Thursday, January 28, 2016

Knee length to a grasshopper

I went against my principles and purchased this dress from a Chinese seller on eBay, knowing that it almost certainly would be poorly made and even-worse fitting. For $3.58, I figured it was worth the risk, because I could surely turn it into something else if I didn't like it. 

And not like it, I certainly did.

On the model, it looked like a modest, relatively loose fitting, almost-knee-length dress in a sober green color that would be perfect for the office. When it came, I was disappointed to find that the inner layer was actually more of a neon yellow, and the fit was slightly small (as with all of my purchases from China) but still wearable.

My first move was to buy a 3-dollar bottle of navy blue dye, in the hopes that I could tone down the color a bit. I didn't expect much of the dye to take, considering the dress was clearly a synthetic material, but I hoped to at least mute the intensity of the shade a bit.

I used the boil-on-the-stove method to maximize the dye's effectiveness, and when I was done, I saw that I had succeeded in turning the liner from a fluorescent yellow to a pale mossy green. Not perfect, but better. 

Unfortunately, all that time on the stove also shrank the fabric, causing it to fit ridiculously tightly. What had been designed as a knee-length dress was now a thigh-length dress with a gaping slit on one side. I sewed up the slit and finally felt the dress was ready for the office. 

Sometimes you just need to wear an item for a day before you know it's never going to work for you. Such was the case with this dress. All day long, I was tugging on the bottom hem, trying to keep it from turning into a minidress. Even though I wore it with opaque tights and a modest cardigan, I still felt uncomfortably exposed. Added to that, its tendency to ride up caused it to bunch around my waist most unattractively. I had had more than enough of this dress by noon. 

I decided I was going to chop it up and reform it into something I've been seeing a lot of lately: a below-the-knee pencil skirt—one that would end up having the exact same pattern as the lace pencil skirt pictured in my year in review post!

I tried it on using the neck hole as the new waistband, and found it wasn't bad. Unfortunately, the waist of the dress (its narrowest part) now sat on my hips (my widest part) and was stretched a little too tightly there. 

My solution was to open up the side seam and add a bit of fabric at hip level. I got the fabric from the original top of the dress, which I cut off just below the armpit.

I expanded the side seam of the lining by adding a new piece of lining in a rough oval shape.

Then I did the same thing to the outer lace piece. 
The patch was fairly obvious and looks a little odd hanging out there on my hip, so I spent some time after taking this photo trimming the excess fabric from the seam so it wouldn't look quite so black.

Once the dress had been expanded enough to fit over my hips, I only had to finish the waist. I did this in the roughest, quickest way imaginable (and didn't bother to take pictures either)—I folded the top over to the inside and sewed a one-inch seam with a zigzag stitch. I did not finish the edges. 

Then, because the former bust was now at my waist and it was a tad too loose, I also took in the sides from the hip to the waist. This left a lot of bulk on the inside, which I'll probably trim off later

Originally, I thought, If I liked the skirt enough, I'd finish it with a proper waistband and a zipper (since it's hard to pull on over my hips), but common sense says this fabric is so cheap, it will be demolished before I get more than a few uses out of this skirt, so I think I'll just leave it as-is.

I tried on the skirt with every one of my black shirts, finally deciding on a black button-up velvet blouse with sequin trim, mainly because it was the only one short enough to look good with a knee-length skirt.

But once I had settled on velvet and sparkle, I had to go all the way and wear my velvety black boots with the sequin wedges—making me quite disco-fabulous for a day at the office. Sadly, these shoes are beginning to look blotchy and no longer as stunning as I remember them. Next project: figure out how to refresh velvet shoes!
Can you see the patch on the hip? I think it is less obvious now.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Sew Many Straps: A crafty compendium

There are so many reasons to add or modify straps on a top or dress, and over my career as an Unfashionista, I think I've tried them all. Here's a comprehensive listing of all the ways I've worked with straps, including a few more projects I've done in recent months.

One of my most frequent problems with straps is that they just don't exist in the first place. A disaster waiting to happen, the strapless dress tops my list of things I'd rather not wear. But there are so many beautiful dresses out there whose only flaw is a dearth of straps...and that's easily fixed. Here are a few ways to add straps from scratch!

Making spaghetti straps

Last summer, I shared the story of how I used Paracord and pockets to make straps for a strapless dress. Shortly after that, I added straps to my green eyelet dress, this time using a different strategy.

This dress also happens to have pockets, so I was able to harvest some fabric from them to turn into the straps.  I had to sew two strips of pocket together to get a long enough strip to make a strap. But this time the fabric wasn't as stretchy, so I didn't bother wrapping it around another cord first. Instead, I painstakingly ironed creases into each side and sewed the raw edges safely inside. It took forever. I should have just gone with Paracord and glue! 

But when I was done, it became the perfect base for my excessively thematic "Field of butterflies" outfit!

Making retro halter straps

My next strap-adding project was my jade and gold dress, which I shared quite recently.

Adding removable straps

If you're not quite ready to make a permanent alteration to a strapless dress, you can add small hidden tubes to the inside top edge (as in convertible bras), and use the straps from a convertible bra to hold the dress up. This is especially cool if you have straps in many different colors—you can always change them up for a completely new look!

Shortening straps

Shortening straps is such a simple process, and I do it with a good third of the strappy garments that come my way. I have two basic strap-tegies (couldn't resist!) for this task.
If they are skinny straps, I loop them at the bottom, where they hit the top part of the back of the dress, and reattach them with a few stitches and knots.

If they are wider straps, I usually shorten them at the top by looping the strap inwards, stitching the join closed, and then sewing down the loose part of the loop on the underside of the strap. In the picture above, the strap is folded terribly off-center, the better to show you how there are actually three layers once all is sewn and done.

Lengthening straps

Lengthening a strap is a little more tricky, because it will require either transplanting cloth from elsewhere on the garment, or finding a complementing fabric to add on. I've only tried this once, and I used the latter method to lengthen the straps of my sequined green and black party dress.

Hiding straps out of sight

If you wear a lot of wide-neck tops, you are surely plagued by peeking bra straps. To keep straps under wraps, I made a couple of clips that usually do the trick. 

I glued a small piece of Velcro (the hooks, not the loops) to a piece of old credit card that I had bent (I heated it up in a toaster oven first) into the shape of an exaggerated "C". The bra straps can be worked into the C and then the Velcro attaches to your shirt. This works especially well on sweaters, but can be a little unpredictable on smoother fabrics.
I hope some Unfashionistas out there find this helpful! Do you know of any other tips and tricks that you can do with straps?

Friday, January 22, 2016


Purple and pink is one of those analogous color schemes that looks absolutely stunning...but which I rarely ever wear.

I am pleased to be bringing out the combination for today's outfit, which is one of my favorite outfits of the season.

I recycled a lot of old standbys for this look. The pleather purple skirt (the one I wasn't sure I even liked when I got it) has proved its worth after nearly 2 years, always making me look polished and professional but with a bit of an edge. The ivory lace pumps are one of the first pairs of shoes I bought for my new job in 2012, and they are still one of my prized possessions (though the glue is starting to yellow). The neckerchief is a hand-me-down from my grandmother, which I've kept for my entire adult life—but it's never looked better than it does with this outfit! The pink chenille sweater is the only new addition (a gift from a friend last summer), and a right fine one it is! It fits a bit short for most outfits, but it works perfectly with the high-waisted skirt. 

I didn't wear jewelry with this outfit, because I felt like the neckerchief was doing quite enough decoration on its own.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Coming back for thirds


I have had this grey dress over three years now, and even though it's, as I am wont to say every time I look at it, "so boring and grey," it has gone from something once held up with staples to a wardrobe staple!

Being boring and grey makes it the perfect blank backdrop to colorful accompaniment. The oddly low-cut square neckline, which I saw originally as a liability, is actually the perfect frame for a colorful camisole underneath. I like to pair it with shoes in the same bold color as the top, and silver jewelry. It's something of a formula, and it gets compliments every time. Last time I blogged it, I did it in teal. This time it's fuchsia. 

Because it's January and my pink pumps (it's their first time out; say hello!) aren't nearly as cozy as my old teal boots, I had to cover my legs with some sheer white tights. Another slight variation from last time: then, the jewelry was a matched set. This time, I went with coordinating separates. As my observant photographer noted, the earrings and the necklace both consist of tiered loops, so though they weren't designed to go together, they do!

So, I've done it with teal, and pink, and, somewhat differently, with red. Although the staple-holes are starting to expand and it won't last forever, there's still some life in this easy-to-accessorize dress. Who's taking bets on what color will be its partner next?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Whenever I wear a short shift dress with knee-high boots (especially glossy white ones), I can't help but feel I'm channeling the sixties, even when that wasn't the intention when creating the outfit. The effect is accentuated when I dare to wear my sleeveless dress over another shirt, like these lovely fashion plates have done!

So this outfit, which was originally only a last-ditch effort to wear the grey dress I just can't seem to love (I plan to sell it now that it's had its last hurrah), has turned into an homage to all things mod.

Even the bold white earrings, which I originally wore just because they are among the few earrings long enough to peep out past my semi-shag haircut (yes, another link to the 60's), are a reflection of the big geometric shapes so popular in the mod era. In retrospect, I wish I had worn my yellow earrings in the same style, because all this grey and white is so plain! However, that gives me an opportunity to title this post "modochrome," an ingenious portmanteau of the aesthetic I exude and the tonal color scheme I have swathed myself in. I guess a clever title is at least as good as a colorful outfit.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Beige & Sage

Sometimes I don't think to blog my OOTD until I come up with a clever title under which to post it. Such is the case with today's, a neutral little number all in shades of beige. The sweater and the leggings have just a hint of a greenish hue, hence the "sage" part of the not-quite-rhyming title that gave me such amusement.

Contrary to the title, which just sort of fell into place, I struggled with the assembly of this outfit, building it up from actually quite different plans.

When I started, I was looking for something to wear with my green thigh-high socks, which have seen sadly too little action in the year that I've owned them. And you can see the original outfit as I planned it in my blurry "idea shot." 

Now would probably be a good time to explain that sometimes when I'm bored or trying to put together an outfit for tomorrow, I try on endless combinations of garments and take pictures of the ones that I think work, for future reference. Sometimes I wear them later. But sometimes, as in this case, I think better of my original decision.

As you can see, I wore a green tank top under the transparent sweater, but I felt it stood out too much, so I replaced it with a flesh-colored tank top instead. Since now the rest of the outfit consisted of pale neutrals, the green socks looked out of place. My green bird necklace failed to tie the whole thing together. Starting to feel like this outfit was fighting a losing battle, I suddenly remembered my beige jeggings, which also have just a hint of green in them.

Tada! They finished off the look! I was somewhat surprised to find that my beige flat booties, which I keep wanting to get rid of because they lack flair and because I hardly wore them once in the first 8 months I owned them, now keep coming in handy, beating out all my other shoes for the best pairing with this outfit.

So, this turned out to be quite an in-depth story for a post that I wasn't going to write about an outfit that was originally conceived around an article of clothing that is no longer even a part of it. Funny how things work.

Friday, January 8, 2016



Well, the green no-longer backless sweater dress has been worn once or twice, and while I really enjoy its graduated colors, I'm just not crazy about the fit.

It's too short to be a dress, but too long to be a shirt, too multi-layered to bunch up neatly, and if I shorten the bottom, I will lose the greenest part of it! What to do? Selling it is certainly an option, but....why not get creative instead and go with a simulated quarter-tuck!

By bunching up just one part of it, I get to preserve the length while disguising the lumps and bumps that arise from having two layers and being too tight in all the wrong places.

To hold the ruched part in place, I used my grandma's not-quite grape-leaf brooch. The dark green nicely offset the pale greens of the shirt, while the copper accents set the stage for brown pants and boots.

I also took advantage of the leaf motif to wear a new pair of green laser cut leaf dangle earrings.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A new year, a new list

It's the most wonderful time of the year...the time when the Unfashionista talks trends!

In past year-end retrospectives, I've listed about 10 trends and my opinions on them, plus a few things I hoped would become trends. This year, I have way more than 10 to discuss. I guess that's what happens when you've been planning a blog post for an entire year.


Back cutouts

 Weird cutouts (an unpalatable trend I noted in 2014) fortunately have become less common, but they are still there (or not-there, as it may be) in great numbers on the backs of dresses. Where there are no cutouts, there is often no back at all. Backless dresses are nothing new, but they seem to be exceedingly popular these days and not to my taste at all. Anything that requires you to wear a stick-on bra is not something that I'm going to want to wear very often.

"Tribal" prints

Geometric/ethnic prints are one trend I've blogged about this year, and as I mentioned then, I'm just not a fan. It's time to drop our boxy/oversized/geometric comfort blanket and return to organic shapes!

Septum rings

The most bizarre jewelry trend popped up this year: bull nose-rings. The only thing I think when I see a piece of anything sticking out someone's nostrils is "how much snot is all over that thing?" There are some places that no jewelry should ever go.

Platform pumps

I know, you never thought you'd hear me say it, but I am finally growing tired of platform pumps. Yes, these were some of the first shoes I ever got excited enough about to feature on my blog, and they are one of the hallmarks of my style, but they've been on the outs for a while, and I have to say I'm ready for the change. I'm still into low-heeled platforms and wedges, but the crazy heels that make your toes look 4 inches thick? I think I'm over it. At least for a while!


Meanwhile, things in style that I actually like include the following:

Layered tulle skirts



Below-the-knee pencil skirts


Crop top matched sets

If you are still hesitant to wear a crop top because you are worried you'll look trashy (I am!), then these 2-piece sets may be just the thing to add a little polish and intentionality to your crop!


Sheer skirts/pants with shorter liners



Hats worn on the back of the head like a halo


This hat style is something that's been popular among fashion bloggers for years, but which I have finally resolved to try myself—soon!


Dresses with capes


I think Lupita Nyong'o set off the craze when she appeared at the Golden Globes in this style, because since then, built-in capes are showing up on formalwear everywhere! Can't wait to try one!


Shaggy faux fur jackets and vests


As a vegetarian, I naturally oppose the wearing of dead animals, but I do like the appearance of fur, and these scruffy vests, often in crazy colors, are so fun, I can't help but love long as they are fake!



I have been observing the rise of jumpsuits for at least a year or two, but I think they are finally making their way into the common people's closets, as I'm beginning to see them on shopping sites at affordable prices. I predict that I will have a jumpsuit of my own by this time next year!

Open-laced shoes


Since I love lace-up anything, these shoes with the superfluous laces up the front are a shoo-in (get it!?) for this list!
And lastly, a touch of wishful thinking for the future:

Will Do

Cargo Pants

The 90's are still experiencing a revival, so I think it's a possibility that cargo pants might come back. I have seen a smattering of cargo pockets on shopping sites over the past year, and I hope to see more over the next. Not only are tons of pockets enormously useful, but I'm always in favor of clothing that adds bulk to the wearer's legs. If cargo pants come back, it could signify the end of the top-heavy era in fashion...and good riddance. 


Along a similar, top-slimming vein, I think corsets have a fighting chance to make it out of the bedroom and into our everyday wardrobes. I have been seeing waist-training corsets for sale everywhere (It's a fad spearheaded by the Kardashians I think), to be worn under clothes. But with so many of these undergarments around for inspiration, it can't be long before people will start wanting to see them on the outside! Steampunks do it all the time; when can the rest of us join in the fun? 

And now (if you're still reading, because this is the longest year-end fashion post I've ever written), I shall bid you adieu...but keep your eyes out for these trends to show up on an Unfashion blog near you!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A warmer winter headband, and a use for an orphaned glove

I am a woman of many talents, foremost among them being a propensity for losing my winter accessories. Last year, I actually started documenting these losses in my Anger Management Fund (which I zeroed out last April when I decided my money would be better spent recovering from Hansel's huge broken leg bill, and never restarted). From January through March of 2015, I misplaced 1 hat, 1 pair of earmuffs, 1 coat (yes, a whole coat—this is almost as bad as losing a dress), 1 umbrella, 1 (beloved) pair of mittens (in Iceland, of all the terrible places to lose a warm accessory) and 2 pairs of gloves. This year, my tally is already up to 2 pairs of gloves, and it hasn't even hit freezing yet.

It was after the Iceland incident that I realized I never ever get these things back (despite putting my name and contact info on a little tag that I laboriously staple into every single item—I actually got a rubber stamp printed for this purpose), and I waste a lot of money building up a glove collection every year, so I might as well try to make up for my misfortunes by capitalizing on those of others. 

Thus, I vowed to salvage all the fallen pieces of weather protection (including umbrellas) that I happened to find in my daily activities. Almost immediately, I found this fuzzy purple earwarmer abandoned on a sidewalk in Reykjavik.
I took it to our hotel and washed it in the sink, wore it, and rapidly concluded that Iceland, which must surely be the Bitter Wind Capital of the World, was no place for this mostly decorative accessory. The knit was so open that the wind just tore right through it, freezing my ears as though they were not covered at all. But still, I kept it, because (well, one, it was cute, but two...) when you lose things like I lose things, having any kind of semi-functional headband in your backup collection is better than none at all.

I also began racking up single, mismatched gloves. The generic black stretch knit ones can be easily paired with other lost souls, but the more unique ones mostly just sit around in my least they did, until it occurred to me to use one of the many lonely gloves as a liner for my mostly worthless headband.

I chose a scruffy old fleece glove that had seen better days. I've never been a fan of fleece (look how it pills!), so I knew I wouldn't miss it.

I found the largest surface on the glove (the back of the hand and wrist) and cut it into two approximately equal rectangles. (Photo taken before I cut the piece on the right in half)

Then, while wearing the headband to get the placement right, I noted where the band touched my ears, and placed a fleece piece over each spot.

I pinned the pieces on with safety pins for a try-on and verified these would be good spots for permanent attachment.

Because the headband is a lot more stretchy than the fleece, I had to attach the fleece very loosely, letting it wrinkle in the middle so the headband could stretch around it. 

Then I sewed each piece down at the corners only (in contrasting thread so you can see it!). 

And that's all there was to it! I wore the headband to work one day last week, and experienced pleasantly toasty ears despite the 40-degree weather! I knew my new headband and I were going to be great friends. 

Until, of course, after just one wear, I lost it.

Haha, just kidding! After several days of bewailing the loss of what was clearly my cutest winter head covering, and mourning all the wasted work that had gone into this project, I returned to the office after a week-long holiday to find my purple headband hiding in the bottom of my backpack. This old girl is getting a contact-me tag for sure!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A longer little dress

The past few months found me on an eBay shopping spree, in which I bought a dresses on sight and was inevitably disappointed when they arrived. I was thrilled to the teeth when I found this sequined, full-skirted party dress for only 7 dollars, but when I put it on, I found the waistband hit an inch or two above my natural waist, making me look short and squat.

What to do, what to do? Obviously lower the waistline, but how? 

I thought about removing some of the tulle from the skirt and using it to extend the straps, but I decided the incision site would be too obvious, so I went to the fabric store and bought a 6-inch length of black chiffon for 70 cents.

I sewed it into a tube shape and ironed it flat.

I tried to neatly open the seams at the top of the existing shoulders, but finding actual thread among all those sequins was hard, and all my dissection started laddering the fragile lining, so gave up on that idea and just cut the shoulders open.

Then I folded the raw edges inside and sewed them down so they wouldn't fray while I figured out how to attach the new straps.

I considered lots of cool and complicated ways to attach new straps, but in the end, I decided to sew the strips of chiffon to the inside of the dress and call it a day.

So, with the straps, I also folded the raw edges inside, and glued them with a temporary fabric glue and then pinned them onto the edge of the existing straps.

I attached the new straps permanently with a single row of black thread, and hand-stitched the corners to hide any awkward overlap.

Done! Now I have a longer, leaner, festive dress, which I wore in all its sequiny glory for New Year's!

With, of course, none other than my sequined rabbit shoes that just happened to be a perfect color match!