Monday, February 26, 2018

Modern Gatsby

The dress code for the D.C. Distillers' Festival was "Modern Gatsby." What does that mean?, I mused. I'm sure it meant that I should dress with a nod to the 1920's, but how much of a nod? How much modern and how much Gatsby would be right for this party?

Fortunately, unlike many of my night-out decisions, this one didn't take me very long. I have a 1920's-inspired dress that I bought last spring, planning to wear it to Repeal Day, which we have gone to every year since 2014. We did not go this year. Consequently, my fringed sequined dress has been sitting in bag in my closet for months. Rather than let it sit any longer, I decided to go as full-on Gatsby as possible.

To go with the dress, I had a similar sequined headband, which I'd bought on clearance and which had also been waiting in the closet for months.

My handsome mobster in the background
I didn't have any appropriate Prohibition-era shoes, so I went with my low-heeled silver glitter ones, because one can never go wrong with glitter, and I liked the idea of actually being able to walk around without pain!

I couldn't do much to make my growing-out hair look much like a proper flapper bob, so I tried to make up for it with my makeup. Darkly shadowed eyes with as much underline as I could dare, and my best approximation of a cupid's-bow lip.

Yes, by this time the eyeshadow has smudged,
and I've put too much lipstick on the outer
edges of my lower lip, but I tried!

I think the outfit was a good choice. Most of the attendees were wearing similar getups, and I even got a compliment from the burlesque dancer. That's how you know you've succeeded—when someone who gets paid to wear a costume has something nice to say about yours!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The very weird wrap skirt

I might have found a new contender for the Ultimate Green and Purple combo, and it doesn't even require a whole outfit to earn the title! It's this skirt! I tried to think of a way to describe it, perhaps a snappy two-word phrase that could become the title of this post, but I couldn't. It's just too weird!

I mean, look at it! Purple leopard print on the bottom, and on the top, a blue-green field covered in what I could only describe as upside-down trees.

Upside-down trees! What will they think of next?

Like all my newest favorite garments, this one came from [Referral link], and it totally exceeded my expectations. When I bought it based on nothing more than a single flat-lay photo, I expected it to be around knee length and to have two layers. When I received it, I was astonished to find that it went all the way to my calves, and it was actually a generous wrap skirt that ended up being three layers of silky extravagance!

I didn't pay much attention to the patterns when I bought it, focusing more on the colors and whether I thought it would be an appropriate length for work, but once I had the time to scrutinize it, I really fell in love with them. Leopard spots and upside-down trees. Who comes up with a combination like that? Certainly not me! I'm not daring enough to mix patterns despite my steeliest resolve, but the colors tie them together so well that they work.

And of course, did I mention I'm really in  love with the upside-down trees?

I will adore this skirt with all my heart...but probably not for very long. Eventually I'll run out of new purple and green things to wear them with, and if I'm not daring enough to mix prints, I'm definitely not daring enough to mix color families!

Monday, February 19, 2018


February is always the month for red, but this particular February, I've gone, unintentionally, quite overboard. From my monochromatic first post of the month, to my black, white, and red maxi skirt outfit, to my Valentine's Day look, it's just been one crimson costume after another. Today, I continued in that grand tradition by re-wearing the red sweater dress, this time with brown coordinates.

Up top, we have my cropped brown-and-black cardigan; down below, my beloved brown lace-up boots (still going strong after 6 years). I wouldn't have considered this outfit blogworthy, except that I happened to pair it with some jewelry I made myself.

Once a wrap-around coating on a pair of hoop earrings that fell apart, this cherry-red metal mesh sat in my jewelry-salvage collection for a long time before I decided one can never have too many chokers! I made myself a red necklace and had just enough material left to construct a matching bracelet.

Putting the bracelet on, however, was a wearisome task I have no wish to repeat, so I think I might turn it into a pair of dangly disco earrings. Stay tuned!

What do you think? Is a new identity in this bracelet's future?

Friday, February 16, 2018

It's Friday

It's Friday, the end of the week and therefore a symbolic day for endings of all sorts. I marked the occasion by canceling my VIP account on Fabkids—you know, the site where I once got a T-shirt and tulle skirt for almost nothing, and then never shopped there again? Well, I did shop there again once, because back around July or so, I forgot to skip the month, resulting in a 30$ credit on my account I had to get rid of. So before I finally pulled the plug, I spent my credit on a pair of leggings and a dress. This dress.

I really like this dress. It is everything I love in a dress—a modest length, long sleeves for winter, and a splash of every color of the pastel rainbow! Sometimes I worry that it's a little too colorful for work, but today is Friday, the day when I throw caution to the wind and wear my most fun outfits...or bust!

I've been planning this particular outfit for some time, but I had to put it on hold for a while because the pastel purple shoes clashed with the different tones of purple in my hair. But now that my dye job has faded to a subtle silver (or, if I'm less charitable, a dingy grey), it goes with more colors and doesn't look like it's trying to outshine my clothes.

So it's finally time for my purple lacy platform oxfords, lace-topped over-the-knee socks, and my rainbow dress! In addition to being too colorful, this outfit is probably also too childish for a 34-year-old at the office, but I'll say it again! It's Friday!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Artsy Hearts

Ever since I stopped skiing on Valentine's Day and started doing more traditional holiday activities (you know, wining and dining, that sort of thing), I've had increasingly high standards for my Valentine's Day outfit. Pinks and reds are no longer enough—now I always incorporate a romantic theme! Last year it was heart shoes, heart purse, and heart sweater.

This year, it's a heart skirt and earrings. Full disclosure—I'm not a huge fan of the skirt. The finger-painted-looking hearts are a little too sloppy for my taste, but when I saw it on [Referral link] for a mere 3 dollars, I bought it anyway, because a Valentine's Day skirt with ugly hearts is still better than no Valentine's Day skirt at all.

However, if I'd known how difficult it would be to wear in real life, I might have simply given it a miss. I discovered to my annoyance when trying it on, that this skirt is more staticky than a broken radio! I seriously had to wear a slip, spray it with water three times, rub hand lotion all over the inside twice, and then spray it with hairspray just to stop it from clinging to my thighs. Now, clinginess between a skirt and a pair of tights is somewhat expected, but a skirt that clings to bare skin is on a whole different level!

In short, I don't expect to be wearing this skirt for a second Valentine's Day, but while I've got it, I might as well make the most out of it!

And what better way to make the most out of a decorative skirt than to wear some matching earrings? Oddly enough, up until last week, I didn't have any heart-shaped statement earrings. What I did have, however, was a brand new 3-D pen that was just begging for a chance to be used. If you've never seen the results of a 3-D pen, let me be the first to tell you that they usually look imperfect. Rather sloppy. Rather like the finger-painted-looking hearts on my skirt! I decided that the ideal project for my new 3-D pen would be to make 3-D earrings to go with my skirt!

Here they are! Just as expected, they look a little imperfect. OK, a lot imperfect! 3-D sketching is hard! But in any case, they have the same kindergartener-made-it look that the skirt does, so I like to think they work.

From earrings and skirt, I had to assemble an entire outfit, and I tried every possibility! I was this close to settling for a very navy blue look when I decided that I would be remiss if I didn't somehow work in my furry red boots, which I've only worn once since I got them, for a Christmas party. I also decided the red T-shirt was a better choice than a navy sweater, so in the end, I got both my romantic theme and my V-Day colors.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Black and White and Red All Over

When I first got this skirt as a hand-me-down, it was a tube dress. It still is a tube dress, but I refuse to wear it like one, because it has a way of making me look short and stubby with hips a mile wide, and plus, we all know I avoid strapless dresses like the plague.

With this dress, I was fortunate enough to not have to do any alterations. I simply pulled the top portion high up on my waist, folded the elastic band under once, and magically had a maxi skirt! This skirt is so long that I can't wear it without my highest of heels, and because of this, it's completely changed from making me look short and stubby to making me look tall and slender.

I was really keen to wear this skirt, but it took me a while to figure out what to wear it with. It was not until the phrase "black and white and red all over" popped into my head, that I knew I needed red, because that would give me a cool title for a blog post, and sometimes that's all that matters.

While I contemplated topping the skirt with my red blazer, that piece has been too recently used, so I decided to break out one of several new long-sleeved T-shirts I bought in another push to build out my wardrobe with solid colors. A downside to a solid T-shirt is that it's quite plain-looking by itself, but that becomes an upside when it allows you to showcase a fun scarf or vest! Today I chose a white knit vest.

Now for the footwear. I have to admit that when I conceptualized this outfit, I'd hoped to wear red shoes with it. But when I tried them on and saw their crimson toes poking out from under the black and white stripes, all I could think of was Ronald McDonald. For the record, Ronald's stripes are yellow and red, not black and white, but mental associations don't listen to logic. So I wore a much less exciting pair of black boots instead.

Mathematically, I was working my way to a perfect balance of the three colors of my title. Black stripes, black shoes, white stripes, white vest, red shirt, and... I needed one more red. For that, I chose red jewelry—specifically, a beaded necklace that fit so perfectly into the bowl of my neckline that it looked like it was made to go there! The two red items with skin between them reminded me of a stripe, just like the stripes in the skirt, which is the kind of subtle detail that I go ga-ga for.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

This is how the Unfashionista does subtlety

If you were to do no more than glance over this blog, you'd probably figure out pretty quickly that I love to dress to be noticed. Splashy designs, unusual silhouettes, and bright colors galore, that's the name of my game!

But even I have to trade in my flashy attire for something a little more subtle at times. Times like meetings!

Last week, I was invited to attend a meeting at work. I actually hardly ever have formal meetings, but when I do, I prefer to wear my most businesslike clothing and save the experimental stuff for another more solitary day. This meeting was not just any meeting, though. It was a large gathering of influential people, all brought together to share opinions which would ultimately determine the fate of our collective website—which is my livelihood. I didn't have an active role at this meeting, as I was only there to observe and learn, but as the entire agenda centered around my life's work, I wanted to make a good showing.

That meant looking professional and presentable, but not standing out like a sore thumb. My aim was to be a fly on the wall, not a fly buzzing incessantly around people's eyeballs. So I very reluctantly planned my outfit to go under the radar. A classic silhouette was paramount. I settled on this wrap dress, which I have never featured in my blog, despite owning it for longer than I can remember. It's a little plain for my usual tastes, but it's still indisputably one of my most useful dresses. The knee length walks that perfect line between revealing and dowdy. The wrapped waist gives it a little dimensionality, and also means I can make it fit me to a tee or loosen it up depending on my mood. The small black and white pattern looks like a neutral solid from a distance, but it is a pattern, which means it's slightly less boring. And lastly, the very low neckline makes it ideal for layering.

Yes, in spite of initially aiming more for pea hen than peacock, I could not resist adding a few flourishes.

Style Tip The secret to dressing unobtrusively while simultaneously not dying of boardroom boredom is to wear fun shoes. They won't distract anyone while hidden under the conference table, but there they are, ready to steal the show only when you're standing (i.e. social hour has begun).

Since the weather's too cold for bare legs, and I can't stand the thought of wearing tights, I was limited to knee-high boots, and I only own two pairs of colored knee high boots. I decided on the blue ones.

Naturally, I that meant that the pop of color under my collar also had to be blue.

Yes, a pop of color. As you can see, I was completely unsuccessful in silencing my inner peacock, and even after adding the blue shoes and the blue camisole, I still needed more. I needed...a brooch! It just so happened that my two-toned blue floral pin went perfectly with the rest of my outfit, and it was the ideal type of accessory for the look I was going for. It's small and somewhat old-fashioned but still quirky and fun—a non-threatening way to add just a hint of flair. What better way to show that you mean business, but you don't really mean business? Hmmm...there might be other ways.

I was pleased as punch with my sartorial choices for the meeting, but I soon realized the error of my ways. I had neglected to consider the physics of a wrap skirt. The whole time I was at the table, I was constantly adjusting my skirt to keep the layers from gaping open.

Style Tip Unless you're keen on showing a lot of thigh, a wrap skirt is best saved for occasions when you'll be mostly standing or have something covering your lap.

Lesson learned.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Jade and Gold

My obsession with wide-leg pants continues! My newest acquisition is this pair of abstract-printed trousers in black, yellow, and green. I saw them on, but actually refrained for three orders (a grand total of 3 months) before finally pulling the trigger. I've learned the hard way that straight-leg pants with an elastic waistband can tend to look a little sloppy, but when the price got down to $2.40, I decided to give them a chance.

As I expected, the fit isn't the most flattering, but it'll do...and it's fun to have new colorful bottoms to balance out all the solid-color tops I've been investing in.

For their first wear, I decided to pair them with a coordinating pale yellow sweater and sensible black flats.

Nothing revolutionary about this outfit, but it did finally afford me the motivation to finish and wear this new green and gold pendant that I've been ignoring for over a year. I don't exactly remember why I liked it enough to buy it in the first place (1 year and 3 months will do that to you), but it proceeded to take up permanent residence in my unworn jewelry basket because I didn't like it enough to wear it.

What exactly was wrong with it? Well, partly it was the color. While I love green, that particular shade of jade doesn't go with a whole ton of my clothes, and the coppery gold metallic chips made it even harder to coordinate. Partly, of course, it was that it was not in a wearable state. It was just a chunk of glass with a hole in the top. I hadn't had the motivation to finish it into a proper piece of jewelry since I hadn't found anything worth wearing it with...and since it wasn't a wearable piece of jewelry, I hadn't had the motivation to look for stuff to wear it with. Vicious cycle, here we come!

Finally fate stepped in. Fate told me, "Valerie, have a look through that old jewelry basket and see what you can tidy up. Have a look at this ugly pendant. Are you ever going to wear this? Do you think it might be time to just sell it off?" I looked back at Fate and said, "Maybe, but let me give it another chance."

You see, in studying this pendant for the hundredth time, I finally realized that one of the other things wrong with it was its shape and size. It was just a huge chunk of glass with a miniscule hole at the top. The proportions were off. Were I just to hang it on a chain, the pendant would look awkwardly large, like an adult's head on a baby's body.  Furthermore, by itself, the pendant was too simple. Were I just to stick a jump ring through the hole and call it done, it would look decidedly unfinished. And so I realized, this pendant was crying out for some decorative findings to balance its size and do justice to its form. I had an idea that if I strung it from two gold bails rather than just one ring, it would gain stability and look regal rather than ungainly.

That sounded like a good idea. It sounded like something to think on further. I put the piece back in the basket, consigning it to another year of waiting.

Until Fate stepped in again. Fate was like, "Whooooaaa, there. I let you keep this pendant instead of selling it. You're not keeping it for nothing! You're going to wear it and you're going to love it! Hmmm, what would go good with a green and gold pendant? How about some green and yellow pants?"

And Fate pointed to the new pair of trousers hanging in the closet, and my destiny was sealed. I was going to have to finish the pendant, because there was no piece of jewelry in the world that would have been a better match for the pants.

Because I have already turned the story of this simple outfit into a winding narrative, I will go light on the details of how I made the pendant into a necklace. Here goes. One paragraph. I made my own bails out of 6 twisted strands of jewelry wire because I didn't have any suitable findings. I hot-glued them to the back of the pendant, because I wasn't sure if I wanted that to be its final form, and hot glue is easy to remove. I ran a 17-inch length of gold chain through the loops, and then I had a green and gold necklace.

I like the way the chain runs parallel to the top of the pendant. I think it gives it a distinctive look, and works with rather than against the pendant's unusual rectangular shape. However, I feel like the bails are still too delicate (they are hardly any thicker than the chain, and I'd prefer something a little more chunky to reflect the build of the pendant), so at some point, I might replace them with something bigger. Or, alternatively, just give up on the pendant, because now that I've worn it with the perfect pair of pants, it's probably already reached the apex of its existence.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Get the red out

When I bought this red sleeveless sweater dress on, I thought, "Oh, this will be a nice dress for layering in the winter and wearing straight in the summer! It's basically a solid muted color, so it should go with a lot of stuff. I'm so excited!"

When I started actually trying to wear it, my tune completely changed. The just-below-the-knee length was not conducive to keeping me warm. The roomy fit and flared skirt were not conducive to making me look slim. It looked horrible with every single sweater I tried, meaning I'd been completely wrong about its layering potential.

The only topper that looked good over it was this red blazer, which thanks to its smaller size and tailored shape, served a little curve to my otherwise shapeless torso.

Style Tip When wearing a flared skirt, balance your proportions by defining your waist.

The only problem with the blazer was, it was a different – and I wasn't sure entirely complementary – shade of red!

Monochrome dressing is tricky. Go with completely identical colors from head to toe and you end up looking like you're in your pajamas or a costume. Go with colors that are almost the same but vary too much in temperature, and the whole look is disjointed.

I worried that the pure crisp crimson of the blazer would not work with the muted brick red of the dress. But, after some thought (and facing a lack of any other fun fashion ideas), I decided that, when combined with my red rose shoes, the addition of the third shade of red plus the analogous pinks and whites helped the competing hues look like part of a team.

Three red pieces were enough for me, so for a finishing touch, I added some weathered silver earrings with pearl centers and not a trace of red! If anyone's nitpicking the overall color balance in this outfit, the white of the pearl ties to the white in the shoes, while the black and silver details tie to the black button on the blazer.

Another color conundrum, satisfactorily solved!