Friday, February 21, 2020

Gold Rush

Uptown Cheapskate (the consignment shop where I once famously scored a very affordable sleeveless floral blouse) opened a location in College Park a few months ago, and I finally had cause to visit it last week (despite being under 2 miles from my home, it's far off my particular beaten paths).

While the jaw-dropping bargains were hard to find, I still snagged this gold sweater for $1.80. Speaking of "snag," that's what it was covered with. I spent over an hour on Tuesday tidying it up with a razor, scissors, and electric clippers, trying to remove all the pills clinging to the fabric. It still looks scruffy, and I fully intend to have another go at it the next time I have the patience and better lighting, but it was good enough to wear once!

I was originally aiming for a gold-on-gold color scheme, but my efforts soon steered me towards this neutral beige dress instead.

The problem with the sweater is it's awfully big. Thicker than most knits I usually wear and not tailored in the least, it looked shapeless on me, especially over the baggy skirt. I decided to try cinching the waist with a belt, and that helped a lot!

Now, with the braided leather belt and the heavy knotted fringe on the cardigan, I was feeling a little Wild and Wooly West, and I knew just the boots to finish off the look—the ones with the sweater cuff...and more braided leather!

I'm still a fan of these boots, but I've run out of novel ways to wear them, and they fit a bit large, so I was planning on wearing them one more time this winter and then selling them. This is the "one more time," and they look great in this ensemble (it even inspired a coworker to tell me I'm an "outfit artist," which is really the highest compliment I could receive!).

They look so great that I'm almost rethinking my decision to let them go...but naaaah. They got to be a true treasure in their final outfit, and now they can go on to be someone else's prize!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Problems, solved

I've got some problems.

One of them is I'm tired of all my winter shirts! I feel like I say that at least once every year, but there's always good reason for it. Among many other bad things about winter clothing, it's just so dreary! My last several shopping runs, I've been searching diligently for warm tops and dresses that are colorful, graphic, and interesting...and I've come up with nothing. Maybe I've snagged a patterned skirt or two, but it seems that the fun prints for upper bodies are reserved exclusively for skimpy summer garments.

Speaking of which, let's talk about those skimpy summer garments, because I have a problem with them too! They are not cute. At least, not on me. Over the past several years, the fashion in sleeveless tops (as with most clothing) has run towards the wide and shapeless. Some girls might be happy draping a tent over their torsos, but I prefer some solid waist definition, lest I look like a particularly billowy telephone pole. The baggy look has been popular for so long, that it's hard for me to find any clothing that flatters my figure, even in the secondhand markets. In fact, I just recently received quite a large hand-me-down collection of tank tops, of which I wanted to keep almost nothing, because it all looked so bad on me. I sadly put a number of otherwise cute tops into my to-sell box over the past month and moved on with my life.

By "moved on with my life," I mean I continued shopping, unsuccessfully, for cheery clothes that I can wear in the winter. As I was scrolling through a sea of depressing solid and striped sweaters on, I found myself thinking, "OK, there's nothing wintry that looks fun and cute, but surely I have some fun and cute tank tops I could layer under a cardigan or something." Surely is right...but naturally this solution begets another problem: if I wear my summer tank tops as layering pieces in winter, then I'll be bored with them come summer, and they'll never get to have the top billing they deserve.

In case you've lost count now, I had three problems: 1) winter clothes are boring, 2) wearing my summer clothes in winter would make the summer clothes feel boring, 3) so many summer clothes fit me badly. Once I thought of it like that, the solution to all three problems became obvious. I could wear the ill-fitting summer clothes as bottom layers in winter, because I'd never be able to wear them in summer anyway. Style Tip When mostly covered by a blazer, even an unflattering tank top looks perfectly acceptable!

With that in mind, I went back through my to-sell box and retrieved two floral camisoles that I'd absolutely loved upon sight, but hated upon trying on. The straps had been too short, the U-shaped bottom hem made me look fat, and the lack of any kind of waistline did not help matters any. They also had these weird half-bras on the inside, which served no purpose but did tend to bunch up and show through the thin fabric. They were terrible when worn alone, but totes adorbz when partially covered!

I tried the lavender cami with a purple cardigan, but the whole outfit looked much better topped off with my grey checked blazer. I guess I'm back in the jacket game, because after a long hiatus, that's the second blazer-topped outfit in a week!

A little footnote: although it was easy enough to hide the frumpy shape of the camisole by wearing another layer over it, its extreme shortness remained an issue. For that, I utilized a technique I learned recently for permanently stretching elasticized materials.

Stretch your straps

To make straps longer, pull them to the limits of their elasticity, and then press firmly with an iron. They should stay more stretched even once they cool. This also is said to work on elastic waistbands and other items that had a bit of stretch already.

When all was ironed and done, I had added about an inch to the length of the straps, which made the whole camisole sit prettier. One more problem solved!

Monday, February 17, 2020

Black / Hearts

Over the years, my Valentine's Day outfits have been evolving from simplistic single pieces in the holiday's signature colors to entire heart-themed getups.

The other thing they've been doing is getting more subdued in color. Last year, it was navy blue (and a super-subtle pink); this year at work, it was moody dark red almost entirely subsumed by black. But for Valentine's Date Night this year (which occurred 2 days after Valentine's Day, but still counts!), I took it to a new extreme by not wearing a single piece in red or pink!

That's right; for the first time ever, my Valentine's outfit consisted almost entirely of neutral colors!

The centerpiece of the look was this black skirt with white hearts, which I ordered on for a cool $2.50 the last week of January, and which arrived with only a week to plan an outfit around. While I could have added a lot more color if I were so inclined, I was really digging the stark contrasts in all the black and white pieces I tried on (and I tried on a lot!). In the end, I went with black stockings, my newish white layered boots, and a white long-sleeve crop top.

I did manage to work in a tiny flash of color: blue heart earrings, which have actually been sitting around unworn since I wore their pink twins last year! It's about time they got some love!

Friday, February 14, 2020

My Fuzzy Valentine

I started planning this year's Valentine's Day outfits back in September, but when the Big Day went from "some far-off occasion" to "this upcoming Friday," I suddenly felt like I hadn't done any preparation at all! I spent most of the past week trying and re-trying different outfit combinations every evening, and was still waffling around last night.

Part of the reason for my indecision was the very recent addition of these shoes into the pool of contenders. They are yet another shoe refresh project that I've been dragging out for months and only finished reupholstering on Sunday (I'll give you the full DIY in a few days). It wasn't until Tuesday that I noticed that their reddish-purple color made them a potential option for Valentine's Day, but once I realized that if I wore them, I could title the resultant blog post, "My Fuzzy Valentine," their fate was sealed (can't help it; I'm addicted to cutesy headlines!).

On Wednesday, I came up with a couple of outfits that used the shoes (mostly involving matching red leggings), but as I lay in bed that night, sleepless with excitement about my upcoming activities and their corresponding getups, I was also ruing the fact that the boots didn't really stand out next to the same-color leggings. It would be better if I could wear them with black pants...but then what to wear on top? I remembered that the fabric I'd used on the boots originally came from a shirt, and the inner layer might still be around and wearable. The next morning, I concluded that the original shirt, while verifiably still around, was definitely not wearable. Fortunately, I had a camisole that was, and was almost the same color!

So all day at work on Thursday, my brain was churning out ideas for different ensembles that could utilize the burgundy camisole. I came up with two, both involving blazers (I've barely touched any of my blazers in over a year, but there's just something about Valentine's Day that inspires me to wear a blazer!). When I got home that evening, I decided on the very businessy black look (as opposed to the jeans-based grey look), and finally had an outfit planned for my suddenly not-so-casual Friday!

Except for one thing. The burgundy booties and camisole weren't really red or pink enough to truly channel the holiday spirit. A few more romantic touches were required, and I knew just the trick!

I made a pair of bows in a matching color, and fixed them to the shoes with tiny strips of Velcro.
Style Tip Make your embellishments temporary by attaching them with something removable, like Velcro! Then, as an afterthought, with just two hours to go til bedtime, I sewed on some silver heart charms so that they dangled from the bows. Now the shoes were real fuzzy Valentines! 

Lest anyone miss the subtle detailing on my boots, I added a few more hearts to my look in the form of a necklace and some stud earrings. I also re-dyed my hair red and curled it for the occasion. As they say, love is in the hair!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

New Things and Old Trends

There's this game I play when I'm struggling for sartorial inspiration. It's called One New Thing, and, unsurprisingly, its objective is to wear one new (never-worn-by-me) thing every day. Complicated, right? I invented this game in 2018, as a way to quickly burn through a glut of unworn clothes in my closet, but it's evolved into a sort of Fashion Challenge that I use to give me creative direction when I'm feeling unmotivated. I've been playing the latest game since early January. Unlike most Fashion Challenges, I don't usually document my progress in One New Thing (as it can go on indefinitely, given my almost limitless supply of new clothes), except when the New Thing in question inspires a particularly interesting this one!

The Thing that started it all off is this skirt. If I had to guess at its actual age, I'd say it was made sometime around when I finished college (2005), as I had a skirt with a similar cut that I wore for graduation. But its design is definitely intended to evoke a bygone era—the brown-and-gold color scheme and pattern of overlapping ovals just jump up and scream 1960's!

Just wearing this skirt wasn't enough to really make me feel inspired (it's that time of winter!), so I had to up the ante and devise a complete outfit around a 60's theme.

First stop was footwear. My brown pumps with the square toes and block heels wouldn't have looked out of place in the decade; and while bare legs or colorful tights seemed much more popular options in the 60's, I was really feeling the knee socks. It's OK to not be totally historically accurate, I had to keep reminding myself; this outfit was supposed to be evocative, not costumey!

In the interest of being less costumey, I passed on the huge mod dangle earrings and went with another New Thing for my jewelry: a brown necklace that has been sitting in my unworn jewelry basket so long it practically qualifies as an old thing. My plain ivory sweater completed the clothing portion of the look, but I still had to do something with my hair.

It's fortunate that my hair has grown long enough that I can style it a variety of ways, and today, I tried to style it in a way that reflected the 60's. Alas, my limp locks will never achieve bouffant volume, but at least I could accomplish some romantic parted bangs and a half-updo. To be fair, this is how I've been wearing my hair most days lately, but today, I can claim to be channeling Brigitte Bardot.

Monday, February 10, 2020

A mustard manifesto

I can't say that I truly have a favorite color. In fact, I'm so uncertain of my favorite color, I've actually written a whole blog post about the subject!

Although my color tastes wax and wane, they almost always skew to cooler, more pastel shades, so another thing I can say is that I never would have expected mustard yellow to appear in my short list of preferred hues. But guess what happened.

Over the past 2 years, I've noticed myself being drawn more and more often to darker yellow and golden garments. My mustard cropped cardigan is a "darling of my wardrobe." I'm always trying to find excuses to wear my mustard long-sleeved tee, and I'm beefing up my collection of the color all the time.

My birthday shoes this year, which I lamented were not as shiny and gold as I'd been expecting, could quite accurately be described as mustard. An early summer order from Thredup contained my first-ever pair of mustard pants (really my first-ever pair of pants in any shade of orange or yellow). But when they arrived, I saw that the color, which had seemed so warm online, was almost greenish in real life. I wasn't sure if I was a fan, but I kept the pants and decided to see what happened.

This outfit happened. I had trouble coordinating the oddly colored pants with anything, hence the preponderance of black and white...but the slightly greenish yellow pants did happen to go quite well with my yellowish green shoes.

The 'fit is nothing to get excited over, but the existence of the pants themselves got me to thinking about color—specifically, how we define a particular color and the attributes a shade must have in order to meet the definition. I've had this internal debate about salmon and coral, and now, it seems, it's time to have it about mustard.

Those pants were not the sunny, orange-adjacent hue that I'd hitherto characterized as mustard, but with their slightly green tint, they were actually closer to real-life mustard than any other thing I'd ever bestowed with that descriptor. Real mustard – the kind that comes out of a squeeze jar – isn't golden and warm. It's straight-up yellow with an often sickly (or herbaceous, if you want a more pleasant term) greenish hue.

The color I'd previously been cavalierly referring to as "mustard" for so many years is really, I now have come to believe, more accurately described as "goldenrod," or "marigold," or really any number of other terms with the word "gold" in them. And that's the color I've actually been falling in love with. Not mustard, which runs dangerously close to the same shade as snot and bile.

Much appropriately, the first and only compliment I received when I finally wore my mustard pants was in the bathroom. The giver of said compliment specifically mentioned how much she liked the pants' even if I'm not certain it will ever quite meet my approval, at least it meets someone else's!

Monday, February 3, 2020

The mostly secret garden

Remember that year when skin-tight midi skirts were everywhere? Well, half a decade later, one finally made it into my closet (and not one I made myself)!

Like any good superannuated fashion, this skirt cost me next to nothing ($2 on!) and took me 6 months to figure out how to wear. When I got it, I wasn't exactly sure how it was going to fit into my life. I try to avoid butt-clinging fabrics at the office, and this skirt was just about as clingy as they come! On the other hand, the outdated cut definitely didn't make it a top candidate for going out.

After letting it sit in my closet since June, I finally decided if it was going to get worn at all, it was going to get worn at work. A knee-length pencil skirt is a pretty classic career silhouette. Sure, this skirt is clingier than most, but the dark background and chaotic floral print serve well to disguise my personal contours.

The only real problem was the colors. They were briiiiight—just a lumen away from being positively neon. Not only do extremely bright colors bother my eyes, but I also find them a little too flashy for the office. Combined with the fit of the skirt, they had a way of accentuating my hips to an unnaturally curvy degree. In other words, this skirt was fairly unflattering and borderline inappropriate.

The solution is a trick that's now age-old in my book: put a sweater on it! I wore this extra-long black cardigan that nicely skims over my hips, smoothing the bulges and also covering up most of the too-bright pattern. The sweater is so long, the skirt is completely invisible from behind! Now that the overgrown garden of flowers has been tamed into a conservative little bouquet, I feel much more comfortable wearing it at work.

While I tried many tops to go with this skirt, the winner ended up being this orange sleeveless shell, because 1) the color coordinates with the print on the skirt, but in a muted way, 2) it works well under the black cardigan, 3) it has a fairly high bottom hem, which complements the length of the skirt.

To complete the business-casual look, I wore mid-heeled black pumps and a bun in my hair. The earrings are also roses to match the skirt—neutral silver because I totally know when enough color is enough!