Friday, May 29, 2015

An ode to my yellow floral one-shoulder top

Boy, I love this shirt. It's probably my current favorite "going out" top. It singlehandedly ignited my love for one-shoulder tops (See what I did there?). But surprisingly, I've never blogged about it, and in fact, when I first got it, I wasn't sure if I liked it at all.

It first came to me in an eBay lot almost 3 years ago. I remember looking at it when I took it out of the box and wondering, "How the heck do I wear this?". I meant both how would I wear it, in public, without feeling self-conscious, and also, how would I put it on—it was definitely an odd shape. Once I solved the latter question, it was on to the former.

When does one wear a loud tropical print with a satin sheen in an oversized silhouette? I decided: for special but semi-casual occasions. I read recently that "going-out tops" – you know, the ones that are too nice for everyday, but too revealing or flashy for work – are something you should stop wearing once you start contributing to a 401(k). In other words, I am too old for these tops, but I'm not letting that stop me (I could write a whole post on not letting the world tell you you are too old for something). The going-out top is a very useful tool in a fashion arsenal. It says, "I'm not sure if this is the kind of place where people wear fancy dresses, but I'm here to party." A fancy top with pants is not too crazy for a casual living room gathering, but it transitions gracefully into a club environment if that's where the evening takes you.

This shiny yellow beacon of a shirt is the second going-out top I ever owned (the first was this one). It's so ostentatious and memorable that I can only get away with wearing it about once a summer before it feels overused, so I can only think of 3 times I've actually worn it, but I always feel stunning when I do. The Getaround Launch Party in DC last night was the most recent occasion that I wore this top—and the first that I finally gave it the honor it's due by taking a blog photo before I left!

I felt like going all out, so after starting with my most colorful and summery top, I just kept packing on the color. Pink shoes, green earrings (which I think just slightly resembled leaves, but not so much that I might be mistaken for a tropical plant), and my brightest makeup. I originally wore blue jeans, but I didn't like the way the bottom hems interacted with the sandals, so I switched up to black capris—another first; I've never worn this shirt with anything but long pants. I think the capris were a good choice that just enhances the summery feel. In the end, I felt like I had a kind of over-the-top Carmen Miranda thing going.

While at the party, a photographer actually stopped me to tell me he liked my shirt and asked if he could take my photo! Of course I obliged. You'd think with all the fashion blogging I do, I'd be prepared to pose for a photo, but I think I might have looked a little dopey. I'll be sure and link the picture here if I find it later. But still, that's a first for me as well, and it all happened because of my glorious yellow floral one-shoulder shirt. Wow. If it wasn't my favorite going-out top before, it certainly is now!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Black and Blank ... With a Twist!

If you search the "Black and Blank" tag on this blog, you'll see that the color I most commonly pair with black is pink. Usually a strong magenta.

Today's outfit is no exception, but what is exceptional about it is the new way I've chosen to wear the dress.

Backstory first: I didn't even really want the dress, but when I saw it was 198 dollars originally, marked down to $4.99, I couldn't resist (can we say "shopping addiction," anyone?). I figured I could get at least a few uses out of it to get my money's worth.

But when it arrived, I could see it was the worst 198 dollars I'd never spent. I think it was supposed to be one of those dresses where the skirt part fits tightly and then the top part blouses out (like this one, for example), but I'm not a fan of that style, and it was too big to fit tightly anyway. On top of that, the built-in bra was far too small, causing the neckline to dip down dangerously low.

My first move was to remove the elastic from the shelf bra (woohoo, free elastic for future projects!) so that it wouldn't be constantly pulling down. I let the bra fabric stay.

Here's how it looked after the elastic had been removed from all but two last anchors: the bottoms of the straps.

The straps were also too long, so I took about an inch and a half from each, looped it around, and sewed it down inside the back of the dress. Oops, that made the straps a tiny bit too short, but I figure they're so skinny, they'll stretch under the weight of the dress (they did).

With that, my alterations were done, but there was still the major problem of the dress being straight and shapeless. My solution was to give the whole skirt a quarter-twist.

Now, all of a sudden, there's definition at the waist, plus a whole load of texture! The twist required frequent readjustment throughout the day, but I think the added eye appeal was worth it.

I also let the pink pop with my pink Lucite heeled shoes, and showed some restraint by keeping the pink necklace small and the pink earrings smaller, finally covering it all up (it was for work after all), with a black shrug.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

One fish, Two fish, Red fish, Blue fish (The making of)

As promised, here's the story of how I altered the hoodie I wore in my last post.

A couple of years ago, I acquired an eBay lot containing two bizarre terrycloth hoodies. The original seller claimed they were swim coverups, but I just couldn't see myself ever wearing either of them that way. They were soooooo cute with their cartoonish sea creatures, but just not practical. First off, the terrycloth was way too warm. I guess that's fine when you first get out of the water, but it would grow old quickly in the hot sun. Second, they just didn't fit very flatteringly. I relisted them for sale. One sold after a few weeks on eBay, but the other never got a bite (ha ha, fishing joke!). One day my boyfriend saw it in my pile of clothes to donate, and exclaimed "You should wear that to a rave!"

I was skeptical, but he loved it so much, I decided to give it another chance. Although I still wasn't thrilled about the idea of wearing heavy terrycloth in the summer or for dancing, I decided that maybe the shirt would be wearable if I just made it sleeveless.

I removed the sleeves with a seam ripper. If I wanted to go for the thug look, I would have stopped right there, but I decided to aim for a little more polish.

Then I removed the red strips facing the outer edges. I planned to re-use them to face the new shoulder openings.

But before that, a little resizing was in order. I sewed new side seams to shrink the fit by an inch or so. Here you can see the pin marking where I wanted the new seam to be.

Next, reattaching the shoulder facing. This was where it got tricky. The original facing was for an arm opening that was a little smaller than the new shoulder opening, so I didn't have quite enough red fabric as I needed. No worries, though—it was a stretchy jersey, so I just stretched it to fit over the new opening.

I ripped out the original armpit seam from the facing and lined up its center with the shoulder seam.
Then I folded it over the raw edge of the shoulder seam, and pinned it in place.

Then I pinned one end of the seam facing over the raw edge at the bottom of the arm opening.

Then I pinned a few strategic spots between them. This was just to get a feel for whether I would like the new shoulder opening where I was putting it.

It looked OK when I tried it on, so now it was time for the real thing—sewing it down. I only sewed the inside layer to the inside of the shirt, stretching as I sewed the two pieces together since the sizes didn't quite match up.

(I forgot to take a picture of that part)

It looks a little messy on the inside, because I didn't bother to hem the raw edge, just attached it down and let it roll up.

But for the outside, I did a proper folded-under seam. To get it to stay in place while I was sewing, I coerced it with a flatiron first (easier than getting out the real iron).
Once I had a nice, somewhat-folded-edge, I flipped it over the raw edge of the arm opening and sewed it down.

Here's how it looked after it was all sewn down.

After that, I was finished!

The inside of the armpit area looks atrocious,
as I had trouble getting so many layers of thick fabric to lay down neatly (over the taken-in seam that I refused to trim, just in case I want to restore it later) while also maintaining their unnaturally stretched shape, but on the outside, it looks like it was just made to be a tank top! It's a little shorter and wider on me than I prefer, but its adorable pattern helps make up for the less-than-perfect fit.

I finally wore it for the first time – taking my boyfriend's advice – to a rave. I kept it partially unzipped for breathability and never put up the hood...since I was still worried it was going to be too hot. Three-plus hours of nonstop dancing later, I was finally satisfied—you can wear a terrycloth sleeveless hoodie without dying of heat exhaustion.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Two straight days of rave

Some people go to music festivals and camp out there for days on end, getting sunburned all day and sleeping in mud. Unsurprisingly that's not The Unfashionista's jam (I prefer to primp, preen, and prepare in the comfort of my own home), but I do love me some EDM. So for the past two nights, I went to two separate concerts and wore some fun clothes each time.

One of the many wonderful things about electronic dance music is that the people at the concerts wear some crazy stuff! Neon colors, lights as apparel, stockings galore, tutus, and tiny bra tops are standard attire. I always love going to an EDM concert, because it gives me the opportunity to don some of my more out-there clothing.

On Thursday, I went to see Flux Pavilion, and I took the opportunity to wear my galaxy cat crop top (working my way up to tiny bra tops incrementally) for the first time. For the rest of the outfit, I went very conservative and covered-up (it was a freakishly cold and rainy day, and I was not in the mood to get cold or wet on the way there, even though once you're at a concert, you're dancing so much and there are so many people around you, you are guaranteed to feel hot) with black leggings and black combat boots.

I got glittered by a fellow concert-goer, which you can kind of see plastered all over my chest.
This shirt is just slightly DIYed by Yours Truly. I ordered it large, so I had to take in the sides slightly. And then to give it a little glimmer, I glued rhinestones onto some of the stars. None of them came off during the concert or during the wash, so I guess I finally found the right use for my fabric & plastic glue!

The second concert was Eric Prydz last night. At my very persistent urging, I got my boyfriend to come out for another night when he would have preferred to sleep. But it was worth it. We made it to the front row near the end of the show, I got to hold part of someone's flag, and I generally had a blast!

All while wearing my much more heavily DIYed sea creatures hoodie! I wore a pink tank top under it, white shorts (the better to glow in), and my old concert standby, the sequined boat shoes (this time in aqua). In some later post, I will share the process of refashioning the aforementioned hoodie, but that will be a bit too long to share today.

If you look closely, you can see that I'm also carrying my sea creatures purse that I only bring out for costumey occasions.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll be getting ready for bed. Two nights of wild partying is too much for this Unfashionista!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Culottes demystified

I must admit to being thoroughly puzzled by the hype that has risen up around culottes over the past year or so. Culottes. What the heck even are they?

When I first heard the term, it was uttered by my grandmother when I was a kid (of course, at that time, I thought it was spelled "coolots") and it referred to a pair of dress shorts that was slightly baggy, like a skirt, and just shorter than knee-length. Naturally because they were endorsed by an old person, I thought these coolot things were anything but cool, and I avoided them – and all long shorts – for years. 

Somewhere along the line, I learned the correct spelling, but up to recently, I still wasn't interested or even sure what they were. But then I noticed an article on some fashion website about the resurgence of culottes. 

When I clicked through to view the pictures, I was expecting to see those skirt-like thigh-length shorts I remembered from my youth, but instead, I saw wide-legged cropped pants. Those weren't culottes, I thought. Those were gauchos! And that's really nothing new; gauchos had a moment around 2005.

But they kept popping up, those articles about culottes, and in all of them, the garment in question was long and wide-legged, and more like a capri pant than any kind of shorts I'd ever seen. But at the same time, several of the articles were clear to state that culottes are not gauchos, even though, maddeningly, they didn't say why.

I turned to my old friend, Google, to help me find out if there really is a difference between culottes and gauchos. And, well, to cut this narrative to a readable length, I'll skip right to the conclusion: despite what some people say, gauchos and culottes are basically the same thing–wide-legged calf-length pants.

Though the silhouettes are the same, if you want to get technical about it, their origins are different—that is, culottes were designed for women to ride horses in, while gauchos are, traditionally, the pants worn by South American cowboys. These cowboys are themselves known as gauchos, so to be more accurate, you should probably use the term "gaucho pants" when referring to the garment.

If there is a functional difference, it's only an arbitrary one regarding how each garment is styled in the present day. Today's culottes seem to be generally made of heavy fabric in a structured shape, whereas the gaucho pants I remember from the mid aughties were mostly butt-hugging flowy garments with lots of spandex. But I have heard that some people use the terms interchangeably, so my advice to you is, call them what you want, but do take advantage of the opportunity to wear them. A short, breathable, yet modest pant sounds like just the ticket for summer at the office.

I happen to already own a pair of culottes. I bought them 2 years ago at the thrift store, and I was about to get rid of them because they just weren't very flattering or easy to coordinate. But now that they're trendy again, I elected to give them another shot.

Stand tall in short pants

They say that only tall people can get away with culottes; I guess cropped pants have a way of making the wearer look short. I can think of a few ways to avoid this happening to you:
1) Tuck or partially tuck your shirt, so that the full length of the pant is visible.
2) Wear nude heels to elongate your legs.
3) Pose your photos with an exaggerated foreground distortion. Instant legs for miles!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Magic Morphing Hippie Skirt

I saw this skirt in the Jayli catalog, over two years ago when I went on a hippie clothing kick. I received it as a Christmas present and proceeded to never wear it for my blog, because it never looked as good as I had imagined. The first problem was the "attached shawl." It just didn't work. If I wore a shirt over it, it basically disappeared, but the skirt was too low-riding to wear with anything tucked in. 

So, within a few weeks of owning the piece, I removed the shawl. Fortunately it wasn't integrated into the construction of the skirt but added on at the end, so it was easy to pick away the stitching and take it off. Then I was able to wear the shawl higher or lower, or not wear it at all, which slightly increased the skirt's versatility. The shawl also makes a decent headscarf.

But meanwhile, the skirt still didn't quite fit. I had wanted a maxi skirt but instead got a skirt that only reached to my ankles, and it draped awkwardly around my hips. I wore it like this a couple of times, but I never felt proud of my appearance when I did. 

Finally, a year and a half later, I realized that maxi skirts are overrated (I always run them over with my office chair), and I would be doing myself a favor by actually making the skirt shorter. Luckily there was a quick and simple fix—I just took in the waist by a couple inches. This caused the skirt to ride on my natural waist instead of my hips, which made the flare a little more pronounced. Turns out I inadvertently learned a new Style Tip  If you want your skirt to flare a little more, try wearing it higher on your waist.

My alteration also raised the bottom hem to midi-length, which I found much more flattering and also more practical (office chair, you lose this battle!). Now I can wear the skirt like this or I can employ the good old skirt-rolling technique to lift the hem even higher.

While I've worn it in my blog before, this is the first time you can actually see it at its new length! It's paired with the long wine-colored sleeveless top I got last fall. The shawl is being used to good effect here, as a belt to define my waist, which would otherwise get lost in such oversized clothing, and to break up the length of the shirt, which would otherwise produce the dreaded dwarfing effect that occurs when wearing a top and bottom of the same length.

The other nice thing about shortening this skirt is that it – in keeping with my personal philosophy of "the longer the skirt, the shorter the shoe" – has made it possible for me to wear it with my beloved high heels. 

Monday, May 18, 2015


I got sucked in again by eShakti. They keep sending me coupons for large sums of money...which sounds awesome until you realize how many more large sums of money their clothes cost. But just this once, I decided to splurge on quality, and burned $31.90 of my Anger Management Fund on this absolutely stunning green dress with an embroidered sheer top. The nice thing about eShakti is they customize their clothes to your exact height, and they'll further tailor the size, and add or remove features upon request. Of course, to an Unfashionista, paying for modifications is practically a crime, and besides, my last dress from the company had fit so well, I was confident I wouldn't have a problem with this one.

Well, of course I was wrong. Whether it was the lack of belt, an actual physical difference in size, or just a side effect of being white, this dress was too big around the waist, and it made me look fat! I actually considered sending it back and ordering another one in a custom size, but I would lose out on all my shipping money that way, so I decided to just do what I could to make it look all right.

I ended up tightening up two seams in the back by an inch or so. Not wanting to risk ruining the effect of the sheer panel by adding seams or cutting it, I stopped sewing once I reached it. This left the back of the top looking slightly bunched up, but I guess I'll take that over looking dumpy.

I wore this to work today and earned a compliment or two.

I decided to embrace the 50's silhouette this time by sporting a severe updo and a pearl bracelet. The organic aspects of the embroidery were reflected in my semi-floral earrings.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Goldfish pond

Editor's note: I wore this outfit and wrote this post early last week, but then I misplaced it and only rediscovered it today! So here, a blast from the past!

In spite of its lightweight fabric and lack of sleeves, I kept this seafoam green dress hanging in my closet all winter because I thought it might layer well, and a little bit of pastel color is the perfect way to brighten up a winter day. I think I only wore it once, with my frog tights, but all winter, I was trying to work it into other outfits.

One outfit that I half planned was this one. The white pants were good enough to keep my legs warm, but then I could not come up with a similar way to keep my arms warm (though I tried every white and greenish topper I own, they all ultimately looked too blocky or drowned me in fabric).

So the first day the weather was warm enough to go sleeveless at work, I knew exactly what I was going to wear. The solid colors would have lent themselves well to a monochrome blue-green-and-white scheme, but I really wanted to wear sandals! And even though I'd gotten out all mysummer clothes the day before, I hadn't had time to do the same with my shoes...but I happened to know my purple sandals were in a relatively accessible part of my closet.

So purple became the companion color to the green. This allowed me to wear my purple goldfish necklace, which has been waiting in the wings for months! 

So it looks like I've assembled another outfit with an aquatic theme! But did you notice something else about it? It's another (somewhat less disheveled looking) dress over pants!

Monday, May 11, 2015

DIY Earrings from old credit cards

Goldfish die and credit cards expire. These are the facts of life.

But one of them won't decompose if you keep it around, and that, in itself, can cause problems. What does one do with all the old credit cards that aren't good for money any more? One can only keep so many scraping and phone-screen-protector-flattening tools. One could, boringly and wastefully, throw the expired cards in the trash, or... one could make jewelry out of them!

That was the novel use I put to a couple of my cards in the recent past, producing the outsized paisley rectangle earrings you see below.

 If you'd like to make your own, here's what you'll need:
  • An old credit card
  • Scissors
  • Thin paper (I used printed tissue paper)
  • Spray adhesive
  • Varnish
  • A drill
  • Earring hooks
Start by cutting two rectangular strips out of an expired credit card. These are from the top and bottom of the card, so no numbers are present, but one of them has a magnetic strip.

I'm not sure what good an expired magnetic strip will do any thief, but just to be safe, I rubbed a magnet all over it to garble the data.

Then, clip off the corners so they are rounded and will not stab anyone.
Cut a strip of paper a little longer than the length of the plastic strip, and several times its width.
Spray the backside of the paper all over with a light coating of spray adhesive.

I found it was helpful to put the paper inside a shoebox first, so the spray was less likely to get everywhere.
 On a hard, flat surface (I am using a hardcover book), carefully begin wrapping the card piece up in the paper. You want it to be very tight.

Wrap it several times, until you can no longer see the card through the paper.
When you're done wrapping, cut the paper down the length of the credit card.

I cut mine flush with the edge of the card, but I think it would glue down more smoothly if you actually cut somewhere in the middle of the card.
With your scissors, trim the excess paper so only about a centimeter hangs over the edges of the card. Round the edges of the paper. Or cut into points, whatever floats your boat! These edges are going to get folded down, so their exact shape doesn't matter, but I think rounded or pointed is less likely to get lumpy and bumpy than a straight-across cut.
Prepare some glue! I used the extra glue leftover from clearing the nozzle of the spray adhesive, but you can use any paper glue for this portion.
Coat the ends of the paper with glue.
Fold the paper edges over so you are left with a rectangular shape.
Next you'll want to drill holes in one end of each earring to insert the hooks. I used a Dremel with a fine diamond tip.
Here are the holes. In the upper corner, you can see the edges of another set of earrings I made with smaller pieces of credit card cut crosswise.
After drilling the holes, I coated the nearly finished earrings with several coats of satin varnish, to protect them from the elements and help keep the glued-down edges glued down! I would call this step optional.
Attach earring hooks, and you are done!
Wear your new avant garde earrings! I chose to pair them with a pretty bohemian chiffon sundress.