfit. Here's a classic example.

I am wearing an all-burgundy sweater dress. Normally I'd pair this with some dainty heels, but I was planning on doing some walking outside that day, so flat knee-high boots were a comfortable and warm alternative. The boots were a fairly pale shade of brown, and, next to the dark color of the dress, I thought they stood out too much and needed a unifying influence.

That influence was boot toppers! Now, they sell accessories specifically designed to go over the tops of boots, but an Unfashionista would never drop money on something with such a limited use, so I was delighted when I realized (don't laugh—I'm sure to many of you this goes without saying, but to me it was a veritable revelation) Style Tip you can wear leg warmers as boot toppers!

Suddenly I had a whole new option for those burgundy-pink-white striped leg warmers that I'd gotten at the thrift store and been unable to wear with anything for months! As a bonus, not only were they the perfect accessory to make my boots and dress live in harmony, but I could also pull them up to cover my knees and thighs when walking across campus in the cold!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Squirrels love pink

I have acquired a lot of new clothes and accessories over the past couple of months, and haven't had a lot of opportunity to wear them. There are also a couple of older but neglected items I have that I'd like to bring back into rotation. Thus, I've compiled a "must-wear" list of things that should be a top priority when I'm planning outfits. Two of the items on the list (currently about 17 long) are the new pink tunic-length blouse that I got for 5$ at Rugged Wearhouse, and the squirrel pin that I've only worn once since I bought it around a year ago.

Originally I was just planning on wearing the blouse with leggings and boots, but upon realizing that I could benefit from the use of jewelry to spice it up, it occurred to me that my squirrel pin was practically tailor-made for such a need. It is actually two pins – a squirrel and an acorn – joined by a gold chain. Two years ago, this type of pin, worn on each side of a pointed collar, was at the height of fashion. Now you never see it, and you could even go so far as to call it "dated."

But a squirrel and an acorn is just quirky enough to be genuinely timeless, so here it is! If I ever wear a shirt with a pocket, I know I'll have lots of fun "burying" the acorn, but today it's just going in the standard location on the two sides of my collar.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Marine Monochrome

Yesterday, I spent a good long time trying to find nice clothes to wear with my new bubblegum-pink sweater, but it was tough. So I set my sights a little lower and came up with this masterpiece in blues and blue-greens. When artfully combining colors is too much for you, you can never go wrong with monochrome!

Today's aqua ensemble features a teal circle skirt, boots in a slightly different shade of teal, a vest in another shade of teal, and a sweater in navy blue. All the different layers join together in magnificent mass of swirliness that would remind even the most literal thinker of ocean waves. I even tried to curl my hair to keep the waves rolling, but, not at all shockingly, that didn't work.

Once all dressed up, I looked slightly shapeless thanks to the oversized sweater, so I brought in the waist with a black belt. The silver buckle of said belt stood out like a lighthouse amidst my dark clothing, so I tried to balance it out with silver jewelry—in seashell and manatee motifs, of course!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

10 for the 10th: Fashion Trends of 2014

It has become one of my favorite New Year's traditions to ponder on the fashion trends of the previous year and speculate as to the year to come.

Many of the things that were popular in 2013 lasted well into the following year—in fact, everything on last year's list was pretty cool this year as well, except for the animal faces, which apparently wore out their wacky welcome. Fortunately, I also think weird cutouts are going exactly where they say they will—out.

But enough about the ancient past! Let's talk about the recent past! Here are some of the trends of 2014 along with my own 2 cents about whether they should stay or go.

1. All the pants

I never saw so much variety in legwear options as I did in 2014. Although they say that skinny jeans are on their way out (to be replaced by the sort of baggy, sort of tapered, sort of straight-legged, wide-hipped, shapeless jean popularly referred to as the Mom jean or sometimes the Boyfriend jean), I still saw plenty of skinnies—along with wide-legged palazzo pants, culottes (basically gauchos but somehow baggier?), flares (may they never die), cinched-at-the-ankle slim-fit jogging pants, and plenty of leggings—many of these styles featuring crazy color schemes and plenty of ethnic prints.
Shredded jeans also had a big moment last year, and I'm hoping fervently it will be short-lived. They tried to make overalls happen last year, too, but with only minimal success.

2. Open-toed boots

I love these boots on other people. Most of them come with the lace-up fronts that I always adore. But open-toed anything is pretty much off my shopping list forever, and with their promise of either freezing toes or sweating legs, open-toed boots seem the most impractical of them all.

3. Flat loafers

The ballet slipper and the riding boot have been the flat shoe of choice for as long as I've been doing fashion, and I'm getting bored with them, so I appreciate the rise of this slightly different, slightly masculine footwear. I still haven't found a pair in my price range, but when I do, I'll look forward to wearing them with the wide-legged pants that I also hope to acquire! Maybe I'll even find a pair with an enormous platform! That would make my year!

4. Braids

Not exactly related to clothing, but completely related to fashion, braids seemed to be the go-to style for anyone looking to do something a little special with their hair last year. Everywhere I looked, there was some new tutorial on some groundbreaking braided style. I loved them all, but in my few attempts at trying them, I learned they were not for me with my limited dexterity, disobedient hair, and inability to hold my arms above my head for more than a minute.

5. Bib Halter Tops

There are many kinds of halter tops in this world, but my least favorite is probably the "bib" style, which is characterized by a high neckline that basically encircles the neck like a crewneck, and widening out toward the armpits. Not exactly gorgeous on anyone, if I may be so bold, it spells absolute disaster for me, since high necklines don't flatter my face, and the angle of the cut makes my shoulders look enormous. The return of this style (which had its heyday in the 90's) has put something of a damper on my summer-shirt-buying, and I fear it will only get worse in the coming year.

6. Turtlenecks

I might have mentioned I don't do well in high necklines. Well, they don't get much higher than the turtleneck, and, much to my chagrin, this style has ceased to be the outcast of the fashion world and is starting to appear on the shoulders of bloggers and models everywhere.

7. Infinity scarves

Scarves with the ends attached to each other are nothing new (one came with each of my purple and teal sweaters way back in 2011), and maybe it's just that I've been on a headscarf spree thanks to my continuously growing-out dye job, but I certainly have been seeing an infinitude of them this past year! I don't understand their popularity—why buy a scarf that you can only wear one way when you can buy the same one, with the ends free, and have infinite versatility!? Not a big deal to an Unfashionista, of course. If I ever do find a circle scarf in my price range that I like, I'll just snip the ends and have a nice traditional scarf.

8. Winter beanies as fashion accessories

This didn't make it into my 10-list last year, even though it was pretty popular then, but it's still going strong. Not that I approve of it, mind you. I think a close-clinging hat with a shapeless blob sticking off the top of it looks pretty bad on everyone, so, if winterwear has to be everyday wear, I hope the tides of fashion will soon return to the cute oversized berets of a few years ago, or the big thick-knit caps I favor.

9. Asymmetrical wrap skirts

The asymmetrical wrap skirt is an odd (but oddly appealing) thing that I only saw for the first time in recent months. Basically, it looks like you've wrapped a high-fashion towel around your waist so that one corner is hanging down lower than the rest of the fabric. I really like this look, and I hope it continues to thrive well on into 2015, until the prices drop into my range. Or I'll just make my own out of a high-fashion towel!

The last item on my fashion hit list is, in the grand tradition of my 2012 article, a bit of wishful thinking. I would love it if we all could start dressing up our footwear with...

10. Spats!

These funky shoe-covers bring an old-fashioned appeal to any outfit, they look awesome with boots and can, in fact, make any pair of shoes look like boots, and best of all, they can serve the practical purpose of being swappable for infinite color combinations (also, I guess, for their original purpose of protecting shoes from spatters).

[Edit, January 12: Though it ruins the perfect ten-ness of this post, I am retroactively adding ear cuffs, the earrings that hook around the ear and generally follow the line of the pinna (yeah, biology words in a fashion blog!). They were pretty new and exciting last year, and I acquired two of them in the past months, though neither of them have actually been pictured in a post.]

Friday, January 9, 2015

Fashion is Art

I wrote a post on my other blog that ended up including an extensive discussion about why it's not so bad to be a clotheshorse—perhaps my Unfashion fans might want to read it too!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Mystic Moon

I was never really happy with this skirt. It looked so pretty and bohemian on the model when I saw it online, but once it was actually in my possession, I found it to ride too low on my hips and hang too high above the ground. It was supposed to be a maxi skirt, but instead, it hit at an awkward spot right at my ankles. I wore it a few times, decided it didn't make me as happy as I'd imagined it would, decided to sell it, felt sad to be throwing away such promise, and finally saved the skirt by taking in the waistband a bit so it sat on my waist instead of my hips and landed at a more flattering calf length.

Come January, I sure felt glad that I hadn't thrown away one of my only long skirts, because it's way too cold to wear short ones and way too boring to wear pants. I paired it with a purple top and new navy blue boots. About those boots: within two days of the arrival of the New Year, I broke my resolution to invest in quality, by buying 3 10-dollar pairs of boots—but I don't regret it, because these boots are just what my wardrobe had been needing. Dark enough to wear as a neutral, yet without the starkness of black, they are the perfect complement to this violet-blue skirt and hopefully many others!

However, I feel the feather in the cap of this outfit is actually the jewelry. Not content with one moon necklace, I had found two others, more dramatic, on eBay a few months ago, and bought them in a jewelry spending spree similar to the boot one of last week. The purple and blue one sets off the colors of my clothing nicely, and enhances the new-age mood that always comes with a raggedy peasant skirt like this. But check out the earrings! I was lucky enough to already have them in my earring collection, and they have the same filigreed silver design of the moon necklace, appearing almost to be part of a matched set!