Friday, June 26, 2015

The other side

Yesterday was the day I wore the other side of my reversible cape-dress—the bright, colorful, summery side. Despite being sleeveless, it's a very heavy garment (two layers of fabric, one of which is wool!), so I had to wait until the weather dropped out of the 90's before I was willing to wear it. Today they forecast a high of 81, though when I checked at noon it was already 83, so I think they were wrong.

In any case, I wore the dress! To make the most of its brilliant colors, I wore equally brilliant pink shoes and rainbow earrings. I don't usually wear dangly earrings with braids, because they tend to snag each other, but after three attempts at doing double high buns and getting them to look symmetrical, I was ready to set the bar lower. At least it gives me a chance to show more of my newly magentified hair, which incidentally goes pretty well with the colors of the dress.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pink power suit


Yesterday, because I had a meeting, I wanted to wear an outfit that looks "professional," and "put-together." For that occasion, I chose my pink pinstriped dress. I am really growing to love that dress. I still haven't found a way to wear the matching blazer, but the dress is just the right length, and, after a few modifications, quite a flattering fit, too. I paired it with off-white shoes, much like I did the last time I wore it, but this time I used a shorter sweater and a longer necklace, in mauve instead of pearl.

The outfit was a perfect complement to my newest hair tip color—a rich magenta, of which you can just see a bit, bundled into the bun. Speaking of hair, the baby bangs are an experiment. They're much more comfortable in the muggy summer weather than my previous heavy fringe was. My boyfriend says they look retro, and they work well with updos, but they haven't garnered any unsolicited compliments, so they must not be my most flattering look ever.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Shirt Chopping: More fit-fixing adventures

One of the items that arrived in my latest eBay lot of too-short clothing was this pink and green plaid shirt.

At first, I thought it fit pretty well, and was pleased that I wouldn't have to make any alterations. Then the day came to wear it, and I assessed it with a more critical eye. It was too tight across the shoulders, and it had a stain on one pocket!

To fix the shoulders, I did what I do to a good many of my short-sleeved shirts—I removed the sleeves. While I was at it, I also lopped off the epaulets. Style Tip If you're trying to minimize your shoulders, the last thing you want to wear is a shirt with epaulets.

It's not hard to remove the sleeves from a shirt—just grab a seam ripper, pick out all the seams, and then, if you're lucky, you're done.

In this case, I wasn't done, because with the newly raw edges, I had a distinct Larry the Cable Guy thing going on. I had to go back in and hem the armholes, but it was still a pretty quick and easy fix.

The pocket stain was also a breeze to repair. The stain only affected the outer side of the pocket flap, so I removed the flap and reattached it inside-out. Good as new!

A few weeks passed, and then, finally the day came – again – to wear the shirt. I put it on, had a look in the mirror, and decided – again – I hated it.

This time it was the bottom hem. It was too curved. I wasn't exactly sure why I found it so unflattering, but I think it was partly that it sort of made me look like I have a round, bulging belly. So next I set out to straighten the hem.

I prefer to make all my alterations reversible whenever possible, so my solution for the hemline of this shirt was to fold it up underneath, stitch a new (just slightly, almost imperceptibly curved) hem, and then use Res-Q tape to keep the remaining fabric from flopping down.

 Much better! Back in the closet it went, until, less than a week later, the day came – is this getting to sound familiar? – to wear it. I tried it on the night before and didn't like the way the bottom of the shirt floated beside my hips. 

Too frumpy, I decided. Too casual for work. What would fix it? The usual solution: taking in the sides. Style Tip A slimmer fit can make any casual garment look more professional.

I took two passes at the side seams (the first time, I underestimated my girth...oops!) and then, finally, I was done. The day to wear it was tomorrow!

But there was one more thing! An unfortunate consequence of taking in a button-down shirt is that it can cause gaps to appear between the buttons, and that did happen...but with a few squares of Res-Q tape on the placket, I was ready to go!

After all the many (count 'em: 4) adjustments to this top, I finally wore it to work, with an equally green pair of capri pants, pinkish sandals, and the satisfaction that I finally GOT-R-DONE!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Blue Moon

I guess this is a confession. Sometimes, I plan my outfits around the titles I can give them in my blog.

Today's outfit started out with a pair of light blue sandals that I wanted to wear because they are new. As I found as soon as I opened the box, not many of my clothes go well with those sandals, so with my usual philosophy of Monochrome to the Rescue, I paired it with a solid blue dress in a different shade.

When I set out that outfit for the next day, part of my brain was considering how to accessorize it, and part of my brain was considering whether to blog about it and what to title it if so. I've done so many blue outfits, I was running out of new catchy phrases for them (here are a few: 1, 2, 3, 4), so I was struggling a bit when "Blue Moon" popped into my head.

What a good idea! That was not only a convenient reference to a 50's song (to go with the classic 50's-style dress), but it also helped me decide on my jewelry...obviously a moon! Fortunately I have no shortage of celestial jewelry, so I picked one of my three moon necklaces (the one with the most blue in it, of course!), and my work was done.

Well, almost. I felt like the tiny pendant was overwhelmed by the vast expanse of blue in the dress, and there wasn't enough light blue to balance out the shoes, so I decided to hang the pendant from a light blue ribbon.

I've been itching to do a French twist in my hair, and I decided this ladylike ensemble was a good style to pair with the fancyish updo.

Obviously my French twisting needs some serious work, because I think I might have made it even uglier than the last time I did a French twist, interestingly, also with a 50's-inspired outfit!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Digitally printed fish shirt

Did you notice that the sunglasses and earrings are also bubble-shaped?

As a person both artistic and fashion-obsessed, I'm always looking for ways to get my graphic designs onto my clothing. As a perfectionist, I've never quite found a way that works for me. But today's outfit is the not-quite-ending of a long story of the many ways in which I've tried.

I think it began in 2009 when I found some opaque T-shirt transfer paper on clearance. I bought it and immediately started inventing ways to use it.

I took advantage of the fact that it was opaque to put it on colored shirts, and the fact that you could cut it out and place it anywhere, to put my designs in all sorts of weird spots on the shirt that you can't do with ordinary commercial shirt-printing.* 
To the right is an example of one of them I did. It's not the best picture, but it's a tall skinny cat with paw-prints around the neckline .
The other one I did was a more ambitious design. I hand-drew a goldfish, traced it in Illustrator to perfect the shapes, and then added a million bubbles in different sizes. Because I felt it needed a little more excitement, I filled all the shapes with rainbow colors. Then I printed out all the fish and bubbles onto my T-shirt paper, cut each shape out individually, and laboriously ironed them one at a time onto a cute purple T-shirt. 
Circa 2009. Me demonstrating how to fall over in high heels.
Before I became The Unfashionista, obviously!
I loved that shirt! I felt so pretty in that shirt! But after a few washes, I learned that the iron-on transfers were not very durable. The fish and bubbles rapidly developed cracks and began scuffing off. Within a few years, I'd relegated the shirt to my pajama drawer, and last year, I finally got rid of it (with great reluctance) forever. But I was still crazy about my fish design. I felt it had promise as a commercial illustration, if only I could find a way to get it out there in the world!

Even though custom T-shirts are much easier to come by these days than they were back when I was on Kem Hall Council, they still suffer a lot of limitations. Most of the printers restrict you to a very small area, on the upper front and back of the T-shirt. My grandiose visions refuse to be constrained to such a boring space.

I was very excited when I found the website, which was the first printing company I'd ever found that actually had the capability to print anywhere on the shirt. Sadly, you can't just go there and put your design into production—you have to get voted to success by the community, and my initial efforts didn't generate enough interest to feel like it was worth trying to promote it any further.

Fine. I'd wait. I'd actually pretty much just given up on the whole idea, when along came digital printing. It was everywhere. And by everywhere, I mean it was also everywhere on the item printed. Clothing that would have previously had a tiny picture printed on a tiny spot on the garment, now had a big picture covering the entire garment. Digital printing is what birthed my "The Great Wave" dress and most of my many cat shirts. It was only a matter of time before custom digital printing came to the masses, and last fall, I finally found it at a reasonable price (though I'd never pay their prices for just any old shirt, it would definitely be worth it for a one-of-a-kind piece of work of my own design) at Artscow.

Pretty soon, I had submitted an order for a 5-dollar tank top during a special sale. And when I received it, I was underwhelmed. It was a little too short for my liking. It bunches up when I wear it. The design had been printed on white fabric, and the underlying white was visible. The colors weren't as saturated as I'd imagined (although that's something you have to expect when going from onscreen design to real-life product), but worst of all, the tails of the fish – even though I'd carefully placed them within the outlines specified in the product designer application – had been cut off! I revisited the site today, and I can clearly see that the bottom of the fish is cut off in the preview, so perhaps they have corrected a flaw in their design tool since I made my order...or perhaps I really was stupid enough to position it badly.

Ah, well, live and learn. Considering the unimpressive results of my first trial, I am not sure I will be getting any more of my artwork custom printed on Artscow clothing, but, much like my experiments in curling my hair, I'm not ready to give up! Next time, on a higher-budget printing site, perhaps.

*You can call me an expert on the limitations of commercial shirt printing, because I once designed and commissioned the T-shirts for my residence hall council in college.** 
**This was because the shirts that we had received the previous year from the same print shop were not up to my perfectionist standards, and apparently I had made my opinion a little too clear, because when we got the new shirts delivered, the print shop representative made a point of stressing, see, we can make things just how you want as long as you tell us what you want. The point of this digression being that I've always had trouble getting custom T-shirts the way I like them, even 10 years ago!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Curl Talk

The 2010's are a terrible time to be me, because lush wavy hair is in, and lush and wavy are two words that have never described my hair. My dead-straight hair is silky to touch, which is a plus, but on the quite literal downside, down is the only way it goes. If my hair had a favorite place, it would be the ground. It's always trying to get there.

It doesn't hold a curl—half the time it won't even take a curl to begin with, though heaven knows, I've tried. Over 25 years, I've tried. And what I've learned from this lifetime of failures is the great irony of my existence: though my hair won't hold a curl no matter what you do to it, it will cling to ponytail dents, windblown snarls, and other unwanted textures with bulldog tenacity.

Below are 13 curling methods that I have used on my hair. Perhaps if, like me, you have fine, straight, unstylable hair, you will save yourself hours of effort and finally learn what works. Or perhaps [spoiler alert!], you'll just be inspired to break down in tears.

Foam rollers

When I was a kid, my mom would sometimes wrap my hair in foam rollers and leave it to dry overnight. Somehow (miraculously), that worked. I would actually be able to sleep, and I would wake up in the morning with a bouncy curl. Of course, maybe it was just that as a child, I had lower standards of curl quality, or maybe it was just the 80's (where any kind of volume, no matter how scruffy, was a good thing), because when I got old enough to curl my hair myself, the only results I got were a huge mess. Also, I wrapped the hair too tightly and permanently deformed the foam, which rendered those curlers useless. 

Curling Iron

In college and the years immediately following, I had a 1-inch-barrel curling iron. I made a few failed attempts at curling my hair with it, but the most I could ever manage was to flip the ends. Eventually I gave up and Freecycled the iron. A few years later, I bought another one at the thrift store. This time I went for a half-inch barrel, thinking that tighter curls would fall out into some semblance of a wave. And for the most part, it works. With that, I was able to achieve a few strategically placed ringlets for the Ocean Halloween costume, but curling all your hair with a tiny 1/2-inch iron is a serious time commitment, so not practical for everyday life. I bought another 1-inch barrel iron, thinking maybe the previous one just was tired out, but I got them same (nonexistent) results.

Rag curls

After technology let me down, I decided to go retro. Rag curls, a mainstay of fashion in the war era, are supposed to be the girl on a budget's dream! Cut a few strips of fabric, wrap your hair around them, tie them up, go to sleep and wake up looking like little orphan Annie. Sadly, this dream never became a reality. My attempts at rag curls were fraught with failure—some strands came out excessively kinky, others barely curled at all, some of the rags fell out during the night, some hair never made it into a rag at all and ended up straight or tangled. 

Mesh rollers

Next, I invested in a set of vintage wire mesh rollers from the thrift store. They were supposed to be held in place with plastic pins, which I thought would be less complicated than the closure method of the foam rollers. I tried sleeping in those once or twice, but they were way too bulky, hurt my head, and always fell out in the middle of the night. 


I heard once that if you run a flatiron through your hair while twisting it, you can achieve nice waves. I watched numerous video tutorials on the process, but after several tries of my own, all I could accomplish was, again, just curling the ends. It did produce an elegant-looking fringe for my Bridezilla costume, though, I'll give it that.


Onward to the Headband Method! For this one, you wear an elastic headband, then wrap locks of damp hair around it repeatedly until all the hair is wrapped up. Wear it until the hair dries, and then, theoretically, have a head of perfectly formed curls in the morning! This actually worked all right for me when my hair was shorter, but the longer it got, the less reliable the headband method became. I would get hair so tangled up I had to cut it off the headband, and it would still be wet in the morning.

Magic Leverag

The most effective way of curling my hair I ever encountered was the Magic Leverag kit, which consists of a bunch of spiral-shaped tubes that you actually put your hair inside. It actually worked on my hair, producing neat and tidy ringlets. Sadly, the curlers are not long enough for my hair these days, so I can't use them. Apparently Magic Leverag is a cheap knockoff of Curlformers, which do come in longer sizes, so I might actually try those someday...


Sometimes, I put my hair up in a bun or double buns overnight, hoping that in the morning, I'll have a nice soft wave. Usually I don't. I have hair that's still wet and dries completely straight. If I leave the buns in for a whole day and night, they dry enough to hold the curl. But by then, much of my hair has worked its way out and straightened itself, plus other bits of hair are crimped into odd bends and angles by whatever tools I've used to hold the bun in place. 


 A single braid can sometimes produce waves that I'm proud of (smaller braids produce an unsightly zigzag or crimped effect). But the end where the braid has been tied is always stick-straight but dented by the rubber band, and looks ridiculous. So then I need to take a curling iron to the end, which kind of defeats the purpose of a quick-and-easy no-heat hairstyle.

Strawberry rollers

Recently, I ran across a short blurb in a magazine about cute-looking strawberry foam rollers. The shape of the foam is supposed to hold the hair without any pins or other hardware, so they sounded ideal to sleep in. So I found a cheap version on Amazon. Unfortunately, like many other products, they did not allow my hair to dry completely, some of them fell out, they were hard to put in without getting tangles, and ultimately weren't worth the bother.

Hot rollers

These were my last-ditch effort. They seemed less labor-intensive than using a curling iron, and since they can be kept in until they cool, my curls would be less likely to fall flat immediately after removing the heat. Since they only need to stay in a short time, they should be less prone to mess and falling out than overnight curling methods. However, they proved to be no more effective and only slightly less time-consuming than the curling iron. The first time I tried them, my hair came down into a gorgeous wave that almost, for a second, gave me hope. And then I dared to try and brush them. Instant curl collapse.

Over the past 3 days, I've tried different ways of using the hot rollers, hoping for a better result. Smaller strands of hair so that they heat faster, smaller rollers so the curl is tighter. Last time I even put in mousse before curling and sprayed the dickens out of my hair before taking the rollers out, and got an even more feeble curl than the first time!

Giving Up

At this point, I think I've tried every hair curling method there is, and the only thing left for me to do is wallow in my defeat. Maybe wallow in nostalgia over the turn of the millennium, when pin-straight hair was all the rage. But, somehow, I just can't stop! I'm probably going to put my hair up in some kind of curling tool tonight, and hope against hope for a miracle. Or maybe for some kind and compassionate reader to tell me what I'm doing wrong! Any takers? Anyone?

Friday, June 12, 2015

50's Floral

I never get tired of the big, fat midi skirt, as popularized by the 50's Housewife.

My outfit probably wouldn't look out of place in that era (it's even topped off with a vintage brooch that wouldn't surprise me if it had lived through the 50's as well). I did my hair in a low bun garnished with a period favorite – pearls. But I've let the modern times have their say in the form of the lace shoulders on my top and my extravagant platform sandals.
As you know, I'm a big fan of repeating a motif throughout an outfit, so I was really delighted when I noticed that the blue brooch (which I had originally picked for its similar color to the skirt) was practically an identical 3-D version of the flowers. Originally, I had also planned to go with neutral beige shoes, but then I realized that I could create a color flow by wearing green shoes, a blue and green skirt above that, and then the blue pin all the way at the top.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Future fallen stars

Yet another eBay shopping failure, I bought this dress for $5.86 because I loved the star pattern, even though I wasn't sure I liked the silhouette.

Sure enough, when I got it in the mail, I confirmed that I still hate blousey waists, and the skirt with the longer front and the shorter sides was weird and unflattering. I have plans to convert this dress into something that looks better on me...but there is a good chance that I'll ruin it in the process.

So I thought I would at least wear it just once, as-is, so that the spectacular stars get to shine for a moment before they meet their potential demise.

I did my best to define the waistline by belting it (I actually bought this belt for a dollar to wear with a trench coat, but found that the colors did not match. I thought about getting rid of it but decided I'd keep it only to use as a yoga strap. I'm glad I did, because it was just what I needed to improve this outfit!), but I still feel pretty dowdy in this dress.

And what's the point of trying hard when you're already feeling dowdy? So... flip flops on the feet, my best I-don't-care hair, and...well...I couldn't resist wearing my star earrings.

Monday, June 8, 2015

DIY Decoupage Wallet

Ever since I first saw them at Rugged Wearhouse, I've had a thing for hard-sided metal-clasped wallets. I am not sure why, but I just really, really wanted one.

Of course, I never pay more than 2 dollars for a wallet (unless it can double as a purse/cell-phone case), so it was a long time (years) before I found one in my price range. The one I got was in such bad shape, I questioned whether it was even worth the dollar I paid for it, but ultimately I decided that the hardware alone was worth the price, and I would craft the ugly thing into something gorgeous!

Originally, I had the idea to decoupage it with cute pictures of cats or some sort of animal. But, the thing is, that would require me to actually find and print said pictures, and I really wanted this to be a 100% scavenged project. Since, after several weeks, cute pictures of animals never found their way into my lap, I decided to go with a material I already had—decorative tissue paper (the same paper, you might recall, that I made into earrings a few posts ago).

It didn't take long before I'd given the scuffed and battered wallet new life with a pretty and bohemian makeover! If you want to do the same, here's how!

You'll need:
  • A boxy wallet without any embellishments or weird edges.
  • Tissue paper
  • White glue
  • Spray adhesive
  • Varnish
  • X-acto or craft knife
This first step is probably optional, but I started by peeling off the damaged exterior layer of the wallet to reveal a less shiny, more adhesive-friendly texture underneath. If it's easy to do, I recommend you doing it, too, but don't sweat it if your wallet does not peel.
Cut out 2 rectangles of paper just a little bigger than the size of the wallet. This first layer of paper is just to smooth out any imperfections in the texture and reinforce the paper so it's less fragile. If your outer layer of paper has a pattern, this first layer should be a solid color so it doesn't interfere with the design.

Spray the one side of the wallet with spray adhesive (You could probably use white glue for this step as well, but the spray adhesive makes it a lot quicker and easier). I did it inside a cardboard box to keep the spray from going everywhere.

Lay the wallet on the paper and fold the edges over so they wrap around the wallet. No need to be too precise here, this is just a rough first stage.

Mix white glue with a little water to create a liquid consistency.

Brush the watery glue over the edges of the paper, folding them down more neatly over the edges of the wallet. 
These layers should not quite reach the edge of the wallet, so trim them with your X-acto knife as needed. It's easy to cut the excess or even just rip it (carefully) once it is wet! You should probably aim for more coverage than you see in the picture, but again, don't sweat it if, like me, you underestimated how much paper to use.

Follow the same steps on the other side.

Once the edges are down, paint a thin layer of watery glue over whole wallet. This will help flatten out air bubbles and add a little strength to the paper.

When the first layer is dry, repeat the above with your second (patterned) layer of paper! Cut 2 more rectangles of paper, spray them and lay them as before.

Paint the edges with watery glue.
This time, when the paper is thoroughly soaked with glue, trim any excessively long edges and then press them down into the cracks around the  metal frame to create a more polished-looking edge.

Again, paint a layer of glue over the whole wallet and wait until dry.

Seal the finished product by painting it with two thin layers of varnish. This will help keep any raw edges from peeling up, as well as protect the paper from stains and, to some extent, rips and other damage.

All done!

I was concerned that a wallet made out of paper wouldn't last very long, but I've been carrying this one around in my purse for over a month, and it's still holding up! It's gotten a few dents, and the paper is a bit wrinkly (maybe I shouldn't have used so much water in the glue!), but it still looks better than the torn-up shimmery purple thing it started out as!

When and if this wallet finally sustains irreparable exterior damage, I have every intention of doing the whole project again, this time with either a more durable fabric coating, or with my original plan of some kind of graphic decoration!