Tuesday, September 19, 2017

It's Flowtime

I've been on a rather unsuccessful search for wide-legged pants since the beginning of the year, but every pair I acquire has something wrong with it. There were pants that weren't wide enough (such as the dramatic looking flares I ordered from China, only to find they hardly flared at all—when will I learn!?). There were multitudes of pants that weren't long enough (including the ones with butterflies, which I ruined by trying to raise the crotch so I could wear them lower). There were pants that were too thin and clingy (I sent them back), pants that were too flashy (I'll find a way to wear them in spite of being bright orange and covered with sparkles!), and there were these.

These were probably the most successful purchase yet. They are long, long, long enough to wear with high heels, and they're a color that actually coordinates with real clothes. However, after all my complaining about wide-leg pants not being long enough, these ones might actually be too long! I kept getting the heel of my shoe caught in the fabric, and running the hems over with my wheeled office chair. I ended up taking my shoes off and sitting on my feet for most of the day. While I firmly believe that, just like flared pants, wide-leg pants only look good if they skim the ground, I may have to accept that ground-skimming clothing of any type (including maxi skirts) is just not appropriate for an environment in which you spend a good portion of the day rolling back and forth on a chair.

Execution challenges aside, I'm pleased with this outfit. Every element is perfectly coordinated in teal and navy. I feel like a winding river in my aquatic colors and graceful, flowy fabrics. Even my earrings get into the flow, cascading to my shoulders like beaded waterfalls!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Spring Ahead

Fall is just digging its traitorous nails into a perfectly good summer, but the Unfashionista is paying that no mind...she's already looking forward to spring!

Since that last unseasonably cold day in August, we've had a few days where the weather just squeaked past 80 degrees—today being one of them. So I took my chances on shivering in my office all morning, and wore my thinnest, most sleeveless, most vernally colored lavender dress with a tulip hem!

I happened to have a new floral statement necklace and earring set I bought recently on eBay, and since there was a bit of green in the necklace, I took that as my cue to wear bright mint-green sandals. The overall look is the pastel version of my favorite grapevine color scheme!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Black Olive

Here's a color combination I don't think I've ever tried before: olive green and black.

I'm glad I was able to inject some novelty into my outfit somehow, because overall, today was a sad day for an Unfashionista—drab, grey, rainy, and ... not even 70 degrees! In August! What is this world coming to? These last few days of August have all been unseasonably cool, and today's weather just takes the cake.

But I digress. Novelty. I was talking about novelty.

The olive sweater is by no means novel; I think I've had it for around a year or maybe even two, but I hardly ever wear it, because it's so boxy and baggy; it generally has the effect of making me look like a huge hulking blob. I kept it out this summer when I put most of my cool-weather clothes away, because I thought I might like it better paired with shorts. I never got around to wearing it that way, but when I looked at today's bleak forecast, I realized it was time. Since I don't wear shorts at work (except that one time), I decided I'd wear it with a short skirt instead, which amounts to basically the same thing, but is for some reason more office-appropriate.

It was just my luck that I had recently purchased a new pair of olive green shoes that would coordinate perfectly with my olive drab cardigan. What's the difference between olive green and olive drab? Well, as with most color words, it is frequently up to the person who uses them, but in my book, olive drab is just a desaturated (i.e. grayish) version of olive green. The shoes just barely squeak by as "green" instead of "drab."

Once I had decided on what to wear, the next step was to make it all actually wearable! As is common in my fashion life, what started out as simply assembling an ensemble morphed into a sewing extravaganza. First I decided I could fix the boxy-and-baggy problem of the sweater by giving it a more tailored shape. So under my sewing machine it went. I freehanded a couple of generous curves into the side seams, and ended up with a slightly more fitted version of the original. I took before and after pictures, but the difference is so subtle even I can't see it. Oh well, at least I feel better about wearing this sweater!

Second, the black-and-beige lace top needed some refinement. It was originally a too-short dress, which I wore once as a dress and regretted all evening, then started wearing with the bottom folded under as a top. Finally I decided to make the change permanent and cut it to shirt length sometime over last winter. It has a slippery beige liner and a tight lace outer layer, and I found after a couple of wears that the liner would always start peeking out the bottom as the outer layer rode up. So my final alteration to this top, made last night, was to tack the two layers together at the side seams, to hopefully prevent any further wardrobe malfunctions.

My final additions to the ensemble were a pair of earrings—a brighter green than olive, I'm counting on them to add sparkle and lightness to the somewhat dreary look—and a headband.

In case you didn't notice in my last post, I changed up my haircut again—to my shortest bob yet!—and that means it's time for me to start experimenting with new ways to decorate my hair. I found that with my last hairstyle, which I started blunt-cutting myself around March of last year, the most flattering look was to just leave it alone (though occasionally I had some luck with spiral curls, that never happened unless I had an event to attend and a lot of time on my hands in the preceding hours). But now that it's shorter, rounder, and just plain different, it may lend itself better to ornamentation...and dare I say... a new dye job?

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Perfectly Practical


Remember that outfit—the one that was dark and melodramatic and which I almost wore to work but decided it was inappropriate? I was able to work it into my life successfully less than a week later—today!

The fun thing about this outfit is it takes two different garments with a mandala print and a grey-on-grey color scheme, and joins them together! That's really all you need to know about this look, but if you're interested in stories, I can tell you tales about how every garment got to where it is now!

The top is an oldie but goodie, having been a part of my wardrobe since I apparently thought military fatigues would be a good thing to wear to the office. The top was originally a baggy, flowy affair, which might work for some occasions but certainly didn't look great over this skirt, and since I knew I was going to wear them together, I took some time to take in the sides and make it more fitted. Easy fix!


The skirt is actually a skort (it has built-in shorts underneath), which, combined with its stretchy, synthetic fabric, makes it quite the athletic piece of apparel. My boyfriend got it for me at Costco, and I originally thought it would be a nice casual-and-comfortable-but-nice-looking piece that I could wear for traveling or for low-intensity activity. What I neglected to realize at that time was that I never engage in the kind of activity that's low-intensity enough to wear a skirt (even a skort) but high-intensity enough to warrant the kind of fit and fabric that this skirt has. As you know, I've never preferred to go around in public in my workout clothes unless absolutely necessary (despite the popularity of athleisure), so the skirt sat in no-man's land at the back of my gym clothing drawer for most of the summer. Finally, I decided today would be a good day. I planned to be out most of the morning running errands (one of which I would travel to by bike, and one of which would involve loading stuff into a vehicle), so a somewhat cute, but still practical outfit seemed like a good choice.

In the morning, I wore sneakers, but in the afternoon, I just couldn't resist any more and broke out my furry pool slides, which I've been jonesing to wear ever since I learned they were trendy in the spring. They might be a little too black to really look perfect with all the greys, but they're furry sandals! Sporty looking skirt and top, combined with the "fashion" version of locker room shoes? That seems good enough for an Unfashionista to wear to brunch!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

So Long, Summer

I get a little maudlin when I sense the approach of autumn. The first evening I hear cicadas singing, the first morning I wake up to a chill in the air, the first day the high drops out of the 80's... these all strike a chord of melancholy in my heart...and drive me to melodramatic gestures like, on the final day that the temperature is predicted to top 85 (today, with a forecast high of 93), insisting on going "sleeveless, short, and sandaled." In other words, wearing all my most summery styles of clothing at once, to make the most of the (probably) last really hot day of the year. I came really close to getting even more over-the-top; I had planned on dressing in downright funereal hues as well, in a statement of mourning. But the world was spared my melodrama, because I decided the black-and-grey outfit I had chosen was inappropriate for the office. You'll just have to wait for another day to see the darkly monochromatic concoction I cooked up.

Instead, I wore this dress. As far as office-appropriateness goes, the dress toes the line, with its narrow straps and dangerously short skirt. But its ladylike floral pattern gives it a hint of the classic and demure...and hey! It's the last day of heat! It's my last chance!

In the spirit of milking every last summery drop out of my outfit, I decided to wear the most brightly colored sandals I could get away with. That ended up being fuchsia platform wedges. Although I've historically been wary of wearing high heels with short flared skirts (this short flared skirt in particular!), I've discovered that part of the reason they look so weird together is they make your legs look strangely long. Flat shoes can mitigate this, but they're not the only option!

Style Tip  If your short skirt looks weird combined with your tall shoes, visually cut your legs off at the ankle with an ankle strap, to get your proportions back to a better balance.

Once I had chosen the perfect shoe, I picked some pink jewelry to match it, and then it was off to work in the sweltering heat!

Monday, August 21, 2017

What to wear to an eclipse

I've had these earrings for around 2 years and worn them many a time, but somehow they've escaped ever being pictured in this blog! Odd, because I really adore them!

Well, today was the perfect day to finally put these sun and moon earrings front and center, because today was the day of a solar eclipse! I hadn't originally been planning to dress for an eclipse, but a few weeks ago, I stumbled across an article with suggestions for things to wear (er, spend your life savings on!) to celebrate the occasion. I needed no further prodding. The Unfashionista likes to dress thematically for every holiday, and she might as well do it for every notable natural phenomenon as well!

So when it came time to plan the outfit I would wear on the day of the eclipse, I scoured my closet for anything with a celestial theme. I have no shortage of stars, but even though the sun is technically a star, I wanted something that's more instantly recognizable as the sun. That left me only one thing—these aforementioned sun and moon earrings—which were indeed perfect for the occasion, as a solar eclipse would be nothing without the moon.

Usually when I wear these earrings, I take advantage of the aqua stones and wear them with clothing of a similar hue. But it occurred to me that, for a sun-centric event, I should be wearing warm colors. So I worked with the other color of stone, the pastel peachy one, and wore my salmon-striped sheath for the second time. 
We have reached the part of summer when I've mostly run out of new things to wear and I have to start repeating major outfit elements. I don't prefer to wear the same dress twice in 3 months without doing something drastically different with the rest of the outfit, but since this dress is so hard to coordinate, there wasn't a whole lot I could do, sartorially, to add interest. I would just have to work with what I had, which was basically some pretty cool jewelry and a penchant for puns.

First step: make the earrings the stars of the show. Not only would this allow me to work a feeble astronomy pun into my blog, but it would also serve to strengthen the theme of the outfit. So, instead of allowing my hair to fall in front of the earrings, I pulled it back behind my ears with a couple of barrettes. 
Second step: figure out just one more way to represent the theme. I briefly thought about disassembling some of my many moon necklaces and attaching them to the barrettes, but I decided that would be too hard, not to mention, might look like I was trying too hard!

In the end, I realized my outfit had all the eclipse references it needed, thanks to the barrettes. Now, you might not think that these two ordinary accessories have much to do with astronomical phenomena, but they totally do! They're totally clips of the hair!

Thank you, and good night.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The ocean in the sky

I tried on a lot of outfits in preparation for yesterday. It was no big occasion; I just needed a spiffy outfit to give my mood a lift. I actually had many successes in this process (not always a given when planning outfits), but ultimately, the one that spoke to me was the one you now see! The teal vest is no stranger to my wardrobe; I've been wearing it loyally since 2014 and have apparently owned it since 2012, but with stats like that (took me two years to wear it for the first time!?), it's not surprising that I haven't worn it in a while. 

Yesterday was the day to break that streak! On a whim, I tried it on with something else that I haven't worn in a while—a blue-striped tank dress that was part of the 3-for-10$ deal that gave me my Flowers for Drupalcon dress. It was a match! The two garments' shades of teal and blue complemented each other well.

The lines of the vest lent themselves to a long necklace, and I had the perfect one: A light blue waist-length necklace dangling with abundant silver seashell charms. To go along with it, I wore some bohemian sandals with cork wedge platforms and straw-and-canvas straps.

With my aquamarine clothes and aquatic animal necklace, I looked like I was on my way to a beach. The weather, on the other hand, was anything but beachy—overcast all day, developing into heavy rain in the afternoon. I had dressed for a day near the water; the water obliged and came to me!

Selfie with a storm drain. The stormdrops are already making their mark on the ground.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

I can see clearly now the rain is gone

Yesterday was the first nice day in what felt like forever. Technically we'd had only one and a half truly gloomy days in a row, but the days preceding that were a mix of storms and cold temperatures. It had barely topped 80 degrees for over a week, and that's too cold for summer in my world! So really, yesterday's celebratory outfit is less about the lack of clouds and more about the 87-degree forecast.

I've been waiting to wear this dress for almost a whole year, having bought it sometime early last fall during a 50%-off-dresses sale at the thrift store. I didn't find anything of value that day except this dress, but this dress was worth all the effort! Look at all the colors! All the sparkles! It was practically made for me, and, the best thing about it? It was only 4.99$...before the discount!

It was such a catch, such a glorious embodiment of unadulterated joy, that I felt like I couldn't wear it just any day—I had to save it for a day when I truly felt good, and would have the time to give it the full attention it deserves. So that's how I somehow made it most of the way through summer without wearing one of the most exciting pieces in this year's wardrobe.

Not any more though! Today, with the sun peeking out and the temperatures warming up, and no immediate disasters weighing me down (it's been a rough two months for me), It finally feels like a day worthy of this dress!

I'm wearing it with a pair of shoes that also have a story to go with them! I bought these sandals last summer as part of an ongoing effort to get some versatile pale pink sandals. The glitter jellies were nice, while they lasted—this summer when I got them out, they had developed a toxic chemical stink that I could not remove no matter what I soaked them in. I finally threw them in the trash. I replaced them with a pair of glitter jelly flats that I have yet to wear (they just arrived a week ago), but sparkly is not always the right look (case in point: the glitter jellies did not enhance this outfit, which failed in so many ways, I'm still embarrassed I ever wore it, let alone posted it for posterity). I've got the pastel pink pumps with the grey tips, but they are too wooly to wear in summer. There are also my recently acquired millennial pink lace-up sandals, which were the perfect shade, but were also too big for me and gave me blisters—now that they've had their moment of glory, I probably won't wear them again. The sandals I'm wearing today are bubble-gum pink (somewhere between a powdery pastel pink and a saturated magenta). That wasn't quite what I had in mind when I ordered them (they looked paler online), but it's what I got. I have to say they were the perfect partner for this crazy-colored dress!

But now that I've worn these shoes a grand total of twice, I'll probably be letting them go as well, meaning the search for my perfect millennial pink sandal still continues. If I could find them at last, it would truly be a bright bright (bright bright) sunshiney day!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Deer Me: The Summer Edition

One of the sad facts of fashion is that "adorable" doesn't always equate to "wearable." Some of the most beloved items in my wardrobe basically sit around for years on end, because they're just so darn unique! One of the things I loved when I purchased, but found almost impossible to color coordinate, was this brown and orange deer skirt. Since I wore it the first time in March, it has come out of my closet numerous times, but always gotten put back in, because it goes with absolutely nothing! The orange isn't a pure orange, but more of that elusive "salmon" color, and the brown isn't really brown, but has a vaguely pinkish hue. You'd think the gold sequins would allow for a nice gold top, but do you know how hard it is to find a top that's gold? 

In stark contrast to the skirt, which I loved at first sight but soon learned to resent, the top that I'm wearing it with started out meh, and has become a regular wardrobe hero! I originally picked it up at the thrift store on a whim, not thinking much about it except that it was cheap, even new with tags, and orange, a color I needed more of. 
But it's proved its worth and more, being the only top I could find that looked remotely good with the deer skirt, the only top that looked remotely good with these crazy neon embroidered shorts I got over the winter (good enough to wear in public, but not good enough to warrant a blog post!), and the perfect top to pair with the floral shorts I got in the fall. I've already worn this top three times since I got it at the beginning of the season, and that's no small feat when you consider The Unfashionista hates to repeat herself! I might go so far as to dub this salmon top the breakout hit of the summer!

Now that I have wrung two outfits out of my recalcitrant deer skirt, I'll probably hang it up for good (euphemism for sell it), but I expect the orange top to live on through a couple more summers!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

No More Tiers

Last summer, I bought this polka-dotted dress on eBay. I was led by the photo to think it would be much longer and more flared than it actually was, and was disappointed by the reality—that it was actually a little too short for work, and had that unflattering "multiple tiers of ruffles" look that was all over skirts in 2010. Remember that look? I had one black skirt that matched the description, which I wore several times in my early Unfashionista days (unfortunately, those were also the days that I couldn't seem to get the hang of adequately lit photography), despite never liking its shape
The infamous "before" picture
Years later, when I acquired this particular dress, I had enough clothes and experience to know I didn't have to wear something I really didn't like. I wore it one time, just so I would have a "before" picture, and then set it aside for redemption.

The things about this dress that I really liked were the sweetheart neckline and the structured bodice (complete with real boning along the princess seams, a true mark of quality that often gets neglected in cheaper garments)—basically, the top half. 
So the first thing I tried to do is cut off the bottom two tiers of the skirt and convert the dress into a peplum top. Sadly, it never really worked for me. It was just slightly too short to look good with any of my pants or skirts. Nonetheless, I kept it around over the winter, deluding myself with the thought that, come spring, I'd find the perfect companion to this poorly proportioned top.

I never did. So finally, a year after getting it, I decided to improve upon the skirt and reattach it. The things about the skirt that I didn't like were the length (too short) and the silhouette. I've never been a fan of multiple tiers of ruffles. I guess the only skirt shape I ever really like is basically an A-line.

I figured that by detaching the ruffles and reattaching them end-to-end so they formed a continuous line rather than a cascade, I would get a shape I'm more comfortable with. So that's what I did.

Each tier was originally attached to the single, basically straight-up-and-down liner. My first step was to seam-rip out the second and third tiers.
Fortunately, each tier was already neatly overlocked on the top edge, so I didn't have to do anything further to prevent fraying. 

I laid the bottom hem of the top tier directly over the serged edge of the second tier and pinned them at four equidistant points, accounting for the slight differences in size between the two pieces. There were just enough creases remaining of the original gathers, that I could line them up neatly without any extra work. First I glued them with temporary fabric glue...
Then I sewed them together with a topstitch, trying to follow the line of the existing hem as closely as possible.  

I followed the same process to attach the bottom tier to the middle tier.

The outside of the skirt was now much improved, and I could have quit right there, but I decided it would add additional fluff and flounce if I also reattached the liner. 

When I'd originally removed the skirt, I'd simply cut the bottom part of the liner off at the level of the bottom of the first tier. 
To restore the two pieces, I put them back together at the cut edge, right sides facing, and sewed them back together with an overlock stitch.

I am much happier with this dress now that the skirt flares instead of cascades. The finished product has more of the "vintage lady" look I had hoped for, and as an added bonus, the skirt gained almost 2 inches in length, making it more office-appropriate. It only took a year—I can finally feel the way I imagined I would when I first bought the dress!

Before.... After!
I tried to take my "after" photo in the same pose and location as the original, but my memory wasn't that good after a whole year!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Millennial Pink

Back in April, I found a pastel pink velvet choker on eBay for 99¢. In terms of trends, chokers are on a downswing since their peak of popularity last summer. But by my calculations, that means I've got a good two years before they become so passé that I have to stash them away in my Save for Later Box, so I've been making the most of their market saturation by buying and wearing them every chance I get.

You know what else has been saturating the market as of late? Shoes with ballerina lacing, which I finally got a pair of early in January. They happened to be the same color as the choker, which is why I felt compelled to buy it.

The color in question? Rose quartz, a.k.a. blush, a.k.a millennial pink. I was unaware that this color was so trendy until I happened to read an article about it sometime after both my purchases. But apparently this powdery hue is quite the phenomenon among the millennial set (hence its name, of course!)

To celebrate my birthday, I decided that nothing could be more appropriate than wearing the trifecta of trends (pink, ballerina lacing, and chokers) from the year past. So I wore them all for my birthday brunch yesterday. Pastel pink got the place of honor in my outfit, not only dominating my jewelry and footwear, but also playing a leading role in the colors of my dress. I may be another year older, but I'll always be a Millennial!

My outfit "in the wild" at A-Town

Thursday, July 27, 2017

It's never just black and white

My boyfriend's parents traveled to Indonesia recently, and all they brought me was this lousy pair of culottes! I jest, of course. I'm actually delighted with these pants—with their summery length, unusual skirt-like overlay, and bold diagonal white stripe, they are unlike anything else I've ever had in my wardrobe...except my white-trimmed black vest, which has enjoyed surprising longevity since its first appearance in 2012. I've thought numerous times of getting rid of it, and every time, I'm glad that I didn't, because I love it to pieces (figurative, thankfully!) whenever I wear it! With its white trim angling gracefully downward, it looked like it was practically made for these pants!
Is it a skirt?
Surprise! It's pants!
 While you can never go wrong with black and white, for me, the color combo is an invitation to wear my most brightly colored accent pieces. Today's color pick was lime green, in the form of some heeled sandals I got for $3.50 at the thrift store, a similarly colored beaded bracelet, and a tiny peridot necklace that originally belonged to my grandmother

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The "Yes it's another open-shoulder top" top

Short-sleeved tops are probably the least-worn type of "basic item" in my clothing collection. When it's cold or just cool, I gravitate towards full sleeves (or at least 3/4!), and when it's hot, I shun any type of sleeves and head straight for the tank tops. But when the temperatures hover between, oh, 74 and 83, those are the days that short sleeves are my friends! Those days are only a few out of our total 365, but today happened to be one of them. So I took the opportunity to wear a short-sleeved shirt that I had refashioned in the past month. 

Here's how I DIYed an all-around-poofy blouse into a sleeker shirt I can feel comfortable in!

Originally it had an elasticized bottom hem. Nothing that bubbles out around my waistline has any place in my wardrobe, so I picked out all the elastic shirring with a seam ripper. I thought this was going to be a quick fix unworthy of a blog post, so I never bothered with a "before" picture.

I thought this alteration would be enough to make the shirt wearable, but nope! I was still unhappy with the very loose fit. And the fact that the front skewed inexplicably sideways. Besides that, the loops that held the buttons left a big old gap running right down the middle of my chest. I decided to solve three problems at once by converting the standard button front into a snug-fitting wrap-around front.

I picked off all the buttons and saved them for later. 

Then, in the mirror, I wrapped the two layers around my body and pinned the fabric in place. Shimmying out of this pin-laden straitjacket was a challenge, but all in the name of fashion!

I reattached the buttons in their new angled line using my sewing machine.

I had fixed the fit and the see-through button placket, but there was still the matter of the sleeves. They were puffed, in direct contradiction to every sensibility I have. I had to do something about them—and that something ended up being slicing them open for the cold-shoulder look I am loving so much!

First I just cut a slit down the center of each, from the shoulder seam to the cuff at the bottom, but that wasn't a dramatic enough hole. 

I then began paring off tiny slices of fabric from each shoulder hole until I had just the size opening I wanted!

At this point, I was unsure how to finish the openings I had created, knowing that the delicate woven fabric was going to unravel at lightning speed. Last time, I had just melted the raw edges to seal them, to disastrously itchy effect. This time, I was going to have to do better. I thought about trying to overlock them, but I knew that, at least in my machine, that would just make the edges frilly, which is not an effect I desired. Ultimately I decided to simply fold the raw edges under and then sew over them with a zigzag stitch to mitigate the inevitable fraying.

That's all there was to it. You wouldn't think that the difference between an open-shoulder and sleeveless top is so great that they would fall into entirely different temperature brackets, but somehow I am more or less comfortable in my cold-shoulder tops even when I'd be cold in a sleeveless one. Will wonders never cease?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Different DIY Cropped Flares

Cropped pants never really go out of style. While the overall silhouette is constantly in flux (wide-leg, skinny leg, flared, cinched...you name it, it's had its moment!), every spring, like clockwork, you can count on a new crop of crops to crop up! The short pant is perfect for the office, when you're tired of wearing skirts but the weather is just too hot for slacks (and you're still not sold on workplace shorts).

The best thing about cropped pants? They're so easy to DIY! Start with any old pair of jeans, cut off a few inches (usually the inches that are already ragged from years of dragging on the ground), and voila! Instant crops! Already have a pair of cropped pants, but need to make them more modern? That can be done too!*

Take, for example, my light grey capris. I bought them mainly because they only cost a dollar, but it's been a struggle to find ways to wear them. They're kind of a dull color...kind of an unflattering shape...they're all right...they just don't have flair!

To add flair, sometimes all you need to do is add flare. At present, one of the most notable trends in cropped pants is the cropped kick flare. A kick flare distinguishes itself as being a particularly dramatic flare, as opposed to just a slight widening. Here's how to turn ordinary straight-legged cropped pants into flared ones! All in all, it's a simple process that will result in a completely new look!

Turn the pants inside out and put them on. Put a pin on either side of your knee. The knee area will be the narrowest part of the leg, but you must give yourself enough space that you can actually bend your leg!
When making this measurement, it helps to position the pants securely against your thigh while you are still standing up; otherwise they will slide down your leg as you bend over, impairing your accuracy.
If in doubt about the height at which to place the pin, I suggest putting it at or near the top portion of the knee. This will help keep the curves less dramatic, which should be more flattering to your hips.

Put another pin at your hip, wherever you want the pants leg to begin tapering.

Put another pin at the inner thigh wherever you want the pants to begin tapering on that side. Mine ended up being significantly higher up the leg than the pin in the outseam

Next, sew! Your goal when sewing is to create two smooth seams that curve gracefully from the pin at the thigh, in to meet the pin at the knee, and then back out to meet the original side seam by the bottom hem.
If you're not confident in your ability to sew a smooth curve on the fly, then you should probably mark it before you sew. I just wanted to get it done, so I skipped that step!

You'll want to end your curve as close to the bottom hem as possible, but in practice, you'll probably have to do this 1/4 to 1/2 inch above the bottom hem, to allow for the extra layers of fabric that already exist down there. Sewing over that mess probably won't produce clean results.

Obviously, you'll need to repeat the same process on the other leg. I just used the first leg as a template for the second to save myself more tedious pinning in the mirror.

Next, iron the seams.

Next, you're done! Well, except for the finishing touches. For my part, I found that the original side seam was slightly more rounded on the left leg than on the right, making my left hip look huge. I took the pants back to my sewing machine to level off that curve. Then, I was done! For real!

*One more (really low-effort) trick to modernizing your pants is to simply call them by the right name. Remember when I once mulled over the difference between "gauchos" and "culottes?" I ultimately came to the conclusion that they were the same thing, but that "culottes" is what they are calling them now, while "gauchos" is so 2005. So it is with another variety of cropped pants—the capri pant. I first learned about capri pants circa 1999. When they hit the scene, capris were skin-tight, but it wasn't long before I saw straight-legged and flared varieties, which became a beloved part of my wardrobe for several years after. But by ten years later, the idea had become stale—just in time to return under a different name. While "capri pants" is still used as a generic term for all short pants, when fashion writers describe the looks that are in style today, they usually use the more generic "cropped" pant. So, while I wore my various capri pants well into the 2010's, I always felt vaguely frumpy. But just by refraining from calling them "capris," and calling them "cropped pants" instead, I feel 10x more fashionable! It's that easy!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

DIY High-Waist Bikini

Over the past few years, when I've purchased swimwear, I've focused almost exclusively on bikinis. I have one distinctly athletic tank suit that I wear when I want to be, well, athletic, and not worry about my suit falling off. But for your average day spent poolside or a casual dip in the ocean, I almost always gravitate to a two-piece.

This year, though, growing bored with my selection of bikinis (I have a substantial amount of swimwear for someone who maybe goes swimming twice a year), I was delighted to read that one-piece swimsuits are becoming increasingly common. I decided to take advantage of their new popularity by finding one of my own. My only requirement was that it not be boring.
Eventually I found what I was looking for in a green-and-black striped suit with some flattering princess seams I couldn't pass up. There were several of the same suit available secondhand on eBay, so I waited until I found one under ten dollars, and then made my move. It was perfect. But only when I tried it on a second time, long after I could have conceivably returned it, I was disappointed to notice that it was too short for my torso (now I see why there were so many of them for sale)!  

No matter how I tugged it, either the bust would slide down to an unseemly level, or the leg openings would ride up to a height last seen on Baywatch. I've observed that high-cut swimsuit legs are currently coming back into fashion, but I've never found the style flattering, and I certainly didn't want to rock it myself!

However, the overall styling of the swimsuit was very similar to the retro/pinup/50's styles that continue to be a fringe fashion staple today. I decided I'd cut up my swimsuit and turn it from a one-piece to a high-waisted two-piece.

I have to say in advance that I did it wrong—so very wrong. I had no idea working with elastic fabric would be such a tribulation! While the finished product looks passable from a distance, I'm absolutely flustered by the disastrous nature of the work that got it there. But here, I'll let you judge for yourself!
I measured the spot where I ultimately wanted the waistband of the bottoms to lie, added an inch, and cut it.
I thought I was being smart by following the horizontal stripes, but as I finally got around to the other side, I learned that they hadn't been sewn perfectly straight—I'd lost almost an inch in height from one side of the front to the other. Mistake #1! 

Also, since the suit was made of two layers with a lot of gathers, I had cut the inside a lot lower than the outside, thus losing even more effective height. Mistake #2!

With nowhere to go but forward, I hemmed the waistband of the bottoms. I kind of wanted to put some sort of elastic band there, but in examining most of my other swimsuits, they didn't actually seem to have one, so I decided to do without it. Instead, I simply rolled the material under twice, then topstitched. Sadly, this was Mistake #3, as  some parts of the inner layer were too short to actually make it into the hem. Fortunately swimsuit knits don't unravel easily, so I haven't bothered to fix this mistake yet.

I started out with a stretch straight stitch on my machine, but that was taking forever, and seemed to be causing the material to pucker, so midway through, I switched to a three-step zigzag. As you can see, even in the few places where the zigzag itself turned out decent, it still made my suit waistband "do the wave."
When I tried the suit on after finishing the waist, I found that it had stretched quite a bit and now didn't hug my body. My solution was to open up about an inch of each of the seams in the front and then re-sew them a little tighter. The picture at left shows an inside view of this correction.

With the bottoms done (at least as done as I could stand to make them without crying!), I started on the top. By "started," I mean I stuffed it into the bottom of my Projects Box so I could "think" about the best way to finish it. Three months later, I could not procrastinate any more. I consulted the internet about ways to sew elastic material.

While some tips were totally useless to me (buy a walking foot? Sounds nifty! Costs almost as much as my entire sewing machine? Next!), one, which advised sewing over a piece of paper, sounded like it might actually work. Since I'd had trouble keeping all the material together when I sewed the bottoms, I also decided to glue the hems down prior to sewing (usually I just use pins). I was proud of myself for taking this extra step in the name of quality, but alas! It was Mistake #4—the glue (Aleene's No-Sew temporary fabric glue) wouldn't hold the material, so all I did was make it goopy and unworkable until it dried.
As you can see from the picture, I also glued a narrow strip of paper to the top of the piece. The paper may or may not have been Mistake #5. It certainly didn't seem to stop the fabric from puckering, but it did make quite a mess in terms of removal. I had to soak it in water until it dissolved in order to get all of it off, and I can still see bits of it stuck to the seam—even after a soak, a wash, and a swim in the Chesapeake Bay!

I can no longer remember if I had the bright idea to reduce my thread tension while sewing the top, but if that's what I did, it was certainly Mistake #6! For whatever reason, the topstitching on my bikini top is loose, erratic, and unraveling. It looks less like a triple-step zigzag and more like a seismograph during an earthquake!

Even after all these mistakes, I nonetheless thought I had a Minimum Viable Product that I could at least wear once to the beach before throwing it away in despair (or before all the seams come out and I'm left accidentally skinny-dipping!).

So I wore it to go stand-up paddleboarding on Sunday evening!

I am proud to say that at no point did I end up accidentally skinny dipping, and the suit looks much the same now as it did before I started. However, I think after I get it out of the laundry, I might undo all my work and have another go at making seams that don't look like I sewed them while riding a roller coaster!

Monday, July 17, 2017


Yesterday, my boyfriend and I went to a big gathering on a beach. I wanted to wear an easy breezy dress that could double as a simple cover-up should I decide to go swimming. Fortunately, I had an unworn dress practically made for beach-going. It was one of those tube dresses with a smocked top that you can find at beach stores everywhere. When I was trying it on, it kept sliding down, so I decided to try to wear it as a skirt instead. I selected a solid chartreuse top to wear over it, and I thought I was done...but the top kept sliding down, too—the same elastic problem I had with my first choice of tops in my last outfit! Why does this keep happening!? I would complain, except that, once again, my wardrobe malfunction turned out to be a stroke of good luck, in that my backup shirt ended up an even better choice than the original.

In today's case, looking for a replacement top, I suddenly remembered I had the perfect shirt to go with an elephant-themed skirt—an elephant-themed shirt! I had just recently received it, and since it had puffed sleeves (the horror!), I had naturally set out to remove them as soon as I got it. Originally, I'd planned to cut off the sleeves, fold under the raw edges, and sew them down for a classic, smooth-edged armhole. But I ended up really liking the ruffled look on the fragment of sleeves that were left, and returned the shirt to the Projects Box so I could clean up some of the more ragged cuts. So on the morning of the gathering, in another last-minute alteration (these are becoming my specialty!), I did just that, then put the shirt on, and marched out the door.

But before I did so, I selected some sunglasses (blue to go with the blue on the shirt, rimless with a vaguely hippie aesthetic, which, incidentally, is something I could also say about the elephant skirt!) and a pair of black flat sandals.

The sandals are — surprise surprise! — a recent refashion as well. The fabric insoles had started falling off, so I cut my own insoles out of a piece of T-shirt and glued them to the shoes. I had only put the finishing touches on the shoes earlier this morning, and I was really curious about whether the fix was going to hold. Well, the best trial is a trial by fire, so I put them to the test by making their first outing a sandy, messy, beach. By the end of the day, they didn't look beautiful, but the glue was still holding! Pro Tip: If you're ever deciding between Tacky Glue or E6000 to replace the insoles in your shoes, choose the E6000. I did Tacky Glue on one foot, E6000 to the other, and the E6000 was much less prone to peeling—though the downside was it also showed through the fabric more.

It should be worth noting that the skirt came to me from Thailand via my boyfriend, the shirt came to me from Sri Lanka courtesy of my Sri Lankan friend, and the event to which I wore them was for Indonesian Americans! I am fortunate to have a lot of worldly associates, or this outfit would not have been possible. I might also note that I'm not usually drawn to elephant motifs, but I got such a big kick out of being able to wear two of them brand-new in one outfit, that I might just become an elephant fangirl. Ele-fangirl? Ah, now you finally understand my title!