Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Women who love sparkles too much

If there's one thing that defines my mostly undefinable style of dressing, it's that I love my fashion to be over-the-top. Strawberry jewelry, weird high-heeled tennis shoes, dresses festooned with parrots—I have it all. The one thing I don't have a lot of is the basics.

A few years ago, I basically stopped buying wardrobe essentials in favor of an entire closet full of statement pieces. Solid-colored T-shirts? Nah! If it wasn't covered with patterns and glitter (or at least multiple layers of texture), I wasn't going to "waste my money" on it. (Well, that's not entirely true; I've always kept my closet stocked with every possible style of neutral pants, so I guess my craziness craze is limited to tops alone.)

It was only this year that I realized this kind of puts my wardrobe in a severe deficit. How can I properly create an outfit with my funkiest skirts, if the only shirts I have are equally funky in completely different ways? I needed some simple pieces that could be worn with everything. So a few weeks ago, I put a new item on my shopping list: "solid T-shirts in every color"!

With my new arsenal of basics, I hoped to be able to whip any flamboyant bottom out of my closet, and instantly pair it with a coordinating and flattering top, saving me the agony of trying it on with every shirt in my closet only to find that nothing looks right.

I started on May 13 with a white T-shirt, a supposedly essential garment (according to a lot of the fashion articles that I read) which I haven't owned since I converted my last one into a shrug back in 2011. In the same Swap.com [referral link] order, I also got the brown one that can be seen crowning my outfit today.

Before I started on this purchasing mission, I had to do a lot of soul-searching. You see, at this time in fashion history, fitted T-shirts are not in style. You need look no further than the first page of listings on Polyvore (my most trusted source for shopping trends, and also frequently for the pictures that I use on my year-end fashion reviews) to see it: big and drapey and half-tucked into your skinny jeans is where it's at. 
But I, though I try hard to get on board with the fashion zeitgeist, just can't seem to make this style work for me (it's a big-shoulders thing). My tastes will always run to the loose-on-the-bottom-tight-on-the-top aesthetic (with shorter sleeves than are currently in vogue). Which means I had to swim against the tides of fashion and invest in a whole wardrobe full of unstylish shirts. Well, that's what makes me an Un-fashionista!

Somehow I managed to eschew my love for sparkles and all things embellished long enough to get a couple of basic and thoroughly un-trendy T-shirts for my collection—just so I could accessorize one with all the sparkles I could get my hands on! I wore a shiny new silver heart locket (get the "love" reference in my post title!?), which supposedly glows in the dark. I got it thinking I'd eventually wear it to a rave, but that never happened after over a year, so I decided to stop saving it for the special occasion that would never come. 
For even more sparkles, I wore my now-familiar batik skirt with the sequined trim, and a pair of glitter-encrusted low-heeled shoes, which I got for 20$ from H&M in late March and have been wearing the dickens out of, even though I haven't yet posted any outfits featuring them. At least the shoes are only one season out!

What makes every fashion picture cuter? The surprise addition of a dog!
And cuter still? Two dogs!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Strawberry 🍓 Season

Right around the same time I got my bunch-of-grapes jewelry set, I also purchased one with a strawberry theme. The strawberries have proven much harder to wear because of their color—I think I've only worn them once, and apparently it wasn't in a very memorable outfit, because I can't remember what it was. Yesterday, I set out to change all that.

Another thing in my closet that's hard to wear because of its color is my square-dance skirt. I've built a couple interesting ensembles around it, but there's only so much you can do with a red, black, and white full skirt (one of which is run over it constantly with your wheeled office chair!) so I think I might sell it after today's wear. Being featured 4 times in my blog over the course of a year is quite an accomplishment (perhaps excelled only by my skirt for 5 seasons!), so I'm pretty sure this skirt can retire with pride. Fortunately, the one color that it goes with really well is red, lending it perfectly to be the base upon which to plant my strawberry jewelry!

For my top, I wore a black short-sleeved sweater, which I hoped would be comfortable if the weather actually warmed up in the afternoon (it was 55° out when I left home in the morning), and a black blazer to keep me comfortable in case it didn't.

Sadly, it didn't keep me comfortable. But here's its story.

I've been trying to get a new black blazer for years now. The first one I ever owned (purchased for about 6 dollars at a thrift store, last seen in early 2015) was always a size too big and had that awkward short fit that was popular pre-2005. Around 2015, I decided I really needed to get with the times and find myself a long-line blazer, which I did in the form of the one I wore for Valentine's Day 2016 (also purchased at a thrift store). But after I'd had that one for a while, I decided that it, too, was too large. A black blazer is timeless, I told myself. I could afford to invest in a quality one that's actually my size. So when I found one at the Express Outlets this winter, I purchased it even though its price was almost in the triple digits!

And after that, I never wore it. I never wore it and never wore it, and every time I tried it as a topper for an outfit, I found the shape wasn't right and I put it back in the closet. Around springtime, I realized it was much too heavy to be comfortable for most occasions. Fortunately (I guess), they've done that thing where they turn off the heat in our office just to make me miserable all spring, so this is probably the one time of year when a heavy jacket won't be too warm for comfort. Unfortunately, when I wore it today, I discovered it is also too stiff for comfort. I feel like I'm wearing a straitjacket! I can't spend all day at a keyboard when the sleeves of my top are trying to hold my arms back! And besides all that, my hands were still cold! About 11 am, I lost the blazer and turned on my space heater instead. I'm thinking I may just have to relegate this expensive jacket to outdoor-wear, meetings, and formal occasions only. But until then, at least it had one morning in the sun...or rather, the gloom and rain.

The weather yesterday was just atrocious—starting off cold and rainy, with thunderstorms expected in the evening. When I planned this outfit during a hot spell a week ago, I envisioned wearing it with a pair of sandals, or maybe some black flats if it were a bit cooler out. But when the day came, I traded in my dainty shoes for some ankle-high lace-up boots.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Sporty Stripes

One thing that's quite trendy these days is wearing sneakers with dresses. It's so cool (though not Unfashionista-approved) to take a fancy skirt and tone it down with some athletic shoes underneath. Call me a traditionalist, but I would never ruin an elegant outfit by pairing it with less-than-elegant shoes.

However, with high-heeled sneakers, you combine the best of both worlds—the casual vibe of the sneaker with the flattering shape of the heel! Some haters might say that this ruins the comfort of sneakers as well as the beauty of heels, and they might be right, but I just can't seem to listen to their good sense. Whether it be a wedge high-top or a painted platform or a boot with distinctly sneaker-like details, I always seem to have at least one pair of these combination shoes hiding out in my collection.

This time around, it's a green-and-white set with chunky white heels. With lots of character and correspondingly very little versatility, this new pair sat unworn on my shoe rack for months (long enough for part of one shoe to actually start fading in the sun! Note to self: find different location for shoe rack).

I wore them once with a green and white dress, but the greens clashed, so this time I went monochrome. Green and white shoes with a black and white dress!

The dress is a casual knit with a short flouncy skirt that calls to mind a golf or tennis outfit. Even flat sneakers could look cute with this dress...but since I'd rather die than wear sneakers when I could wear heels, that was obviously out of the question.

Though going otherwise all monochrome is a good way to call attention to your colorful and interesting shoes, I'm always happier when I'm repeating a color somewhere else in my outfit. So I put on a matched set of green jewelry. Now my outfit feels complete!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Working it at work

I don't much care for dressing professionally, and my definition of "business casual" skews heavily to the casual, but this outfit is one I feel would have met the dress code at most offices. 

Maybe the person whose mission in life lately is "pushing our casual dress code to the limits," is not the best person to trust when it comes to choosing your office attire, but this is the kind of stuff I would try to wear every day if I weren't permitted the regular indulgence of jeans at work

First off, though it is anchored by a pair of modest (some might say slightly too big) black trousers, the top is bright red satin to satisfy my love for color.

Though the shoes are flat and modest, they are decorated with huge embroidered flowers to satisfy my need for imagery.

While I am wearing a button-up blouse (my very definition of office dress), it doesn't have any sleeves! (I did that, of course—it was one of the many puff-sleeve blouses that I've put under the knife). I always feel a little better, a little more free, when nothing is covering my arms.

So am I casual or professional? Conservative or artsy? Well, the blazer settles it!

What blazer? Well, during the day, during a freezing meeting, I covered up with a grey checked blazer, which I forgot to take a picture of, of course, but just look at this old blog post of it and imagine it on top of what I'm wearing now. It definitely could not get more businesslike than that. 

Which brings me to my philosophy of professional dressing in a nutshell! Style Tip When in doubt, throw on a blazer!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Free the shoulder

I must admit that the first time I observed an open-shoulder top (early 2014), I was not impressed. The cutout seemed gratuitous, and totally pointless, doing nothing for the overall aesthetics of the shirt.

My opinion was swayed when, two years later, I saw an ice cream shop employee with cutout shoulders on her T-shirt and realized that would be a pretty slick way to make some of my boring promotional tees more exciting to wear. I immediately had a go of it with my 2015 Bike To Work Day T-shirt, and botched the job so badly, I gave up on the idea of open-shoulder T-shirts.

But later on that summer, I made another try with my grey "French Maid" blouse, and became an instant convert!

Why, oh, why had I waited 2+ years to finally jump on the cold-shoulder bandwagon!? All this time, I have been lamenting how shirts never fit over (or look good with) my broad shoulders, and the answer was actually a pretty fashionable style!

While I'm no stranger to accommodating my shoulders by converting most of my tops to sleeveless, open shoulder tops enable me to keep the sleeves! Since one of the causes of my dearth of cold-weather clothes is that fewer long-sleeved shirts fit me and my shoulders, the open-shoulder trend could even help me build up my ever-too-depressing winter wardrobe!

I might have been a little slow on the uptake...so slow in fact that I've read in one source that consumers are tired of the open-shoulder look, but that just means I have to work extra-hard to take advantage of this trend before it's gone!

I purchased a tunic a few months ago with dramatic slits down the length of the sleeves. I have been scouring my wardrobe for less-loved shirts that might be candidates for the cold-shoulder treatment. But so far the only one I've gotten to is this parrot dress.

I bought it on Swap.com several months ago, with a few trepidations, since it looked shapeless and sack-like and unlikely to flatter. But it had two things going for it: long sleeves – which, as I might have already mentioned, I have a dearth of – and a colorful animal print (not an animal-skin print, which I don't really like, but pictures of actual animals!). Sure enough, when I got it, it was shapeless and sack-like and...tight at the shoulders! Of course!

I was very disappointed in the fit, but I got excited once I realized I could turn it into my first-ever cold-shoulder dress!

The process was fairly simple:

I used a seam ripper to open the sleeves down to just above my armpit (I accidentally went a little too deep on the right sleeve, but decided it would be too much work to fix it).

I hemmed the shoulder openings with a straight stitch.

I cut a slit down the center of the sleeve--this was to allow me to fold the excess fabric to the inside without a lot of bunching.

Then I hemmed around the new top of the sleeves!

I probably should have taken more effort to prevent fraying, but since I was basically experimenting, I didn't want to waste a lot of time with fancy hems. So in the end, after I was done, I just used a trick I know for working with synthetics—sealed the raw edges by melting them with a soldering iron. This technique works great for giving second chances to ripped backpacks, but I would not recommend this method for your clothing, as it makes the fabric very scratchy!

Oh, well, I'll know better next time! At least I finally have a cold-shoulder dress!

Opening up the shoulders on this garment had an unexpected (and welcome) side effect—by cutting down on the width at the top, it gives the whole dress a more streamlined appearance, even without having to take in the waistline.

For its maiden voyage, I decided to play up the free-flying parrot imagery with accessories evocative of the sky. I wore knee-high blue boots and blue-lavender gradated earrings that I had made using my credit-card method.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Pints and Puppies

Our dogs invited us to the Pints and Puppies event in DC on Sunday, which was a charity happy hour to benefit animal rescue organizations. (Oh, you think our dogs didn't really invite us? Well, just ask them to tell you differently!)

I built my outfit around a pair of dark brown thigh-high boots. I haven't been able to wear these often because I can't much bend my knees in them, but I figured an outdoor happy hour, where we'd be likely to be standing most of the time, would be a reasonable occasion. For the rest of the outfit, I went with various shades of neutrals—some faded, almost greyish blue jeans, a dark brown camisole, and a cozy ruffly duster sweater to keep me warm. It was supposed to be cold (low sixties—not intolerable, but pretty uncomfortable for cold-blooded me when I'm not doing any kind of physical activity!), which I wasn't thrilled about, but I made do as best I could.

The colors were boring, but fortunately, I had some leeway to accessorize! I enjoy a good outdoor social because it means I have an excuse to wear one of my many wide-brimmed hats. My pick for this day was a navy blue felt hat with pink flowers, which I tied into the outfit with my (also blue) fingerless gloves (I'm serious about being uncomfortable outside in the low 60's! I would have worn full gloves if I didn't think they'd cause too much mess with beverages and food). Lastly, I wore an oversized locket pendant necklace.

Although the too-loose hat was a poor choice for a windy day (I haven't yet fixed it with my ingenious headband trick), I still managed to get a few compliments to make it worthwhile—including a general "I love your style!" which is just about the highest compliment an Unfashionista can receive.

The dogs got at least as many compliments as their human (let's face it; they got many more!) for being totes adorbz in their matching tuxedo sweaters! I tried to take a few pictures of them, but their lack of cooperation, combined with my hands being full of my errant hat and my wine glass, plus being constantly bumped by many other dogs and their owners, made it rather tricky.
The dogs and their handsome dad

Monday, May 8, 2017

Stepping up my florals game

Although I was really enchanted by this overpriced red floral dress/vest, I imagine I'm not going to get much use out of it before it gets retired. I've only worn it once, and I had to rack my brains to come up with a new way to style it that wasn't absolutely identical to the first time.

I knew I'd hit on a winner when I tried combining it with this black and red (reddish-orange, actually) floral blouse that I got from Swap.com earlier this year. The two different floral patterns and slightly different color schemes surprisingly didn't clash but instead made a cleverly, complementing combination. Two florals, one outfit! I'm so daring!

Since the shirt wasn't all black, I found that black pants looked much better than they had the first time I'd tried to wear them under this vest, which was a pleasant surprise. To add further variety to the look, I buttoned one of the top buttons of the vest.

But still not being content with my epic layering, I decided to "step up" the look even further by "stepping" the hems of my pants.

These are the "tall" skinny work pants that I first referenced in December 2015, though I'm sure I've had them for slightly longer than that. I bought them because all my other work pants are either flare-legged or bulky around the hips, and sometimes your outfit just needs a slim-fitting pant! I was especially excited when I found these at the thrift store, because since they were a tall size, I could wear them over heels. The only problem was that, because they were so skinny, they tended to just puddle around my ankles instead. To make them better for my use case, I had to do some alterations which ended up being a slit four inches up each side, which makes more room for my foot, and makes the length easily adjustable!

I've worn these pants a number of times, but never before with a stepped hem. Step-hem jeans (basically jeans with a raw horizontal hem that is short in front, while the back hem is a few inches longer) are all the rage right now. I have refrained from trying the style because it's not "interesting" enough to warrant either the price or the destruction of any of my existing pairs, but I have tried to translate the trend into a dress, and now a pair of  work slacks! All I had to do was fold the front half of the bottom under and secure it with some double-sided tape. It looked good in the mirror, but in my pictures, the effect is rather strange, so I'm not sure if I'll ever make this look a regular part of my ensemble.

But at least I feel marginally trendy and definitively multi-layered!