Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Pretty Pirate

I bought these grey cropped pants last winter (mainly because they were only a dollar), waited to wear them until summer, then couldn't find a single outfit to wear with them.

Meandering on into fall, failing to sell them on eBay, I remembered culottes.  Ever since culottes became the new cool thing, I've been trying to find a way to wear them with knee-high boots underneath. I've heard this was all the rage in the oughties, back when the pants were being called gauchos. I totally missed that trend, and nowadays, fashion runs more toward wearing your culottes with ankle-high boots that show a tantalizingly fleeting sliver of skin. But I'm not really a fan of that look; I feel like eliminating the gap makes your legs look longer (and keeps them warmer), so that's what I'll do. My pants may be a little too narrow to technically qualify as culottes, so wearing them in this outdated manner should be appropriately just-slightly-off.

Despite being neutral in color, these pants gave me some trouble finding complementary tops, so eventually I decided to go with all-over black-and-white for some simple conformity. The black vest breaks up what would otherwise be a very colorblocky look. And of course, the multicolored jewelry was my concession to my all-consuming need for something garish in everything I wear. Altogether, with the high boots, the short "breeches," and the long vest, I kind of remind myself of a pirate captain.

And oh, in case you didn't notice, I cut my hair again. It's time for the quinquennial (yes, I had to look that word up) chop—the one I do about every five years after mainly growing my hair out for a half-decade or so.
My new hair is so fun and bouncy!

Monday, December 21, 2015

A pair of bike refashions

Bike Jacket

If you read my other blog, you'll know that dressing for a bike commute in winter is a tricky business. Today's post will share how I made winter riding just a tad more comfortable with a couple of cheap DIYs.

In most weather, I prefer to bike without any kind of coat because I get overheated from the exercise. But when the temperatures drop into the 40's and 30's, a little more covering up becomes necessary. A thin jacket is enough to keep me warm, except for that little sliver of skin, between the bottom of my jacket and the top of my pants, which annoyingly gets exposed when I'm hunched over the handlebars. The solution, of course, is a longer jacket, so that's what I set out to make.
I started with my old Virginia Beach hoodie. When I bought it, I deliberately bought it 3 sizes too big because I don't like the way most sweatshirts bunch up around your hips. Thus it is nicely long for biking, but not very flattering. My goal was to resize this sweatshirt so it retains its good qualities (length, ease of motion) but looks a little more attractive.
Using a well fitting hoodie as a template, I cut off the sleeves, cut new armholes, took in the sides at the armpit (but let them flare out to the original width at the bottom hem), trimmed the sleeves down to fit the new smaller armholes, and then reattached the sleeves. Compared to my last attempt at attaching sleeves, I did much better this time!
Marking the position of the new armpit seam

Positions of the top of the new shoulder and bottom of new arm opening

cutting off the original sleeve
New armpit seam

Now I have a well-fitting hoodie that's long enough to handle any amount of hunching! Good enough for now, but the typographer in me is not satisfied by inconsistent tracking on the words! In the future, I hope to remove or cover the ugly logo with something cuter.

Bike Mittens

The second winter biking refashion is a little something to keep my hands warm. Wearing gigantic skiing gloves has worked acceptably for me in the past, but it limits my dexterity greatly. Dexterity being somewhat essential to the operation of shift and brake levers, I found I needed a better solution, so I decided to make my own "handlebar diapers" (except I am now going to call them "handlebar mittens!") like the ones I saw at REI.

My old white winter coat was looking a bit too dingy and too big for me, so, with some trepidation, I decided to repurpose it. I cut about 8 inches off the bottom (fortunately the zipper stopped right about there so the coat is still usable), sewed up the new bottom hem as neatly as I could, and donated it. I hope the old girl still has some life left in her!

Then, sewing up all the raw edges of the cut-off bottom strip and folding it into two pocket shapes, I constructed the covers for my handlebars. I left each pocket open at the back (where my hands would go) and inner side (where they would go around the handlebar) and then safety-pinned them to the handlebars. I wasn't going for great craftsmanship, just something functional.

After a trial run, I realized 3 things: 1) They worked perfectly at keeping my hands warm, even in biting wind and 31-degree temperatures (yay!), 2) I needed something to keep them from sliding forward and off my hands, and 3) There was a lot of unused space towards the inner corner of the mitten.

Inside view, after adding rubber band and
safety pin to narrow the hand opening
To solve problem 2, I attached a rubber band to the inside of each mitten at a strategic point. Thus, when the mitten is attached, the rubber band can wrap around the handlebar and hold it in place.

To solve problem 3, I simply adjusted the position of the safety pins so the extra fabric was tucked in for a more streamlined appearance (and a smaller opening to let the wind in).

I am so pleased with my new bike mittens! They are warm and sensible! Now, the only thing I need is to move farther away from work so I can start biking every day again!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Birthday shoes

For the second year running (here's the first), I splurged and bought myself an extra-special pair of shoes for my birthday. If I keep it up for one year, I think I can consider it an official tradition!

These sparkly rabbity babies were a cool 200 dollars, and those were some of the best 200 I ever spent! I have never worn such a comfortable pair of heels. Not only that, but the box they came in was awesome, the little painting on the soles was awesome, and every detail was awesome! They were manufactured by Irregular Choice, and, although I've been stalking the brand for over a year, after buying a pair of their shoes, I now know I'm a true fan!

Anyway, you may wonder why, with my birthday being in August, it took me until now to post about my birthday shoes. Well, as usual, I was waiting for the perfect occasion. I waited 4 and a half months. I contemplated saving them for New Year's, but then my boyfriend's birthday happened. If a birthday celebration isn't the perfect occasion for sequined shoes with bunnies on them, I don't know what is. I worried I'd be a little overdressed for happy hour, but I'd rather be overdressed and fabulous than appropriately dressed and boring, so I broke out the bunnies and found an appropriately playful outfit to wear with them during our drinks&dinner outing in DC.
Four strangers approached me to tell me how much they loved my shoes. Almost enough to make up for the intense pain of wearing high heels with a broken toe whilst walking all around Georgetown (In addition to overestimating the long-term comfort of the shoes, I had also mistakenly believed that we would park within a few blocks of our destination and set up shop, not wander all around the city for 3 hours).

That minor hiccup aside, I am very pleased with my birthday shoes and can't wait to bring them out again!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Bruise colors for bruised feet

It is trendy these days to proclaim that all former fashion bets are off; all previous rules are void; and anything you want to try, you should try. Apparently there were all these fashion rules I never learned. One of the old rules I missed out on was "Never wear black with blue" (black with brown was another prohibited combination). Apparently that was a faux pas back in the day, but now it is a celebrated statement. So I'm quite certain today's outfit is trendy in the extreme.

I started with a plain black shirt-dress, and since it has short sleeves and the 70-degree weather of yesterday has sadly reverted to more December-like temps, I covered it with a cobalt blue sweater. A blue necklace and earrings were a necessary addition, and that left me with just one decision—what to wear on my feet?

Even before my toes collided with fate, I was making an effort to bring more flat shoes into my wardrobe, because what's the point of wearing fabulous heels if they just ruin your body to the point where you can never wear them again? But now that my toe is broken, comfort is even more important. So last weekend, on a trip to Rugged Wearhouse, I invested in 4 pairs of flats: some navy blue ballet flats, a pair of light brown loafers, some seafoam green sneakers, and a backup pair of black ballet flats, to use when my current pair bites the dust. All this for 36 dollars! Needless to say, I was pretty excited with my find...and excited to show off my new sensible taste.

Here you go! Navy blue quilted ballet flats, at my service!
Also pictured: Bubalou, the newest, most neurotic addition to my household.
You can read all about him right here.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Vest Western

Inexplicably, I really like this west. For all its baggy bulkiness, and its gratuitous hood (not crazy about hooded tops, me), I think it looks pretty good on me.

So I was seeking a way to wear it for only the second time (here's the first) since I've owned it.

After many try-ons (yielding a couple ideas I'm saving for the future), I decided the perfect outfit for today would be a 3/4 length sleeve top (to let my forearms bask in the relative warmth of today's 60+ degree weather) over a new pair of brown skinny pants.

For the shoes, I originally was planning on my brown cowgirl boots, until I chose my jewelry.

At first, not realizing it had already been done before, I gravitated to the same purple necklace I had worn the last time I wore this vest. Fortunately, I decided that I'd much rather strengthen my Western theme by wearing a silver-and turquoise necklace.

Then, after I had picked that out, I decided maybe the Western theme was coming on too strong and changed the boots (If the theme of this outfit were not Western, it would surely be Indecision). This time I went with a more subtle pair of beige ankle boots with Western-style topstitching.

Haven't quite perfected my suave wall-lean

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Nine going on ten

Despite my ever-rotating collection of clothes, I try not to let myself become a fashion hoarder. Normally, when shopping, I can take a step back and tell myself, "Yeah, that pair of shoes is just gorgeous, but you already have a perfectly serviceable pair in almost the same color, so you don't need it." And then I don't buy it. Unless I buy it and then actually follow through with getting rid of its inferior twin.

There is one category of fashion items, though, I can't seem to stop accumulating, and that is black pants. 

I currently have in my closet a pair of black cigarette pants, a pair of old plain-jane flared business-casual pants, and a pair of black capri pants. I have 2 pairs of black skinny jeans. In winter, I get out yet another pair of long black flares with a foldover waist. A friend donated me a pair of black pants with very subtle grey striping. I have a pair of black "tall"-sized skinny work pants. I also have a pair of long, dramatic, shimmery palazzo pants. That's 9 pairs of black pants in my collection, and I haven't even started on the yoga pants, lounge pants, and leggings (I'm guessing those will about double the number)!

I have very compelling reasons for never getting rid of any of my black pants: The business pants might be slightly too big but are definitely too comfortable to throw out; I refuse to part with either pair of black jeans because one fits short, and one fits long, and each serves a very distinct purpose; the foldover pants, while very similar in cut to the dress pants, are much longer and therefore much more conducive to wearing with high heels; the grey striped pants are a little too uncomfortable for me to want to wear often, but I keep them because sometimes plain black is just too severe; the skinny dress pants are – well – skinny and dressy, which makes them a valuable addition to my work wardrobe; and the palazzo pants are the only ones that have a genuinely wide leg.

Maybe it's because pants are so hard to shop for (If they don't fit perfectly, they look just plain terrible), that when I find a pair that fits, I can't risk losing it. And also, black pants go well with any top, so as long as you have a pair in every shape and weight, you can always make an outfit with one. In fact, I'm still on the lookout for a long, wide-legged, lightweight pair of black pants that I can wear in the summer when it's too hot for anything anything else I own.

If I get the perfect summer pant, then my collection of pants will have reached an even ten, which might be the perfect place to stop. Then again, if I want to get with the times, I think I might need some jogger pants. Aaaaaand probably a pair of cropped flares. And really, I can't see why I have to settle for shimmery palazzo pants when a pair in a matte fabric would be so much more versatile. Perhaps infinity is the right number of black pants for an Unfashionista.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Adding retro halter straps

Normally I don't like to share my DIY fashion projects until I've actually had a chance to wear them in the real world, but this dress is a little too fussy to throw on for work or a weekend, and seeing as it's just one of at least 6 new or recently resurrected formal dresses waiting in my closet, it might be a while before it has its moment. Plus, I have a plan to write a post sharing all my many methods for altering and adding straps to dresses, and this dress involves one of the strategies, so I am going to break my rule and share this refashion while it is still unworn.

You might recall that this dress was designed as a skirt, and that wearing it as a strapless dress was an endeavor fraught with peril.

Well, since it last saw the light of day, I still haven't found an occasion suitable enough to wear it as originally designed (a floor-sweeping skirt) or a top suitable to wear with it, so I decided it was time to take the plunge and commit to a more permanent conversion to a dress!

The maker of this skirt didn't skimp on the material, and the sash was plenty long enough that I could use some of it to make straps and still have enough left to tie in a bow under my chest.

The sash was quite wide, so I cut just enough off the end to equal the length of a single strap, then cut that remnant in half lengthwise. I sewed each half up into a tube to form a strap, then repaired the open end of the now-slightly-shorter sash.

To mix things up a bit, I opted not to make traditional shoulder straps, but instead add halter straps. I was aiming for the sort of wide-set straps you tend to see on sweetheart dresses in the style of the 50's. The trickiest part of this project was attaching the new halter straps in the right place and at the right angle. After several tries in the mirror, attaching with pins, stabbing myself by accident, and readjusting, I was satisfied with the placement.
I sewed them onto the inside waistband, trying to follow an existing seam so my after-market attachment would not be too obvious.

I haven't had the opportunity to wear this somewhat formal dress since I new-and-improved it, but it stands at the ready, for any wedding (or holiday party?) the world cares to throw at me! You hear me, world? I'm waiting!
I think this dress looks just smashing with pajama pants and bunny slippers underneath!