Friday, January 27, 2012

Unfashion a Day, Week 4

NEWSFLASH! I have upped the difficulty level of my Unfashion a Day challenge! While working on this project, I have noticed I have a lot of clothes that don't fit well and I don't like. I was keeping them around because I was afraid that, without them, I might not have enough to achieve the variety I desire. But a friend and reader recently commented, "You have a ton of clothes and accessories too!" If that's true, then surely I can sacrifice a few of them. So I'm selling 11 of my least favorite clothes on eBay. That means 11 fewer articles to extend the life of my challenge. Wish me luck!

I finally found an opportunity to show off my winter boots. Unfortunately, I don't think the juxtaposition of chunky casual footwear and professional skirt and blouse really work. A protruding piece of metal on the boots snagged my pantyhose (my nicest, most expensive pair, too, darn it!) several times over the course of the day, rendering them quite ruined. I'm sure this only happened to remind me that attempting to dress up and dress down in the same outfit should be approached with more care. Also, my hair looked a fright. Not my best showing, I'm afraid.
A number of things went wrong with Tuesday's outfit, starting with the fact that I had wanted to wear a nice pair of white pants but had to change that plan at the last minute because of rain. Since I was rushed, I totally neglected to realize I was wearing practically the exact same thing as Monday! Reddish color, traditional collar, brown boots, jeez! The only thing different about this outfit was the circle necklace with the sparkly brown gem and matching earrings!

Furthermore, the dress came with a tie to go around the waist, but I left it off because I think belts shorten my torso. However, after looking at myself in the bathroom mirror several times throughout the day, I concluded the dress was too big, and a belt would have helped shape it up a bit. Here's a picture of how I would have looked if I'd gone that route.

I was beginning to lose confidence in my look, since my new coworkers have not once complimented me. But I visited the old store today, and my former coworker told me I "look good." Ahh, MOM employees, I can always count on you.

I found this sweater (it's a lovely shade of green; sorry you can't tell in the poor lighting) at the thrift store in tip-top condition—probably because it was a size 12, yet much smaller than a size 12 should ever be, meaning its original owner probably got rid of it as soon as she got it (maybe as a gift?). Rather than speculate on others' motives, however, a good Unfashionista exploits them, and thus this sweater became a prized part of my wardrobe! Boring black pants went underneath, reminding me that I really need to get some black pants that are long enough to wear with heels. Why is it that these pants were always too long to wear with my tennis shoes, but silly short with even the lowest of heels? But I digress.

The crowning glory of this outfit was this pair of earrings: green glass hearts on dangly chains so long they brush my collar—they're probably my favorite earrings, and they were only 2 dollars!

I have always previously worn this forest-green and black dress with knee socks and Mary Janes, but today I decided to change it up and give it a tougher edge. In retrospect, the empire waist gives this dress an air of innocence that no combat boots can combat. And it probably would be best to not even try. That makes twice this week I've broken an outfit with the wrong shoes.
I added interest to a plain blue sweater with this leafy necklace. It's a cheap piece of junk I bought for 2$ (including the matching earrings) but cheap is all you really need for work unless you work in the fashion industry. Khaki pants comprised the bottom half, and I wore a pair of chunky brown shoes (aka clown shoes) I found brand new for 7$ at a thrift store in Ohio. They were probably that cheap because clown shoes went out of style a decade ago. I have no idea why these were even on the market.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How to Fix an Unflattering Fit

In a recent post, I briefly described how to downsize a skirt to better fit you and your fashion needs. That was a simple and quick fix. Today’s topic is more in-depth—the clothing equivalent of major surgery. Let me tell you about the patient.

It’s this cute little brown floral thing I found at the thrift store last Monday. As soon as I saw it, I knew I liked it, even though I didn’t know what to call it. It was a short-sleeved, lightweight blouse-like jacket-like article with satin trim and loops for the buttons. It reminded me of the housecoats my grandma used to wear, but I’m pretty sure it was a contemporary creation because of the modern length and overall excellent condition. It looked like it was approximately my size, it was 50% off, I was in a rush, and I was sure my grandma would be proud, so I grabbed it and purchased it without trying it on.

Later on, when I tried it on at home, I discovered that it was indeed a good fit and I still liked it, but it was constructed in such a way that it bulged in awkward locations. Had I tried it on at the store, I probably wouldn't have bought it, but since I'd already paid the $3.50 and it was non-returnable, I decided now was the perfect time to practice my tailoring skills. And share a few tips with you!

To start with, we have to give this cute brown thingy a name. Although it might not be entirely accurate, we're going to call it a "dress."

The problem with this dress is that, to get it to conform to the curves of a human body, it was sewn with "gathers." The fabric was made narrower at the waist by bunching it up and sewing it down. While this technique is great for making ruffles, it produces a puckered effect that is unsuitable for the body of a dress. The Unfashionista prefers clean lines, and clean lines she will have!

Step 1: Remove all the gathers from waist and hips.

This step requires one of every Unfashionista's most indispensable tools—the seam ripper! I am going to assume you know how to use a seam ripper, but has a decent tutorial if you need help. This dress essentially consists of a top half and a bottom half. The gathers are placed where the two halves are sewn together--in the lower back to create the waist, and on both sides of the front, to flare the hips. I removed the seams in all three of these areas, leaving the three gaping holes in the dress you see below.

Step 2: Re-sew seams.

Since you only took out a little bit of the seams, it should be pretty easy to put them back together again. The back is a simple matter because there were equal gathers on both the top and bottom halves, so the two pieces of fabric we have to sew back together are the same size. The front gathers, however, were made with less fabric on the top and more on the bottom, meaning we have extra fabric on the bottom and nowhere to put it!

My solution is to gather the extra fabric again, but in a more controlled manner, in the form of a dart. Learn more about darts here.

Step 3: Sew darts into hips

Pinch the excess fabric at the edge of the seam. You may want to iron it to keep it obedient, as I have in the picture, but it can be done without ironing too. Sew your dart so that it takes up a lot of fabric at the top, and narrows gradually down the length of the skirt. Some darts end in a point, but that will, of course, create a point, and our clean lines will be ruined, so I sewed a very narrow fold all the way to the bottom hem. This process was followed once on the left side and once on the right side.

A dart in the process of being formed.
Step 4: Measure the Waist
Pinching the waist to the right size
Once all the ripped-out seams have been improved and restored, it's time for a try-on! It looks like removing all the gathers has made this dress fit very loosely at the waist, so we are going to take in the sides a bit.

Put on the dress inside out. In front of a mirror, pinch the sides of the dress at the level of your waist. Be careful you don't raise your shoulders as you do this, or your new waistline will be too low! Once you are satisfied with the approximate fit, stick a pin where you pinched it to mark the spot.

Marking with a pin
You may want to put a few pins above and below the first pin to get an idea of how much the waist should curve. Do this on both sides of the dress, then take it off.

Step 5: Adjust the Waist

Looking at the dress, you'll probably find that your pin markings look a little haphazard (more so if you kept sticking your fingers with the pins instead of the fabric!) Don't worry! This is the part where we fix all that. Using the first pin that you placed as a guide, reposition the pins so that they follow a nice clean curve that's close to their original locations. Statisticians, you can think of this as path fitting. This curve is going to be our new side seam.
The first image shows the pins after they have been repositioned, and the second shows the imaginary line they are following.

Try the dress on again (right side out this time) to determine whether the fit is good.

This time I discovered another strange bulge on the right hip that required some minor pin repositioning, but my major issue was with how the dress fit in the back. It's even more lumpy than it was at first!

Step 6: Adjust the Back

Adjusting the fit in the back is pretty much the same as adjusting the side seams. Wearing the dress inside out, pinch the back to the desired width, pin, take off, adjust, try on right-side-out, adjust again as needed.

The second image shows the back seam and the pins reshaping it from a straight line to a curve. They are hard to see, so I've highlighted them in pink!

Step 7: Sew it Up!

Once you are satisfied that your adjustments have created a nice fit, go ahead and sew the seams with your sewing machine. Some tailors get all fancy and mark up their seams with chalk or tailor tacks. Sometimes I do, too, but today I just followed the line of the pins. Note. Do not attempt to sew over a pin with your machine! Sooner or later, you will break your needle. If you sew with the pin heads facing you, it is easy to pull them out right before the needle reaches them.

A suggestion for sewing your seams: Since this work of art may still require some adjusting, don't bother securing the ends of your thread (usually this is done by backstitching). Instead, once the sewing is complete and you are certain you won't need to rip out any of the seams and start over, go over the raw edges of the fabric with a zigzag stitch and do your backstitching then. This will not only secure your own stitches, but it will help keep the fabric from fraying.

Step 8: Wear With Pride

How does one wear a cute short sleeved blouse-like jacket-like thing? I'm not sure, but stay tuned, because as soon as the weather turns warmer, I'm sure I'll figure it out!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Unfashion a Day, Friday

Nothing so special about this outfit that it deserves a whole post of its own, but it's the end of the week, and I used up all my other outfits on their own separate posts. It's Friday, it's all dressed up, and it's got no place else to go! So it goes here.

This is essentially a redo of Winter Wardrobe's Last Stand, except I've replaced the skirt with pants.

And right fine pants they are, too! A perfect fit (maybe a tad too short to be wearing with such thick-soled shoes) and super-soft and comfy! They're the best pants I ever bought for $3.50!

Since last April, I have patched up the holes in the shirt, and I have to say, I really love how slim it makes me look! Nothing like a long lean sweater to boost your self confidence!

So, while there's nothing too special about this outfit, it has a lot going for it, and I dare say it was the perfect way to finish off Week 3!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Leg Coverings of All Sorts [Thursday's Unfashion]

Today is a special day in Unfashion Land, when we roll out a new feature: Tips & Tricks embedded in the blog. Look for the big pink arrows!

If you haven't noticed, leg warmers have come back. It took me a while to "warm up" to them, but in recent months, I've been giving them some serious consideration. All excuses vanished when my brother bought me a pair for Christmas, and I knew that I had to give them a try! Today's outfit was built from the leg warmers up, with all other pieces chosen to complement the colors in my wooly accessories.

The grey shoes fall a little short of ideal, but they were the best choice among my three color options. The purple shirt is not exactly the same shade as the purple in the leg warmers, but from such a distance, I hope no one will notice.

The skirt is nearly the perfect color, but has only one problem—it's too big! I have this incurable habit of buying clothes that are too big—either because I really want them and "too big" is the only size available, or I am having body image issues at the time of purchase.

Rather than deem these clothes unwearable, I usually rig them up with safety pins.

How to temporarily resize a too-big skirt

Put the skirt on, pinch the top hem near the side seam until it fits as you like it, then fold the fabric over from the pinch. You should now have three layers of fabric. From the inside, stick a safety pin through all three layers at the edge of the outermost fold. This ensures that you don't have a loose flap of material on the outside of your skirt. Poke the pin back through, and close the safety pin on the inside.

Voila! a beautifully resized skirt! Note that, although this method is minimally detectable, part of the safety pin will be visible, and if you are doing it with thicker fabric, it will create a noticeable lump. You should only do this to skirts that you will be covering with a shirt.

Usually one pinning is sufficient, but if symmetry is an issue (for example, if your skirt has pockets), then you might have to do one pin on each side.

Using the double pinning method, I successfully converted this size-10, worn-at-the-hip skirt to a size 6, worn at the waist. This brought the bottom hem up to mid-knee level, but I decided that wasn't enough. For the leg warmers to achieve their maximum effect, I wanted this skirt to fall above my knees.

Fortunately, If I learned one thing in my all-girls prep school, it was how to roll my skirt.

Shorten your skirt by rolling

Skirt-rolling is a simple process, simply fold over the waistband. Your skirt will magically become an inch shorter! Fold it over again as needed. This technique can make you look a little thick around the middle, so don't expect it to work with tight tops! If the skirt has a zipper, you can sometimes reduce the bulk by partially unzipping it before rolling.

When all was said and done and my waist had all but disappeared under the 3 or 4 layers of fabric around it, I considered myself dressed. For some reason, pigtails looked just right, and, since the leg warmers have a distinctly hippie feel, I wore my dreamcatcher earrings.

The bottom line on leg warmers? I like them. Especially these big thick ones, as I think they balance out my top-heavy frame. Next trip to the thrift store, I'll be on the lookout for more!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Old Lady, Not Cold Lady [Wednesday's Unfashion]

As far as fashion goes, this is basically a throw-away outfit to ensure I meet my goal. The bulky old-lady (and just plain old) sweater is best suited for bumming around in your minimally-heated-for-the-sake-of-the-gas-bill-and-the-environment home. Turtlenecks do not look good on me, and I don't buy them any more. The pants are too short to wear with tall shoes, hence, I've been forced to don my sneakers. You'll notice I've made an effort to dress the look up with a pendant, but the jury's still out on whether that improves my appearance or just amplifies the old-lady vibe.

The biggest challenge with an outfit like this is deciding whether to wear a coat. If you do, you'll probably be so heated up by the time you've walked to the office from the bus stop, you'll feel like you've become your own personal sauna. If you don't, there's a good chance the wind will cut right through the holes in your sweater and chill you to the bone.

The solution? Arm warmers!

Just say no to coats!

I have several pairs of old socks with the toes cut off, expressly for the purpose of adding a little warmth underneath my clothes. They're skin-tight, so they keep in the heat without adding too much bulk. When you do take them off, they're a lot less trouble to carry around than an entire coat.

With a pair of these warmers embracing my biceps, and a pair of long gloves covering me from forearm down, I kept warm enough to survive my commute to the office.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How do you know she's a witch? [Tuesday's Unfashion]

Monday was a day off. Tuesday, I was back and ready to rock Unfashion a Day.

Similarly to last Wednesday, my chosen skirt of the day comes from a bygone era, but fortunately the asymmetrical hem keeps coming back into style, and after some initial hesitance, I find I really enjoy this piece of clothing. One thing it's got going for it is its rather ostentatious shade of green. You'll have a hard time blending into the background when you're wearing something this vibrant—unless you're standing in a spring meadow. Furthermore, unlike the other skirt, it fits well—so well, in fact, that it introduces a fashion conundrum which I will discuss in the special feature below.

The thing I don't like about this skirt is how difficult it is to match with anything. I went through my entire closet searching for an appropriate shirt. I was stressing out, but when I finally found it, I knew I'd found the mother lode. Poison-green plus black-and-white stripes evoke a certain air of Halloween, which, while not quite seasonally appropriate, certainly is fun!

To complete the witchy look, I brought out my pointy-toed dress shoes and black stockings. I put on a pair of homemade black earrings (which, I admit, never turned out quite as nice as I'd hoped) and twisted my hair so it spiked up in the back in wild witchy fashion (no amount of hair spray, however, was able to keep it up, so that aspect of the look was a failure).

And now for the promised fashion conundrum.

The Unfashionista on Undergarments

What does a girl do when she wants to wear a thin, clingy skirt without letting her panty lines show? Well, many girls wear a thong or - if they are really daring - dispense with the panties entirely.

The Unfashionista does not embrace either of these methods, and finally found an acceptable substitute: boxer briefs.

Yes ladies, it's time to raid the men's department. Buy the smallest, tightest pair you can find. They will adhere to your butt, and the only apparent seam will be far down on your thigh—hopefully where your skirt has flared out to fit loosely enough that the line will not be visible.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Unfashion a Day, Week 2

I think "Unfashion a Day" is a much more catchy title than "An Outfit a Day," so it stands.
An exciting announcement for those of you who read this blog (as opposed to those of you who are reading it who don't), you may now point your browsers to "" for the same great content with a new, easier-to-type URL! This exciting advancement in The Unfashionista's Web presence is brought to you by a generous benefactor named "Geoff."
And now for your Daily Unfashion.

Monday was training day, meaning I wouldn't see any of my actual coworkers and was free to take some liberties with my wardrobe—namely, to dress like a slob.

A good Unfashionista never dresses like a slob, of course, but she does sometimes reserve her least favorite clothes for these free days. In this case, those least favorite clothes consist of a red and black top that make me look like some kind of preppy goth wannabe with abnormally large shoulders. I would typically wear this shirt with khaki pants to break up the funereal color scheme, but they were in the laundry.

I also wore a pair of low-heeled black shoes (the "punk" shoes, remember?) just in case there would be a walking tour. There wasn't.
After my poor showing of the previous day, I knew I had to look good. So I went for my brand new grey pants from Express (marked down to 20$, which I gather is a good price for Express), a well-fitting top, and even some jewelry!

The necklace was the perfect addition to this outfit, as it was mostly silver (to go with the silvery grey pants), but happened to have two blue beads to tie it in with the color of the shirt!

You can barely see 'em, but I am wearing my 4.5-inch heel grey booties (a full-price splurge from last year). They are the only shoes tall enough to handle these extensive pant legs.
Some days, an Unfashionista who is trying to wear a different outfit every day has to suck it up and wear something atrocious.

This pink-and-brownish-black skirt is the last remnant of an era gone by, when mid-calf was the normal length and everything was made of acetate. In addition to being out of style, it's too big for me.

At first I tried wearing this with a dowdy brown sweater, but of course then I looked dowdy and depressingly dark, so I switched it up for the cream-colored top. Style Tip Never wear a shirt that is the same length as your skirt. It will make you look short.

Going bare-legged under the skirt would have helped the look a little, but it was cold that day! I chose some brown knee socks instead and some equally brown wedge shoes.
I had to cheer myself up after showing up Wednesday as the Widowed Schoolteacher. So I went in on Thursday as the Artsy Schoolgirl.

Brilliant blue argyle knee socks (Target:2$) went perfectly with the blue top (eBay: Big cheap lot).

Not wanting to take the schoolgirl look too far, I opted out of the platform Mary Janes and wore instead some conservative black flats.

There were off-white stripes in the socks, so I chose khaki as the neutral color for the skirt.
I had big plans for this day. I've been itching to wear those snow boots I found last spring. So I picked out this outfit specifically to show them off.

Fashion Bug sweater dress with leggings since it's not that warm out.

Wooden beaded earrings, since they would go with all the other natural tones in the outfit.

Braids since it's casual day in some offices (apparently it's casual day every day in mine), so altogether, with the fuzzy boots, I was going to have a pretty "contemporary hippie" look.

And then what did I do? I wore the wrong boots! Not that they ended up looking bad, but now I'm going to have to find some other getup that goes with those snow boots.

The big brown thing in my hand is "The Hat." I was toying with wearing it, but it was too warm a brown to go with the other, loamy colors I was sporting. Style Tip Don't ever try to pair warm browns with cool browns. It's nearly as bad as putting green right next to red.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

An Outfit a Day

When I was a student teacher way back in 2005, I had just one goal. No, it wasn't to be the best student teacher the school had ever seen. No, it wasn't to make a difference in one child's life. It was to wear a different outfit every day for the entire semester. You can see why I went into design rather than education.

Now, as I start my new job, I have that same goal (in addition to, of course, being the best developer/trainer the university has ever seen).

It was a little challenging for me to meet the goal back then, but fortunately my assignment only lasted 3 months. Now, while the semester is considerably longer (Jan 3 through May 18-ish), I also have the advantage of being a clothes-hoarding Unfashionista with a much larger budget. I think I can do this!

The rules are simple:  An "outfit" comprises up to two signature pieces—for example, a top and a skirt, or a top and a pair of pants, or a dress and a pair of shoes. I may never during the study period wear the same outfit twice. But I may wear the same elements in different combinations.

So every week until the end of May, I will document my Unfashion hijinks with pictures and maybe a little commentary. This is a new project, so I'm not sure how it will evolve.

I started the week off right (Monday was a holiday) with a colorful skirt and a green layered-look top, both of which I got at the thrift store. I discovered midway through the day that my brown vegan shoes were rapidly deteriorating, so one of my goals for next week is to find my Amazing Goop and see if I can extend their lifespan.
A drab day following a dressy day, I traded in my skirt for pants, and my colors for varying shades of beige. Basically, the neutral tones served as a backdrop for the outrageous chandelier earrings that I had bought for 2 dollars over Christmas.  And whaddaya know! My fuschia arm warmers (fair trade--very expensive, but worth it) just happened to match perfectly!
I started this outfit with the purple sweater and went from there. I discovered that the black tiered skirt that usually looks awful with everything I try to wear actually went well with the "I mean business" interview shoes.
You might recognize this outfit from "Little Ballerina" of a few weeks ago. Basically I traded in the goody two shoes for some "toughie" black combat boots that I had bought myself as a Christmas present.