Monday, October 29, 2018

Dogzilla vs. Mothra

I grew up in a household steeped in Godzilla. My dad was a huge (big? moderate?) fan, and had several Godzilla figurines that were fun to play with when I was a kid. Beyond that, however, and a theater viewing of Godzilla 2000, I didn't develop much interest of my own in the movie monster.

Until I decided to do a Bridezilla costume for Halloween in 2013. I watched a couple of Godzilla films to help me get into character, and once I saw Mothra vs. Godzilla, I fell in love. With Mothra, that is! A giant monster, who also happens to be a moth, who is in a team with twin singing fairies, who also happens to save the earth? What more could a wannabe geek girl want?

Later that year, I tried to make a T-shirt with Mothra's likeness, using the last of my opaque T-shirt transfer paper and some permanent markers, but the effort was a failure, and I was forced to leave my public declarations of love for Mothra unspoken. Until, several years later, I thought to make her into a Halloween costume. A way better option than a tiny image on a shirt!

I started construction of my Mothra costume last September, but it was becoming clear to me that despite my infatuation with the greatest movie monster ever invented, not many other people even know who Mothra is. I hesitated to bring her to a party where she would not be recognized. 
So I finished painting the wings (laboriously, on both sides of an old shower curtain, which I do not recommend as the paint flakes right off), sealed them with a clear rubber coating to hopefully keep the flaking to a minimum, and rolled them up, never to be seen again until the next year.
It was sometime in between last Halloween and this one that I realized Mothra might have a higher recognition rate if she appeared with her nemesis, Godzilla. But since I'd stupidly thrown away my human-sized Godzilla spines, I really wasn't keen on making another version of them. Maybe in a smaller scale it would be OK. Maybe in a dog-sized scale. Maybe, my companion in Halloween tomfoolery would have to be Dogzilla.

It was settled. When October rolled around this year, and I learned that the annual Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard Howl-O-Wine party (the one where Jack Jack and I won a prize for our spider/web costume!) was three days away, I decided (rather belatedly!) to get cracking on a couples costume for me and Kodiak.

I made his spines out of a yoga mat that he himself had conveniently torn to shreds, and painted them with some rust-colored paint I had lying around that almost matched his coat.
I found an old T-shirt that I'd partially destroyed already for another sewing project, which happened to fit the dog fairly well, so I dyed it with a watered-down mixture of the same paint, and made a jacket to which the spines could be attached.
I sewed the spines on in alternating rows, bracing them against each other so they would stand up straight (spoiler! They didn't!)
I also made Kodiak a Dogzilla tail with more of the yoga mat, which I attached around his own tail using a couple of rubber bands (word to the wise: a dog who likes to wag his tail is not going to be wearing a tail accessory for very long!)

With Dogzilla finished and just one day to go until the festival, I set out to make my Mothra costume more complete, starting with the furry antennae. I have a few fur scraps left over from my Rabbit in a Hat costume, so I wrapped two of those around lengths of wire and attached them to a headband. They are removable and reusable!
A pair of blue sunglasses look remarkably like Mothra's glowing eyes.

I had to find some way of supporting the wings, so I made some elastic bands for my fingers and wrists and carefully threaded them through slits I cut in the shower curtain. I used a metal snap to hold the center of the wings to the back of my shirt.

Mothra has legs sticking out of her chest, but I am not that crafty, so I ignored that rather important feature and focused on getting the general color scheme right. A black underside with a furry back could be accomplished with a white fur-textured sweater (it happened to be one I bought but didn't use for my rabbit in a hat costume) with a black strip glued to the front (black strip being another part of a previously cannibalized T-shirt). 
Black shorts, because it was a gloriously warm day for October, and orange sandals just because I could, and I was done, ready to save the world from my adorable foe!

This was a complicated costume, but it cost me nothing except the paints I used on the wings, which probably totaled around 16 dollars. Sadly, it won me no prizes, but I guess defeating Dogzilla is accomplishment enough.

Until he comes back from the dead...

Thursday, October 18, 2018

How to wear summer boots (in fall!)

First off: what are summer boots? I wouldn't be shocked if you haven't heard of them. I have only seen them one place: on eBay, where I bought mine.

The boots in question were crocheted calf-high boots, with wide shafts and lots of holes for breathability. I hesitated to buy them for a long time—could I trust shoes from a Chinese seller? did I really need summer boots? Did I really need to spend so much on summer boots? And if I bought them, what color should I buy? There were so many options, I felt paralyzed by choice! I waited at least a year before purchasing, and what finally swayed me was a discount if I bought two pairs. So I did, at $15.10 each—one purple, because I was still looking for purple sandals, and one pastel pink.

I wore each pair one time during the summer – I was holding them back for truly worthy outfits – and each time, something prevented me from photographing the outfit, worthy though it might have been. When the weather turned cold last Friday, I thought that was it for my summer boots.

But then I thought again. A boot is a boot, and the only difference between summer boots and the boots that make fall bearable is the amount of holes in them. Summer boots become fall boots when you insulate them with a pair of socks!

My crocheted boots have opaque linings at the toe and heel to help them keep their shape. The purple ones are lined with black, so I wore black socks underneath, which possibly made them look better than they ever did when I wore them unlined! Score! I now foresee all kinds of possibilities for these formerly one-season shoes. I can't wait to try them with skinny jeans!

But that will have to be another day. For their first autumn outing, I went as summery as possible with a short skirt, a light beige tee, and a pink and white striped cardigan. I vowed that since I'd missed my last two opportunities to blog about my summer boots, I'd do it today, even though it's not summer any more. So here you go!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Go Western

Saturday, the plan for the evening was to go to Opus Merriweather, an outdoor art event. I was excited to attend, but totally bummed about how to dress. I wanted to wear something appropriately artsy, but the weather was going to necessitate wearing a coat, so practically any outfit I could come up with would be all but completely covered up. The only part of me that would be reliably visible was my feet, and I didn't have anything I could wear on my feet that would be suitable for walking around in the probably – thanks to rain the previous night – very muddy woods. Anything... except ... (it took me a while to remember them even though they were sitting in plain sight on the floor of my closet) ... my brand-new pair of very artsy-looking rubber cowgirl boots!

I literally cannot think of a better pair of shoes for such an occasion, and they happened to have popped into my life at just the right time!

When I was in Nashville back in April, I tried and utterly failed to acquire a pair of Western boots. I was dead-set on only buying a used pair (so as to not directly support the leather industry), but the shops that were selling used boots were not selling any that fit both my feet and my style. I left Nashville with no boots (except a non-Western pair I picked up at a thrift store, but that's another story for another time!) and a slightly heavy heart.

My mild disappointment turned to full-on dismay when I later learned that Western boots are trending for fall 2018! Always an Unfashionista, I was so close to having been ahead of the curve, but now, as usual, I wasn't even on the curve at all (I did have a pair of cowgirl boots once, but I grew tired of them and sold them).

Fortunately, my dearth of Western boots was recently remedied, when I went to the Columbus Day sale at the thrift store. I struck gold when I found these ones.

Although the shape says cowgirl through and through, they are actually rubber rain boots. I've been declining to buy rain boots whenever I find them for years now, opting instead to slosh around in my ancient, not-so-waterproof-any-more hiking boots, because rain boots honestly have a very short usable season (too hot in summer and too cold in winter) and they take up a lot of space, and the last pair I had sprang a leak after only a handful of wears. But when I can get some rain boots that also happen to help me fill a different void in my wardrobe, I'll take them!

So I got my cowgirl boots, I got my rain boots, and I got artsy boots! The snazzy green damask-like floral design was icing on the already scrumptious cake! These shoes were truly a jackpot find for me—on-trend Western boots, but with a practical yet gaudy twist! And only $2.75 after the 50% discount!

OK, so I was wearing them for Opus, no question about it, but what to wear on the rest of my body?

I hunted around in my possessions for something else green to mirror the green on the boots. There wasn't much...a slightly off-color camisole, a too-bright green scarf, and, um, yeah, nothing else. Nothing else... except... the green corset that I'd just put in my to-sell closet!

I'd had pretty much enough of this corset. I've worn it with a couple of Halloween costumes, but it's much too campy for everyday use. It's also a little too large, and the laces are only pretty on one side. It is, however, specifically labeled as "Western Fashion" right on its tag, and I was wearing Western boots, so I figured I might as well do a modern take on the old-time saloon girl aesthetic.

A black undershirt and black skinny jeans were next, and earrings that quite perfectly matched the pattern on the boots.

Knowing that I would need help staying warm, I picked a winter coat in a complementary shade of burgundy. The coat has ridiculously wide lapels that put me in mind of a sheriff's coat in a Western film.

From utter despair a few hours before the event, I switched to being completely thrilled about pretty much everything I was wearing. Even though it was cold, I got to spend the first hour or two with my coat open so the corset got to be seen. I did get a few compliments on the boots over the course of the evening, and they protected my feet admirably from the mud that I had correctly predicted! All in all, I was pretty happy with how this outfit turned out.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Out of the frying pan, into the fridge

Yesterday, the temperature outside reached 81 degrees. Today, it was forecast to top out at 62, and stay there for the foreseeable future.

This 20-degree shift meant I was forced to switch from a summer-clothes mindset to a winter one, without any kind of transition period. But that didn't go over so well. I love my summer clothes, and I wanted to wear a sundress!

So today I decided to try one of those styling techniques I always see on fashion sites but never in the real world—the strappy-dress-over-a-sleeved-shirt look!

When I layer my clothes, I usually want them to be easily removed and replaced, like a cardigan over a tank top, so I can adjust to fluctuating ambient temperatures. When the layers are reversed so the garment with the most coverage is on the bottom, that ease is lost. I'd have to completely take off the dress and shirt, then put the dress back on, if I decided I wanted to go sleeveless in the middle of the day. But with a forecast high well lower than I'd ever want to be in without sleeves, I felt like today was a good day to give this layering style a whirl.

Oddly enough, I railed pretty strongly against this look in my 2016 fashion review, claiming, "I don't like the look of ugly T-shirts stuffed under beautiful dresses." I still don't. The difference between what I complained about and what I'm wearing now is that my T-shirt isn't quite ugly, and my dress isn't quite beautiful. Both pieces have the same middle-of-the road, feminine-but-not-gorgeous, casual-but-classy kind of air to them, that makes them look like they belong together.

Do I love this outfit? No, not really. Wearing what essentially amounts to a jumper dress, I feel somewhat like a first-grader in her school uniform. Do I hate this outfit? No, not really. I like the idea of adding a little longevity to my summer dresses, without having to resort to my stale trick of throwing a blazer on top.

Maybe I'll work with this styling technique again sometime. Or maybe I'll just check the "tried it" box and move on with my life.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Infinite shoes

This is how you fit 69 pairs of shoes
onto a 36-pair rack!
If you had told me 10 years ago that I'd be a woman with almost 100 pairs of shoes in her room and half again that many hiding away in storage, I would have been appalled. I would have probably also made a conscious effort to avoid going shoe-crazy, just to prove you wrong. Alas, you didn't tell me, so somehow I morphed into that woman.

I read once that the reason some people have so many shoes is the simple human desire to collect things. Even if you never wear them, having a variety of shoes is a pleasure in itself. Or so they say. For my part, the size of my shoe collection is an uncomfortable burden (it literally causes parts of my shoe rack to collapse on about a monthly basis!), and I actually feel a sense of relief whenever I realize I'm ready to retire a pair. Unlike the shoe collectors that other people love to look down on, I actually do wear all of my shoes (sometimes only once a year, but it still counts!). The reason that I have so many of them, I think, is my compulsion to color-coordinate everything.

In my mind, an outfit is a failure if the color of my shoes is not reflected somewhere in my clothing. Consequently, I need shoes to match at least one color in every garment I own. Even though my shoe collection is so large it makes me nervous, I find myself constantly trying to acquire just one more overly specific color of shoe to accessorize a specific outfit—"berry purple sandals" topping my list right now, for example. Wouldn't it be great if I could just have one shoe to match all my color needs?

Well, now I do!
I ran across these shoes on eBay, and it was commitment-phobic love at first sight! On the one foot (yes, I'm twisting this saying for my own cheesy purposes), they were utterly versatile. With silver heels and clear uppers, they have no real color of their own, enabling you to tie any piece of ribbon through the top and make them whatever color (or pattern!) your heart desires! But on the other foot, they have no ankle straps, meaning they'd flop off with every step, plus they have stubby little kitten heels, which I'm just not into, no matter how many times I get told they're becoming a trend. I left them in my watch list until the listing expired, then when they were re-listed, I finally decided they were too versatile to pass up. After some negotiation, I bought them (and their 9 pairs of included ribbons) for 9 dollars. Not a bad price, considering they could technically replace almost every pair of sandals I own.

The question is, will they? I've already used them as a reason to knock "black sandals, not too high, not flat, more elegant than the Swedish ones" off my shopping list (it would be a long story to explain why I think of one pair of my sandals as "the Swedish ones," but beyond that, you can see why excessive specificity is a real problem for me)! Maybe my next move will be to stop seeking "berry purple sandals" and start shopping for "berry purple ribbon" instead.

Time will tell whether my new pair of all-purpose sandals will help me curtail my shoe shopping, or whether they will just become an excuse to find more shoes like them (next up on my shopping list: "Clear-topped sandals with a higher heel and ankle strap?"). Until then, the only thing that's certain is that my shoe collection has just expanded by one!

P.S. Here's the first outfit I wore them with.

I was originally planning a much more boring use of my Summer 2018 uniform, but I just couldn't allow the second-to-last hot day of the year (according to the forecast anyway), to pass without trying something exciting. Fortunately, my multicolored bird dress lent itself well to the wearing of red-ribboned sandals! This outfit actually deserves much more narrative, because I had to get really creative to make it look fitted (add the waist belt) and work-appropriate (cover the shoulders with a vest), but I guess this tiny paragraph will have to suffice!

Monday, October 8, 2018

How to wear pajama pants to work

The latest acquisition in my collection of novelty pants is this silky paisley number. Calling it silky is perhaps a bit generous because, while it might have once been silky, age has reduced its rayon fabric to a very soft, almost flannel-like texture. With its loose fit and drawstring-tied elastic waist, this pair of pants looks suspiciously like a pajama bottom.

But is it? The brand (Solemio) seems to have been (their Facebook page indicates they might have gone out of business in 2016) primarily focused on ultra-trendy clubwear, not loungewear. Usually pajama bottoms aren't made out of rayon, and these pants are. They're also unusually long (such that I have to wear heels to keep them off the ground, even with them hiked all the way up to my waist), which would be highly impractical for clothes meant to be worn with slippers. I think it's more likely that these pants were much more glamorous at one time in their past, and have just been "broken in" to the point where they'd be best described as "cozy."

But once a dress pant, always a dress pant, is my philosophy which I only just invented now. So how do I wear these particular dress pants to the office and be assured that they won't be mistaken for the pajamas I forgot to take off when I left home in the morning?

Style Tip To make any pair of pants look a little more professional, wear a button-down blouse on top. There's something so serious about a traditional pointed collar and a row of buttons down the front, that any outfit featuring them simply can't be construed as too casual.

Today I smartened up my flowy pants with a fuchsia sleeveless blouse (one of the many I removed the puffed sleeves from). I also took my own advice and wore pointed-toe pumps to look more sophisticated, rather than the round-toe mary janes that were my first choice. Finally, I had to do something about the drawstring. It is the rare pair of pants that can have a drawstring waist and still be taken seriously outside the bedroom or locker room, and this pair is not that pair! Fortunately, the fix was simple. I just tucked the drawstring out of sight into the waistband. With the blouse over the top, you can't tell it was ever there!

With these tricks in my employ, I feel like I was able to make these lazy-day pants look acceptable for the office. Someone who saw me in the bathroom told me she liked my pants. In fact, she said they were great, so at least they got one Stranger Stamp of Approval. What do you think? Would you ever wear pajama-like pants to the office?

Friday, October 5, 2018

The big bang

I found this star-spangled dress at my last thrift store run. It was around 3 dollars after a 50% discount, and it was right up my star-loving alley! Unfortunately, when I tried it on in the store, I tried it over my pants, and thus did not get an adequate picture of just how tight and revealing it would be in real life.

When I went to wear it for the first time, I was dismayed to find that it clung to my butt and thighs with a level of tenacity entirely unbecoming to a professional woman on the job.

The good thing about this dress was that it was a wrap dress, which meant it had an entire layer of fabric hidden from view, which I could use to expand the tight parts.

I cut into the inner layer, repositioned the outer layer, and added about 1.5 inches to the total girth where it was clinging the most. Pictures, unfortunately, completely fail to convey the steps I took to fix the fit of this dress, so you'll just have to trust me that it looked worse before, and I fixed it!
It's still very thin, and I have to wear a slip underneath to keep my undies from showing, but I no longer feel indecent wearing it to work!

I saved the dress for a Friday Funday—when you want the week to go out with a bang, what's a bigger bang than The Big One? (i.e. the birth of the universe, i.e. the origin of stars, in case the connection wasn't clear!) To make the biggest bang possible, I wore mirrored boots. I have acquired loads of star-themed jewelry over the past few months, so I had my pick of necklaces and earrings. I decided to mix metals and wear a gold necklace to contrast with all the silver in the rest of the outfit.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

A recipe for de-puffed sleeves

The best tutorials always begin with a long, digressive story, right? So here's mine!

I was not the most fashion-forward individual in the latter half of my college life and the early part of my adulthood, so I basically slept through the trends from 2003 through maybe 2011. But I'm beginning to suspect that the early years I missed featured an excess of tiny puffed sleeves. I have received clothing donations from quite a wide variety of women in basically my own age group or a little older—people who would have just been starting their professional lives during my personal fashion blackout—and all of whom have bequeathed me substantial collections of essentially the exact same blouse: a slim-fitting, tailored top with a rounded and flared bottom hem, with extra-short cuffed sleeves puffed at the shoulders!

This is the white version of the pink shirt
I ultimately used in my refashion

I am fairly certain I've received this same style of blouse, made by different brands, in almost every color and pattern imaginable, from three separate people, at least 11 times.

That must have been quite some trend that I missed out on...but I'm not too sad I missed out on it, because, as we all know, puffed sleeves are anathema to me.
I've done all sorts of things with the blouses I've received—sold some of them, kept others in my closet for years and then realized they'll never suit me before selling them, turned them into off-the shoulder blouses, open-shoulder blouses, and sleeveless blouses. Every once in a while, if the proportions are just right, I even see fit to leave them in their original puffy state.

One thing that I've been experimenting with lately, is converting them from puffy sleeves to more standard sleeves. I started my experiments with T-shirts (apparently those often had puffed sleeves in the aughties as well), but a woven fabric is a lot less forgiving than a knit (which just stretches to fit any shape!), so I've been hesitant to try the technique on any of my button-down blouses. Until I finally did, and it worked!

So here you go: a recipe for de-puffing the sleeves of any short-sleeved top.

1. Start by ripping out the top half of the shoulder seam.

2. Iron the gathers flat, and re-attach the sleeve, starting at the bottom and working your way to the top. The sleeve will poke out above the shoulder significantly.

3. Sew a seam along the top of the sleeve, lining it up with the shoulder seam.

Prepare to retry steps 2 and 3 multiple times, as it is really hard to line up two intersecting seams without creating unsightly bulges!

When you've gotten it pretty close to right, trim the excess fabric and sew an additional seam over the top of the shoulder (that's the bottom seam in the picture!). This will help smooth out any imperfections in the join.
5. Try your shirt on in the mirror, and play around with folding the sleeve under until you've selected a flattering length. For me, that ended up being a minimalistic cap sleeve, since anything bigger overemphasized the size of my shoulders.

Hem the sleeve end!

When you're done, it should look something like this from the top.
Tada! You should now have a finished blouse with nice smooth-edged sleeves!

Here's how I wore my blouse for the first time, with a subtle pastel pink-and-green outfit! And sandals! In October!