Friday, February 27, 2015

The Winter Blues

Much as I have grown tired of the cold weather, today's outfit is an homage to winter—from the sweater in shades of blue and white, studded with sparkling sequins like ice crystals, to the cool blue-green leggings, to the snow-white shoes with the sea-green translucent heels (that remind me of a frozen ocean).

That's really all I've got for commentary.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Real Cupcake-atarians have curves

A few months ago, I went on a sauropod kick. I kept finding dinosaur-themed clothes and accessories online, and I wanted them all! At one point, I ran across a lot of three T-shirts that not only sported adorable sauropods, but also had a vegetarian message! It's like they were made for me! I bought them, even at a total price of 5 dollars a shirt, and was sad I had taken the gamble when 2 out of three of them were far too tight.

One of them, I decided I would wear anyway—I could still squeeze into it—but this white cupcake-atarian one was just too sheer and too embarrassingly small. Cupcake-atarian, my foot! That shirt was sized for someone who never eats anything but lettuce! I tried to sell it on eBay for months. It wouldn't go at 5 dollars, and I didn't even get any interest when I reduced it to 2 dollars. I felt I'd be taking too big a loss to list it for any less than that, so I removed it from my inventory and placed it in my Projects Box. Somehow, I would make this shirt work!

Although I take in seams to make clothing smaller on a regular basis, I've never before tried to enlarge something. But several inspiring stories on Refashion Co-op proved it can be done, by adding additional side panels, so I decided I'd give it a try.

Never mind that I've never tried this before and probably should be attempting a subtle alteration that would disguise any of my mistakes, I decided I'd make the additional panels the same eye-popping shade of green that comprised the shirt's dinosaur. Go big (brontosaurus big!) or go home, right!?

The green fabric I chose had already lived a first life as a green screen for a now-retired coworker, and a second life as the skirt under my Christmas tree, so I didn't feel too bad about cutting it up for the good of fashion.

But first, to cut up the shirt! I ripped out almost all the seams (over the course of three episodes of Doctor Who!), opening up the sides, removing the sleeves, and finally cutting the collar in half so that the pieces of it remained attached to their respective front and back pieces of shirt. I knew I was going to add a panel to the top of the shoulders, so the integrity of the neckline wasn't important. I left the dangling edges of the shoulder tape intact because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it.

I left the armpit seam of the sleeves intact and cut each sleeve right down the top center line. In this gap, I would add the strip of green fabric.

Using a better-fitting shirt for comparison, I decided I'd need to add about an inch on each side (in looking at this comparison again, I realize an inch on the front and an inch on the back would be better represented by two inches on each side—mistake #1).

I used the side of the dino shirt as a ruler and cut a strip of the green fabric to match its length. I added a half-inch for a bottom hem and another half-inch just for safety. I made the width of this strip 4 inches, then cut it in half to have two 2-inch strips—one inch to actually show, and 1/2 inch on either side for seams.

I then cut similar strips to make the shoulder panels using the top of the shirt as my ruler,

Wow, it was almost time for sewing! No turning back! ...Until I picked up one of the green strips and realized it had lots of elasticity lengthwise, but not width-wise. That was mistake #2. Since I was going to use these strips to add width to the shirt, I thought it was important for them to stretch widthwise. I had to re-cut all four green strips.

But once they were cut, it was time for sewing! No turning back! For real this time! The green fabric didn't seem to have a front or back side, so I just picked one arbitrarily and lined it up with the side seam of the front half of the T-shirt.

I folded the bottom edge under so its hem would be approximately the same width as that of the white shirt. Then I began sewing the strip to the shirt! I didn't pin or anything because it was a pretty straightforward straight seam, but by the time I got halfway done, I realized I had more white fabric than green. The T-shirt was stretchy both ways, but the green only stretched widthwise, so the white was elongating as I sewed it while the green was remaining basically the same length—Mistake #3. Fortunately it was early enough to correct by simply tugging the green fabric as taut as I could while stitching the rest of the seam. When I was done, the green fabric lined up almost perfectly with the armpit of the shirt front—thank heavens I'd added that extra half-inch of length for safety!

I did the same thing on the other side, then, seeing as everything was looking good, I attached the front to the back at the sides. At this point I did a quick try-on and found that the fit was satisfactory, though not quite as big as I had hoped. It seems that with all the extra seams I was adding, I had lost a lot of width from the original shirt and probably should have made my side panels bigger. That was mistake #4, but it wasn't bad enough to scrap the project.

I considered my next steps. Should I sew the shoulder strips next, or reattach the sleeves? Eventually I chose the latter, because I figured it would be easier to sew a straight seam all the way down the shoulder with sleeves attached than try to fit those tiny curvy sleeves around my sewing machine once they were complete circles again.

So I matched the bottom seam of the first sleeve with the middle of the green side strip, and then pinned it all around the sleeve opening, also matching the cut ends of the sleeve to the top corners of the sleeve opening.

Because I'd added that strip of green, I had more shirt than sleeve, which worried me slightly, but I decided that I would just stretch the sleeve as I sewed to fit the bigger arm opening.

So I sewed. Then I did the same on the other side.

Now the shirt was looking more like a shirt again! It just had these open shoulders that needed to be closed up, and it would be done. I had to cut a bit off the top of the left shoulder because it didn't align with the top of the sleeve.
Thinking again about how much trouble hemming around a tiny sleeve would be, I decided to hem the ends of the shoulder panels before attaching them to the shirt. That was mistake #6. The edges of the stretchy fabric, with nothing holding them back, kept getting drawn into the bowels of my sewing machine, refusing to move forward, getting all knotted with the thread, etc. etc. It was a ghastly mess. After several tries sewing the short 2-inch hem from end to end, I started in the middle and worked my way to one end, cut the thread, started in the middle again and worked my way to the other end! Tedious! Next time I'll just leave the ends raw and sew the hems later.

At this point, the photography grows rather sparse as I become increasingly frustrated with the project, anxious to finish it, and not at all interested in documenting all my false steps! Sorry!

By this time, I was certain I wouldn't need the original collar tape any more, so I cut it off. I attached the first shoulder panel in the same way I attached the side panels. I left the collar end of this strip raw rather than hemming it, because I'd cut it so much longer than the shoulder of the shirt (for safety) that I was sure I would have extra fabric. Turns out, I didn't have any. When I came close to the collar, I had just enough fabric left to fold the strip over and give it a hem that matched the width of the neckline.

When I was all done, of course, I realized I had attached this panel inside out! I'm not even counting that as mistake #7, because I make some variation of it every time I sew anything! Anyway, the second try went better, the second shoulder went on without a hitch, and pretty soon I had a shirt!

It was a shirt covered in loose threads and with some unfinished hems still gaping open, but I was in the home stretch. After finishing the hems and cutting off the danglers, here's how much thread I had demolished. I could practically sew a whole new shirt from all of that! But...I think I won't, because this was all the shirt-sewing I feel like doing for a good long while.

Here's the end result...

And here's the denouement.

There are all kinds of ironies in this story—adding "racing stripes" to my shirt to better accommodate my chubbiness is one—but probably the biggest is what turned out to be the real Mistake #7. I had thought, somehow, that by adding the panel to the top of the shoulders rather than the underside of the sleeve, I would make more room in this shirt for my wide shoulders. That was a silly notion—all the shoulder panel did was add a half-inch to the overall length of the shirt! So all that complex removing and replacing of the sleeves and the trying to make a standard hem look like a logical continuation of a ribbed neckline—that stuff that was the hardest part of this project—was all unnecessary. But at least the shoulder stripe looks spiffy. I hope.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Just add straps!

Did you know that plaid was not originally a word for a pattern, but actually a traditional Scottish blanket woven in that pattern? Or that the more correct term for what we usually call plaid is tartan? Or that checks are considered a tartan pattern? Or that gingham is not actually a pattern either, but a type of fabric woven into a checked pattern?

Neither did I, but all was revealed to me when I turned to Wikipedia to see if I could find out the name of the specific style of plaid (er, tartan) featured on today's dress. I got so mired in link-trailing that I completely forgot to look up the name, but nonetheless, that is what I'm wearing here.

I had the idea to wear it with the grey checked blazer (that so recently formed one of my 3 V-necks a few posts ago), since they are almost the same color and only slightly different in pattern. I thought it would be a relatively safe way to continue dabbling in the elusive art of mixing prints.

Of course, together they were so bleak and boring that I had no choice but to wear them with my only surviving pair of colorful boots (the teal ones met a sad demise which I'll surely blog about later) and a matching blue necklace.

The other reason I wanted to share this outfit with you is that I finally got around to adding straps to the dress. But because I didn't have any fabric that I thought would make good straps, and also because I didn't feel like fiddling around to get them just the right length, I decided to simply add some adjustable bra straps to the dress, and furthermore make them removable because, why not?

Make a convertible-strap dress

Every girl has a ton of convertible bras, right? When the bras wear out, the straps are usually still good, so save them! You can use them as alternative straps for a dress. All you need is to add attachment points. Take 4 bits of ribbon or fabric tape (I used bias tape, but would not recommend it because it has a fold that can get caught in hooks) and sew them to the inside of your dress with two seams, leaving just enough space in between to fit the hook of a removable bra strap. It helps if your dress has a layer of lace to hide the stitches! Then you can attach your removable bra straps any time you want, or still wear the dress strapless if you're feeling a little more motionless and/or confident!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Beyond Nifty

eShakti was offering a gift coupon for 35 dollars off your first order, and since I've never purchased from eShakti, I jumped right on that offer, buying this blue dress on clearance and getting it for free, plus $9.95 shipping. About a week after it arrived, I got another email from eShakti, announcing that they were instituting a 30 dollar order minimum. Coincidence, or did the Unfashionista break eShakti?

Let's not dwell on my destructive powers, though...let's talk about this dress! It was worth every bit of the zero cents I paid for it, fitting well, being well made (it even came with bra strap retainers, which is a nice touch), and generally being adorable! With its high waist, full midi skirt, and sweetheart neckline, it would have fit right in at any 50's sock hop.

Well, as much as I love a good throwback, I didn't want to look like I'd just stepped off the set of I Love Lucy today, so I tried to modernize it a bit. I passed on the demure button-up cardigan in place of my extra-long open-front sweater, which I wore under the belt for a little touch of the non-traditional.

For a few minutes, I seriously considered wearing a pearl necklace, but if I was making a conscious effort to dispel the 50's vibe, I felt I better go all the way. So I pulled out a new acquisition—this garish rainbow jeweled necklace and matching earrings which would never be seen on any self-respecting lady of the mid-century persuasion.

To further mix things up, I wore the white boots which always remind me of go-go boots from the 60's.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Pinka Dots

I thought black shoes with pink Lucite heels would be an easy thing to work into an outfit, considering my love of that particular color combo, but I neglected to consider the limitations of dressing for winter. Pumps tend to take a backseat to boots during January and February, so they were actually several months on my to-wear list before I got to don these spectacular shoes. And it was only after a good amount of hard thinking that I finally came up with an outfit that would showcase them properly without letting me get too cold.

The surprisingly simple solution was black leggings. They are a neutral color that can be worn under almost any dress, and because they end at the ankle, they call attention to the shoes, rather than letting the shoes blend into the leg the way a pair of black full-footed tights would.

I chose the white polka-dotted dress because 1) I've only worn it once since I got it and 2) It was a nice neutral color that wouldn't detract from the focal point of the outfit. And then, for a little bit of unity and so the heels didn't stand out like a sore thumb, I added a matched set of pink jewelry.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Triple V-Neck (or, how to dress down formal attire)

If I had to pick my favorite fashion flaw, it's that I can't resist buying formal and semi-formal dresses, despite the dearth of events at which to wear them. As I write this, I have 4 dresses in my closet that have never been worn, and probably never will be worn until I have accumulated 4 other dresses to take their place. I say this is my favorite flaw because I just really love those dresses! Even if I never put them on, they will always be like art for my closet.

That said, usually I prefer to wear my clothing at least 2 or three times, and then – if it's proved to be impractical to keep – sell it on eBay.

This peacock blue satin party dress is an interesting case. After one wear and one year, I concluded I would never wear it again, because the fit is not very flattering on me. But before selling it, I noticed it had some odd water spots all over it, and I was obliged to dry-clean it since I didn't think the tiny pleats would hold up too well in the washing machine. After that, I knew I'd have to recoup my dry-cleaning expenses by getting at least a few more wears out of the old rag (since I'm pretty sure it won't sell for more than 5 bucks).

I definitely wasn't going to waste one of my precious going-out opportunities on an already-worn dress I just called a "rag," so the question quickly to wear a low-cut, strappy, satin dress to the office? The answer—lots of layers!

I turned to my trusty collection of jackets first—opting for a grey checked blazer because I thought it might be nice to pair the solid-colored dress with a more textured top. This particular blazer, however, is even more low-cut than the dress, doing nothing to cover up my chest. So on to another layer! I chose a V-neck lace-edged camisole and wore it underneath the dress, which ended up creating this nifty chevron-patterned neckline which I totally love! That tiny reprise of the blue makes the whole outfit look more complete and intentional.

Because I had so many stripes of blue and black going on at the neckline, it seemed natural to add one more in the form of this outlandish blue rose necklace.

After trying on several pairs of shoes, I settled on my soft suede slouchy black boots, because they look a little lighter in color than most of my black shoes, and I felt they went nicely with the blazer.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Black Tie


I've had a hard time finding a basic black skirt that I really like. The one pictured in today's outfit is the closest I've come—not too short, not too long, not too straight, and not too tight. Yet, being made of satin and fluffed out with a built-in mesh petticoat, it walks the line of being too formal for everyday use. On the other hand, that makes it an appropriate pick for this modified tuxedo look.

The real centerpiece of this outfit is the matching satin sash, which I've tied into a bow and tucked into the neckline of my blazer, to evince a bow tie without actually being one. I've put my hair up into a high bun, to evince a fancy updo without actually being one.

You getting my drift yet? I'm going for a look that's inspired by formality but softened for reality.

Over the skirt, I'm wearing a short white blazer that's only formal in its tailored cut. The prominent exterior pockets and cotton twill fabric bring it down into semi-casual territory, which I've further enhanced by wearing knee-high boots (as opposed to, say, stockings and stiletto pumps).

I dreamed up this outfit with the thought of entering it into Lookbook's Black & White Tuxedo Style Contest, for which I completely missed the entry deadline. I guess you could say I was UNfashionably late to the party.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Artfully Misplaced

Try something unexpected

Wear your jewelry in unconventional places. If your necklace won't stand out enough around your neck, why not put it somewhere it will? The sparkly embellishment above is a regular old necklace, wrapped around and tucked into the top of my knee sock.

The idea for today's style tip started out harmlessly enough—as an average, everyday outfit idea: I just wanted to wear those bright green shoes because I hadn't in a while, and I added my paisley dress because it's one of the few things I own that share that shade of green. The pair of black knee socks was a necessity because it's cold outside. But even though I had come up with a nice outfit for my hard-to-match shoes, I still wasn't satisfied. I wanted more color! More!

I really wanted to do something flashy with my hair—some kind of huge headband, perhaps, but sadly, my headband collection lacked anything colorful enough. My next thought was the aforementioned green necklace, woven into a messy updo like some kind of neon bridal ornament. Unfortunately, I couldn't get that to look right either.

I almost settled for wearing it around my neck, where it would compete with all the colors of the dress, but then I though to attach it to my sock. Wow! Instantly exotic!

I thought this was something I'd never tried before, but then I searched my blog for other outfits featuring this dress. Turns out the last time I photographed it, I was also wearing DIY sock decorations. Just goes to show, great minds think the same thought over and over again.

One final note: Since I had embellishment on only one leg, I went with an equally asymmetrical one-sided bun for my hair.

One Skirt, Fifth Season

I was never really happy with the concluding outfit for my One Skirt, Four Seasons series.

Was it the tucked-in shirt, looking bulgy and unkempt? Or the equal length of skirt and shirt, making me appear boxy? Or was it simply that I failed to garner enough votes on Chictopia? I'm not sure, but whatever the reason, I wanted to give this outfit another try.

This time, I untucked the shirt, resulting in both a sleeker silhouette and a variation in lengths.

I also upgraded my jewelry to a cute matched set.

And here's just one more look at those fabulous shoes.

Which way do you prefer this outfit? Tucked and teachery? Or untucked and Unfashionistic?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

My Future Valentine

I started with this new pink sweater (3 dollars, but I had to repair quite a few holes before it was wearable) and then went overboard with the analagous colors! Burgundy skirt, pink-burgundy-and-white legwarmers, and serendipitously colored boots with yet more burgundy and pink!

I finished it off with—what else—a burgundy necklace!

It's a little early in February to be wearing quite so much red and pink, but consider it inspiration for a more temporally appropriate outfit next week.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What light through yonder window breaks?

This dress required so many alterations before I could wear it, that by the time I finally did, I was tired of it already. I wasn't going to bother blogging about it, but sometimes you look so good in your handiwork that people just want to take pictures of you! Who am I to deny them that opportunity?

Since I had the photos, here is a short post about the dress. It's a lovely shiny jacquard with those contrasting sleeves I'm so into. When I got it, I thought it was a neutral beige and planned to wear it with tall boots or black tights, but then I realized how splendidly it went with pink, which enabled me to brighten up the look with pink tights and wear delicate little shoes, which doesn't happen often this time of winter.

If the dress was an example of my handiwork at its best, my hair is an example of my handiwork at its worst. That scruffy shaggy mane is yet another attempt at curls. One day I'll get this. One day.