Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The making of the off-the-cold-shoulder top

In yesterday's post, I shared (or one could say blathered, yammered, and otherwise said way too much) about the new top I refashioned in the cold-shoulder style with the sleeves borrowing from the off-the-shoulder aesthetic.

In today's post, I'll share even more about how it came to be.

This particular top was a hand-me-down from a friend. Much as I love gifts, I wasn't about to wear it without some modifications.

Fortunately, a well timed (shortly after I got the shirts) post on Refashion Co-op inspired me to try something new: a cold-shoulder top. That is, one of those tops that has sleeves, but has an open area around the shoulder. They don't seem very practical for someone who prefers everything sleeveless unless the weather's too cold, but after having seen them for a couple years, I've gotten used to the idea of at least trying them out (this is why I'm an UN-fashionista—I frequently only warm up to trends after they're so old they're not trendy any more).

Here's what I started with. (I took this picture after already beginning deconstruction, which is why the shoulder seam is already peeking).
I picked out most of the shoulder seams but left the sleeve connected about 1/4 of the way up the front and back. 

I tried it on and decided I'd removed a little bit too much from the front, so I restored another inch of the original seam.

Now the tough question—exactly how to structure the opening so it looks good? I tried it on in the mirror, pulling the fabric from here to there, safety-pinning it in different spots, but no matter what I tried, it always seemed to bulge and crease in an unattractive way.

I decided that I liked the puffiness of the original, but it needed to be more controlled. I would keep everything uniform by elasticizing the top edge of my new open sleeve!

I pin-marked a line on the sleeve that I thought made a good top edge, then I cut off all the excess fabric, leaving a half-inch for a hem.

Then I folded down the very edge of my hem allowance and sewed a very narrow hem, then folded that over again so all raw edges were securely inside the seam, to keep any fraying at bay. This created a casing which would hold the elastic.

Using a bodkin, I threaded a piece of elastic through the new casing. When it was all the way through, I safety-pinned it at one end so I could mess around with the length.

This mostly consisted of trying it on in the mirror until I was happy with the amount of pouf.

When that was all done, I stitched down the ends of the elastic permanently.

The shirt was basically finished, but I found that with the elastic pulling on the sleeves, the fabric was being stretched across the chest when I moved my arms.

To keep the buttons from gaping and reduce the amount of puckering in the fabric, I hand-stitched the button placket closed at the level of the sleeves. With a little patience, I'm still able to tug the shirt over my head, though it's a tight fit!

The coolest thing about this shirt (which I actually learned by accident when I was trying it on) is that you can tuck the sleeves back inside and it looks just like any old sleeveless top! Hooray for versatility!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Off-the-shoulder at last!

When I was young, I had a mild obsession with puffed sleeves. This was almost certainly fueled by Anne of Green Gables—never mind that that book was set in the Victorian era and certainly did not reflect the fashion of my times. In my more enlightened adulthood, I have realized that puffed sleeves are really only good for one thing: making your upper body look gigantic. Puffed sleeves could be considered the perfect pairing for broad shoulders, since they are a great equalizer, making everyone who wears them look huge, whether they have naturally broad shoulders or not. However, if you've spent your whole life trying to downplay your shoulders, you don't take kindly to anything that deliberately makes them look bigger.

Puffed sleeves are one of the last things I would ever voluntarily add to my wardrobe, which is why it's ironic that I have a continuous stream of this style of top just falling into my lap. From eBay lots to hand-me-downs, I get so many puffed sleeves, I could practically start a whole museum dedicated to them! Or I could just use them as fodder for an endless array of creative refashions. Most of the time, I just lop off the sleeves and turn them into sleeveless blouses. I once had great success cutting off just part of the sleeve and making a nice fluttery cap sleeve. But with the latest delivery of puffed-sleeve blouses, I decided to try something different. 

I vowed to try and keep a few of them for wearing as-is (let's see if I actually follow through) but one that I relegated immediately to the Project Pile was this grey one (photo taken after I'd already put it under the knife). With the big sleeves and the ruffly front (a friend likened it to the apron a French maid would wear), it was just too frou-frou for my taste. But I actually loved the fabric and fit, and I really wanted to make it work for me. 
Since I'm going pretty heavy on the commentary today, I'll save the construction details for another post, but let it suffice to say that the end product looks like a cross between your standard cold-shoulder top (you know, one of those shirts with a cutout in the shoulder area—this is my first foray into that arena) and the off-the-shoulder tops that have been blowing up the fashion world all summer (this is my first foray into off-the-shoulder details as well!).

ICYMI (So one abbreviates when one wants to seem especially "with it"), off-the-shoulder tops were unquestionably the single trendiest thing to wear this summer, hands down. As with puffed sleeves, I had a longstanding off-the-shoulder obsession when I was young (no doubt fueled by every Disney Princess ever). I have since come to the realization that unless you are shaped like a Disney Princess, off-the-shoulder-tops (just like puffed sleeves as well!) will merely make your upper body look comically gigantic—an unsurprising result of having an unbroken horizontal line running all the way across the front. But with its vertical arm openings, this shirt breaks up that line, accomplishing the off-the-shoulder aesthetic without the body-widening effect.

I'm pretty pleased that I was able to try this trend the same year as I first saw it, although admittedly I had to risk death by freezing to wear it on a rainy day in late September. That was actually an experiment in itself, as normally I only wear sleeveless shirts when it's 75° or warmer. I don't know if this happens to other people, but with me, if my upper arms are cold, all of me feels cold—even if other parts of me are so hot they're sweating. So I was thinking, with a cold-shoulder top, I might be able to keep my upper arms warm enough to feel comfortable, while still being able to bare my shoulders, in a look that I vastly prefer. It seemed to work. Despite the office running a steady 74 degrees all day, I never got too chilly.

The fabric of this top is a dark, very slightly purplish grey—the purplish hue making it very difficult to pair with anything except pure white and pure black. So I wore it with a black skirt and some black mary janes. I probably did, unintentionally, have a little bit of a French maid vibe going on.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Caftan Top

The days of tank top weather have drawn to a close. And just as the last time I reluctantly conceded to cold-weather clothing, my look is a study in blue.

This time, though, instead of accentuating the melancholy, I've chosen to make my outfit a celebration, with lots of bright shades and new things!

I just got the shoes over the summer from*, which, thanks to their reasonable prices, even more reasonable shipping price, and liberal return policy, has become my new favorite online clothing shop!

The top was snagged at Rugged Wearhouse early in the summer for just 3 dollars on clearance! I'm not sure what to call this type of top. It's defined by a very boxy shape when laid flat and a drapey, cape-like appearance when worn; a wide, baggy body; and very loose sleeves, or simple arm openings with no sleeve at all. It resembles a poncho, but it's not really a poncho, because ponchos typically have no arm holes at all. You could say it has dolman sleeves (but only if you use the less common definition and not this more common and specific one), but that doesn't distinguish it from other dolman tops with very ugly cuffed sleeves. It's constructed in a similar style to many caftans, but it doesn't really qualify as a caftan, because they are usually dress-length. I guess, lacking any more official word, I'm going to call this top and others like it "caftan tops."

Over the past year, I've pretty much fallen in love with caftan tops, buying, in addition to this blue floral one, two open-work sweaters in the style and even making my own out of a chiffon skirt. In hotter weather, they are a wonderful way to add elegance without adding too much weight. In transitional weather, the long "sleeves" keep your arms warm when you're sitting still, but the open fabric and loose construction let in some air should you get hot. I resisted this style for a long time, because I think the silhouette (which basically turns your upper body and arms into one solid mass) isn't the most flattering on my boxy frame, but I like to believe the graceful draping of the fabric makes up for some of that, and the comfort factor wins out anyway.

When I purchased this top, my friend looked at it and said, "Isn't it too big?" (It's actually a size 3X.) But size is just a number, and big is what I was going for with this shirt. I wanted it to just flow off my back like a waterfall. I think the excess fabric actually adds to the whole baroque effect. In this case, more is more!

*The link is my personal referral link, and if you follow it and make a purchase, I get 20$! You don't get anything! Ha! Except a boatload of cool clothes at affordable prices!

Friday, September 23, 2016


I'm really loving this red bandanna-print skirt—1 item anchoring 3 blog looks in 5 months has to be a new personal record for me! While the first time I wore it, I was still testing the waters (I hadn't resized it appropriately yet, and I wore it with a too-large shirt I've since sold, so everything hung on me like so many sacks), by the second time, I'd refined it to a level of sleek yet rural sophistication. This third time, I decided to replace the white with black, which resulted in a sort of Bad-Girl-of-the-50's look—frequently referred to as Rockabilly.

If you looked up Rockabilly in the dictionary, you'd see a picture of this outfit! OK, actually you wouldn't, because Rockabilly fashion is subjective at best, and there doesn't seem to be a clear-cut definition for what it entails. But if you looked up Rockabilly in Yahoo Images, (because subversives don't use Google), you would see a lot of red and black, a lot of flared skirts, and a lot of wide belts at the waist, all of which this outfit possesses. 

As a bonus, the sandals are GX by Gwen Stefani, whose picture on the cover of Tragic Kingdom served as my mental image for the "retro" girl for years (though looking at it now, I realize that while her hair and makeup are classic pinup, her clothing reflects no past era I've ever seen).

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Pretend it's still spring

Since we've had a few cool days in the last few weeks, I've been trying (desperately) to wear as many sleeveless outfits as possible before it's impossible.

Yesterday I was pleased to work in a brand-new (to me!) tank top that I got at a new (to me!) consignment shop called Uptown Cheapskate. While most of the stuff in that store was out of my price range, some of it lived right up to the store's name, and I was able to buy this shirt (marked down no less than 3 times) for $1.76!

The baggy khaki pants were just one of many pants I tried; I think I ultimately picked them because I liked the combination of colors best, but Style Tip baggy pants and baggy shirts do not make a good combination, and this shirt is baggy as they come.

Fortunately I had a solution for that: I cinched it at the waist with a belt. Said belt has actually been sitting unworn for close to two years. I bought it at the thrift store thinking it would be a great addition to my collection, but whenever the occasion arose to wear a pink belt, I found this one to be the wrong shade. Finally, with this new blouse, I was able to wear it, but then I ran into the problem of it being far too long! Fortunately I have a solution for that.

Style Tip  If your belt is too long, knot it around the buckle.

For accessories, I decided to bring more color into the mix with my giant purple earrings, and then I chose yet another shade of pink for the shoes. The pants dictated that I wear a 2-3 inch heel, so I was quite limited in options, but in retrospect, I wish I hadn't chosen the pink jellies, which conflicted with the pink of the belt. I wish it had occurred to me to try my seafoam green kitten heels.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Rainbow and the Top of Gold

Two of The Unfashionista's mottos are: One can never have too many shoes, and one can never have too many rainbows. I've actually been on a continual search for rainbow-colored sandals for years (these ones probably count, but one can never have too many!), and finally, to my delight, I found these rainbow-heeled wedge sandals on eBay for just 6 dollars!

Yes, they are probably at least 15 years old (I still don't recollect when square-toed shoes were last in style, though I'm pretty sure the ones I wore to my high school graduation fit the bill — but in any case these ones are as square as the 1950's!)...yes, the printed canvas has faded to a muted shadow of a rainbow...but still, they are rainbow shoes and I'm delighted!

They arrived on my doorstep in the early part of July, and it took me a while to figure out how to wear them. When I discovered that they paired perfectly with my golden-yellow summer sweater, I knew that no other introductory outfit would do. The only problem was that, because the arm openings on that top are very low-cut, I have to wear it with some kind of shirt underneath. In the past, I've always paired it with a black tank top, but since it was the hottest part of summer by then, I was absolutely having no part of a double-layered top half. I briefly thought about wearing one of my black bralettes underneath (since I first noticed the existence of said undergarment / overgarment-if-you're-brave, I have bought 3 of them).

  If you can't hide it, flaunt it!

For those summer days when your skimpy shirt doesn't adequately hide your bra, don't wear a bra at all! No, I'm not saying go braless, although that is an option under certain shirts. I'm saying, wear a cute bralette or bandeau that's made to be seen! That way when your straps are showing, or your side boob, or your underboob, or whatever taboo part of you your shirt would otherwise reveal, it looks pretty and intentional instead of trashy.

Unfortunately, this sweater is somewhat transparent, and a black bra underneath didn't produce the effect I wanted, so I got on eBay and found a beige lacy bandeau that wouldn't show through the fabric, but would make for a nice side view if it came to that, and all for only $1.59! But cheapness has its own costs, and in this case, it was having to wait for shipping from China. So a couple weeks went by.

Then, when the bandeau finally arrived, I put off wearing the outfit again, because by that time, the daily highs were in the 90's, and even a summer sweater is too much sweater in weather like that! So I waited patiently for a day in the low 80's—not just any day in the low 80's, though—it had to be a weekend day, since I planned to wear the outfit with shorts (though I later decided capri pants looked better) and furthermore didn't feel like putting my lacy armpits on display at the office. 

Finally on September 11, the day arrived! From conceptualization to realization, this outfit took almost exactly 2 months...and after all that buildup, I really don't have anything more to say about it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Gem de la Creme

As you might recall, a layered tulle skirt has been on my wishlist for quite some time now. I've been waiting and waiting for one to appear in my price range, and finally found one...on eBay...from China...which is always a recipe for failure. But it was only $1.98 with free shipping, so I decided I could afford to be disappointed. I kept my expectations low, and when the skirt arrived, slightly see-through and with a coarser mesh than I had wanted, I was OK with it. I had known from the pictures I wasn't going to receive a thick "bouffant" skirt as the listing title advertised, but I did and do have in my fashion stash an enormous petticoat that I think I can cannibalize to fluff up the skirt some more...when I get the time.

Yesterday, I decided to just wear the skirt as-is, limp and nearly transparent though it may be. Since I also had a new cream-colored sleeveless top, I decided I'd pair the two unworn pieces and whip up a fun monochromatic outfit. Lately, it seems all-beige is all the rage, so I thought an all-cream ensemble would be a nicely trendy (though slightly more pastel) trick to try. It's also the perfect neutral backdrop for green hair, which I have discovered clashes strongly with a lot of colors (anything red is out of the question!).

The top of the shirt is translucent (almost mirroring the bottom of the skirt—three cheers for continuity!) and studded with clear crystals, so naturally my accent motif became "sparkle." I put on a pair of rhinestone dangle earrings and my multicolor-but-mostly-pastel-pink glitter slide sandals. And as an afterthought, I slipped a rhinestone ring on my finger.
Overall, I'm content with the look, but I don't think I'll wear this skirt again until I can at least find a better liner for it. I'd prefer a full-length, fully opaque liner, thank you very much.