Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Shrugs and then some

In the last post, we learned how to convert a useless old T-shirt into a useful shrug. But the finished product left something to be desired, so I decided to spruce it up with some kind of decorative trim.

I searched long and hard (several days at least), and eventually, true to Unfashionista tradition, found my answer at a thrift store for a few odd cents. What was the answer? Well, 2 and a half yards of black lace ribbon. Adding black trim to the white shirt effectively turns it from something that matches almost everything to something that matches almost nothing.

But hey, I'm just going to be wearing it to make my clothes conform to a dress code—not to win any "best dressed" awards.

With great patience, I pinned all 2.5 yards of the lace (less a few inches--I couldn't have asked for a more perfect length) to the raw edges of the shrug, as shown in the photo.

What isn't shown in the photo is how I then folded the lace over and pinned it again to "seal in" the raw edges for a clean looking trim.

Lastly, I sewed over the lace to attach it permanently.The finished piece magically transforms a freewheeling summer outfit into a sober, covered-up, workplace-accepted ensemble!

Except for the short shorts and the bare feet, which may require some additional attention before this outfit can truly be labeled "careerwear."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


 Today's lesson takes the concept of resuscitating an old T-shirt to the next level. Whereas in the first lesson, we used a few conservative cuts and some simple stitching, today we're going to turn the shirt into something radically different.

There's nothing special about this shirt except a few yellowish stains that make it impossible to wear, even if it were something you'd be interested in wearing in the first place.

Never fear! I have the perfect idea to turn this dead weight into something that will be an asset to my wardrobe!

You see, where I work, sleeveless shirts are against the dress code. But where I work is also a 10-minute walk from home, meaning, in the height of a sticky DC summer, I want to dress cool and comfortable for my travels.

The solution is to wear a tank top and throw a light short-sleeved shrug over it when I'm at work! This shirt will make the perfect top layer, since white goes with everything!

1. Turn the shirt inside out and mark the approximate shape of the finished piece. I want to make sure I remove the entire original collar, so that's not going to leave us much fabric to work with. A shrug this skimpy is more properly called a "bolero," but that term doesn't seem to be popular at present.

On this particular shirt, I had previously modified the original side seams to accommodate my unusually slender shape (OK, it's really because I'm forever buying XL shirts when I should wear an M). I'm not sure whether I want to keep this alteration or take out the seams for a looser fit. Stay tuned. Although you probably will not have to deal with this conundrum unless you're already a hardcore Unfashionista yourself.

2. Now comes the point of no return—where we actually begin cutting the fabric! Cut a generous approximation of the bottom hem. If it's too long, you can shorten it later.

3. Lop off the original collar.

Here's how it looks so far! This is pretty much the finished product, except that the back is much longer than the front! Obviously we'll have to shorten that up!

I think I'm going to keep my added seam. It looks fine the way it is, and this'll save me having to rip the seam out.This means I'll have to cut along it to get rid of excess fabric and ensure that the front transitions smoothly to the back.

Here's the shirt lying flat. After we cut off the bottom edge of the back side, we'll be done! 4. Chop chop!
While my previous post on T-shirt surgery shows you can make an acceptable article of clothing with a raw edge, this shrug is curling into itself something fierce, and I think it needs a little more refinement. 

The next post will show you how to add pretty trim to your creation.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dressing down

Despite what you may think when you hear "dressing down," a good Unfashionista never looks sloppy (And here I admit that makes me an occasionally not-good Unfashionista, particularly when I'm in my pajamas). But to a genuine Unfashionista, "dressing down" means building an outfit around an accessory like a hat or earrings—working your way down from the top!

A few weeks ago, I ran across a store in Toledo called Glitter, where every item of jewelry was a dollar! It wasn't of particularly high quality, but it was a dollar! Some of it was even a dollar for a 2-piece set! I went hog wild, spending a whopping 5 dollars and significantly expanding my paltry jewelry collection (in fact, prompting me to discover the new way to store necklaces described last post).

I've been itching to wear my new accessories, but as I spend most of my time schlepping around the back of a grocery store, I haven't had many opportunities. Today, I decided to make the most of my day off and proudly flaunt my new bling.

I chose these leaf earrings because they – unlike many of the selections I acquired at Glitter – are not too ostentatious for a day of shopping, visiting friends, and eating at Mexican restaurants.

The obvious choice of clothing to go with them was something with a leafy print. Just my luck, I have a semi-dressy tank top (acquired in an eBay lot) that I've only worn once, emblazoned with flowers and leaves of every kind. I paired it with my favorite pair of shorts, which fortunately happen to be a dark shade of teal that matches the shirt exquisitely, and finished the outfit off with the ubiquitous black flip flops (pretty much the only shoes I wear in summer).

Below the shoes, I placed the rug—but I believe that's far enough down for this particular outfit.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

No country for old scrunchies

Some things go out of fashion and even an Unfashionista does not want to wear them any more.

Back in the 90's, the only accepted method for tying back your ponytail was with a ruffly, fabric-wrapped rubber band called a "scrunchie." In these enlightened days, "accepted" is the last word you'd use in relation to a scrunchie. Catherine Zeta-Jones made headlines in 2010 when she wore one of these outmoded fripperies in public.

But any girl who was worth her salt 2 decades ago probably still has remnants of a once-mighty scrunchie collection, and patiently awaits the day when she can wear them with pride.

Well, ladies, while you're waiting, there's something you can do with your scrunchies that's both fashionable and functional. Use them to help organize your jewelry!

I just discovered this method while sorting through a collection of old accessories. "Hmm," I thought. "What am I going to do with all these scrunchies? I can't wear them lest I get laughed out of town. But I can't just throw them away...." Then, setting aside that problem, I thought, "Hmm... what am I going to do with all these necklaces?" Then I thought, "And why are these drawers in my jewelry box so darn deep? What can I possibly store in them that takes up so much space?" And then, in a whirlwind, the answer came to me!

Wrap the necklaces around the scrunchies! It will keep them from getting tangled, keep the scrunchies safe from the landfill, and make the best use of my bottomless jewelry drawers. This worked even better than I expected, because the elastic in the scrunchies actually serves to hold the loose ends of the necklaces in place.

Here's the technique for optimal scrunchie storage:

  1. Wrap the necklace around the scrunchie (and here, may I employ a favorite 90's expression: "duh!")
  2. Poke the trailing end of the necklace through the loop of scrunchie.
Ta-da! One scrunchie seems to be quite adequate for storing 2 necklaces.